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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Galatians 6

 

 

Verses 1-18

CONCERN FOR THOSE WHO FAIL

(vs.1-5)

The Galatians may have considered themselves spiritual because they were legal-minded. There is a good test for this. What about a person overtaken in a fault? Shall we callously say, "That's his problem, not mine"? Or shall we despise and ostracize the erring one? Either attitude is commonly that of a legal mind. But if one is spiritual, there is good work for him to do in restoring such a person (v.1), for compassion is one of the lovely marks of spirituality. Law can expose and condemn a person, but it can never restore. More than that, spirituality can lead us to show a spirit of meekness, even toward one who has failed, for it will remind us that we have the same propensities for failure as our erring brother or sister does. We should pause to consider how we would like to be treated if we were in such a situation. This is a lovely contrast to the attitude that Cain expressed, "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4:9).

How appealing then to a Christian's heart is the admonition, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (v.2). Did the Galatians desire a law? Then, being Christians, why not take the law of Christ rather than a Jewish law? This is "the perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25) rather than the law of bondage, as was Moses' Law. Bearing the burdens of another reduces the flesh to nothing, for we must humble ourselves to do this. Was it, for instance, the stern spirit of justice that led Christ to come to bear at Calvary our greatest burden? Absolutely not! Rather, grace and humility stand out there at the cross in marvelous beauty, and this is "the law of Christ."

How scathing then is the denouncement of our personal pride in verse 3. How can we dare, being nothing, to think of ourselves as something great? We do not deceive God by this, nor do we deceive others either, as a general rule, so how senseless to deceive ourselves!

"But let each one examine his own work" (v.4). Assumptions and claims have no place before God. Instead of this, let each individual discern, with rigorous self-judgment, the true value of his own work. He is to examine himself, but make no boast of it before others. "And then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another." Such self-judgment puts the believer personally and alone before God, to judge his own work, not in comparison to that of others, but as in God's eyes. This will give him true rejoicing in himself, but not telling it to others.

"For each one shall bear his own load" (v.5). In the final analysis, though we may at present "bear one another's burdens," each one of us is solitarily responsible only for our own work. We cannot transfer responsibility from ourselves to someone else. Nor should we have such an attitude as did Peter at one time, saying, "But Lord, what about this man?" (John 21:21). Therefore, while it is important that we have genuine compassion and care for others, we must not expect others to take responsibility for us, nor concern ourselves with what is their responsibility.

THE GRACE OF WILLING SACRIFICE

(vs.8-10)

The above instructions require a spirit of grace in which to be fulfilled. Yet, they are instructions, not merely suggestions as to which we may form our own opinion. "Let him" in verse 6 is not the legal demand, "You shall," but it is God's strong encouragement to respond to His grace, as seen beautifully in 2 Corinthians 8:9 : "You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." One who learns the truth of God from another is responsible to respond in turn with whatever help he may give the teacher, particularly if the teacher's time is devoted to the ministry of the Word. It is most serious here that the apostle warns that God is not mocked, and people will reap what they sow (v.7). The believer is addressed here not the unbeliever, though the principle is all-inclusive: anyone walking in independence of, and disobedience to God, is sowing to the flesh and the sad reaping will come in due time. The sowing here directly refers to the use of our possessions. Compare 2 Corinthians 9:5-10. Are we using for God that which He has given us? We are not to expect recognition for it in the world, for we are to give as to God, seeking only His approval, not because we look for a reward, but desire only to please Him.

Our giving to the work of the Lord associates us with that work and with those who labor for Christ's sake. We should therefore be sure that the work to which we give is truly the Lord's work and the persons involved in it are honestly and scripturally carrying on that work. Galatians 2:10 has already spoken of giving to the poor, and 2 Corinthians 8:1-24; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15 deal at length with that question.

The principle of sowing is widened in verses 9 and 10 to include our whole conduct of life. Well-doing of whatever sort is sowing pure seed. May we never become weary in doing it! The season of final reaping is close at hand -- the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10). There is no reason to faint or be discouraged, however, and we shall not faint if Christ is the Object before our souls. Opportunities for doing good are abundant if we keep our eyes open, and we are to exclude no one from our thoughtfulness and care. Partiality can have no place, except in this, that we are to have special consideration for those who are of the household old of faith (v.10) -- for every individual whose trust is in Christ. This is not merely enjoying people and indulging their desires, but actual, positive good done toward them.

BOASTING ONLY IN THE CROSS

(vs.11-18)

Was Paul's heart in all he wrote? Was there no exaggeration in the words he used? Such might have been the questioning of the Galatians. Verse 11 shows that they and their spiritual conduct meant enough to Paul to write with his own hand, despite his "infirmity in the flesh," which possibly was, or included, very poor eyesight. This is likely the reason he employed a scribe in the penning of his other epistles, but in this case he wrote the letter himself.

It was nothing but pride that activated the Galatian judaizers to demand the circumcision of Gentile believers. The judaizers desired recognition from the world, something to make a good show in the flesh (v.12), and they drew back from suffering and persecution for the sake of the cross of Christ. They knew that a forthright, simple confession of their sins having been borne on Calvary's cross, would be displeasing to the world. They therefore took refuge in formalism, and sought formalistic followers.

These false teachers, while formally observing such legal rites, did not actually keep the Law themselves. Rather, having followers in their legalistic practices, they are said to "boast in your flesh" (v.13), that is, with no concern for the spiritual welfare of their followers. All they desired was a fleshly adherence to their ordinances of law, so they could boast in the numbers they influenced by fleshly attraction.

How the thought of such fleshly boasting moves the depths of Paul's soul! "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (v.14). He thoroughly repudiates every thought of fleshly boasting. In fact, with godly discernment, he recognizes nothing but evil in himself, that is, in the flesh (Romans 7:18). Will a sinful nature (which he and all other Christians still have) give him the least occasion of complacency? God forbid! Would the Lord Jesus find satisfaction in settling down in this world with those who were merely ritualistic followers? Not for a moment! Reflect on the Lord's searching words when the people sought Him because of His multiplying the loaves and fishes (John 6:26), words which in fact caused many to go back and walk no more with Him. "What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:62-63).

How would the Jews be affected by His leaving the world and ascending back to His proper home? What were His thoughts concerning the world? He was leaving it. In fact, He would be thrust out of it by way of the cross. His connection with the world and the flesh would be broken off violently by the cross.

Therefore, circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. There is no place for anything that is of self. Death has taken its course, and on the other side life has sprung up in a "new creation" in which "old things have passed away; behold all things have become new. Now all things are of God" (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). Blessed and pure resting place for faith! New Creation is the dwelling of all God's redeemed, though their feet are still on earth. Such is the position in which God views them, though in themselves there is still the grieving sinful nature, weakness and failure. Sweet indeed to be lifted above ourselves and our experiences, our estimations and our feelings, to meditate upon and delight in the viewpoint of God in all of this. How unspeakably are we blessed! How exceedingly marvelous are His counsels! God has introduced (only for the vision of faith) an entirely new creation in which nothing earthly can have place. The Law, sin, death and all social, national, economical distinctions, and every other occasion of human boasting, are left behind in the grave of Christ, as it were, and His resurrection is into a realm of perfect purity and holiness, a realm called "New Creation."

The normal, proper course for every Christian is to "walk according to this rule" (v.16), a vast contrast to walking as though under law, for "this rule" fixes the mind on Christ in glory, not on law keeping. It is here that "peace and mercy" properly apply; and to the Israel of God.

"The Israel of God" (v.16) is in contrast to "Israel after the flesh" (1 Corinthians 10:18), bound by the Law and its ceremonies. The expression is to be applied prophetically to the true Israel restored in blessing in the Millennium. The Law then is done away as the basis of any standing before God, and all glory is absolutely given to God. But today mere law-keepers really know nothing of peace and mercy, for they constantly fail to do what they know they must do perfectly.

Strange is the deceit of men, that they would willfully. trouble the publisher of peace, but it would not turn Paul aside, for the marks of the Lord Jesus -- sufferings for His sake -- were in his body (v.17). What a consideration for the Galatians! Then the benediction (v.18) is as from the tender, yearning heart of a father toward his children, "Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit" -- not with their flesh.

This mingling of gentleness with unwavering zeal for his Lord is beautifully characteristic of Paul. Such admirable balance has been seen all through this epistle to the Galatians, and we may be sure that many would take to heart the truth that he so faithfully presented to them, though no scripture gives us any knowledge of what might have been the results in all the assemblies of Galatia. Yet God assures us concerning His Word, "It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11). Since Paul wrote this epistle, it has without doubt proven of great blessing to countless numbers.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Galatians 6:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/galatians-6.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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