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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
Galatians 6

 

 

Verse 1

GALATIANS CHAPTER 6

Galatians 6:1 Paul adviseth them to reform the faulty with gentleness,

Galatians 6:2 and to bear one another’s burdens.

Galatians 6:3-5 A caution against vanity.

Galatians 6:6-8 He exhorteth to be liberal toward spiritual instructors,

Galatians 6:9-11 and not to be weary in doing good,

Galatians 6:12,13 He showeth the carnal views of those who preached

circumcision,

Galatians 6:14-17 and his own professed dependence on Christ only,

regardless of the world.

Galatians 6:18 He concludeth with a prayer.

In the term

brethren, there is a secret argument persuading the duty which he is pressing, because Christians, particularly members of the same church, are all brethren. By persons

overtaken in a fault, he means such as do not make a trade of open and scandalous sinning, (for such must be rebuked sharply), but such as may be sometimes through infirmity overborne, and run down with a temptation to sin. By those

that are spiritual, he means not only the pastors and governors of the church, (though this care and duty is much incumbent upon them), but such as have received the Spirit of Christ; more especially such as were more knowing in the ways of God, and had spiritual habits more confirmed in them; in which sense spiritual is used in 1 Corinthians 3:1.

Restore such an one in the spirit of meekness: the word translated restore, signifies to put again into joint, or into right order and place. Sin is an inordinate action, and putteth the soul that committeth it out of its due order and place. He willeth the brethren that are spiritual to use all due means to put such a member in joint again, but not to do this roughly, and with passion, and severe correption, but meekly, so as may be most probable to win the sinner’s soul.

Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted; having an eye and respect to themselves, as neither being free from sin, nor from temptations to sin, dealing with others as they would have others deal by them.


Verse 2

Bear ye one another’s burdens; it is a general precept, and may be either understood with reference to what he had said in the former verse, so it hints our duty: though we discern our brethren to have fallen into some sin or error, yet if we discern that they are sensible of their lapse, and their sin is not a pleasure, but a burden to them, though we ought not to bear with them or connive at them in their sins, yet we ought to sympathize with them when we see their sin is become their load and burden, under which they groan and are dejected. Or else more generally, as a new precept commanding us to sympathize with our brethren under any lead of trials and affliction which God shall lay upon them. And so it agreeth with that precept, Romans 12:15. By

the law of Christ, he means the will of Christ revealed in the gospel; particularly the law of love, so nmch enjoined by Christ, John 13:15,33-35 15:12. Which is not called the law of Christ because first given by him, (for himself maketh it the sum of the ten commandments), but because he received it and vindicated it from the corruption of the Pharisees’ interpretation, Matthew 5:43,44; because he so often urged it, and so seriously commanded and commended it to his disciples; and set us the highest precedent and example of it, and hath by his Spirit written it in the hearts of his people.


Verse 3

It is a general maxim, and the truth of it is obvious to every one that readeth it, for supposing a man to be

nothing of what he thinks himself to be, he must needs

deceive himself in nourishing and entertaining such an opinion of himself. For the dependence of it upon what the apostle had said before, it is obvious. Pride, and men’s high opinions of themselves above what they ought, are the cause of their censoriousness and morosity in dealing with other offenders; which modesty would not suffer in them, if they apprehended themselves to be as weak, and as much exposed to temptations, as others are. It is pride and overweening opinions of ourselves, that make us despise or neglect others under their burdens, and so forget the law of Christ; the apostle therefore properly addeth this precept for humility and modesty to those former precepts.


Verse 4

Let every man prove his own work: the apostle, by a man’s

own work here, understands his own actions and manners, which he would have every man to busy himself to search, try, and examine by the Divine rule, whether they be conformable to the will of God, yea or no;

and then, he saith,

shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another; a man shall (if he findeth his work such as is agreeable to the will of God) have a cause to rejoice in himself; not in the merit or perfection of his works, but in his own works; not in others; that is, he shall rejoice in something which God hath wrought in and by him, and not in others. This the apostle wisely propounds, as a means to bring a man to know his own measures; it being a great error for men to measure themselves by the measures of other men, their perfections by others’ imperfections.


Verse 5

That is, God will judge every man in the last day, according not to what others have done, but to what he himself hath done, 1 Corinthians 3:8. Therefore every one is concerned to

prove his own work; for at last his eternal joy and rejoicing, or sorrow and mourning, shall be according to what he himself hath wrought, not according to what others have wrought. If ever they enter into the joy of heaven, they shall rejoice in their own work. And if eternal sorrow be their portion, they shall groan under their own burdens; they will not be the sins of others, but their own sins, which will sink them into eternal misery. For though superiors shall answer to God for the sins of their inferiors, yet it shall not properly be for their inferiors’ sins, but for their own sins, in neglecting to warn and to reprove them, and to do what in them lay to have hindered them in their sinful courses.


Verse 6

Let him that is taught in the word: the word here translated taught, signifieth catechised; and is the same word from which that word is derived; but it here signifieth taught, catechising being but a mode or species of teaching.

Communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things; the precept is concerning the maintenance of ministers, which is fitly expressed by the term communicate, because as the people distribute to their ministers things temporal, so the ministers distribute things spiritual. The

good things here mentioned are temporal good things, such as may be useful to the teacher for him to uphold himself and family. The text teacheth us, that it is the will of God that ministers should be maintained at the charge of the church to which they minister, and it is but an act of justice, for they do but communicate temporal things to those who communicate to them much more valuable things.


Verse 7

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: this to terrify those who find out vain and false excuses to save their purses; he adviseth them not to cheat themselves, for though they might deceive men, yet they could not deceive the all-seeing and heart-searching God.

For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap; further to encourage them to this communicating, he mindeth them, that what they distributed in this nature, was no more lost than the seed is which the husbandman casteth into the ground; which in its season springs up, and returneth into the husbandman’s hand with increase. This metaphor of sowing is made use of also, Proverbs 11:18 2 Corinthians 9:6, to express men’s actions; and lets us know, that our actions, when done, are not done with; but as our bodies shall rise again, so what we have done in the flesh shall be revived and judged; whatsoever, either for quantity or for quality, men sow, the same shall they reap: as to quantity, he had said in 2 Corinthians 9:6, that he who soweth sparingly should reap sparingly, and he who soweth bountifully should reap bountifully: as to quality, he here further addeth:. {see Galatians 6:8}


Verse 8

For he that soweth to his flesh; he that layeth out his estate, or spendeth his time and talents, for the gratifying of the flesh;

shall of the flesh reap corruption; shall or may reap some carnal satisfaction, of a corruptible, dying, perishing nature.

But he that soweth to the Spirit; but he who layeth out his estate, or spendeth his time, strength, talents, whatsoever God hath given him, for the glory of God, in obedience to the commands, motions, and dictates of the Spirit, or the revelations of the Divine will;

shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting; he shall not of merit, but of grace from the Spirit, reap everlasting life, reward, and satisfaction. So that as in the world, that man doth not suffer loss that layeth out his money, time, or strength about good things of a valuable and enduring nature; but he only who layeth them out about things perishing, and transitory, and of a corruptible nature: so that man shall not lose his estate that layeth it out for the maintenance of the gospel, and upholding the ministry of it; for he soweth to the Spirit, and shall thereof reap eternal life and salvation: he only loseth his estate, &c., who spendeth it to gratify his lusts, and please his flesh, for all the return which he shall have, will be in poor, sensible, perishing good things, which perish with the using, and will be of no significancy to him beyond this life.


Verse 9

Let us not be weary in well doing: we have the same precept, 2 Thessalonians 3:13. As the not executing of judgment speedily imboldens sinners, and encourageth them to go on in courses of sin, so God’s delaying the rewards of the righteous, often proveth a temptation to good men to be weary of well doing. Against this the apostle cautioneth us here, by minding us, that there is a

due season for all things (which is best known to the wise God); and assuring us, that though, as we see not the husbandman presently reaping as soon as he hath sown, but waiting patiently in hope that in a due season he shall reap; so we, though we be not presently rewarded, yet in God’s season shall as certainly reap as he doth. But he also mindeth us, that if we will reap we must not

faint, but go on and persevere in our course of well doing; otherwise we can no more expect to reap, than the husbandman can that hath sown well, but out of impatience, before the time cometh for him to reap, shall go and plough up again all that he hath sown: see Ezekiel 33:13.


Verse 10

As we have therefore opportunity; as we have objects before us, or as God gives us time and ability.

Let us do good unto all men; let it be our business to harm none, but to supply the necessities of all men; either with our spiritual advice and counsels, with all the assistance we can give them that may any way be of spiritual profit or advantage to them; or with our worldly goods, ministering to their necessities.

Especially unto them who are of the household of faith; but all in an order, preferring Christians before others; those that belong to the church, (which is called the house of God, 1 Timothy 3:15 1 Peter 4:17, and the household of God, Ephesians 2:19), before such as have no such relation to the church.


Verse 11

Paul made use of the hands of others in the writing some others of the Epistles, as appears from Romans 16:22, and sometimes he himself only wrote the salutation, 1 Corinthians 16:21: but he tells them he wrote this Epistle to them wholly with his own hand, that he might thereby more commend his love to them and care over them.


Verse 12

The apostle here reflecteth upon those false teachers who had perverted this church, and discovereth their hypocrisy under all their pretences of good will to them. These are those who (he saith) desired

to make a fair show in the flesh; that is, to make a fair show to the world, as men very devout, which formalists and persons over zealous for rituals ordinarily do. These would

constrain, were very urgent to persuade, these believers

to be circumcised; not out of any love they had to the law of God, or to the souls of these Galatians, but

only to avoid persecution; for as the Jews were more favourable to such Christians, who, together with the doctrine of Christ, observed also their rites and legal ceremonies; so we are told by so of the ancients, that some of the Roman emperors, by their edicts, gave liberty to the Jews, in the provinces subject to them, to use their own religious rites: now all who were circumcised went under that notion, so had more liberty than those who were not circumcised, who were persecuted both by the Jewish and the heathen magistrates. The apostle saith, that these false teachers, who so zealously urged circumcision upon this Gentile church, did it for the avoiding the danger of persecution; which they saw would follow their standing fast in their gospel liberty, and not bringing themselves under the law: which persecution, he tacitly hinteth, ought not to be so industriously shunned and avoided, because it was for Christ’s sake, who had endured the cross for them.


Verse 13

In this the hypocrisy of your false teachers discovereth itself, that whereas, by their being circumcised, they had declared themselves debtors to the whole law, and under an obligation entirely to keep it if they would be saved, yet they themselves did not keep it; only they were very zealous for this one thing, not out of any love they had to the law, but that they might glory of you, as their converts, being by them persuaded to be circumcised.


Verse 14

For my part I have no such ends, I have no ambition to glory in you as my converts; all that I desire to glory in, is in the doctrine of the gospel, and my sufferings for the propagation of it, and my conformity to Christ in suffering for preaching the gospel. By the cross of Christ

the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world; I care no more for the world than it careth for me; the world despiseth and contemneth me, and the doctrine of the cross which I preach and publish in it, and I contemn it, with all its vain pomp and splendour. And this I do through the

cross of Christ, remembering how the world dealt with Christ, and how little he regarded the world: or, through the grace of Christ, who hath enabled me to it, for the particle translated

by whom, may be indifferently translated by whom or by which.


Verse 15

Under the gospel state as settled by Christ, with reference to salvation, it is of no moment whether a man be a Jew or a Gentile; but whether a man be regenerated or not, and be renewed by the Holy Ghost, so as old things with him be passed away, and all things be become new. He had said the same, Galatians 3:28 5:6. See also 2 Corinthians 5:17. Under the law, indeed, there was something in circumcision, as it was God’s covenant in the flesh to that people to whom he gave it, and the uncircumcised were strangers to the covenants of promise, and aliens to the church of God; but under the gospel, circumcision and uncircumcision are of no significancy; God neither regardeth any for the former, nor rejecteth any for the latter, he only looketh at the heart and inward man, whether that be renewed and sanctified, yea or no.


Verse 16

And as many as walk according to this rule; he either meaneth the rule of Scripture, the whole word of God; or the doctrine which he had taught them throughout this Epistle, or what he had said in the words immediately going before, where the apostle had given them this rule, not to regard either circumcision or uncircumcision, or any thing in the flesh, but only the change of their hearts. To these he either prophesieth

peace and mercy, or he prayeth peace and mercy for them; under which large terms he comprehendeth all good things, whether internal or external.

Upon the Israel of God; upon the true Israelites, whom he calleth the Israel of God; hereby intimating and confirming the truth of what he had said, Romans 2:28,29, and what our Saviour had said of Nathanael, John 1:47, calling him an Israelite indeed, because in him was no guile; and establishing a distinction between such as were so really, and those who were only Israelites in name, because descended from Jacob, to whom God gave the name of Israel. Hereby also checking the vanity of the Jews, who gloried in the name of Israelites, and thought there could no water come out of the fountains of Israel which God would cast away. The apostle doth not promise, or prophesy, mercy and peace to all Israelites, but only to the Israel of God; that is, to believers, that received and embraced Jesus Christ offered in the gospel.


Verse 17

Let no man trouble me, either with questions about circumcision, or with imputations as if I were a friend to their opinion, of the necessity of adding to the doctrine of faith, circumcision and other observances of the law.

For I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus; I sufficiently declare my judgment to the world, suffering for my profession, and preaching the gospel. These sufferings he calls

the marks of the Lord Jesus, because he endured them in testimony to the gospel, as well against the Jews its against the Gentiles.


Verse 18

The apostle closeth this Epistle with this prayer, as he generally concludeth all his Epistles, with wishing them grace,

the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; under which he comprehendeth all the effects of the free love of God upon believers’ souls, for the sake, and in and through the merits, of the Lord Jesus Christ: this he prayeth that they might feel in their hearts, and that it might be in their spirits, to quicken, strengthen, comfort, and establish them, according to the different manifestations of the Spirit of grace.

It hath been said before, that we are not to look upon these dates of apostolical Epistles as part of holy writ, for in some of them there are manifest mistakes; but most think that this Epistle was written from Rome, while Paul was a prisoner there, who are in part guided to it from Galatians 6:17, thinking that it was written at a time when Paul was there suffering imprisonment. But of this there is no certainty.

 


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Galatians 6:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/galatians-6.html. 1685.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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