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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
Galatians 6

 

 

Verse 1

Galatians 6:1. Spiritual life (Galatians 5:25-26) must show itself in spiritual action, especially in charity, meekness, and modesty.

Brethren. A word of love more potent than argument.

Even if a man be overtaken or surprised, before he is aware of it or able to resist. Sins of precipitancy. We ought to take this charitable view of our neighbor’s trespasses as far as possible. If ‘even’ be connected with the verb (caught in the very act), an aggravation of the offence would be implied, but this is not consistent with the context.

Ye that are spiritual, or ‘Ye the spiritual ones,’ who are possessed and animated by the Holy Spirit. This refers back to chap. Galatians 5:25, and especially to that part of the congregation which remained faithful to the teaching of Paul. Comp. ‘Ye are strong,’ Romans 15:1. True charity is a test of spirituality. True strength and freedom show themselves in bearing and forbearing.

In the spirit of meekness, stronger than ‘in a meek spirit.’ Comp. 1 Corinthians 4:21, ‘in love and a spirit of meekness.’

Looking to thyself, taking heed each one of you. An individualizing transition from the plural to the singular which makes the charge more direct.


Verses 1-10

Miscellaneous Exhortations.

The Apostle exhorts the Galatians to deal gently with a weak brother, to bear the brother’s burden, to be on their guard against conceit, to be liberal to their teachers, and to persevere in doing good.


Verse 2

Galatians 6:2. Bear ye one another’s burdens, all sorts of troubles, cares, errors, and infirmities. Sin and error should be resisted and rebuked in a spirit of charity and meekness; but with all our faults we ought to esteem and love one another as brethren in Christ (Comp. Romans 15:1.)

And thus ye shall (completely) fulfil the law of Christ, namely, the law of love. (Comp. Galatians 5:14; Romans 13:8; John 13:34; 1 John 3:23.) The E. V. is based on another reading which expresses the imperative, instead of the future. The authorities are almost equally divided.


Verse 3

Galatians 6:3. The best motive of forbearance towards others is the sense of our own weakness.

Being nothing, notwithstanding his conceit. Every man is apt to overestimate himself; humility is one of the rarest, but sweetest graces. ‘In Christian morality self-esteem is vanity, and vanity is nothingness.’


Verse 4

Galatians 6:4. If a man desires to find cause for boasting, let him test and examine his own actions, and not contrast his fancied virtues with the faults of his neighbor. But every sincere self-examination results in humiliation.

His own work, collective and emphatic: the aggregate of his actions.


Verse 5

Galatians 6:5. For each man shall bear his own burden. No contradiction to Galatians 6:2. Those who bear their own burden are best able to sympathize with others and to share in their burdens. Those who pray most for themselves pray most for others. ‘Each is to prove his own work and not to leave it to be accomplished by others, and at the same time each is to help all others as often as he can find opportunity. And the opportunity to bless others is itself one of the greatest of blessings.’ Paul is fond of paradoxes and antithetic expressions of complementary truths (comp. Philippians 2:12-13; 2 Corinthians 12:10; ‘when I am weak, then I am strong’).


Verse 6

Galatians 6:6. Let him that is taught (or, orally instructed) in the word (of God) share with him that teacheth, in all good things (temporal possessions of every kind). Injunction of the duty of the congregation to support liberally their teachers. Their relation is a partnership, a communion of interests. They are mutually dependent and helpful, and should share each other’s blessings and burdens. Temporal support is but a small return for spiritual blessings. The Galatians needed this exhortation very much. They were asked to contribute to the suffering churches in Judaea (1 Corinthians 16:1), but we do not learn that they did it. The niggardly spirit of the Gauls was proverbial.(1) Paul set a noble example of self-denial in supporting himself as a tent-maker, preaching the gospel by day and working at his trade by night! Only by exception he received contributions from his beloved Philippians. And he was never weary to take up collections in his poor congregations for the support of the still poorer brethren in Judaea. But as our Saviour laid down the principle ‘that the laborer is worthy of his hire’ (Luke 10:7), so the Apostle repeatedly urges upon his readers the duty of supporting their teachers. See 1 Thessalonians 2:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 9:4 ff.; 2 Corinthians 11:7 ff.; Philippians 4:10 ff.; 1 Timothy 5:17-18. The less a minister says on the pulpit about his salary the better; but sometimes duty requires plain talk on this delicate subject. The passage implies that the church ought to be supported by voluntary contributions of the people, not by taxation, which checks the exercise of liberality, and is apt to create indifference and dislike. Galatians 6:7. Enforces the duty of liberality. It carries in itself its own exceeding great reward, for ‘it is more blessed to rive than to receive,’ and sows the seed for a rich harvest in heaven; while illiberality and stinginess belittles and beggars the man here, and lets him go empty on the great day of reward.

Be not deceived. How many deceive themselves and imagine that they can withhold from their minister his just dues without incurring the displeasure of God.

God is not mocked, cannot be treated with contempt without provoking his righteous punishment

Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (Comp. 2 Corinthians 9:6.) A proverbial expression (Job 4:8), found also among classical writers (Aristotle, Cicero, etc.), but here spiritualized and applied to the future reward and punishment. The present life is the seed time, the future life the harvest. Who sows grain will reap grain, who sows tares will reap tares; who sows plentifully will reap plentifully, who sows sparingly will reap sparingly. Those who keep this great truth constantly before their eyes will redeem every hour and use every opportunity to do good.


Verse 8

Galatians 6:8. He that soweth unto (upon) his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth unto (upon) the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap life eternal. Galatians 6:7 speaks of the kind of seed sown (‘whatsoever’), Galatians 6:8 of the kind of soil on which the seed is sown. The soil of the flesh, that is of corrupt human nature, yields blighted and rotten fruit; the soil of the Holy Spirit yields sweet and healthy fruit, even eternal happiness and peace.


Verse 9

Galatians 6:9. But let us not be weary (lose heart) in well doing. Not only in regard to the duty of liberality, but in every good work. (Comp. 2 Thessalonians 3:13.) ‘Fatigue is not weariness. In well-doing we are more apt to be weary than fatigued’ (Riddle).

In due season we shall reap, in the time of harvest (comp. 1 Timothy 2:6; 1Ti_6:15; Titus 1:3). ‘The due season is God’s season’ (Riddle). If we faint not, ‘as husbandmen overcome with heat and fatigue.’ (Comp. James 5:7.)


Verse 10

Galatians 6:10. So then as we have opportunity (lit.,?. seasonable time). Each opportunity for doing good is an angel that offers us his services. If neglected, it may never return. Let us do good unto all, especially unto the members of the household of the faith. To do good is the great end of life: first and most to our home, our kindred, our country, our church, our brethren in the faith then to all men good and bad. Charity begins at home, but does not stay at home; it goes to the ends of the earth. The church is often represented as the house of God (1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 4:17), and believers as one family, as ‘fellow citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God’ (Ephesians 2:19).


Verse 11

Galatians 6:11. See in what large letters (or characters) I write unto you with mine own hand. Not ‘how large a letter’ (E. V.), This would require the accusative in Greek, not the dative (‘with’ or ‘in what large letters’). It refers to the handwriting, not to the contents. Some understand it of awkward, ill-formed characters, and trace them to Paul’s inexperience in Greek (?), or to want of mechanical skill, or to defective eyesight, or to bodily suffering at the time. But the Greek (πηλίκοις ) refers to large size only, and may indicate the emphasis laid on these concluding sentences (corresponding to our use of underscoring), or a habitual bold hand which is often expressive of energy and strong conviction. We have no autographs of the Apostles; the oldest manuscripts date from the fourth century, and are written in large or uncial characters. Paul employed usually an amanuensis or copyist (as Tertius, who wrote the Epistle to the Romans from dictation, Romans 16:22), but added with his own hand a closing benediction, or some sentences as a special mark of affection, or as a precaution against forgers of letters in his name (2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Thessalonians 3:17-18; 1 Corinthians 16:21-24; Colossians 4:18; Romans 16:25-27). ‘I write’ (lit ‘I wrote’ or ‘have written’) is often used in epistolary style from the standpoint of the recipient. It may refer to the concluding part only, or to the whole Epistle. The former is more probable from his habit of dictating or sending a copy of his letters.


Verse 12

Galatians 6:12. As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh (in the sphere of the flesh), they (and no others) constrain you to be circumcised only that they may not be persecuted on account of the cross(1) of Christ. They display their zeal for external or carnal ordinances by forcing circumcision upon you, that thereby they may escape the scandal and persecution of the cross of Christ, to which they would expose themselves among their unconverted Jewish countrymen by abandoning the law. (Comp. Galatians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 1:24.) Circumcision and the cross, like works and faith, are antagonistic principles, if they are set up as conditions of salvation. The zeal of the Judaizers is traced to a selfish motive to please men and to avoid suffering. The Pharisees loved to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they might be seen of men (Matthew 6:5).


Verse 13

Galatians 6:13. For not even they who are circumcised keep the law (in all its details, comp. Galatians 5:3), but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. The advocates of circumcision are not sincere in their zeal, but want to gratify their vanity in making proselytes. (Comp. Matthew 23:15.)


Verse 14

Galatians 6:14. But as for myself, let it never happen (or, far be it) that I should glory (in any thing) save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which (the cross) the world hath been crucified to me and I to the world. The cross, as the material instrument of capital punishment of criminals and slaves, is the most ignominious of gibbets; the cross as the symbol of Christ’s passion signifies the most glorious of facts and truths, namely, the atonement for the sins of the world. The cross of Christ was a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the heathen, and is so still to the unconverted man, because it is death to the flesh, the world, and the devil. It destroys all self-righteousness and boasting. It is the deepest humiliation of self, the strongest exhibition of man’s guilt, which required even the sacrifice of the Son of God, and of God’s love which made that sacrifice, and the strongest stimulus to gratitude for such amazing love. Hence Paul determined to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 2:2; Philippians 3:7 ff.). Christ crucified for our sins and raised for our justification was his ruling passion, his one idea which changed his life and by which he converted others. In the cross of Christ is contained the whole redemption. ‘Through which,’ the cross, the instrument of Christ’s crucifixion, and my crucifixion with Him (Galatians 2:20). Others translate ‘through whom,’ namely, Christ; but this would rather be expressed by ‘in whom.’ ‘The world’ alienated from God with all its vanities and sinful desires. So the word is often used by Paul and John. The world has lost all its charm and attraction for the Christian, and the Christian has lost all his appetite for the world; they are dead to each other; old things have passed away, Christ is all in all.


Verse 15

Galatians 6:15. For [in Christ Jesus] neither circumcision is any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. Comp. Galatians 5:6 and note, and 1 Corinthians 7:19. All external distinctions are lost in Christ, and the new creature is everything. In all these passages the first clause is the same, but the second differs, namely:—

Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but

faith which worketh by love (Galatians 5:6); a new creature (Galatians 6:15); keeping the commandments of God (1 Corinthians 7:19)

A new creature.’ The Greek may mean the act of creation, or the thing created. Here the latter, as the result of a creating act of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17 : ‘If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, they are become new.’ (Comp. also Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 2:15; Ephesians 4:24.) The phrase ‘new creature’ was common among Jewish writers to designate a moral change or conversion to Judaism (= proselyte); but in Paul it has a far deeper spiritual meaning.

The remarks of Luther on this verse are worth quoting as a characteristic specimen of his famous Commentary, which is not so much an exposition as an expansion and application of Paul’s Epistle to the controversies of the sixteenth century. ‘This is,’ he says, ‘a wonderful kind of speech which Paul here uses, when he says, “Neither circumcision or uncircumcision availeth any thing.” It may seem that he should rather have said, “Either circumcision or uncircumcision availeth somewhat;” seeing these are two contrary things. But now he denies that either the one or the other is of any consequence. As if he should have said, Ye must mount up higher; for circumcision and uncircumcision are things of no such importance, that they are able to obtain righteousness before God. True it is, that they are contrary the one to the other; but this is nothing as touching Christian righteousness, which is not earthly, but heavenly, and therefore it consists not in corporal things. Therefore, whether thou be circumcised or uncircumcised, it is all one thing; for in Christ Jesus neither the one nor the other availeth anything at all. The Jews were greatly offended when they heard that circumcision availed nothing. They easily granted that uncircumcision availed nothing; but they could not abide to hear that so much should be said of circumcision, for they fought even unto blood for the defence of the law and circumcision. The Papists also at this day do vehemently contend for the maintenance of their traditions as touching the eating of flesh, single life, holy days, and such other; and they excommunicate and curse us, who teach that in Christ Jesus these things do nothing avail. But Paul says that we must have another thing which is much more excellent and precious, whereby we may obtain righteousness before God. In Christ Jesus, says he, neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision, neither single life nor marriage, neither meat nor fasting, do any whit avail. Meat makes us not acceptable before God. We are neither the better by abstaining, nor the worse by eating. All these things, yea the whole world, with all the laws and righteousness thereof, avail nothing to justification.’


Verse 16

Galatians 6:16. And as many as shall walk according to this rule, etc. Rising above all earthly distinctions to the height of Christian contemplation, Paul pronounces a benediction to all who walk according to the rule indicated in Galatians 6:15. The Greek term for ‘rule’ (canon) is the same which is now used for the Sacred Scriptures as the rule of the Christian faith and practice.

Peace be on them and mercy, ‘Peace’ with God and with themselves, the precious fruit of the atonement and the greatest Christian blessing, which the world cannot give nor take away (John 14:27). ‘Mercy’ is coupled with peace (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; 2 John 1:3). In the other Pauline Epistles we have ‘grace and peace’ in the salutation.

And (namely) upon the Israel of God, the true children of Israel, the people of God, as distinct from the mere carnal descendants. The believing Christians generally (not the Jewish Christians exclusively) are meant (comp. Galatians 3:29; Galatians 4:26; Romans 9:6-8).


Verse 17

Galatians 6:17. From henceforth let no man trouble me. Directed against the Judaizing troublers.

For I bear in my body the marks of Jesus. ‘Marks’ (stigmata) were usually letters burnt upon the arm or forehead of slaves, soldiers, criminals, also devotees of a divinity, to indicate the master, the captain, the crime, the divinity. (Comp. Revelation 7:3; Revelation 13:16). Paul means the wounds and scars of persecution and suffering which he endured in the service of his Master, and which proved him to be a faithful bondman of Christ. (Comp. 2 Corinthians 11:23-25.) They were his credentials and his trophies. ‘Of Jesus,’ as the owner, the master (the genitive of possession). Much Romish superstition has been built upon the term’ stigmata,’ as signifying the prints of Christ’s wounds, as in the case of St. Francis of Assist.


Verse 18

Galatians 6:18. The last sentence of this polemic Epistle is a benediction, and the last word is a word of affection, brethren. It takes the sting out of the severity. With all your faults, the Apostle means to say, I love you still, and the very rebuke was dictated by my deep concern for your welfare.

Thus concludes this Epistle so full of polemic fire and zeal, yet more full of grace,—free, sovereign grace, justifying, sanctifying grace, and full of forgiving love even to ungrateful pupils; an Epistle for the time, and an Epistle for all times.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Galatians 6:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/galatians-6.html. 1879-90.

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