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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Galatians 6

 

 

Verse 1

3. Mutual and common Church communion, Galatians 6:1-10.

a. Mutual meek reproof, Galatians 6:1-5.

1. Brethren—Calling their affectionate attention to a new start of thought, yet strictly connected with the vainglory of the last verse of the last chapter. The new thought is, Correct a transgressing brother without airing your own superiority.

Man—Though speaking specially of a member of a Christian Church, Paul uses the term designating us as a responsible being, carrying the term consistently through Galatians 6:3-5; Galatians 6:7.

Overtaken—Does this mean, overtaken by temptation, and inadvertently involved in fault? or, detected in his fault before he had a chance to escape? The translators, by omitting the word και, even, and giving fault where the word should be transgression, have preferred the former sense, making it a comparatively venial case. The truer rendering would be, If a man be even unexpectedly detected in the very act of transgression. And the real thought is, Even in the most unequivocal case of a sinner, reprove and restore, not with a display of vainglory, but with meekness. The word for overtaken is προληφθη, foretaken, that is, taken before he could escape.

Spiritual—Those of Galatians 5:16; Galatians 5:18; Galatians 5:25, who walk in, and are led by, the Spirit. Even these need an admonition not only to restore the sinner, but to restore him in the right spirit. No earthly sanctification places us above the need of admonition, or of care over our own spirit and methods.

Considering thyself—St. Paul here drops into the singular number very forcibly to carry the admonition to every man’s individual breast.

Thou—For thy spirituality exempts thee not from temptation; nay, it may have its own to vainglory and censoriousness. If it be well to “profess sanctification,” it is still better to so “live it” as that others should profess it for you. The neighbours of John Brainard said, that “he was as holy a man as ever his brother David was;” though John is not recorded as himself so saying.

Restore—Repair, reconstruct. It is an image taken from any structure broken or disarranged by mishap. It may refer to a machine with its parts disordered, or to a body with its limbs dislocated, or, as here, figuratively to a soul broken or disordered by sin.

Tempted—St. Paul delicately avoids fully saying, lest thou also be caught in a fall.


Verse 2

2. Bear—Instead of triumphing over.

Burdens—Frailties, and disgraces arising from frailties. Your brother had his heavy liabilities to this sin; he has now the weight of shame for his sin: instead of putting your holy foot upon his weakness, put your shoulder under his load, and share half or all the pressure. Thus you will enable him to tread the straight and narrow path again, without deviating from it yourself. St. Paul’s one another, implies that as fellow travellers, each carrying his knapsack, we shall perpetually need to lend each other a mutual shoulder.

Fulfil—An equally good reading makes a future, ye will fulfil.

Law of Christ—Namely, the law of love (v, 14,) and liberty. See James 1:25.


Verse 3

3. For if, in the spirit of the above vainglory, forgetting the spirit of meekness, with which we should bear.

A man… something—A proper corrector and restorer of others. The maxim is, indeed, general, but Paul uses it now in special reference here to the spiritual reprover.

Nothing— As he truly would be, if, while correcting his neighbour’s fault, he is falling into vainglory.

Deceiveth himself—A very expressive single Greek word, not found in any previous author, perhaps invented by St. Paul, and used by himself again in Titus 1:10, and may be rendered cheats-his-own-brain.


Verse 4

4. Prove—In the manner suggested by St. James 1:25, by bringing the law of love to bear upon his work, to see if it is a work, not of vainglory, but of love.

Work—His work of reproof; but inferentially applicable to all other moral work in life. That Paul means this special work is clear from the blessed result that he next deduces.

Rejoicing—A true glory instead of a vainglory. The test by which we are to prove our own work, namely, the law of love, is not only an easy one but a delightful one: easy, because we can easily know whether love has pervaded our whole work or not, if we honestly examine our thoughts in the act; and delightful, if we find that the work of reproving has truly been a work of meek, restoring love. To find this love in our hearts is a matter of rejoicing far above any glory. To find it absent is truly to catch ourselves in a transgression as bad, perhaps, as our fellow sinners.

In himself—In his own case, as it stands in the sight of conscience and of God.

Another—And that other the poor transgressor over whose case we were gathering glory to ourselves in pretending to restore him. The words rejoicing and other should both have the article. He shall have the exultation in reference to himself alone, and not to the other.


Verse 5

5. Prove your own work, for each one has a responsibility laid upon him for his own work. You are as responsible for the style and spirit in which you restore him, as he is for the fault from which you work to restore him.

Every man—You, as well as the transgressor.

His own burden— Each must, in the final hour, bear his own burden of frailty, sin, and guilt. We can put shoulder under each other’s burdens for awhile, but the time must at length come when each shall answer for himself alone. The contradiction in form, with consistency in truth, between Galatians 6:2; Galatians 6:5, is intended by St. Paul, in order, by the apparent paradox, to fasten the thought upon the attention and memory.


Verse 6

b. Mutual co-operation of teacher and Church in solemnly responsible and unwearied good-doing, Galatians 6:6-10.

6. Communicate—Co-operate, share with. From the idea of carrying common burdens upon common shoulders, between Church brethren, the apostle passes to a common co-operation between teachers, preachers, and people in all good doings. With Meyer, against the general run of commentators, we agree that good things refers, not to temporal maintenance, but to Christian and Churchly labours. Leave not Christian activities to ministers and teachers alone. Every one is a responsible labourer in the probationary field. Let all be at work, and always at it.


Verse 7

7. Be not deceived—Beware how you work amiss.

Mocked—God cannot be put off with lazy not-doing, or hypocritical mis-doing. Mocked is derived from the contemptuous turning up the nose at one. God is in earnest, and will hold the nondoer and misdoer to a strict account. He will hold all such as showing contempt to himself.

Soweth… reap—An expressive image of human responsibility, which has been noted by thoughtful men of all ages. As according to the seed we sow is the harvest we reap, so according to the deeds we perform is the retribution we shall receive. Though the retributions of God’s judgment are judicial, there is, perhaps, a natural side to them. They may be at once both provided penalties and natural consequences.


Verse 8

8. To his fleshFlesh and Spirit do not designate the different fields in which we sow, nor the different seeds, but the different interests to please which we sow. Yet the seed is different according to the different interests in which we sow, as the responsible act is different according to which interest it regards.

To his flesh—To the gratification of his flesh.

Reap corruption—That absolute ruin of which bodily putrefaction is the image, and which, as the opposite of eternal life, is eternal death.

Of the Spirit—As the flesh is corruptible, so from the flesh is reaped corruption; as the Spirit is pure, perfect, living and eternal, so the life from him is eternal life. There is a lower and a higher system of things in life, including different masses of men. The one is the system of the flesh, particularly conspicuous in a sensual age like the present. It runs to sensual gratifications and excitements, to the revelling room, the liquor saloon, the horse race, the gambling hell, and the theatre. Opposite to this is the system of intellectual and spiritual aspiration; which tends to the school, the Christian association, the Sabbath dedicated to self-improvement, the Bible, and the Church. The latter accords with the healthful recreation in which reason, but not mere animal, is gratified. The former tends downward, and ends in endless ruin; the latter is upward, and rises to eternal life. Let no one be deceived; for as sure as God is not mocked, these, to the fleshly, will be the result.


Verse 9

9. Not be weary—Like the reaper, through the long, hot, toilsome day, the good man is sometimes likely to faint. Holy life has its weary side to it, but it has, too, its side of hope and cheer.

In well doing—In doing το καλον, the honourable, the excellent, in contrast to the flesh, which tends to corruption, and is base.

In due season—At the harvest season of the world, which, however distant in time, is ever near in its value.

Reap— Eternal life in eternal joy.

Faint not—And decline into apostasy.


Verse 10

10. St. Paul now reverts back to the precept of Galatians 6:6, in enforcement of which the deep warning of 7-9 was interposed.

Opportunity—Improving every opening.

Do good—Rather, Let us work, το αγαθον, the good, the true, the highest good.

Especially—Inasmuch as they are often excluded from many worldly modes of gain, and are impoverished by persecution.

Household—Belonging to the great family of which God is Father, and Christ the older Brother. With this solemn and urgent paragraph our epistle comes to its essential close.


Verse 11

11. Ye see how large a letter I have written—More accurately, Behold ye, in what large letters I wrote to you with my own hand. “Letters” is the alphabetic characters; and it is unquestionable that he refers to their size, not to their unshapeliness, as some think. It may be, as Professor Lightfoot says, that the largeness of their size was intended by Paul to indicate the firmness of his purpose. So we have been inclined to think that John Hancock’s large signature on the Declaration of American Independence was intended as a manly defiance of the ignominious death he dared by it. But we are rather inclined to think that St. Paul calls the attention of the Galatians to the distinctive point between his handwriting and that of his amanuensis. The rapid professional writer, doubtless, wrote in the smaller and lighter hand. Yet both purposes may have blended.

I have written— The term called the epistolary aorist I wrote. The writer speaks as at the standpoint, or rather timepoints of the reader’s perusal, and says, I wrote thus and so to you.

The summary of the epistle which follows seems intended, in some degree, for the same purpose as his autograph, namely, for identification. It is an after-piece adjustable to this epistle only. There is a triumphant tone in this entire peroration. Paul lays bare the motives of his opponents, and contrasts their cowardly courting the foe with his own heroic proclamation of the cross, 12-14. He pronounces the nothingness of circumcision, and this efficacy of the cross as the blessed canon of the true Israel; and sweeps away every obstacle as himself bearing the true mark of Jesus, 15-17.


Verses 11-18

c. Autographic summary of the epistle and closing benediction, Galatians 6:11-18.

“At this point the apostle takes the pen from his amanuensis, and the concluding paragraph is written with his own hand. From the time when letters began to be forged in his name (2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Thessalonians 3:17) it seems to have been his practice to close with a few words in his own handwriting as a precaution against such forgeries. Frequently he confined himself to adding the final benediction, (2 Thessalonians 3:17-18,) with perhaps a single sentence of exhortation, as, ‘If any one love not the Lord Jesus Christ,’ etc., (1 Corinthians 16:21-24,) or, ‘Remember my bonds.’ Colossians 4:18. In the Epistle to the Romans he seems to have appended the ascription of praise, which reads like a postscript.

Romans 16:25-27. In the present case he writes a whole paragraph, summing up the main lessons of the epistle in terse, eager, disjointed sentences. He writes it, too, in large characters, that his handwriting may reflect the energy and determination of his soul.”—Prof. Lightfoot.


Verse 12

12. For—Proof of the motive assigned above; the Judaists disregard that very law which circumcision is a pledge to keep.

Glory in your flesh— May make a merit with the Jewish powers of having converted you to circumcision. The Galatian Judaists were, therefore, courting the lenity of Judaism to escape persecution. To this cowardice St. Paul opposes his own fearless, uncompromising display of the cross.


Verse 14

14. Glory—Their glory is converting you to circumcision; my glory is the shame and suffering of the cross. The world, which you court, with all its glory.

Is crucified—Is ignominiously reduced to death, as regards me.

I unto the world—So that the world and I are even; we are nothing to each other, so far as our seeking glory from each other is concerned. Paul uses the word crucified with a prompt boldness; as if to face down the scorn that salutes the victim of that shameful death.


Verse 15

15. I make the cross all; for circumcision is nothing, just as uncircumcision is. Uncircumcision is no condition of salvation, but a new creature, or, rather, creation; a renovation through Christ.


Verse 16

16. Ruleκανων, that is, canon. Dr. Westcott, in his work on the Canon, says, “The original meaning of κανον (connected with קנת, κανη, καννα, canno, [canalis, channel,] cane, canon) is a straight rule; as a ruler, or, rarely, the beam of a balance; and this with the secondary notion, either (1) of keeping any thing straight, or (2) testing straightness, as a carpenter’s rule, and even, improperly, a plumb-line.” From this the acknowledged books of the Bible are called the canon, and canonical. St. Paul lays down the principle of the last verse, and pronounces a benediction on all who walk (or, a better reading, shall walk) according to this canon.

Israel of God—In distinction from the Israel of the flesh. In this terse phrase Paul triumphantly embodies his great doctrine that the theocracy has left the old ritual and gone with the new Church of the Spirit.


Verse 17

17. From henceforth—From the time-point of the laying down once for all of this unmovable canon.

Trouble me—I move above all molestation and obstacles in my apostolic course; for the trueness of my adherence to Christ is placed above question by my scars in his service.

Marksστιγματα, stigmata, derived from στιζω, to prick, to brand; hence a brand or mark of ownership or disgrace, (as our English word stigma,) either pricked in or burnt upon the body of man or beast. Two kinds of stigmata are, 1. Upon slaves, more usually those who had tried to escape, and then the marks were not only a security to the owner but a disgrace to the slave. 2. Temple slaves, or persons dedicated to some duty, were branded upon hand or neck, and then they were held too sacred to be touched. We might suppose that it was to this last class that the apostle alludes, and proclaims that his scars for Christ are his brands of dedication and ownership, and that no annoying hand should touch him.


Verse 18

18. Brethren—In the Greek this word is the last of the verse and of the epistle. “So,” says Bengel, “he softens with the final word the severity of the whole epistle.” He would part with them as brethren; whether they truly remained brethren, history does not reveal.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Galatians 6:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/galatians-6.html. 1874-1909.

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