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The Book of Galatians Chapter 6
Commentary by Ron Beckham

Verse 1.  “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”

The verse and chapter divisions found in Scripture were not present in the original manuscripts.  Paul probably wrote Galatians at a single sitting (or a single “standing” – he would have been pacing back and forth) and this verse flows directly from Chapter 5.  The “trespass” activities Paul was discussing at the end of that Chapter, included conceit, provoking one another, and envy; all “fruits” of the flesh.

How do we deal with a person (or persons) in the church who behaves in such a manner?  Why, the first step for a “spiritual” person is to pray for them – bring them and their actions to God.  Our next is to reach out to them.  To help them in any way we can.  It may be the person is just ignorant of the trespass they are committing and the effect they are having on others.  And then more prayer, always understanding we too can fall into sin.  As Paul said in 1st Corinthians 10:13, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

Verse 2.  “Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

The “law of Christ” is stated in many places and in a variety of crystal clear ways.  A man came to Jesus and wanted to be told “what are the greatest commandments in the law”?  Jesus replied (in John 13:35) with a quote from Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  You and I are to love the Lord with everything we’ve got.  Good times and bad, we’re to love Him.

And then He continued, “and the second is like unto it – You shall love your neighbor as yourself”, a quote of Leviticus 19:18.  Just as surely as you love the Lord, you are to love those He places into your life.  Your neighbor, friend, co-worker, spouse, the family member who doesn’t like you – You are to love them “as yourself”.  Often this takes the form of bearing “one another’s burdens”.  Paint the fence they don’t have the time for.  Comfort them gently with the Word of God.  Visit them when they are sick.  Expect nothing in return but love them, and “thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

Verse 3.  “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”

People often try to decide exactly who is important in life.  Great and lengthy articles are written about movie stars, singers, politicians, historical figures, religious leaders, scientists, and so on.  We measure others by comparing what they look like and what they have done.  We decide one actor is “great” (and another not) because of the winning of awards and the presence or lack of a popular following.  We rate ourselves in the same manner.

But the real comparison for us is the Son of God.  He was “tempted in all things as we are” and yet He was “without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  It’s easy to think I’m OK in life, as long as I’m comparing myself with someone like John Dillinger or Genghis Khan.  Jesus is the only person who ever lived on this earth that did not sin.  And He is the one “to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).  If we think we are “something”, we are in denial.  The amazing thing is that we who are “nothing”, are given EVERYTHING in Christ Jesus, who loves you and me.

Verse 4.  “But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.”

The word for “examine” was a technical term that was used in the testing of metals to see if they were pure.  “Boasting” is to “glory” and Paul is telling us to not take credit for what someone else is doing, but instead help them by bearing their burdens as in verse 2.  There were apparently those in Galatia who were taking credit for a lot of things they did not actually do.  Paul led them all to Christ and then others went in and took them from the grace of God into legalism.  They were pleased with themselves and boasted about it.

We should take a hard look at who we are and what we are doing.  A good time for that is right before communion.  We like to experience communion at least once a week and take very seriously Paul’s advice:  “Let a man examine himself” and then “eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28).  He also encouraged us to “examine yourselves to see if (we) are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).  Our differences and preferences often are less important than the love we should have for Him and for one another.

Verse 5.  “For each one will bear his own load.”

This verse is not in any way, in conflict with verse 2.  In that verse, we are taught to reach out and help others in their need.  Jesus’ command (His “law”) is found in John 13:34-35, where we are taught to “love one another”.  The entire fulfillment of the law is accomplished by the Holy Spirit of God within us – He moves right in to our hearts (the center of our being) and brings the love of God with Him.

In this verse, another aspect of that truth is shown.  We are to love others by not being a burden to them.  We don’t have to look to people like some do.  Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).  Our “load” will become bearable for a good reason – our Lord Jesus bears the burden with us.  And to make it even lighter, He has given us His Spirit, Who buoys us up, in heart, mind and spirit, so that we can live this life and live it “abundantly”.

Verse 6.  “The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.”

The “body of Christ” as we are called in Scripture (1 Corinthians 12:27) or the “Church” (“called out ones”) in other places, is an integrated whole.  We are one, in and through the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.  We may often not feel or act like we are “one” in Him but we are.  You can see glimpses of this in places like Romans 12:5 – we are “individually members of one another”.  All are given gifts through the Holy Spirit of God, and He has equipped us to help one another.

To not share what we have is both illogical and unbiblical.  To not give is just as strange as the hand saying to the mouth, “I will not feed you, because you are not the hand.”  And the mouth might reply, “I will not eat, because the sustenance goes into the whole body, and because you are not part of the mouth, I will not sustain you” (1 Corinthians 12:16-17).  We have much to share, in the power of God, and it’s time to respond to His will and give to one another.

Verse 7.  “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”

Paul has been presenting different kinds of behavior and attitudes during the whole letter we call the Book of “Galatians”.  Since the middle of Chapter Five, the discussion has been quite specific about certain forms of action, which he called the “works of the Spirit” and conversely the “works of the flesh”.  These were shown to be activities that exclude each other, for if you act in the one way, you are far less likely to respond in the other.

You don’t need to be born into an agricultural society in order to understand these verses.  If you plant corn, tend it and wait a certain amount of time, corn stalks will grow.  If for some reason you sow the seeds of thorny weeds (sinful actions), God will not be surprised by what you have done, even if you “plant” in the “dark”.  YOU may be surprised at the outcome because of the human tendency toward denial – but the “works of the flesh” will take root, and grow into something you won’t like.

Verse 8.  “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

The "flesh" of this world is dying and the systems of this earth are passing away.  A few years ago, I addressed groups of Christians, and referred them to Matthew 6:19-20, asking, what ARE the "treasures on earth" and "treasures in heaven" that Jesus spoke about?  Those words of the Lord Jesus are very important but surprisingly few have any idea what the Son of God actually meant by them.  It’s important because earthy behavior brings “corruption” (degeneration - entering a worse state than before).

Paul is informing us about something very similar to the “treasures” Jesus spoke about and the question is asked: Will you understand?  He's saying that if we seek to do the very things that most in the world value, the result will be – NOTHING that is worth anything!  Our human efforts will eventually bring us ashes (failure and disappointment).  We are instead to "sow to the Spirit" (respond to God) and we will be given - LIFE! – Wonderful, abundant life, both now and for all eternity.

Verse 9.  “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”

It's easy to get tired.  Our activities will tire us, for we only have a limited amount of strength.  Then unexpected trouble comes, and it leads to discouragement, further tapping our reserves.  "Don't lose heart," Paul is encouraging us, "keep on doing good," and we are reminded that the reward for service to our King is very great indeed: We will be with Him.

The key to everything is seen right before this (in verse 8), where we are reminded to "Sow to the Spirit", or as Paul said in Galatians 5:16, "Walk in the Spirit."  Yes indeed, we are to exhibit the "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22-23), but not simply in our own strength.  The work was done on the cross of Christ, and is being done "in the Spirit" through those that trust in Him.  Do not lose heart, for He loves you and He will bring you through.

Verse 10.  “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”

Considering all that Jesus Christ has done for you and me, and with the understanding that the Holy Spirit is actually the One who is doing the hard part of “our” work, we should be filled with JOY.  Most people on this planet are depressed in spirit, most of the time.  The reason is because they choose to not understand the great Gift we have been given: Jesus Christ died in our place.  He has satisfied the requirements of a holy God.  We are set free in Him! Praise the Lord!  And our bonus is the Holy Spirit of God!

And what should our response be to such information?  Why, as stated, we should be filled with joy!  Joyful people gain in strength.  Do you remember Mary Magdalene?  She was filled with JOY because she TRUSTED in the Son of God and was FORGIVEN.  He will give you not only forgiveness, love and courage, but also the ability to help those who are in need.  Do good for all, especially for those who are in Christ, and He will bless not only them, but you, as well.

Verse 11.  “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.”

Some have taught that Paul had a serious, disfiguring eye disease.  They point to his "thorn in the flesh" of 2 Corinthians 12:7, and another statement in Galatians where he said, "If possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me" (Galatians 4:15).  They also cite this verse, where he said, "See what large letters I have written to you in my own hand."

Certainly he had many physical problems.”  As he would say in verse 17, "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.  As mentioned elsewhere, Paul was beaten many times because of his willingness to be an apostle (sent one) of Christ.  His eyes (with whatever vision he had or did not have) were not on this world and its lures, but on Jesus and the world that is to come.  And so should our eyes be on Him who loves you and me.

Verse 12.  “Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.”

Paul suffered tremendous persecution for his teaching that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ and in no other way.  We don't need to go over the various troubles that came to him, except to say that he was beaten innumerable times.  Details are given toward the end of 2 Corinthians Chapter 11.  Note, by the way that Paul did not seek trouble - it just came to him.  There have been those who injure themselves in the name of religion.  Paul was never like that. 

Judaism was a legal religion under Roman Law at the time of this letter, by the way.  If the Christians seemed to be merely a sect of the Jews, they would likely have avoided persecution.  If they were thought to be a new religion, they faced tremendous suffering under the Caesars of Rome.  The Judaizers, who knew all that, were avoiding suffering for themselves by teaching the Gentiles to act like Jews.  Paul is telling us that it is infinitely better to be right with God, than it is to be approved by men - even if the cost is very high.

Verse 13.  “For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh.”

Paul was speaking about a teacher or teachers that had gone to Galatia and tried to convince the people that they must keep the whole Law given to the Jews, in order to be saved.  One example was the rite of circumcism.  They taught that Gentile men and boys must be circumcised according to Jewish Law.  In rebuttal, Paul observed that NO ONE, Jews or Gentiles, can keep the Law.  And as James pointed out (James 2:10), to break the Law in one point, is to be guilty of all.  Those who were TEACHING them to keep the Law, did not keep the Law themselves.

These "teachers" (Judaizers) COULDN’T keep the Law (no one can), and they wanted to turn the Galatian Christians into Jewish-appearing people for a very bad reason.  They wanted to bring glory to themselves.  If they converted the Galatians to their way of thinking, they would have felt proud about what they had done.  They were "sowing to the flesh", not to the Spirit (verse 8) and Paul would stop them at any cost.

Verse 14.  “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

As pointed out by Joseph Excell, Paul is strongly contrasting his own feelings for the Galatian Christians and their need for the cross of Jesus Christ, with those of the Judaizers or “circumcision” party, that he has been denouncing.  The Judaizers de-emphasized the cross of Christ and promoted the ceremonial law of the Jews.  They took the focus off Christ and what He has done, and placed the spotlight on themselves.  They were boasting; something Paul never did, except in his Lord.

The flesh of Jesus Christ was mutilated on the cross.  He was injured that you might be healed.  The Judaizers pushed the work of Christ on the cross into the background, and the flesh they wanted to mutilate was that of the Galatians – it was incredible that somehow they promoted circumcision, when Christ has done everything for you and me.  We are dead to the world and the world is dead to us in Him.  He has done it all and because of Him, we are truly now ALIVE in a much better way.

Verse 15.  “For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”

The phrase “a new creation” was used by those of the Jewish religion for Gentiles that had become proselytes to Judaism.  The were allowed to become circumcised Jews and had some acceptance within that religion.  Paul used “their” phrase (“a new creation”) in order to continue building his case against the “Judaizers” who were attempting to take the Galatians away from the grace of God and place them under Jewish Law.

Circumcision does not make someone right with God.  And just in case someone used this verse and tried to build a case against the Jews – NOT being circumcised doesn’t do anything for you, either.  Baptism does not make you right with God and neither does membership in some church or another.  The only thing that can help you is to become a “new creation” in Christ Jesus.  You must be born anew in Him, and THEN you have standing with God because of what Jesus has done for you and me.  There is no other way.

Verse 16.  “And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”

The “rule” of this verse actually refers to a carpenter’s or surveyor’s measuring line, commonly used to accurately mark out a path or a road.  The direct context of this statement is verse 15, where Paul said that “neither is circumcision nor uncircumcision anything”, a statement he contrasted with the phrase, “a new creation.”  Those that receive the grace of God in Christ and go forward with their lives and hearts entrusted to the Holy Spirit, will find peace with God and mercy from Him.

He contrasts the grace of God with those who attempt to be “right” with God, through the keeping of some kind of legalistic system.  Those who act in such a manner will not have peace and not know His mercy.  The phrase “Israel” of God is probably a reference to “the peace upon Israel”, which in the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, was the phrase at the end of Psalms 125 and 128.  He is stating there is an Israel which says it is but it is not, and he is also alluding to the “false brethren” in the church (Galatians 2:4).

Verse 17.  “From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.”

Paul had known plenty of trouble but nothing hurt him more than “false brethren” (Galatians 2:4) that crept in and attempted to take those who had trusted in Christ, AWAY from the grace of God and into some kind of “spiritual” bondage.  However, he had been hurt physically many times, and he made reference to those injuries in this verse.  He used the Greek term “stigma”, which meant “branding without puncture”.  It denoted a mark of ownership on horses and cattle.

Branding was not considered humane in relation to slaves of the time, but it was sometimes used on them as a form of punishment, particularly in relation to those who ran away.  Paul considered himself the bond-slave of Jesus Christ, his Savior and Lord.  He was well aware that in previous years he had run away from Him and he personally knew the uselessness of trying to live under Law.  His dedication to the truth was shown by the marks on his body, provided by those who hated the freedom he knew in Christ.

Verse 18.  “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.”

The word “grace” forms a completely appropriate ending for this epistle (letter) of Paul, for the whole Book of Galatians is all about the grace of God, freely given to you.  To have “grace” (the Greek word “Charis”) is to have undeserved favorable regard from God.  It’s just like the President or King of your country sent for you and wants you to come live with him to be his special friend.  Or even more accurately, it’s God the Son who decided to become YOUR special Friend.  He wants to listen to you and share with you, and hear what you have to say about how His kingdom should be run.

Now, that kind of information makes you feel good, and the fact that it is all true, makes it even better.  When God’s grace is with YOUR spirit (the center of your being – the place where Christ lives), you reasonably start to feel gratitude.  JOY builds inside of you, as you understand that you are a favorite of the King.  He IS with you, and if you have received Him, you are His little sibling.  He is giving you EVERYTHING out of His love for you.  And he concludes with the Hebrew word “Amen”, which means “it is so!” For He loves you without limit and you have GRACE WITH God in Christ.

 

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
www.fridaystudy.org
ron@fridaystudy.org

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