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÷÷GALATIANS 6

GALATIANS 6

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Bear One Another's Burdens Bear and Share Burdens Specifics in the Use of Christian Liberty Bear One Another's Burdens On Kindness and Perseverance
6:1-10 6:1-5 6:1-5 6:1-5 6:1-5
Be Generous and Do Good
6:6-10 6:6 6:6 6:6-10
6:7-10 6:7-10
Final Warnings and Benedictions Glory Only in the Cross Paul's Autograph Postscript Final Warning and Greeting Postscript
6:11-16 6:11-15 6:11-16 6:11-16 6:11-16
Blessing and a Plea
6:16-18
6:17 6:17 6:17 6:17
6:18 6:18 6:18 6:18

READING CYCLE THREE(from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Galatians 5:1-6:10 is the practical aspect of Paul's radical free gospel of Christ, made available to believers through the love and grace of God and their repentant faith response.

1. Gal. 6:1-5 gives us specific guidelines on how to deal with a sinning Christian brother.

2. Gal. 6:6-10 has two of the most memorable quotes in the NT. Some see it as a series of unrelated truths. Others see it as a literary unit relating to believers' use of money.

 

B. Galatians 6:12-16 is a brief summary of the entire letter.

 

C. Paul's brief close of Gal. 6:17-18 is reminiscent of his cyclical letter, Ephesians, where closing greetings are notably absent. Remember that the book of Galatians was written to several churches in a geographical area.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

÷GALATIANS 6:1-5

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: GALATIANS 6:1-5
 1Brethren, 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. 2Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But 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. 5For each one will bear his own load.

6:1 "if" This introduces a third class conditional sentence meaning potential, probable action.

▣ "if anyone is caught" This is an aorist passive subjunctive. Literally "surprised" (cf. William D. Mounce's The Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament, p. 393). The phrase points to our own responsibility for our sin but also of sin's subtle temptations and traps (cf. Eph. 4:14; 6:10-18). Some people did not premeditatively violate God's grace; they were duped.

NASB, NKJV"in any trespass"
NRSV"in a transgression"
TEV"in any kind of wrongdoing"
NJB"misbehaves"

At least three sins may be referred to here.

1. light of the false teachers, this may refer to those who had succumbed to the temptation of being circumcised and were trying to gain perfection through the Mosaic Law

2. because of the strong terms used in Gal. 5:15,26, it may refer to the destructive tendencies which were present in the Galatian churches

3. this might be related to the pagan worship excesses described in Gal. 5:19-21

The guidelines which follow are extremely helpful to show the church how believers are to restore a fallen brother to fellowship.

NASB, TEV"you who are spiritual"
NKJV"you who are spiritual"
NRSV"you who have received the Spirit"
NJB"the more spiritual of you"

This should not be misconstrued to mean "you who are sinless." Spiritual maturity has already been discussed in Gal. 5:16-18, 22-25. Spiritual maturity is

1. having the mind of Christ

2. living out the fruit of the Spirit

3. having a servant's heart

4. serving fellow Christians

See SPECIAL TOPIC: JUDGING (SHOULD CHRISTIANS JUDGE ONE ANOTHER?) at 1 Thess. 5:21.

▣ "restore such a one" "Restore" is a present active imperative, an ongoing command, often used of setting a broken bone or fixing fishing nets (cf. Matt. 4:21; Mark 1:19). It is crucial for those who are mature in Christ to help all others in the church to attain that stature (cf. Eph. 4:13) and restore those who have fallen (cf. 2 Cor. 13:11).

Forgiveness and non-judgmentalism are biblical signs of a mature Christian (cf. Matt. 5:7; 6:14-15; 18:35; Luke 6:36-37; James 2:13; 5:9). Church discipline must always be redemptive not vindictive (cf. 2 Cor. 2:7; 2 Thess. 3:15; James 5:19-20). We dare not shoot our wounded!

▣ "looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted" "Tempt" [peirazō] in this context has the connotation "to tempt with a view toward destruction." The same word is used of the evil one tempting Jesus in Matthew 4. Another word for "tempt" [dokimazō] is used twice in Gal. 6:4, but this word has the connotation "to test with a view toward approval." Satan will test and tempt believers in order to destroy them. Believers must be on guard, without and within (cf. 1 Cor. 10:12; 2 Cor. 13:5). See Special Topic at 1 Thess. 3:5.

6:2 "Bear one another's burdens" This is a present active imperative. "One another" is placed in an emphatic position in the Greek sentence. As a way of life mature Christians are to carry their weaker, less mature brothers (cf. Rom. 14:1; 15:1). This fulfills, in a very practical and observable way, the New Law (cf. Gal. 5:14).

"Burden" was used of a crushing weight put on a domestic pack animal (cf. Matt. 23:4). In context it was used metaphorically for the oral traditions of the Judaizers. It is a different term than "burden" in Gal. 6:5, a soldier's backpack.

▣ "and thereby fulfill the law of Christ" The Law of Christ is also mentioned in 1 Cor. 9:21 and "the law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ" in Rom. 8:2. The Law of Christ is also characterized in different ways in James.

1. James 1:25, "the flawless law that makes men free"

2. James 2:8, "the royal law"

3. James 2:12, "the law of liberty"

As the yoke of the oral traditions interpreting the Mosaic Law had become a pressing burden to the Jews, the yoke of Christ is easy and light (cf. Matt. 11:29-30). However, a yoke it is (cf. John 13:34; 1 John 4:21), and this yoke is our responsibility to love and serve one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

The verb "fulfill" used here is found in two different tenses in the manuscripts.

1. aorist imperative in MSS א, A, C, D

2. future active indicative in MSS B, F, G

3. future active indicative, but with different initial preposition in MS P46

The UBS4 committee was uncertain which was original. They thought possibly that the future was changed to an aorist imperative because of the preceding infinitive in Gal. 6:1 (Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament).

6:3 "if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing" This is a first class conditional sentence, assumed true from the author's perspective or for the author's literary purposes. Christians should judge themselves so that they can appropriately relate to each other and can avoid overestimating themselves (cf. 1 Cor. 3:18, possibly reflecting Isa. 5:2). This does not mean that Christians do not have sin, but that sin does not dominate their lives (cf. 1 John 1:8; 3:6, 9). Therefore, they can help and pray for those whose lives are dominated by sin (cf. 1 Cor. 3:18).

▣ "he deceives himself" This verb occurs only once in the entire NT, meaning to seduce oneself into error. The noun form appears in Titus 1:10. Self-deception is the worst kind of blindness.

6:4 "But each one must examine his own work" This is a present active imperative of the term for "test" or "tempt" (dokimazō) with the connotation of "to test with a view toward approval." See Special Topic at 1 Thess. 3:5.

▣ "and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another" Believers must be careful not to compare themselves with one another (cf. 2 Cor. 10:12), especially those who have been surprised and overtaken by sin (cf. Gal. 6:1).

SPECIAL TOPIC: BOASTING

6:5 "For each one will bear his own load" This may refer to the judgment seat of Christ in an eschatological/end-time setting (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10). At first glance, Gal. 6:2 and 5 seemingly contradict each other until a closer lexical study shows that the two words translated respectively as "burden" and "load" had different usages. The former word in Gal. 6:2 (baros) means a "crushing weight," while the latter word in Gal. 6:5 (phortion) means a "soldier's backpack filled with his needed equipment." Mature Christians must carry the load of responsibility for themselves and sometimes, for others. An example of this might be 2 Cor. 8:13-14. The same term was used of Jesus' guidelines for Christians in Matt. 11:30.

÷GALATIANS 6:6-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: GALATIANS 6:6-10
 6The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him. 7Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8For 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. 9Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

6:6 "the word" This is from the same root as "Word" in John 1:1, referring to Jesus. The "word" is the gospel of and about Jesus. Paul uses a variety of ways to refer to this "word."

1. "the word of God" – 1 Cor. 14:36; 2 Cor. 2:17; 4:2; Phil. 1:14; Col. 3:16; 1 Thess. 2:13

2. "the word of the Lord" – 1 Thess. 1:8; 2 Thess. 3:1

3. the word – Gal. 6:6; 1 Thess. 1:6; Col. 4:3; 2 Tim. 4:2

 

▣ "is to share" This is another present active imperative which relates either to

1. Gal. 6:1-5, a call on the mature to help weaker Christians

2. Gal. 6:7-10, a description of the law of spiritual sowing and reaping (see note at Gal. 6:7)

Those who are taught are under the spiritual responsibility to share in the ministry of those who teach them (cf. Luke 10:7; Rom. 15:27; 1 Cor. 9:9-14). This is a general principle, and although Paul did not personally take advantage of personal remuneration, he advocated it for other ministers. The English word "catechism" is derived from the Greek [katechēō] translated as "taught" and "teaches" which are found in this verse.

▣ "good things" "Good things" is purposefully ambiguous, referring to physical needs, spiritual needs or both. The obvious truth is that those who are being taught should be grateful and responsive. Exactly how this verse relates to the false teachers is uncertain. Paul could have been referring to himself and the Gentile contribution for Jerusalem.

▣ "with the one who teaches him" The teacher ("the one who teaches") refers either to

1. the spiritual gift of teaching as in Acts 13:1 and 1 Cor. 12:28

2. a teacher in the local congregation who trained new believers and children

3. one who taught the entire congregation the implications of the teachings of the Apostles as they applied to their daily lives, as in pastor/teacher of Eph. 4:11

This last option would be similar to the OT task of the local Levites and, later, professional scribes.

6:7 "Do not be deceived" This is a present passive imperative with a negative particle which usually means to stop an act which was already in process. They were already being deceived (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9; 15:33; 2 Thess. 2:3; James 1:16).

▣ "God is not mocked" This verb means "to turn one's nose up at" something or someone. This may refer to those who are called to minister as God's representatives, that is, the teachers of Gal. 6:6. To scoff at Christian ministers is, in a sense, to scoff at God. Jesus, in Matt. 10:42 and 25:40, mentioned that when we help others in His name we are helping Him. This is the same truth but from the opposite direction. However, how these verses relate to one another is uncertain. This may be a general proverb connected with "sowing and reaping" applied in a figurative sense.

This verse may relate to Gal. 6:8-10 and not to Gal. 6:6 at all. This is a moral universe. We do not so much break God's laws as much as we break ourselves on God's laws. Be it known, believer or unbeliever, we reap what we sow. Sin always runs its course, even in the life of believers. Wild oats are very, very expensive—so, too, is self-centered sowing!

"for whatever a man sows" This is a spiritual principle. God is ethical-moral and so is His creation. Humans break themselves on God's standards. We reap what we sow. This is true for believers (but does not affect salvation) and unbelievers (cf. Job 34:11; Ps. 28:4; 62:12; Pro. 24:12; Eccl. 12:14; Jer. 17:10; 32:19; Matt. 16:27; 25:31-46; Rom. 2:6; 14:12; 1 Cor. 3:8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:7-10; 2 Tim. 4:14; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 2:23; 20:12; 22:12).

6:8 "For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption" This refers to the two basic approaches of being right with God (cf. Gal. 5:13, 16-17), human effort (cf. Rom. 8:6-8,13) and free grace (cf. Rom. 8:2-4,6,12-14).

▣ "corruption" See Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: DESTROY, RUIN, CORRUPT (PHTHEIRŌ)

▣ "eternal life" The concept of eternal life which is found in Gal. 6:8 is from the Greek word zoē. It is used particularly by John to refer to resurrection life, the life of the new age (cf. Rom. 5:21; 6:22-23; Titus 1:2; 3:7). It has the same implication here. Verses 8-10 show the consequences of our sowing and reaping.

6:9 "Let us not lose heart in doing good" This is literally "to despair" or "to lose heart" (NEGATED PRESENT ACTIVE SUBJUNCTIVE cf. Luke 18:1; 2 Thess. 3:13; 2 Cor. 4:1,16; Heb. 12:3.) Often Christians grow weary of the very things that they have been called to do.

▣ "for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary" Notice the conditional element (not conditional sentence). It is conditioned on our continued faith response. Also, note the element of God's sovereign timing in our lives. We do not understand why things happen as they do, but because we believe in the sovereignty of God and the specific demands of the free gospel, we direct our lives to certain ways of service and giving. See Special Topic on Perseverance at Gal. 3:4.

6:10 "So then, while we have opportunity" Believers must continue to watch for opportunities to live out their faith in Christ (cf. Eph. 5:15-21; Col. 4:2-6). This phrase will refer to

1. opportunities in daily like

2. before persecution comes

3. before the Second Coming

This may be an allusion to Ps. 69:13 or Isa. 49:8 (cf. 2 Cor. 6:2).

▣ "let us do good" This is a present middle (deponent) subjunctive. Paul states with conviction that our standing with God does not come by human effort, but he is equally emphatic that once we know God we should live a life of strenuous service (i.e., Titus 3:8,14). These twin truths are found in Eph. 2:8-9 and then Gal. 6:10. We are not saved by good works, but we are most definitely saved unto good works.

▣ "to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith" Notice that our love is meant for all people for there is always a view toward evangelism in all of our actions (cf. Matt. 28:19-20; Luke 24:47; John 20:31; Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 9:19-23; 1 Pet. 3:15). However, our primary focus, as far as fellowship, is on the members of the family of God. This is not denominationally focused for we are to take a person at his word that he has trusted in Christ. Once he has made that confession we are to serve him as Christ served us.

I very much like Gordon Fee's insight in to the corporate nature of this book, not the typical western individual emphasis. This book is about the Spirit-filled life of the community of faith and beyond (cf. To What End Exegesis?, p. 163).

÷GALATIANS 6:11-16

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: GALATIANS 6:11-16
 11See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12Those 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. 13For 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. 14But 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. 15For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

6:11 "See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand" This is an aorist active imperative. Paul dictated his letters to a scribe (cf. Rom. 16:22). Some see these final words in Paul's own handwriting as Paul's way of verifying his true letters, in light of 2 Thess. 2:2. We know from several of Paul's letters that he wrote the concluding sentences in his own hand (cf. 1 Cor. 16:21; Col. 4:18; 2 Thess. 3:17 and Philemon 1:19). Since I believe that Paul's thorn in the flesh was Oriental ophthalmia, this is an added evidence of his need to write, not in the small, concise writing of a scribe, but with the scrawling hand of a man who was partially blind.

6:12

NASB"Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh"
NKJV"As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh"
NRSV"It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh"
TEV"Those who want to show off and brag about external matters"
NJB"It is only self-interest"

The Judaizers were more concerned with the outer aspects of religion (cf. Col. 2:16-23); they wanted a religious show (cf. Gal. 4:17)! Convincing the Galatians to be circumcised would be a "feather in their caps" (cf. Gal. 6:13c). The false teachers wanted self-affirmation at the expense of the Galatian believers.

For "flesh" see Special Topic at Gal. 1:16.

▣ "try to compel you to be circumcised" Gal. 6:12-16 are a summary of the entire letter which focuses on the inappropriate emphasis of the false teachers on human effort as a means of being saved or of being fully matured. This is a recurrent danger in the modern church as believers demand service, enthusiasm, ritual, attendance, Bible knowledge, prayer, or any of the good discipleship techniques as a means of being complete in Christ. Paul's great truth was that believers are complete in their standing with God when they have trusted Jesus Christ by faith. In light of this new, full acceptance, believers then must yield themselves in gratitude to God and service to others (i.e., James 2:14-26).

▣ "simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ" This may refer to

1. Jewish persecution (cf. Acts 13:45,50; 14:2,5,19); the Judaizers by their insistence on the Law of Moses would not be rejected as strenuously as Paul's teaching of free grace in Christ alone

2. Roman persecution because Christianity was not a legal, recognized religion as was Judaism

The synagogue instituted its curse formula, which was a rabbinical way of forcing Christians out of the synagogue because they would not and could not say "Jesus is accursed" (cf. John 9:22,35; 12:42 & 16:2).

6:13 "For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves" The subject of this sentence is ambiguous, which could be (1) the false teachers or (2) aggressive converts within the churches of Galatia. The men who argued circumcision as a means of being right with God could not even keep the whole Law themselves (cf. Rom. 2:17-29). If you break the Law one time (after the age of moral responsibility), in one way, then James 2:10 (and Gal. 5:3) is a truth to be reckoned with!

6:14 "But may it never be" See note at Gal. 2:17.

▣ "that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" Paul, of all people, knew what it was to be redeemed out of an undeserving life, zealous though it may be (cf. Phil. 3:2-16). Human boasting is excluded when human merit is excluded (cf. Jer. 9:23-26; Rom. 3:27-28; 1 Cor. 1:26-31). See SPECIAL TOPIC: BOASTING at Gal. 6:4.

▣ "through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" This is the continuing metaphor throughout Galatians which speaks of believers' death to the Law and their being alive to God in Christ. This is a perfect passive indicative, which emphasizes a continuing state accomplished by an outside agent, here, the Spirit. This metaphor is used in Gal. 2:19, 5:24, and here expressing how all things become new when believers identify with Christ's death on the cross. They are now free from the Law in order to live for God (cf. Rom. 6:10-11, 12-23).

For "world" see Special Topic: "Kosmos" at Gal. 4:3.

6:15 "For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation" Paul has already mentioned that circumcision is not the issue (cf. Gal. 5:6; Rom. 2:28-29; 1 Cor. 7:18-19). The issue is salvation, if believers try to make themselves acceptable to God by human effort, either pagan or Jew, they are totally cut off from the absolutely free gift of God in Jesus Christ. There are two mutually exclusive ways of being right with God.

1. the free gospel of Christ through repentance and faith

2. human effort

Paul restates that circumcision is not really the issue (nor food laws, cf. 1 Cor. 8; 10:23-26), but how one pursues right standing with God by perfectly fulfilling the law.

Several early Greek manuscripts add "in Christ Jesus" after "For neither" (MSS א, A, C, D, F, G, and most minuscules and versions (cf. NKJV). However, most modern English versions leave it out because it is absent in MSS P40 and B. The UBS4 rates its exclusion as "A" (certain). It probably was a scribal assimilation from 5:6.

▣ "but a new creation" This is the New Covenant; believers are brand new people in Jesus Christ! All old things have passed away and everything is new (cf. Rom. 6:4; 8:19-22; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:15; 4:24; Col. 3:10).

6:16 "And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them" This may be a loose quotation from Ps. 125:5 and 128:6. From the Greek word "rule" (kanoni) the English word "canon" is derived. This was a construction term used for a measuring reed. It is used here to refer to the gospel (Jesus' yoke, cf. Gal. 6:2). Notice believers are to walk in it, not just affirm it (cf. James 1:22).

▣ "the Israel of God" Significantly Paul calls the Church "the Israel of God." In his writings he has emphasized that Abraham's true seed is not by racial descent but by faith descent (cf. Gal. 3:7,9,29; Rom. 2:28-29; 9:6; Phil. 3:3). The gospel is about Jesus, not national Israel! Believers in Christ are the true "people of God"!

÷GALATIANS 6:17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: GALATIANS 6:17
 17From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.

6:17 "From now on let no one cause trouble for me" The verb is a present active imperative. To whom this is addressed or why is not known. Paul appealed to his service for Christ as the reason that this should not happen again. It possibly refers to the personal attacks that the false teachers used to alienate the Galatian believers from the gospel. The Galatian believers allowed this to happen!

▣ "for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus" As the false teachers were emphasizing circumcision as a mark of God's covenant, Paul asserted that he also had an outward sign. They were the scars

1. of his physical persecution for preaching the good news of Christ (i.e., 2 Cor. 4:7-12; 6:4-6; 11:23-28)

2. from his Damascus road encounter with the risen Christ

3. as a sign Paul was a slave/servant of Christ and under His protection

I think #1 fits the context best.

÷GALATIANS 6:18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: GALATIANS 6:18
 18The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.

6:18 This is an example of a brief closing blessing in a cyclical letter (because there are no personal greetings, like Ephesians). Note that the term "be with your spirit" is a good example of the small "s" (spirit) which is used of mankind's spirit, not the Holy Spirit. However, in many instances in the New Testament, it refers to the human spirit, which is energized by the Holy Spirit. This is probably the implication here.

SPECIAL TOPIC: PAUL'S PRAYER, PRAISE, AND THANKSGIVING

▣ "Amen" See Special Topic at Gal. 1:5.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What are the biblical guidelines for restoring a fallen brother?

2. Are verses 2 and 5 contradictory?

3. What does Gal. 6:6 say about Christians supporting Christian ministries?

4. Describe in your own words the biblical law of sowing and reaping.

5. Describe in your own words the biblical idea of two ways to salvation that are brought out in such clarity in the book of Galatians.

6. Explain in your own words how verse Gal. 6:9 is related to verses Gal. 6:6 and Gal. 6:7.

7. If circumcision was not the issue of Gal. 6:15, why did Paul make such an issue of it?

8. What are the implications of the Church being called the true Israel of God in Gal. 6:16?

 

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