About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

Home Page     

Chapters 6

Previous Section - Chapter 5  

ch. 6:1-10   ch. 6:11-18

 Doing Good To All (ch. 6:1 Ė 10)

Verse 1 opens with the word "brothers".  As I've said before, Paul is still calling the Galatian Christians brothers, as in, "brothers in Christ".  He obviously feels that they have not yet crossed the line and alienated themselves from Jesus.  They are still brothers in Jesus. 

He says in verse 1, "if someone is caught in a sin..."  The word "caught" in the Greek denotes someone who has unknowingly or innocently fallen into wrong doing, or has been deceived. It's not a willful, thought out sin.  We all have the tendency to sin and sometimes before we know it, we are caught, or trapped, in sin and need help to get out.  The point that this is not something that has been thought out is important because Paul is going to tell us to help such a person  caught in the sin.  If the person willfully sins, he most likely does not want help to get out of the sin.  It would appear to me that Paul is not telling us to help that person.

Paul tells us that those who are spiritual among you, that is, the ones who are led by the Spirit, should restore the person trapped in a wrong doing. The Greek word used for "restore" is "kataritze" and is in the present continuous tense. This means that the spiritual person must continuously be restoring the trapped person. It is a present ongoing process, not merely a one time event. Sometimes restoring a person takes time and patience. In Fact Paul is in the midst of trying to restore these Galatians who were in the process of being deceived.

Paul says that the spiritual person, or the mature person, who is helping the one caught in sin must be gentle.  Gentleness among men in Roman culture was not something well thought of.  Men were trained to be rough and tough guys.  Gentleness was seen as weakness in Roman culture.      

While the spiritual person is in the process of restoring his brother, he should be careful himself that he doesnít get trapped. That is why a mature Christian should be the one to help such a person.  The gentle person would be the type of person who would take the needed time to sit down and work the issue through with the one caught in the sin. It's a thoughtful process that both protects the one caught in sin and the one helping. 

The fact that a brother in Christ can be overtaken in a sin tells me that any particular sin does not cause one to lose his salvation as I was taught in Methodism as a youth.  It is not sin that causes one to lose his salvation.  It is unbelief, or rejection of Jesus.  And, just to be clear, unbelief isn't doubt.     

Note the word "tempted" at the end of verse 1.  We are all tempted by sin.  Depending on the sin, one might be tempted more than another.  It is clear that if one has similar problems to the one caught in sin, he should not be helping the one caught in sin.  

In verse 2 Paul says, "carry each others burdens". A burden is something that weighs us down, something we carry on our shoulders, something that causes us stress. Paul says that we should help carry this burden for our brother. Sometimes things are too heavy for us to carry as Christians. Sometimes we need help.  Burdens can be seen in more than one light.  The context of this burden though seems to be the burden that sin places us under.  Again, Paul says to help the one who is caught in sin that has snuck up on him, not the one who willfully wants to sin.  The one who wants out of the burden caused by his sin is the one we should help carry the burden.

The point here is that we are joined together in the Body of Christ.  We are not islands unto ourselves, and for this reason, we must care for those to whom Jesus has joined us.        

We have seen the word "law" mentioned throughout Paul's letter to the Galatians, but here wee see "law" mentioned in a new context.  It's not the Law of Moses.  It's not any religious law.  It's the "law of Christ".  Yes, Jesus has His law.  It is His law we are to obey, not the Law of Moses.  By helping each other Paul says that "we fulfill the law of Christ". What is the "Law of Christ"? The "Law of Christ" is to love God with all of your heart and then love your neighbour as yourself.

In todayís world we think of our neighbour as the person living next door to us, but back in Paulís day the word neighbour had a more far reaching meaning. There werenít farm houses living a few hundred yards from each other where a family would live and work. People lived in villages and went out into the country side to work the land. At the end of the day they would return to the village. They also went out to work as groups of people, not as individuals. Therefore when one used the word neighbour back in those days, they most likely meant the whole community, the whole village, not just someone living next door to them.  I'd suggest that our neighbour might well be any person the Lord puts before us at any given time. 

Why does Paul interject the thought in verse 3 that says, "if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself"?  Paul has just told us that the one who is spiritual should help the one who is trapped in sin. He should give this help in a spirit of gentleness, in case he himself gets trapped. Too often as Christians we think of ourselves way better than what we really are. We go into a situation to offer help as the expert, the one who knows it all. This is not the attitude we should have. If we think of ourselves as something when we are not, then Paul says we are deceived.  We are to humbly try to help our brother who is in need.

In verse 4 Paul says that "each man should test his own actions".  If we think we are somebody, the things that we do should back our words. Many times our words donít back up our actions. If our actions prove our words and thoughts of ourselves to be right, then fine, but if they donít, you are deceived.  We tend to compare ourselves with each other in a way that is not good or healthy. As a result of this comparison we tend to think that we are better than others. Paul tells us not to make such comparisons. We are to test ourselves against GodĎs Word, not others and their thinking.  It is important to understand that it is the Bible that should determine whether we pass or fail the test.  It is too easy for us to think we pass the test if we do not use the Bible as our standard.   Again, what Paul is talking about here is in reference to helping a brother in need.  We don't compare ourselves with that brother.  We just humbly help him. 

Verse 5 says that each man should carry his own load. Now what is Paul saying? He has just told us that we should help each other carry our loads, and now he says that we should carry our own load. When a person is overwhelmed by something we should help that person. On the other hand we are responsible to the Lord to carry our load. We cannot always expect others to carry what we can carry. This is why we have the Holy Spirit. He can help us. Paul, in his ministry had to depend on the Spirit of God because he could not be in close contact with his churches as apostles can be today. with our modern ways of communications. Today we depend on technology at times more than the Holy Spirit. We have the ability to carry the load that Jesus has given us. There is a difference between being loaded down by stress or wrong doing, and the responsibilities God has given us. Some day we will all stand before God. We all will have to answer for ourselves, not for our brother.

In the last few decades there has been much emphases  on having good and functional relationships in the Body of Christ, and this is important.  That being said, we can't always be with our brothers in the Lord.  When it comes right down to it, our success at following Jesus depends on our personal relationship with Him.  That is what the foundation to the Evangelical movement is all about.  It is my thinking that much of the Evangelical world has lost its roots, lost the personal and powerful relationship we should have with Jesus. 

The bottom line to what Paul is saying in these last two verses is that we are first responsible for ourselves.  We must carry our own burdens.  But, when these burdens get too much for us, then our brothers can help us out.  Our brothers don't carry the burden for us.  They help us carry our own burden.

We should note that the word "burden" in verse 2 is in relation to being trapped in sin.  The word "load', or "burden' in verse 5 is not in relation to sin, or so I think.

The Greek word "koiononia" has been well documented in the charismatic movement of the 1970ís and 80ís. The word means "to hold in common, or to share". Paul uses "koinonia" in verse 6 when he says that the one receiving instruction in the word "must share all good things" with the one instructing him. On first glance you may think that Paul is asking these people to pay their instructor for all of his work. Most commentators donít believe this is what Paul is saying. What they say is that the Galatians are being encourage to keep the fellowship they have with Paul and his company. "Koinonia" is often translated as "fellowship" in the New Testament.  Even if you struggle with that thought, "sharing all good things' would mean more than just money, although it could mean that.

You could also translate this verse as, "you must hold in common, or share your lives with your instructor". One of Paulís concerns was the braking of the fellowship that they once had. Remember in chapter 4:17 Ė20 Paul said that the false teachers were trying to rip apart the good relationship they had with each other. Thus this verse should be interpreted as the Galatians sharing in all good things, sharing their very lives with those who originally instructed them, which would have been Paul and his helpers. 

In today's modern western world we don't think much in terms of sharing our lives with our brothers and sisters in Jesus.  We think more of sharing things in a meeting, or sharing the work load in a church.  Paul thought in terms of sharing his lives with his brothers and sisters in Christ. 

In verses 7 and 8 Paul gives a spiritual principle that works in all aspects of life. What we sow, we will reap. If we plant tomato plants in a garden, we will reap tomatoes. If we plant weeds, we will reap weeds. If we plant good things in our lives, we will reap good things. The more we plant, the better chance we have to reap a good harvest. The false teachers were planting discord. They will reap accordingly. Paul was planting truth and goodness. He would expect good things as a harvest.  Many sales people over the years have taken this Biblical principle and have used it in business because it works.  It's a simple principle.  The more of anything you plant, the more you're likely to reap.  If an insurance sales person on average sells 1 out of ten people a policy, then the sales person who meets one hundred people will sell more policies than the sales person who only meets with ten people. 

Paul tells these people in verse 7 that God canít be mocked. Donít attribute to God things that donít belong to Him. The false teachers wanted a following. The things they were teaching were not from God. God knew that. Paul knew that. The Galatians should have known that.

If we sow seeds that belong to our sinful nature ,we will reap accordingly. If we sow seeds that belong to our spiritual nature, we will reap accordingly as well. You see this all of the time. People wonder why they get into so much trouble. They tend to blame everyone but themselves for the trouble they find themselves in. They do not understand that what they sow they will reap. If they sow evil, evil will return to them. If they make wrong decisions based on their sinful nature, they will reap trouble.  The opposite is just as true.

This is why Paul, in verse 9 says, "let us not be weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up". Therefore we should do as much good as we can. If we do good things, we will also reap good things in due time. It only makes sense. If you are nice to others, they will want to be nice to you. If you are mean to others, they have no reason to be nice to you. 

The admonishment not to give up doing good to others clearly suggests that because you do good to others does not mean they will do good to you.  If goodness returned to you immediately, then Paul would not have had to make this statement.  This is the reality of love.  Just because you love someone, that someone may not, or may never return the love.  That being said, Jesus will reward you some day for the love you give to others.  Jesus Himself experienced this.  His act of love on the cross has been, and will be neglected by many.  Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians speaks much of this.  He loved the people.  He gave Himself to them and suffered by doing so, but they did not respond.  They did not return love back, and he felt really bad about that. He felt bad for his own sake, and for theirs as well.  They were missing out an being rewarded by the King of Kings. 

What Paul says here about "doing good' makes it clear that Paul is not against doing "good works".  Some say that James and Paul had an ongoing problem with each other concerning faith and works, but I don't see it that way.  Paul believed that true faith would produce good works.  Works should be a result of our faith.  James said that he would know if you have true faith if he saw your good works.  There's no discrepancy here. The simple point is this.  Good works can't or won't save you.  Faith saves you.  Yet once you have faith, that faith will produce good works in your life.  

"In verse 10 Paul says, "therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers". Paul tells us that we have a responsibility to love everyone, but this should be especially so with our brothers in Christ. This suggests priority to me.  Our first Biblical mandate is to do good to those of our brothers in Jesus to whom we are joined.  Then, beyond that, we do good to others.

 

Not Circumcision But A New Creation
(ch. 6:11 Ė 18)

 

In verse 11 Paul begins to close this letter by saying,  "see what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand."  This little verse has caused a lot of discussion and speculation over the years. Many people think that Paul had an eyesight problem, therefore he had to use large letters in writing this letter. We have already seen that the Galatians were willing to cut out their eyes to help him out, suggesting a vision problem. See chapter 4, verse 15.

Remember that Paul also had many trials, many beatings and stonings. Some suggest that he had hand problems as a result of one of these beatings. This may be why he did not pen most of his letters. He usually had someone else write his letters as he dictated to that person. This too is merely speculation though. Still for some reason, he wrote this letter himself, and it was with large letters.  He could have been easily hit in the eyes with stones as well.

I've just said that Paul wrote this letter himself, but there is a large number of Bible teachers that say that Paul only wrote these closing remarks himself, not the whole letter.

Paul was being persecuted for the cross of Christ, for what he preached.  He preached Jesus and Him crucified and risen from the dead. This was in direct opposition to what the Jews believed. It was for this reason that people wanted to kill Paul.

Paul says in verses 12 that the only reason why these false teachers are not preaching Christ crucified is because they do not want the same afflictions that Paul had. They did not want to be persecuted as Paul was being persecuted because of the message he was preaching. They would prefer the easy life.  They'd prefer fame and fortune.

He also said that the false teachers wanted to make a good impression on the Galatian Christians.  We've seen earlier that part of the motivation for the false teachers was that they wanted their own following, and for that reason, they needed to make a good impression on these Galatians.

Also in verse 13 Paul goes on to say that not even these false teachers obeyed the Law, yet they were persuading the Galatians to do so. It does seem a little unfair. The one thing the false teachers liked was the sense of power they had over the Galatians. They liked to boast in the fact that they had whole churches under their control. They were in fact hypocritical. 

The words "boast about your flesh" in verse 13 is in reference to what I've just said.  If the false teachers could get these Gentile Christians circumcised, that would show everyone how much success they had in preaching their brand of the gospel, which of course, is no gospel.

In verse 14 Paul shows how he went out of his way to be a servant of God. He never boasted about anything he did. He served Jesus willingly, without any need to be recognized by men.  If that were only the case with leaders today. Paul only boasted in the cross of Christ. He only boasted in what Jesus had done for and through him. Jesus is worthy of all our boasting.

The false teachers  were boasting that they were obeying the Law of Moses.  Paul understood the Law of Moses to be a mere shadow of the real thing which was Jesus.  See Colossians 2 for Paul's thinking on this.  For this reason, he would not boast in the Law, but boast in what Jesus did on the cross.  It only makes perfect sense. 

In verse 14 Paul says that he is crucified to the world and the world is crucified to him.  Simply put, he is dead to the things of the world.  They have no power over him.  It is as if the world doesn't even exist.  He was single hearted and single minded to the Lord.  Here Paul sees himself as being dead to the world and the world dead to him.  Earlier we see Paul uses this thinking in two other ways.  He sees himself as being dead to the Law of Moses and also to sin.  Both the Law and sin have no place in Paul's life.

In verse 15 Paul reminds his readers that if one is circumcised or not, that doesn't really matter.  What matters is that once we give our lives to Jesus, we become a new creation.  All the old things pass away.  That doesn't mean the old things won't fight against our new creation that we are, for they will.  It means that our desire will be towards the new things, that is, towards all things pertaining to Jesus.  

Christians struggle with sin, or at least they should.  If they don't, that means they have given into sin.  But just because Christians find themselves in this struggle doesn't mean they aren't Christians.  For the real Christian, within his struggle with sin, his desire is to serve Jesus.  For the false Christian, he may struggle with sin, but he has no desire to leave his sin and follow Jesus.

In verse 16 Paul says, "peace and mercy for all who follow this rule."  The rule Paul is speaking about here is that neither circumcision or uncircumcision means anything.  It's the new life we have in Jesus that means everything.  Paul points out just one aspect of the Law of Moses here, but he has the whole Law of Moses in mind.  Throughout Paul's writings when he speaks of circumcision, it is in reference most of the time to the whole Law.  

Note the word "rule" in verse 16. The Greek word that is translated as "rule", is the word "kanon". Kanon in Greek means "a measuring rod, something that is straight". This is where we get our English word "Canon". We speak of the Bible as the "Canon of Scripture". We say that the books of the Bible are "Canonical". By this we mean that the Bible is "the measuring rod" by which we compare our lives to. Some people call the Bible a road map to show us how to live. It is that and more. It is the book by which we line up our lives with. May the Holy Spirit help us bring our lives up to the standard of the Word of God, not for purposes of Salvation, but for purposes of spiritual growth. Remember we do not follow Biblical principles in order to be saved. We live as the Bible says because we have faith. Good works are a result of our faith.

In today's post-modern world there are many so-called Christians who know longer believe the Bible to be our road map to live by.  They say it's simply a devotional book.  We should not be studying it and analyzing it. It isn't a history book.  It may not even be historically accurate.  It's just a book to read with certain moral lessons and something to be inspired by.  I do not believe that for a minute.       

Back to verse 16 again. Paul says, "peace and mercy to all who follow this rule (line up with the measuring rod) , even to the Israel of God". The term "Israel of God" that Paul uses here has caused all sorts of problems among Bible teachers of the centuries.  Who is the Israel of God?  Some say the Israel of God are those who follow "this rule" Paul just spoke of. Therefore the Israel of God are the true believers in Jesus and the cross of Christ, which includes Gentiles. This would be the last blow Paul would make against the Judaizers.

Others see the "Israel of God" as being national Israel.  In this section of Galatians, Paul is speaking to Gentile Christians who want to live by the Law of Moses.  He is encouraging them to obey the rule of the cross of Christ.  In other words, this rule even applies to Israel, who Paul calls here the "Israel of God".   

Others think the "Israel of God" refers to Israeli believers.  You can certainly see the varying opinions.  I'm not convinced that anyone really knows what Paul meant here. 

I've have switched my thinking on this phrase from time to time.  At the moment, I think the "Israel of God" might well refer to Israel.  Israel is to obey the same rule as the gentile believers to whom Paul is  speaking.  

That being said, we do need to understand that Israel still has prophetic and historical significance.  God promised Abraham and his descendents after him certain things in the Old Testament, and He will certainly fulfill those promises as they were originally understood.  So concerning salvation, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile.  But concerning prophetic history, there is indeed a difference. 

As you read through Paul's writings, you can certainly see how both the Jews and the Jewish Christians opposed Paul.  His slant on the Old Testament Law of Moses which Israel was to follow for centuries was very new to them.  How could they forsake what God had established?  I have often said, "if Paul was wrong, then the church and Christians are in serious trouble because it is Paul who has defined more than anyone else Christian teaching". 

In verse 17 Paul reminds the Galatians of his sufferings he has gone through for the sake of Christ. He tells them not to let anyone trouble them, not the false teachers, or anyone else. Why? Because he carries in his body the physical marks of following Jesus. He has visible marks from being beaten and stoned. The Judaizers were not that committed to their cause.

When Paul says that "he bears the marks of Jesus" he is comparing the marks on his body left by the stones and the whips to the marks of the nails in the hands of Jesus, and the mark in Jesus' side by the sword that was shoved into Him. 

These visible marks in Paulís body strike me as being signs of his love and commitment to these people. He was willing to risk his life for their salvation. Now he is pleading with them based on these marks. He wants their fractured relationship to be restored. If I was a Galatian, at this point my heart would be saddened, knowing that Paul had these marks for me, and now I am in the process of leaving him and his teaching. Even more, I am in the process of leaving Christ, who was the reason why he had these marks in the first place.

Verse 18 says, "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, Amen". Notice his call for Godís grace to be with them. Remember these are people in danger of falling from Godís grace.  See chapter  5, verse 4.  Notice too how he addresses Jesus. He uses his earthy name, which is Jesus and also the two titles attributed to Him, that is Lord and Christ. The one we serve is Jesus, and He is both Lord and Christ. He is the Saviour of all mankind, and the Lord of all that there is. We do not merely serve God. We serve the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the God of the Christian.  This is what Christians should really understand in these days, these days when everyone talks and speaks about God as if all religions end up at the same god.  They don't.    

All books of the Bible are important, but this little letter of Paul's is especially important because it clearly lays out the foundations of the Christian faith.  A lack of understanding of this book will produce all sorts of problems in the life of the individual Christian and also in the life of the church.  In our modern times, when we don't take the Bible seriously, we have gone astray because we fail to study the book of Galatians.

One way this is seen today is the movement among some Christians to want to adopt the Law of Moses again and live by it.  Paul makes it very clear in this letter that the Law of Moses no longer exist for the Christian to follow.  Those wanting to live by the Law of Moses today are in the same boat as these Galatian Gentile Christians that Paul feared for.  I suggest that those who want to revert to what they call "the Jewish roots of the church",  study, restudy, and understand what Paul is saying in this book. Your salvation might well be at stake here.  

Concluding Words

This commentary on Paulís letter to the Galatians was a result of a Tuesday night Bible study.  A few of us sat around a kitchen table simply asking, "what is Paul telling these people"?  We actually went through this book on two occasions and learned much more the second time around than the first time around.  Learning what the Bible teaches is a never ending process..   

The following source books was useful to me in my research that I did in writing this commentary. Vineís Expository and Dictionary of New Testament Words was used as always in helping explain Greek words. I also referred to Kenneth Wuestís book entitled, "Galatians, In The Greek New Testament For English Readers" (1973) I also referred to Lenksiís Commentary on Galatians (1961). One last book which was a good resource is F. F. Bruceís book entitled, "Paul, Apostle Of The Heart Set Free". (1977)  I also visited www.blueletterbible.com for input of defintions of Greek words.   Bob Utley was another good source at http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/.

 

Previous Section - Chapter 5  

Home Page