Exhortations to meekness, gentleness, and humility. (1-5) To kindness towards all men, especially believers. (6-11) The Galatians guarded against the judaizing teachers. (12-15) A solemn blessing. (16-18)
Verses 1-5 We are to bear one another's burdens. So we shall fulfil the law of Christ. This obliges to mutual forbearance and compassion towards each other, agreeably to his example. It becomes us to bear one another's burdens, as fellow-travellers. It is very common for a man to look upon himself as wiser and better than other men, and as fit to dictate to them. Such a one deceives himself; by pretending to what he has not, he puts a cheat upon himself, and sooner or later will find the sad effects. This will never gain esteem, either with God or men. Every one is advised to prove his own work. The better we know our own hearts and ways, the less shall we despise others, and the more be disposed to help them under infirmities and afflictions. How light soever men's sins seem to them when committed, yet they will be found a heavy burden, when they come to reckon with God about them. No man can pay a ransom for his brother; and sin is a burden to the soul. It is a spiritual burden; and the less a man feels it to be such, the more cause has he to suspect himself. Most men are dead in their sins, and therefore have no sight or sense of the spiritual burden of sin. Feeling the weight and burden of our sins, we must seek to be eased thereof by the Saviour, and be warned against every sin.
Verses 6-11 Many excuse themselves from the work of religion, though they may make a show, and profess it. They may impose upon others, yet they deceive themselves if they think to impose upon God, who knows their hearts as well as actions; and as he cannot be deceived, so he will not be mocked. Our present time is seed time; in the other world we shall reap as we sow now. As there are two sorts of sowing, one to the flesh, and the other to the Spirit, so will the reckoning be hereafter. Those who live a carnal, sensual life, must expect no other fruit from such a course than misery and ruin. But those who, under the guidance and influences of the Holy Spirit, live a life of faith in Christ, and abound in Christian graces, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. We are all very apt to tire in duty, particularly in doing good. This we should carefully watch and guard against. Only to perseverance in well-doing is the reward promised. Here is an exhortation to all to do good in their places. We should take care to do good in our life-time, and make this the business of our lives. Especially when fresh occasions offer, and as far as our power reaches.
Verses 12-15 Proud, vain, and carnal hearts, are content with just so much religion as will help to keep up a fair show. But the apostle professes his own faith, hope, and joy; and that his principal glory was in the cross of Christ. By which is here meant, his sufferings and death on the cross, the doctrine of salvation by a crucified Redeemer. By Christ, or by the cross of Christ, the world is crucified to the believer, and he to the world. The more we consider the sufferings of the Redeemer from the world, the less likely shall we be to love the world. The apostle was as little affected by its charms, as a beholder would be by any thing which had been graceful in the face of a crucified person, when he beholds it blackened in the agonies of death. He was no more affected by the objects around him, than one who is expiring would be struck with any of the prospects his dying eyes might view from the cross on which he hung. And as to those who have truly believed in Christ Jesus, all things are counted as utterly worthless compared with him. There is a new creation; old things are passed away, and new views and dispositions are brought in under the regenerating influences of God the Holy Spirit. Believers are brought into a new world, and being created in Christ Jesus unto good works, are formed to a life of holiness. It is a change of mind and heart, whereby we are enabled to believe in the Lord Jesus, and to live to God; and where this inward, practical religion is wanting, outward professions, or names, will never stand in any stead.
Verses 16-18 A new creation to the image of Christ, as showing faith in him, is the greatest distinction between one man and another, and a blessing is declared on all who walk according to this rule. The blessings are, peace and mercy. Peace with God and our conscience, and all the comforts of this life, as far as they are needful. And mercy, an interest in the free love and favour of God in Christ, the spring and fountain of all other blessings. The written word of God is the rule we are to go by, both in its doctrines and precepts. May his grace ever be with our spirit, to sanctify, quicken, and cheer us, and may we always be ready to maintain the honour of that which is indeed our life. The apostle had in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus, the scars of wounds from persecuting enemies, for his cleaving to Christ, and the doctrine of the gospel. The apostle calls the Galatians his brethren, therein he shows his humility and his tender affection for them; and he takes his leave with a very serious prayer, that they might enjoy the favour of Christ Jesus, both in its effects and in its evidences. We need desire no more to make us happy than the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle does not pray that the law of Moses, or the righteousness of works, but that the grace of Christ, might be with them; that it might be in their hearts and with their spirits, quickening, comforting, and strengthening them: to all which he sets his Amen; signifying his desire that so it might be, and his faith that so it would be.
Galatians 6:1-18 . EXHORTATIONS CONTINUED; TO FORBEARANCE AND HUMILITY; LIBERALITY TO TEACHERS AND IN GENERAL. POSTSCRIPT AND BENEDICTION.
1. Brethren--An expression of kindness to conciliate attention. Translate as Greek, "If a man even be overtaken" (that is, caught in the very act [ALFORD and ELLICOTT]: BEFORE he expects: unexpectedly). BENGEL explains the "before" in the Greek compound verb, "If a man be overtaken in a fault before ourselves": If another has really been overtaken in a fault the first; for often he who is first to find fault, is the very one who has first transgressed.
a fault--Greek, "a transgression," "a fall"; such as a falling back into legal bondage. Here he gives monition to those who have not so fallen, "the spiritual," to be not "vainglorious" ( Galatians 5:26 ), but forbearing to such ( Romans 15:1 ).
restore--The Greek is used of a dislocated limb, reduced to its place. Such is the tenderness with which we should treat a fallen member of the Church in restoring him to a better state.
the spirit of meekness--the meekness which is the gift of the Holy Spirit working in our spirit ( Galatians 5:22 Galatians 5:25 ). "Meekness" is that temper of spirit towards God whereby we accept His dealings without disputing; then, towards men, whereby we endure meekly their provocations, and do not withdraw ourselves from the burdens which their sins impose upon us [TRENCH].
considering thyself--Transition from the plural to the singular. When congregations are addressed collectively, each individual should take home the monition to himself.
thou also be tempted--as is likely to happen to those who reprove others without meekness (compare Matthew 7:2-5 , 2 Timothy 2:25 , 2:13 ).
2. If ye, legalists, must "bear burdens," then instead of legal burdens ( Matthew 23:4 ), "bear one another's burdens," literally, "weights." Distinguished by BENGEL from "burden," Galatians 6:4 (a different Greek word, "load"): "weights" exceed the strength of those under them; "burden" is proportioned to the strength.
so fulfil--or as other old manuscripts read, "so ye will fulfil," Greek, "fill up," "thoroughly fulfil."
the law of Christ--namely, "love" ( Galatians 5:14 ). Since ye desire "the law," then fulfil the law of Christ, which is not made up of various minute observances, but whose sole "burden" is "love" ( John 13:34 , 15:12 ); Romans 15:3 gives Christ as the example in the particular duty here.
3. Self-conceit, the chief hindrance to forbearance and sympathy towards our fellow men, must be laid aside.
something--possessed of some spiritual pre-eminence, so as to be exempt from the frailty of other men.
when he is nothing--The Greek is subjective: "Being, if he would come to himself, and look on the real fact, nothing" [ALFORD] ( Galatians 6:2 Galatians 6:6 , Romans 12:3 , 1 Corinthians 8:2 ).
deceiveth himself--literally, "he mentally deceives himself." Compare James 1:26 , "deceiveth his own heart."
4. his own work--not merely his own opinion of himself.
have rejoicing in himself alone--Translate, "Have his (matter for) glorying in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another (namely, not in regard to his neighbor, by comparing himself with whom, he has fancied he has matter for boasting as that neighbor's superior)." Not that really a man by looking to "himself alone" is likely to find cause for glorying in himself. Nay, in Galatians 6:5 , he speaks of a "burden" or load, not of matter for glorying, as what really belongs to each man. But he refers to the idea those whom he censures had of themselves: they thought they had cause for "glorying" in themselves, but it all arose from unjust self-conceited comparison of themselves with others, instead of looking at home. The only true glorying, if glorying it is to be called, is in the testimony of a good conscience, glorying in the cross of Christ.
5. For (by this way, Galatians 6:4 , of proving himself, not depreciating his neighbor by comparison) each man shall bear his own "burden," or rather, "load" (namely, of sin and infirmity), the Greek being different from that in Galatians 6:2 . This verse does not contradict Galatians 6:2 . There he tells them to bear with others' "burdens" of infirmity in sympathy; here, that self-examination will make a man to feel he has enough to do with "his own load" of sin, without comparing himself boastfully with his neighbor. Compare Galatians 6:3 . Instead of "thinking himself to be something," he shall feel the "load" of his own sin: and this will lead him to bear sympathetically with his neighbor's burden of infirmity. ÆSOP says a man carries two bags over his shoulder, the one with his own sins hanging behind, that with his neighbor's sins in front.
6. From the mention of bearing one another's burdens, he passes to one way in which those burdens may be borne--by ministering out of their earthly goods to their spiritual teachers. The "but" in the Greek, beginning of this verse, expresses this: I said, Each shall bear his own burden; BUT I do not intend that he should not think of others, and especially of the wants of his ministers.
communicate unto him--"impart a share unto his teacher": literally, "him that teacheth catechetically."
in all good things--in every kind of the good things of this life, according as the case may require ( Romans 15:27 , 1 Corinthians 1 Corinthians 9:11 14 ).
7. God is not mocked--The Greek verb is, literally, to sneer with the nostrils drawn up in contempt. God does not suffer Himself to be imposed on by empty words: He will judge according to works, which are seeds sown for eternity of either joy or woe. Excuses for illiberality in God's cause ( Galatians 6:6 ) seem valid before men, but are not so before God ( Psalms 50:21 ).
soweth--especially of his resources ( 2 Corinthians 9:6 ).
that--Greek, "this"; this and nothing else.
reap--at the harvest, the end of the world ( Matthew 13:39 ).
8. Translate, "He that soweth unto his own flesh," with a view to fulfilling its desires. He does not say, "His spirit," as he does say, "His flesh." For in ourselves we are not spiritual, but carnal. The flesh is devoted to selfishness.
corruption--that is, destruction ( Philippians 3:19 ). Compare as to the deliverance of believers from "corruption" ( Romans 8:21 ). The use of the term "corruption" instead, implies that destruction is not an arbitrary punishment of fleshly-mindedness, but is its natural fruit; the corrupt flesh producing corruption, which is another word for destruction: corruption is the fault, and corruption the punishment 2 Peter 2:12 ). Future life only expands the seed sown here. Men cannot mock God because they can deceive themselves. They who sow tares cannot reap wheat. They alone reap life eternal who sow to the Spirit ( Psalms 126:6 , Proverbs 11:18 , 22:8 , Hosea 8:7 , 10:12 , Luke 16:25 , Romans 8:11 , 5:7 ).
9. ( 2 Thessalonians 3:13 ). And when we do good, let us also persevere in it without fainting.
in due season--in its own proper season, God's own time ( 1 Timothy 6:15 ).
faint not--literally, "be relaxed." Stronger than "be not weary." Weary of well-doing refers to the will; "faint not" to relaxation of the powers [BENGEL]. No one should faint, as in an earthly harvest sometimes happens.
10. Translate, "So then, according as (that is, in proportion as) we have season (that is, opportunity), let us work (a distinct Greek verb from that for "do," in Galatians 6:9 ) that which is (in each case) good." As thou art able, and while thou art able, and when thou art able ( Ecclesiastes 9:10 ). We have now the "season" for sowing, as also there will be hereafter the "due season" ( Galatians 6:9 ) for reaping. The whole life is, in one sense, the "seasonable opportunity" to us: and, in a narrower sense, there occur in it more especially convenient seasons. The latter are sometimes lost in looking for still more convenient seasons ( Acts 24:25 ). We shall not always have the opportunity "we have" now. Satan is sharpened to the greater zeal in injuring us, by the shortness of his time ( Revelation 12:12 ). Let us be sharpened to the greater zeal in well-doing by the shortness of ours.
them who are of the household--Every right-minded man does well to the members of his own family ( 1 Timothy 5:8 ); so believers are to do to those of the household of faith, that is, those whom faith has made members of "the household of God" ( Ephesians 2:19 ): "the house of God" ( 1 Timothy 3:15 , 1 Peter 4:17 ).
11. Rather, "See in how large letters I have written." The Greek is translated "how great" in Hebrews 7:4 , the only other passage where it occurs in the New Testament. Owing to his weakness of eyes ( Galatians 4:15 ) he wrote in large letters. So JEROME. All the oldest manuscripts are written in uncial, that is, capital letters, the "cursive," or small letters, being of more recent date. Paul seems to have had a difficulty in writing, which led him to make the uncial letters larger than ordinary writers did. The mention of these is as a token by which they would know that he wrote the whole Epistle with his own hand; as he did also the pastoral Epistle, which this Epistle resembles in style. He usually dictated his Epistles to an amanuensis, excepting the concluding salutation, which he wrote himself ( Romans 16:22 , 1 Corinthians 16:21 ). This letter, he tells the Galatians, he writes with his own hand, no doubt in order that they may see what a regard he had for them, in contrast to the Judaizing teachers ( Galatians 6:12 ), who sought only their own ease. If English Version be retained, the words, "how large a letter (literally, 'in how large letters')," will not refer to the length of the Epistle absolutely, but that it was a large one for him to have written with his own hand. NEANDER supports English Version, as more appropriate to the earnestness of the apostle and the tone of the Epistle: "How large" will thus be put for "how many."
12. Contrast between his zeal in their behalf, implied in Galatians 6:11 , and the zeal for self on the part of the Judaizers.
make a fair show--( 2 Corinthians 5:12 ).
in the flesh--in outward things.
they--it is "these" who
constrain you--by example ( Galatians 6:13 ) and importuning.
only lest--"only that they may not," &c. (compare Galatians 5:11 ).
suffer persecution--They escaped in a great degree the Jews' bitterness against Christianity and the offense of the cross of Christ, by making the Mosaic law a necessary preliminary; in fact, making Christian converts into Jewish proselytes.
13. Translate, "For not even do they who submit to circumcision, keep the law themselves ( Romans 2:17-23 ), but they wish you (emphatical) to be circumcised," &c. They arbitrarily selected circumcision out of the whole law, as though observing it would stand instead of their non-observance of the rest of the law.
that they may glory in your flesh--namely, in the outward change (opposed to an inward change wrought by the SPIRIT) which they have effected in bringing you over to their own Jewish-Christian party.
14. Translate, "But as for me (in opposition to those gloriers 'in your flesh,' Galatians 6:13 ), God forbid that I," &c.
in the cross--the atoning death on the cross. Compare Philippians 3:3 Philippians 3:7 Philippians 3:8 , as a specimen of his glorying. The "cross," the great object of shame to them, and to all carnal men, is the great object of glorying to me. For by it, the worst of deaths, Christ has destroyed all kinds of death [AUGUSTINE, Tract 36, on John, sec. 4]. We are to testify the power of Christ's death working in us, after the manner of crucifixion ( Galatians 5:24 , Romans 6:5 Romans 6:6 ).
our--He reminds the Galatians by this pronoun, that they had a share in the "Lord Jesus Christ" (the full name is used for greater solemnity), and therefore ought to glory in Christ's cross, as he did.
the world--inseparably allied to the "flesh" ( Galatians 6:13 ). Legal and fleshly ordinances are merely outward, and "elements of the world" ( Galatians 4:3 ).
is--rather, as Greek, "has been crucified to me" ( Galatians 2:20 ). He used "crucified" for dead ( Colossians 2:20 , "dead with Christ"), to imply his oneness with Christ crucified ( Philippians 3:10 ): "the fellowship of His sufferings being made conformable unto His death."
15. availeth--The oldest manuscripts read, "is" (compare Galatians 5:6 ). Not only are they of no avail, but they are nothing. So far are they from being matter for "glorying," that they are "nothing." But Christ's cross is "all in all," as a subject for glorying, in "the new creature" ( Ephesians 2:10 Ephesians 2:15 Ephesians 2:16 ).
new creature--( 2 Corinthians 5:17 ). A transformation by the renewal of the mind ( Romans 12:2 ).
16. as many--contrasting with the "as many," Galatians 6:12 .
rule--literally, a straight rule, to detect crookedness; so a rule of life.
peace--from God ( Ephesians 2:14-17 , 6:23 ).
mercy--( Romans 15:9 ).
Israel of God--not the Israel after the flesh, among whom those teachers wish to enrol you; but the spiritual seed of Abraham by faith ( Galatians 3:9 Galatians 3:29 , Romans 2:28 Romans 2:29 , Philippians 3:3 ).
17. let no man trouble me--by opposing my apostolic authority, seeing that it is stamped by a sure seal, namely, "I (in contrast to the Judaizing teachers who gloried in the flesh) bear (as a high mark of honor from the King of kings)."
the marks--properly, marks branded on slaves to indicate their owners. So Paul's scars of wounds received for Christ's sake, indicate to whom he belongs, and in whose free and glorious service he is ( 2 Corinthians 11:23-25 ). The Judaizing teachers gloried in the circumcision mark in the flesh of their followers: Paul glories in the marks of suffering for Christ on his own body (compare Galatians 6:14 , Philippians 3:10 , Colossians 1:24 ).
the Lord--omitted in the oldest manuscripts.
18. Brethren--Place it, as Greek, "last" in the sentence, before the "Amen." After much rebuke and monition, he bids them farewell with the loving expression of brotherhood as his last parting word
be with your spirit--which, I trust, will keep down the flesh ( 1 Thessalonians 5:23 , 2 Timothy 4:22 , Philemon 1: Philemon 1:25 ).