Galatians 6 - Outline of Galatians (MENU page)
IV. Practical application, 5:1- 6:10
A. Stand in Faith, free from the Law, 5:1-15
B. Walk in the Spirit, free from the Flesh, 5:16-26
C. Live in Love, lifting other's burdens, 6:1-10
1. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault,
ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness;
considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
4 But let every man prove his own work,
and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
5 For every man shall bear his own burden.
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault {GK=paraptoma, a falling aside}...
How should the sons of God deal with a brother, who is 'overtaken' {GK=prolambano, caught off guard} and stumbles into sin?
Such a situation is in contrast with...
  1. that of 5:21, where those who habitually live in fleshly sin, demonstrate that they are not citizens of heaven,
  2. that of 5:26, where a brother engages in premeditated practice of evil.
    [Points 'a.' and 'b.' adapted from WEVine.] which are spiritual, restore {GK=katartizo, mend, perfectly join together} such an one...
The word for 'restore' is used elsewhere of 'mending' nets. It is translated 'make you perfect' in regard to the completion of the Lord's work of sanctification (Heb 13:20,21; 1Pet 5:10). In the context of a fall, the word could be applied to setting broken bones.
Those who are strong in the Lord ought to help the fallen one to regain his footing and 'walk in the Spirit.' Rom 15:1 the spirit of meekness {GK=praotes}; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
'Meekness' is an aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit (5:22,23).
In relation to God, meekness seeks to know and follow His will. The Lord knows how to restore His own. eg., Mat 18:12-14
In relation to other men, meekness is gentle firmness. 2The 3:15; 2Tim 2:25,26
In relation to myself, meekness is humility, which recognizes that while I may be spiritually 'stronger' than my brother, I have the same fleshly nature. I, too, could be caught off guard, if I am not watchful. 1Cor 10:12
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
The law of Christ is 'Love' (Joh 13:14-16,34-35; 15:12). Because of His love for the Father and for us, He bore a burden which was heavy beyond measure (1Pet 2:24). At great cost to Himself, Christ did for us what we could not do for ourselves (Gal 1:4).
     This word for 'burdens' {GK= baros, a weight, a load} refers to a weight too heavy to bear alone. The brother's need could be physical or financial (eg., Jam 2:15,16; 1Joh 3:16-18), or it could be spiritual (as the crushing weight of failure to live for the Lord; eg., v.1; Psa 38:4; 51:1-3; Jam 5:19,20).
For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
Like the admonition at the end of v.1: "considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted," this verse warns the 'stronger' brother against an attitude of prideful superiority. For in himself, he was nothing but dead in sins. He did not make himself spiritually strong. 5:26; Rom 12:3; 1Cor 4:7
But let every man prove his own work... then shall he have rejoicing in himself... For every man shall bear his own burden.
Every believer should 'prove' {GK= dokimazo, test, try, examine} his own activities (cp. 1Cor 11:28; 2Cor 13:5).
Then {ie., 'at that time'}, he will not be empty handed before the Lord at His coming, but will have reason for 'rejoicing' {GK= kauchema, ground of rejoicing}. cp. Php 2:16; 2Cor 1:12
     In v.5, a different word for 'burden' {GK=phortion, portion} refers to what each man must carry alone. While I must help my brother bear a 'burden' which is too heavy for him to bear alone (v.2), there are burdens which cannot be shared with others. My 'portion' may be heavier or lighter than what you bear. But when my personal 'portion' becomes too much for me, the Lord Himself enables me to carry on. (eg., Isa 41:10)
Examples of such private 'burdens'...
6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
...communicate unto {GK=koinoneo, have in common, share with} him that teacheth in all good things {ie., to his benefit}.
Believers and churches bear responsibility to facilitate and encourage the work of pastors, missionaries and teachers, by caring for their material needs. Many pastors are bivocational, working for a living, while also serving small churches which are unable to provide full support. Yet, the church should assist their spiritual leaders, to the extend that they can. 1Cor 9:9-14; 1Tim 5:17,18
7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked:
for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption;
but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all [men],
especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
...whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
The seeds we plant produce the crops of those seeds. Carrot seeds produce carrots, nothing else.
This is a principle which applies to every area of life. Here are a few of the many illustrations from scripture.
  • Jacob deceived his father, Isaac, by posing as Esau, the firstborn son (Gen 27:19-23). For fear of Esau, Jacob departed to stay with his uncle Laban, whom he agreed to serve for seven years, to marry Rachel, his uncle's younger daughter. But Laban deceived him, and Jacob discovered that he had married Laban's firstborn daughter, Leah, not her younger sister (Gen 29:20-25).
  • David was a man who sought God with his whole heart. Yet, he let his guard down and stumbled into sin with Bathsheba. The Lord forgave him. But he and his family reaped a harvest of incest, immorality and insurrection. 2Sam 12:7-11
  • In ignorant zeal, a young man, named Saul, facilitated the stoning of the first Christian martyr, Stephen (Acts 7:58,59). After Saul met Christ, he became the apostle Paul. On his first missionary journey, Paul was stoned and left for dead (Acts 14:19).
...he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption {ie., decay, ruin, destruction}...
The works of the flesh (5:19-21), sourced in that which cannot please God, produce a disappointing crop. Pro 22:8; Hos 10:13; 2Pet 2:12,19
Therefore, believers must put away this kind of seed. Rom 6:13; 8:13
...he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
Actions sourced in obedience to the Holy Spirit result in eternal benefit.
     This verse does not teach that eternal life can be obtained by 'spiritual' works (cf. Mat 7:22,23). Eternal life is the gift of God received through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 6:23). It is possessed by those in whom Christ dwells by the Holy Spirit (1Joh 5:11,12; Rom 8:9). Thus, only those, who already have eternal life, can 'sow to the Spirit.'
     Yet, because we still have the old fleshly nature, believers can sow to the flesh, to reap eternal regret.
     As the sons of God, we are to be led by the Spirit, allowing Him to produce His fruit within us (5:22,23), and to sow the good seed of God's Word through us. Then, when the Lord gathers His harvest, we who have labored with Him, will rejoice with Him for fruit which remains eternally significant. eg., Psa 90:17; 126:5-6; Joh 4:36; 15:16; Rom 6:22
...let us not be weary... in due season we shall reap, if we faint not... as we have... opportunity, let us do good... especially unto...
In the immediate context, the principle of sowing and reaping is applied to bearing a brother's burden, and to carrying my own 'portion.' We will be rewarded for faithful service. 1Cor 15:58; 2Cor 4:1,16; Jam 5:7,8; 2Tim 4:7,8
     The words 'season' and 'opportunity' are from the same GK word {GK= kairos, a period of time, cp. Col 4:5}. The season of harvest and reward is coming. Meanwhile, now is the time for sowing the good seed, and for serving the Lord and one another. We are to 'do good' {ie., that which is beneficial} to all men (eg., Luk 6:35; 1The 5:15), "especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (ie., other believers, eg., v.2, v.6; Heb 6:10; 1Joh 3:13-19).
     In the context of the previous chapter, we see that we cannot 'do good' from the flesh. The Lord will accomplish His work, by working in us and through us, as we yield to His Spirit (Eph 2:8-10; Php 2:12,13).
     In the context of the entire epistle to the Galatians, those who are proclaiming "another gospel" are 'sowing to the flesh' and will reap their reward (1:6-8), while those who declare and submit to the Gospel of God's Grace are 'sowing to the Spirit.'
V. Conclusion, 6:11-17
A. Paul's signature, 6:11
B. Paul's boast, in the Cross of Christ (not the Law), 6:12-16
C. Paul's authority, Christ's marks in his body, 6:17
D. Paul's benediction, 6:18
11. Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.
Paul's epistles were usually written with the assistance of a scribe. But he often closed his letter in his own handwriting, as a means of certifying that it was really from him. Due to his poor eyesight, his written characters (letters) were large. It is likely that the last several verses of this epistle comprise his handwritten signature. cp. 1Cor 16:21-23; 2The 3:17,18
     However, the words "how large a letter I have written..." could mean that he actually wrote the entire epistle by himself, without the assistance of a scribe. If so, the difficulty (due to his visual impairment) of writing a long letter would have emphasized the urgency of his subject matter. (As in English, 'a letter' can refer to a written character or to a written document. Unlike many of Paul's epistles, there is no mention of a scribe in this letter.)
12 As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised;
only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.
13 For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law;
but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.
14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing,
nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace [be] on them, and mercy,
and upon the Israel of God.
as many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised (Acts 15:1,5; Gal 2:3)...
The Judaizers wanted to impress unsaved Jews with their zeal for the Law, by compelling Gentile Christians to submit to the Law. By doing so, they hoped to avoid persecution as Christians. The cross of Christ would not be offensive to legalistic religionists, if Christians must also obey the Law to obtain righteousness (5:11).
for neither they... who are circumcised keep the law, but desire... that they may glory {ie., boast} in your flesh.
The Judaizers held a hypocritical double standard. They themselves could not fulfill the Law (Rom 3:9-20; Gal 2:14; Acts 15:10,11). But, in effect, they were trying to turn Gentile Christians into Jewish proselytes, in order to gain favor before unbelieving Jews.
But God forbid that I should glory {ie., boast}, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ...
Only the cross of Christ can make a sinner truly righteous, for only through the believer's death and resurrection with Christ can he be made alive in His Life (as "a new creature" a born again child of God). 2Cor 5:17-21 whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. Rom 6:6; Gal 2:20; 5:24
'The world' {GK=kosmos, arrangement, order} includes, not only the wickedness of men, but also the many ways by which men seek to justify themselves before God. All of our righteousnesses are of no value before God. (eg., Php 3:4-10)
for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth {ie., is strong, prevails} any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature...
The Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation, for all who believe.
Christ alone accomplished the work of salvation. There is nothing lacking. I can add nothing. Rom 1:16,17
Therefore, my full confidence is in Christ, who has delivered me out of my sin and out of the vain traditions which I formerly trusted. He has made me a son of God, through the new birth, and in due time, He will perfect what He has begun within me, to His glory. Gal 1:4; 1Cor 1:30,31 many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy...
All who trust in Christ alone for salvation will have peace with God, for in Christ, God has extended His mercy to us. Rom 5:1
There is only one means of salvation, for both the Jew and the Gentile. Rom 3:21-30
...and upon the Israel of God.
[The indented text, below, is adapted from TBKC...]
Peace and mercy from God are available to those who walk according to "this rule", that is, according to the message of salvation by grace through faith alone. This blessing is pronounced on believing Galatians and on believing Jews. (The NIV errs in translating "even to the Israel of God" rather than "and to the Israel of God" as in the NASB [and KJV].)
     While some believe that "Israel of God" is the church, the evidence does not support such a conclusion.
  • First, the repetition of the preposition ("upon" or "to" ["on" or "upon" in KJV] ) indicates two groups are in view.
  • Second, all 65 other occurrences of the term "Israel" in the New Testament refer to Jews. It would thus be strange for Paul to use "Israel" here to mean Gentile Christians.
  • Third, Paul elsewhere referred to two kinds of Israelites -- believing Jews and unbelieving Jews (cf. Rom 9:6).
Lest it be thought that Paul is anti-Semitic, he demonstrated by means of this benediction his deep love and concern for true Israel, that is, Jews who had come to Christ.
Thus, "the Israel of God" refers to Christian Jews, the believing Jewish Remnant, who are both the physical and spiritual seed of Abraham (Rom 11:5).
     Jew and Gentile alike are saved by Grace through faith in Christ. Yet, the Lord has a distinct purpose for Israel. He has often chosen members of the believing Remnant for unique ministries. Peter and Paul were saved by Grace through faith. Yet, they remained Jews (Gal 2:15,16). The Lord chose them and a few other Jewish Christians to be His apostles, and used them to proclaim the Gospel and to write the New Testament. During the apostolic era, the Lord also made a distinction between ministries to the Jews and to the Gentiles (2:7-9). In the future, the Lord will have a special role for 144,000 men of the believing Jewish remnant, during the time of Jacob's Trouble (Rev 7:3-8). These Jewish men will be separated for God's purposes, not on the basis of works, but by His grace in redemption (as was Paul, cp. Gal 1:15,16; Rev 14:3).
     (Also see the "Side Note - Regarding Abraham's seed and promises" at the end of the Book Notes on Galatians ch.3.)
17 From henceforth let no man trouble me:
for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
18 Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with your spirit. Amen.
...I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
The false teachers emphasized the mark of circumcision. They did it selfishly, and at no cost to themselves, to avoid persecution (v.12). But the Gentiles who accepted that mark were placing themselves under bondage to the Law (Gal 5:3,4).
     Paul had once prided himself in that mark. But now, he realized that it was worthless as a means toward righteousness. His boast was in "the Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Gal 2:20). For Paul, there was nothing of greater value than to know and serve Him (Php 3:8-10).
     The marks {GK=stigma, scars, identifying marks of a slave} in Paul's flesh, obtained through beatings, scourgings, stoning (etc...) branded him as a bondslave of Christ (2Cor 11:23-27). No one need question his authority as a messenger of the Lord.
Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Paul closes most of his letters with very similar words.
However, they are especially significant here, since they reflect Paul's theme throughout this epistle. 1:3-5

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