Galatians 6

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Galatians 6:1

The apostle Paul again addressed the Galatians as “brothers,” acknowledging them as beloved fellow sons of God. He then focused attention on those needing spiritual help. “Even if a man be overtaken in some misstep, you, the spiritual ones, set that one right in a spirit of gentleness, watching yourself lest you also be tempted.”

In conjunction with eán (if, though, or when), kaí may be defined as “even.” A number of modern versions, however, leave the word untranslated.

The word ánthropos (man) is not to be understood as applying in a general sense to any man. Its meaning, according to the context, is restricted to a fellow believer.

In its basic sense, the verb for “overtake” (prolambáno) denotes “take before” (pró [before]; lambáno [take]). Here the expression apparently has the sense of being taken or caught by surprise. The misstep, therefore, would not be deliberate but would stem from a failure to be on guard. Accordingly, the word for “misstep” (paráptoma) here seemingly has a milder sense than in numerous other passages (Romans 4:25; 5:15–20; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Ephesians 1:7; 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13) and may be understood to mean “fault,” “blunder,” “error,” or “mistake.” The related verb parapípto has the basic meaning of “fall beside” (pará [beside]; pípto [fall]).

The “spiritual ones” (pneumatikoí) are those whose lives demonstrate that they are being led by God’s spirit. Its fruit would be clearly manifest in their attitude, words, and conduct. Their responsibility toward the erring brother would be to help him recover from his serious mistake in judgment. The verb katartízo can mean “repair,” “mend” (Matthew 4:21; Mark 1:19), “fully instruct,” “fully train” (Luke 6:40), “prepare” (Romans 9:22, Hebrews 10:5), “arrange,” “form,” “make” (Hebrews 11:3), or “equip” (Hebrews 13:21). In view of the man’s fall, he would need to be “set right” or be brought back to a proper condition as a member of Christ’s body, requiring “mending,” “repairing,” or “adjusting.”

Paul admonished the spiritual ones to set such a man right in a “spirit of gentleness.” Instead of being harsh or severe, they were to reflect a mild or gentle disposition. Then the apostle added a specific caution about watching oneself. The word for “watch” (skopéo) has the sense of giving careful attention to something. Paul used the second person singular form of the verb skopéo, indicating that the focus is on the spiritual one providing the needed aid. Individually, the spiritual ones could not relax their guard with reference to their own conduct, for they were not immune to temptation, or the strong pull of a wrong desire that, if not vigilantly resisted, would lead to their being overtaken in a wrong. A recognition that they, too, could fall in the same manner as the erring one would prevent them from assuming a superior attitude and would contribute toward dealing kindly and lovingly with him.

Note: After ánthropos, a number of later manuscripts add ex hymón (from among you).

Galatians 6:2

Encouraging mutual concern, Paul wrote: “Carry the burdens of each other, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”

In view of the admonition he had just given to the spiritual ones, the “burdens” evidently include personal failings that weigh heavily on the individual. These burdens, however, are not necessarily limited to missteps but could be anything that proves to be a weight—trials, discouragement, disappointments, distress, suffering, and affliction. Through sympathetic identification with their brother weighed down by anything of a painful nature, believers could share in carrying his burden. In this case, Paul did not limit the directive to the spiritual ones, but encouraged everyone to participate in this loving effort. All in the Galatian congregations were to consider what they could do and say that would express concern, care, and comfort. As evident from his words to the Corinthians, Paul displayed this rightly motivated, genuine care. “Is anyone weak? I share his weakness. If anyone brings about the downfall of another, does my heart not burn with anger?” (2 Corinthians 11:29, REB)

The commandment that Jesus Christ gave to his disciples was for them to love one another as he had loved them. (John 13:34) Additionally, by the example he set and by what he taught, Jesus revealed the kind of care, concern, and compassion that his disciples should have for others. In the fullest sense, therefore, the example and teaching of God’s Son constitute his law. Accordingly, when believers lovingly respond to one distressed by a burden, they fulfill or carry out what Jesus Christ commanded. They also reveal that they are not self-centered, concerned only about their own or immediate family’s problems and cares.

Galatians 6:3

Evidently with reference to an attitude that would not be conducive to one’s carrying the burden of another, Paul said: “For if anyone considers [himself] to be something, though being nothing, he is deceiving himself.”

The conjunction gár (for) indicates that what follows relates to the admonition to be mutually supportive in fulfillment of the law of Christ. The focus is on the disposition that would stand in the way of one’s acting in harmony with this law.

When an individual imagines himself to be truly a somebody, not recognizing personal limitations and failings, he cannot possibly respond in a kind, sympathetic way to those carrying heavy “burdens.” Blind to his own pathetic state, such a prideful person would not have come to appreciate how very much loving assistance from genuinely concerned believers can mean. Not having experienced firsthand the benefit of kindly support, he would not be particularly moved by the distress of others.

Since believers enjoy only imputed righteousness, they should of necessity be aware of personal failings and have an ardent desire for the absolute righteousness that is yet future. Additionally, no one is immune to the problems and trials that are a part of life in a sinful world. Thus, the person who “considers himself to be something” is but a frail, helpless, and sinful human—in reality, “nothing.”

In imagining himself to be something, he is guilty of a great self-deception, a delusion. The Greek word for deceive (phrenapatáo) conveys the sense of deluding one’s mind (phrén [mind]; apatáo [mislead, deceive]). An example of such prideful self-deception was the situation of the congregation in Laodicea toward the close of the first century. To that congregation, God’s Son directed these words: “You say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:17, NRSV)

Note: Instead of the usual ei gár (if for [that is, for if]), fragmentary P46 (c. 200) appears to read eíper (if indeed).

Galatians 6:4

Instead of an evaluation of self that is a mere delusion, the apostle points to what can rightly be examined: “But let each one test his own work; and then, with reference to himself alone, he can take pride, and not with reference to another.”

Paul introduced the contrasting thought with the conjunction (but). The work to be carefully examined or tested is evidently the whole of one’s activity. In the phrase eis heautón mónon (into himself alone), the eis (into) evidently has the sense of “with reference to.” (Compare Acts 2:25, where eis is used similarly.) It is only “with reference to himself alone” that the individual may take “pride” (kaúchema, also meaning “ground for boasting”) in “work” that examination or testing reveals as good. On the other hand, any feeling of satisfaction derived from making a comparison with the activity of someone else would have the wrong basis. As Paul said, “not into another.” Again, the word eis (into) denotes “with reference to” or “in comparison with.”

Notes:

Though omitted in P46 (c. 200) and fourth-century Codex Vaticanus, hékastos (each one) is found in the majority of manuscripts.

Fragmentary P46 (c. 200) omits the second kaí (and), thus departing from the reading of the majority of manuscripts.

Galatians 6:5

Pointing to the reason for not drawing a comparison with another person and then making one’s perceived superior accomplishment the ground for boasting, Paul added, “for each [one] will carry [his] own load.” The preposition gár (for) is an indicator of reason. Previously (5:1), the apostle had used the term báros (burden) but here employed the word phortíon (load). Whereas phortíon could be understood to be more specifically a load of responsibility, this is not necessarily the case. The expression could denote any type of load that the individual must carry. No human knows the true nature of another person’s load, and how it is affecting that one’s activity. So there is no valid basis for comparing one’s own work with that of another and then using the results of this flawed comparison as the ground for personal boasting.

Galatians 6:6

Although believers individually have their personal “load” to bear, they were not to neglect their duty toward those who were teaching in the congregation. “But the one being instructed [in] the word should share in all good [things] with the [one] doing the instructing.”

In the Greek text, the first word is the imperative of “share” (koinonéo), indicating that this sharing is obligatory—a responsibility that should or must be assumed. The conjunction (but), therefore, appears to contrast the “load” that must be borne individually with the duty to respond appreciatively to those who teach. Believers were not to become so preoccupied with carrying their own “load” that they forgot about the needs of their teachers.

Being in the present tense, the passive participle of katechéo (instruct, teach) indicates that ongoing instruction or teaching is being received. In this context, katechéo apparently refers to oral teaching, not just “informing” (a sense that the word can also have). The one benefiting is being instructed or taught “the word.” This “word” (lógos) evidently is to be understood to designate God’s “word” or “message,” with particular reference to the glad tidings about Jesus Christ.

The active participle of katechéo is also in the present tense and refers to the one doing the instructing or teaching. While the sharing of “all good things” with this one could include responsive spiritual expressions prompted by the teaching received, it doubtless relates to sharing food and other necessities with the teacher. In order to devote himself fully to instructing others, the teacher had to limit the amount of time he spent in working for life’s necessities. Therefore, the one being taught should rightly assume his responsibility to provide material assistance—“good things”—to the one doing the teaching. A similar thought was expressed by Paul in connection with the contribution of non-Jewish believers for their poor Jewish brothers. The apostle wrote: “Macedonia and Achaia have resolved to raise a fund for the benefit of the poor among God’s people at Jerusalem. They have resolved to do so, and indeed they are under an obligation to them. For if the Jewish Christians shared their spiritual treasures with the Gentiles, the Gentiles have a clear duty to contribute to their material needs.” (Romans 15:26, 27, REB; see also 1 Corinthians 9:6–14 and 1 Timothy 5:17.)

Galatians 6:7

Next, Paul gave a warning: “Be not deceived, God is not [to be] mocked; for whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.”

The Greek word planáo can signify “deceive,” “lead astray,” or “cause to wander.” Possibly because he had earlier discussed lovingly coming to the aid of a man overtaken in a misstep, the apostle wanted to make it clear that this did not diminish the gravity of sin nor excuse giving in to the desire of the sinful flesh. In that case, Paul’s warning would be that believers should not deceive themselves respecting sin and its consequences. On the other hand, he may have been giving admonition to recognize the seriousness of not fulfilling obligations toward others. Because of not being guilty of gross acts of sin, the individual could deceive himself, wrongly concluding that he was divinely approved while he was actually in line for adverse judgment on account of his sins of omission. (Compare Matt. 25:41–46.)

Drawn from the word “nose” (myktér), the verb for “mock” (mykterízo) conveys the thought of “turning up the nose,” making light of someone or something. While humans can make a fool of others by resorting to deception, they cannot do so with reference to God. No pretense or plea of supposed ignorance will fool him. The real motives for action or inaction cannot be concealed from the Most High or justified by any kind of argument or reasoning that could cause him to accept a lie. The inspired proverb expresses this sobering thought: “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?” (Proverbs 24:11, 12, NIV)

Because God is not to be mocked, the end result will always correspond to whatever course was actively pursued. Just as seed that is sown never produces anything other than its kind, so moral wrongs will never yield moral good. What is reaped at harvesttime will consistently be exactly what had been sown earlier.

Note: Instead of toúto (this), a number of manuscripts, including P46 (c. 200), read taúta (these [things]).

Galatians 6:8

Building on the principle of sowing and subsequent reaping, Paul continued: “Because the one sowing with reference to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who is sowing with reference to the spirit will reap life eternal from the spirit.”

“Sowing” denotes following a particular course of action. The preposition preceding “flesh” and “spirit” is eis (into). Because the flesh and the spirit exert powerful influences respecting the choices made, they are here evidently more than just passive fields for doing sowing. It appears preferable to regard eis as meaning “with reference to” or “with respect to.” Thus, the flesh and the spirit may be regarded as objects of the sowing. It is a sowing for the flesh or for the spirit. The “one sowing with reference to his flesh” is pursuing a way of life that yields to his sinful flesh or fallen human nature. Evidently because the flesh is not that of someone else, the apostle used the expression “into the flesh of himself” (eis tén sárka heautóu), that is, the individual’s own sinful flesh. Because the flesh craves to be satisfied without regard for the eventual hurtful consequences to the individual or to others, nothing good can come from it. Instead, at harvesttime, the sower will reap “corruption from the flesh.” His fallen human nature will prove to be the source of his ruin. In view of the contrast with “life eternal,” “corruption” (phthorá) here evidently is to be understood as the very opposite—the eternal ruin from which there is no recovery. The reference apparently is to the ultimate end of a life controlled by the sinful flesh. It is a life where the individual’s thoughts, words, and actions are always subservient to the lusts and passions of his fallen human nature.

When, on the other hand, the spirit of God is allowed to motivate one’s attitude, thoughts, words, and actions, the result is “life eternal.” This is the real life, not just because it is an age-abiding life, but primarily because this is the kind of life God purposed it to be—a life that flawlessly reflects his image. Although only possessing an imputed righteousness by reason of faith in Jesus Christ and having accepted the atoning value of Christ’s death on his behalf, the “one sowing with reference to the spirit” already enjoys a newness of life. His is a spiritual life no longer dominated by satisfying the cravings of his fallen human nature. In his deep inner self, his longing is for the future absolute righteousness, and so his “sowing” harmonizes with the spirit’s direction. Therefore, he will reap “life eternal from the spirit,” this life having its source in God’s spirit.

Galatians 6:9

Continuing to encourage the right kind of “sowing,” Paul wrote: “But in doing good let us not give up, for [in] due time we will reap, [provided] we do not tire out.”

The Greek word commonly rendered “good” is kalós and denotes that which is right, noble, or praiseworthy. In the context of bearing the “burdens” of fellow believers, kalós evidently applies to moral good that benefits others. Since the participial form for “doing” (poiéo) is in the present tense, the thought conveyed is that of continuing action. Believers were not to “give up” (enkakéo), become discouraged, or tire out in extending aid to those in need. Faced with their own trials, difficulties, and disappointments, disciples of God’s Son may find it hard to give generously of themselves in response to the distress of others. Nevertheless, if they keep on doing what is right, the time will come when they will “reap” a reward.

Paul introduced the thought about reaping with the conjunction gár (for), which functions as a marker of reason for not giving up. This reason is the certainty of reaping. The word translated “due” in a number of versions is ídios, meaning “own.” “Time” (kairós), when modified by ídios, may be understood to mean its own appropriate or proper time (when a mature crop is ready for harvesting).

Although providing positive assurance about “reaping,” the apostle concluded with the conditional element that there be no “tiring out.” The Greek expression for “tire out” is eklyomai,, a compound consisting of ek (out) and lyo (loose). It here conveys the thought of having one’s strength “loosed,” that is, drained or weakened. In certain contexts, eklyomai signifies to reach the point of fainting from exhaustion. (Matthew 15:32; Mark 8:3) Christian service is not something confined to occasional spurts of activity. It is a way of life. Lest there be no reaping of a reward, believers need to give serious attention to the admonition not to tire out or grow weary in doing what is right or beneficial.

Galatians 6:10

Building on the admonition already given about doing good, the apostle said: “So, then, while we have time, let us do good toward all, but particularly toward members of the household of the faith.”

The words ára oún (so then) point to the action to be taken in view of what Paul had just stated. “While,” as long as, or whenever the “time” (kairós), opportunity, or occasion existed, the Galatians were being encouraged to “do good toward all,” or “work” (ergázomai) for the “good” (agathós) of all. By using the expression for “we have” (échomen), Paul included himself. Disciples of Jesus Christ are not to blind themselves to the needs of fellow humans. They have a duty to respond in a loving, caring way to all persons.

Nevertheless, “members of the household of the faith” have a prior claim. The apostle introduced this aspect with the contrasting (but) and the adverb málista, meaning “particularly,” “primarily,” “especially,” or “above all.” This adverb is a superlative form of mála. In its three occurrences in the Septuagint, mála serves as an intensifier and has the sense of “indeed.” (2 Samuel 14:5; 1 Kings 1:43, 2 Kings 4:14)

“Members of the houshold” is a rendering of the plural form of the word oikeíos (from oikía, [house, household]). The relationship of believers as household members is not based on fleshly ties. Instead, theirs is a household or family of “the faith” (pístis)—the faith that has Jesus Christ as its object. All of them are sons of God and brothers of Christ. In view of their being members of the same spiritual family, believers have a special obligation to come to the aid of one another.

Galatians 6:11

At this point, Paul apparently called attention to his style of writing: “See what large letters I have written with my hand.” The imperative form of idoú (see) indicates that the apostle wanted the Galatians to take special note. In Greek, the word grámma can refer either to a letter of the alphabet or a writing. Since, however, the letter which the apostle wrote to the Galatians was not exceptionally long, evidently the descriptive pelíkos (what large, how great, or how large) is to be understood as applying to the size of the “letters” that Paul used and not the “writings.” Some commentators have concluded that the apostle may have used large letters for emphasis or that this is an indication of his poor vision. Nothing in the context, though, gives support to either conjecture. Moreover, the size of a person’s handwriting is not really an indicator of limited eyesight, as many people with good vision naturally use large letters. It may well be that the apostle’s object was to emphasize that the letter was indeed a genuine one from him, as evident from the distinctive style of writing.

Based on other letters, Paul commonly used an amanuensis to do the actual writing. (Romans 16:22; 1 Corinthians 16:21; Colossians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:17) Therefore, his calling attention to the size of the letters may indicate that, from this point onward, he used the writing implement (probably a pointed, slit reed pen) to complete the letter. There is also a possibility that the reference to the size of the letters applies to the entire epistle, which would mean that he did not use a penman in this case but wrote everything himself.

Although Paul was then in the process of writing with his own hand, the aorist tense of grápho (write) is perhaps to be understood as indicative of a past event from the standpoint of the recipients of the letter.

Galatians 6:12

Again focusing on the proponents of circumcision who had disrupted the peace of the congregations in Galatia, the apostle wrote: “As many as want to make a good showing in [the] flesh, these try to force you to get circumcised, only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.”

Being in the present tense, the verb for “want” (thélo) expresses a continuing wish or desire. According to the context, the object of this desire was to preserve an outward appearance that would placate the unbelieving Jews so that they would not become hostile.

The verb for “make a good showing” (euprosopéo) is a compound of (well, good, or fair) and prósopon (face). Since the expression prósopon often denotes the appearance (Matthew 16:3; James 1:11), euprosopéo conveys the thought of making a good appearance or showing. It was an appearance or showing “in flesh,” that is, relating to that which is external and unspiritual. This outward appearance was designed to look good to the unbelieving Jews.

Paul did not specify the manner in which the advocates of circumcision tried to “compel” or “force” (anankázo) a non-Jewish believer to get circumcised. Their arguments for circumcision likely included the misapplication of the Scriptures and claims respecting teachings of the apostles in Jerusalem. They may also have resorted to subtle pressure, implying that free association in all respects with Jewish believers depended on circumcision because the fullness of divine approval or acceptance was only possible for persons who were circumcised.

The real motivation of the proponents of circumcision was self-interest—the desire to avoid being persecuted by the unbelieving Jews. For these unbelieving Jews, the obstacle was the “cross [staurós] of Christ,” not the implement on which he died, but what the death of God’s Son signified (see note on 2:19 regarding staurós). They were enraged about the teaching that uncircumcised non-Jews could enjoy complete forgiveness of sins and an approved standing with God. To be placed on the same level as non-Jews insofar as what was needed for divine acceptance—faith in Jesus Christ and the sin-atoning value of his death—was highly offensive to them. Although beliefs among first-century Jews varied considerably (Acts 23:8), they were united in the view that no uncircumcised non-Jew could enjoy God’s approval. Close association with uncircumcised non-Jews was, in fact, unlawful and defiling. (John 18:28; Acts 10:28) Therefore, by representing themselves before unbelieving non-Jews as being of the same persuasion as they in teaching that divine approval was dependent on circumcision and obedience to all the other requirements of the Mosaic law, the proponents of circumcision sought to avoid persecution.

Note: Manuscripts differ in the order of some of the words. Additionally, P46 (c. 200) follows the abbreviated form of Christoú (“of Christ”), with the abbreviated form of Iesoú (Jesus [genitive case]).

Galatians 6:13

Further drawing attention to the wrong motives of the troublemakers, Paul said: “For not even those who are circumcised keep [the] law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they might boast in your flesh.”

Modern translations commonly leave the conjunction gár (for) untranslated. This conjunction does, however, serve to introduce a statement confirming that the primary reason for advocating circumcision was the desire to avoid persecution.

If preserving the original reading of the text, the word peritemnómenoi (the present tense participial form of the verb peritémno and meaning “are circumcised,” “are being circumcised”) evidently is not limited to non-Jews who accepted circumcision and then became active proponents of the practice with a view of gaining the fullness of divine approval. Rather, this term (as suggested by the context) would apply to all advocates of circumcision who were themselves circumcised.

The fact that the proponents of circumcision did not truly keep the law proved that their desire to impose circumcision and the accompanying requirements of the law did not have a noble purpose. Emphasizing their failure, the apostle (according to most manuscripts) used the strong negative oudé (not even).

Although there is no definite article in the Greek text before “law,” the linkage with circumcision indicates that the reference is to God’s law given through Moses. As sinful humans, the advocates of circumcision did not and, in fact, could not have lived up faultlessly to the law even if they had been sincere in their efforts. Yet, they were insistent on imposing on others the very law that they themselves did not observe as required of them. Thus, what they themselves failed to obey and what they endeavored to induce others to follow proved to be wholly inconsistent.

The apostle introduced what these troublemakers desired with the conjunction allá (but), a strong indicator of contrast. Their reason for wanting others to get circumcised was so that they could “boast.” The basis for their boasting or taking pride was the “flesh” of non-Jews whom they had converted to their persuasion, for that “flesh” bore the visible marks of circumcision. In view of their desire to escape persecution, the proponents of circumcision probably pointed to their success in getting non-Jews to accept their view as proof of having even greater zeal in honoring Moses and the law than did the unbelieving Jews. There was nothing spiritual or praiseworthy about their boasting. It was a mere taking of pride in having succeeded in getting non-Jews to bear the mark of circumcision “in [their] flesh.”

Notes:

Instead of oudé (not even) found in the majority of manuscripts, P46 (c. 200) reads outé (not).

Fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus, fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus, and many other manuscripts read peritemnómenoi (“are circumcised,” “are being circumcised” [present tense]). On the other hand, peritetmémenoi (perfect tense participial form of peritémno [circumcise], indicative of the circumcision having been undertaken in the past but its results continuing to exist) is found in P46 (c. 200) and fourth-century Codex Vaticanus.

Galatians 6:14

Paul, however, completely rejected their basis for boasting: “But, as for me, may it never happen that I boast of [anything] other than the cross [staurós] of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to [the] world.”

For the apostle, the only ground for boasting or taking pride, was the staurós of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Regarding staurós, see note on 2:19.) That it was unthinkable for Paul to conceive of any other valid basis for boasting is evident from the words mé génoito, “may it never happen.” The focus of Paul’s reference to the staurós is not on the implement itself but on what Christ’s death on the staurós effected—liberation from the condemnation of sin and an approved standing with God for all who put faith in Jesus Christ and accept his sacrifice for them.

In referring to God’s Son as Lord, Paul acknowledged him as his Owner or Master, the one who had bought him with his precious blood. The example and teaching of Jesus Christ was the guiding principle of his life. Because his whole life centered on Christ—having his Lord’s approval—any kind of boasting based on self was ruled out. Paul only boasted or took pride in what Christ had done for him, and this was accompanied by the humble recognition that everything he had received and had been able to do was completely dependent on grace or favor. (1 Corinthians 15:9, 10; 1 Timothy 1:12–17)

The word that follows the contracted form of día (through) is hoú and may be rendered “whom” or “which.” When hoú is understood to mean “whom,” the reference is to the Son of God. On the other hand, if hoú denotes “which,” the antecedent is staurós. Either through the Lord Jesus Christ (by reason of being made one with him as a member of his body) or through the staurós (acceptance of Christ’s sacrificial death on his behalf), Paul experienced a tremendous change in his life.

The “world” (kósmos) may be understood as being the totality of the attitudes, principles, standards, and practices existing in the world of mankind alienated from God. As a zealous adherent to Jewish traditions, Paul had not led a spiritual life. His attitude, goals, and conduct had been patterned according to the prevailing standards among legalistic-minded Jews. At that time, the apostle’s striving was to gain merit with God on the basis of personal effort, which produced a feeling of pride and outright hatred for those who appeared to devalue the cherished traditions. In that state, Paul was of the world and described himself as being “a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man.” (1 Timothy 1:13) As part of the “world,” he enjoyed its favor and recognition.

Because of the radical change that came about upon his becoming a believer, the “world” of which Paul had been a prominent and respected part ceased to hold any attraction. To him, it was now crucified as something accursed. The depth of his feeling is reflected in his words to the Philippians: “Whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith.” (Philippians 3:7–9, NAB)

On the other hand, the “world” that had once regarded Paul favorably viewed him with extreme abhorrence as an outcast. To those of that “world” he appeared loathsome—as a vile criminal fastened to a staurós. Their attitude was expressed in the screams of an enraged mob, “Rid the earth of the man! He is not fit to live!” (Acts 22:22, NJB)

Galatians 6:15

Apparently to introduce a confirmatory reason for not taking pride in anything other than what Jesus Christ accomplished through his sacrificial death, Paul used the conjunction gár (for). He wrote, “For neither circumcision is anything nor [is] uncircumcision, but a new creation [counts].”

The apostle had earlier argued strongly that imposing circumcision on non-Jewish believers was wrong. Perhaps, therefore, some could have reasoned that there was value in being in the uncircumcised state. Paul, however, here made it clear that neither the outward sign of circumcision nor the lack thereof provided any advantage or benefit regarding an individual’s standing with God. Pointing to what did count, the apostle used allá (but), a strong marker of contrast, and added the words “new creation.” Instead of primarily being the opposite of “old” and thus describing something that had newly or recently come into existence, “new” (kainós) is indicative of a newness in quality. The “creation” is of a new kind.

This “new creation” is not distinguished by a mark from an operation performed on the physical organism, nor by the absence of such a mark. Instead, the “new creation” comes into being through the operation of God’s spirit within the person who puts faith in Jesus Christ and what he made possible by dying sacrificially. Because of the tremendous change in outlook, attitude, and behavior that God’s spirit effects, the believer comes to be a new person. The old self that was controlled by the passions and cravings of fallen human nature ceases to be. (Ephesians 4:22–24; Colossians 3:9, 10) Accordingly, what counts with God is nothing external. Rather, it is the inner transformation produced by his spirit and which transformation is manifest in the believer’s upright conduct and unselfish concern for the welfare of others.

Notes:

Many manuscripts contain the expanded reading of the text—en gár Christó Iesoú oúte (for in Christ Jesus neither). Modern translations, however, generally follow the shorter reading of the passage (oúte gár [for neither]), which has the support of P46 (c. 200), fourth-century Codex Vaticanus, and a number of later manuscripts.

The reading estin (is) has the support of P46 (c. 200), the original reading of fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus, fourth-century Codex Vaticanus, and fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus, as well as numerous later manuscripts. On the other hand, many other later manuscripts read (as in Galatians 5:6) ischyei (“has strength”).

Galatians 6:16

Emphasizing the importance of recognizing what truly counts, the apostle said: “And as many as will follow this rule—peace and mercy upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”

The verb here commonly translated “follow” is stoichéo, which has the basic sense of “moving in a row or in order.” Thus, to follow the rule or precept enunciated by Paul is to let it serve as a guide.

Although the word kanón can designate a reed for measuring, it here refers to a “rule,” principle, or a standard for conduct. As evident from the apostle’s previous statement, this guiding principle is that externals mean nothing but that what does count with God is the transformation of the inner life through the operation of his spirit. For “as many as” choose to regulate their attitude, words, and deeds in harmony with this “rule” or standard, Paul prayed that “peace and mercy” be “upon them,” suggesting that this blessing came upon them from above—from God.

“Peace” is a divinely given inner sense of security and calmness that believers enjoy because of knowing that they are approved children of God. As such, they are assured that the heavenly Father will lovingly sustain and care for them in all their trials. (See comments on 1:3.)

The word éleos means “mercy,” “compassion,” or “pity.” It is expressive of an active response to a real need. Believers possess only imputed, not absolute, righteousness and, therefore, depend on God’s continued forgiveness of their sins—an expression of his boundless mercy. (Matthew 18:21–35) Additionally, they experience trials and distress. In his compassion, the Most High comes to their aid, sustaining them with his spirit so that their faith does not give out. Never does he permit the situation to develop to the point where faithfulness to him would be humanly impossible. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Only those recognizing that externals are of no value in the eyes of God and that he is the source of what makes it possible for them to be his beloved children are recipients of the needed peace and mercy. A reliance on externals, on the other hand, assigns the ultimate value to self and personal effort, leading to obscuring the reality that the creature is totally dependent on the Creator for everything.

In this context, those being designated as the “Israel of God” depends on how the word kaí is to be understood. It may be rendered “and,” “even,” or “also.” When translated “even,” the “Israel of God” is the same group as those designated by the expression hósoi (as many as). If, however, kaí here has the sense of “and,” two groups would be in view—“as many as” and the “Israel of God.” Throughout the Scriptures, a clear distinction is drawn between mere natural descent from Abraham and truly being a member of the “Israel of God.” (Isaiah 6:13; 10:20–22; John 8:37–41, Romans 9:6–13) Thus, Paul perhaps was here limiting his use of the expression “Israel of God” to the believing remnant of natural Israel. In that case, the expression hósoi would apply to any believers who choose to follow the “rule” or “standard,” but who would not of necessity be members of the “Israel of God.” In view of the apostle’s earlier emphasis on their being no distinctions in the spiritual family (3:28, 29), however, this meaning is questionable. A more likely possibility is to regard the word hósoi as applying to a part of the entire body of believers making up the “Israel of God.” Regardless of how kaí is to be understood, the “Israel of God” is a composite body of people whom God recognizes as belonging to him, all of whom share in the blessing of “peace and mercy.”

Galatians 6:17

At this point, Paul added a personal note: “Henceforth let no one cause me troubles, for I bear the marks of Jesus in my body.”

Whereas the basic meaning of loipós is “rest” or “remaining” (Acts 2:37; Galatians 2:13; Ephesians 2:3), the expression toú loipoú here has the sense of “for the time remaining,” “henceforth,” “from now on,” or “after this.” So, from then on, the apostle requested not to be submitted to the kind of troubles that he had experienced on account of false teachers in the congregations of Galatia.

The term that has been rendered “cause,” “make,” and “give” is parécho—a compound consisting of pará (beside, near) and écho (hold). Accordingly, the thought of giving is expressed by the basic idea of holding something out or toward the recipient. In this particular context, however, the term parécho denotes “causing one to experience something.”

Paul had been caused to experience troubles, and this he wanted to stop. The word kópos can mean “labor” or “toil,” particularly from the perspective of its wearying or exhausting nature. (Genesis 31:42, LXX; 2 Corinthians 11:27; 1 Thessalonians 2:9) In this case, the main focus of kópos is on the wearying aspect and so it has the sense of “trouble.” As evident from the apostle’s letter, the troubles he had to bear included insidious attacks on his apostolic authority and the undermining of his devoted service in helping the Galatians spiritually, resulting in his having great concern for their eternal welfare. Since the false teachers were responsible for the stress he had experienced, Paul evidently directed his words to anyone who did and might start to proclaim something other than the true “glad tidings” and thereby endanger the spiritual well-being of those who might lend an ear to error.

The apostle introduced the reason for making his imperative statement with the preposition gár (for). This reason was the “marks” he bore “in his body.” The word stígma is the designation for a “brand mark,” which mark is indicative of ownership. Evidently the “marks” came to be on Paul’s body on account of his being an apostle of Jesus Christ. These “marks” also proved that he was owned by God’s Son, thereby clearly establishing whose servant he was. When Paul wrote to the Galatians, he had already experienced much of what he enumerated in his second letter to the Corinthians: “Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Cor. 11:23–28, NIV) Especially the stoning at Lystra and the beatings to which Paul was submitted must have left scars on his body. (Acts 14:19; 16:22, 23, 33) Because these “marks” were a direct result of Paul’s being in the service of his Lord, they were indeed the “marks of Jesus.” How wrong it therefore was for anyone to cause him the kind of troubles for which the false teachers were responsible!

Note: Manuscripts vary in reading Iesoú (of Jesus), Christoú (of Christ), kyríou Iesoú (of Lord Jesus), kyríou Iesoú Christoú (of Lord Jesus Christ), kyríou (of Lord), and kyríou hemón Iesóu Christoú (of our Lord Jesus Christ).

Galatians 6:18

Paul concluded his letter with the prayerful expression, “The favor of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with your spirit, brothers. Amen.” In this context, “favor” (cháris) apparently includes the approval of Jesus Christ. Believers recognize him as their Lord who bought them with his precious blood and demonstrate their submission to him by letting his example and teaching guide their attitude, thoughts, words, and actions. His favor is bestowed upon believers in the form of aid, guidance, and protection. For the Galatians to have Jesus’ favor on their spirit would have assured them of all the blessings believers share in common. The “spirit” of the Galatians would be their disposition or prevailing attitude. It would be the motivating power at work in their inner life, manifesting itself to others in their daily conduct.

Although the Galatians had erred in allowing themselves to come under the influence of false teachers, Paul, to the very end of his letter, addressed them as “brothers,” fellow sons of God and brothers of Christ. He accepted them as beloved members of the same spiritual family. Evidently because this was a general letter for all the congregations in Galatia, Paul did not include any personal greetings to individuals.

As was common when invoking a blessing on others, the apostle used the word “Amen.” This expression means “surely,” “truly,” or “so be it.”

Note: A number of manuscripts, including fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus, omit hemón (our).