Commentary on Galatians 6

By Eric Johnson

Highlighted parts are key quotes that may have been used on the radio shows

5 questions for chapter 5 (to answer before you study chapter 5)

  1. Why does Paul think it is important in verses 1 and 2 to restore other believers from sin and bear each other’s burdens? In your mind, does the Christian church do a good job fulfilling these imperatives? If yes, how? If no, what could the church practically do to do better?
  2. Do you know someone who, as verse 3 puts it, thinks of himself as better than others? Is this a temptation for you? If so, what are some practical ways to not fall into this trap?
  3. Why do you think Paul thinks it is important in verse 6 to speak about taking care of the needs of the teacher? What is the benefit the congregation has received from those who have dedicated their lives to investing themselves?
  4. In verse 10 Paul says to do good to everyone, but especially our brothers and sisters in the faith. Why do you think he says this? How can you be a special encouragement to your brothers and sisters in Christ?
  5. In verse 14, Paul says Christians shouldn’t boast in anything except the cross. Why do you think Paul thinks it’s OK to “boast” in the cross? What exactly does this look like in a 21st century context?

6 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

NIV Study Bible: “restore. The Greek for this verb is used elsewhere for setting bones, mending nets or bringing factions together.”

Keller: “’If someone is caught in a sin,’ conceited superiority would drive us to look down on them, be glad we are not like them, and feel righteous in ourselves. Pointing out their sin would merely be to underline how good we look by comparison. Conceited inferiority would cause us either to envy the life they are leading, however sinful; or to crave their approval so much that we won’t risk pointing out their failure to live in line with the gospel” (166).

“A dislocated bone is extremely painful, because it is not in its designed, natural relationship to the other parts of the body. To put a bone back in place will inevitably inflict pain, but it is a healing pain. It means we are to confront, even when that will be painful, but our confronting must be aiming to prompt a change of life and heart” (167).

2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Eric’s Commentary: Paul says we should be aware of how our brothers and sisters are doing around us. If they are struggling, we need to come to their aid. Bearing one another’s burdens is a definite command from God.

Keller: “We are not to let people carry their burdens alone. These ‘burdens’ can be a simple responsibility, like raising a child or renovating a living space. Or they can be a difficulty, a problem. . . . You cannot help with a burden unless you come very close to the burdened person, standing virtually in their shoes, and putting your own strength under the burden so its weight is distributed on both of you, lightening the load of the other” (168).

“Paul is telling the Galatians that, rather than placing themselves under the burden of law-fulfillment, they should be lifting burdens off others—and that, ultimately, this is the way to fulfill the law!” (168)

 

3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

Eric’s Commentary: The universe does not revolve around us. Learn to be selfless and be the man or woman of God that He expects you to be.

Luther: “Paul has their number when he calls them zeros. They deceive themselves with their self-suggested wisdom and holiness. They have no understanding of Christ or the law of Christ. By insisting that everything be perfect they not only fail to bear the burdens of the weak, they actually offend the weak by their severity. People began to hate and shun them and refuse to accept counsel or comfort from them. Paul describes these stiff and ungracious saints accurately when he says of them, ‘They think themselves to be something.’ Bloated by their own silly ideas and schemes they entertain a pretty fair opinion of themselves, when in reality they amount to nothing.”

 

4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.

Moo:We are again reminded that Paul does not oppose works in principle but only when those works are thought to be the basis for God’s justifying verdict and therefore undercut the primacy and absolute nature of grace” (379).

“We can always find people who are doing worse than we are in matters of the Spirit and take confidence from that comparison. But when we look at ourselves honestly and in light of God’s word and his expectations of us, the results will often be quite different” (381).

 

6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.

Philippians 4:14-19: 14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Keller: ’All good things’ almost certainly means financial support. It benefits both learner and teacher if the instructor is supported to do the job full-time. In this light, the word koinoneo becomes even richer, for the salary of a Christian teacher is not to be seen as a payment. Rather, it is a ‘fellowship.’ Just as teachers share the spiritual gifts God has given them with the learner, so the learners share the financial gifts God has given them with the teacher” (174)

 

7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.

Eric’s Commentary: Some might think that this is equal to karma. It differs because we’re talking about this life and not past lives. What you do today can and will have an effect for tomorrow.

Keller: Referring to “Do not be deceived”: “In some ways, this is the theme of the whole epistle of Galatians! Many of these young Christians had presumably been catechized by Paul himself; now they are in great danger of being deceived by the false teachers” (174).

“Whatever you sow, you will reap. If you sow tomato seeds, you will not get corn, no matter how much you want corn to grow! Second, whatever you sow, you will reap. Though the seed may lie in the ground to no apparent effect for a long time, it will come up. It is not the reaping that determines the harvest, but the sowing” (175).

 

8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Eric’s Commentary: We have a choice: Serve the flesh or serve the Spirit. Serve the flesh and, in the end, it is buried. Serve the Spirit and eternal rewards await.

Keller: “But Paul has also warned that if the gospel is rejected and works-righteousness formally and completely adopted, slavery and destruction will be complete. Both levels are probably in view here. If we as Christians fail to use the gospel, and live ‘in the flesh,’ trying to earn our salvation by other means, we will find a loss of coherence and joy and strength in our lives. And if anyone rejects the gospel and lives completely to the flesh, seeking and serving something other than Christ as their savior, then they will reap eternal destruction, rather than eternal life. The warning is stark; but the promise is wonderful. . . . If we live by the Spirit, we will enjoy the approval and assurance and fulfillment and joy of the Christian life now, and know that it will continue beyond death” (176).

 

9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Eric’s Commentary: We may not always see the fruit, especially right away, but here Paul says not to give up and, in due course, the results will be made very clear.

Keller: “There is always a delay between sowing and reaping. Especially, new farmers and gardeners will experience a lot of anxiety, watching over the dormant seed for weeks and weeks, and feeling it will never come up. But it always comes up in the end. Paul has warned sinners that, though it may seem for a long time that your sin hasn’t found you out, eventually it will. Now he wants to encourage those who are living for Christ. People who do good will see the fruits and benefits—eventually” (177).

 

10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Keller: “Christians are all brothers and sisters in God’s household (4:5). We must do good intensely with those who are in fellowship with us” (178).

 

Final Warning and Benediction

11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.

NIV Study Bible:large letters. May have been for emphasis or, as some have suggested, because he had poor eyesight. With my own hand. The letter up to this point had probably been dictated to a scribe, after which Paul took the pen in his own hand and finished the letter.”

 

12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.

Moo: “But how would insisting on circumcision enable them to avoid being persecuted? The answer is almost certainly that anyone proclaiming the Messiah without insisting that converts be circumcised and follow the law would be criticized, ostracized, and perhaps even physically punished by Jews” (393).

Keller: “The cross is by nature offensive! And we can only grasp its sweetness if we first grapple with its offense. If someone understands the cross, it is either the greatest thing in their life, or it is repugnant to them. If it is neither of those two things, they haven’t understood it” (180-181).

 

13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.

Keller: “The false savior the Judaizers are worshiping is approval. That’s what is going on under their legalistic teaching. They want to ‘boast.’ They have gotten into religion for the fame, prestige and honor it can bring them in the world. Their ministry, as we saw in 4:17-18, is a form of self-salvation. As a result of this concern for appearances and acceptance by the world, the false teachers are offering a religion that mainly focuses on externals and behavior (circumcision and the ceremonial law), rather than internal change of heart, motives and character. The gospel is inside-out: an inner change of heart leads to a new motivation for and conduct of behavior. They are outside-out-: focusing on behavior, never dealing with the heart, and always remaining superficial” (181).

Luther: “Mark what the Apostle is saying. Those who are circumcised do not fulfill the Law. No self-righteous person ever does. To work, pray, or suffer apart from Christ is to work, pray, and to suffer in vain, ‘for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.’ It does a person no good to be circumcised, to fast, to pray, or to do anything, if in his heart he despises Christ.”

 

14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Eric’s Commentary: It seems the Bible speaks against boasting, but here Paul says that we can “boast” in the cross. Many will not agree with what we are saying, but there appears to be much more hope in trusting what took place on the cross than anything we can point to based on our own efforts.

Keller: “I am saved solely and wholly because of Christ’s work, not mine. He has reserved a place in heaven for me, given freely to me by Him. I ‘never boast’—I take no credit for my standing with God—‘except in the cross’; what Christ has done is now something I ‘boast’ in. To boast is to joyously exult, and to have high confidence, in something. To know you are saved by Christ’s work alone brings a joyous ‘boasting’ confidence; not a self-confidence, but Christ-confidence” (182).

 

15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Keller: “Because of the gospel of Christ crucified, Paul says, I do not feel inferior to or intimidated by anyone—circumcision means nothing. And because of the gospel, I do not feel superior to or scornful of anyone—uncircumcision means nothing. . . the gospel changes my present, giving me a whole new self-image and whole new way of relating to everyone” (183).

“So verses 14-15 sum up what it means to rely on what Christ has done, rather than on what I am doing. Paul says: The gospel changes what I fundamentally boast in—it changes the whole basis for my identity. Nothing in the whole world has any power over me—I am free at last to enjoy the world, for I do not need the world. I feel neither inferior to anyone nor superior to anyone, and I am being made all over into someone and something entirely new” (184).

 

16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

Keller: “Anyone who sets the gospel of Christ as their ‘rule,’ he says, will find ‘peace and mercy.’ And they will be members of ‘the Israel of God.’ Christians are all Abraham’s children, heirs to God’s promises to him” (184).

Luther: “Those who walk after this rule enjoy the favor of God, the forgiveness of their sins, and peace of conscience. Should they ever be overtaken by any sin, the mercy of God supports them.”

 

17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

NIV Study Bible: “marks of Jesus. In ancient times the Greek word for ‘marks’ was used of the brand that identified slaves or animals. Paul’s suffering (stoning, Ac 14:19; beatings, Ac 16:22; 2 Cor. 11:25; illness, 2 Cor 12:7; Gal. 4:13-14) marked him as a ‘servant of Christ’ (1:10; cf 2 Cor. 4:10).”

Keller: “What are these? Probably he is referring to the literal scars he (Paul) had from the torture, imprisonments and beatings he had received for the sake of Christ” (184).

 

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

Keller: “We begin by grace, by being justified by truth in what Christ has done. We continue by grace, not by anything we do. This gospel of grace is what the Galatians need to know, and love, in ‘your spirit.’ It is not a set of abstract truths. It is a way of life, of deeply fulfilling, secure life now, and of eternal life to come. Amen” (185).