Notes on Galatians 6

Galatians 6  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Chapter 6
The apostle now adds some special exhortations. First, as to the grace which we ought to show one towards another, coupled with the sense of responsibility in oneself. The spirit of the law naturally leads to righteousness, and then to hardness towards another, if he is overtaken in a fault: it makes us forget our own weakness. This was seen plainly in the Pharisees, and is found among Christians also; therefore the apostle exhorts them, saying, " 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." The sense of one's own weakness makes us meek towards others.
Then (v. 2) we get a law; he calls it this because they wanted a law: the true law, if they must have one, is to act as Christ did-that is, to bear the burdens of others, and thus fulfill the most excellent law, the law of love. He would not have them to be indifferent to sin, or to fail in needful discipline when sin had been manifested. But when a brother had been overtaken in a fault, he would have them seek his restoration with love, with the faithfulness of holy love. The danger, and even the effect, of a legal spirit is to make us think ourselves something when we are nothing; we deceive ourselves. Simple words, but full of power! We need to prove ourselves and our work, that we may have to boast as to ourselves alone, and not as to others; a principle which is always true, and such was then the case with the Galatians. Whose had the work among them been? Paul's. Others desired to appropriate that work; but when they had been heathen Paul had worked among them, and had been the means of their conversion. Through his instrumentality they had received Christ into their hearts. But each should bear his own burden. Grace may bear the burdens of others, but, as to responsibility, when the Lord shall judge, each shall bear his own burden.
Here ends the exhortation which treats of the relations of brethren in their responsibility one towards another, as also of that which regards each one. He adds the desire, that those who learn through the labors of others should think in love of the needs of those who teach.
The apostle then returns to the fundamental principle of the Christian walk. It is not a law given to a nature which always, by its very nature, resists the law: it is a power which works in a new life, the Spirit given to those who believe on the Lord Jesus. The government of God ensures the consequences which flow from the walk. God does not allow Himself to be mocked; " whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." " 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." The path of sin and the path of the Spirit, in which the true Christian walks, both infallibly lead to the ends which suit each-the path of the flesh to corruption, even in this life; the way of the Spirit to life eternal.
Verse 9. But we must not weary in the right path, for God is faithful, and if we persevere, we shall reap in His own time. We often want to see the fruit of our labors at once, like one who turns up the earth to see if the seed is springing. But the work, if real, is the work of God, and we must wait till His work is accomplished; then we shall see the fruit matured according to the perfection of His workmanship. Let us, then, not weary in well doing, but whilst we have opportunity let us do good unto all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith..
Verse 11. The apostle returns to his chief subject, showing the preoccupation of his spirit, which is also expressed in the fact he mentions. He was greatly troubled because the Galatians were abandoning the principles of grace in which they had been instructed, and through which they had been converted. He had written this letter with his own hand, though habitually he employed another to write (Rom. 16:2222I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord. (Romans 16:22); 2 Thess. 3:1717The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write. (2 Thessalonians 3:17)). Those who constrain you to be circumcised, says the apostle, desire to make a fair show in the flesh. They themselves did not keep the law, but in order to bring honor to themselves, they sought to put others under the law—the religion in which they had boasted in the days of their ancestors, and thus to glory in the flesh, in the proselytes from among the nations. The apostle desired to glory only in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world was crucified to him and he to the world. To seek a good or even a religious appearance before the world, is to seek the honor of a world which has dishonored, rejected, and crucified Him who has loved us and given Himself for us.
The cross, for us, is salvation, the proof of the infinite love of God; but it was the shame of the Lord of glory to which He submitted for us. There, the world finally condemned itself, and God was glorified in love. Paul did not want the honor of a world, which at the cross dishonored Him who had so loved him; he would glory only in the cross-the proof of the Lord's love and of his own salvation. He identified himself with Christ, he was crucified to the world which had crucified Him, and the world was likewise crucified to him. A world that has crucified the Lord is not the place where a Christian can seek honor; it has, by the cross, manifested what it is. Shall we go with the world to crucify Christ, or shall we own Him who gave Himself for us upon that cross, and love Him there, where He showed His love to us? In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision-that is all past with the cross, with death to the world and its elements-but a new creation. This is the Christian's rule, not the law which is adapted to man born of Adam, after the flesh and living in the world, though the flesh is not and cannot be subject to it. As many, says the apostle, as walk according to this rule, peace be on them and mercy, and upon the Israel of God-not upon man according to the flesh.
Paul, conscious of what he had been in his service, with a patient heart and elevated spirit exclaims, " Henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." It is sad to see that the apostle, himself in affliction, was obliged to appeal to such a proof of his divine calling. There is no salutation, no word of love or confidence. " Let no man trouble me " is all he can say to those who formerly would have plucked out their own eyes in love to him.
All this shows plainly to what an extent the error of the Galatians weighed upon the apostle's spirit. How serious is this perversity of the human heart, which really unconscious of its state of sin and weakness, instead of finding in the law the proof of that state, uses it to produce its own righteousness, human righteousness, after the gospel has revealed the righteousness of God for us in Christ, just because we had none for God. But from that day, this error everywhere abounds, and it even characterizes actual Christianity. It is the doctrine of all the branches of Christianity.
This is a most interesting epistle, but a sad one; it brings us back to the basis of Christianity, the foundations of our relationships, rather than to the development of the privileges which belong to the Christian and to his standing in Christ. But it is all the more needful for the soul that desires to grow in grace. For if we are not well grounded in grace, and in the efficacy of the work of Christ, it is impossible really to grow in the development of life, and in fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. It is ever needful to lay afresh the basis of our relations with God.