Galatians Chapter 6

Gentleness toward a weak brother. The burden of law observances. Continued warning against circumcision and legalism.

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Gentleness toward a weak brother

1Brothers and sisters, if a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too.

This verse is self-explanatory.

The burden of law observances

2Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

From the very beginning of this epistle, Paul has been exhorting the Galatians to walk by faith and not using the law as the basis of their relationship with God. And then in one sentence earlier, verse 1, he talked about gentle restoration of someone who may be leading a sinful lifestyle. Now he's talking about carrying one another's burden. From the context we can deduce that it must be the burden of sin that he's talking about in this verse; the same meaning with the burden of observances of laws and statutes.

Therefore Paul must not be talking about the physical burden of this life, of working to make a living, of child rearing, of financial matter, etc.

Jesus came not to eradicate poverty or social injustice or end all wars, but to restore men to full sonship of God. Therefore Paul who received a revelation from God must be addressing the problem of sin and guilt.

Jesus spoke of a similar burden in a different way: “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Mat 23:4)

The word burden used here is of a type that is proprotional to the person’s strength, the stronger he is, the heavier it gets, enough to cause him to collapse. This is typical of a burden of using one’s own strength to be justified by God. The stronger, the more determined, the more self-willed, a person is, the further he can push the boulder, and he’ll find even more boulders to carry to match his strength.

So perhaps, what Paul is trying to say is: you legalists, instead of laying impossible legal (law) burden on each other, relieve it from your brother, then you will have fulfilled Christ’s new law of the Spirit of life.

Yes, you carry your brother’s burden by relieving it off of his back; relieve the heavy burden of the keeping of the law by showing him the wonderful grace of Jesus who has taken upon himself the burden of the sin of the world.

Imagine the burden of sin of someone’s life, what power on earth can stand up under its weight? Maybe a seared conscience, but no normal person can carry even his own burden, let alone carrying someone else’s.

I believe the apostle Paul must be writing like Jesus here, using a parable to present a truth only visible to those that are willing to see through the eye of God’s grace. The only power that can, not only carry our collective burden of sin but also, render it powerless is our faith in the Redeemer. Perhaps the only way to biblically carry anyone’s burden is to put it on Christ as He alone can do it.

And the “law of Christ,” do you know what it is? The old law was the 10 commandments plus 160 plus other statutes which demanded full compliance or death, the new law is called “law of the Spirit of life.” The law of Christ is simply this: believe on the Son and you shall be saved. When you help someone have a saving faith in Christ, you fulfill his law. Anything other than this is but another form of circumcision.

False security in the keeping of the law

3For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4Let each one examine his own work. Then he can take pride in himself and not compare himself with someone else. 5For each one will carry his own load.

In the eyes of an Israelite, the rest of the world are Gentile sinners, but not them, because they have the law. Circumcision was the best way they knew that set them apart from sinners, and this backward pull continues even after they became Christians. This special ritual made them feel holier than without it, though in their mind they called on the name of Christ, but in their heart, they still felt unclean, and circumcision helped put them at ease.

Work-based religion gives people a false sense of security, it elevates them higher than they really are, and prevent them from seeing their own depravity. This was the problem with the Pharisees during Jesus’ time, they misunderstood the role of the law, that it really was meant to show their need of the Savior, but instead because of their misunderstanding, they thought they didn’t need him.

The Judaizers played on this weakness of Jewish Christians to call them back to the law, it made them feel like they were “something/not-sinners,” but in reality they’re “nothing/sinners” because the Scriptures declared that “all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. (Rom 3:23)” Observances of all points of the law still will not stop them from being sinners.

If each of the Galatian legalists honestly examine their own work, they would have found out there was nothing to be proud of, but because their way is work-based, they, of course, have to compare with others to feel good about themselves; or feel bad if others did better. And instead of trying to find the little specks in others, they ought to see the giant logs in their own eyes, and carry the “load” of their own sins instead of minding others. Perhaps if they honestly examine themselves, they would find relief in the finished work of Christ.

I believe this short verse is one of Paul’s masterpieces to demonstrate the Galatians’ total misconception of what pleases God. Our modern churches are not doing any better if we fail to see that throughout all this, Paul is talking about: what justifies you before God; and if we fail to see that Paul is not interested in giving rudimentary teaching for babes in Christ.

Taking care of ministers of the Word

6Now the one who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with the one who teaches it.

At this time the economy has changed from the Jewish priesthood to those that serve like ministers of modern churches. The temple priests used to be well provided for by the massive temple economy powered by an animal sacrifice system, but during Paul’s time, those that serve the Lord must have had to provide for themselves between ministry works. So Paul’s calling folks to share with preachers their blessings is the right thing to do. These days this type of exhortation may be irrelevant as many ministers are even rich as compared to many in the congregation, or at least they’re salaried with full benefits.

Continued warning against circumcision and legalism

7Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows, 8because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up. 10So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the family of faith.

At first glance, we might tend to interpret these verses as the contrast between sowing and reaping of material things in this world versus the kingdom of God. But this is not the context in this epistle. Surely Paul is talking about circumcision that has to do with the cutting away of a part of the flesh. To sow in the flesh, or to rely on the work of the flesh, as expressed in circumcision, is the main reason for his writing.

Obviously Paul spent virtually the entire letter to warn the Galatians of the danger of reverting back to the law. Therefore if we read these verses in context of the whole epistle, we must see that he’s still talking about the issue of the Galatians trying to revert back to the law.

In that context, those that sow to the flesh are those that attempt to use the law to achieve God’s righteousness, but all they will reap is destruction; Romans 7:5 also spoke of sins that are powered by the law to bear fruit for death.

To continue in this context, “doing good” must also mean to do what he’s talking about. The word “So” at the beginning of verses 9 and 10 must hint toward the true meaning of doing good is to not going back to circumcision, to not giving non-Hebrew Christians a hard time concerning circumcision, or basically to not going back to the law that they have been accustomed to since the Old Covenant.

Consider these verses that Paul put before them with utmost urgency:

Galatians 4:30-31

30But what does the scripture say? “Throw out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the son” of the free woman. 31Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman but of the free woman.

Galatians 5:2

“Listen! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all!”

Galatians 5:4

“You who are trying to be declared righteous by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace!”

Final Instructions and Benediction

11See what big letters I make as I write to you with my own hand!

Paul was probably refering to his problem with vision which caused him to write in big hand writings; must be bigger than people do ordinarily.

Beware of motives of the legalists

12Those who want to make a good showing in external matters are trying to force you to be circumcised. They do so only to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13For those who are circumcised do not obey the law themselves, but they want you to be circumcised so that they can boast about your flesh.

The reason why these legalists wanted to avoid persecution for the cross of Christ is probably quite different from those living under some dictatorship. Most persecutions happened under gun points or extrememe physical threats of self or family members; in other words: involuntarily. The persecution here are actually toward folks who hold certain amount of influence, and they do have a choice between: circumcision vs. faith in Christ, or law vs. grace. Of course we must give the benefit of the doubt that there may have been violent threats toward some among them, but here Paul is addressing the ones in power, the agitators, the legalists that are enticing folks to go back to the law; Paul even implicates the other apostles themselves. I trust that God is merciful and knows the circumstances of each one under persecution; I know He is because Abraham pleaded and He listened.

Paul’s only reason for boasting

14But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

When work is used as qualification for justification, boasting is inevitable, as there will be comparing and fault finding, because the flesh is involved. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that because we’re saved by grace, we cannot boast. But if there is any boasting, it’s about the one who died on the cross for you.

The only thing that matters: the new creation

15For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that matters is a new creation!

All the various laws and ordinances attempt to improve upon the “old wine skin,” the flesh with its lusts and desires. This is not God’s ultimate goal for us, because when “the trumpet” sounds at the second coming of Christ, we will shed this body and will put on the incorruptible. Which one among us even knows what this incorruptible body looks like so he can … perfect it? And if not this incorruptible body … what are you working on?

The only thing that matters is the new creation that is coming, and our only connection to it is our faith, which is more precious than gold, in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Why waste time working on this corruptible? There might be specific circumstances in which the Lord may want to deal with problems with some folks, but it’s not something we should make religion out of. Practically speaking, our obsession with sins or behavior correction is the principal source of laws that snuff out the light of God’s grace. Let’s not forget that circumcision is emblematic of this sort of obsession.

Paul’s new rule: never fall back to the law

16And all who will behave in accordance with this rule, peace and mercy be on them, and on the Israel of God.

There is this new rule: don’t go back to the law, but live by faith. If we live according to this new rule of relying on nothing else except the cross of Christ, we shall have peace and mercy.

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

The mark of Christ: vs. that of circumcision. You cannot have both, circumcision of the flesh or circumcision of the heart, law or grace. Choose one or the other. Be hot or cold, but not lukewarm. Paul told the Galatians: enough of this already, leave the flesh of my new believers alone—concerning circumcision—, as they already have a true mark that will allow them to enter heaven’s gate.

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

Paul’s usual benediction.

Epilogue

Be wise about what constitutes a law. While the Jews had clearly defined laws cast in tablets of stone, the rest of the world has laws written in their hearts, at times defending, at times accusing. A law is anything in your mind that you believe that may disqualify you for the prize, that may invalidate God’s promise of salvation. Some believe eating certain foods—offered to idols or unclean, others touching something—, working on the Sabbath, lie to others about you being Christians, smoking, etc., affect your spirituality. These rules become your laws, and you have to live by them.

But if you acknowledge your utter helplessness and quit focusing on whacking endless moles in your life, but fix your eyes on Jesus, you have God-ordained reason to rejoice; the apostle Paul did.

It’s time to grow up and eat solid food of the gospel, and don’t depend on rudimentary teachings anymore.

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

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