Galatians Chapter 6: Restoring a Brother, Christian Walk

Jan 11th, 2010 | By | Category: Galatians, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Galatians Chapter 6: Restoring a Brother, Christian Walk

Gal. 6:1 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.

Verse 1 applies to a sin committed because of Adamic weakness or a sudden impulse. It is not a disfellowshipping situation. In other words, this “fault” is more than just a little dig and less than a serious sin that must be brought before the Church; it is something in between. Also, this sin does not refer to a habitual and premeditated wrongdoing. The word “overtaken” suggests that it is not a normally practiced sin or fault.

Q: Would an example of this type of sudden sin be Peter’s dissimulation? He was eating with Gentiles in Antioch when Jewish brethren came in and saw him. Peter got up and left the Gentiles as if he were ashamed, and Paul had to rebuke him; that is, Paul “restored” Peter by immediately calling attention to the wrong that was done. Ordinarily Peter probably would not have reacted thus, but he was surprised when the Jewish brethren suddenly walked in and indicated disapproval for his fraternization with Gentiles.

A: Yes, that would be a sudden fault, and Paul properly corrected the matter right then and there.

An example of a “fault” could be imbibing too much wine on some occasion and becoming giddy. Another example of a fault could be the uttering of a curse in time of anger. A fault could be any one of a number of things that would need immediate attention and correction done in a spirit of meekness by those who are spiritual. Some translations have “in a spirit of gentleness,” but we would not go along with that thought. Depending on the nature of the fault and the personality of the transgressor, a stronger action must be taken. A person who is given to being forward and aggressive needs correction in a more aggressive fashion but, nevertheless, not with pride. The correction should be done with humility, love, sympathy, and meekness—remembering that we are all weak and imperfect in some respects.

Even though Adamic weakness is a factor and the sin is a sudden impulse (as opposed to premeditation), the fact that a transgression has occurred means that the situation needs correction. Those who are “spiritual” should be instrumental in the restorative work, but who are the spiritual ones? They would be the more mature Christians, including sisters depending on the nature of the fault and the seriousness of it. A sister could do the restoring cleverly and tactfully, perhaps by using the “question” form.

Comment: Ideally, an elder should do the restoring, but in fact, it would be the one who understands the matter most clearly from the Scriptures and perceives what is happening and recognizes the need for correction.

Q: Could a fault be where someone is argumentative and absorbing an inordinate amount of time in a study?

A: One might be argumentative, but that is a more chronic thing. However, if in that argumentative disposition, the person overreaches himself and says or does something that is of a more serious nature, being overtaken in a fault, then he would need correction. In other words, it is not just merely a matter of his normal disposition, but he has done something that needs correction.

Comment: A fault in a Christian might be a temper that is not good to be heard by the world.

Reply: Many years ago we were in an ecclesia where something had happened that came up as an issue in a business meeting. Evidently, the matter had so stirred up the members of the class that the meeting was not even opened with prayer. The spirit was so strange that we were dumbfounded. When we called attention to it, the brethren seemed to come to their senses for a while, but it was a real trial. The issue was not premeditated—it just went against the grain of some, and the circumstantial evidence that seemed to point the finger of guilt was not really valid in the final analysis. It just happened to be a peculiar circumstance.

Although verse 1 is vague, it establishes a principle, and this principle should be thought out according to what Paul is saying here. The fault has to be corrected, and those who are spiritual have more responsibility. The correction should be given in a spirit of meekness, not vindictively, with the realization that the same thing could happen under another circumstance to the one doing the correcting. The suggestion is to be given properly “lest thou also be tempted”; that is, if the corrector is too severe, he might be tested along that very same line to bring humiliation.

Q: In regard to the clause about being “tempted,” is the thought that one who does not restore in the spirit of meekness might be overtaken by the spirit of pride?

A: Certainly the opposite of meekness is pride. However, it is possible for something to be done without pride yet in a manner that is more severe than the situation merits.

Comment: A pertinent Scripture with regard to the attitude of the one doing the correction is, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

Depending on the degree of the sins that overtake a Christian, some sins can be treated gently and lovingly, and other sins have to be dealt with sternly. A repeated sin is more serious than something done once, and of course a premeditated sin is more serious than a sin committed in a moment of passion.

Gal. 6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Verse 2 is related to verse 1. In the spirit of meekness, we are to be sympathetic with the trials and temptations of others. If we have that consideration, we can be helpful to the brethren. If others sense this spirit in us, they will be more apt to rightly receive and benefit from the help, correction, and advice we give them. As Paul said in Galatians 5:14, “All the law [toward others] is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” This law about loving our neighbor applies both in and out of the Church.

Gal. 6:3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.

Sometimes those who are least qualified are prone to give the most advice and do the most criticizing. Paul said that the reverse should be done. Those who are “spiritual,” and thus more experienced in the Christian walk, should restore such a one, for they would be more helpful than those who are immature and new in the way. Sometimes the newly consecrated want to instruct right away on matters they have not thrashed out over a period of time.

For verses 3 and 4, the Living Bible has, “If anyone thinks he is too great to stoop to this, he is fooling himself. He is really a nobody. Let everyone be sure that he is doing his very best, for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work well done, and won’t need to compare himself with someone else.” Although other translations are correct, the Living Bible brings in a new perspective with the word “stoop.” Some brethren do not want to become involved and bear the burdens of others. They think that the matter is not their business and that the brethren should handle it themselves. In other words, they are not sympathetic, and they feel that by empathizing with the circumstance, they would be lowering the standard. They feel that if they recognize or deal with a person who is overtaken in a fault, that association, that condescension, that stooping to give advice, somehow mysteriously lowers the standard. Such thinking is not at all true, unless one has committed a very serious crime or transgression that results in a disfellowshipping situation; in that case, fraternization would lower the standard.

Gal. 6:4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

This instruction is condensed. Paul was saying that we should not compare ourself to another person, for perhaps the other brother is not walking as close to the Lord as he should. For example, he may be very liberal in his thinking and in dealing with himself. Hence he would have a lower standard of walk. The only comparison we should make is with Christ or the standard of God. Of course we should not ignore one another, but sometimes the conduct of others makes us think and go to the Word. Then we will know whether they are rightly practicing or interpreting the Word and will make the Word our standard. If we find we are following the Lord’s instruction to the best of our ability, we can feel a measure of confidence that we have made some progress.

Gal. 6:5 For every man shall bear his own burden.

Verse 5 does not contradict verse 2, for the Greek words translated “burden(s)” are different in each verse. Verse 2 pertains to a sin burden, a “fault,” a transgression, that needs correction. In verse 5, the thought is that every Christian is responsible for his own deeds. We are each responsible before the Lord as to the nature of our character building based on the standard in Holy Writ, and that character building should not necessarily be predicated on what others say, do, or teach but on what the Word of God sets as the standard.

Comment: Verse 2 stresses sympathy; verse 5 emphasizes personal responsibility.

Gal. 6:6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.

Verse 6, a well-known text, is tied in with verses 4 and 5. What is this “communication”?

Leaders in the nominal Church like this text, for they apply it to money, salary, and increments in connection with their ministry. It is true that the word translated “communicate” is sometimes used in the New Testament to mean the distribution of alms, but that is not the emphasis here. Almost all nominal ministers would seize on this Scripture to their advantage to prove that the clergy should be given recognition and that the recognition should be shown in temporal things.

The one who is taught should communicate with the one who teaches, but in what way? In fellowship and study, there should be a sharing of ideas. However, it is the elder who does the teaching. Nevertheless, if a wrong doctrine, concept, etc., is taught, the wrong should be corrected in the best way possible. Therefore, although “teaching” is not shared, a wrong can be pointed out—with a sister being more careful than a brother.

Notice, the instruction is to “communicate … in all good things,” that is, in all things that are of profit. In other words, we should not argue for the sake of argument. We are not to cause a debate, try to inject humor, or have a combative spirit. The communication should be on constructive and wholesome matters. However, if error is taught, it is good to try to straighten out the error, especially if it is dangerous. But we should keep in mind that some errors are not that vital. Thus we are to allow liberty on minor differences. All opinions can be expressed, but we are not to press for just our own interpretation. Nor should an elder try to make every thought yield to his strict interpretation.

One might have a thought on a verse that differs from what we or the group thinks, but that does not mean there should be a debate. We could simply call attention to the difference, but it is not necessary to press the point. On the other hand, one in the class might have such a sensitive conscience that he cannot accept anything in silence lest it be considered wrong before the Lord. If an elder pressed an issue with emphasis, then we would have to respond to show that at least we had a different thought. Our response could be done very simply, and then we would not be responsible. If the elder says, “We all agree,” then we should speak up to the contrary. However, if the elder permits leeway and says, “It appears that this might be such and such,” then it may be more prudent to remain silent. Incidentally, sometimes it is important to get the teacher to clarify what he is saying.

There are times when someone not qualified is assigned to teach a certain subject, yet he may present the subject dogmatically. This can be embarrassing, but nevertheless, those being taught have a right to “communicate,” whether brother or sister. (Notice that no gender is given with regard to the instruction to communicate, so this is proper for sisters too.) A simple statement could initiate the communication, such as, “I have a problem seeing it that way.”

There are other types of “communication” as well, for example, encouragement, which is constructive communication. Suppose an elder gave a talk that was very beneficial on a troublesome issue. It is helpful if the one being taught goes privately to the speaker to encourage him and to tell him the talk was a blessing. And if the talk was not a blessing, the one being taught can still go to the speaker privately and explain what troubled him. Either way, the sharing or communicating should be profitable.

Gal. 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

This principle is applicable to all mankind, although here it is especially pertinent to the consecrated because the end of sowing to the flesh is death—Second Death (see verse 8). With regard to what a person does—whether in the Church or in the world—he is not scot-free, for there is cognition of deeds. However, the degree of responsibility may be greater for one who is consecrated.

The expression “be not deceived” is used elsewhere in Scripture (see 1 Cor. 6:9; 15:33). And Romans 12:19 states, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” God is not mocked!

Gal. 6:8 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.

Verse 8 is related to verse 1. If one is “overtaken in a fault,” those who are spiritual should “restore” him. Therefore, if the fault is not corrected, the Lord will hold the party or parties accountable. In other words, if one is overtaken by a fault, it is the duty of the spiritual ones to correct him in the spirit of meekness. But if the Church fails to correct the errant one, God is still not mocked; that is, He will not forget the transgression and will render His own correction or chastisement in due time. If not checked early, the transgression becomes more serious.

Therefore, when God has to render the correction, the judgment will be more severe, leading possibly to Second Death if the transgression is along the lines of the flesh, for example.

Comment: Even if the Church brings the sin to the attention of the errant one, the transgressor may still harbor the sin in his heart. God would know this, even if the Church does not.

Reply: If one is not merely overtaken in a fault but actually practices the fault, then the sin continues and is multiplied. If not corrected, the result would be extinction eventually.

This is a battle of the flesh against the spirit. The spirit is not necessarily victorious in every single battle, but the overall effect is that of overcoming if we would be faithful. (If we were always victorious, we would not need the robe of Christ’s righteousness.) The danger is that in time, simple transgressions can become major transgressions. We are sowing a crop, and the crop will result in fruitage either good or bad depending on how we live our consecrated life.

Gal. 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

“He that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting … if we faint not” (verses 8 and 9). In other words, we will reap everlasting life if we do not faint in sowing to the Spirit. We must continue our fight unto death; there must be a continuance in winning battles against the flesh. If the fight is faithfully and patiently pursued, we will reap everlasting life. By implication, sowing to the flesh is not as hard to do, but nevertheless, it is a continuity. If we persist in sowing to the flesh, we will reap death (“corruption”).

Notice that verse 8 uses the term “life everlasting,” showing that we must be overcomers to get life in either the Little Flock or the Great Company. Stated another way, even to be of the Great Company class, this battle must continue. If we faint permanently, we go into Second Death.

Now let us consider verse 9 from the standpoint that the epistle was written to the Galatians. The problem with the church in Galatia was that some were always pressuring the group, saying that the Christian had to obey the Law as well as Christ. To gain the crown, the false leaders were saying one had to be “circumcised,” i.e., be subject to the ordinances of the Law.

Evidently, the great majority were so influenced. That is why Paul wrote, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Gal. 1:6). In other words, “You ran well for a while, so why, in such a short time, have you departed so far out of the way? You were freed from the Law, and now you are again in bondage to it.” Paul’s words suggest that almost en masse, the Galatians were influenced by the false teachers.

Q: Paul said, “In due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Is the “due season” in this life or in the Kingdom?

A: It is primarily in the Kingdom, but in some instances, there can be a partial fulfillment in the present life. For example, the situation in Galatia probably became so intolerable that it caused a split between those who held fast to Paul’s teachings and those who followed the Law. Those who remained sympathetic to Paul would thus have a season of refreshing, with those of like precious faith meeting together in peace.

The epistle ends with Paul’s saying in effect, “I have had it! I have given you this advice again and again. From now on, do not bother me on this subject anymore.” Paul felt he had discharged his duty in writing this epistle, which treats the whole issue. At the end, he said, “Do not bother me again, for I have discharged my responsibility. I will continue to preach the same way and let those who disagree with me do what they think is right. Henceforth I will not be bothered by you, and you will not be bothered by me.” He did not want to thrash this issue anymore, for he had adequately addressed it.

Because Paul thus washed his hands of the Galatians and never returned, some feel this epistle was written from Rome, but we think it was written earlier, as will be discussed at the end.

Since so many of the Galatians had returned to bondage under the Law, Paul cautioned the few who had not succumbed to “stand fast” in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free (Gal. 5:1). In trying to bolster the few, he told them not to get weary in “well doing,” not to faint in their fellowship where the Law was harped on continually. This advice helped them to be staunch; they were encouraged to know that the Lord approved of their stand. Paul urged them to continue to be faithful to that which they had received. They were not to get weary in the presence of ecclesia pressure and yield to the influence of these false teachers. From that standpoint, the “let us not be weary in well doing” may be in regard to not only morals and Christian walk but also doctrinal pressures being brought to bear within the class.

Q: Do the elders today do their utmost to advise, encourage, and correct the flock?

A: The problem is that some seek out and help the flock but only on their terms. In such cases, interest in an individual is minimal unless it is on their terms; otherwise, the situation is considered hopeless. However, there is a happy medium. Paul charged the elders of Ephesus, when they kneeled down to pray at the seashore before he went to Jerusalem, with oversight of the flock but not in a domineering way (Acts 20:17-38). The elders were to look out for God’s Church—to nurture its development and to be concerned for the spiritual interests of those underneath their influence. The other extreme is the Nicolaitan spirit of complete dominance.

Elders should have not only the proper disposition but also the proper doctrines and advice. The responsibility is great, and carelessness or neglect is serious. Wrong advice is bad, but no advice is also a problem. There should be advice, but it should be the Lord’s advice.

Gal. 6:10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

“Let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Was there any special application to the Galatians, or is this general advice? Verse 10 is tied in with verse 9, “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

Those Galatians who were faithful with regard to harassment from Jewish proselytes needed a great deal of patience. Doing good to the household of faith meant it was God’s purpose for them to be patient toward those of like precious faith, i.e., as far as they could afford to do so. As general advice, we are to especially lay down our life on behalf of the household of faith. In addition to that particular emphasis, we are to “do good unto all” as there is opportunity.

Comment: Proverbs 3:27,28 is pertinent: “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and tomorrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.”

The term “household of faith” applies only to the consecrated. “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men [both the consecrated and the unconsecrated], [but] especially unto them who are of the household of faith [the consecrated].” In practice, when some who are unconsecrated manifest a hearing ear, we do good unto them in the hope that they will go on to consecration. In principle, we deem it a privilege to help those who are approaching consecration. Nevertheless, that is not what Paul was saying in verse 10. He was just expressing a general rule to do good to everybody and especially to the consecrated.

Gal. 6:11 Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.

With Paul’s handicap of poor eyesight, this letter to the Galatians was a long one for him to write by himself. He also wrote the Epistle to Philemon (see Philem. 19). The usual practice was for Luke to record his thoughts.

When Paul said, “Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you,” was he referring to the length of the letter or to the size of the writing? Both thoughts are presented in the translations of this verse, and it does not hurt to have both in mind. The Pastor reasoned that, because of weak eyesight, Paul used large letters and characters when he did his own writing so that he could see what he was doing. Back there that was an expensive way to write, for parchment was very costly.

Paul was probably saying, “You can see by the large size of the letters that it is I who am writing this long epistle to you, not someone else. I am personally writing to you.” This explanation embraces both thoughts. Paul himself took the time and made the effort, and the large handwriting was the evidence.

Gal. 6:12 As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.

This verse hit the nail on the head, for many would have said, “I am not afraid of persecution. I did not get circumcised just to avoid persecution.” However, the truth of the matter was that they had compromised certain truths so that they would not have problems and persecution.

Basically, the Jewish Christians who were promoting circumcision were doing so for two reasons: (1) to escape what they felt was unnecessary persecution and (2) to be popular and acceptable to Jews. In other words, the Jews would accept a compromised gospel of obeying the Law as well as accepting Christ. But Paul made a clear and distinct separation between the gospel of Christ and salvation under the Law.

The teachers of error desired “to make a fair show in the flesh” through their bearing, eloquence, etc. The thought is that they had a pleasing exterior; they put up a good front and were popular.

Gal. 6:13 For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.

It was necessary for Paul to point out that those who did the talking were not themselves obeying what they advocated for others. This is true today as well. Some who talk a lot and are fussy in enunciating certain principles do not heed their own advice. The principles may even be right ones, as was the case with the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day, but it is hypocritical to preach something and not practice it. Jesus said of the scribes and Pharisees, “Ye say one thing and do another.” What they said, they should have done!

But here, what the Jewish Christians were advocating was untrue. In regard to doctrine, we should observe the source of the teaching and then consider all circumstances. Stated another way, if we were studying a particular subject and an explanation sounded reasonable, we should ask, “If I accept this reasoning, where will it lead?” This approach is wise with a new teaching because error can sound plausible at times. If accepting a teaching leads to things that are wrong, then we know it is erroneous and must be rejected. Sophistry sounds wise and

plausible when, in fact, it is not. Many people accept things simply because they sound reasonable, and as a result, they are led into error. Unfortunately, they can get so enmeshed in a doctrine that they cannot extricate themselves.

In regard to the Galatians, a false teaching was coming in from the Jewish element, saying that the Law must be obeyed as well as Christ. The Galatians should have asked, “If this is true, what will it mean to my consecration?” If they obeyed the Law, they would have to obey fast days and sabbaths, be circumcised, attend the Jewish feasts, etc. If they had thought on all of these things in advance, they would have seen the fallacy. Christ did not preach that a Christian should obey all the features of the Law. The Galatians should have asked, “What did it mean when Christ nailed the Law to the Cross?” Sometimes it is good to reflect on statements.

Paul was saying, “You who have been troubled with these Jewish leaders should notice certain things. They do not even practice what they say is so important. They say these things to you because they want you to agree with and respect them as leaders, but they do not follow through.” The leaders selected parts of the Law to keep, such as circumcision, but neglected many other features. To be consistent, they would have to obey all of the Law.

Consider the doctrine of universal salvation, for example. A brother has said, “When we accepted the truth, it was a great and wonderful blessing, but it is like kindergarten. When we get to know God’s real love, then we have no fear at all.” This is the reasoning of universal reconciliationists, who feel there is no such thing as Second Death as we know it and give a completely different explanation. We should then reason that if what they are saying is true, not only would we be making God a liar, but also we would be more loving than God, for He hates the sinner and will destroy the wicked. We should not be emotionally swayed by how wonderful this “new gospel” is to have no fear, for although it sounds good, it discredits the message of truth when we analyze the premise. We must not over-magnify the thought that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Here Paul was telling the Galatians to reflect on and consider what these Jewish teachers were promulgating.

Incidentally, universal salvationists should not be considered brethren. We should not shake their hands, for they are enemies of the truth by being more loving than God.

Gal. 6:14 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.

What is the distinction between (1) the world being crucified to us and (2) our being crucified to the world? Originally, it is a voluntary matter for us to decide to consecrate and give up the world. But once we make that decision, it is obligatory for us to renounce the world. However, what is the distinction here in verse 14?

Comment: The viewpoint is different, namely, the way the world looks at us versus the way we look at the world. It is the same distinction as the world being dead to us versus our being dead to the world. The world being dead to us means that nothing in the world has any meaning or value to us as a new creature, and our being dead to the world refers to how the world views us; that is, they cannot understand our attitudes, hopes, aims, and ambitions.

Reply: Verse 14 gives two different perspectives. On the one hand, if we are really a faithful Christian, the world is not interested in our fellowship. The world wants no part of us because we are a “wet blanket” at any party or festivity. On the other hand, if the world has no attraction for us as a new creature, then we want no part of it. Paul said that his only purpose was to glory in the ignominy of the Cross of Christ. His mission in life was to be crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20).

Gal. 6:15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

For one who is consecrated, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision really means anything.

The real value is whether or not one is a new creature.

Many Protestant scholars feel that the epistles of Romans and Galatians are the best of Paul’s writings for stating the liberty of being a Christian, of being free from the Law. As the hymn goes, “Free from the law, O happy condition.” One who has been burdened with the consciousness of sin and then finds the hope of forgiveness and the opportunity for salvation experiences the joy of liberty in Christ more than one who does not give the subject much thought. Scholars say that the Reformation was founded on Romans and Galatians. For example, Romans treats the subject of justification by faith, which is related to liberty in Christ.

Verse 15 states this liberty in capsule (condensed) form. What really matters is whether one is right with the Lord. It is immaterial whether one is black or white, male or female, Jew or Gentile, etc., if he is a new creature.

Gal. 6:16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

Verse 16 was a conditional blessing: “As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” Elsewhere Paul said, “Lay hands suddenly on no man”; that is, “Be not hasty in giving the right hand of fellowship to someone” because in doing so, we become partakers of his sins (1 Tim. 5:22). If we wish Godspeed to someone who turns out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, we incur guilt. Here Paul was giving a conditional blessing: “God bless as many as walk according to this rule.” It would not have been proper for him to say, “God bless you all,” for many were going astray and being deceived. Earlier Paul had said, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?” (Gal. 3:1).

Some might think that Paul was not magnanimous enough. “As many as walk according to this rule” refers to those who were trying to please God by avoiding the works of the flesh and being firm that they were not under the Law but were justified by faith in Christ. Upon these individuals, Paul wished peace and mercy, for they were the true “Israel of God.” There is a slight touch of sarcasm in the expression “Israel of God.” The Jewish leaders who urged circumcision for the Christian but were not that circumspect in keeping the Law considered themselves Jews, the Israel of God. However, Paul was saying that they were not the Israel of God, for that term belonged to those who walked according to the commandment he had laid down.

Gal. 6:17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.

Verse 17 was Paul’s final say in the matter. He had suffered much for the Lord in putting forth the gospel, and this was all he intended to say to the Galatians. A note of finality is indicated here, for Paul had done all that he could. He had endured scorn and persecution and had labored mightily with them in doctrine. He had done as much as he could, and this was it!

Earlier in Galatians, Paul had said (paraphrased), “I am at an impasse here. I do not know what else to tell you, for that is how far astray some of you have gone.” He was trying to reach those who were willing to listen because for them, there was some hope. Sadly, these individuals were a distinct minority. Other translations bring out this thought more clearly than the King James.

“I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” “Marks” were scars of service that showed ownership, such as a brand. Paul was saying that just as a literal slave’s literal brand was an evidence of who his owner was, so he was a bond servant of Christ in the truest sense of the word, and his persecutions and sufferings for Christ were evidences of ownership. Paul bore the figurative mark, or brand, of the Lord Jesus. His “slave” ownership by Jesus was seen in the sufferings he endured for the sake of the Cross.

Gal. 6:18 Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

Verse 18 is qualified by verse 16. Paul was not giving this benediction to all of the Galatians.

Origin of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians

At the end of this epistle in some King James Bibles is the statement “Unto the Galatians written from Rome.” However, we do not think the letter was written from Rome for several reasons.

Paul was in Rome at the end of his ministry. Twice he was imprisoned there and then executed, but the interval of time including (1) his first arrest and release and (2) his subsequent re-imprisonment and execution by Nero was probably only three years at the most.

Evidence in the Epistle to the Galatians shows that Paul did all he could for the Galatians and then decided to let the matter rest with his final statement (Gal. 6:17). The Book of Acts shows that his final visit to the Galatians took place at the beginning of his third missionary tour.

“And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch. And after he had spent some time there [at Antioch], he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples” (Acts 18:22,23). This is the last mention of Paul’s having been in Galatia. His third missionary tour took quite a long time. From Galatia, he went to Phrygia, which borders Galatia on the west.

Paul next went to Ephesus. In other words, on his third missionary journey, he went from Caesarea to Antioch to Galatia to Phrygia, and then down to Ephesus, where he learned that Apollos had been there. “And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus” (Acts 19:1). Paul spoke in the synagogue at Ephesus for three months and then continued in the city for two years. “And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God…. And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:8,10). In all, Paul was in Ephesus for about three years. He planned to return home through Macedonia, making a big circuit route (Acts 20:3). He went from Ephesus to Troas and then up into Macedonia before working his way down toward Corinth and then eventually back home.

It was after strengthening the disciples in Galatia that Paul wrote the epistle to them, saying, “I am amazed how in such a short time you have departed from the faith. Who has bewitched you?” (Acts 18:23; Gal. 1:6; 3:1 paraphrase). Paul got news of what had happened in Galatia from others, and then he washed his hands of them after making a final statement to them in his letter, which urged the few remaining loyal ones to continue to stand fast in the liberty of Christ. The bulk of the Galatians had been deceived.

But the question is, Where was Paul when he wrote the letter to the Galatians? The letter was probably written during the three years he stayed in Ephesus. The other possibility would be later in Athens, where he was alone while waiting for Silas to meet him. (Incidentally, it appears that Silas never came.) Paul then went to Corinth, where several brethren joined him, and on to the seashore, Jerusalem, imprisonment, a long boat ride back to Rome, and imprisonment again. Therefore, the Epistle to the Galatians was written at either Ephesus or Athens.

Additional Thoughts on the Covenants

In Galatians chapter 4, where Paul gave the allegory of Sarah, Hagar, and Abraham, the warning was that, like Hagar, the Galatians would be cast off by the Lord if they continued under bondage to the Law. First, Paul used the allegory to show that the Scriptures—the very Law of which they thought so highly—taught there were two types: (1) a covenant of grace and (2) a covenant of bondage. Christians are under the Grace Covenant.

The Old Testament itself taught that there would be a new arrangement. For example, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah” (Jer. 31:31). In other words, someday the old Law Covenant would phase out of existence. The Grace Covenant and the New Covenant, which are two new arrangements, are both taught in the Old Testament.

(1983 Study)

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