Ga 6:1-18. Exhortations Continued; to Forbearance and Humility; Liberality to Teachers and in General. Postscript and Benediction.
1. Brethren -- An expression of kindness to conciliate attention. Translate as Greek, |If a man even be overtaken| (that is, caught in the very act [Alford and Ellicott]: BEFORE he expects: unexpectedly). Bengel explains the |before| in the Greek compound verb, |If a man be overtaken in a fault before ourselves|: If another has really been overtaken in a fault the first; for often he who is first to find fault, is the very one who has first transgressed.
a fault -- Greek, |a transgression,| |a fall|; such as a falling back into legal bondage. Here he gives monition to those who have not so fallen, |the spiritual,| to be not |vainglorious| (Ga 5:26), but forbearing to such (Ro 15:1).
restore -- The Greek is used of a dislocated limb, reduced to its place. Such is the tenderness with which we should treat a fallen member of the Church in restoring him to a better state.
the spirit of meekness -- the meekness which is the gift of the Holy Spirit working in our spirit (Ga 5:22, 25). |Meekness| is that temper of spirit towards God whereby we accept His dealings without disputing; then, towards men, whereby we endure meekly their provocations, and do not withdraw ourselves from the burdens which their sins impose upon us [Trench].
considering thyself -- Transition from the plural to the singular. When congregations are addressed collectively, each individual should take home the monition to himself.
thou also be tempted -- as is likely to happen to those who reprove others without meekness (compare Mt 7:2-5; 2Ti 2:25; Jas 2:13).
2. If ye, legalists, must |bear burdens,| then instead of legal burdens (Mt 23:4), |bear one another's burdens,| literally, |weights.| Distinguished by Bengel from |burden,| Ga 6:4 (a different Greek word, |load|): |weights| exceed the strength of those under them; |burden| is proportioned to the strength.
so fulfil -- or as other old manuscripts read, |so ye will fulfil,| Greek, |fill up,| |thoroughly fulfil.|
the law of Christ -- namely, |love| (Ga 5:14). Since ye desire |the law,| then fulfil the law of Christ, which is not made up of various minute observances, but whose sole |burden| is |love| (Joh 13:34; 15:12); Ro 15:3 gives Christ as the example in the particular duty here.
3. Self-conceit, the chief hindrance to forbearance and sympathy towards our fellow men, must be laid aside.
something -- possessed of some spiritual pre-eminence, so as to be exempt from the frailty of other men.
when he is nothing -- The Greek is subjective: |Being, if he would come to himself, and look on the real fact, nothing| [Alford] (Ga 6:2, 6; Ro 12:3; 1Co 8:2).
deceiveth himself -- literally, |he mentally deceives himself.| Compare Jas 1:26, |deceiveth his own heart.|
4. his own work -- not merely his own opinion of himself.
have rejoicing in himself alone -- Translate, |Have his (matter for) glorying in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another (namely, not in regard to his neighbor, by comparing himself with whom, he has fancied he has matter for boasting as that neighbor's superior).| Not that really a man by looking to |himself alone| is likely to find cause for glorying in himself. Nay, in Ga 6:5, he speaks of a |burden| or load, not of matter for glorying, as what really belongs to each man. But he refers to the idea those whom he censures had of themselves: they thought they had cause for |glorying| in themselves, but it all arose from unjust self-conceited comparison of themselves with others, instead of looking at home. The only true glorying, if glorying it is to be called, is in the testimony of a good conscience, glorying in the cross of Christ.
5. For (by this way, Ga 6:4, of proving himself, not depreciating his neighbor by comparison) each man shall bear his own |burden,| or rather, |load| (namely, of sin and infirmity), the Greek being different from that in Ga 6:2. This verse does not contradict Ga 6:2. There he tells them to bear with others' |burdens| of infirmity in sympathy; here, that self-examination will make a man to feel he has enough to do with |his own load| of sin, without comparing himself boastfully with his neighbor. Compare Ga 6:3. Instead of |thinking himself to be something,| he shall feel the |load| of his own sin: and this will lead him to bear sympathetically with his neighbor's burden of infirmity. ÆSOP says a man carries two bags over his shoulder, the one with his own sins hanging behind, that with his neighbor's sins in front.
6. From the mention of bearing one another's burdens, he passes to one way in which those burdens may be borne -- by ministering out of their earthly goods to their spiritual teachers. The |but| in the Greek, beginning of this verse, expresses this: I said, Each shall bear his own burden; BUT I do not intend that he should not think of others, and especially of the wants of his ministers.
communicate unto him -- |impart a share unto his teacher|: literally, |him that teacheth catechetically.|
in all good things -- in every kind of the good things of this life, according as the case may require (Ro 15:27; 1Co 9:11, 14).
7. God is not mocked -- The Greek verb is, literally, to sneer with the nostrils drawn up in contempt. God does not suffer Himself to be imposed on by empty words: He will judge according to works, which are seeds sown for eternity of either joy or woe. Excuses for illiberality in God's cause (Ga 6:6) seem valid before men, but are not so before God (Ps 50:21).
soweth -- especially of his resources (2Co 9:6).
that -- Greek, |this|; this and nothing else.
reap -- at the harvest, the end of the world (Mt 13:39).
8. Translate, |He that soweth unto his own flesh,| with a view to fulfilling its desires. He does not say, |His spirit,| as he does say, |His flesh.| For in ourselves we are not spiritual, but carnal. The flesh is devoted to selfishness.
corruption -- that is, destruction (Php 3:19). Compare as to the deliverance of believers from |corruption| (Ro 8:21). The use of the term |corruption| instead, implies that destruction is not an arbitrary punishment of fleshly-mindedness, but is its natural fruit; the corrupt flesh producing corruption, which is another word for destruction: corruption is the fault, and corruption the punishment (see on 1Co 3:17; 2Pe 2:12). Future life only expands the seed sown here. Men cannot mock God because they can deceive themselves. They who sow tares cannot reap wheat. They alone reap life eternal who sow to the Spirit (Ps 126:6; Pr 11:18; 22:8; Ho 8:7; 10:12; Lu 16:25; Ro 8:11; Jas 5:7).
9. (2Th 3:13). And when we do good, let us also persevere in it without fainting.
in due season -- in its own proper season, God's own time (1Ti 6:15).
faint not -- literally, |be relaxed.| Stronger than |be not weary.| Weary of well-doing refers to the will; |faint not| to relaxation of the powers [Bengel]. No one should faint, as in an earthly harvest sometimes happens.
10. Translate, |So then, according as (that is, in proportion as) we have season (that is, opportunity), let us work (a distinct Greek verb from that for |do,| in Ga 6:9) that which is (in each case) good.| As thou art able, and while thou art able, and when thou art able (Ec 9:10). We have now the |season| for sowing, as also there will be hereafter the |due season| (Ga 6:9) for reaping. The whole life is, in one sense, the |seasonable opportunity| to us: and, in a narrower sense, there occur in it more especially convenient seasons. The latter are sometimes lost in looking for still more convenient seasons (Ac 24:25). We shall not always have the opportunity |we have| now. Satan is sharpened to the greater zeal in injuring us, by the shortness of his time (Re 12:12). Let us be sharpened to the greater zeal in well-doing by the shortness of ours.
them who are of the household -- Every right-minded man does well to the members of his own family (1Ti 5:8); so believers are to do to those of the household of faith, that is, those whom faith has made members of |the household of God| (Eph 2:19): |the house of God| (1Ti 3:15; 1Pe 4:17).
11. Rather, |See in how large letters I have written.| The Greek is translated |how great| in Heb 7:4, the only other passage where it occurs in the New Testament. Owing to his weakness of eyes (Ga 4:15) he wrote in large letters. So Jerome. All the oldest manuscripts are written in uncial, that is, capital letters, the |cursive,| or small letters, being of more recent date. Paul seems to have had a difficulty in writing, which led him to make the uncial letters larger than ordinary writers did. The mention of these is as a token by which they would know that he wrote the whole Epistle with his own hand; as he did also the pastoral Epistle, which this Epistle resembles in style. He usually dictated his Epistles to an amanuensis, excepting the concluding salutation, which he wrote himself (Ro 16:22; 1Co 16:21). This letter, he tells the Galatians, he writes with his own hand, no doubt in order that they may see what a regard he had for them, in contrast to the Judaizing teachers (Ga 6:12), who sought only their own ease. If English Version be retained, the words, |how large a letter (literally, 'in how large letters'),| will not refer to the length of the Epistle absolutely, but that it was a large one for him to have written with his own hand. Neander supports English Version, as more appropriate to the earnestness of the apostle and the tone of the Epistle: |How large| will thus be put for |how many.|
12. Contrast between his zeal in their behalf, implied in Ga 6:11, and the zeal for self on the part of the Judaizers.
make a fair show -- (2Co 5:12).
in the flesh -- in outward things.
they -- it is |these| who
constrain you -- by example (Ga 6:13) and importuning.
only lest -- |only that they may not,| &c. (compare Ga 5:11).
suffer persecution -- They escaped in a great degree the Jews' bitterness against Christianity and the offense of the cross of Christ, by making the Mosaic law a necessary preliminary; in fact, making Christian converts into Jewish proselytes.
13. Translate, |For not even do they who submit to circumcision, keep the law themselves (Ro 2:17-23), but they wish you (emphatical) to be circumcised,| &c. They arbitrarily selected circumcision out of the whole law, as though observing it would stand instead of their non-observance of the rest of the law.
that they may glory in your flesh -- namely, in the outward change (opposed to an inward change wrought by the Spirit) which they have effected in bringing you over to their own Jewish-Christian party.
14. Translate, |But as for me (in opposition to those gloriers 'in your flesh,' Ga 6:13), God forbid that I,| &c.
in the cross -- the atoning death on the cross. Compare Php 3:3, 7, 8, as a specimen of his glorying. The |cross,| the great object of shame to them, and to all carnal men, is the great object of glorying to me. For by it, the worst of deaths, Christ has destroyed all kinds of death [Augustine, Tract 36, on John, sec.4]. We are to testify the power of Christ's death working in us, after the manner of crucifixion (Ga 5:24; Ro 6:5, 6).
our -- He reminds the Galatians by this pronoun, that they had a share in the |Lord Jesus Christ| (the full name is used for greater solemnity), and therefore ought to glory in Christ's cross, as he did.
the world -- inseparably allied to the |flesh| (Ga 6:13). Legal and fleshly ordinances are merely outward, and |elements of the world| (Ga 4:3).
is -- rather, as Greek, |has been crucified to me| (Ga 2:20). He used |crucified| for dead (Col 2:20, |dead with Christ|), to imply his oneness with Christ crucified (Php 3:10): |the fellowship of His sufferings being made conformable unto His death.|
15. availeth -- The oldest manuscripts read, |is| (compare Ga 5:6). Not only are they of no avail, but they are nothing. So far are they from being matter for |glorying,| that they are |nothing.| But Christ's cross is |all in all,| as a subject for glorying, in |the new creature| (Eph 2:10, 15, 16).
new creature -- (2Co 5:17). A transformation by the renewal of the mind (Ro 12:2).
16. as many -- contrasting with the |as many,| Ga 6:12.
rule -- literally, a straight rule, to detect crookedness; so a rule of life.
peace -- from God (Eph 2:14-17; 6:23).
mercy -- (Ro 15:9).
Israel of God -- not the Israel after the flesh, among whom those teachers wish to enrol you; but the spiritual seed of Abraham by faith (Ga 3:9, 29; Ro 2:28, 29; Php 3:3).
17. let no man trouble me -- by opposing my apostolic authority, seeing that it is stamped by a sure seal, namely, |I (in contrast to the Judaizing teachers who gloried in the flesh) bear (as a high mark of honor from the King of kings).|
the marks -- properly, marks branded on slaves to indicate their owners. So Paul's scars of wounds received for Christ's sake, indicate to whom he belongs, and in whose free and glorious service he is (2Co 11:23-25). The Judaizing teachers gloried in the circumcision mark in the flesh of their followers: Paul glories in the marks of suffering for Christ on his own body (compare Ga 6:14; Php 3:10; Col 1:24).
the Lord -- omitted in the oldest manuscripts.
18. Brethren -- Place it, as Greek, |last| in the sentence, before the |Amen.| After much rebuke and monition, he bids them farewell with the loving expression of brotherhood as his last parting word (see on Ga 1:6).
be with your spirit -- which, I trust, will keep down the flesh (1Th 5:23; 2Ti 4:22; Phm 25).