Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Galatians 6:1-10 Notes

In this passage Paul continues to discuss walking by the Spirit rather than the flesh. Many commentators see these admonitions as random exhortations, but I believe they are tied into the overall context of the book. In 5:16-26 we noticed that Paul focused on issues of conflict within the community. The issues he raises here in 6:1-10 have the same theme: how those who walk by the Spirit should treat each other.

1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, 

Those “caught in any transgression” are those who have stumbled into sin, rather than presumptuously sinning.

you who are spiritual 

Those who are “spiritual,” living lives directed by the Spirit rather than the flesh.

should restore him 

The idea behind that Greek word is to set a broken bone, to heal and care. Compare this with Matthew 18:15.

in a spirit of gentleness. 

They should do so in a “spirit of gentleness,” one of the fruit of the Spirit (5:23). 

Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 

They should also do this humbly, considering their own vulnerability to sin.

2 Bear one another's burdens, 

Having given a specific application, Paul now reinforces the general principle. We should bear each other’s burdens, rather than working against each other.

and so fulfill the law of Christ. 

Same idea as in 5:14.  Paul distinguishes the Law of Christ from that of Moses in 1 Cor. 9:21. If loving God and others was the basis of the Law of Moses, it would be even more the basis of the Law of Christ, who personified bearing the burdens of others (1 Peter 2:24; Rom. 15:1-3). This also indicates that Paul had a practice of sharing the teachings of Jesus that had been passed down to those he taught (1 Thess. 4:2).

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

Pride was obviously an issue among the Galatians (5:26), as it often among those who focus on external markers of righteousness (such as circumcision). It can become especially dangerous in the context of confronting others in sin. 

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. 

Apparently the manner in which pride was an issue was in terms of comparison. Paul’s point here is that our standing before God will be judged in terms of our own work, not how we compare to others.

5 For each will have to bear his own load.

The KJV uses the same word in 6:5, “every man shall bear his own burden,” as in 6:2, “bear ye one another’s burdens.” Paul used two different Greek words (baros in 6:2 and phortion in 6:5). The idea is that we should help each other deal with life’s crushing burdens, but we must also stand accountable before God individually as to whether we have done our duty.

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

Having talked about sharing burdens, Paul now talks specifically about doing good by sharing financial burdens. Sharing with those who teach (6:6). One concrete burden that Paul says should be shared is the support of those who teach. For background on what Paul says here see 1 Tim. 5:17-18.

7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, 

The imagery is of contemptuously treating God. 

for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 

The support of those who teach is just one form of sowing spiritually. The metaphor of sowing and reaping was common in the ancient world, and in Paul’s letters has a financial context (see 1 Cor. 9:10-11; 2 Cor. 9:6-10). The point of the passage is not that of the “prosperity” gospel people, that somehow by giving money we will get even more money. Rather, the idea is that we should use whatever we have for God’s purposes (“sowing to the Spirit”) rather than our own selfish purposes (“sowing to the flesh”).

8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, 

If we are selfish (and one illustration of that would be the failure to support those who teach), we are taunting God (6:7a) and will face judgment – “corruption.”

but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 

But if we are Spirit-led (and one illustration of that would be bearing burdens, including those of teachers), we will “reap eternal life.” See also Rom. 8:12-13; 1 Cor. 15:42-44.

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

The one who sows (like a farmer) must sustain hard work in order to reap a harvest. Paul concludes by encouraging the Galatians not to grow weary doing good, because there is a reward that awaits (6:9).

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

“This confirms and underlines the earlier conclusion that Paul was not hostile to the idea of ‘doing’ (as in 3:12) or to the idea of ‘(good) works.’” (Dunn 333).

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