Sunday, June 29, 2014

Galatians 6:11-18 Notes

The conclusion of Galatians differs from the conclusion to Paul’s other letters in many respects:
  • There is no mention of future travel plans.
  • There is no request for prayers on Paul’s behalf.
  • There are no greetings to individuals among the Galatians.
  • There is no doxology (statement of praise to God).

This may simply be because this is Paul’s first letter, and therefore it is unfair to compare it to the others. But it could be due to the stark issues at stake in the letter. While this conclusion is different from that of his other letters, it does serve the important purpose of summarizing the key arguments in the letter, such as the ulterior motives of the Judaizers and the sufficiency of the cross.

11 See with what large letters 

It is unclear what Paul means by this statement. Some commentators think that Paul had vision problems (cf. 4:15), and that he had to write in large print. Others think this was done as an form of emphasis, or perhaps so that the letter could be held up and literally read by everyone.

I am writing to you with my own hand. 

In the first century it was common to use a scribe (called an amanuensis) to write the actual text of the letter (see Rom. 16:22). Paul followed this custom, taking pen in hand to finish his letters with a distinctive signature (Col. 4:18; 1 Cor. 16:21; 2 Thess. 3:17).

12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 

The first motive Paul says is behind the work of the Judaizers is fear. They do not want to be persecuted (see 3:4; 4:29; 5:11). Notice specifically it is persecution “for the cross of Christ.” Preaching that the cross was sufficient and that circumcision was unnecessary raised the violent opposition of the Jews.

13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, 

Ironically, they do not keep the very Law they seek to bind on others (as Peter pointed out in Acts 15:12, and as he demonstrated in Gal. 2:14).

but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 

Earlier in the letter Paul said the Judaizers were playing a power game, “that you may make much of them” (4:17). Here, their boasting in the “flesh” “is almost certainly that of Jews confident of their standing before God and within the law” (Dunn 339). Compare this to Phil. 3:4-5.

14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, 

It is important to keep in mind that the key issue in this letters is not really law versus grace or faith versus works; it is the sufficiency of the cross of Jesus (see 2:21).

by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 

Through the cross Paul says he has been crucified to the world, and the world to him (see 2:20; 5:24).

15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, 

Paul repeats his earlier statement that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything (cf. 5:6).

but a new creation. 

Instead, what counts is “a new creation” (6:15b). Paul has emphasized throughout the letter that Jesus came to usher in the fulfillment of God’s plan (4:4). The old era has been crucified; a new creation has arrived (see 2 Cor. 5:17). In a similar concept, Paul describes the church as the creation of “one new man in place of two” in Eph. 2:15.

16 And as for all who walk by this rule, 

The “rule” that circumcision and uncircumcision do not count - only Christ and His new creation counts.

peace and mercy be upon them, 

Peace and mercy were customary OT blessings for Israel (shalom and hesed in Hebrew - see Ps. 125:5 and Is. 54:10 for instance). Paul invokes this very Jewish blessing on all those who follow the rule that circumcision counts for nothing!

and upon the Israel of God. 

Is Paul wishing peace and mercy on two different groups (“them, AND the Israel or God”), or just one group (“them, EVEN the Israel of God”). If he means two different groups, perhaps “Israel” refers to the physical nation (as in his prayer in Rom. 10:1); or to Jewish Christians. My own view is that in light of his emphasis on the oneness of God’s people in Christ that Paul is saying “them, even the Israel of God” (this is the translation found in the NIV, and is also supported by the NLT). In this case, Paul is saying that the church is the true Israel of God (3:29; see Rom. 9:6; Phil. 3:3).

17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, 

Paul earlier uses a series of powerful emotional arguments to remind the Galatians of what he had done for them (4:13-16). Now he reminds them of his suffering.

for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. 

His identifying mark as a member of God’s family was not circumcision, but the “marks of Jesus,” probably a reference to his scars suffered for the sake of Jesus (see 2 Cor. 1:5; 4:10; Col. 1:24).

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, 

As tough as this letter has been, Paul wishes them the grace of Jesus Christ.


Paul reminds them of the fraternal tie they have; they are “brothers” for whom he is deeply concerned.


Based on what Paul says in a later letter (1 Cor. 16:1-2), I will assume that the Galatians took this letter to heart and responded as they should.

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