Galatians 6

A contrast seems to be implied between verse 21 of chapter 5 and the first verse of chapter 6. The former contemplates those who are characterized by doing certain evil things. The latter speaks of a man being overtaken in an offence. Those who are characterized by evil will never enter the kingdom of God, whereas the man overtaken in evil is to be restored. It is taken for granted that he is a true believer.

The appeal to restore such an one is addressed to "ye which are spiritual." There were not many such amongst the Galatians, as the last verse of Gal. 5 infers. To approach a fallen brother in the spirit of vain glory would necessarily be provocative of all that was worst in him. To approach him in the spirit of meekness would help him. Let us take note that the spirit of meekness is a necessary accompaniment of spirituality, for there is a spurious spirituality, all too often to be met with, which is allied with a self-conscious assertiveness which is the very opposite of meekness. A truly spiritual man is one who is dominated and controlled by the indwelling Spirit of God and hence is characterized by "the meekness and gentleness of Christ" (2 Cor. 10: 1). But even such an one as that is not beyond falling in the presence of temptation. Hence while restoring another he has to take good heed to himself.

Verse 2 is an exhortation of a more general character. It applies to all of us. We are to fulfil the law of Christ-which in one word is LOVE- and bear one another's burdens. Very frequently the brother who falls has been bearing burdens to which we are strangers, and had we been walking in obedience to the new commandment of John 13: 34, we should have been helping to lighten them.

And why do we not thus fulfil the law of Christ? What is it that so frequently hinders us? Why, we think ourselves to be something or somebody, and when we do we feel ourselves too great and important to lift other people's burdens. And all the time we are deceiving ourselves. We are nothing, as verse 3 so pointedly tells us. A man is never nearer to zero than when he fancies himself to be somebody-even a "spiritual" somebody!

The fact is we need sobriety of thought. We need preparedness to face facts; testing our own work. If we do so we shall be brought down from the high thoughts we had entertained. And if indeed we do find that which stands the test we may rejoice in what is really our own, and not in that which we are in other people's estimation. For we must each bear the burden of our own individual responsibility before God. There is no contradiction between verses 2 and 5 save an apparent one as to the words employed. In verse 2 "burden" refers to that which presses upon us each in the way of trial and testing. In verse 5 "burden" refers to the responsibility Godward which lies upon us each and which none can bear for another.

With verse 6 the apostle passes to a specific responsibility which lies upon all who receive instruction in the things of God. They are to be prepared to give help to those who teach them, and that in all good things.

Naturally we are selfish creatures. The great majority of us are glad enough to receive, but very parsimonious when it is a question of giving. Verses 7 and 8, with their solemn warning, are written in view of this. We are plainly told that our own spiritual prosperity hinges upon this matter, and since we are very apt to invent in our own minds ample reasons for not giving, but rather hugging to our own bosoms as much as possible, the apostle prefaces his warning with, "Be not deceived." It is so easy to deceive oneself.

The principle that he lays down is doubtless true in any and every connection. Still here it stands in connection with this matter of giving, and we are brought face to face with the fact that our reaping must inevitably be according to our sowing. This is true of course as to quantity and that fact is stated in 2 Corinthians 9: 6. The point here is rather that of quality, or perhaps we had better say of kind or nature; that just what we sow that we reap.

To sow to the flesh is to cater for it and its desires. To sow to the Spirit is to yield to Him His place, and lay oneself out for His things. If the former, we reap corruption. If the latter, eternal life. The corruption comes from the flesh. Eternal life, from the Spirit. In both cases it is just the proper outcome of what is sown; as normal as it is to obtain a field of thistles from the sowing of thistledown, or wheat from the sowing of wheat.

In the light of this fact how differently our lives would appear. How many things which may seem strange and arbitrary to us should we discover to be perfectly natural, just what we might have expected having regard to our previous course of action. We wonder why such and such an experience was ours, whereas the wonder would have been had it not been ours. Happy for us it is when our sowing has been such that an abundant crop of "everlasting life" begins to appear.

No one can sow to the Spirit save he who has the Spirit; that is, is a true believer. Having the Spirit, and indeed having eternal life in the sense of John 5: 24, we reap eternal life as the proper consequence of cultivating the things of the Spirit of God. This verse plainly sets "eternal life" before us not as the life by which we live, but as the life we live. As we cultivate the things of the Spirit we lay hold of and enjoy all those blessings, those relationships, that communion with the Father and the Son, in which life consists from the practical and experimental side of things.

Here, then, we are supplied with the reason why we so often have to bemoan our spiritual weakness, or the lack of vitality and joy and power in the things of God. We make but little advance, and we enquire why it is. How many scores of times have we heard this question asked and often in a kind of plaintive way that infers that God deals out His favours capriciously, or that the whole question is wrapped in mystery! There is really no mystery about it.

The matter is simply settled by asking oneself the question, "What am I cultivating?" I shall never get figs from thistles nor reap eternal life save by sowing to the Spirit. The trouble with most of us in these days is dissipation of energy. Not exactly the cultivating of harmful things, but rather of useless and needless things. We are not like the Apostle himself who could say, "One thing I do" as he concentrated steadily on the one great thing that mattered.

Does some young believer ask us to be severely practical, and to come very close home to the point? Then we say, "Cut out of your life those 'harmless' amusements, those unprofitable frivolities, those little time-wasting engagements that accomplish nothing and lead you nowhere. Fill your heart and mind and time with the Word of God and prayer, give yourself whole-heartedly to the glad service of the Lord Jesus, and ere long your profiting will appear unto all."

You notice of course that we are back again at the point we reached in verse 16 of chapter 5, only here we are carried a step further. There the point was mainly negative-not fulfilling the desires of the flesh. Here it is positive-reaping everlasting life.

The reaping does not come directly the seed is sown. Hence the need for patience as stated in verse 9. But reap we shall-in due season, and God, not we, is Judge as to when the fit season arrives. Still arrive it certainly shall. Genesis 8: 22, stands true even in this connection-"seed time and harvest . . . shall not cease."

Now, as we previously noticed, all this important truth is brought in to stir up the Galatians and ourselves to generosity in our giving, and to this point the Apostle recurs in verse 10. We are to be givers and doers of good unto all men; whilst the household of faith have upon us the first call. By creation we are connected with all men. By redemption and its results we are found in the household of faith. The former natural, the latter spiritual, and the spiritual has precedence over the natural.

The apostle Paul set great importance upon this letter of his to the Galatians, hence verse 11. Some render it "how long a letter" in keeping with our authorized version; others "in what large letters." If the former be correct it indicates that instead of employing one of his helpers to write the letter he had written it all with his own hand. If the latter, it signifies that he now took up the pen to add the last few lines with his own hand and wrote in extra large letters. In either case it was to give added emphasis to his words as he commences his closing summary.

In verse 12 he has a final word as to those who had been pressing circumcision on the Galatians. He unmasks once more their real object; namely, to make a fair shew in the flesh and to escape the persecution entailed by the cross of Christ. This was not a random accusation brought against them, for in verse 13 he proves it by the simple fact that while pressing circumcision on the Gentile Galatians as the sign of subjection to the law, they did not keep the law themselves! In that way they really unmasked themselves. They just wanted to be able to boast in some fleshly sign and so conform to the spirit of the world.

In contrast thereto Paul states his own position in the matter. He gloried not in the flesh but in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ which had put the sentence of God's judgment both on the flesh and on the world. The apostle speaks of the cross in its application to himself as regards the world. Crucifixion was not merely death, but a death of shame. It was as though he said, "In the death of Christ the world-system has been gibbetted in my eyes, and I have been gibbetted in the world's eyes. I discard the world as a thing of shame, and it discards me as a thing of shame." And the remarkable thing is that in all that Paul gloried. He was not in the least depressed or lugubrious about it.

How was this? Well, he knew the value of the cross and he now had before his eyes the new creation of which the cross is the basis. In virtue of the cross he could be found "in Christ Jesus" and there new creation is, and circumcision and uncircumcision are alike of no account.

Paul walked according to this rule; that is, the rule of the cross and new creation. Such is the walk proper to every Christian. The cross is that which has put away all that is evil and offensive, whether sin or Satan, the flesh or the world. New creation introduces all that is of God and in Christ Jesus. To the new creation we, Christians, belong, so according to that rule we are to walk. Peace and mercy are on all such and on the true Israel-at present of course found incorporated in the church of God. The apostle so puts it here, we believe, to pour contempt on the Judaizing teachers who were advocating a spurious thing.

In this sixteenth verse we read of the believer's "walk" for the last time in this epistle. We have read of walking "according to the truth of the gospel" and of walking "in the Spirit." Now we learn we are to walk according to the rule of the new creation. A lofty standard this! But not too lofty seeing we already are brought into new creation in Christ Jesus in spite of our still being in the body and the flesh still in us. Again we see how all that is true of us is to exert its influence on our lives today.

The epistle closes somewhat peremptorily, even as it opened. There is a feeling of restraint about the two closing verses. Paul had his critics, as he knew right well. They surrounded him in crowds, making all kinds of hostile insinuations, even challenging his apostleship. He brushes them and their objections aside. The Romans had a custom of branding their slaves and thus placing the question of their ownership beyond dispute. He was just like that. He was Christ's servant beyond all dispute. The floggings and stonings endured in His service had left His brand-marks on Paul's body. That was more than could be said of the sleek advocates of circumcision as they sat in their easy chairs. They had suffered nothing. They only knew how to instigate others to inflict suffering on such as Paul.

As for the Galatians, they were not the instigators of the wrong but only the victims of it, and Paul sought their deliverance in the grace of the Lord Jesus. If His grace was with their spirit all would be well.

For us too, the conclusion of the whole matter is this:-"It is a good thing that the heart be established with GRACE." (Heb. 13: 9).