Proper 9 • Galatians 6:1–10, 14–18 • July 7, 2013

By Timothy E. Saleska

Galatians 6 includes the third part of the exhortation section of the letter (6:1–10) and the concluding postscript (6:11–18). Points of theological interest in this chapter are: 1. The concept of the “law of Christ” (v. 2); 2. The fact that we are morally accountable (vv. 7–10); 3. The idea that we are “crucified to the world” (v. 14) and 4. The idea that what matters is “the new creation” (v. 15).[1]

Verse 1: Ἀδελφοί “Brothers”: In this section Paul talks about the claims of brotherly love even when someone is caught in actual sin. We may assume that a harsh corrective is necessary, but Paul suggests otherwise.

ἐὰν καὶ προλημφθῇ ἄνθρωπος ἔν τινι παραπτώματι “Even if someone is detected in some wrongdoing . . .” the καὶ functions adverbally as an intensifier. The statement is general.

ὑμεῖς οἱ πνευματικοὶ καταρτίζετε “You, those possessing the Spirit, restore. . .” Paul urges gentle treatment of actual sinners. “You who are spiritual” refers to those who possess the Holy Spirit, Spirit-filled people. The present imperative “restore” suggests that this command is to be an ongoing process. Paul instructs that the offender be corrected with a view to restoring him, and he asks that it be done in a spirit of meekness—the task is a delicate one.

σκοπῶν σεαυτὸν The switch from the plural imperative to the singular participle suggests that while the treatment of offenders belongs to the whole church, each member ought to examine him/herself individually. Paul starts with the assumption that we are all “poor miserable sinners” and that our care of others must proceed from this recognition. If it doesn’t we are likely to fall to temptation ourselves.

Verse 2: Ἀλλήλων τὰ βάρη βαστάζετε The reciprocal pronoun aλλήλων (of one another) is often found in exhortations where Paul assumes that the obligations believers have with each other (he calls us “brothers” in v. 1), is based on the connections they have with the risen Christ, as he does here. This is a beautiful metaphor that helps us think about what “loving our brother looks like.” Paul gives us a way to think about Christian love and what it looks like.

τὸν νόμον τοῦ Χριστοῦ Here Paul reformulates what he says in Galatians 5:14, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (cf., what Jesus says in John 13:34). Christ fulfilled this law in a remarkable way through his own faithful obedience even to death on a cross.

Verses 3–5: We who think that our strength and goodness are our own doing are only deluding ourselves. We must not compare our work to that of others because it will only feed our vanity; rather, we ought to scrutinize our own work and then rejoice in what has been given by God’s grace.

Verses 7–8: θεὸς οὐ μυκτηρίζεται “God is not mocked” the verb means “to turn one’s nose at” or “to treat with contempt.” Those who mock God are playing with fire because they will reap what they sow. The lives we lead now have (ultimate) consequences. The description of “the one who sows to his own flesh” and “the one who sows to the Spirit” is spelled out in Galatians 5:16–26. The future tenses of the verbs, the metaphor of “reaping what you sow” (i.e. the harvest) and the reference to eternal life suggest that Paul is talking about the final judgment.

Verse 9: τὸ δὲ καλὸν ποιοῦντες μὴ ἐγκακῶμεν the participle ποιοῦντες completes the thought of the main verb, ἐγκακῶμεν.[2] ἐγκακῶμεν is a hortatory subjunctive used to exhort someone else, and so it is translated, “let us . . .”

μὴ ἐκλυόμενοι “if we do not lose heart” the participle suggests a condition (not losing heart) on which the accomplishment of the idea in the main verb θερίσομεν depends.

Verse 14: δι᾿ οὗ ἐμοὶ κόσμος ἐσταύρωται κἀγὼ κόσμῳ In 2:19 Paul writes that he has been crucified with Christ. In 5:24 he says that those who belong to Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Here he says that by Christ’s cross (i.e., his crucifixion) he (and all believers) has been crucified to the world and the world to him. For those who are not Christian, this world is the all-encompassing and only reality, and they must order their lives according to it. In other words, they are under its power. But we who have been crucified with Christ share in his victory. For us who are in Christ, the power of the world over us has been broken, as has our selfish love of the world. We are “dead to the world,” and the world “is dead to us.”

Verse 15: Compare v. 15 with Galatians 5:6, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love,” and 1 Corinthians 7:19, “For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.” What matters is “the new creation” in which faith works through love. Rather than being slaves, God’s people are sons and their lives, led by the Spirit are lives lived in gratitude for the grace that they have been given.

Endnotes
[1] Thomas W. Gillespie, “Galatians 6(1–6), 7–16,” in The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts, The Second Readings: Acts and the Epistles, ed. Roger E. Van Harn (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 299–302.
[2] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1966), 646. See also H. W. Smyth, Greek Grammar (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1920), #2098.

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