Galatians 6

This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap. You can read all my New Testament notes in my book New Testament: Chapter by Chapter.

Chapter six closes this letter with some final instructions and thoughts on living out the fruit of the Spirit. Because believers will still be overtaken in sin, it is important that the congregation restore sinning brothers and sisters back to the faith, in the gentleness of the Spirit, and help them carry their burdens as they grow (Galatians 6:1-2). At the same time, each person is responsible for lining himself up with the Spirit, not thinking he is better than the others, because we are each responsible for ourselves before God (Galatians 6:3-5).

Understanding this balance is important because the way we decide to live (flesh or Spirit) will come to full fruition (Galatians 6:6-8). Like a harvest our actions we will reap what we sow, later than we sow, and much more than we sow, so the apostle encouraged his readers to sow life and godliness through the Spirit. Because living for Christ in this world is a difficult task, he encouraged them to persevere, to not waver, and to do good for someone whenever the opportunity arises (Galatians 6:9-10). 1 His closing thoughts returned to those who were enslaving themselves under the Law by submitting to circumcision (Galatians 6:12-15), and he offered a final plea that they would stop their foolishness. In keeping with the comment about his eyesight in chapter four, Paul noted that he wrote with his “OWN HAND” which required him to use “BIG LETTERS” so he could see them. That, along with his handwriting, was probably a mark of authentication that the letter was truly from him (Philippians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:17).

Galatians 6:16 is often used to attempt to prove that the Church (or all believers) make up the “true Israel” or “spiritual Israel” because of Paul’s phrase “THE ISRAEL OF GOD.” This belief system teaches that God has chosen to replace Israel with the Church or that the Church is the spiritual extension of Israel. No matter the phrasing, they believe that the promises God made to Israel will be fulfilled in the Church, not national Israel. 2 Given the context of the rest of the letter, where Paul made a clear distinction between believing and unbelieving Jews (Israel) and all believers in Christ (Church), the grammar shows that Paul put his blessing on two groups: “ALL WHO WILL BEHAVE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THIS RULE” (believing Gentiles) and “THE ISRAEL OF GOD” (believing Jews). The structure of the sentence does not allow for these to be combined into one group in this verse. 3

Notes:

  1. Paul thought our focus in doing good should prioritize “THOSE WHO BELONG TO THE HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH.” Even still, that does not mean to ignore unbelievers. We should help them as well, “WHENEVER WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY.”
  2. This is often called “Replacement Theology,” and it is found in the broader form of Covenant Theology and in much Reformed (Calvinistic) teaching. Ironically, it is also found in much liberal theology, because the replacement or removal of Israel as God’s chosen people is a satanic doctrine that has infiltrated many religions and denominations, encompassing those who are otherwise conservative and liberal alike.
  3. Paul used the preposition twice: εἰρήνη ἐπ᾽ αὐτοὺς καὶ ἔλεος καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰσραὴλ τοῦ θεοῦ, “peace and mercy upon them and upon the Israel of God.” Grammatically, these must be two distinct groups.

Galatians 5

This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap. You can read all my New Testament notes in my book New Testament: Chapter by Chapter.

Chapter five begins the third, and final, section of the letter, in which Paul gave practical application of how we should live out our freedom in Christ. He insisted that it was “FOR FREEDOM [THAT] CHRIST HAS SET US FREE” (Galatians 5:1). He could not emphasize enough how foolish (Galatians 3:1) they were for placing themselves into slavery by adding circumcision to faith (Galatians 5:1-6). They had become so deluded by the Jewish legalists that they had forgotten that physical circumcision (or lack thereof) had no spiritual value in Christ – “THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS IS FAITH WORKING THROUGH LOVE.” Paul became so agitated at the thought of his friends falling for the legalists’ false teaching he opined, “If these legalists like circumcision so much, why don’t they just finish the job!” (Galatians 5:12)

The key is to use our freedom in Christ for Christ and his purposes, namely, serving one another like Christ (Galatians 5:13). We do this by lining up behind the Holy Spirit and keeping in step with him (Galatians 5:16-26). 1 Paul thought it important to remind them that every believer has two natures that are mutually opposed to one another, that these are in constant warfare with one another, that we can “feed” only one of them, and that each one bears fruit in keeping with its source. “THE WORKS OF THE FLESH ARE OBVIOUS,” producing all kinds of sinful behavior. “THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT,” on the other hand, is less conspicuous but still in line with its source. Notice that this fruit comes from the Spirit, not from ourselves (we cannot manufacture it or force it to grow) and that its purpose is for serving one another.

Notes:

  1. The word translated “BEHAVE IN ACCORDANCE” in Galatians 5:25 is a military term referring to how soldiers march in line behind the leader. Paul’s point was that, if the Spirit has given us life, we should line up behind him and stay in step with him like a soldier marching in formation.

Galatians 4

This post follows the Bible reading plan available at oaktreechurch.com/soap. You can read all my New Testament notes in my book New Testament: Chapter by Chapter.

Chapter four continues the second section of the letter and the explanation of the inheritance available to all who believe in Jesus. Galatians 4:1-7 contains the wonderful truth that Jesus was born at just the right time in just the right manner to accomplish everything God wanted to do, namely, to adopt rebel humans back into his spiritual family and make us free. This is important because we are all enslaved in sin by nature (Galatians 4:8-12; Ephesians 2:1-3), but in Christ we are freed from that. Paul wondered, then, why someone would place himself under any kind of restrictions again.

Galatians 4:13-20 breaks from Paul’s explanation of his doctrine to a personal appeal to his original readers. He reminded them of how they had received him. Even though he was violently ill, they were not repulsed by him, but rather received him and his message as if he were Jesus himself. In fact, Paul noted that they would have gouged out their own eyes and given them to him if they were able. 1

This chapter (and the second section) closes with an allegory (an extended metaphor), in which Paul likened the old covenant to Hagar and Ishmael. 2 While he was a legitimate physical son of Abraham, Ishmael was not the son through whom God’s promises would be fulfilled. In the same way, while the Law, symbolized by Mt. Sinai, was legitimately God’s way of leading Israel during that time, it was never meant to bring righteousness or salvation. As Hagar and Ishmael were slaves in Abraham’s household, those who subject themselves to the Law are slaves to it.

Sarah and Isaac (along with Mt. Zion), on the other hand, represent the only true way of salvation, through Jesus. As they were free persons in Abraham’s household, those who come to God through faith in Jesus find freedom from the Law. Why, then, would someone place himself back into slavery when he had been set free?

Notes:

  1. This offhand remark in Galatians 4:15 possibly hints to Paul’s “THORN IN THE FLESH,” a constant reminder of his weakness and immense privilege (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
  2. This is the only place in the New Testament that we find the English word “allegory” or its Greek source, ἀλληγορέω (allegoreo). An allegory is an extended metaphor, usually with several pieces connecting the two things being compared. This should not be confused with the allegorical method of interpreting the Bible that requires looking “deeper” than the literal meaning of the text, usually due to perceived errors or problems that the interpreter has with the text. The literal interpretation method allows the use of allegory and metaphor as legitimate uses of the language. The allegorical interpretation ignores the literal meaning of the text or supplements it with additional, “spiritual” meanings.