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Galatians--Part 26--The Outworking of Flesh and Spirit

Sep 06, 2010

When Paul speaks of restoring a brother "in a spirit of gentleness" (Gal. 6:1), He was referencing one of the fruits of the Spirit in Gal. 5:23. He calls upon this particular "fruit" to be in operation whenever correction is made. Often men come with a sledge hammer to beat down and punish the offender. Such an attitude comes from those who do not believe that they themselves would ever commit such an offense. In fact, they do not really know themselves or the power of their own flesh and how easily, given the same circumstances, they might have been in the shoes of the offender.

Such pride and harsh judgmentalism springs from "the deeds of the flesh" (5:19), rather than the fruit of the Spirit. This pharisaical attitude of correction is "boastful" (5:26) as well. In chapter 6 Paul has more to say about boasting which comes from this wrong spirit. In fact, chapter 6 is a series of contrasting statements.

"Let us not become boastful" (5:26), but we may boast in the cross of Christ (6:14).

"Bear one another's burdens" (6:2), but "each one shall bear his own load" (6:5).

Mind your own business (6:4), but "let the one who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches" (6:6).

There is a Spirit-led way to do all things properly; and there is a fleshly way that is always wrong.

Galatians 6:3-5 says,

(3) For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (4) But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have reason of boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. (5) For each one shall bear his own load.

Who we are and what we know must be properly motivated by the Spirit of God and show its fruit, otherwise the person is "nothing" and "deceives himself." Paul has laid out his case already, showing the difference between the spirit of Ishmael and spirit of Isaac. He has taught us how to recognize the fruit of both teacher and teaching. And nowhere is this more evident than when we observe how men treat a brother who has been caught in a trespass.

This goes back to the examples in the gospels, where we may contrast Jesus' treatment of sinners with the attitude of the Pharisees and temple priests. That same pharisaical attitude could not be hidden in the Judaizers, who had drunk long and deeply at that same fountain. And so Paul wished to point out the contrast between their attitude and his own. Whereas they had come to Galatia to condemn Paul as a heretic, Paul had corrected them with Scriptural teaching by the Law of Christ and with evident fruit of the Spirit.

So each side should be quick to "examine his own work," rather than judge others so quickly. Only when one has thoroughly examined himself and understood that we all have to die daily and put the old fleshly man to death--only then can he "have reason of boasting." Yet his boast is not in his own flesh or doctrinal position, but "in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (6:14).

The flesh boasts of itself; the spiritual man boasts of Christ and the cross. The flesh presents its own portfolio of righteous acts to the great Judge to try to find favor with the Court and receive justification (a favorable verdict). But the spiritual man presents only the cross of Christ as his defense, and so receives the favorable ruling.

Those who are so motivated by the Spirit will also be able to judge their brethren by that same restorative spirit of gentleness. Such a man is qualified to share the word and all good things (6:6).

(7) Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. (8) For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. (9) And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.

It is the simple law of sowing and reaping. If we sow fleshly things, we will reap the same. Paul was speaking primarily of sowing seed by teaching. The implication is that the Judaizers had sown fleshly seed (the distorted gospel) among the Galatians, perhaps having in mind the enemy who has sown tares among the wheat (Matt. 13:25). Paul himself endeavored to sow good seed in a fertile field. The danger was that the Galatian Church might turn out to be a field where the birds ("the evil ones") have snatched it from the ground (Matt. 13:19).

Yet Paul is hopeful and even confident in Gal. 6:9 that they will indeed reap a good harvest, "if we do not grow weary." The field must be guarded, watered, and ultimately harvested, all of which take time and labor. But he knows that the field will yield its harvest in due time.

(10) So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

As an aside, let me say that I have used verse 10 above as a prime example of a parallel to what Paul wrote in 1 Tim. 4:10,

(10) . . . because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

Paul's use of the word "especially" is not meant to limit "all men" to just "believers." It is meant to show a special salvation to believers within the context of the general salvation of all men. This is a reference to the fact that believers are saved first, whether in the first or second resurrection, without limiting the scope of salvation at the Creation Jubilee.

In the same way, in Gal. 6:10, Paul says to do good to "all men and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." It is clear that Paul has no intention of limiting the scope of doing good. Instead, he exhorts the Galatians to take special care in doing good to the brethren. For if we cannot treat our own Christian brethren by the fruit of the Spirit, how then can we show the rest of the world this same fruit?

Galatians 6:10 marks the end of Paul's dictation to his scribe (most likely Luke). From this point, as in so many others of his letters, he takes the pen and adds a final instruction in his own handwriting. Lightfoot points out that he did this because some had been writing forgeries in his name, and so by adding something in his own handwriting, he authenticated the letter itself. Paul mentions this problem specifically in 2 Thess. 2:2, where someone had forged such a letter claiming that "the day of the Lord has come."

For this reason, Paul wrote a few lines at the end of that same epistle in verses 17 and 18,

(17) I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write. (18) The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Thus also in Galatians, Paul closes his epistle with a paragraph written in his own handwriting. Gal. 6:11 says,

(11) See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.

Paul then proceeds to summarize his previous teaching about circumcision and boasting, but this time doing so in his own handwriting. Lightfoot's Commentary on Galatians points out that the Greek words translated "how large a letter" in the KJV is not accurate. It is not the length of letter that is emphasized, but the size of the letters.

Moreover, Paul's purpose was not to comment on the length of the letter, but upon its authenticity, established by his own familiar handwriting.

You may read for yourselves Paul's conclusion. When my book on Galatians is published, I will offer a few additional comments there.

This is the final part of a series titled "Galatians." To view all parts, click the link below.


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Category: Teachings

Dr. Stephen Jones

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