The Epistle to the Galatians - Chapter 6
William Trew, Cardiff
We come now to the closing part of Paul's message. We have seen that the sixth chapter is the continuation of chapter 5, these two chapters forming the last main section of the Epistle. In chapter 6, are described the distinguishing features of a Christian who is walking by the Spirit of God, both in relation to the assembly of the saints, vv. 1-10, and in relation to the world, vv. 11-18.
4. The Law of Christ, 6. 1-5. In both spheres of life and service - the assembly and the world - the spiritual man is governed by the law of Christ. We have already observed that our liberty as to the law of Moses must not be interpreted in terms of licence. For the spiritual man, liberty is found alone under the government and guidance of the law of Christ. That submission of heart, for the one who truly loves Christ, is not an irksome bondage, but the enjoyment of sweetest liberty. We must never look with contempt upon, or speak with derision of, one who desires to walk closely in obedience to the Word. That desire is begotten of a love that delights to be a bondslave of Jesus Christ. The command of Christ is that "ye love one another". and therefore one of the marks of a spiritual man is that he is a repairer of broken lives: "if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one". The word translated "restore" is the same as used in Matthew 4. 21, there translated "mending" the nets that had been torn. It has the sense of "adjusting and perfectly joining together", as in 1 Corinthians 1. 10; it bears the meaning "reuniting what has been severed". Torn nets are not much good for catching fish, nor are rent assemblies. The prevalence of these conditions calls for the ministry of spiritual men. The difference between Galatians 6. 1 and Matthew 18. 15-17 is that in the former the sinning brother is restored or gained, but in the latter we are told what must happen when the sinning brother is so wedded to his sin that every effort to gain him is repulsed. But in both passages efforts to restore and to gain are made by the same kind of brother. The spiritual man in Galatians 6. 1 is the man of shepherd-heart in Matthew 18. Dr. Wuest says that the Greeks often used this word when they were speaking of "setting broken limbs". This is an operation that needs both skill and tenderness, and it is the spiritual man who possesses these qualifications. The spirit in which he sets about his loving ministry is the evidence of his deep spirituality.
"In the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted"- not "priding thyself that thou hast been strong to stand". "Bear ye one another's burdens (in the sense of infirmities), and so fulfil the law of Christ." Spiritual men carry before God the burden of the care of the saints, with truest love and deepest sympathy, and they use all their spiritual influence and power to protect their fellow-believers from their proneness to fall by the way. How many, compassed by infirmities who have now fallen, would have been helped to stand, or would have been recovered for God and restored to spiritual health again, had there been spiritual men to carry their burden before God, fulfilling thus the law of Christ, the royal law of love.
Again, we are told in verses 3-5, that the spiritual man is deeply conscious of personal responsibility before the Lord for a personal work that has been entrusted him to do, "for every man shall bear his own burden". The word "burden" here is different from the word used in verse 2. Here it is "burden" in the sense of responsibility, to be accounted for at "the judgment seat of Christ". Living and serving among the saints in the light of one day having to be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, 2 Cor. 5. 10, the spiritual man constantly brings his own behaviour and service to the test of the Word of God, which is the divine standard of spiritual quality and value. In so doing, he will have no proud thoughts of himself; he will not think himself to be "something" when he is "nothing". Characterized by constant self-judgment, he will walk humbly with God; will maintain close communion with Christ; will live and serve in the power of the Spirit, until "in that day" he is made to rejoice in the approval of his Master.
5. The Law of Harvest, 6.6-10. Faithful use of his stewardship of material things is another mark of the spiritual man, v. 6. Our use of material things with which we have been entrusted by God is frequently compared to "a sowing" that certainly will result in a reaping, Phil. 4.17. It is the inexorable, unchanging law of harvest, that as we sow so we shall reap, Gal. 6. 7. One side of this is taught by the Lord in John 12. 24-26; another side of it is taught here. "To sow to the flesh does not necessarily mean to do gross, immoral things. There is nothing in this passage to show that these kinds of things are at present in the mind of the apostle. If the believer considers only his own material comforts and the needs of his body, devoting his substance solely to supply these in selfish pleasure and in self-indulgence or in worldly luxury, then, since these are only temporary, and the body in its present constitution must pass away into corruption, our harvest will end with this world. But if, taught by the Spirit, we take the larger and true view of life, and we use our substance to encourage that ministry of the Word by which is maintained and developed the life of our spirit, then, since that life is eternal, our harvest will be fully reaped in the region of life which is life indeed, not only in time, but in scenes of heavenly glory", w. E. vine.
We lose what on ourselves we spend,
We have as treasure without end, Whatever, Lord, to Thee we lend, Who givest all.
6. The Law of the New Creation, 6. 11-18. The idea is found in verse 16, "And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God". The word for "rule" means "a measuring rod of any kind" and used as a metaphor it indicates "anything that determines or regulates the actions of men". It is "a standard or principle of action". The word rendered "walk" is the same as in 5. 25, and means "to keep in rank". Every member of the assembly is called upon to guide his steps according to the standard of the new creation; to walk worthily of, and consistently with, the new creation. We were dead in trespasses and in sins and under sentence of eternal death, the penalty due to us. In wondrous love, Christ died for us and, His sacrifice having exhausted our penalty, He rose again, and by faith we are now linked with the Risen Christ for ever in the new creation. This is so that we which live should no longer live unto ourselves but unto Him who died for us and rose again, 2 Cor. 5. 14-17. Thus a new direction has been given to our steps, a new object has been provided for our hearts, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature (creation)". According to this rule we are called upon to regulate every action of life. The divine sentence of judgment has been passed in the cross of Christ upon all that belongs to the old creation, as upon that which is utterly obnoxious and absolutely repellant to God. Accordingly, nothing will avail but a new creation in the exalted Christ.
This surely is the meaning of the cross, Gal. 6. 14; to be crucified is to be "accursed". Faith in Christ and a deep sense of being indebted to Christ alone for salvation had made the world's religion an accursed thing to Paul. His allegiance to the crucified Christ made Paul accursed to the Jews, and to all, who like them, sought salvation in works. Between the two is no common ground and no possibility of compromise; the enmity is fundamental and must remain until the end. Hence the Christian is called to guide his steps according to the standard of the new creation. Nor is it only so; the cross is the expression of man's diabolical hatred of God and of Christ, the witness of his utter rejection of all that is like God or like Christ. A body upon a cross is an utterly obnoxious thing, to be got rid of at whatever cost. And if Paul says, as he does, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom (whereby) the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world", it is because he is content that it should be so. Henceforth he is an object of the world's hatred because he is so much like Christ, to be got rid of by the world at any cost, and after a life of suffering service he would be led out to a martyr's death. And to his heart the great world system was an utterly obnoxious thing to be got rid of whatever the cost; henceforth there would be nothing in the world system capable of attracting his heart. The flesh can produce nothing in the way of religion or culture of any kind in which he can boast. Christ, only Christ, satisfies his heart, holds his love, deserves his homage and service, and is worthy of his supreme endeavour to please and glorify. To be His, only His, exclusively His, he gladly turns his back upon the world, to walk henceforth to the rule of the new creation.
"From henceforth let no man trouble me", Gal. 6. 17; for him all argument is closed, the case is finally settled, the decision is finally made. "I bear in my body the marks (brand marks) of the Lord Jesus"; these mark him out amongst all as the willing, devoted slave of a well-loved Master and Lord, and because they do, these shame-laden marks of suffering for Christ's sake are the distinguishing marks of highest honour. The world gave him no medals, neither any marks of its favour. But Christ will give him crowns "in that day", because he accepted the judgment of God upon everything that belonged to the old creation, and deliberately turning his back upon the world and everything it could offer, he made it the one purpose of his life to please and glorify Christ as alone worthy of his worship and service. He desires that the same grace may be given us all from the Lord Jesus, so that we also, accepting all the implications of it, may glory in the cross and walk according to the rule of the new creation.