Galatians Chapter Six

 

6:1-10 - Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

 

Comments:  At this point in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, I think he is confident that the charlatans known as the Influencers (whom other Christian commentators call the Judaizers—a term I feel is inappropriate and possibly a racial slur) will eventually show themselves to be false teachers, particularly if they stay on in the congregation and continue to be shepherded as the flock of God along with the true sheep.  In simpler terms, God vindicates his own.  Indeed, Paul confidently states that a man reaps what he sows.  The seed of the Influencers was rotten to the core and Paul knew all too well that once that seed had become full-grown, it would reap a harvest not of eternal life (as the Influencers were promising) but of destruction, because of the eventual revealing of the sinful nature of man as 6:7, 8 promises.

 

In these verses, which are packed with wonderful spiritual nutrition, Paul also states that by seeking the well-being of our fellow believers and putting their needs and burdens above our own (a theme he expounds upon quite nicely in Romans chapter 14 and 15), we show ourselves to be fulfilling the Law of Christ (Greek= νόμον τοῦ Χριστοῦ nomon tou Christou), a phrase that standard Christianity interprets in contrast to the Law of Moshe.

 

·       Paul says that when we live this way, we are fulfilling the Law of Christ

·       The Law of the Christ is the law written on our hearts that Jeremiah promised would come with the New Covenant

·       They are found on our heart and directed by the Holy Spirit

·       That’s why I can’t give you a list of the Law’s of Christ

·       The Law of Christ can be summarized though, because Jesus did it for us

·       This Law replaces the Law of Moses

·       This is why we say that Christians still live by rules and standards

·       But those standards aren’t found in reading the Ten Commandments or any other part of the Law of Moses

·       Our flesh loves to see things written in black and white

·       But in His wisdom, God chose to right His law in blood on our hearts where we can’t see it

·       Instead, we can only follow Him in spirit and truth - if we follow Him at all[1]

 

But why should we interpret this phrase as anything other than the perfect Law of God as already revealed in the pages of Scripture and as perfectly modeled by our Master himself?  I think that when we unnecessarily add meanings to the text that are not warranted by the context (eisegete instead of exegete), we do damage to the text and bring about all manner of gross interpretations and practical applications.  David H. Stern’s translation of verse two reveals what I think to be the true meaning:

 

Bear one another's burdens - in this way you will be fulfilling the Torah's true meaning, which the Messiah upholds.

 

What is more, Tim Hegg, in my opinion, also brings out the proper meaning of the phase “law of Christ” in his commentary to Galatians:

 

fulfill the Torah (teaching) of Messiah – The teachings of Yeshua were no doubt known among the congregations of The Way, even before the gospels as we know them were finalized in their canonical form. The Apostles were commissioned to “make disciples of the nations” and to “teach them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt 28:18ff). Thus, the “Torah of Messiah” (νόμον τοῦ Χριστοῦ) should be understood as “the Torah as Messiah taught it and lived it.” It is anachronistic to interpret the phrase as though the Torah of Messiah is different than the Torah of Moses. Surely it at variance with a good deal of the rabbinic interpretations of the Torah, but it was not in any manner contradictory to Moses. To postulate such a thing would be to call into question the very veracity of Yeshua Himself, for any one who comes teaching something contrary to what is found in the Torah is considered a false prophet. Rather, Yeshua, both in His words and in His actions, brought the divinely intended meaning of the Torah to the eyes and ears of those He taught. His emphasis was upon a living out of Torah in which genuine love for God and for one’s neighbor was the driving factor in halachic decisions. While the sages were expert at piling burdens upon men’s shoulders without lifting a finger to help them bear the load (Matt 23:4), Yeshua sought to unwrap the Torah from the entanglements of men, and to show that living a life of Torah by faith is not a burden, but a delight.

Therefore, by bearing the burdens of one another, the followers of Yeshua fulfill the Torah as it was intended to be fulfilled, by living it out in the context of love for God, and love for one’s neighbor. In this way, the Torah as taught and modeled by Yeshua would be fulfilled.[2]

 

This may be more related to the concept of Law of Christ than to Galatians, but I feel the need to say it here anyway.  If we in the Messianic Movement, Torah Communities, etc., are to be pleasing to God, simply following after Torah the way traditional Judaism does may not always prove to be appropriate for us, since we identify and belong to him and history shows that Yeshua quite often had differences of opinion in the way his contemporary Jewish leaders were ostensibly following after Torah.  I am not saying that everything that Traditional Judaism is in regards to Torah is wrong.  But what I am saying is that, as Jews and Gentiles in Messiah, our primary source of halakhah should not be Traditional Judaism, or Talmud, or Shulchan Arukh, etc., but instead should be the Law of Christ—the Torah as fulfilled and demonstrated perfectly by the Living Torah!

 

6:12 - It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.

 

Comments:  Call a spade a spade!  Paul is through with being coy about the whole situation. Indeed, we have already seen him “lose his cool” in 3:1-3 when he called his readers “fools” for being bewitched by the message of the Influencers.  And then he really went overboard when he wished that those false teachers would follow through with the whole operation on themselves if they were so obsessed with taking off just a bit of the flesh from someone else merely for the purpose of notching their belts. (Hint: Read 5:12 and 13 again carefully in a few different versions and ask yourself this question: “Is Paul saying what I think he is saying?”)  Now here once again, he levels his guns at his detractors by revealing their impure motives of stooping to underhanded methods such as threats.  What is more, according to Paul, their reasoning for wishing Gentile circumcision is shown, not to be so that they can sincerely help these Gentiles find a place in covenant Isra'el, but rather out of fear of identifying with Yeshua in persecution, an odd fact indeed, considering that the Influencers may have actually been accepting of Yeshua but not accepting of Gentiles in Isra'el as Gentiles.  One verse later (down in 6:13, which we will explore shortly), he tips the hand of the Influencers, shows us their cards, and accuses them of hypocrisy by not even obeying Torah themselves!

 

The Greek word for ‘force’ in this verse is ἀναγκάζω anagkazo, and it carries the idea of compulsion by force or threat if necessary.[3]  We have encountered this word before in our studies, twice earlier in this letter, at 2:13 and again at 2:14.  In fact, if you will recall, Paul was guilty of ‘compelling’ Christians to blaspheme before he himself came to believe in Yeshua as Messiah of Isra'el.[4]  Of course context shows that it is not always wrong to try to ‘compel’ someone to do a particular thing.  For instance, of the nine times this word is found in the Apostolic Scriptures, only four of those times does the context seem to indicate compulsion to do something wrong.[5]  The point I am trying to make by bringing this verse up is that as far as the Influencers were concerned, the Gentiles were not being given a choice in the matter.  Circumcision was being presented as the exclusive entry point into covenant Isra'el and Paul was seeking to set the record straight once and for all by correctly demonstrating from the Torah itself that God recons a person righteous, not by their ethnic status, but by their position of faith in the Risen Christ.

 

This also brings up an important historical fact for us to consider concerning the sharp disputes between the prevailing Jewish groups of Paul’s day and the members of the emerging sect known as The Way.  Tim Hegg explains this disagreement for us:

 

Here we are given a most important insight into the situation of Paul’s day. The antagonism of the mainline Jewish community against the people of The Way did not center primarily upon the theology of Yeshua as Messiah. Other sects of the day had also proclaimed leading members of their sect as fulfilling the role of Messiah (as would happen eventually in the Bar Kochbah rebellion). The issue that was most egregious, and which had begun the split between the traditional synagogues and the synagogues of The Way, was the matter of Gentiles. Gentiles, as Gentiles, simply could not be tolerated nor accepted as full-fledged covenant members, and to treat them as though they were (which the congregations of The Way did) caused deep theological and sociological problems. From the standpoint of the rabbis, to allow a Gentile to assume full covenant membership was to diminish the basis of covenant membership from their perspective, that is, that covenant membership was guaranteed on the basis of a Jewish status. Moreover, the presence of Gentiles within the community was too dangerously close to acceptance of idolatry, for the Gentile world in Paul’s day was characterized first and foremost by their idolatrous practices. As long as The Way insisted on equal acceptance of Gentiles, the mainline Jewish communities simply could not accept them. Gentiles, as far as the rabbis were concerned, needed to be encouraged to become proselytes. For the traditional synagogue had no problem with Jews who held divergent opinions (note the stark contrasts between Pharisees and Sadducees in terms of their fundamental beliefs, yet the obvious manner in which the two sects interacted and lived together). It was the presence of Gentiles that created the division.[6]

 

All too often the historic Church of yesterday and today seems to think that the belief in Yeshua was the primary dividing point between The Way and those of the traditional Judaisms of the time.  And as we have already mentioned, indeed Jewish followers after The Way were eventually expelled from their own synagogues over their loyalty to Yeshua—just like their Master promised in John 16:2.  But, as Hegg has so eloquently pointed out, as we earnestly study 2nd Temple Judaism in Isra'el, we must reckon with the fact that eventually The Way’s insistence of Gentile inclusion into Isra'el as Gentiles was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back when it came to differences between Paul’s Judaism and the others.

 

6:13 - For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.

 

Comments:  Wow!  That had to hurt their pride hearing the Apostle Paul accuse those representing the Jewish norm of failing to uphold one of the central pillars in Isra'el’s history—namely—the Torah.  According to all they understood and professed, the Torah was for Jews only, and the Influencers no doubt felt it was their sacred duty to uphold the truth of God’s Word by preserving it from idolatry and supposed Gentile corruption.  The irony of Paul’s words ring loudest when one realizes that according to the prevailing Judaisms of Paul’s day, circumcision was no longer merely another commandment found in the 613 Commandments of the Torah, but it had in fact become the pinnacle of social identity from an ethnic point of view.  In the Torah it was originally given to Avraham as a sign of an existing covenant, but by Paul’s day, it had been wrongly elevated by Isra'el to its position as a badge of social status among people groups of the ancient Middle East, ostensibly identifying Isra'el and Isra'el alone as the Chosen People with no room for other people groups to join their lot unless they became legally-recognized Jews first.

 

So what we have going on in this verse is a physically circumcised, Torah observant Jewish man accusing other physically circumcised Jewish men of not only violating Torah observance, but of the sin of hypocrisy by demanding that uncircumcised Gentiles become physically circumcised so that these same non-Torah-keeping yet circumcised men can boast about how they got those poor physically uncircumcised Gentiles to succumb to their threats.  This sounds strikingly similar to what Paul is going to write about later on in Romans Chapter Two.  Speaking to fellow Jews, he levels the following stinging accusation:

 

“But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God… You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God” (Romans 2:17-29, ESV, with edits by myself).

 

The Influencers were calling themselves Jewish but Paul called them Law-breakers.  The Influencers viewed the Gentiles as unqualified until they became circumcised, but Paul maintained that those Influencers disqualified themselves in the eyes of God with their violation of the truth of the genuine Gospel of the Torah—even though they were physically circumcised already.  Such hypocrisy indeed!

 

There may be other ways to interpret the phrase “that they may boast about your flesh.”  Hegg sees the strong possibility that this phrase means the Influencers were ready to welcome the Gentiles who underwent proselytism with a full embrace as covenant members, to welcome them into the life, culture, and history of the Jewish people. They were ready fully to affirm the Jewish identity of the proselyte.[7]

 

6:14 - But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

 

Comments:  In stark contrast to boasting about one’s ethnic status as a Jew, Paul proudly confesses that he will never boast about anything save his trusting faithfulness in the cross of his LORD Yeshua.  This does not mean that he considers Jewish identity worthless.  Rather, that he knows how to prioritize what is most important against those details that are of lesser importance.  We in the current Messianic/Torah Movement could stand to learn a lot from Paul’s example.  Sadly, all too often, we are found to be quibbling about the ethnic identity of this person and the ethnic identity of that person, but what we should be focusing on is the identity of the Man from Galilee and how his righteousness has graciously paid the price for our sin!

 

6:15 - For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

 

Comments:  Paul now repeats what he stated earlier in 5:6 as well as what we find in 1 Cor. 7:19 (see my notes from that section above).  However, he changes the ending part of the phrase here to say that what counts is a “new creation” (Greek=καινὴ κτίσις kaine ktisis), a phrase which carries the notion of a recently made form, fresh, a new kind of substance, unprecedented, or unheard of.[8]  That the man-made conversion ceremony of the proselyte only “washed the outside of the cup, but does nothing for the refuse in the inside”[9] I think, is exposed by Paul in this verse.  Indeed, Paul knew that a conversion from one ethnicity to another, without the heart change brought on only by the power of the Ruach HaKodesh, could never do anything to solve the dilemma of the sinful nature of man in his quest to be pleasing to God.

 

Think about what the prevailing Judaisms of Paul’s day were offering to the proselyte prospect: A chance to begin a new life as a Jew, as a genuine member of Isra'el, as a citizen of the society of those especially chosen to carry and proclaim Torah as God’s true Word!  To be sure, Jewish identity was/is something to be proud of and I am not mocking that reality here.  But what I am trying to emphasize is that Jewish identity does not guarantee a person will have a right heart before God and before his fellow man.  To borrow a lesson from the book of Hebrews, the entire sacrificial system with its priestly cult was never designed to bring the worshipper to “perfection”—viz—a changed heart.  Only true faith in the Promised Messiah to come could move the heart of God to write the Torah of God on the heart of the individual—thrusting him into the community of genuine and lasting covenant members.

 

Thus Paul has to reiterate over and over again in his letters that being Jewish or being Gentile is not the most important thing a person should be focusing on in this life.  We need to get our priorities straight and begin to see our heart situation from God’s perspective.  Membership into earthly Isra'el only gained one a temporal place among the people of God, a membership that effectively expired the moment one died.  By comparison, if one desired to graduate or matriculate to an eternal place among the people of God, a membership that carries over past death, past the grave, one must be found in Messiah, and it is to this theme that Paul is going to return over and over again in his letters.

 

6:16 - And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

 

Comments:  This verse represents the final blessing of our letter to Galatians and thus brings his arguments against the Influencers to a close.  Since this verse follows immediately after verse 15, I take the term “this rule” to refer to the standard of forensic righteousness previously spoken of in verse 15, namely: Genuine and lasting covenant membership into the eternal people of God is not procured by one’s ethnicity, but only by placing one’s genuine and lasting faith in Yeshua HaMashiach.

 

Moreover, it would seem that Sha’ul extends this blessing of ultimate peace and mercy exclusively to the group who conforms to this halakhah—a group Paul identifies as the “Isra'el of God.”

 

But who or what is the Isra'el of God?  Let us briefly examine a few Bible commentaries for some possibilities.  Using Bible.hub’s online commentary resources, I was able to cull together these few examples.  The Pulpit Commentary states:

 

The words, "and upon the Israel of God," seem to be an echo of the "peace upon Israel (εἰρήνη ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰσραήλ)," which, in the Septuagint, closes the hundred and twenty-fifth and hundred and twenty-eighth psalms. The addition of the words, "of God," seems intended pointedly to distinguish the "Israel" which the apostle has m view from that which boasted itself as being Israel while it was not, and also from the false brethren (ψευδαδελφοί, Galatians 2:4) in the Christian Church, who were for linking themselves with the false Israel. The addition is not merely honorific, as in the expression, "the Church of God" (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; 10:32; 11:22; 15:9), but distinctive as well - that which alone God views and loves as "Israel" - to wit, the entire body of real believers in Christ, who, as portrayed in this Epistle, are "children of promise after the fashion of Isaac" (Galatians 4:28), Abraham's seed and heirs of the promise" (Galatians 3:29), and the children of "the upper Jerusalem, which is our mother" (Galatians 4:26). Of that portion of the true Israel which dwelt in Galatia (see 1 Peter 1:1; 1 Peter 2:10), those who, like the apostle, consecrated themselves to Christ as crucified, were the guiding and characterizing element; and therefore his blessing shed upon these spreads itself also upon those connected with them.[10]

 

Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible adds the following description:

 

The "Israel of God", or as the Arabic version reads it, "Israel the propriety of God"; which he has a right unto, and a claim upon; who are chosen by him, Israel his elect; who are redeemed by him, out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation; who are called by his grace, and are styled Israel his called; who are justified in his Son, and by his righteousness; and for whose sake he is exalted as a Prince and a Saviour, to give them repentance and remission of sin; and who are, or will be saved by him, with an everlasting salvation; and is a name that includes all God's elect, whether Jews or Gentiles: though it may have a particular respect to such of the Israelites, or Jews, God had foreknown and reserved for himself; and who believed in Christ, and walked as new creatures, without confidence in the flesh. The Jews themselves own, that strangers, or proselytes, shall be called by the name of Israel; so they (b) explain Isaiah 44:5, latter part.[11]

 

Finally, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary adds these brief comments:

 

Israel of God—not the Israel after the flesh, among whom those teachers wish to enrol you; but the spiritual seed of Abraham by faith (Ga 3:9, 29; Ro 2:28, 29; Php 3:3).[12]

 

I was pleasantly surprised by my brief investigation of Christian commentaries to find a consistent agreement with what I feel to be an accurate definition of this phrase “Isra'el of God.”

 

I have to wonder out loud if the Influencers felt the sting of Paul’s descriptive and exclusive blessing since he did not automatically include those in traditional Isra'el who did not follow the rule he just laid out in 6:15.  Indeed, Paul will end up repeating sentiments such as these in his letter to the Romans:

 

“I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (Romans 9:1-8, ESV).

 

As painful as it was for Paul to admit the truth of the gospel at times, nevertheless he must not compromise on truth: HaShem extends genuine and lasting covenant status only to those who find favor with God through Yeshua the Holy One of Isra'el.  I say painful here because surely Paul loved and cared for his fellow Israelites—even if, in spiritual blindness no doubt, they rejected the Promised Messiah spoken about in their very Scriptures.  Paul may have had harsh words for the Influencers but that doesn't mean he counted them among his enemies. To be sure, he must've included them among those whom he spoke about when he coined his famous words from Romans 9:3 above.

 

We could stand to learn a valuable lesson from Paul’s feelings about those fellow Jews who were constantly at odds with his theology.  They may have thought he was an enemy of Isra'el and ultimately of God, but he regarded them as worthy of genuine concern and prayer nevertheless.  Indeed, Paul is going to remind us as also as the “Isra'el of God” that our war is not “against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12, KJV).

 

We see that those whom Paul extends his blessing to in 6:15 are the genuine faithful remnant, called out from among both Jews and Gentiles to bear the name of Yeshua the True Messiah, for the purpose of bringing glory to God’s Name and honor to his Kingdom as it is represented here on earth.  They are those who have crucified the flesh with its old passions and volitions, and walk not by ethnic identity and Torah social status, but by the power of the Ruach HaKodesh and the Torah written on the heart.  This is the Isra'el of God.  This is whom Paul identifies with, and for whom he poured his heart out to in this great letter to the Galatians.

 

Therefore, in the mystery of ecclesiology, we must understand by now that Isra'el exists on two levels simultaneously: Isra'el according to the flesh and Isra'el according to the Spirit.  Isra'el according to the flesh has been promised temporal, this-world blessings if she will remain faithful to God and obedient to the written Torah given at Sinai.  Isra'el according to the Spirit has been promised eternal, world-to-come blessings if she will remain faithful to God and obedient to the Living Torah—Yeshua the Messiah.  The two Isra'els are not necessarily mutually exclusive; indeed God loves Greater Isra'el as well as Remnant Isra'el—which actually exists within Greater Isra'el.  But they do represent two biblical teachings of righteousness that are not necessarily equal to one another: One earthly and one heavenly, one temporal and one eternal.  It is not a bad thing to go from being a “stone-cold pagan” worshipping idols to becoming an Isra'elite according to the flesh who pursues God and his Torah.  After all, that is indeed a step in the right direction, correct?  Paul would have us to understand that one need not even convert to Jewish status in order to get oriented in the right direction.  Just set your eyes on the Cross of Calvary and you will find “joy unspeakable and full of glory!”[13]

 

And yet, those who choose to associate with Isra'el according to the flesh without also appropriating genuine faith in the Quintessential Israelite from Natzeret will find that their this-world blessings will end when life expires for them, and it may not end up being God who’ll be waiting for them on the other side of the grave (if you catch my drift).  Only those who have invested in the world-to-come blessings via genuine faith in Mashiach will be able to enjoy blessings both in this world and in the world to come!

 

Which “Isra'el of God” do you want to belong to?



[1] Verse By Verse Ministry, Galatians, 2013,

 https://www.versebyverseministry.org/images/uploads/Galatians_6.pdf.

[2] Tim Hegg, A Study of Galatians (www.torahresource.com, 2002), p. 214.

[3] TSBD, ἀναγκάζω.

[4] Acts 26:11.

[5] Cf: Matt. 14:22; Mark 6:45; Luke 14:23; Acts 26:11; 28:19; 2 Cor. 12:11; Gal. 2:3, 14; 6:12.

[6] Tim Hegg, A Study of Galatians (www.torahresource.com, 2002), pp. 224-225.

[7] Tim Hegg, A Study of Galatians (www.torahresource.com, 2002), p. 227.

[8] TSBD, καινὴ κτίσις.

[9] Matt. 23:25, 26; Luke 11:39.

[10] Pulpit Commentary, Galatians 6

 (http://biblehub.com/commentaries/pulpit/galatians/6.htm).

[11] Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible, Galatians 6

 (http://biblehub.com/commentaries/gill/galatians/6.htm).

[12] Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, Galatians 6

 (http://biblehub.com/commentaries/jfb//galatians/6.htm).

[13] 1 Peter 1:8, KJV.