Epistle to the Galatians chapter 6

Pekka Jauhiainen
Reija Becks

Carrying the burdens of others – Gal. 6:1–10

Above, Paul wrote about how Christians should live in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This guidance is necessary for two reasons:

1) We still have selfishness, i.e. lusts of the flesh. Without the Holy Spirit we ourselves cannot and do not know how to live with this selfish nature.

2) God and thus also the Holy Spirit is above us. Even without the selfish nature we should submit ourselves to God's working in us.

Paul now writes about how those who are led by the Holy Spirit should act in the church.

In church, when there is someone not living right, he must be told what is wrong. This reproving or telling should be done gently. The framework here is that the foundation on which Christians operate is the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are patience, kindness, and gentleness (Gal. 5:22-23). Jesus Christ has shown and is showing this same patience towards us all the time. Thus, it can be said that when we reprove people patiently and kindly, we act in the same way as Christ does. A kind and loving mind also carries the burdens of others and thus fulfils the law of Christ. Christ also carried our burdens when he came to the cross.

Paul warns against falling into temptation even those who are led by the Holy Spirit. Because of the flesh, or selfish nature, every Christian is in danger of drifting into the same sins as the wrongdoer commits. At the same time, when reproving someone, there is the danger of being driven to act according to the flesh, i.e. with bigotry, anger and hostility (Gal. 6:1–2).

There is also the danger that we elevate ourselves above others. It is not appropriate, because everything good that happens in a Christian is fruit of the Holy Spirit, i.e brought about by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in different ways in every person, and some of those people are recent converts, and their lives as Christians have not necessarily come out fully. Thus, we should not compare what each has accomplished. It is better to look only at what the Holy Spirit has already done and what you still need to bring to Christ to deal with in your own life (Gal. 6:3–5).

Doing good to all people in various ways is for those who are led by the Holy Spirit. We should do good especially to those who teach the word of God. On the other hand, kindness should be shown to all fellow believers without forgetting all people.

The goal of all this doing of good is to get a harvest: selfish people cultivate selfishness, those who sow in the field of the Spirit give, as fruit of the Spirit, from their own, and increase the harvest. This harvest can be the conversion of new people. Or it can be the increase of love in the giver himself or in the subject receiving goodness. This is how the gifts of the Holy Spirit are strengthened and harvest can be reaped to eternal life.

Final words – Gal. 6:11–18

In the closing words, Paul summarizes the essential aspects of what he has written in the letter: his own personal concern for the Galatians, avoidance of circumcision, and the cross of Christ.

Paul wrote the final words in his own hand. For the writing of such letters, there was usually a scribe who wrote taking dictation. A scribe has also been used at the beginning of this letter because writing letters was a slow process. Paul himself usually wrote the last sentences at the end of his letters. In this letter, he emphasizes the last words by writing them in larger letters than the scribe and, compared to the other letters, his handwritten text is also longer. This gives the readers a special reminder of the importance of the topics in the letter.

Not to be circumcised has been one of the main themes of the letter, because circumcision would be a significant step to follow the Mosaic law. Paul says three things about the supporters of circumcision:

  1. By circumcision they seek respect from people and security against persecution. In the Roman Empire, the Jews had secured a stable social position – their religion was officially accepted. Those who had been circumcised would not be persecuted so strongly by society. On the other hand, Jews would not persecute the Christians so easily if they were circumcised.

  2. Even the supporters of circumcision do not follow the law. Paul, as a member of the Pharisaic group, knows what it takes to obey the law. From Paul’s letter we see that these false teachers had stressed, for example, the observance of certain feast days. They had thus neglected many other rules of the law of Moses. Such selective observance is not in accordance with the principles of the Mosaic Law.

  3. The false teachers boast about something different than what Paul boasts in. These teachers wanted to trump the guidelines that Paul was teaching. If those advocating for circumcision won, they could brag about it. As for Paul, he boasts in the cross of Christ.

In the closing words, Paul emphasizes the cross of Christ. Dying on the cross was a painful way to die. At the same time, it was a punishment by humiliation – the convicts were publicly disgraced. Paul who persecuted the church of Christ in the past was allowed to come to God – his honour was also restored on the cross. That is why he boasts in the shameful cross. Only through Christ's humiliation has Paul’s honour been restored, too. After the restoration of his honour, he has even been called to serve God as a respected apostle.

Even though Paul is persecuted and defamed for preaching the gospel, he considers it a matter of honour to preach the gospel. That is why the whole world is crucified to him by the cross of Christ. There is also a greater glory that comes through this cross. This can be seen even in the fact that because of Christ's work on the cross, man is created anew. By his Holy Spirit, Christ lives in the Christian, and that is a great honour. Those who live in accordance with the instructions given in Paul’s letter will also receive grace and peace.

Paul has experienced so much persecution for the sake of the gospel that it is also visible in his body. That is why Paul's scars are evidence of a true apostle and proclaimer of the cross. In the words of Paul:

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”