Galatians Chapter 6:1-18 Sunday School Notes

These are some of my notes for Sunday July 12, 2009 in the Lifeway Explore the Bible Series.

Books referenced here include:

1.) Grace in Galatia, by  Ben Witherington III

2. ) The Epistle to the Galatians, NIGTC by F.F. Bruce

3.) IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, by Craig Keener

Gal 6:1
Wise reproof of others was a standard convention of ancient cultures. There was also a regular warning to examine oneself before presuming to correct others. In contrast to Greek culture, Judaism considered humility one of the greatest virtues.(Keener)

“Wrongdoing, transgression”, Greek paraptoma is defined in the sense of a “false step”, more a temporary lapse than a regular course of action. “Caught” might be interpreted either to mean being inadvertently involved in a moral lapse or else found in such an act by someone else. (Bruce, Witherington)

“Spiritual”, Greek pneumatikoi, refers back to Paul’s references to living by the Holy Spirit in 5:25. These spiritual ones equal the congregation, for two reasons:
1.“you” is inclusive in Galatians
2.Paul speaks of all Christians having the Spirit (Gal 3:2-15; 4:6, 29; 5:5, 16-18, 22-23, 25; 6:8)(Witherington)

Paul insists someone caught in a lapse must be rehabilitated with gentleness, one of the fruits of the Spirit.(5:23) This is a regular feature of Paul’s guidance to the churches (Rom 14:1; 1 Th 5:14)(Bruce)

Remembering one’s own vulnerability to temptation should keep us gentle and modest in our dealings with fellow Christians.

Gal 6:2
This verse likely isn’t related to 6:1 according to Witherington. Bruce more traditionally sees 6:1-5 as part of the same discussion of relations among Christians, and emphasizes Rom 15:1’s message of the strong bearing with the weak as the same as Gal 6:1-2. (Witherington, Bruce)

Burdens, Greek bare, “burden, or load”, is often used of financial burden in Paul’s letters. It includes but is not limited to money.(Witherington)

Burden might also remind the Galatians both of slaves or impressment (Roman soldiers could draft locals to carry things for them, as in Mat 5:41). It plainly refers to going being convenience, and in context refers to helping fellow Christians deal with sin. (Keener)

Law of Christ is the ultimate burden bearer (Gal 1:3-4; 2:20;3:13-14) . It refers not a specific saying so much as Christ’s example and ethical teaching, which is passed on to believers by the Spirit.(Keener, Bruce)

Why is the Law of Christ not the same as Mosaic Law?
1)1 Cor 9:19-23: Law of God isn’t Torah. God’s law finds new expression in Christ.
2)Gal 2:19-21 speaks of a non-Mosaic Law.
3)There is no serious evidence of 2nd Temple New Law/Torah besides Christianity.
4)Rom 3:25-27 contrasts Mosaic Law with another law.
5)Epistle of Barnabas 2:6 “He has therefore abolished these things, that the new law of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is without the yoke of necessity, might have a human oblation”(Witherington)

Gal 6:3
This version is a not so veiled reference to the Judaizer agitators. It is also counter-cultural in an honor/shame society, where boasting and exalting oneself is normal. It is  a warning against spiritual pride, similar to 1 Cor 8:2(Witherington, Bruce)

Gal 6:4
Paul matches ancient cultures here in not denying boasting entirely, but rather disapproving exaggerated claims. Ancients allowed self-promotion, but it needed to be accurate, realistic, and about oneself, not in relation to another.(Witherington)

Paul stresses personal responsibility, which ultimately leads to responsibility to God. Paul uses similar language in 1 Cor 4:3-5. Regular self-examination was a feature of some ancient philosophies, like the Pythagoreans, who were required to consider the classic questions “What have I done I should not?” and “What have I not done I should?”(Bruce)

Gal 6:5
It is a different Greek word for “burden, load” here than in verse 2. Greek phortion can mean “freight, load, burden, cargo”. Presumably the difference between what each person must do for themselves and what they can be helped with. This verse likely refers to final judgment. (Witherington, Keener)

Gal 6:6
Based on Lk 10:7 and 1 Cor 9:3-14. Likely a reference to financial, material support. Many ancient teachers charge fees for instruction. Some required that the teacher and his students shared everything in common, and some groups of teachers and disciples lived together communally. In Asia Minor, including Galatia, temples charged fees for those entering the temples.(Witherington, Keener)

Paul made a habit of not requiring support from his churches but supporting himself (2 Th 6:3-13), both as an example to his converts and to protect himself from common ancient charges of scrounging off others with philosophy(2 Cor 11:7-12). It may also have something to do with later rabbinic tradition of forbidding making a living from teaching Torah.And Paul may well have been attempting to teach new Gentile Christians the principal of voluntary charity.(Bruce)

Some have wondered if Christ commanded preachers of the gospel supported in that work, why Paul felt able to refuse support. The answer is that Paul saw Jesus’ statement less as a command than a right which Paul was free to exercise or not.(Bruce)

Gal 6:7a
“Mocked” is Greek mukterizo, “to turn one’s nose up”. God sees all, and will take a reckoning in the End, at least and last. Reaping as one sowed is a common image in the OT (Job 4:8; Prov 22:8; Hos 6:8, 10:12) and other Jewish literature.

Gal 6:8
Sowing might refer to selfish behavior or sexual immorality. More likely it aims back to circumcision. (Witherington)

Bruce sees “sowing to the flesh” as following the works of the flesh in 5:19-21, especially strife and envy. Thus he sees this portion of the leter aimed at morality, rather than the circumcision party. (Bruce)

Corruption is equal to eternal death (1 Cor 15:423,50) This links back to Gal 5:3-4 about circumcision separating one from Christ. The Spirit dispenses eternal life, which is future life with God at and after Judgment Day. (Rom 2:1-8, 6:21-23; Tit 1:2, 3:7; 1 Tim 1:16, 6:12)(Witherington)

Gal 6:9
Connected by the Greek de, which links it back to v.8.

“Proper time”, the eschaton, Judgment Day again, known only to God. Effort is involved, and the reward may not be immediate. One can’t judge Paul’s thought on the immediacy of the Second Coming or perseverance of the saints based on this verse alone.(Witherington)

Gal 6:10
Paul speaks of “must work”. Why must? Not necessary to salvation, but rather sign of salvation. Regeneration should have visible signs.(Witherington)

Calls for perseverance are common in Paul’s writings. (1 Cor 15:50, 58, 16:13, Philp 1:27, 2:15, 4:1; 1 Th 3:5, 13, 3:23)(Bruce)

“Household of faith” is fellow Christians, who in Greco-Roman culture, were like a household with God as ruling father and Christ as the eldest heir. (Witherington)

Among ancient philosophies, only the Cynics did not promote working for the common good. (Keener)

Gal 6:11
The traditional view is that this verse proves Paul wrote the whole epistle himself by hand. But the evidence is that Paul routinely used scribes (Rom 16:22, 15:15; 1 Cor 5:11, 9:15; Philm 19,21; Php 2:28; Col 4:8)

Further, ancient practice was for scribes to pen the bulk of letters, and then the true author adds a signature or farewell or closing in his own hand to authenticate the letter.

Possible reasons for the large letters are two:
1.Paul’s reputed bad eyesight. But the size of his letters in the closing of epistles is nowhere else mentioned, so if eyesight is the cause, it is likely a one-time thing.
2.Large letters emphasize what Paul says.
3.Simple differentiation from the scribal hand, which was often written in small letters.(Witherington, Keener)

Gal 6:12-17
These verses form the letter’s peroratio, a rhetorical subdivision meant to
1.Summarize previous sections
2.Stir emotion in hearers/readers
3.Amplify major points in letter(Witherington)

Gal 6:12
Good showing in the flesh: Likely refers to circumcision, and thus likely aims at Jewish Christians agitators, because Romans associated circumcision with castration, and found both disgusting.(Witherington)

“Compel, constrain” is exaggerated language, since the Judaizers are trying to persuade Galatians to accept circumcision voluntarily.(Witherington)
If “to avoid being persecuted” is not simply hyperbole, what are the Judaizers seeking to avoid? Witherington favors an increasingly vocal and violent Zealot branch of Judaism, which in the 40s Ad began harassing and even killing Jews they felt were not strict enough or compromised by relations with Gentiles. (Witherington)

Gal 6:13
Here Paul finally, plainly says his opponents in Galatia are circumsizers.

Don’t keep the law: Paul in 5:3 affirmed circumcision implied following the whole law to the letter. (Witherington)

Bruce describes the Judaizers attempts at converting the Galatians as “scalp-hunting”.(Bruce)

Gal 6:14
This verse shows the change of world view created by becoming Christian. Only the Cross is worth boasting of to Paul, and the Cross has changed everything, for the world is dead to Paul and Paul to the world. This is not the least due to the scandal of the Cross, an idea hard to grasp now. To speak of crucifixion in ancient Rome was somewhat equivalent of blithely discussing the wholesomeness of child abuse in contemporary society. For Jews the scandal of the cross was in the OT curse on anyone hung on a tree. For Gentiles it was the idea that a savior could be someone who allowed himself to die the most dishonorable death known.Thus Roman society wants nothing to do with the shocking Christians, and the Christians feel much the same about Roman society, which they felt decadent and in thrall to evil powers.(Witherington, Bruce)

Gal 6:15
The whole argument, Paul says, is really irrelevant, for the new creation from Christ has put the Law away. Following Christ is what is important, and doing so fulfills the law.(Witherington)

“New Creation” might refer to a change in the whole cosmic order with Christ’s death and resurrection, or more likely, believers are each a new creation, newborn babes in a new human race (neither Jew nor Gentile) who are free to follow a new course of life defined by Christ.(Witherington)

Once more Paul appeals to the product of God’s power, as opposed to mere human effort. (Keener)

Gal 6:16
“This standard, this rule” refers then to the new creation, Christ’s law.(Witherington)

“Israel of God” is a one off, not found otherwise in Paul, 2nd Temple Judaism, or rabbinic writings. Likely Paul is making the point that the true Israel is now the Christian church, Jews and Gentiles alike. (Witherington)

Gal 6:17
Rhetoric here. Do not trouble Paul, servant of Christ, because troubling Christians equals troubling Christ himself, as Paul learned on the road to Damascus.(Witherington)

The marks here likely refers to either notion of spiritual sign of Christ’s ownership, or physically Paul’s scars from his beatings and persecution. Some slaves, criminals, and prisoners of war were tattooed, as were some religious cultists, and of course, the barbarian non- Greek races. The later phenomenon of stigmata is hardly likely implied here, not least because no church tradition speaks of it.(Witherington, Keener)

Gal 6:18
Brothers, brethren is the Greek adelphoi, in the plural often used to include women.(Keener)


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