CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER SIX (Lesson CXXXIV)

Augustine concludes by insisting that just because a person receives praise from others for their good works, it does not lessen their responsibility to remain humble. Indeed, Augustine wished that people did not heap praise upon each other unless they were also ready to give helpful criticism. Not to do so is showing favor rather than showing firmness. They shouldn’t be afraid of offending by giving less praise. Augustine decided not to go into all the pretenses and stories that people make up about themselves to get approval from others. There is nothing more sinister than for people to blindly grab at every mistake or slip-up they see in another individual. Such conduct comes from sheer conceit and rejects God’s speaking to the heart? Getting joy out of helping another believer is no less significant than when you deal with your bad conduct.[1]

Ambrosiaster also condemns those whose efforts at righteousness are to impress God and look good in front of other people. He writes that they are: “acting out of the stupidity of a puffed-up heart.” In Ambrosiaster’s mind, such a person wants to obtain a reward for their righteousness in this life because they have no hope of one in the future. As such, they prove themselves unrighteous because what they are doing is only inventing righteousness based on a false premise. To be genuinely fair means putting others first, and by recognizing that each person, including themselves, know their faults better than anyone else.[2]

In Victorinus’s mind, no one should go into action dealing with errant believers with a sense of being more holy and more mature than the one who needs help. It involves the contempt they have for those who trust in their virtues and graces so much they continuously encourage them to help bear their brother’s or sister’s burden. As such, they are not prone to correct them with a kind and sweet admonition. So, says Victorinus, such people are themselves nothing before God, and since their deeds are not pleasing to God, they have led themselves astray and, in so doing, deceived themselves. And the reason they are nothing is that they do not cling to the One, who suffered their shortcomings and lowered Himself to be humble for their sake even though He is God. Therefore, since they do not cling to the Everlasting One, they end up holding on to themselves.[3]

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) speaks about Paul’s admonishment that these believers support one another, not only in the healthy being compassionate with the weak, but the whole body supporting those with this ministry. He offers specific thoughts for consideration: He notes that there are three reasons why love is linked explicitly with the Law of the Anointed One. First, because by it, the New Law distinguishes itself from the Old Law. The Old Law is a law of fear, but the New Law is a law of faith. Secondly, because the Anointed One expressly proclaimed His Law in terms of Love: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples;” [4] again: “I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you.” [5] Thirdly, because the Anointed One fulfilled it and left us an example of how to fulfill it, for He carried our sins out of Love: “Yet it was our grief He bore, our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, for His sins!” [6] “He bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we may cease from sinning and live for righteousness. His wounds healed you.” [7] That’s why, then, we ought to carry one another’s burdens out of love, so that we may fulfill the Law of the Anointed One.[8]

John Trapp (1601-1669) tells believers to be thorough in self-examination. Making it easy on oneself, in the beginning, will only double the effort in the end. Anyone who does not keep their balance on the tightrope of life will end up falling off before they reach the end. Many people create their miserable existence because they’ve made up their minds and are focused on the way they think things should be. They are always looking outward and never inward. How few are there, then, that suddenly turn around and ask themselves, why did I do that? As the Lord declared to the prophet Zephaniah: When that time comes, I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who sit complacent in their sins like wine left sitting out, who say to themselves, “Adonai will do nothing to us neither good nor bad.” [9] [10]

John Wesley (1703-1791) wrote in his journal after morning devotions on Sunday, August 10, 1740, he was reading verse three here in Galatians six, and these are the thoughts that crossed his mind: I earnestly warned all who had tasted the grace of God. First, not to think they were justified before they had a clear assurance that God had forgiven their sins, bringing in calm peace, the love of God, and dominion over all sin. Second, not to think themselves anything after they had this, but to press forward for the prize of their high calling, even a clean heart, thoroughly renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness.[11]

Adam Clarke (1760-1832) takes Paul’s statement that every person will bear their burden as meaning that they must accept responsibility and accountability for both action and inaction that brought on the dilemma that overwhelmed them. Every believer must expect to be dealt with by the Divine Judge on their character and conduct. The more significant misconduct of another will not excuse their misdemeanors. Every believer must give an account of their behavior before God. Therefore, why not address it here and now so it can be fixed so it will not have to be accounted for as broken in the afterlife.[12]

John Brown (1784-1854) feels that Paul’s statement that those picked to be mentors and instructors of the overtaken by faults should first check and see what others think of them. As Brown puts it, they must show their true colors. Check and see if those they’ve helped before are still fully restored and even helping others. Or why is it only a façade, and once they ended their so-called help, nothing was changed. Those individuals were no more ready to bear their burdens than they were before. These people only fancy themselves to be mentors and instructors. Real mentors and instructors are those who’ve been down the same path as these stumbling believers and were able to make it back to sound moral and spiritual help. So, they know what these people are going through.[13]

Philip Schaff (1819-1893) makes an excellent point here in his comments on verse five. Some scholars take what Paul says here about each person must carry their burdens as renouncing what he said early about helping those who are weak by sharing part of their responsibilities. But not so, says Schaff. Paul is talking here to the stronger believers in the congregation and letting them know that they are not to lay aside their responsibilities while they deal with the problems of those who need help. What would you think of a pastor who gave up preaching so he or she could spend more time counseling their members? Only when others see us accomplishing our tasks that they are willing to trust our working with them to start performing their own. Schaff points out that Paul is fond of making contradictions and differing expressions as being complementary truths.[14] [15]

Then Charles J. Ellicott (1819-1903) contends that anyone who wishes to find out if they have anything to boast about, let them search through their actions and not come to a conclusion based on a contrast between their own supposed virtues and the failure of others. Christians like the Apostle Paul find these things a sincere and thankful acknowledgment of blessings and successes[16] or in afflictions and weaknesses.[17] These exhibit the mercy and mighty power of the Lord to finish what He started in the believer.[18] That’s why those chosen to help and those helped will allow everyone to see just how good and merciful He is.[19]

On this same subject of one examining themselves, John Montgomery Boice hints that this testing and examination to gain approval does not necessarily reflect on past accomplishments or performance, but their current mindset. They are to see if they do have a sense of pride about their superiority to the one needing help. Also, would they see this task as a stepping stone to stepping up? And do they have no concern that they too may be vulnerable to the same temptation catching them unawares by being set as a trap to snare them? If so, they are not ready to help someone else because their attitude and behavior would betray them as being full of prideful and, therefore, would look down on the one they were assigned to restore as a pitiful person.[20]

North Ireland member of the Protestant group, the Plymouth Brethren, William Kelly (1821-1906), believes that Paul admonition in verse five that everyone should bear their burdens contains helpful language. We find that responsibility rests on the relationship between the depth of know-how and the degree of knowledge concerning what is involved. Kelly says to his audience that if he is a man, he is responsible as such. So, if he fails and sins, this will earn him the necessary judgment. Being a Christian, he is liable according to that position and privilege. The position he enjoys in the Christian community determines his accountability. Even as a man, he is also a Christian man, and with that comes additional responsibilities.[21]

[1] Augustine of Hippo: Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

[2] Ambrosiaster, op. cit., p. 31

[3] Marius Victorinus, op. cit.

[4] John 13:35 – New Living Translation (NLT)

[5] Ibid. 13:34 – New Century Version (NCV)

[6] Isaiah 53:4 – Living Bible (LB)

[7] Isaiah 40:11 – New English Translation (NET)

[8] Thomas Aquinas, op. cit.

[9] Zephaniah 1:12

[10] John Trapp: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 587

[11] The Works of John Wesley, Vol., Journals, Oct. 14, 1735 – Nov. 29, 1745, Sunday 10, 1740, p. 306

[12] Adam Clarke: Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

[13] John Brown: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 84

[14] Cf. Philippians 2:12, 13; 2 Corinthians 12:10

[15] Philip Schaff: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 347

[16] 2 Corinthians 10:17

[17] Ibid. 11:30; 12:5

[18] Ibid. 12:9

[19] Charles J. Ellicott: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 143

[20] John Montgomery Boice Expositor’s Bible Commentary: op. cit., On Galatians, Kindle Location 9820

[21] Kelly, William, On Galatians, op. cit., pp.156-160

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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