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 CXXXV)

What Kelly seems to be saying here is that it is his business to act consistently with the new place in which grace has put him. We should not confound being a moral person and being a righteous Christian. One of the most dangerous errors in Christendom is that these two things get lumped together. The proof is the distinctive blessing and mark of being a Christian. The most challenging thing in Christianity is for people to know what it is to be Christians, and by faith in the Anointed One take their stand as a Christian. That is, the simplest and most obvious truth is that the last thing a Christian person should have to think about is where they stand with God. And no wonder! Satan’s aim is that people become unsure of themselves as Christian. He wants them always slipping into what they are not. The results are apparent: God receives no place in their hearts, and God denies them any place in His heart. People forget the Anointed One in all of this confusion.[1]

Thomas Croskery (1830-1886) comments on what Paul said about each believer’s testing themselves and evaluating their performance. It is not a mere call for self-examination, though that is a commanded duty which tends to deepen our sense of weaknesses and need of a strengthened faith. There is a sort of introspection which might only build up self-importance. Still, a dependable inspection of examining one’s performance under similar conditions in which the stumbled believer found themselves is available. The danger of self-deception is mainly subjective. The purpose of correction is the standard applied to the work done for a fellow believer.

Croskery goes on to say that the result will be that the work stood the test. As John says here in verse five, none of us is perfect! But it doesn’t mean we cannot gain ground in being confident, not concerning the other – the person with whom we are comparing ourselves to. We may test our performance, but we cannot apply this to the other person. Paul does not mean to say whether the test will be favorable or unfavorable. Judging oneself by close examination would discover, along with graces and virtues, many frailties and fallibilities. Any glory that might come will not be in ourselves, but the mercy and love of the Lord. We do not design a self-examination to leave us satisfied with ourselves or even free from doubts and fears but to lead us to the Lord for new pardon and grace. It is a useful disciplinary effort that should not lead to tormenting oneself, but bring confidence, to have the test applied to our work.[2]

Marvin Vincent (1834-1961) points out that in telling the Galatians to help struggling believers to carry their burden, it was another way of informing stronger believers that they have no right to claim moral superiority over weaker Christians. That’s because each person’s self-examination will reveal their infirmities. They may not be the same as the one there are helping. And becoming absorbed in assisting the limping and struggling believers, it will leave them no time to make comparisons between themselves and the people given to them for mentoring. But it will also not provide them with a license to stop dealing with their burdens by using it as an excuse. Just be thankful that your responsibility is not as heavy as the one who is fallen, and you are trying to help them stand.[3]

August H. Strong (1836-1921) uses an image to illustrate what Paul meant by telling those who are firm believers never to think of themselves as superior to their fellow weaker believers. He imagines that he has a small candlestick and compares it with his brother’s wick and comes away rejoicing. Why not compare it with the sun? Then he will lose his pride and self-righteousness. For instance, if you stand on top of an anthill or Mount Everest, the distance to the sun is nearly the same. He then goes on to tell the story of a princess praised for her beauty but had no way to verify the compliments paid her except by looking in the glassy surface of the pool. But a trader came and sold her a mirror. Then she was so shocked at her ugliness that she broke the mirror in pieces. So, we look into the mirror of God’s law, compare ourselves with the Anointed One who is reflected there, and end up hating the mirror which reveals us to ourselves.[4] [5]

Methodist Theologian Joseph A. Beet (1840-1924) comments on what Paul means by self-exultation in comparison to someone else. He points out that we find similar words in the same sense in Paul’s Letter to the Romans.[6] We are all prone to indulge in a self-exultation based upon a comparison of ourselves with others who seem to be inferior to us, says Beet. A conspicuous example of this was the Pharisee and the civil servant.[7] Therefore, self-exaltation is unrealistic. The inferiority of others is no measure of any person’s absolute worth. But a consideration of God’s work in us and through us, leaving out of sight all comparison with others, may give rise to sincere gratitude and triumphant joy that He has condescended to use us as agents of good: for all such is rejoicing in God. Paul himself is an excellent example of this.[8] Moreover, if we limit our celebration to actual results (each one his work), our happiness will frequently be turned into profound self-criticism. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we find the same thought as in this verse, more fully developed.[9] [10]

Frederic Rendall (1840-1906), a contributor to the Expositor’s Greek Testament, talks about the load or burden Paul speaks of here in verse five. He believes we can apply it to the backpack usually carried by a porter or a soldier on the march.[11] Edward Huxtable has the same view that, as a soldier, everyone is to bring their pack.[12] Jesus used the same word when He mentioned that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.[13] The Greek noun phortion that Paul uses here sounds very much like our English word “portion.” Jesus and Paul might be thinking of a yoke that sits on the wearer’s shoulders. Two buckets hang from this yoke for carrying water. This yoke is different than the one that ties two oxen together to pull a wagon. It provides us a contrast to a load of obedience to the Law the Judaizers wanted to place on the shoulders of the Galatians and the one Paul offered by grace from Jesus.[14]

British Methodist minister George G. Findlay (1849-1919) speaks about Paul’s warning to the Galatians not to provoke one another and cause disharmony. History tells us that the Galatians with the French temperament were prone to fancy themselves as superior to others, even among themselves. The thing that struck Findlay was that even the gifts of the Spirit were sometimes a cause for pretension. It occurs when the more gifted members of the assembly manifested this attitude in the form of arrogance and pride on their side and brought discontent and envy to the other side. Where there is such social tension among believers, it is in danger of causing a collision almost any time. It can also create, says Findlay, a sense of indifference that does not permit such proud members to stoop down and help restore a weak believer who desperately needs help.[15] This warning by Findlay should make us see if those in the assembly are the more gifted in tongues, prophecies, words of knowledge and words of wisdom are also the most involved in helping those who need guidance and counseling. If they are not, that certainly should lower their esteem.

Bible historian William M. Ramsay (1851-1939) gives us an overall picture of what Paul wrote the Galatians up until now. In Galatians 1:1 through 5:12, he was pre-occupied with reviving the Galatians by recalling what he preached to them and how they received. Then, from Galatians 5:13 onward to 5:26, he defines the life they should be living with the help and power of the Holy Spirit. They should be exhibiting the Fruit of the Spirit in all its virtues and graces for the world to see the benefits of being part of the Anointed One’s assembly. Now in Galatians 6:1-10, he outlines the ministry of recovery and reconciliation those who have not yet grown in their sanctified life and are still struggling with reoccurring moral failures and periods of spiritual weaknesses. It all begins and ends with the strong helping the weak to get up and keep moving forward.

Finally, in Galatians 6:11-18, Paul points out that any success and advancement they experience, all honor, praise, and glory goes to God for His love and mercy. It also goes to Jesus the Anointed One, His Cross, His suffering, His resurrection and His position as head of the assembly of believers, and to the Holy Spirit for His guidance, wisdom, and daily comforting presence.[16] Unfortunately, a lose-lose curse exists in many spiritual realms today. It prevents those in dire need from reaching out to others they trust. It also blocks their path to those able to help in the strictest confidence to assist them so they can continue with their life and ministry.

It goes like this: if you do reach out to a trusted colleague and share with them a problem or misdeed that under most circumstances would ruin your reputation and cost you your ministry, it puts them in a very indefensible situation. If your confession is kept confidential and assists you in overcoming your weakness to receive forgiveness from God for your failure, you can make restitution. That way, you don’t end up having to testify and implicate those who helped you cover it up to hide your mistake. Nor will you be in danger of being ruined, but they will be as well for keeping your error a secret.

J. B. Phillips 1908-1982) gives us a paraphrase here of verses one through five that provides us with his understanding of what Paul is saying. Phillips writes: “As brethren, I appeal to you. Act in a brotherly spirit. I have just charged you to shun vain-glory, to shun provocation and envy. I ask you now to do more than this. I ask you to be gentle even to those whose guilt is flagrant. Do any of you profess to be spiritually-minded? Then correct the offender in a spirit of tenderness. Correct and reinstate him. Remember your weakness; reflect that you too may be tempted someday, and may stand in need of like forgiveness. Have sympathy, one with another. Lend a ready hand in bearing your neighbor’s burdens. So, doing you will fulfill the most perfect of all laws —the law of Christ. But if anyone asserts his superiority, if anyone exalts himself above others, he is worth nothing, he is a vain self-deceiver. Nay, rather let each man test his worth. If this stands the test, then his boast will be his own, it will not depend on comparison with others. Each of us has his duties, his responsibilities. Each of us must carry his load.” [17]

[1] John Kelly: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 172

[2] Pulpit Commentary: op. cit., Galatians, Homiletics, Robert Croskery, pp. 318-319

[3] Marvin Vincent: Word Studies, op. cit., pp. 173-174

[4] See James 1:23-24

[5] August H. Strong: Systematic Theology, op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 306

[6] Romans 4:2

[7] Luke 18:11

[8] Cf. Romans 15:17; 1 Corinthians 9:15ff; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 11:10

[9] 2 Corinthians 10:12-18

[10] Joseph A. Beet: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 165

[11] Frederic Rendall: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 189

[12] Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., Galatians, Exposition, Edward Huxtable, p. 297

[13] Matthew 11:30; cf. 23:4; Luke 11:46

[14] Matthew 11:28-29

[15] George G. Findlay: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 390-391

[16] William M. Ramsay: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 456

[17] J. B. Phillips: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 295-296

About drbob76

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