By Stephen W. Hiemstra
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 (Galatians 6:14 ESV).
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The Apostle Paul’s closing remarks divide into two parts: A series of proverbs (vv 1-10) followed by a restatement of the main theme of his letter (vv 11-18).
The proverbs can be summarized as:
- Forgive and restore (v 1),
- Bear each other’s burdens (vv 2-5),
- Support your teachers (v 6),
- You reap what you sow (vv 7-8), and
- Keep on doing good works (vv 9-10).
These proverbs often pair mutual accountability and personal responsibility.
Paul highlights his summary of the letter by wrapping this summary in highly personal remarks. Before the summary, he signs this letter by claiming that he wrote it with his own hand (v 11). After the summary, he asserts his apostolic authority claiming that his body bears the marks of Christ (v 17).
The summary then goes on to discuss those advocating circumcision. Paul makes these points—they want to force circumcision to avoid persecution in spite of not following their own advice and to brag about their influence over you (vv 12-13). By contrast, Paul basically says—look, I only brag about the cross of Christ and about the scars on my own body, not yours (vv 14, 17).
If you have ever met an evangelist who pulled down his shirt to display the scars on his back from torture, then you know how persuasive Paul’s argument really is.
Scot McKnight (The NIV Application Commentary: Galatians. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995, 288) makes this point following John Barclay.
The word for marks here—stigmata (στίγματα; v 17) is used nowhere else in the New Testament and only one other place in the Greek Old Testament (Song of Solomon 1:11).
McKnight (1995, 299).
Galatians 6: Parting Comments
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