Galatians 6: Parting Comments

Weights by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

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).

What makes a community?

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[1].

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)[2].

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)[3].  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.

[1]Scot McKnight (The NIV Application Commentary: Galatians.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1995, 288) makes this point following John Barclay.

[2]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).

[3]McKnight (1995, 299).

Questions

  1. How was your week? Did anything special happen?
  2. Do you have questions from chapter 5?
  3. What is a proverb?
  4. What does Christian admonishment and forgiveness look like? (v 1; also 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 3:10)
  5. How do we bear each other’s burdens? (vv 2-5; Romans 15:1; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
  6. How does “bear one other’s’ burdens” (v 2) compare with “each will have to bear his own load” (v 5)?
  7. How do you interpret verse 6? What are the good things referred to here?
  8. Why the reference to sowing the flesh (spirit) and reaping the flesh (spirit)? (vv 7-8)
  9. What are the priorities in doing good works? (vv 9-10)
  10. Why does Paul make a point of showing his own handwriting? Why big letters?  (v 11; 1 Corinthians 16:21)
  11. One author notes that Paul’s proverbs pair mutual accountability and personal responsibility? Would you agree?  What are some examples?
  12. What is the motivation of those trying to promote circumcision? (v 12)
  13. What is Paul’s point in verses 13-14?
  14. What implications do you see today from Paul’s comment on circumcision in verse 15?
  15. What is Paul trying to say in verse 17? Why?

Galatians 6: Parting Comments

Also see:

Galatians 5: Healthy Boundaries 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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