(18 verses, 2:15 to read)
What I am about to READ
Paul encourages us to correct others, but in humility. He gives the Galatians a final encouragement to hold on to the true Gospel.
MARK and LEARN
1: The Greek for “caught in a sin” literally means “fallen by the side” – like a car off the road and in a ditch. It implies an obvious transgression that has tripped and caught a fellow Christian. Yet, the effort at restoration ought to be gentle. Efforts to restore a Christian caught in an obvious sin must be gentle because the whole purpose is to restore him in repentance and faith, not cut him off from fellowship. It is the assurance of forgiveness in Christ that encourages and enables repentance on the part of one caught in this way.
“Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” The efforts to restore a fellow Christian by calling him to repentance must be approached in an attitude of humility, fully aware of our own sinful natures. St. Augustine writes, “There is no sin that one man has committed that another man could not commit.” Those who think “It can’t happen to me” are sometimes surprised by how easily it does. (See 1 Corinthians 10:12; Matthew 7:3)
2: “The law of Christ.” The “law of Christ” is his “new” commandment: love one another. (See John 13:34-35 and James 2:8). Fulfilling this law of love requires that we make ourselves available to one another in times of need and that we help others carry the burdens life places on them. To love does not mean “to wish someone well.” It means to bear someone else’s burdens, that is, to bear what is burdensome to you and what you would rather not bear. Love is obligated to overlook many things and to bear with them.
3-5: Comparing yourself with someone else easily leads to pride and putting the other person down in order to make yourself look good. On the other hand, comparing with others may lead to depression and low self-image when their accomplishments and successes are exaggerated in your mind. This is not to say that others may not be seen as examples for us to follow, but usually, instead of making comparisons we need to make honest assessments of ourselves and of the gifts God gives us: we are sinners and God is the Justifier. Then we are to use our personal gifts to the glory of God and the benefit of others. (See Romans 12)
6: Paul states that faithful ministers of the Gospel ought to receive their living from those whom they serve. This allows pastors time to study and focus on the Sacred Scriptures and time for pastoral care – visiting, etc. Luther writes, “It is impossible that one man should be devoted to household duties day and night for his support and at the same time pay attention to the study of Sacred Scripture, as the teaching ministry requires.” (LW:27,126)
7: Sometimes it appears that the wicked and godless prosper while the righteous struggle and even suffer. Here Paul comforts those who walk by the Spirit. In the Greek, “mocked” implies “turning up the nose” or “sneering” at God – actions God will not tolerate.
8-10: The works of the flesh feed their own decay; the work of the Spirit carries with it the fruit of the Spirit. Willful sin takes the sinner deeper into the sin and farther from God – making it more difficult for him to repent. “Sow” is present tense, implying a continuing life style, “keeping on sowing” to please the sinful nature – or “keeping on sowing” to please the Spirit. Sowing to please the Spirit and to a life of doing good requires continuing effort and vigilance – remaining in the Means of Grace: God’s Word, Baptism, Lord’s Supper, and continually clinging to what the Lord did to win the victory for us. (See 2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
11-13: Verse 11 begins the conclusion of the letter, where Paul writes by his own hand rather than using a scribe. He takes one more swipe at the Judaizers, saying they just wanted “conquests” they could boast about. They wanted to boast that they were the teachers and the Galatians were their disciples. They wanted to prop themselves up instead of Christ. They are vain. They have no concern for the glory of Christ or for your salvation. They’re only interested in their own glory.
The emphasis here is on the word “require” or “force.” For circumcision in itself is nothing; but to require circumcision – and to claim that righteousness and satisfaction are found in circumcision – and that not being circumcised is a sin—this is an insult to Christ.
14: Unlike the Judiazers, Paul’s motivation was nothing but the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus and His cross became the whole focus of Paul’s life and mission, the only things in which he would boast. His personal identity was wrapped up in the title “apostle of Jesus Christ.”
15-16: “A new creation.” This is rebirth – a birth into a right relationship with God in Christ. This brings with it a new mission for all of life. Luther states that these changes are real: “They produce a new mind, a new will, new senses, and even new actions by the flesh so that the eyes, the ears, the lips, and the tongue not only see, hear, and speak otherwise than they used to, but the mind itself evaluates things and acts upon them differently from the way it did before…It performs the works of its calling and the works of love, which God has commanded. It praises God and proclaims Him. It glories and exults solely in its trust in mercy through Christ. If it has to bear some sort of evil or danger, it accepts this willingly and joyfully, although the flesh goes on grumbling.” (LW 27:140-1)
17: “The marks of Jesus.” Paul bore on his body these marks as a personal witness. These were not marks that he invited upon himself; they were marks that were inflicted on him against his will by the world and by Satan, on account of Jesus. These marks were the troubles or sufferings of the body, as well as the arrows of the devil and the mental fears that Paul mentions throughout his epistles. (See 1 Cor. 4:11-13 and 2 Cor. 11:24-29)
Would anyone go to such great lengths if he were a fraud?
Dear Saints, we live in freedom! Through faith in Christ we are both freed from and freed for. We are freed from any law-mode approach to life with God. Insteed, we place our full trust in Christ and His redemption for our salvation. Thus, we’re freed for loving and serving to our neighbors in Christ’s name.
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Pastor Kevin Zellers, Jr.