1a. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness. Many of the Galatians imagined that they were rebuking sinners, when in fact, out of love for power, they were justifying their own passions. Therefore Paul instructs them, If a man be overtaken, that is, if he be seized and assaulted by a demon, ye which are spiritual, restore him. Do not punish him, but correct him in the spirit of meekness. He did not say, “in meekness,” but in the spirit of meekness, implying that the gentle correction of sinners is pleasing to the Spirit and is a gift of the Spirit.
1b. Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. The man who corrects another must guard himself against pride. “Be careful,” the Apostle warns, “that you not be tempted by the adversary and fall into the very same sins.” He uses the emphatic form of “thou”—thyself—to remind us of our human weakness.
2a. Bear ye one another ’s burdens. Since no man is sinless, Paul exhorts them not to nit-pick and judge the sins of their neighbor, but to bear them, so that their own sins may, in turn, be borne by another.
2b. And so fulﬁll the law of Christ. The Apostle did not say simply “ﬁll” (πληρώσατε) but fulﬁll (αναπληρώσατε), which means, “all of you, together, fulﬁll the law by bearing and enduring one another’s faults.” For example, let him who works swiftly bear with his brother’s sluggishness, and let the slow-moving man bear with his brother’s impetuosity; and so let neither man sin, each one sustaining the other. By extending the hand of friendship, fulﬁll the law of Christ through one another. Let each one fulﬁll what is lacking in his neighbor by bearing him up. Moreover, it is characteristic of love to bear one another’s burdens; and love is the fulﬁllment of the commandments of Christ.
3. For if a man thinketh himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. Yet again Paul denounces arrogance, showing that a man who thinks he is something, is in fact nothing. The very act of imagining himself to be something is proof of his own worthlessness. He deceives no one but himself.
4. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing (τo καύχημα) in himself alone, and not in another. The Apostle is saying: “Let every man scrutinize (this is the meaning of prove) his own deeds, to determine if he acted out of vainglory, hypocrisy, or some other human failing. If he ﬁnds himself innocent of such sins, may he not boast and look down on others. But if he cannot restrain himself and humble his thoughts, let him at least conﬁne his boasting (τo καύχημα) to himself alone.” This means, let him compare his own progress from day to day, striving to make today’s deeds better than yesterday’s, and let him exult in doing good work. Paul instructs the Galatians in this manner, not as a commandment, but as a temporary condescension to their weakness. Thus, step by step, they will learn to cut off their pride altogether. He who has learned to refrain from boasting like the Pharisee in front of his neighbor, will soon learn to desist from boasting altogether.
5. For every man shall bear his own burden. Why do you boast and look down on your neighbor? Both you and he shall bear his own burden, and then the work of each shall be tested. Therefore, since you and he each carry a heavy load of sins and burdens, neither of you should boast over the other, nor be conceited about your good deeds.
6. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Here Paul addresses the topic of the teachers in the church. Those who are being instructed should share with their teachers, not just one item, but every good thing: food, clothing, honor, goodwill, and in short, giving them a share of all that they have. “Greater are the spiritual things you are receiving,” he tells them, “than the material things you are giving.” Paul calls this communion (κοινωνία) because an exchange takes place between the two parties. Why did Christ ordain that the teachers should be fed and maintained by their students? For four reasons: ﬁrst, so that teachers would not become proud and conceited but remain humble, because they also need their students; second, that they would devote their time exclusively to the teaching of the word, and not be drawn away and distracted by the need for sustenance; third, that the students should learn from their gratitude and generosity towards their teachers to act in like manner with others as well; and last, that the students need never be ashamed should they ﬁnd themselves poor and begging—for such were their teachers.
7-8. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his ﬂesh shall of the ﬂesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. There are always some people who will accuse their teachers of leading a sinful life and thus will neglect to provide for them when they are in poverty. This is why, in the next verse, Paul goes on to say, Let us not be weary in well doing. But here he shows that even towards such teachers as these, we must give unstintingly because the expenditure is for a spiritual purpose. Comparing the expenditures made on carnal, worldly things with those made on spiritual things, he asserts that by spending on the ﬂesh—preparing tables and delicacies, and sowing drunkenness, wantonness, and gluttony—you will reap corruption. Indeed so, for these things themselves become corrupt, and then they corrupt the body. But if you sow to the Spirit, that is, unto spiritual deeds, being merciful to all, and sowing temperance, you shall reap eternal life. For God is not mocked, nor deceived: He gives to each his own. Therefore, it is better to spend on spiritual things, which include expenditures for teachers, than on corruptible ﬂeshly luxuries which pollute the body. From luxury and excess spring sickness and disease.
9. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Now the Apostle speaks more clearly: even if those who need our help are wicked, we must not grow weary of doing well to them. His admonition, let us not be weary, signiﬁes generous and continuous giving. Then, because Paul is asking much of the Galatians, he immediately states the reward: that we shall reap. How shall we reap this reward? If we faint not, which means, if we suffer no exhaustion, and have perfect rest. In this life the harvest entails hard labors, sweat and exhaustion; in the next life it is not so.
10. As we have therefore opportunity (καιρόν), let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Just as there is a right and a wrong time (καιρόν) for a farmer to sow the seed, so also there is a right and a wrong time to give alms. This is illustrated by the parables of the wise and foolish virgins (Mt. 25:1-13) and the rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31). Therefore, while we live in this life and have the opportunity to practice benevolence and almsgiving, let us do good not only to our teachers but also to Jews and pagan Greeks. However, we ought not to bestow the same measure on the pagan Greeks and Jews as we do on those who are of the household of faith: we ought to give more generously to the faithful. That is the implication of the word especially. Observe how, in this respect also, Paul is directing the Galatians away from the earthliness of the Judaic law. The law opened the hearts of the Jews to show compassion solely to the members of their own race: Thou shalt surely open thine hands to thy poor brother, and to him that is distressed upon thy land (Dt. 15:11). But grace summons all the earth and the sea together to the table of almsgiving, even if it is not with the same measure, as we have said.
11. Ye see with how large letters (πηλίκοις … γράμμασιν) I have written unto you with mine own hand. Having digressed brieﬂy on the topic of morals, the Apostle returns again to the earlier theme, which continues to cause him anguish at heart. He indicates that he wrote this entire epistle with his own hand, not only to prove his genuine love for them, but also to allay any evil suspicions they might have of him. He had been accused of preaching different things in different places; he was compelled, therefore, to set forth in his own handwriting proof of what he taught and preached. In his other epistles he would dictate to his assistants, except for the salutation which he wrote in person. The words, with how large (πηλίκοις), do not refer so much to the size as to the shapelessness of his written characters. It is as if he were saying, “I may not have the best handwriting; nevertheless, I am compelled to write this epistle in my own hand.”
12a. As many as desire to make a fair show in the ﬂesh, they constrain you to be circumcised. “As many,” he writes, “as desire to be esteemed in the ﬂesh.” This refers to those Christians who wished to maintain a good reputation among the Jews, who had rebuked the believers for abandoning the ancestral customs. “They constrain you to be circumcised, and by means of your ﬂesh, that is, your circumcision, they justify themselves to the Jews, and receive praise from them for being zealots and defenders of the law.” That the Jews had to constrain them shows that the Galatians had submitted unwillingly to circumcision. But the fact that their error was unwilling gave them the opportunity to depart from those deceivers.
12b. Only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. “They had another reason for compelling you to submit to circumcision: to avoid persecution for the cross of Christ and faith in Him.” Because the Jewish converts were sinning against the faith in Christ by circumcising their sons, they began to demand that every male be circumcised. Thus they hoped to make the others their allies and participants in circumcision.
13. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your ﬂesh. “They are doing this,” Paul explains, “not merely to please men, but also out of vainglory. Their actions stem from their love of glory, not from zeal for the law or from piety. That they may glory in your ﬂesh.” This means, “that they may glory in cutting your ﬂesh, because they are your teachers and you are their disciples.”
14a. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. “They may boast of circumcision, a practice that has been abolished; but may I not glory in anything else, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (meaning, with faith in Him Who was cruciﬁed), Who abolished the law.” The Apostle prayed that this forbidden thing not happen and called upon God to help. How does one glory … in the cross? By afﬁrming, “My Lord was cruciﬁed on account of me, who am worthless, for He loved me so much as to give Himself up for me.” The cross, therefore, is the boast of Paul and of every faithful believer, because by it, the Lord’s love for us was made manifest. Is there any servant who does not exult when he is loved by his Lord?
14b. By whom the world is cruciﬁed unto me, and I unto the world. By the world Paul means the affairs of this life, such as fame, wealth, luxuries, pleasures, and the like. “These things are dead to me, and I to them, for a twofold deadening has taken effect. They cannot possess me, for they are dead; nor can I run to them, for I am dead.”
15-16. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. “Say no more to me about circumcision, which has no more usefulness or effectiveness than remaining uncircumcised. Christ has made all things new and requires from us a new way of life.” Life in Christ makes one a new creature, in two ways: ﬁrst, because now our souls, which had grown old in sin, have been renewed through baptism; and second, in the age to come, our bodies, having been made new and incorruptible, will be honored by the glory of incorruptibility. Therefore, all who abide by this rule—the new way of life according to Christ—and reject the old, useless and powerless circumcision, shall ﬁnd peace with God and freedom from the sins which had provoked God to war against us. Then shall they be found worthy of His love for mankind, no longer hated as enemies of God, but counted worthy of mercy, for peace has been made with them by the cross and by grace. Such people as these are properly called Israel, because they see God. But those who are not like them, though they be Israelites by descent, are falsely called by that name. Paul took this from David who said, Peace be upon Israel (Pss. 124:5, 127:6).
17a. From henceforth let no man trouble me. The Apostle does not say this because he is shrinking back and losing heart. It is impossible that such a thing should happen to the one who exhorted, Be instant in season, out of season (II Tim. 4:2). Rather, he intends the laws that he has set in place to be immoveable and unshaken dogmas of the faith. He speaks in this deﬁnitive manner, so that the Galatians would not expect to hear anything different from him, but would accept with complete assurance that this is, indeed, his preaching.
17b. For I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. “Against those who would tell you that I am a hypocrite for having preached circumcision in other places, I have a defense: the dangers and the marks in my body that I sustained for Christ. These bear clearer witness than any words of the perils I undertook, bearing the brunt of the battle, not for the law, but for the doctrines of Christ.” Paul does not say, “I have,” but rather, “I bear these marks, like a trophy or a royal standard, and I take pride in these doctrines.”
18. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. By this prayer on their behalf the Apostle demonstrates that it was not out of anger or hatred towards them that he said what he did. But this is not only a prayer; it is also an instruction that sets a seal upon everything that he has already said. He reminds them of the grace they have enjoyed, not from the law, but from believing in Christ. Note that Paul did not say “with you,” but with your spirit. He did so to lead them away from carnal thoughts, which are opposed to the Spirit. At the same time he shows them that it was not from the law that they received the Spirit, but by grace. Furthermore, it it is neither the law nor circumcision, but grace alone which is able to sustain the Spirit in them, just as grace alone has bestowed it. By calling them brethren, the Apostle reminds them of the baptismal font, from which we were all born again, as if from the womb, and became brothers in the Spirit and sons of the one Father, God. None of this was accomplished by the law.
May the grace of God be with us as we lead spiritual lives. May we never cast the divine sanctiﬁcation of the Holy Spirit into the muck of sins, but increase this sanctity more and more in ourselves, by the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, Who has revealed to us the new, spiritual life by casting off the old, ﬂeshly life. To Whom be glory unto the ages. Amen.