Paul continues his exhortation to sow to the Spirit, and then returns to ring the final changes in his battle with the Judaists.

IV. Sow to the Spirit — Do Good to All Men (6:9-10)

7. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8. 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. 9. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 10. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

7-8. “Be not deceived,” Paul warned them. “God will not be taken for a fool.” There is a rule of life that we reap what we sow, both in terms of identity – we can only reap the kind of thing that we sow (Job 4:8; Prov 22:8; Hos 8:7; 10:12–13) – and in terms of proportion – we can only reap abundantly if we sow abundantly (Prov 11:24; 2 Cor 9:6). The eternal outcome for us is decided by our day to day choices.1

We may try to tell ourselves that it is not so: that we can spend our time indulging ourselves, and still reap everlasting life. We may live in the comfortable bubble of this illusion our whole life. But we are only fooling ourselves. “Be not deceived!” There is no future in sowing to the flesh. “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Rom 8:13). “A man sows to the flesh when he serves himself, when his life is lived for self and the gratification of every desire” (J Carter). If we sow to righteousness, however, we sow for the Lord and his pleasure, and we shall reap accordingly.

The truth is that we can only grow close to God, come to know Him, become one of His children in spirit and truth, if we spend time in reading, and thought, and prayer, and praise. We can only become an authentic disciple of the Lord Jesus if we give time to serving others in his spirit; if we go about our daily work and our home life and our contributions to the community with him in mind. There is no other way. There is no shortcut. These things necessarily require the investment of mental space and emotional energy and time and personal labour. If we truly love our Father and the Lord Jesus, and in their spirit, those about us, we shall delight in spending as much time as possible on these things. We will not feel them to be an imposition but an opportunity.

9. Paul exhorts, “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” In the natural world no harvest is assured. Conditions are often poor. Sometimes disaster strikes. But the harvest of the Spirit is assured. If we persist in well doing, and do not give up, we shall certainly reap an abundant harvest of eternal life “in due season,” that is, at the judgement seat of Christ. “To him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward” (Prov 11:18; Isa 3:10; Jas 3:18).

10. Paul concludes, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” While the life of faith sometimes calls for notable demonstrations of faith and courage, every day brings an abundance of opportunities to follow our Master in small acts of love and kindness. This is what the Lord commends in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt 25:31–46). While the household of faith is our first priority, love knows no boundaries. The Lord was sent to gather the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but his compassion moved him to heal a centurion’s servant, the man known as Legion, a Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter, and many others among the crowds who flocked to him from far and wide. There are so many opportunities! Let us rise to them whenever they present themselves, obeying the law of Christ, and fulfilling his purpose with us.

V. Conclusion (6:11–18)

Few things remain to be said; but Paul will carry on the battle for the hearts of the Galatians to the very end of the letter. He explains why he has written the letter himself, refuses to glory except in the cross of Christ; and insists on the premier importance of the new creation. He concludes with prayer for the Israel of God, and the Galatians in particular.

A. Paul’s Autograph (6:11)

11. Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.

11. Paul often worked with a brother who acted as his scribe or amanuensis, freeing him to think and to frame his words. Sometimes their names are included toward the end of the letters they wrote, and occasionally they slip in a personal greeting of their own. Paul would sometimes take the pen and add a greeting in his own hand, personalising the letter and authenticating it as his own (cf 1 Cor 16:21; Col 4:18; 2 Thess 3:17 cf 2:2).

However, this letter was different. Although some explain Paul’s words in this verse as applying only to the final paragraphs, the Greek is best translated “See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!” (NIV), comprehending the whole of the letter. Such was the gravity of the situation, such was the intensity of Paul’s emotion, that he must write this letter himself. A professional scribe might write quickly and neatly, but Paul, greatly moved, writes in larger letters. “The boldness of the handwriting answers to the force of the Apostle’s convictions. The size of the characters will arrest the attention of his readers in spite of themselves” (JB Lightfoot).

B. Paul’s Adversaries (6:12–13)

12. As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. 13. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.

12. We might have thought that Paul was winding down, the battle fought and won: but the battle continues to the very last verse. Paul exposes the utter selfishness of his opponents. They desired to make “a good showing” (NET) from a fleshly point of view. They were not concerned for the spiritual well-being of those they put under the knife. They were concerned for their own reputation in and acceptance by the Jewish community. They desired to believe in the Messiahship of Jesus while avoiding persecution for his name’s sake. They were unwilling to accept the stigma of the cross, unwilling to “take up their cross, and follow him.” That was why they compelled their adherents to be circumcised.

13. Paul takes away even the thing in which they would boast: their obedience to the Law. “Neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the Law.” They themselves are not even devoted adherents of the system to which they desired to bring the Gentiles into obedience. Rather, they wanted to present their involvement in Christianity as participation in a successful missionary movement bringing the nations to Judaism. They wanted to boast in the number of Gentile proselytes they had made. They wanted to “glory in your flesh,” Paul warns. The painful rite they inflicted on those who would listen to them was all for their own glory.

C. Paul’s Boast (6:14–17)

14. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is cruci­fied unto me, and I unto the world. 15. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. 16. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. 17. From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.

14. Paul would never boast in his converts, as if they were his work, though he “laboured more abundantly” than all the other apostles. His mouth would be filled with loud words clamouring for attention, yes: but his theme would be “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” While the Judaists shrank from it as a shameful thing, Paul associated himself with it, and drew attention to it. “I am crucified with Christ!”

He adds, “by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” While the Judaists “went out into” the world, and the world accepted them and listened to them, Paul may be thinking specifically of the Jewish world here, which the old Saul had valued so highly, in which he had desired to play a prominent role, for which he had lived his life before being ap­prehended by Christ on the road to Damascus. Now his attachment to that world has been permanently severed by the crucifixion of Jesus Christ his Lord. The new Paul stands with the Crucified, and against the world, its values, its purposes, and its traditions.

15. Paul repeats his earlier declaration (5:6). There he had said, “neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.” Here it is “a new creature,” or “a new creation.” However, the two are one: for the transforming power and the unmistakable identifier of the new creation is “faith which worketh by love.” A person in whom this power is at work is individually “a new creation,” born again from above by the Spirit of the living God, outwardly signified by baptism (John 3:1–8; 2 Cor 5:17), and outworked in “keeping the commandments of God” (1 Cor 7:19). Together, such people are the building blocks of the new world that God is constructing piece by piece, on the foundation that He has laid.

16. “As many as walk according to this rule,” Paul prays, “peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” He refers to balakab, the Jewish way of life according to the Law of Moses, as mediated through the traditions of the rabbis. Circumcision was a commitment to “walk” or live in this way. But the true rule for the Way – as the disciples themselves were known in the early days of Christianity – is “a new creation,” “faith which worketh by love,” “keeping the commandments of God.” Together, such people are “the Israel of God,” whether Jew or Gentile. The blessings and the promises of God are theirs. May peace and mercy be upon them individually and collectively!2

17. Paul finishes with a personal plea: “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” While the Judaists sought the acceptance and approval of the world, Paul’s body bore the stigmata, the physical scars that demonstrated his wholehearted commitment to the mission entrusted to him personally by the Lord Jesus: to take the gospel into all the world. Elsewhere he speaks of “bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus” (2 Cor 4:10), and “filling up the afflictions of Christ” (Col 1:24). Among those scars were the mementos of his stoning in Galatia, at Lystra, instigated by his Jewish enemies. These were proof enough of his genuineness; and they of all people ought to remember them.

D. Paul’s Blessing (6:18)

18. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

Not the law, but grace; not the flesh, but the spirit. Paul’s brief final prayer captures the essence of his message. For “their spirit,” the response to God’s work fruiting within them, Paul prays that “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” might “be with” them. Only this can conceive and foster the growing presence of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” This is our prayer, which we might also affirm with an “Amen!”

Footnotes

  1. But cf ironically Jer 12:13! And note in the Oxford KJV margin a rare typographical error: the reference should be to Lev 26:16, not 20:16.
  2. The Bible Background Commentary notes that Paul’s prayer, “Peace be on Israel,” is a classic Jewish prayer. It is based on Psa 125:5; 128:6, is heard in the synagogues as the final benediction of the Amidah, and is frequently inscribed on Jewish tombs. It is a lovely antithesis to his opening curse against those who preach another gospel (1:8–9).