The apostle Paul ends his letter to the Galatian churches with instructions for them to do good as followers of Christ. In the last paragraph the apostle Paul has described the fruit of the Spirit as the result of walking by the Spirit. Chapter 6 began by describing the spiritual good we must do for each other as we help those who are caught in sin. Yet walking in the Spirit includes doing good in all aspects of life. Listen to the exhortations of the apostle Paul to do good as we read Galatians 6:6-18.
Do Good To Your Spiritual Teacher (6:6-8)
Paul begins by teaching these Christians to share all good things with the one who teaches the gospel. There are many places in the scriptures where we see the apostle Paul needing to tell Christians that they should financially support teachers of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:9-14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18). But notice how Paul pictures this. He does not want to paint this as a duty. Rather, Paul describes this as an opportunity for sharing. Historically, I have read enough books and heard enough stories about preachers of the gospel being very poorly paid. There are still some who think the preacher should not have anything. I have seen churches try to pay to bare minimum, rather than be generous, toward those who teach the gospel. I experienced this in a gospel meeting I was in where the attitude was that I didn’t need to be paid for the work done. Being a preacher is frightening financially because he is completely dependent upon the generosity of the congregation. He is entrusting his livelihood to the church. I know one preacher who was recently fired and given two weeks notice. How do you expect him to pay the bills until he moves? This is an evil that is practiced when Christians treat Christians this way. I am grateful to you that you have always been generous and have never felt what others have experienced. As a congregation we try to be generous to the preachers we have come for our gospel meetings. We must teach and adopt this attitude of generosity and sharing with each other, including teachers of the gospel.
Notice the reason why for us to have generous hearts toward those who teach the gospel. Paul teaches a common principle before God: what you sow, you will reap. God knows and God sees. God knows if we are generous. Do not be deceived! God is not mocked! Paul is telling these Christians that how we use our money matters to God. Sowing to the flesh reaps corruption. Doing good is how we sow to the Spirit, which results in eternal life. What will we do with the money and possessions we have? Paul tells us that there are only two fields we can sow in. We either are sowing to our own flesh or we are sowing to the Spirit. Doing good has eternal value before God and we will reap what we are sowing with the finances God has given us. We cannot think that our lack of generosity in the things God has given us is going to go well for us spiritually and eternally.
Do Good To All (6:9-10)
Since the principle stands that God is not mocked and we will reap what we sow, Paul takes the application to our lives even further. We need to not grow weary in doing good. Do not quit being generous. Do not fail to recognize and show that our wealth comes from the Lord. As soon as you grow tired of doing good, giving to others, and being generous, remind yourself of these words: “In due season we will reap if we do not give up.” God will repay us for our work in doing good.
Not only must we do good toward those who teach the gospel, we need to do good to all people, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ (6:10). The motivation is given to us: in due season we will reap. Our sacrifices and our generosity are not for nothing. Put this another way: the reason we do good is because we are doing for God. We are sowing to the Spirit. We are choosing to sow in the spiritual field. We are not doing this because the other person deserves it. We do not do good because we expect something in return. We are doing good because we are doing good for the Lord. This is exactly what Jesus taught in Matthew 25:31-46. What we are doing to others is what we are doing to the Lord.
Glory In The Cross (6:11-18)
In verse 11 Paul takes the pen and writes these final words to emphasize this final message. Scribes (amanuensis) typically would write the letter for the author so he could hear how it would sound when the letter was read. So he takes the pen for these final words to these Christians.
Paul begins by telling them that the reason these Jewish Christian agitators are telling them to be circumcised was to avoid persecution themselves. This is sad, but sadly it does happen even today. People take doctrinal positions, not because they are convicted by the scriptures, but because they want to belong to a certain group of people. They want to be considered sound and not be rebuked or persecuted by certain people. So these agitators are using these Galatian Christians to keep themselves from being persecuted (6:12) and so they can boast in what they have made them do (6:13). Paul notes that these who are adamant about these Galatian Christians keeping the law do not keep the themselves. Paul has addressed this a few times in this letter concerning the inability of keeping the whole law. This is another picture of false teachers. They try to get everyone else to do something that they themselves do not want to do.
This brings Paul to his final point to these Christians and what it looks like to do good. Paul’s boast will only be in the cross of Jesus. In our language, boasting is equivalent to bragging. But that is not always what this Greek word exactly means in New Testament times. Paul is not saying that he is bragging. This Greek word also means to glory in, rejoice in, or exult in. Therefore, Paul’s glory, delight, joy, and confidence will never be in another person but only in the cross. They are not to glory in being circumcised. They are not to rejoice in their popularity or appearance or any other physical or superficial thing. The cross is what Paul will glory in. Think about how degrading and strange this would sound to their ears. The cross in those days was a symbol of an unspeakable horror. The cross was detestable and disgraceful. Paul says he will glory in that. He will find his joy in the cross of Jesus.
This is why we do what we do. This is why we will do good to all. This is why we are generous. Our joy and our delight will be in the cross alone. This is the proper motivation for Christian service. Listen to Paul: it is through the cross of Jesus that the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Paul says that the ways of the world are dead to him and he is dead to the world. This is the life of Christian. I have a new life and new joy in the cross of Jesus and my confidence will be in that alone. Notice the beautiful picture Paul gives to emphasize this point.
“For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but a new creation” (6:15). All that matters is the new creation. The new creation changes everything. Paul made a similar statement earlier in Galatians 5:6.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6 ESV)
We live according to a whole new way. The world is dead to us because of the cross of Jesus. This new creation imagery is what Isaiah prophesied would occur when Christ came (Isaiah 43:15-19; 32:12-18; 35:10; 65:17-22; 66:22-24). Many of these texts may be in the apostle’s mind when he declares that “new creation” is the answer to the circumcision question. Circumcision nor uncircumcision count for anything because it is a new creation. What matters is the new birth. What matters is a complete transformation of life. New birth is how we are in the family of Christ receiving the blessings of God, not circumcision. In Christ we will have a new nature with changed desires, affections, and habits. A new creation is a wonderful picture of new life to us who are dead in our sins (cf. Ephesians 2:1-3). The cross of Jesus has made us a new creation which is why we live completely transformed lives. Being dead to the world is life in Christ.
Look at verse 16. This is the rule to follow. Peace and mercy on those who do not glory in themselves or what they have done but in the cross of Jesus. Life in Jesus is how one belongs to Israel. There are two ways to read verse 16. It is the matter of a Greek word that is translated in the ESV, NASB, and NKJV as “and” in the phrase, “and upon the Israel of God.” It sounds like there are two groups, and that is one way to understand what Paul is writing. Peace and mercy upon those who walk by this rule and upon the Israel of God. The other way this Greek word can be translated is “even.” Therefore, the meaning would be that those who follow this rule are the Israel of God. The HCSB, NIV, and NLT follow this rendering.
Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God. (Galatians 6:16 NIV)
I believe this way makes more sense of what Paul would argue. First, Paul would not argue the separation of two groups in Christ, Jews and Gentiles. He has always argued that there is now one body in Christ. Back in Galatians 3:28 he wrote that there was no more Jew or Greek for we are all one in Christ Jesus. Second, this rendering fits the message of Galatians. Who are those who belong to the true Israel of God? Not those who perform circumcision, as these agitators have argued. Rather, those who are crucified to the world and are a new creation in Christ (5:15). These are the true Israel. Using Galatians 5:6, those who are practicing faith working through love, not circumcision, are those who belong to the Israel of God. Those who glory in the Lord and not in themselves are the true Israel. Walk in this truth.
Consider how verse 17 fits this beautiful. The marks on the body of being the Israel of God is not circumcision. Paul bears on his body the marks of Jesus, but it is not circumcision. His marks on his body are from a life fully given to Jesus. Paul alluded to this in Galatians 4:29 that those who are born according to the Spirit are persecuted by those born according to the flesh, just as Isaac was persecuted by Ishmael. You will bear the marks for the cause of Christ. Do not grow weary in doing good. Do not stop giving your life completely to Jesus. Do not stop being generous. Do not stop investing in your spiritual life. Our glory is in the cross of Jesus. The world is crucified to you and you are crucified to the world.