Galatians – winding down

Final chapter:

My brothers and sisters, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads.
Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.
Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh, but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all and especially for those of the family of faith.
See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything, but a new creation is everything! As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
From now on, let no one make trouble for me, for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen (Gal. 6:1-18).

Ever so practical (after the rant… the necessary rant, so we will call it ‘after the clarity to establish reality’). Bear one another’s burdens, and we must carry our own loads. Then he picks up the pen himself (v. 11 and following) and brings things back to what I consider is his view on the world, so much so that circumcision, that central sign of Israel’s covenant is not an issue (so can never become an issue, and by implication, neither can the law as a whole be made into an issue), only NEW CREATION counts; the change of era is here, that is the ONLY issue. Nothing is the same NOW. Everything else is viewed through the new reality of new creation, new creation that has been brought into being through the cross.

And a comment on ‘the Israel of God’. One can argue that Paul always uses the term ‘Israel’ to apply to ethnic Israel, and that could be true. However here he is using the term and writing of God’s Israel in a book where he has stressed who are Abraham’s descendants – those of faith where there is no Jew / Gentile divide, hence I favour that he is using the term (and remember he is a Jew) of those of faith, regardless of ethnicity. The sentence that contains this phrase immediately follows that of ‘circumcision not counting’ and only ‘new creation’ having value. If he is (and I am not convinced that he is) using the phrase to have an exclusive ethnic content it would be following the discussion with Judaism as to who is Israel, as ‘not all Israel is Israel’. Either way, he using the term primarily, or exclusively, as a faith term. And ending the letter with ‘brothers and sisters, so let it be’ might be a normal way to close off but in the context of this letter it was totally appropriate. He a Jew by ethnicity and they Gentiles are one family.

One thought on “Galatians – winding down

  1. I wonder what new creation really means and what could it look like? I certainly don’t understand it but perhaps link the phrase with ‘may your kingdom come’ yet not really getting what that could be either. Shalom and freedom for whole world maybe? Crazy freedom seems a lofty and impossible occurrence where we sit right now but without hope we have nothing. I pray we will see a time when we will beat our swords into ploughs etc. but as things stand now we are miles off. I suppose as the passage says we need not to grow weary of doing good and sometimes it really is wearying especially when things continue to be difficult and no breakthroughs seen? Yet Paul exhorts us to carry on anyway. To battle against the flesh with the fruits of the spirit is so hard too but utterly necessary. That’s where the discipline comes in and it is not fluffy or sugar coated sweetness it is an utterly gut wrenching turning away from the darkness and the rage (and oh yes it is so very enticing sometimes) and walking into the redemptive work of Christ and the hard path of loving anyway? Thank you for this series Martin it is very challenging and weighty with a lot to take in.

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