Monday, June 20, 2011

Galatians Part 12: Conclusion—6:17-18 and Summary

IV. Conclusion—6:17-18

6:17—From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus—Paul is actually confident when he tells the Galatians that they should henceforth not cause him anymore trouble of the kind that erupted among them. He already bears the marks of Christ as the cost he paid to bring the gospel to the Galatians. Paul experienced many sufferings, some to the point of death, for the sake of the gospel; and, this should be proof enough for the Galatians that he is genuine with them and that his gospel is genuine. “But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.” (5:11)

Image courtesy Frank Moore Photography
6:18—The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen—Apart from the “amen” (“let it be”) at the end of this epistle, Paul’s last word to the Galatians is “brothers.” It points to two things. First, Paul still counts them as Christians and that they have not yet apostatised by rejecting the gospel of grace for the Law. Second, he ends by showing them affection. Paul wants them to know that it was because of his concern and love for them that he wrote such a strong worded letter.
“[Paul’s] prayer is not only that God may bestow upon them his grace in large measure, but that they may have a proper feeling of it in their hearts. Then only is it truly enjoyed by us, when it comes to our spirit. We ought therefore to entreat that God would prepare in our souls a habitation for his grace.”1


What have we learnt from studying the book of Galatians? Paul is very serious in this epistle concerning the claim of the Judaizers that the Law has to be added to the gospel to effect justification. The gospel that has additions such as the Law, or anything else to make us acceptable before God is no gospel at all (1:7). Those who preach these perverted non-gospels are to be accursed (1:8-9).

The truth of the gospel must remain and we must not stand for a perverted gospel even for one hour (2:5). It is our responsibility, since there are no New Testament apostles to help us today, to stand up for the truth of the gospel against anyone who pervert the gospel (2:11-14). It is by faith in Christ that we are justified and not by keeping the Law.

Since we are crucified with Christ we have died to the claims of the Law (2:20). As a result we can live lives that are Christ-centred and not self-centred.

Paul equates receiving the Spirit (3:1-14) with salvation by faith and contrasts it with the Law. It is this receiving of the Spirit—salvation—by faith that is reckoned as righteousness, which is the blessing of Abraham that we have received. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law so that all that are in Christ may receive the blessing of Abraham (3:13-14). Since the promises spoken to Abraham were meant for his seed, and that seed is Christ, we as Christians have received the promises of Abraham (3:16).

Before faith came—that is the Christian faith in Christ—the Law existed as a tutor for us to point us to Christ (3:25). However, since faith came we are no longer under this tutor since as Christians we are all grown sons of God through faith in Christ (3:25-26). Since we belong to Christ we are Abraham’s descendants and therefore we are heirs according to the promises to Abraham (3:29).

Observing days, months, seasons and years are weak and elemental and bring enslavement (4:8-11). In order to show enslavement to the Law, Paul gives us the allegory of Hagar and Sarah (4:21-31). He uses Hagar and equates her with Mount Sinai, physical Jerusalem and therefore the Law which leads to slavery. On the other hand he equates Sarah with the heavenly Jerusalem and her children—Christians—to be children of promise like Isaac.

Circumcision, the sign of the Old Covenant, will make Christ of no benefit to us. It will cause a severance with Christ (5:2-4). That is, if we take circumcision in a theological sense to effect our justification. On the other hand, if we live in faith in Christ it does not matter whether we are physically circumcised or not. Apart from hanging onto the Law, to be saved by it, we should not go to the other extreme to use our freedom to live in sin (5:13)—antinomianism. We must conduct ourselves as if we have the Spirit in our lives to combat this antinomianism (5:16ff).

We need to sow to the Spirit in our lives and not to the flesh guided by the Law (6:7ff). God is not mocked. If we use the Law to sow to the flesh we will reap corruption. If we sow to the Spirit in faith we will reap eternal life.

Soli Deo Gloria

End Notes

[1] Calvin, John, The Commentaries of John Calvin on the Epistle to the Galatians, From the Calvin Translation Society edition found online at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL).

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