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The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians
Explanation of the Epistle (contd.)
4- The Practical Application of the Gospel of Christ (5:13 – 6:16, contd.)
+ Christian Freedom is led by the Spirit and is not an opportunity for the flesh (5:13-18)
+ Works of the flesh (5: 19-21)
+ Fruits of the Spirit (5:22, 23, All have been discussed in Part 6).
+ Walking in the Spirit (5: 24-6:10):
* To confront the desires of the flesh that lusts against the Spirit, those who are Christ’s (i.e. those to whom Christ is the goal and the means in all life matters), have their attitude which characterizes them “they have crucified the flesh (sinful nature) with its passions and desires” (5:24). Faith in Christ necessitates crucifixion with Him (Gal 2:20), i.e. crucifying the old man (Rom 6:6), so that the believer will not be enslaved to sin. The passions are the powerful and conspicuous emotions, and the desires are the inner inclinations of the flesh. They cause the instincts to deviate from their godly purpose. Life in Christ binds man’s desires and passions just as the flesh is bound by the cross until it dies. The soul that realizes that it is indebted to the Spirit is inclined to the Spirit, and will “walk in the Spirit” (5:25). It allows the Spirit to have victory over the flesh, because “we are debtors -- not to the flesh” (Rom 8:12).
* When we walk in the Spirit we reject pride, self admiration, feeling better than others, inciting anger or envy, and sacrificing the peace of the community.
* On the contrary, when we fulfill the law of Christ, we carry each others’ burdens; we consider their trials as ours (6:2). “Who is weak, and I am not (do not feel) weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?” (2Cor 11:29). Our attitude toward those who have fallen in sin should be in a spirit of meekness “considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (6:1). We are all under the sufferings. If we walk in the Spirit in meekness and humility and raise up those who have fallen we will not only rescue them, but also ourselves, since we learn the lesson and avoid falling in the same temptation, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands (firm) take heed lest he fall” (1Cor 10:12).
* Let us be careful not to think more highly of ourselves. “Let no one deceive himself” (1Cor 3:18). “But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in one another (without comparing himself to somebody else)” (6:4). Self examination and self assessment with courage and honesty under the light of the word of God and the Holy Spirit, who exposes our consciences, is the right way to straighten our way of life, and to cleanse our life from anything that is not holy. Everyone should look at himself and do not look to others, “for each one shall bear his own load” (6:5).
* One of our spiritual responsibilities is to share with others what we have earned, “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches” (6:6). Churchly life is a communion between the servants and those whom they serve in all good things, “they had all things in common” (Acts 4:32). All: the poor, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow, have a share in the common good.
* Finally, the reward will be of the same kind as the deed, “Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (6:7). Those who walk according to the flesh, from the flesh they will reap destruction, and those who walk according to the Spirit, from the Spirit they will reap eternal life (6:7, 8).
* In spite of the obstacles and oppositions, we should not retreat, despair, or fail in doing good, but we should be patient, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap (a harvest) if we do not lose heart (give up)” (6:9). “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave; be strong” (1Cor 16:13). “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all (people), especially to those who are of the household of faith (belong to the family of believers)” (6:10). Our concern for the believers does not preclude following the primary commandment, “do good to all people.”
+ Christ is our goal, not circumcision or uncircumcision (6: 11-16):
St. Paul picks up his pen and writes at the end of his epistle, as he used to do in other epistles (2Thes 3:17, 18), “See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!” (6:11). Whether he intentionally wrote this with large letters, or because of his weak sight, or tired hands; he intended to draw their attention to what he wants to say at the conclusion of his epistle, which is the same topic he started with:
“Those who compel you to be circumcised” as a cosmetic surgery in the flesh, are trying to avoid being persecuted for Christ’s sake. Their goal is to satisfy the fanatic Jews, and not to be exposed to their anger. The truth is that those who get circumcised, and want you to be circumcised, themselves do not follow the law; they want only to be proud and boast that they abide by the law. As for me “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (6:14).
The real goal is the person of Christ who was crucified for the salvation of the world. The cross stands as a barrier between me and the world. I am crucified to the world and the world is crucified to me. These words remind us of what he said at the beginning of his epistle, “I have been crucified with Christ; It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (2:20). The debate concerning what is better, circumcision or uncircumcision, as if they have a role in salvation, should be stopped, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything; but a new creation (that is what counts)” (6:15). Circumcision or uncircumcision does not change life, but the living faith in Christ that is “Faith working through love” (5:6) is the only means that can grant us the crucifixion of the flesh with its lusts and desires.
This is the law of Christ that surpasses any other law. “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God” (6:16). St. Paul did not forget Israel, either those who believed of the Jews and entered the Church of Christ, or the rest who will be saved at the end of times. (Rom 9:27, 11:26). Other scholars consider St. Paul here calling the Church “Israel of God”.
5- Concluding Words (6: 17, 18)
At the end of his epistle, St. Paul asks the Galatians not to cause him more troubles above what they already caused, “From now on, let no one trouble me”. And he reminds them that he carries in his body a lot of sufferings from his beatings, his jails, his flagellation, his dying, his stoning, and other sufferings (2Cor 11:23-25), describing himself as one who bears on his body “the marks of the Lord Jesus” (6:17). He has been united with Christ in the body and the spirit, such that the sufferings of Christ have become his sufferings also. The final words of his epistle, “Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen”. God’s grace is the greatest gift that the believer can ask for his brother, or the servant can ask for the Church he serves.
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