Galatians 6:14-18

14 But 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. 

15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.

16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

17 From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.

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

God forbid (v.14) — “far be it from me” with the emphasis on me. The Judaizers might preach law to save themselves from persecution, but Paul won’t.

boast (v.14) = exult

cross (v.14) — in contrast with those referred to in verse 12

world (v.14) — ceremonies and rites — the characteristics of the world that appeal to men

crucified (v.14) — accursed (Galatians 3:13) — There can be no compromise between the believer and the world.

The act of circumcision (v.15) affects only the outward man.

new creation (v.15) — new in quality, different in character

walk (v.16) — order one’s conduct

rule (v.16) = measuring rod, standard, principle. In this case, those who walk by the principle of verses 14-15.

mercy (v.16) = outward manifestation of pity — assumes need on the part of the recipient and adequate resources on the part of the giver

Israel of God (v.16) — When he adds “And upon the Israel of God,” he does not indicate a second class of believers; he is indicating all who put their trust in Christ. They are the true “Israel”; they are the spiritual descendants of Abraham and of Jacob. The very word is in itself a rebuke to the Galatian heresy. Those converts were being tempted to believe that the true “heirs of the promise” were the Christians who might also adopt the Mosaic ritual. Paul insists that the true spiritual Israel consists of those who glory in the cross and in the power of the risen Christ. — Erdman, page 126.

Erdman’s view is the popular one, and it may be the right one. But I think Paul may, in fact, be referring to two groups of believers — those who walk by grace through faith, as he does on the one hand, and, on the other hand, those kingdom Jews in Judea who were still believing in the immediate return of the Messiah but were not pressuring the Gentiles to live by the law.

trouble (v.17) — embarrass by distracting attention or disturbing rest (here). Paul has rested his case against the Judaizers; let them bother him no more.

for I bear (v.17) — emphatic “I” — Paul himself — not applicable to all believers

bear (v.17) — as a banner — with pride

marks (v.17) — branding scars. Paul’s evidence of his sufferings for preaching the gospel — contrasted with the Judaizers’ meaningless circumcision

Brethren (v.18) — not used at the start of the letter.

A final delicate touch is found in the last word of his petition. It is the word “brethren.” A reader may at times supposed that Paul’s severity had made him forget the true relation which he sustained to his disciples in Galatia. This last syllable indicates that the apostle does not think of them last of all even as his pupils and followers. He reminds them that they and he are all one in Christ Jesus, heirs of the same promise, recipients of the same grace. They have been saved by faith, and his whole desire is that they may maintain their position as Christian brethren, not as servants of the law but as free heirs of the grace of God. — Erdman, page 128.

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