Galatians - Lesson 15

Galatians 6:2-18

Discussion of what the Bible teaches about the extent to which your eternal destiny is tied to your behavior and the meaning of the term, "new creation."

Douglas Moo
Lesson 15
Watching Now
Galatians 6:2-18

Galatians 6:2-18

I. Galatians 6:2-6

II. Galatians 6:7-9

A. Armenian vs. Calvinist perspective

B. Speech act theory

III. Galatians 6:10

IV. Galatians 6:11-18

A. Paul's perspective as a former Pharisee

B. Verse 14

C. Two climactic images

D. Israel of God

E. Verse 17

F. Verse 18

  • Galatians is about how you get yourself right with God and also how the Gospel is an inclusive power. 

  • Paul's autobiographical reasons for why you should listen to him.

  • Paul's interaction with the apostles in Jerusalem and an encounter with the apostle Peter. Dr. Moo challenges you to define the Gospel in light of the themes in the text so far. (The handout on the Gospel that Dr. Moo mentions at about the 44 minute mark is not available.)

  • Paul framed his preaching of the Gospel in the context of both the fulfillment of promises of God to Israel and the contemporary images of the Greco-Roman tradition. The Good News is not simply a matter of individuals experiencing a relationship with God, but also a broader theme of God establishing his rule over the universe through Jesus. [There is some intermittent static in the audio for about the first 30 minutes]

  • Introduction of the term, "justification." Also a discussion of the meaning of the phrase, "works of the Law."

  • Paul contrasts the ideas of faith and the Law. One way to describe the Galatian controversy is to determine who has the correct reading of the Old Testament. 

  • The meaning and implications of the doctrine of justification. One notable distinction is whether you are justified apart from your works, according to your works or on the basis of your works.

  • Discussion of the metaphors of the Law as a guardian, and being adopted into God’s family. 

  • Paul uses rhetorical techniques that were common in his day to persuade people. He also refers to Old Testament passages to instruct the Galatians in theire conduct. Dr. Moo discusses the process of translation.

  • Appropriation of the Old Testament in the New Testament includes both explicit and implicit quotations.

  • Discussion of the meaning and application of the term, "by faith alone" as it relates to the subject of justification.

  • Paul reminds the Galatians that they started well and need to finish well. The Spirit-led righteous life results in authentic community. Discussion of the idea of freedom to live as we are created to live.

  • To what extent does the Law of Moses provide specific direction for the way we should live as disciples of Jesus?

  • Discussion of what the Bible teaches about the extent to which your eternal destiny is tied to your behavior and the meaning of the term, "new creation."

Dr. Douglas Moo, Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School, is an acknowledged expert in the writings and theology of Paul. His commentary on Romans is among the best ever written, and he is working on a new commentary on Galatians. In this class, Professor Moo will walk you through the book of Galatians and will spend considerable time summarizing Paul's basic theology.

We do not offer this class for credit. The comments that Dr. Moo makes regarding assignments and credits refer only to students who were taking the course for credit at the time of our filming.

Dr. Douglas Moo
Galatians 6:2-18
Lesson Transcript


I. Galatians 6:2-6

‘Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.’

Following the logic of this paragraph is a little challenging. Paul seems to move around to various issues. You can see that the general concern is with the life of the community. So maybe this is one of these paragraphs in thinking about it, we will have to be content with the generalized topic of it. You can see in verse 3 Paul again warns the people about being conceited which picks up what he was saying in verse 26 in not becoming conceited and now verse 3 in saying that if people think they are something, they are deceiving themselves. Paul is perhaps saying not to get involved in these comparisons with others in terms of where you are spiritually. You need to judge yourself against the standard of the Law of Christ and of the Spirit and his leading and guidance in your life. It becomes destructive if we get involved in these comparisons with each other. That leads to think more of ourselves than we should which in turn can lead to deceit and pride and even discouragement. Verse 5 says that each should carry their own load which sounds like a contradiction of verse 2 of carrying each other burdens. The language is very similar here and obviously it is the context again as context is everything sometimes in interpreting Scripture. In verse 2, we are to carry each other’s burdens; we need to involve ourselves in the lives of others for their good, to restore them when they are erring; to encourage them when they are struggling. But each one carries one’s own load in the sense that ultimately of my accountability is to God, is to Christ and others do not judge that. I have to carry that before the Lord as there is that point of individual responsibility. A verse for those of us in ministry; the one who receives instructions in word should share all good things with their instructor. These good things that one shares are material things, but there is some debate in terms of interpretation here. Almost surely that is financial here; it is talking about support of some kind.

II. Galatians 6:7-9

‘Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’

This is Paul way of bringing home the importance of what he has been saying. If you sow to please the flesh from the flesh you will reap destruction. If you sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit you will reap eternal life. Don’t become weary in doing good for in the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up. The warning here is addressed apparently to Christians; if you are engaged in feeding the flesh as it were, that will ultimately bring destruction. On the other hand, those who are feeding the Spirit or allowing the Spirit to be the dominating force, to have his will and his purposes, his way with us that will bring eternal life. This is one of many passages where the contrast of eternal life and eternal destruction or condemnation in terms of the contrast going on here. One of those passages that talks about eternal destiny of individuals tied to behavior, tied to what we do.

A. Armenian vs Calvinist Perspective

I just want to look at some of the options here, the Armenian explanation if I may put it that way. These warning are serious and significant and that someone who is a genuine believer may indeed so lose their passion for the faith and become so disconnected with Christ because of a failure to believe that they end up sowing to the flesh and end up eternally destroyed. For those who hold more to a Calvinist perspective on things, in other words those who think that Scripture on the whole is best read as teaching perseverance or eternal security take a number of different options here; some think the warning only applies only to false believers. In other words, here, if a person were to begin sowing to the flesh to please the flesh, would itself be an indication that this person is not in relationship with Christ and has never had a genuine relationship with Christ. So in this case, the warning has the function of saying we are going to unmask the pretend believers in the midst. Remember that Scripture is often written to a mixed audience. The authors of Scripture are writing to people professing Christ, who are meeting regularly in the church, but of whom no one can know absolutely perfectly the Spiritual state of the person. And of course our own preaching generally takes place in that sort of context as well. Most of the people we preach to are probably claiming to be Christians; some obviously aren’t. We always have to be aware that some of those claiming to be Christians may in fact not be. A warning like this may particularly apply to them. Another option is that the issue is not eternal destiny; it has to do with this life, with prospering in this life, physical strength and vitality as opposed to physical illness or even death. I don’t think that option works in any of the text. Here, it is especially difficult because of the explicit reference to eternal life in verse 8 and the contrasts seems in the reference to destruction, however we way we translate the word must refer to eternal destiny as well. The third point here as referred to by Tom Schreiner who argues that the warning is designed to motivate true believers. It is not a warning that ever will actually come to past; the threat will never be fulfilled as it were but it is a way to motivate true believers.

B. Speech Act Theory

Another way to think about this, not in contrast to these but as another layer; I think what is helper in thinking about this is to think a little about certain dimensions of Speech Act Theory; it has been an important movement in understanding the way language works in the last thirty years and has been applied fairly widely to Biblical studies in a variety of ways. It does hold some promise here; a speech act theory looks at what words are intended to accomplish rather than simply at the level of what they are saying on the surface. If I’m sitting with a book open in front of a football game in my easy chair in the evening and my dear wife says to me from the kitchen, ‘honey, the trash can if full.’ I could say to her, ‘thanks for that information, dear,’ and then turn back to my game. Her utterance was intended to accomplish something; that is to empty the trash. What could be parsed from a simply statement of fact, the garbage can is full is actually intended to motivate, to move and get me going to do something. When we bring speech act theory into the situation to tie into things that we were going yesterday; we also should perhaps recognize that whatever theological conclusion that we come to, that when we teach or preach a passage like this, we should allow the passage to accomplish its purpose. We should not too quickly move to the point to say that this couldn’t really happen. This undercuts the strength of the warning. I think there is a point in which we kind of as preachers of a text like this need to let that warning stand there a little. We need to let that penetrate to the hearts and minds of people whether they are believers or not and respect what the text wants to accomplish. It is not simply a statement of what happened in the end, rather it is a statement intended to motivate, to bring action, to encourage all the people that listen to us to redouble their commitment to let the Spirit be directing and guiding rather than let the flesh have that kind of control.

III. Galatians 6:10

‘Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers’

This is a concluding statement to the section which makes a distinction we don’t often have explicitly made in the New Testament. The households of faith can be translated instead of family of believers. This is a designation between honoring the people of God and making sure there is a priority in some way in our seeking to encourage and help those who are part of our family in that spiritual sense. At the same time there is ultimate goal in a more universal way to do good to all. I think this is implicit in a lot of what the New Testament has to say. In terms of our relationship with others, there is a particular focus on the spiritual family but not limited to the spiritual family. It has to start with the spiritual family and then ultimately it needs to flow out from there more broadly.

IV. Galatians 6:11-18

‘See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God. From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.’

A. Paul’s Perspective as a Former Pharisee

Jeff Waymer, a friend of mind, professor at Calvin Theological Seminary did his thesis on the endings of the letters of Paul. He thought that it was material that often got neglected. In our reading of Scripture and our teaching and preaching, we get to the end of the text and quickly move through it. Waymer’s point is in the way our letters end, some of themes and issues that can be brought in are really important in getting a sense of what is important in the letter as a whole. This is especially true in Galatians; there is quite a bit of significant theological content in the end of Galatians. Some of the letters of Paul contain almost nothing beyond greetings, prayer requests, travel plans, announcements, etc. Galatians is much heavier; Paul as he closes the letter obviously, even as he began at the beginning of the letter continues to be resolutely focused on the issue. Remember at the beginning of the letter how there was no thanksgiving; Paul jumps right into the issue and begin scolding the Galatians and talking about the other gospel. So here at the end, it is not just a simple farewell, there is a lot more going on.

‘See with what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand.’ Most ancient writers who wrote letters, dictated to a trained scribe. Papyrus was very expensive and you wanted to use a scribe who was well trained in forming letters accurately and very small. What is probably going on here, Paul sort of at the end of Galatians now takes up the stylus and write a little in his own larger more awkward hand writing; This is to affirm that it was Paul, you have seen my writing before; this is a letter from me, even though perhaps a trained scribe was responsible for writing down most of it. The Mount Sinai Monastery where some really important manuscripts have been found. I have a vision of a 2nd century monk throwing a copy of Galatians into the fire, saying how bad the hand writing was at the end. But what we have here is Paul’s autograph as I’m calling it and trying to bring the links back and coming back to Paul’s authority. This is the apostle Paul, the one who has this relationship with you that he talks about in chapter 4. He says that I am the one writing to you, my signature indicates that. One final blast against the agitators in verses 12-13; Paul is bringing their motives into question as he mentions those who want to impress people by means of the flesh, by getting them circumcised, by marking them physically, but also in terms of a worldly gospel, a gospel focused on issues of this world; ignoring a larger truth of spiritual realities that Paul understands the Gospel to have. He further says that the only reason they are doing this is to avoid being persecuted for the Cross of Christ. In our discussion in 2:11-14, see how this language might bring us back to that earlier point? It was probably the pressure placed on them in their Jewish environment.

One of the purposes of getting these gentiles circumcised is to satisfy broad Jewish public opinion as it were. To try to show that this Messianic Movement is now allowing gentiles in is still fairly Jewish as its credentials as it were. By getting the Galatian gentiles circumcised they are able to show that they are remaining faithful in the sense to a Jewish context and requirements. But even those who are circumcised are not keeping the law but they want you to be circumcised as they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. Paul concern in regards to keeping the law comes back in here, remember 3:10 and 5:3 the need to keep the whole law, the circumcision that is bound up with this whole package, including the Torah broadly understood. Paul is reminding them that those who are themselves circumcised or trying to get others circumcised. You can translate this either way here. This is another debating point; I would be surprised if some English versions didn’t include this. Paul, again, is characterized by a fairly strong pessimism about human ability. One of the things that distinguish him from his typical Jewish compatriots; Jewish teachers on the whole had a fairly positive view of human ability, particularly the Pharisees which of course Paul was one. While people were challenged with the tendency of good and evil; people could really choose the good, they could choose to do the law. There was human capacity to do that. Through Paul’s experience, his coming to understand Christ as the solution, I think this has led him to reflect back on what the problem must have been. If God had to go to the extreme, as it were, of sending his Son to die on a Roman cross, the problem must be worse than I thought it was. So, I suspect that Paul was confronted with the reality of Christ reasons back from that to a must more pessimistic understanding of the human condition which Paul talks about in a number of places such as Romans 1-3 and Adam gets brought into it in Romans 5 and elsewhere as well.

Jews of course knew that no Jew kept the law perfectly and never had an expectation that any Jew was able to do that. They were generally concerned about being Torah observant. You had a desire to do the law and that you fulfilled that desire regularly. When you did sin, you made sure you took advantage of the sacrifices and ceremonies, etc. and the appropriate means of atonement. So, I think that is what Paul has in mind in Philippians 3, not that I perfectly kept the law or even I thought before I was a Christian that I perfectly kept the law. But in terms of Jewish standards of righteousness, I was fine.

B. Verse 14

The next point and reminder is the centrality of the cross and you see how Paul is circling back to some key themes and hitting the Galatians one more time in the end. He says that he never wants to boast except in Jesus. This is another way of making the point that he made earlier, that Christ’s cross is this dramatic and apocalyptic event that shifts everything. Paul has a Christ centered view of the world and the cosmos, of life. Everything has to be tested against Christ crucified and in his view, this is what the agitators failing to do by their insistence of their continuation of the law in a sort of unbroken way; they are missing the significance of the Christ event. And for us who don’t have those same issues, perhaps with the Jewish law, the point is the same, coming to Christ means a radical shift in the way we look at everything. You don’t just insert Christ into our ongoing lives. You know, here is my life, nice with continuity and I stick Christ in at some point, but he just gets put somewhere in a story that basically remains unchanged. Coming to Christ requires a rethinking of everything. That doesn’t mean we are going to change everything; Paul is very clear in this, but in terms of what we are and the way we look at the world and think about our place in the world, the cross is a moment that has to be renegotiated into that world.

C. Two Climatic Images

Paul deliberately concludes the letter with two really significant images that are both somewhat debated but really critical in bringing his theological argument to an end. First in verse 15, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything. We got this in 5:6 where it adds that the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love. What counts is the new creation. This new creation language is shown also in 2nd Corinthians 5:17. In the Greek, this is a very clipped elliptical statement when Paul talks about the new creation. ‘If anyone is in Christ new creation.’ That is all there is in Greek. There is no verb and no other language. Because it is so clipped, it is almost a dramatic announcement there. But what is Paul referring to here in regard to a new creation? There is an anthropological way; instead of creation it reads creature in some versions and this is a possible translation of the Greek word used here. This could mean either the whole creation or a particular creature within that creation. That idea is in Galatians as well; Paul’s point is to say, it is neither circumcision nor uncircumcision that matters, these marks on your flesh are insignificant because you are a totally new person. In Christ we are totally new. Just as I have been talking about being crucified in Christ and to the world and the world to me; others think that in the context of Galatians, the focus might be on the community. That the new creation is the new realm that God has brought into being in terms of church and the people of God and third, others take it in a very broad sense, in a cosmological sense that talks much more broadly about the new creation is the way we would normally use that word. The whole creation is new to some degree. I would argue for the third by looking at some background ideas.

I am suggesting that this new creation is a big idea, a succinct summary of God’s program that includes both, humans reconciled to God and transformed to his image and a community joined in worship of God. So, the anthropological and the ecclesiological, the church of community focus are both included but as part of a much bigger complex that new creation refers to. The reason that I think this is the most likely because Paul is using this phrase on the basis on some Old Testament Jewish texts. I suspect that he particularly is rooted here in the language of Isaiah about how God is ultimately creating a new heavens and a new earth. You will know with Isaiah and his prophecies kind of keeps building to this bigger and bigger picture of the extent of God’s works when he brings his people back from exile and brings the gentiles into the picture; it just keeps building into a bigger and bigger image until you reach this climax in Isaiah 65 and 66 of the new heavens and the new earth, where there is this kind of large transformation of the whole world. One of the things that I think we usefully can keep in mind as it is kind of running in the background is the recognition that we sometimes have lost sight of; God’s purpose in redemption extends to the entire cosmos that he originally created. There has been a tendency to confine God’s work simply to what he is doing with individuals and/or the church and clearly these are focal points for God’s work. But ultimately God created a world, a cosmos that was affected by sin and ultimately God’s purpose is not simply to give up on the cosmos thinking that he originally created a good heaven and earth but now human sin has wrecked it. No, God is intending to redeem that work to take away the sin that has marred it and ultimately to bring into being a world that is what he had first intended to be and hence the focus on new heaven and new earth. That is picked up in the Book of Revelation as well as a kind of climax when God makes all things new. There is a Jewish text that uses the language of new creation in this cosmic sense, ‘and the heaven and earth and all of her creatures should be renewed. It seems likely to me that this is the source of Paul’s language.

Here at the end of Galatians, he wants to make this general point; God’s ultimate purpose is a total renovation of the universe, it’s nothing less than a new creation. We have talked about the already, not yet a number of times as this also refers as salvation history moves along, these two great moments, the two comings of Christ. As God’s work of a new creation obviously has it focus on ultimately what he is doing, to renovate the cosmos. There will come a day when God will change the very essence of the universe we live in, to bring it out of its bondage to the decade as Paul puts it in Romans 8. But I think the new creation work as already begun, obviously, as people have the opportunity of coming to know Christ; communities are form that are in some ways suppose mirror what the ultimate reality is going to be like. The church and our relationships with each other are partly intended to be a foretaste of what things are going to be like in the new heaven and earth in terms of the relationship we have with each other. And in terms of the care we have; as the new creation work has indeed gotten its start now, even though its climax of course is well in the future. So, God’s creation work is transforming people, clearly the heart of God’s present new creation work. So, we see the already, not yet here; already God has justified us, looking at the two sides of justification. Ultimately we are going to be conformed to the image of his son and glorified; this is the new creation work in individuals transforming relationships. The church has witnessed an instrument of transformed relationships. When people look at our churches, they should be attracted to them because here the community is living in this sort of way that is distinctly counter cultural where competition has been set aside for concern for mutual affirmation in which genuine love for one another is displayed. This is ideally what our church should be as new creation communities and that is happening already as Paul makes it clear in Galatians 3:28. We are all one in Christ but we are not yet truly a kingdom of priests of every tribe and language. There will be a day when that oneness in Christ comes manifested in a much more spectacular way.

There are implications for all of this for a Christian dedication to an appropriate environment intervention. God has reconciled all things to himself; there is an extension of God’s new creation work in the very world we live in. But as we mentioned in Romans 8, the creation hasn’t been liberated from its bondage. So the new creation has a big concept here, meaning that as new creation people, we should be dedicated to transforming people through evangelism and dedicated to transforming relationships, creating communities of love and respect and engaged in social justice outside the church and transforming the created world itself, hence creation care as a mandate for Christians to be involved in. Certain forms of environmentalism have been associated with neo-pagan religions and other un-Christian ways. But there are appropriate concerns for the actual world we live in. It seems to me that this is part of the mandate for the new creation people and part of what it means to do good to all and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Most companies in the US are making plans for global warming as such; they see it happening. Global warning will affect poor people disproportionally to those who are better off. People in the America will be able to make adjustments whereas others will not be able to so. I fear that the church is missing an opportunity to be a voice in all of this. I think the church is uniquely placed to do something as we have an ultimate concern for human beings.

When the Holy Spirit comes to reside in us, is there some ontological change? What do we mean by that? So, I am sure about the word ontological, as it has different meanings. I do think that when the Spirit comes to reside within us, we are obviously given the impulse of the direction that God is taking control of us in terms of our will. My preference would be to use ontology in regards to the resurrection of God taking control of our lives; when there is ontological transformation within us.

D. Israel of God

Galatians 6:16 – Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule – to the Israel of God. Versions will differ quite a bit with this. There is a particular sequence in the Greek in regards to this which is very challenging to understand. I have tried to give a rather literal rendering on this; to all who follow this rule, peace upon them and mercy upon the Israel of God. But note that the conjunction could be rendered in several different ways. The Holman Christian Standard Bible says, may peace be upon all those who follow the standard and mercy also be on the Israel of God. They are taking peace to be a blessing on all those who follow the rule and then second, mercy on the Israel of God. So those who follow this rule or standard and the Israel of God are obviously separate things, it seems. On this reading then, Israel might refer to either the Jewish nation as a whole or Jewish Christians. So Paul in affect would be saying that there is a group of all who follow the standard, whether they be Jewish Christians, gentile Christians and mercy also be on this other group which could overlap either Jewish Christians or Israel generally where there is a future for the people of Israel as seems to indicate in Romans 11. In the ESV, for all those who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them and upon the Israel of God. It seems that there are two groups here as well. Finally, in the NIV, peace and mercy to all those who follow this rule – to the Israel of God; the dash here indicates apposition, the people of God is another way of referring to all who follow this rule. On this translation, there is only one group in two ways: a single group for those who follow this rule as standard and then describes as the Israel of God. When you see these kinds of differences and I have only shown you three different versions, you know that there is something ambiguous here in the Greek. All of three of the above are valid possible renderings of Paul’s Greek. In some ways there is an intense debate as it ties into some larger theological issues.

On the third reading, the NIV, the Christian community, all who follow this rule is called the Israel of God. There is a lot of debate whether it is legitimate in New Testament theology to think that Israel can be a description of the New Covenant people of God. Obviously, the vast majority of the occurrence of Israel in the New Testament describes a distinctly Jewish group of people, biological descendants of Abraham, the nation of Israel. There are two or three places where Israel might have a different meaning and this is one of those places. All of them are debated. So you have a number of scholars that insist that the New Testament never makes this move of using Israel and transferring it to the church. The church and Israel remain in New Testament theology separate entities. Others insists that on the basis of verse like this and certain theological understandings, the New Testament says that in some sense and to some degree, the church is the new Israel. There might be a particular emphasis in regards to the ‘Israel of God’ instead just Israel itself. Theological commitments can get fairly involved here where others can have particular traditions that differ on this. But in American evangelical theology especially, there has been a very strong dispensationalist movement, associated with Moody Bible institute and Dallas Theological Seminary and the old Scofield Study Bible. And fundamental to dispensational theology was a consistent distinction between Israel and the church. God works with the nation Israel throughout the Old Testament and Jesus offers the Kingdom to the nation of Israel who refuses to accept it; God turns to work with the gentiles throughout this era, but with the second coming of Christ, God will turn and work again with the people of Israel and bring them back to their land and bless them and the promises of the Old Testament prophets about Israel will be fulfilled in a literal geographic ethic Israel. This insists on a consistent distinction of Israel and the church. Now covenant theology has kind of gone the opposite way and said that those Old Testament promises given to Israel as the people of God are fulfilled now in the church, the new Israel. There is some kind of replacement tendency here that the church now takes the place of Israel. And after Christ there is oneness, no longer any Jew or gentile in respect to God and his plan; all are brought together into one community that we can call Israel, the New Israel. Then there are various mediating view that say yes and no. Israel and the church overlap to a considerable extent; the church is the place for a lot of the promises for Israel are fulfilled, but not all of them as there is a distinct narrow place for God’s promises to be fulfilled to Israel. This is where Romans 9-11 becomes really important. This is such a disputed text of Scripture.

In Galatians, so much of the focus has been on the unity of Jew and gentile in Christ and the way in which God in this New Covenant era has been bringing them together. It would be very unusual for Paul at the end of the letter to suddenly split them up and distinguish between those who follow this rule, including gentiles with a distinctly Jewish group. It seems rhetorically to run counter to what Paul has been teaching throughout the letter. In regards to syntax, I also think that this key Greek word Kai has the meaning of ‘even’ rather than the meaning ‘and’. I do prefer the rendering that we have in the NIV translation. It seems that Paul is calling the church, those who follow this rule, the Israel of God. This is the way Paul is describing the new Christian community as the heirs to promise with the inclusion of the gentiles in this situation. But this is much debated and any time you see the major translations differing like this, it is a clue that there is a lot of basic disagreement among scholars as the evidence isn’t clear. It is part of a much bigger theological discussion. I think on the whole, the pattern of New Testament teaching shows that the prophecies given to Israel as the people of God are fulfilled in the church, the New Covenant people of God. I see a lot of evidence for that but for myself, I also find, particularly in Romans 11 and perhaps only in Romans 11, Paul does reserve some degree of significance for ethnic Israel; God still has certain distinctive promises to fulfill to ethic Israel, apart from the church.

E. Verse 17

‘From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.’ He has the physical marks of Jesus. What Paul means by this is a bit slippery. Does he mean that on behalf of Christ he has suffered and has been persecuted? Paul talks about this in passages like 2nd Corinthians 11 for instance. Does it mean some sort of stamp or tattoo that Paul wears indicating his commitment to Jesus. We just don’t know for sure. Rhetorically, Paul’s point is clear, it says one last time to engage is what we call pathos. I’m committed to Christ; I don’t want anyone to continue to give me grief about this matter. You Galatians don’t unnecessarily add to the burden I am carrying. You know who I am and my authenticity. You know how I have suffered for Christ; you know the kind of relationship I had when I was with you. It is one last appeal to them to resist the agitators for Paul’s own personal sake, in light of his intimate connection with them.

F. Verse 18

‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.’ There is not indications of who was with Paul, travel plans, like the beginning of Galatians, ends with the focus on the issue, Paul applying all the resources he can think of right at the end to persuade them to follow the path of the true Gospel and reject the alternative gospel.

In Galatians, there are legitimate issues even with strong evangelical scholars; the style of the letters of Paul does differ somewhat, even some of the theological vocabulary he uses and some of the themes he talks about. There is no question there are differences that could give rise to some of these theories. It is not just made up. To me the issue that some who argue those kind of things don’t fully and adequately grapple with is the consistent evidence of the 1st century, that letters written in somebody else’s name was not acceptable. When the early fathers detected that a letter was being written in somebody else’s name, they rejected it. Because of that, I think it is difficult to find a place where you could say some like perhaps 1st Timothy was written by somebody long after Paul’s death in his name and still accept it as having authenticity or authority or a place in the canon. Grand it, there are arguments, the style is different, the vocabulary is different; anyone who knows any Greek can see that. I think there are explanations for it and ultimately again there is this concern to guard the authenticity of a letter written by the person who claims to write it. No one really questions that about Galatians, however. There isn’t any scholarship that wonders whether Paul wrote Galatians or not.