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Galatians Study – The New Creature Rule

June 20, 2010

This will be the second to last post in the series on the book of Galatians.  Previous posts in this series can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.  In the last chapter of this book I want to focus on a couple of points that Paul makes.  I would be interested in hearing your observations as well.

Chapter six starts out with Paul’s instructions on how to deal with Christians who are overtaken in a sin.  Direction is given concerning those who are responsible for restoring a sinning brother and how, or in what manner, they are to carry out this ministry of restoration.  Paul identifies those who are “spiritual” as having this responsibility.  They are to carry out this ministry “in the spirit of meekness” recognizing their own vulnerability to be tempted (v. 1).  Paul notes that those who are lifted up with pride are deceived (v. 3).

I think Paul’s instruction here fits in with the overall theme of the letter. Because the Galatians have been affected by the leaven of the Pharisees, there are those who are puffing themselves up and viewing themselves as more spiritual than others.  In their pride, they are ignoring the weightier matters of the law (just as the Pharisees did), emphasizing rituals and rules more than loving their neighbor.  They are preaching law, not grace, and performing works of the flesh rather than fruits of the Spirit (v. 7-8).

Paul counters their legalism by contrasting the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit (5:19-26, 6:8).  Works of the flesh result in strife, envy, and self-glorification (5:26, 6:3, 6:13); the fruit of the Spirit results in humility and a crucified life (5:23, 6:1, 14).

Paul says the legalizers, in teaching the requirement of circumcision, are motivated by fleshly, prideful desires (v. 12-13); Paul, by contrast, refuses to glory in anything except the cross of Jesus Christ (v. 14).  Throughout this epistle he has emphasized that the way to fulfil “the law of Christ” (6:2) is not by keeping the laws of the old covenant, but rather by walking in the Spirit and keeping the rule of the new covenant – the “new creature rule” (v. 15-16).

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.  And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God” (6:15-16).

In other places in scripture we see this rule of the new covenant emphasized.  In the Old Testament God had told Ezekiel about His plan for new covenant believers:  “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.  And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

Jesus telling Nicodemus – “You must be born again” (John 3:7).  Paul to the Corinthian believers – “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

What does it mean to walk according to the new creature rule?

What are some of your thoughts and observations on this chapter?

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