a false step: The Greek term for “a false step” (pa·raʹpto·ma; lit., “a fall beside”) may refer to a trespass, which could range from a mistake in judgment to a serious transgression of God’s law. (Mt 6:14; Ro 5:15, 17; Eph 1:7; 2:1, 5) Someone who takes a false step is not walking in harmony with God’s righteous requirements. Instead, he is heading in the wrong direction, though he may not yet have committed a serious sin.
you who have spiritual qualifications: Or “you who are spiritual (spiritually mature).” The Greek term used here (pneu·ma·ti·kosʹ) is related to the word for “spirit” (pneuʹma) used in the expression “God’s holy spirit,” or active force. (Eph 4:30) Therefore, to be qualified to readjust others, mature ones in the congregation need more than knowledge, wisdom, and experience. They must also give evidence of being continually guided by God’s holy spirit.—Ga 5:16, 18, 25.
try to readjust: The Greek verb ka·tar·tiʹzo describes restoring something to a proper condition, bringing something into proper alignment. In this context, the verb is used of the need to readjust spiritually a fellow believer who “takes a false step.” The imperfect form of the verb allows for the rendering “try to readjust,” implying that those “who have spiritual qualifications” make a sincere effort to bring the erring one back to the right path. However, the actual readjustment depends on whether the one being counseled responds in a positive way. The same verb is used at Mt 4:21 to describe “mending” nets. The related noun ka·tar·ti·smosʹ, rendered “readjustment” at Eph 4:12, was a term sometimes used in medical texts to describe the setting of a bone, a limb, or a joint.—See study notes on 2Co 13:9; Eph 4:12.
keep an eye on yourself: Or “watch out for yourself; pay close attention to yourself.” Paul here shifts from a plural form of address to a singular one. He thus warns the individual Christian who counsels others that he must carefully avoid giving in to the moral temptations that he is urging others to avoid. This phrase also implies a warning against becoming self-righteous and looking down on others.—1Co 10:12.
Go on carrying the burdens of one another: The plural form of the Greek word baʹros, rendered “burdens,” here literally means “heavy things” and can also be translated “troublesome things.” This admonition follows what Paul says in the preceding verse about endeavoring to restore a person who has taken “a false step” spiritually. The consequences of his false step might be burdensome, that is, difficult for him to bear without assistance. Christians who make a practice of helping their fellow worshippers to carry their burdens display love and thus fulfill the law of the Christ. (Joh 13:34, 35) Yet, as the apostle states in verses 3 to 5, this does not mean carrying another person’s “load” (Greek, phor·tiʹon) of spiritual responsibility to God.—See study note on Ga 6:5.
the law of the Christ: This law includes all that Jesus taught, as well as what God’s spirit directed Christ’s followers to write in the Christian Greek Scriptures. As foretold by Jeremiah, this law replaced the Mosaic Law covenant. (Jer 31:31-34; Heb 8:6-13) Christ did not originate these laws and principles; he received them from the great Lawgiver, Jehovah. (Joh 14:10) The expression “the law of the Christ” appears only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures, but similar wording, “law toward Christ,” is used at 1Co 9:21. This law is also referred to as “the perfect law that belongs to freedom” (Jas 1:25), “the law of a free people” (Jas 2:12), and “the law of faith.”—Ro 3:27.
his own load: Or “his own load of responsibility.” Paul here uses the Greek word phor·tiʹon, referring to something that is to be borne or carried, without any reference to its weight. This load is different from “the burdens” mentioned in verse 2. A person may need help to bear those heavy burdens. (See study note.) The term used here refers to the personal load of responsibility to God that each Christian is expected to carry. One reference work says about the Greek word: “It was used as a military term for a man’s pack or a soldier’s kit.”
who is being taught the word: “The word” here refers to the word of God and the teachings of Jesus Christ. In his letters, Paul lays great emphasis on teaching in the Christian congregation. In doing so, he often uses the Greek term di·daʹsko, which refers to instructing, explaining, showing things by argument, and offering proofs. (Ro 2:21; 12:7; 1Co 4:17; Col 3:16; 2Ti 2:2; see study note on Mt 28:20.) In this verse, however, Paul uses the more specific term ka·te·kheʹo when he talks about the one “who is being taught” God’s word and the one “who gives such teaching.” This expression literally means “to sound down” and could sometimes imply oral instruction. (See study note on Ac 18:25.) Someone who has the truths of “the word” sounded down into his mind and heart is qualified to teach others.—2Ti 2:2.
share in all good things with the one who gives such teaching: The one “being taught” is encouraged to share both material and spiritual things with his teacher, a principle also found elsewhere in the Scriptures. (Mt 10:9, 10; Ro 15:27 and study note; 1Co 9:11, 13, 14; 1Ti 5:17, 18; Heb 13:16) The term “share in” may also imply that the student listens to what he is taught and applies it. He expresses his faith and conviction in his own words, becoming a teacher of the good news. A student who responds in this way is sharing in “good things” with his teacher.—2Ti 2:2.
to be mocked: The literal idea of the Greek word here used involves showing contempt by means of a gesture with the nose. In some languages, it could be expressed by sneering or turning one’s nose up at something or someone. Such mocking might include expressions of contempt or ridicule, even going so far as to defy or challenge someone. Paul here warns that it is dangerous to think that the principles of God’s Word can be viewed with contempt or be successfully evaded.
whatever a person is sowing, this he will also reap: This proverb was well-known in Paul’s day. It apparently originated in ancient agricultural societies. The proverb states a reality; what is planted in the soil is what will grow from the soil. In ancient times, the figurative application was usually negative—a person would reap negative consequences from wrong conduct or actions. But Paul also highlights that positive actions can bring a good outcome, “everlasting life.” (Ga 6:8) This unchanging principle is also referred to in other parts of the Bible.—Pr 11:18; 22:8; Ho 8:7; 10:12; 2Co 9:6; see study notes on Ga 6:8.
the one sowing with a view to his flesh: That is, a person who indulges in “the works of the flesh,” which result from the desires of a sinful human nature. (Ga 5:19-21) As a fruitage, or a result, of this “sowing,” he will reap corruption from his flesh. When the first human sinned, he and all his descendants became enslaved to corruption. (Ro 5:12; 8:21 and study note) This enslavement has produced imperfection that leads not only to disease, aging, and death but also to moral and spiritual degradation. Therefore, “the one sowing with a view to his flesh” will not gain everlasting life.—Compare 2Pe 2:12, 18, 19.
the one sowing with a view to the spirit: That is, a person living in a way that allows God’s holy spirit to operate freely in his life, helping him to manifest its fruitage. Such a person “will reap everlasting life from the spirit.”—Mt 19:29; 25:46; Joh 3:14-16; Ro 2:6, 7; Eph 1:7.
give up: Or “grow weary.” The Greek term used here may also convey the idea of not getting discouraged or losing enthusiasm in doing what is fine.—See study note on 2Co 4:1.
opportunity: Or “favorable time.” The Greek word kai·rosʹ is sometimes rendered “season” or “appointed time.” At Eph 5:16 (see study note), it is used in the expression “making the best use of your time.”
those related to us in the faith: Or “those who belong to the household (family) of faith.” The Greek word rendered “those related to” refers to members of a literal family, or household. (1Ti 5:8) In the Greco-Roman world, a household could designate a close-knit group of people who shared the same beliefs, ideas, or purposes. This well describes the first-century congregations that usually met in private homes (Ro 16:3-5) and whose members felt a close spiritual kinship with one another.—Eph 2:19.
who want to make a good impression in the flesh: Or “who want to look good outwardly.” In this context, “the flesh” refers to what is related to the physical body and therefore is outwardly visible to others. Certain individuals claiming to be Christians taught that getting circumcised and adhering to other features of the Mosaic Law were essential for gaining God’s approval. However, their motive was to make a favorable impression on the Jews. They wanted to “avoid being persecuted” by Jewish enemies of Christianity. By being overly concerned about outward appearances and insisting on circumcision, they were, in fact, denying that Jesus’ death was the only basis for gaining salvation.
the torture stake: Or “the execution stake.”—See Glossary.
the torture stake of the Christ: Here the term “torture stake” (Greek, stau·rosʹ) is used to represent Jesus’ death on the stake. Jesus died in this way so that mankind would no longer be enslaved to sin but could become reconciled to God and enjoy a good relationship with Him. Paul was “persecuted” by the Jews for recognizing and proclaiming Jesus’ death on the torture stake as the sole basis for gaining salvation.
put to death: Or “executed on the stake.” Paul taught that Jesus’ death on the torture stake was the basis for gaining salvation. Therefore, the world hated Paul, viewing him as a criminal who should be “put to death.” At the same time, Paul regarded the world as being something condemned to death.
but a new creation is: Each anointed Christian is a new creation—a spirit-begotten son of God with the prospect of sharing with Christ in the heavenly Kingdom. (Ga 4:6, 7) Additionally, the anointed are part of the Christian congregation, “the Israel of God” (Ga 6:16 and study note), which is also a new spiritual creation. (See study note on 2Co 5:17.) Therefore, whether a Christian is circumcised or not does not matter to God.
by this rule of conduct: The Greek word used here (ka·nonʹ) comes from the Hebrew word for “a reed” (qa·nehʹ), which served as a measuring device. (Eze 40:5) Paul uses the term figuratively to describe a “rule of conduct” by which those of “the Israel of God” were to measure their actions. If they exercised faith in the undeserved kindness expressed through Christ and conducted themselves in harmony with it, they could enjoy “peace and mercy” of a sort that had never before been possible for sinful humans.—Ga 3:24, 25; compare Glossary, “Canon (Bible canon).”
the Israel of God: This expression, found only once in the Scriptures, refers to spiritual Israel rather than to natural descendants of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. (Ge 32:22-28) The preceding verse (Ga 6:15) shows that circumcision is not required of those making up “the Israel of God.” The prophet Hosea foretold that God would show favor to a people that would include Gentiles. God said: “I will say to those not my people: ‘You are my people.’” (Ho 2:23; Ro 9:22-25) While natural Jews and proselytes were included in spiritual Israel (Ac 1:13-15; 2:41; 4:4), they amounted to “only a remnant” of that rejected nation (Isa 10:21, 22; Ro 9:27). Paul later wrote to the Romans: “Not all who descend from Israel are really ‘Israel.’”—Ro 9:6; see also study notes on Ac 15:14; Ro 2:29; 9:27; 11:26.
Israel: Meaning “Contender (Perseverer) With God; God Contends.” This name was given to Jacob after he wrestled with an angel in order to obtain a blessing. Unlike Esau, Jacob appreciated sacred things and was willing to exert himself vigorously to gain God’s favor. (Ge 32:22-28; Heb 12:16) Those who belong to “the Israel of God” imitate Jacob, manifesting a similar type of faith and adherence to God’s will.—See study note on the Israel of God in this verse.
the brand marks of a slave of Jesus: The term rendered “brand marks of a slave” (the plural form of the Greek word stigʹma) occurs only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures. In secular Greek literature, this term was used to refer to brand marks consisting of various signs or letters, sometimes to identify slaves, but it may also refer to scars. Paul may be referring to scars on his body that were inflicted by his persecutors and that testified to his being a faithful slave of Christ. (2Co 4:10; 11:23-27; Php 3:10) Or it is possible that rather than referring to literal marks, Paul is referring to how he carried out his Christian ministry, displayed the fruitage of God’s spirit, and lived his life in a way that marked him as a slave belonging to Christ.
with the spirit you show: Lit., “with your spirit.” The term “spirit” in this context refers to the impelling inner force or dominant mental inclination that causes a person to say or do things in a certain way. For example, the Scriptures speak of “the quiet and mild spirit” (1Pe 3:4) and “a spirit of mildness” (Ga 6:1). At 2Ti 1:7, Paul mentions a spirit “of power and of love and of soundness of mind” in contrast with “a spirit of cowardice.” He then concludes the letter to Timothy by saying: “The Lord be with the spirit you show.” (2Ti 4:22) Just as an individual can show a certain spirit, so can a group of people. Here in his concluding words to the Galatians, as well as in his letter to the Philippians, Paul uses the Greek plural pronoun (“you; your”) to express his desire that all in these congregations show a spirit that is in harmony with God’s will and the example set by Christ.—Php 4:23.