A Commentary by John Stott
Galatians 6:11-18. The essence of the Christian religion.
Paul has now reached the end of his letter. So far he has been dictating to an amanuensis, but now, as his custom was, he takes the pen from his secretary’s hand, in order to add a personal postscript. Usually this was just to append his signature as a guarantee against forgery (cf. 2 Thess. 3:17). Sometimes he would include a final exhortation or the grace. But on this occasion he writes several final sentences in his personal handwriting.
Verse 11: *See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand*. Various suggestions have been made about these ‘large letters’. Perhaps he is referring to ‘the sprawling untidy letters’ of an amateur, for he was no professional scribe and was probably more accustomed to write in Hebrew than in Greek. Or perhaps his large letters were due to bad eyesight, to which possibility we have already referred in connection with the ‘bodily ailment’ of Galatians 4:13-15. But most commentators consider that he used large letters deliberately, either because he was treating his readers like children (rebuking their spiritual immaturity by using baby writing) or simply for emphasis, ‘to arrest the eye and rivet the mind’, much as we would use capital letters or underline words today. Indeed it was a kind of underlining. J.B.Phillips adds a footnote to his paraphrase: ‘According to centuries-old Eastern usage, this could easily mean, “Note how heavily I have pressed upon the pen in writing this.” Thus it could be translated, “Notice how heavily I underline these words to you.”’
What, then, does Paul emphasize? He emphasizes the principle themes of the Christian gospel. Once again he contrasts himself with the Judaizers, and so the two religious systems they represented. As he does so, he pinpoints the vital issues at stake. Reading his words, we are lifted out of the controversy between Paul and the Judaizers in the first century AD and are brought right into the twentieth century. We even catch a glimpse of the course of church history down the ages, in which these issues have been continuously debated. Here are two questions about the essence of the Christian religion.