The Benediction of Peace (6:16)

Paul closes his letter with a benediction: Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God (v. 16). Throughout the entire letter Paul has appealed to the gospel as the rule to follow in our relationship with God and with one another. All who follow this rule of the gospel will certainly experience peace and mercy in their relationship with God and in their relationships with others. For the gospel gives peace with God on the basis of his mercy. And all who have experienced the gospel work for peace with others by expressing the same compassion that they have received from God through Christ.

Some have interpreted Paul's reference here to the Israel of God as a reference to the national entity, the Jewish people. In other words, they interpret Paul as pronouncing a benediction both on those who believe in and live by the gospel and on the Jewish people. This interpretation is often defended on the basis of Paul's clear expression of compassion and hope for Israel in Romans 9—11. In that context Paul uses the title "Israel" to mean the Jewish people and promises God's blessing for Israel. But in the context of his letter to the Galatian believers, it appears that Paul is using Israel of God as a title for the Galatian believers. By giving this title to the Galatian Christians, he is able to summarize his major arguments that they are indeed the true children of Abraham (3:6-29), the children of the free woman, just as Isaac was (4:21-31). The false teachers were claiming that only those who followed the law belonged to Israel. Now Paul proclaims that all those who follow the gospel are the true Israel of God.

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