A Bible Lesson on Galatians 6

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Paul now considers relations between Christian people. There are various theories about the exact circumstances in Galatia that might have motivated these verses. Some think that 6:1 refers to correction and restoration of the Judaizers. Maybe, but I suspect not. In any event, these verses give sound practical advice.

Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

It’s a fact of life in God’s church that there will be instances of “transgression.” We are not yet home, we are pilgrims and sojourners, and we are frail. Would that we all keep before us the necessity of walking the line God’s Spirit lays down. But in the event that one falls off the narrow way, others walking it are to “restore.” The Greek word employed here was used to describe the setting of a broken and out of position bone. The place of God’s people is not to shun, but to help one who has veered off. This is to be done in gentleness. Of course it’s “in gentleness.” Those walking in God’s way, led by His Spirit, are gentle people.

2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Bear one another’s burdens. This may be a new thought, but it may also be a continuation of the discussion of verse 1. There is reproach and difficulty associated with the failure of a Christian, and the natural impulse is to disassociate from one whose failure is publicly known. But where there is repentance, there is to be restoration, and the church is to bear that reproach with the repentant member.

Whether this is a new thought or a continuation of verse 1, the charge is that as Christ voluntarily took on Himself our troubles, we are to voluntarily take on the troubles of other believers. We are to share them, and in the process make them lighter for our brethren.

3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

What Paul has commanded in verse 2 is not beneath the dignity of any believer. It certainly wasn’t beneath the dignity of the Son of God. How could it be beneath ours? If this is a continuation of the previous two verses, Paul is saying that if we choose to look at a fellow Christian who has fallen off the narrow way as if we ourselves are immune, we show ourselves to not have a clue, to be nothing and to be completely self-deceived.

4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.

Humility, that is part of walking not according to our fallen human nature, doesn’t look around for someone weaker to compare oneself to. It reckons from one’s own responsibilities. And on that account

5 For each will have to bear his own load.

I can’t blame you for my delinquencies. The “burden” of verse 2 is not the “load” of verse 5. This word is the word for a soldier’s pack. It’s what I was issued as my set of responsibilities to love God and my neighbor.

Paul now makes a series of observations tied together through their relationship to the universal law of reaping and sowing. You don’t sow one thing and harvest another. You don’t live one way and expect results appropriate for a second way of living.

6 One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.

It’s appropriate that churches support their pastors. They sow good teaching and should harvest appropriate physical support. The word Paul uses is “share.” It’s not a word of commerce. It’s a word of community and relationship. A pastor is not an employee, but rather a brother, with whom a congregation should share all good things. There is a proper reaping of physical support.

7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.

One cannot turn up one’s nose at God. We can’t live in rebellion, contrary to the leading of God’s Spirit, and have life. Nothing else in all creation works that way. What is sown will be reaped.

8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Stott quoting an “old adage” said “Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” One doesn’t slide through life in indifference to the things of God (or worse yet live in open rebellion against Him) and reap holiness or the beauty of the Savior. Those grow from careful attention to the Spirit and the Word.

9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

This is good news. We each have our packs. It’s our job to carry them. We’ve each got our load, our part to play. But as sure as soy beans produce soy beans, God’s Spirit working in us will produce through us what He wills as we cooperate with Him! So carry on!

10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Pick up your pack and get on with it, doing good to all, especially other believers. That’s our responsibility. Part of that will be purposely taking on some of their trouble.

11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.

Paul is now finishing up. He’s probably dictated the letter, but now writes the last part in his own hand. Perhaps because he’s not a skilled copyist, possibly because he’s writing big for emphasis, what he’s now writing is in a large hand. He returns to his main themes. First, Christianity is fundamentally inward not outward.

12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.

13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.

Circumcision had its purpose and was indeed commanded by God for the Jews. But to try to make it something for gentile Christians as an add-on to or somehow a prerequisite for the work of Christ is foolish and horribly wrong. If you go down that road you end up making make Judaism a prerequisite for Christianity, and acting as if Christ’s work is not in itself sufficient for making us right with God, and that is vile heresy. If circumcision is required for salvation, then so is all else in the Old Testament economy. Even the proponents of circumcision would have to admit that they didn’t perfectly keep the Old Testament law. Circumcision could make one palatable/acceptable to Jews and to the Romans who had granted the Jews the right to be Jewish. But treated as a necessity for salvation, it destroys salvation by faith in Christ alone, our only hope. The law of God teaches us our fallenness and intrinsic lack of genuine goodness.

Further, Christianity is fundamentally of God, not of man.

14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

Christ is all a believer claims as a basis of right standing with God. Christian people do not care one way or the other about whether they are “in” with the world’s system. What matters is Christ, what He’s done on our behalf and being given real life in Him. Paul didn’t care whether he was acceptable to the religious or governmental powers that be, only whether he was alive in Jesus.

16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

What was true about Paul is equally true about all real Christian believers. What counts is the work of Christ, and it produces peace and mercy and grafts one into the eternal people of God.

17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

It seems like Paul is pretty much of the opinion that this should all be self-evident to a genuine Christian. He really isn’t interested in further debate on this topic. He’s an Apostle and one who has suffered for Christ. If the Judaizers want to brag about physical evidence of devotion to God, he’s got scars from stoning and beatings to show in return. Rather than theological debate

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

It should all be about the work of Jesus. It’s His grace and it’s the work of His Spirit applying it that make Christians who they are, brethren in the true and lasting Israel of God.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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