A practical study of Paul’s teachings, in Galatians 6
By Nicole McLeod
Prayer: Lord, as we study this final chapter of this letter to the Galatian church, I pray the Holy Spirit will teach us, and speak to our hearts those things we need to hear today. And help us rightly apply these verses so we will always walk in Your grace and truth. In Jesus Name
Paul has some very important things to say at the end of his letter, that he doesn’t want us to miss.
Let’s begin reading in Gal. 5:25-27 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
6:1 Brothers (and sisters) , if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him /her in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
Gal. 6:1 Paul presents the case of a believer who is suddenly overtaken by a transgression or a fault. The word “overtaken” carries the idea of being surprised, caught by, and falling into this transgression/fault –violating a known boundary. As one pastor put it, “this is a picture of someone crippled by their own mistake and is chased down by the enemy.” It is not the term used for deliberate sin.
Why would this be a good illustration for Paul to use in his case for walking in grace vs legalism? Because as one commentator said, “nothing reveals the wickedness of legalism better than the way the legalists treat those who have fallen .” Remember the attitude of the Pharisees who literally dragged a woman taken in adultery before Jesus to see her condemned (John 8)? The atmosphere of religious legalism is pride, condemnation, and self-righteousness. They look down on the fallen and use them, to make themselves look good. There is no sense of compassion. Does a sinning saint benefit from judgement, shunning, disapproving looks, and gossip – those are the responses may come naturally, but if you think about it, the overtaken one already suffers the consequences of their sin, a guilty conscience, condemnation from the enemy, and personal and public shame.
There is a heartbreaking lament of one fallen found in Lam. 1:7:
“ In the midst of her sadness and wandering Jerusalem remembers her ancient splendor. But now she has fallen to her enemy, and there is no one to help her. Her enemy struck her down and laughed as she fell.”
How dreadful it is to be overtaken by sin!
But God is into restoring and re-igniting Christians who have been overtaken by failure. Paul says, first, (Gal. 6:1) you who are spiritual, or filled with and governed by the Spirit of God, are to restore the fallen one in a spirit of gentleness, (same word as in the fruit of the Spirit) humbly and tenderly, The Greek word for “ restore” Kataritzo means to ‘put in order’ and so to ‘restore to its former condition’… It is used in Mark 1:19 referring to the apostles mending their nets and was used in secular Greek as a medical term for setting a fractured or dislocated bone. The fallen believer is like one with “a broken bone and is unable to walk spiritually.” By the grace of God, they can be restored to fellowship with God, with others and to usefulness and fruit bearing. Jesus came as the great physician, divinely healing those sick and broken by sin, and it is His Spirit that leads the restoration process. Love is willing to heal them, so sin won’t destroy them. But if you’ve ever had a broken bone set, you know how painful and sensitive it can be! You hope your doctor will be skilled, gentle, and be able to put it back to usefulness.
Secondly, Paul reminds the one reaching out to help to keep watch on themselves too lest they are tempted. No one is above being tempted, and we each have our own weaknesses and are prone to sin.
1Cor. 10:12-13a “Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity…”
Let’s personalize this. Suppose a believer we know were suddenly overtaken by transgression or sin. It takes a humility, courage, prayer, and Christian love to approach this person to help them. Jesus likened this to eye surgery (Matt 7:1-5) and who feels qualified for that? God is gentle and gracious with us, so it is in that spirit we go to fallen one. It is “His kindness that leads us to repentance”, and in gentleness He will bring restoration. I found this helpful acronym HEAL to help us:
- H: Humble and honest: Approach the one overtaken a humble heart. Be honest with yourself as to whether you should be the one to help. We may or not be the “spiritually mature” one for this ministry, and that’s ok too. Maturity and knowledge of how to rightly apply God’s Word, and His grace and truth are essential. It is not about us, and the goal is to restore this person to full usefulness and fruitfulness in the body of Christ! Honesty and humility are essential.
- E: Effort: It’s a commitment of time and effort to restore the fallen. Just as the situation probably didn't develop overnight, so it will take time for the other person to heal and be restored, so be prepared for the effort and time and investment required. We seek to pick up the fallen and help them carry the load…
- A: Appreciate: Think about the contribution the person has made to either your life or to the church. As they are seeking restoration, our prayers and encouragement will help them. We must guard against gossip, against thoughts of superiority. No-one wants their life to be defined by a failure.
- L: Listen : Listen to the Lord and not to your own thoughts and opinions. We need Him to help us overcome our flesh and temptations too. Listen to God’s Word for wisdom and listen to the person. Sadly, the natural tendency is to talk at the person and not listen to their hurting heart. Listening is one way to help bear their burden.
If the overtaken person is unrepentant, there are other scriptures and measures for discipline a church can be considered, outlined in Mat. 18 and 1Cor 5.
Gal. 6:2-5 “ Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 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. 5 For each will have to bear his own load. ”
*Towards the burdened believer, the Holy Spirit will lead us to help them (v. 2-5)
The legalist is not interested in bearing other’s burdens. Instead, they add to the burdens of others. Like the Pharisees in Jesus day, who would “…bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” Matt. 23:4. The legalist is hard on others, but they go easy on themselves. Paul essentially says in these verses, “Do you want to fulfill “the law”? Here is your ‘law’ to fulfill. Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ .”
Paul chose to use 2 different words used for “burden” in vs. 2 and 5 in the Greek. The burden we help others bear is the word “bare”, a very heavy load – too much for one person to bear – this can also refer to the burden of failure and sin. The load we carry on our own is “phortion” a backpack sized load for which we are designed (like the disciples would have carried following Jesus).
*How beautiful it is that the Lord has given us a church family to help pick us up and restore us if we fall and to hold us up when the load gets too heavy to bear alone, and to walk in the Spirit with. This is one of the many things I love about our Tuesday mornings. The blessing of seeing women caring for and praying for one another in the Spirit. As we do, vs 2 says we fulfill the “law of Christ”, the law of love, in Christ .
*John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Gal. 6:3 says to be careful not to think we are “above” helping someone, or to think that we are too “good” to do so, as that would be pride, conceit self-deception and he says if you think that, you “are only fooling yourself.” Gal. 6:4-5 “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.”
We are to examine ourselves before the Lord and evaluate our lives honestly before we try to “set someone else straight.” We don’t compare ourselves with others, but we use a right standard, God’s Word, and the example of Jesus – and this is very humbling. We do well when we focus on Christ and being faithful to do what He given us to do and finish it well. We want to glorify. It is not how others see us that matters in the end, but God who sees our hearts.
Gal. 6:6-10 “ Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 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. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
Paul continues this thought of caring for others as he tells believers to care for those who teach the Word to them. It is good to support ministries that minister to you. Those who are taught are to ( share in all good things) with those who teach them. “Share all good things”, is the Greek word for fellowship, Koinonia.
It means “to have in common” and refers to our common fellowship in Christ and our common faith we share. When the pastor says something, we find helpful, we can go to them and thank them and tell them – it will encourage them. Koinonia in several verses refers to the sharing of material blessings with one another (Acts 2:42, 2 Cor. 8:4, Heb 13.16 in the Greek text.)
One of my commentaries wrote: “This concept of voluntary giving to provide for the Lord's servants was revolutionary since Jews were taxed for the support of their priests, and Gentiles paid fees, made vows, etc… to sustain their religions. ”
Benevolence, charity, generosity are all Spirit inspired virtues that help us share God’s blessings with others and we are blessed to even have something to give.
Vs.7 “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
Spiritual truth is what is essential. Judaizers and false teachers try to deceive us, and we are not to deceive ourselves. God sees the truth and is not mocked. We will reap the fruit of the seed we sow. The principle is found in nature and throughout the Bible. The farmer who sows wheat can expect a wheat crop in his field.
Vs. 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 .”
Sowing to the flesh is when we take in things that feed our old sinful nature –indulging our sinful desires. Choosing legalism feed our pride and self-righteousness – bad fruit! Sowing to the Spirit on the other hand, is reading the Bible, being in godly fellowship, and will bear the fruit of the Spirit, love joy peace…and the good fruit of holiness and righteousness in our lives over time.
* Can you all share some ways we sow to the Spirit?
I hope the spiritual seeds we plant today will produce a beautiful spiritual harvest in the future. What we become depends largely on our choices.
Vs. 9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. In due season we will reap.” Isn’t this a timely word and promise for all of us at the end of a long busy year…
Don’t become discouraged because the harvest is long in coming. Keep sowing and praying and believing. The harvest will come in God's time. God is the Lord of the harvest. We may see the fruit it in this lifetime, or it may be seen when we reach heaven, but the harvest will come.
Vs. 10 “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
“Let us do good” We have an opportunity coming up to do this at our Christmas celebration Dec. 2nd. We’re asking women to bring items to include in a gift basket for the elderly patients at AG care center. This is a great way to do good to “everyone’! We also have OCC gift boxes going out … and we are to do good to all God’s children- all around the world - especially.
*John 13:35 “ By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
*Towards everyone, the Holy Spirit will lead us to glorify Jesus Christ (vs.11-18)
Gal. 6:11 “ See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand”. Paul often used a secretary when we wrote, dictating the letter, then adding his personal “grace” signature at the end. But here he writes his closing paragraph in large letters to make these concluding points he doesn’t want them or us to miss, as he faithfully warns his friends about the heart motives of these Judaizers.
Gal. 6:12-14 “ 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. 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.”
The false teachers wanted to avoid persecution, to boast in their converts, and to add glory to their name – not to Christ’s Holy Name. They boasted in their circumcision, but Paul boasted in a crucified and risen Savior. They boasted in what they had done, Paul boasted in what Christ has done. Paul gloried in the cross, and in Jesus Christ, whom he mentions 45 times in this letter.
Paul could look back on his life and see that before his conversion he had been just like the legalizers. He had been ruled by religious pride and externals, and he gloried in human achievement. But when he met Jesus, all this passed away! What was left was Christ alone, Christ who is everything. For Paul the cross meant liberty from self (Gal. 2:20), from the flesh (5:24) and from the world (6:14) and a new life in Christ. All of us can look back on our lives too – what we were before we met Jesus, and all that has passed away, and we have been given the gift of a new life in the Spirit to live in Christ.
And this is his point: Gal 6:15 “ For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” The only thing that counts, is to be born again and become a new creation - a child of God. This comes by grace, through faith as God saves through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Christianity is all about what God has done for us, not what we do for Him.
*Eph. 2:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
*2 Cor. 5:17-18 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
Gal. 6:16 “ And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. ” As “this rule” of love is lived out in our lives by the power of the Spirit, God’s mercy and peace are upon us as the people of God. “Israel of God”, is a name for the church, the people of God, which Israel had been in the past, and one day they will inherit the promises God has made to them.
Gal. 6:17 “ From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” Paul had been through a lot to preach the gospel. He had been beaten scourged and imprisoned, but his focus was not on what he had done, “God forbid I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (14). These false teachers may have been marked by outward circumcision, but Paul points out that he has on his body the marks of Jesus, the scars which proved he bore reproach for the cross of Christ. In Paul’s day, people branded soldiers and slaves. Paul was Christ’s devoted soldier and slave.
Gal. 6:18 “ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen. ” Paul ends this letter as he had begun it, with the glorious reality of God's grace. He wanted the church to walk in a grace relationship with God instead of the legal, performance-based relationship that endangered them so. What a wonderful benediction and blessing to end this letter and our study. May the grace of the Lord be with us all.
1 Thess. 3:12-13 “… and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”
Prayer: Heavenly Father , we thank You for the Apostle Paul and all this letter has taught us this Fall. May we continue to grow in grace and walk in the Spirit and be led by the Spirit. May you fill us up daily so we may live and walk in the power of the Spirit and may the fruit of the Spirit keep on growing in our lives. We give you thanks, In Jesus' name. Amen.
God bless, fill our hearts with His Spirit, and walk in the Spirit. Sow to the Spirit that you're going to reap of the Spirit life abundant through Jesus.