Galatians 6:1-10 ESV
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. 2 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. 6 One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 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. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
We now come to the final chapter in the book of Galatians. Every time I have sat down and studied one of these sections of the book, it has helped me to remember the context in which the words were written. Paul had planted and established the work in Galatia, then left it in the hands of its own leaders. He had every reason to believe that the Galatian churches would thrive as long as they stayed faithful to the LORD, and followed the principles he taught them.
But that is not what happened. Those “troublers” came from Jerusalem and brought an alternate gospel with them.
In this section, Paul appeals to a principle that explains what went wrong in Galatia. That principle is found in Galatians 6:7-8 “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.”
The Principle is: Sowing the Right thing leads to Reaping the Right thing. This is true for a person, and it is also true and a church.
Jesus had told a parable about a farmer who planted wheat, but discovered that his enemy had secretly mixed in some weed seed (Matt. 13:25-30). The result was that the field grew both. That is what had happened in Galatia, and it didn’t look good. It was a disorderly mess. Paul’s letter was God’s way of helping the church to recover from that mess.
We 21st century churches can get a bit disordered at times too. We should follow Paul’s advice if we want to have a bountiful harvest for Christ. He teaches here how we can sow the true gospel in a church context.
Just like the farmer in Jesus’ parable, Paul advises against going into the Galatian churches and pulling up all the weeds. Instead, he tells us to turn the weeds into wheat. He says in verse 1: “if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” That is wonderful pastor imagery.
Paul tells them in verse 2 to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. ” That law was expressed in John 13:34, where Jesus says “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.”
Manifesting that love means restoring those who stray away from the gospel. In Romans 15:1, Paul says “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”
Paul goes on to say “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. ” Galatians 6:3-4. To keep with the field analogy, Paul is saying, “make sure you have sowed the gospel in your own life first.” He had told the Corinthians to “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
When the true gospel has been sowed in our lives, it will produce the right kind of works all by itself. So one way to test whether your theology is correct, is to examine your life to see if it is producing kingdom living and the fruit of the Spirit.
Paul says in verse 6, “One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.” This takes some explanation. You see, before Paul had left the Galatian region, he had set up leaders who faithfully taught the gospel. When the troublers came in with their alternate gospel, they encouraged their followers to ignore these teachers.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:14 “those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” God has established a way for the church to continue preaching the gospel, and that is through the professional ministry. What happened in Galatia is that those teaching the false gospel had supplanted those duly set up to teach in the church. So Paul is urging the Galatians to restore support to the rightful teachers.
In Galatians 6:9 Paul says “let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” He told the Corinthians something similar: “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
One of the reasons churches do not reap the harvest is that the people give up before the harvest comes. Galatians teaches us that we cannot be saved by works, but we are reading it wrongly if we think it is saying just trust the LORD and do nothing. The works that we will do will be the Holy Spirit’s works, not ours. They will be done because we are saved, not in order to get saved. But make no mistake: God’s people are expected to persevere in ministry until Christ comes.
So this section concludes with Paul saying “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. ” (Galatians 6:10). The end result of the false gospel was that it led to the church biting and devouring one another. The end result of Paul’s gospel of salvation by grace is that the people in the church will invest themselves in each other’s lives.
The reason this kind of good works follows from the true gospel is that we have been set free from having to establish our own salvation, so now we have the opportunity to steer our good works toward others. That is how a church of saved people is supposed to operate.
LORD, we confess that all too often we have acted like the Galatians in our approach to ministry. We have sought to impress you by our obedience. We have worked hard to get on your good side. We repent of those kinds of works.
Help us LORD to trust in what Christ has done for us, so that we can be free to invest ourselves in others. Help us to sow the gospel of grace in this church, so that your Holy Spirit will be free to produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.