LifeWay Explore the Bible Series for July 20
A concise instruction manual for the church
By Jim Perkins
Madison Hills Baptist Church, San Antonio
It seems every organization has a manual of instructions to ensure proper functioning of the group. Far more vital for believers, chapter 6 of Galatians outlines a way of life capable of shaping the life of the Christian community.
The Apostle Paul constructed a fascinating mosaic of church life in Galatians 6:1-6. Covering the gamut from churchwide relationships to personal motivations and responsibilities, he offered practical advice to enhance the wide range of church life. Paul included four areas of Christian discipleship for appropriate counsel.
In verse 1, Paul enjoined the Galatian Christians to strive to aid and rehabilitate any fellow church member tripped up by sin. The sinner Paul had in mind seems to be one caught up in an isolated action of sin and not one settled in a determined course of flagrant rebellion that brings public disrepute to the cause of Christ. In order to assist and “restore” (the word meant to set a broken bone or mediate between factions) that person, the spiritually mature should assist in the process with a keen alertness to the dangers of the temptation.
Second, Paul instructed them to “carry each other's burdens” (6:2). While this injunction might look back to the restorative process of verse 1, it nevertheless has a much broader application in the life of the community of believers. The word for “burden” means something like “the weight of the world,” a picture of a fellow Christian struggling under the oppressive weight of overwhelming hardships. The apostle dispelled any erroneous sense of self-sufficiency when he reminded his readers that to help in this manner would “fulfill the law of Christ.” In other words, we fulfill the totality of Christ's teaching and the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (5:14) as we bear one another's burdens.
Third, in what seems to be a contradiction of verse 2, Paul reminded the believers of the personal responsibility for each to “carry his own load” (5:5). That apparent contradiction is resolved, however, when we realize the word for “load” in verse 5 is the word for a soldier's pack. The sense of Paul's instruction, then, is that we must assist another when we find him struggling with overwhelming burdens, but we each are responsible to carry our own load.
Fourth, the apostle addressed one last opportunity for believers when he noted the need for mutual life investment between the one who is taught Christian truths and the teacher (6:6). This is not materially different from Paul's instructions in 1 Corinthians 9:14 that “the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” A notable exception to this rule was practiced by Paul on the mission field, where he worked with his hands or received support from other churches (Philippians 4:10-20) in order to preach the gospel in a new location.
Paul encouraged his readers in 6:7-10 to live in an atmosphere of awareness. The Galatians were to be aware that life is lived and invested–one “sows”–in the presence of God. That life will either be sown in step with the Spirit (5:16-18, 22-26) and reap an eternal reward in life with the Father, or it will be sown in fruitless rebellion (5:19-21) and result in a life separated from God for eternity. The harvest is assured!
The apostle included in verses 9 and 10 an appropriate example of the type of sowing God expects from his people–and the harvest that can be expected. Paul issued a universal appeal to all Christians at all times: We are to “do good to all people,” for all are created in the image of God and are precious to him. At the same time, Paul's appeal was particularistic: We are “especially” to strive to meet the needs of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Do remember that this was not a noble concept of charity, but a command to be respected and followed diligently!
Be on guard
Paul ended the letter to the Galatians with a very personal appeal to his dear friends (6:11-18). Taking the pen into his own hands (verse 11), the apostle recapitulated the thesis he so diligently stressed in this letter. Although the Judaizing interlopers were attempting to foist circumcision on the Galatian believers as a legal matter necessary to complete their salvation, Paul knew the Judaizers primary concern was to avoid the harsh reprisals of their zealous Jewish opponents (6:12).
In what perhaps is the crowning statement of Paul's position concerning salvation, the apostle reminded his readers one more time of the primacy of faith in Christ and the permanent results flowing from that relationship. Anything a person might do is irrelevant (including circumcision), for the only thing that matters is the transformation that occurs through a personal relationship with Christ–a “new creation” (6:15; see also Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 5:17). May our programs and plans never blur the clarity of this great truth!
Question for discussion
While remaining faithful to allow actions to flow from a relationship with Christ, what would allow your study group or church to apply the injunction of this passage to “do good” to others?