Do you love your church? If you could change anything about your church, what would it be? Though none are perfect, every congregation can and should provide a place where people can belong, where people can grow.
Galatians 1-4 teaches the doctrine of salvation. Chapters 5-6 applies the teaching to everyday life. Since church is part of the believer’s everyday life, what are the marks of a healthy one? Church life is on target when it includes the following: 1) help to members who have sinned, 2) humble examination of one’s own life, 3) support of church leaders, 4) the doing of good things and 5) a continued focus on Jesus. In light of these characteristics, consider how you can help your church be healthy and vibrant.
Restoring those who have fallen (Galatians 6:1). The term “restore” also is used for setting a broken bone or mending a fishing net. One must undertake such activity with care. Just as the setting of a broken bone is done to bring healing, so the correcting of a brother or sister caught in sin should bring about restoration, not destruction.
One danger always is near: thinking of oneself as the judge over someone else. Paul’s counsel includes watching out for your own condition.
Humble examination of one’s own life (vv. 2-5). The refusal to stand in judgment over another makes it possible to sympathize with and help those in need. At first glance, verses 2 and 5 may seem to contradict one another. The word “burden” (v. 2) denotes a crushing weight. The very love of God will compel us to support and to help those who face overwhelming circumstances and burdens. The term “load” (v. 5) is used to describe a soldier’s pack. As the good soldier must shoulder and carry his own belongings, so each one of us must deal with the responsibilities of life that cannot be shared by another and for which we will one day be held accountable by God.
People will be drawn to a church family known for dealing with sin in a redemptive manner. People will be motivated to use their gifts and talents in the life of the church when they see others model the way.
Support of church leaders (v. 6). The religion of Gentile paganism was founded on fear. The follower owed no obligation to the leader. Idolatry fostered no connection between worshipper and priest. The truth of the gospel presented new possibilities. Paul was not a priest who instilled fear in the hearts of the Galatians. He was a fellow worker, a teacher called of God. Those within the community of faith were to support their ministers. This may sound self-serving, but the minister deserves a fair living.
Some scholars connect verses 7-8 with the idea found in verse 6: that if the church does not provide for and honor her leaders, then the resulting circumstances will be devastating. Perhaps Paul intended to communicate a more general application. Indeed, the principle is true: we all receive back what we have given.
The doing of good things (vv. 9-10). The main body of the Galatian letter comes to a close with these verses. These words stand as a warning against discouragement and hopelessness. Paul continues his analogy of farming and growing, sowing and reaping. There is a planting season and there is a harvesting season. While we can, let us focus on doing good. The effort will prove worthwhile.
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A continued focus on Jesus (vv. 14-16). The bottom line is simply Jesus. Paul breaks from his normal closing: “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand” (v. 11). First century customs lead us to believe Paul dictated this letter. A friend, perhaps Tertius (Romans 16:22), served as the apostle’s secretary. Imagine Paul as he takes the pen himself and writes out the final words. The “large letters” most likely underscore the importance of all he has said. In our e-mail age, one puts words in all caps to denote screaming.
These concluding words recap and reemphasize all that is at stake. The Judaizers will continue their mission to compel new converts to accept circumcision. Legalism will continue to be a threat.
Against these heresies stands Jesus. The crucified and risen Lord of Lords and King of Kings is all we need. A church that lifts high the name of Christ is the church that will succeed when others fail.
In our church, we say over and over that we exist to achieve three intended results. We personalize these results so there is no mistaking why we do what we do.
I commit to Jesus. I commit to his followers. I commit to his world.
Why do we gather? Why do we serve? Why do we work? Why do we support and give to missions? The answer to these questions is the same. We answer with our intended results.
When we plan ministries and compile budgets, they must support our intended results. If they do not, then they do not happen.
Do you love your church?