Monday, June 13, 2011

Galatians Part 11: Paul defends the gospel (f)—2:15-6:16

C. Attitudes under the gospel—6:1-16

1. Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought—6:1-5

6:1—BRETHREN, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted—Those who claim to walk by the Spirit—the spiritual—should restore those who are caught up in sin. If we learn of someone in sin, what do we do? Should we overlook it on account of love? “Restore,” from the Greek katartidzō (καταρτιζω), means to mend, restore to a former condition or repair. This word was also used as a medical term for the setting of broken bones or resetting a dislocated limb. The one who has fallen must be set straight. Do we first have to wait until we have gained the right to speak into another Christian’s life of sin. No! When Paul starts this verse with “brethren” he also points to the fact that as Christians we are in a family. We immediately have the right as brothers and sisters to correct each other. A spiritual Christian will step in to restore a fallen sibling, yet with the right attitude.

So, how are we to go about it? Paul gives us the answer. We are to do it “in a spirit of gentleness.” We are not to correct others with self-righteous attitudes in which we want to show off our own righteousness. That will put us in the same class as the Judaizers. It will simply show our own reliance on the law and our own merit before God. However, if we are really spiritual, we will attempt to restore a fallen sibling “in a spirit of gentleness.” When we look back at the fruit of the Spirit (5:22), we see that love is at the head of the aspects of the spiritual fruit, and rightly so, since Paul also said, “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13) Our “gentleness” must be guided by “the love of God [which] has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom 5:5)

Paul gives us a reason for the attitude we should have in restoring other Christians from sin. “So that you too will not be tempted.” Paul recognises that as human beings we are frail. None of us is immune to temptation and should therefore be on the lookout against such temptation.

6:2—Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ—Love, which fulfils the law, is not passive. Rather, love is active in helping our fellow saints. The word “bear” in the Greek is in the present tense notifying us that it should not be a one of thing to assist one another, but something that we continuously practise. “Burden,” from baros (βαρος), means hardship, suffering in an oppressive way. Those that are spiritual should not only restore those that have been caught in sin, but also help carry the difficulties of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

6:3—For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself—Conceit in the Christian life is as easy to fall into as it is in the ways of the world. It is very easy to get to the point where we think that we do not have need of anyone else’s help in our own hardships. On the other hand, many claim to be spiritual yet do not actually want to get their hands dirty with the difficulties in others’ lives. Those that are spiritual will both accept help and offer help. That is the Christian way. Anyone who thinks that they do not need help or should give help is deceived.

6:4—But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another—Comparison with others can keep us from bearing one another’s burdens. We either feel that we are better than others or we feel that we are not good enough. In order to stand against these types of feelings we need to take responsibility for that task the Lord has given us. We are all different parts of the body of Christ and there is no reason to compare ourselves with others.

6:5—For each one will bear his own load—Our duty as Christians is to carry the load we were given in terms of our place in the body of Christ to the best of our ability. We must not compare ourselves with others and neither should we try to pass our loads on to others. In verse 2 Paul tells us to carry one another’s burdens. When we see others struggling with their burdens, we as spiritual Christians should step in to help. Here in verse 5 Paul tells us not pass our loads on to others. We are to assist others, but not pass our own loads onto others.

2. You will reap what you sow—6:6-10

6:6—The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him—Are we to pay salaries to those who teach us the Word? Are we to share only with those who are “full-time” in the ministry? This verse gives us no categories as to what level of minister of the gospel we should share our goods with! We should simply show our gratitude to those who preach the Word to us by sharing what we have with them. Does this mean that preaching must become burdens to us? “Each one will bear his own load.”

Wuest is against the idea of financial payment to preachers here:
“First, the context which speaks both of the evil (6:1-5) and the morally good (6:9, 10), is against the interpretation that financial support is in the apostle’s mind here. Second, the context defines the good things as being of a spiritual, not a material nature. Third, it would be the height of folly for Paul to inject such a delicate subject as the pocket book of the saint (delicate in some circles) into the already discordant atmosphere of the Galatian churches, especially when the whole trouble revolved around heretical teaching and not around the finances of the churches. Fourth, if Paul were exhorting the saints to contribute financially to the support of their former teachers, the Judaizers would be quick to say that the apostle was attempting to win the Galatian saints back to grace  for financial reasons, since he himself was one of their former teachers.”1
6:7—Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap—This is the golden rule of life. In all parts of our life we need to sow good things in order that we may reap good things. Whether we sow physical things or spiritual things we will reap according to what we sow. We cannot reap what we have not sown. For the Galatians it was important  to listen to the correct teachers. One cannot expect to follow the Judaizers’ teachings and expect to reap a life of grace.

6:8—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—One cannot expect to sow to the flesh, with all the trappings of the Law, and expect to reap eternal life from the Spirit. If you sow to the flesh—by living according to the Law—you will reap corruption. The only way to reap eternal life is to sow to the Spirit, by living in the free grace of God by faith.

6:9—Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary—The time between sowing and reaping in the spiritual realm, more often than not, is much longer than that in the physical realm. It is therefore so much easier to lose heart and grow weary. It is not always easy to sit and wait until the harvest, especially if it takes long. However, Paul encourages the Galatians that they should not lose heart, since it is in perseverance that we will reap if we do not grow weary. It is in doing good that we will reap good things unto ourselves.

6:10—So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith—We should at all times aim to do good to all people. However, when our resources are running low, we need to do good especially to Christians. Our fellow Christians should have first priority.

3. Boast in the cross, not the Law—6:11-16

6:11—See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand—It is believed by most scholars that Paul had used an amanuensis2 up to this point and took over the writing at the end of the letter to add his “signature” to the letter. The fact that Paul wrote with large letters points to his eye problem we discovered in 4:13-14.

6:12—Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ—The Judaizers have identified themselves with the Christian church and as a result was under the same condemnation from their Jewish brothers who had rejected the Christian gospel as all other Christians. In order to circumvent this life threatening problem they added circumcision and therefore the whole of the law to Christ. Circumcision being the sign of the Old Covenant brought the whole of the law upon the Gentiles. They perverted the doctrine of salvation by adding the law to it.

6:13—For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh—In order for the Judaizers to cover up their own laxity in keeping the law, they went ahead to make converts to the law so that they indeed would have something to boast about. By getting the Gentiles to follow them in the Law, they would be seen in a better light by the Jews.

6:14—But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world—Paul’s life and that which he teaches all point away from himself so that he could not boast. In Cor 2:2 Paul wrote, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” In Paul’s mind the cross is his deliverer from pride. When he thinks of the cross he finds himself in no position to be boastful, because it points to his utter helplessness in a condition of sin that ONLY the cross of Christ can deliver him from. When Paul writes that “the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world,” he is saying that through the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ he was separated from the world and the world from him.

6:15—For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation—Our boasting for salvation means nothing, whether we are circumcised or not. We are not saved by circumcision and we surely are not better off being uncircumcised. What really matters is being renewed by the cross of Christ. Outward rules and regulations can never save us.

6:16—And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God—Those who conduct their lives according to the rule that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision matters, but the cross of Christ for a new creation will receive peace and mercy. These are indeed the Israel of God and not those who simply rely on their physical descent.

D. Questions to ponder

1. How are we justified?
2. What does it mean to be crucified with Christ?
3. What does Paul mean by “receiving the Spirit” in Galatians 3?
4. Can the Law perfect us after we have started in the Spirit by faith?
5. How do we receive the Spirit or miracles?
6. Who are Abraham’s children?
7. Do Christians carry the curse of the Law?
8. What is the blessing of Abraham?
9. How is it received?
10. Who is Abraham’s ‘seed?’
11. Is the New Covenant a ‘covenant’ or a ‘testament?’ Why?
12. What are the 5 objective features of the testament?
13. Does the Law invalidate the covenant to Abraham?
14. Why was the Law given?
15. Do we need the Law as a tutor?
16. What does the “fullness of time” mean?
17. Why is the keeping of days, etc. worthless and elemental?
18. What was the bodily illness that Paul mentions he had?
19. If we tell people the truth, are we therefore their enemies?
20. Who/What represented the Law in Paul’s allegory in Gal 4:21-31?
21. Who/What represented Christianity in Paul’s allegory in Gal 4:21-31?
22. Why are those who receive circumcision obliged to keep the whole Law?
23. Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?
24. How are we to overcome the desires of the flesh?
25. What are the deeds of the flesh? Their groupings?
26. What are the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit? Their groupings?
27. How do we handle those caught in sin?
28. What does it mean to share all good things with those who teach us?
29. What does it mean to sow to the flesh?
30. What should we boast in?
31. Who is the Israel of God?

End Notes

[1] Wuest, Kenneth S., Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament for the English Reader, Volume One, Galatians in the Greek New Testament, Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1973, p171.
[2] An amanuensis is someone who writes down what someone else is saying.

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