Galatians 5:22-6:5 Fulfilling the Law of Christ WC McCarter
*This is a compilation of notes from recent sermons with a few added remarks.
To set the scene for today’s sermon, we first need to review the steps of the apostle’s argument which brings us to today’s point: do not follow the legalistic doctrines of false teachers à do not return to slavery à you are free à do not use freedom for the flesh à through love serve one another à to love you must walk in the Spirit and thus produce the fruit of the Spirit à a practical example of walking in the Spirit, of bearing the fruit of the Spirit, and lovingly serving fellow Christians is helping to restore a sinning brother/sister.
At one time, the great apostle Peter decided to head up to see Gentile country. A thriving Christian community, of mostly Gentile believers, had developed in the city of Antioch (of Syria, the third largest city of the Roman Empire at that time). Peter apparently was spending a good bit of time up there. We are told that he was in the habit of eating with the Gentiles. Of course, this was something new for a Jewish man. No Jew would be caught exchanging much of anything or communing in any way with a Gentile. They would not visit in a Gentile’s house, much less eat with them. Not only would they not eat with Gentiles, but they followed the OT law strictly when it came to the food regulations. They even added many regulations to the OT law about eating.
Yet, Jesus had personally taught the apostles that it is not what a man eats that defiles him, but what comes out of his mouth, that is, what truly comes from his heart. Jesus had also demonstrated that a Jewish man could commune with sinners, Samaritans, and Gentiles. He did so on numerous occasions, eating with them, talking with them, teaching and healing them. The Lord had even given Peter a vision. One day while Peter was praying on a rooftop, the Lord gave him a vision of a sheet coming down from heaven with all sorts of animals that were unclean according to the Law, but the Lord said, “Take and eat . . . do not call unclean what I have called clean.”
When Peter went to visit Antioch, he was routinely going into Gentile houses, eating BBQ with them, and having a great time of friendship. (I don’t know how you cannot be happy while eating BBQ. Of course, I am an eastern NC, vinegar based, chopped kind of guy, but I like it all–even if it is thick, ketchup based sauce, or Lexington style, or SC mustard based!). When men from Jerusalem came to Antioch, Peter changed his tune. This is what we call hypocritical.
The hypocritical nature, the neglect of his brethren, and the overall lack of trust in the true Gospel on the part of Peter caused the apostle Paul to confront him to his face. There was a lot at stake, and Paul took it upon himself to do what was right in calling out his brother. You see, we are all susceptible to weakness and in need of correction, and we are all responsible for one another.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
The Fruit of the Spirit (22-24)
In contrast to the things of the flesh, the Spirit produces all things that lead to life, namely love. These things are not by our doing, but the work of the Holy Spirit. There is no Law against these things. If you belong to Christ, you have the Spirit in you, and you have crucified the flesh. The “flesh” is the old, Adamic, sinful, unredeemed nature. We have been transferred from that state into a new state. We now operate in the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is singular which means that there is one fruit that the Spirit seeks to develop in us. So, the fruit of the Spirit is what? Love! “All of the other virtues listed result in some manner from love” (Longnecker). Now, there is no doubt that love (and the rest) come by the working of the Spirit in us, but do not discount the our individual responsibility. V25 says, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” or as the NIV says, “let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
Do Not Become Conceited (25-26)
In 5:26 we get some very practical teaching on the subject. How is it that Christians are to walk in the Spirit? Well, let’s first talk about what it does not mean. To walk in the Spirit is not to be conceited, that is, to “have exaggerated self-conceptions” (BDAG). A literal translation is “vainglory.” Of course, a person with that kind of attitude is going to have trouble getting along with others. As one commentator has said, “Now, when we are conceited, our relationships with other people are bound to be poisoned” (Stott). This attitude causes us to either provoke one another or envy one another.
To provoke someone literally means to call someone forward with the sense of a challenge. To call someone out insinuates that you are better than them, and you want to prove it to everyone around. Some people love to be instigators. Some enjoy dropping a bomb, as it were, and standing back to see how everyone responds. Some are even more straightforward than that and enjoy directly challenging someone. Christian people are not to challenge, provoke, irritate, or rival one another. That is not operating in the Spirit. Those are things of the flesh, the old sin-nature. The Spirit produces none of this sort. His fruit in us is love. On the flip side, not everyone is an instigator, some folks envy others, that is, they are jealous. You see, there are two sides to the “vainglory” issue. In either camp, folks have the wrong view of themselves. They either think too highly of themselves or think to lowly of themselves. Some think they are better than others (not true) and others think that they are not as good as others (not true). The positive command is “Walk in the Spirit” while the negative command is “Do not have an exaggerated view of yourself.”
Restore Gently (1-5)
One very practical part of walking in the Spirit is to look out for your brothers and sisters. For example, if one is sinning, you should restore such a person. I think the reasons for doing this (the why) is obvious, but let me state a few just for discussion’s sake. We should restore fallen brothers and sisters because:
(1) We should pursue holiness in the body of Christ. (2) This protects the church from temptation, sin, and apostasy. (3) This saves a brother/sister from ultimately abandoning Christ and perishing.
What to do: Restore him/her. The word “restore” means to put things in order, to cause something to be in a condition to function well, to restore to a former condition, to fix-adjust-complete-mend. This term was used of a doctor/trainer who would set a broken bone back in its place. It was also used of the disciples who repaired their fishing nets in Matt 4:21/Mark 1:19. The point is that we cannot stand idly by as if a fallen Christian has nothing to do with us. We are accountable to one another. Part of loving one another is getting yourself dirty in service to one another. It is too easy to say, “It does not involve me,” or “He deserves what he is getting.” That is not Christian. We are to step in, do the hard work, and help to make things right.
Who is to do it: Your first thought should not be to take the issue to someone else and make it their problem or to gossip with your friends about it. No, you are to bear the burden of your brother or sister. Restoration is what has to happen, and you are the one responsible for doing it. By the term “spiritual,” Paul is probably referring to those who are walking according to the Spirit. Those mature Christians are the ones who should restore fallen brethren. We should not just go around looking for trouble to confront, neither should just any of us be the ones to confront those who are sinning. But do not take that as an excuse to not confront and restore a brother/sister. Use spiritual discernment about a situation, and do what is right.
How it is to be done: There are two parts to this. First, it must be done gently. Gentleness is a “fruit” of the Spirit (or in my interpretation, an evidence of love which is the fruit of the Spirit). Second, it must be done carefully, that is, without letting yourself become corrupted. We could say, then, that we must restore our brethren while staying on guard ourselves. We must guard against things from within and without. The things that come from within are the things opposite to gentleness, namely, pride, arrogance, anger, and conceit. The things that come from without are those things that our brothers and sisters may have fallen into, and we may be tempted to do. So, we must be gentle, and we must be careful, but the key is that you act! The great reformer, Martin Luther, said of this passage, “Therefore, if you see any brother cast down and afflicted by occasion of sin which he has committed, run to him and, reaching out your hand, raise him up again, comfort him with sweet words, and embrace him with motherly arms.”
This is an appropriate example of burden-bearing: catching someone sinning and doing something about it (ex. baby/puppy). The apostle summarizes the law of Christ in one phrase, “Bear one another’s burdens.” That phrase teaches us a whole lot about the Christian life that we should all hear and understand. First, we all have burdens. Second, there are certain burdens that we cannot bear alone. Third, we are responsible for supporting one another in burden-bearing.
Now, if you are not willing to help others or to ask for help yourself, then you are thinking too highly of yourself. None of us are above helping others or being helped by others. Instead of having an exaggerated/faulty view of oneself, everyone should test his/her own work. Here is a key point: you should not compare your situation with the situation of another person. You can always find someone who is doing worse than you, and then you think that you are doing well. We should consider ourselves in comparison to God’s standards and remember His grace. What does it mean that we should bear our own load? Is this not in contradiction to bearing one another’s burdens? No, it does not contradict what has previously been said. Verse five refers to you answering for yourself on the Day of Judgment (Moo, Stott). On that Day, you will not be compared to others but to God’s standard. Part of what will be considered is how you related to your brethren.
Conclusion and Christian Application
For more reading on this subject, go see what the Lord says in Matt 18:15-17.
(1) Walk in the Spirit, pursuing the fruit that He produces and crucifying the things of the flesh such as vainglory, provocation, and envy.
(2) Gently restore sinning believers for the good of the brother and the church.
(3) Bear one another’s burdens even if it gets dirty and difficult.
(4) Examine yourself and come to an accurate self-image.