Galatians 6:1-18 Walk According to the Rule WC McCarter
This entire sermon contains several points of application. We have made it to the end of the book of Galatians, and, as usual, the apostle now gives several final exhortations. Sometimes it feels like a letter like this ends like a machine gun with rapid fire of things to do and not do. If you are the type that likes to hear the dos and don’ts, here they are for you! If you think these sound like a lot of rules, don’t be mistaken: we are not saved by keeping a list of dos and don’ts, but there are proper responses to the Gospel and godly ways to live in this world.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Do Not Become Conceited (5:25-26)
In 5:25 the apostle said, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” 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). Another good 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 love to drop a bomb and stand 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. So, you see, there are two sides to the “vainglory” issue. In either camp, folks have the wrong view of themselves. They are either thinking too highly of themselves or thinking to lowly of themselves. Some think they are better than others (which is not true) and others think that they are not as good as others (which is 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.
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 and what he has been saying here at the end of Galatians in one phrase, “Bear one another’s burdens.” That phrase teaches us a lot about the Christian life. 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.
As John Stott has written, “Further, if we obeyed this apostolic instruction as we should, much unkind gossip would be avoided, more serious backsliding prevented, the good of the church advanced, and the name of Christ glorified.
Do Good to All (6-10)
The reason for verse six is hard to discern because we do not know everything about the Galatian situation. The overwhelming majority of interpreters believe that verse six means that the churches are to financially support their teachers (Moo), but why does Paul say that here? It could be that this is a stand-alone statement that Paul wanted to make a point of here. Although, it is likely that since, “Paul has just put a strong emphasis on individual responsibility” he then assumed that it could, “easily be misinterpreted as a reason to hold back from supporting those who teach” (Moo). We know that the Lord Jesus taught in Luke 10:7 that a “laborer is worthy of his wages,” and the apostle echoed that statement in 1 Cor 9:14 by saying, “the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” Whatever reason it may have been for Paul to say this, verse six makes clear, as one commentator has said, “. . . there was in the Galatia churches a recognized group of people engaged in gospel instruction, and . . . it was incumbent on those taught by these people to provide the instructors with financial support” (Moo). This is part of obeying the command to bear one another’s burdens, but it is a sharing exercise. The teacher shares spiritual/biblical things with his congregation, and the congregation shares material things with their teacher.
Of the sowing and reaping idea, I think we all can understand it. This is a straightforward principle of life whether we are talking about a farmer and his crops or a person’s spiritual life. If you plant a rose bush, you will not have an apple tree to bloom. Likewise, if you sow to the flesh you will not bear the fruit of the Spirit. This is what you get: if you sow to the flesh, you reap corruption, but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap everlasting life. Our focus must be on the good. We must not grow weary in doing good.
A farmer works hard, often from sun-up to sun-down. He does not see the fruit of his labor for a long period of time, but it does eventually come. Likewise, we must not be impatient. In due time we will reap what we have sown. We have all sorts of opportunities of which we should take advantage to do good. Let us look for those opportunities and act when the times comes. We should do good to all, especially to the household of faith, that is, our Christian brethren.
Boast Only in the Lord (11-18)
Paul now makes things personal as he comes to the very end of the letter to the Galatians. Paul has apparently been using a secretary to write the letter as he dictated it to him, but now he grabs the pen and writes the last paragraph himself. He reiterates the fact that the Judaizers, the false teachers, were only wanting the Galatians to be circumcised. Why? They wanted the Galatians circumcised for two reasons. First, so that they would not be persecuted because of the offensiveness of the cross of Christ, and, second, so that they could boast in their number of law-abiding disciples. How does Paul respond? He says, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” If any boasting is going to be done, it is boasting only in the Lord. The cross is our atonement, renewal, and salvation. If you are in Christ, then circumcision or non-circumcision means anything. Why? Because we are a new creation. We have died to the world. We have died to the Law. We have died to the flesh, our old person. We are new in Christ.
Verse 16 says, “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.” What rule is he referring to? The word “rule” refers to a standard, a principle, and a philosophy. In this context, the apostle must be referring to the “new creation” idea. Of course, this is a “big idea” (Moo). The old age is marked by wickedness, sin, the flesh, circumcision, and the Law while the new age is inaugurated by the cross of Christ and the things associated with Him such as the Spirit, faith, and love. Those who are new creatures, operating in the new creation will experience the peace and mercy of God as the new Israel. Christians are the chosen people. We are those who experience the blessings of God. We are the ones who will inherit His kingdom and all His promises.
Paul no longer wants the agitators to trouble him, and he no longer wants the Galatians to listen and follow their heresies. Paul must have had several scars that he attained from persecutions from various rivals to the cross of Christ. He reckoned those scars to be the marks of the Lord Jesus in his body. There was no question of Paul’s loyalty. His allegiance was with Christ.
Paul ends the epistle the same way he started it (1:3) “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ” and (6:18) “Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” If there is anything that the Galatians needed it was the grace of Christ with their spirit. They needed to know it, and they needed to trust it. There is no justification before God or satisfaction in this life or the next without the grace and peace of God.
Conclusion and Christian Application
In Galatians 6, we have a list of Paul’s final exhortations. Like a machine-gun, he fires numerous direct applications.
(1) Gently restore sinning believers.
(2) Bear one another’s burdens.
(3) Examine yourself and come to an accurate self-image.
(4) Support your true, Gospel ministers.
(5) Do good to all, especially other Christians.
(6) Boast only in the Lord and His cross.
(7) Walk (live) according to the standard of the new creation.
(8) Do not trouble your spiritual overseers by following false teachers.