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Galatians 6:1-16

So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” – Galatians 6:10

Living Like You Mean It

Few things are more appealing than the sight of pantry shelves stocked with canned tomatoes, squash, green beans, and other colorful produce. Such bounty represents a labor of love – and a productive garden. Successful gardeners know that a fruitful garden requires serious preparation, planting, and cultivation before one ever gets around to the harvest.

The Apostle Paul understood the principle. In drawing his fervid letter to the Galatians to a close, he spoke of the personal responsibility that goes with planting, cultivating, and growing a healthy church.

In chapters 1-5, Paul had warned his readers against a legalistic gospel that ties salvation to law keeping, as well as a libertine approach that promotes loose living. He summarized the ideal Christian life this way: “the only thing that matters is faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6). That is a powerful phrase. We are saved by faith, and we do God’s good works through love for the one who has saved us. The theme of “faith working through love” carries over into today’s text.

Bearing and sharing(vv. 1-6)

Turning his letter toward a conclusion, Paul urged the believers in Galatia to demonstrate Christ-like love by bearing one another’s burdens, looking out for the spiritual health of others as well as their own. “My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted” (v. 1).

Transgressions can be doctrinal as well as moral or ethical. Whether brothers and sisters fall to the temptation of misguided beliefs or misdirected behavior, fellow believers have a responsibility to gently coax them back into the fold of faithful followers acting in love.

To “bear one another’s burdens” in this sense can be risky and hard, but Paul said “in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (v. 2). As Jesus had instructed his followers to show love and kindness, even to those who oppressed them (Luke 6:27-31), so Paul urged his readers to “fulfill the law of Christ” by helping each other carry their respective loads. Remember his mantra: “the only thing that matters is faith working through love.”

Those who seek to help others aren’t “holier than thou,” but seek to be self-aware and “test their own work,” not thinking of themselves as superior to weaker members but offering their help in a spirit of humility (vv. 2-4).

Paul’s conclusion, “For all must carry their own loads” (v. 5), may seem to contradict his admonition to bear one another’s burdens, but Paul is not disputing himself. There are burdens we can carry on our own, and we should: we cannot expect others to meet our every need. On the other hand, there are burdens of grief or temptation or severe trial that we cannot bear alone, and we need faithful friends to help us in those times.

Paul’s assertion that “those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher” (v. 6) may appear to be a change of course, but it is a natural outgrowth of the earlier instruction to live in love and bear one another’s burdens. Paul was not appealing for personal support, but probably had in mind other ministers or teachers who devoted themselves to building up the church.

Sowing and reaping(vv. 7-10)

Paul deepened his appeal to loving behavior with an agricultural illustration: “God is not mocked,” he said, “for you reap whatever you sow” (v. 7). Those who put their trust in selfish interests (who “sow to your own flesh”) would reap only death, while those who “sow to the Spirit” would “reap eternal life from the Spirit” (v. 8).

Life can be unpredictable, the road can be hard, and results are not immediate. Nevertheless, believers should “not grow weary in doing what is right,” Paul said, believing that “we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up” (v. 9). Thus, “whenever we have an opportunity,” the apostle insisted, “let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith” (v. 10).

Opportunities abound for positive living that works for the good of all – and if believers aren’t kind and helpful to each other, how could their witness ever extend beyond the church?

Paul’s illustration has obvious implications. First, we reap what we sow. If a farmer sows silver-queen corn, he doesn’t expect to harvest watermelons. Any gardener with the brains of a mustard seed expects to reap the same sort of thing that he or she sows. If we plant the seeds of faith in God and love for others, we can expect a harvest of personal joy, a better world, glory for God, and everlasting life. On the other hand, if we sow sin and reject God’s way, we can expect to reap unhappiness, emptiness, and death.

Perhaps Paul knew that some of the libertines in Galatia had been “sowing to the flesh” for some time, with no apparent consequences. That might breed confidence to continue in sin, or engender doubt as to whether God really cared.

Paul insisted that the lack of immediate retribution does not mean sin has no consequences. “Do not be deceived,” Paul said. “God cannot be mocked. A person reaps what he sows.” To mock God is to thumb one’s nose at God without concern – but Paul was convinced there would be repercussions, and they would not be pleasant. Sadly, innocent people often get caught up in someone else’s harvest of trouble. That makes it even more imperative for us to sow what is good.

We reap what we sow, but also more than we sow. We expect one black-eyed pea to become dozens, and one grain of corn to become hundreds. Jesus spoke of farmers whose crops brought forth 30-, 50-, even 100-fold. If we didn’t expect to reap more than we sowed, there would be no point in planting. Those who sow to the sinful nature reap a death that lasts far longer than the time enjoyed sowing wild oats. In contrast, the eternal glories and joys of heaven far surpass even the best seeds we plant on earth.

The principle also works in this present life. The prophet Hosea once got so worked up over Israel’s sin that he said “You sow the wind, but you will reap the whirlwind!” (Hos. 8:7). Harmful deeds sown in the passion of a moment can bring a harvest of much pain and difficulty.

On the other hand, Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 9:6 that “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, but whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” A few seeds of love sown along life’s way can result in great blessedness later in life. Those who spread generosity are not promised great financial rewards, but other benefits can be more important than mere money. We may reap personal peace and satisfaction from knowing we did the right thing, or find joy in the gratitude shown by those we help.

Here is a third corollary: we not only reap what we sow and more than we sow, but as a rule, we reap later than we sow. The vegetables we eat, freeze, or can in the summer were planted in the spring. No one but the youngest child can plant a seed one day and look for cucumbers on the next. Perhaps this is why Paul added “let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap, if we do not give up.”

A major obstacle to faithful living is despair. When we don’t see immediate results of our labor, we are often tempted to give up. Sometimes, Christian people get tired of doing good more quickly than sinful people grow weary of doing evil. It is not uncommon for an individual or a church to begin a project with blazing zeal, but then let it fizzle out when the harvest is slow in coming. Our temptation is to give up: to stop reaching out to others, to stop giving, to stop attending church – but that is exactly what Paul warns us against. “At the proper time we will reap,” he said.

The truth is, we are all sowing seeds every day, whether we fancy ourselves to be farmers or not. What kind of seeds are we planting, and what kind of harvest will they bring?

Boasting and following(vv. 11-18)

To this point, Paul had apparently been dictating his letter to a scribe, or “amenuensis.” Beginning in v. 11, however, Paul took the pen and inscribed the closing words in his own hand, showing the depth of his feeling on the issue: “See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!” (v. 11).

With his own distinctive hand-writing, then, Paul closed with a final warning against the danger of following the legalistic preachers who insisted that Gentile Christians must accept circumcision and follow the Jewish law (vv. 12-13). “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Paul said, “by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (v. 14).

It’s not circumcision that matters, Paul said, but the crucifixion, through which believers can experience God’s mercy and become a “new creation” (v. 15) in Christ, led by the Spirit. Those “who follow this rule,” Paul said – who remember the bottom line – are those who find peace and mercy as “the Israel of God.” NFJ

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Adult Teaching Resources

Download the PDF for July 3, 2016 teaching resources. This PDF contains the FIT Teaching Guide, Digging Deeper, and Hardest Question pages.

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Read Scripture online: Galatians 6:1-16

 


Youth

Parent Prep

You don’t have to do this alone. In fact, you shouldn’t try and do this alone. Parenting isn’t easy and some days you just want to throw your hands up in the air and give up. ose are the days that you really can’t go at this whole parenting this alone. Find a group of friends that you can share life with. At rst, this may be just getting together and having a moment of quiet with your friends. en, it may progress into sharing what is going on and constructive ways to help one another. You never know, it might end up that you share in the joy of graduations and weddings. e point being, don’t try and parent by yourself. Find a group that you can share the warts with as well as the smiles. Share your burdens. Share your joys. Share in life.

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“Biff’s World” from Back to the Future Part 2

Read Scripture online: Galatians 6:1-16