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Final Warnings

Galatians 6

Lesson Audio

If you’ve ever sent your son or daughter off to college (or the military) you know that your farewell words consist of a series of proverbs and warnings intended to convey your love. Paul has a similar set here.

Bear each other’s burdens

Gal 6:1-6 NASB 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. (2) Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (3) For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (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. (5) For each one will bear his own load. (6) The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.

Spiritual restoration

We must always remember that our attitude towards another Christian’s sin is that of restoration. In the original, the word translated “caught” is also translated as “overtaken.” It’s the picture of someone who couldn’t run fast enough to get away from sin, so it caught him from behind. Ever had that feeling?

Here’s one of the great beauties of the church. Those who are spiritual Christians are to restore such a sinner. It’s as if no judgment is needed; we all know it’s sin. Nor do we need condemnation, for we know it is wrong. We need help in getting rid of the sin.

And those who do the restoring are cautioned:

· They are to do so in meekness (often translated gentleness), not with arrogance or condescension.

· While they are doing it, they are to looking out for temptation themselves.

Doctors conduct surgery with rubber gloves as a barrier against infection. So the spiritual are to be careful of temptation.

We are told to bear one another’s burdens (verse 2). There’s a good reason for this; you might be well able to assist me in my imperfections. Alone, each of us will be overpowered with those temptations to which we are most susceptible. But where I am weak you may be strong – and together we may triumph in Christ’s name.

Bear your own load

In another sense, however, we are to bear our own load. Paul seems to contradict himself here. But the distinction is clear when you start at verse 3. It is the arrogant Paul warns. How, then, does one avoid this arrogance? The essence of the matter is honesty:

· First, we are to examine ourselves. Are we really as good as we think we are? (A particular burden to those who are praised for their efforts).

· Interestingly, we are then to take credit for what is genuinely our accomplishment. Humility is not a low opinion of yourself; it’s an honest opinion.

Such self-examination and honesty also convicts us of the spiritual tasks given to us.

Teacher and student

Paul now makes a short statement about students and teachers. To understand this remark, we need to examine the culture and technology of the day:

· Books were hand copied – and therefore expensive. A man who sought to be a teacher could therefore expect to be handed a financial burden.

· Our modern series of concordances, topical Bibles, etc. did not exist. Consider that Nave’s Topical Bible, a standard work of scholarship, took fourteen years to create – and was not truly attempted before the late 19th century. In those days, your memory was everything.

· In addition, writing out a lesson was a tedious, hand writing process. The keyboard is mightier than the crayon.

So it is no surprise, then, that the Scripture makes it clear that those who preach the Gospel are to be supported by the church. Here, the point is extended somewhat to say “all good things.” The support of a teacher evidently is a bit more complicated than that of the full time preacher. But it is the joy of the teacher to share “all good things.” (Have you seen my granddaughter’s pictures?)

Expectations and Results

Gal 6:7-10 NASB Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. (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. (9) Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. (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.

Reap what you sow

Actions have consequences. Even when you think that “it wouldn’t harm anyone,” the consequences are still there – and all the more so if we try to wish them away. One such set of consequences is for the teacher – his students’ definition of “good things” depends very much on his teaching. If your teaching is pointed at the things of this world, that’s what you get. For what it’s worth.

But if your teaching is aimed at things of the Spirit – you get (both for you and your students) the reward of eternal life. Which is why teachers know first and foremost to teach Christ, and Him crucified.

The effects of time

So why is it that we’re not simply awash in good things? Paul tells you – don’t lose heart, it comes in God’s own good time. It’s a point of character that you have patience to wait for the Lord.

Sometimes that wait might be until you reach heaven’s shores. Consider, for a moment, the ancient practice of almsgiving. In Paul’s world there were beggars at every intersection, pleading for money. The early church considered it a privilege to be able to help such a man, knowing full well this laid up treasure in heaven. Our shorter patience wants results a lot more quickly than that.

Almsgiving? Consider it as an opportunity to do Christ’s will. Ask yourself:

· “Do I have the money now? Why, then, would I not give it?”

· “Do I see the need now? Why, then, would I not meet it?”

Your gift is not so much to the beggar as to your Lord. Let Him worry about the frauds; take care of the treasure in heaven.

A side note: it is clear in the Scriptures that the first claim on such giving is within your family; then those in the church, and finally those in the world.

Life in the flesh

Gal 6:11-18 NASB See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. (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. (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. (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. (15) For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (16) And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. (17) From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. (18) The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.

Sometimes our giving is not money, nor even time – but suffering. Paul, many scholars believe, suffered from cataracts, a condition which had no cure in his day. His readers knew this, so when they saw that he had written part (or all, we’re not sure) of this letter himself, they undoubtedly sympathized.

Boasting in the flesh

Some of us, however, suffer far too eloquently.

· “Look how many people are doing it my way, despite the pain and suffering it causes. There’s your motivation; I’m leading the way even in the prospect of pain.

· This, of course, inflates the ego wonderfully. Worse, it inflates the egos of both the teacher and the student – so everybody “wins.”

· Worse, this carries no positive effect. It is all for nothing.

In the Cross of Christ I glory

When Paul says that, we know that this is the subject in which he’s an A student. He expresses it to us in comparing the old creation to the new creation in Christ.

· The old creation – with its laws and emphasis on outer things – is now useless since the new creation has begun.

· How did this come about? At the Cross.

So then we are to live in the new creation – and if we do, the result is that we experience peace and mercy. There is a pang of compassion in that statement; despite the flap over circumcision he still wants this peace and mercy for the nation of Israel. They are his brothers; he cares for his family, so to speak.

Purple Heart

Paul has suffered bodily for the cause of Christ – and on many occasions. We award soldiers a Purple Heart if they are wounded in combat; Paul’s scars are his medal of suffering. They are a powerful sight.

An old story – I cannot find confirmation that it is true – concerns a missionary jailed and beaten for crime of preaching Christ. While in prison his body received many visible scars. At the end of his sentence, the ruler asked him what he was going to do now. He replied by asking permission to go back to the villages he was preaching in. The ruler absolutely refused: “My people are not such fools as to believe your stories, but they will be convinced by your scars.”

In all things, grace. Even in conflict inside the church, let grace abound.

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