Family Matters Gal. 6:1-18
With a simple “I do,” a man and woman unite in matrimony. This everyday occurrence brings new family responsibilities by joining both husband and wife to a larger unit—the extended family of in-laws. By the same token, professing faith in Jesus as Savior links believers to each other as part of the Body of Christ and provides brothers and sisters in the Lord.
These new family relationships also contain specific obligations and responsibilities. In Galatians 6, the apostle Paul completes his letter to the believers in Galatia by providing instruction on how to minister to the extended family of
Dealing with Sin
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye who are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted (6:1).
Unfortunately, some Christians add misery to affliction rather than minister comfort and healing to a fallen member of the family. Paul, however, instructs believers to seek a sinner’s restoration—and to do it with kindness and love.
The words overtaken in a fault refer to being seized by sin. The Scripture says Satan prowls about like a roaring lion, looking for believers to seduce, tempt, and trap (1 Pet. 5:8). Christians should seek to “restore such an one” who has been caught in Satan’s clutches. In fact, Paul uses a medical term that refers to the practice of setting a broken bone,1 a procedure that necessitates a firm, yet gentle, loving touch.
Restoration also requires direct confrontation. No one can set a bone from fifty miles away. Jesus Himself clearly taught that believers should confront a sinning brother or sister face to face (Mt. 18:15). If the situation is not resolved, “then take with thee one or two more” (Mt. 18:16), so the one sinning may become convicted of his transgression by the testimony of additional witnesses. Then godly sorrow can lead him to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10) and restoration. Such was the procedure believers used in Corinth when a church member had fallen into sexual immorality. The man was eventually restored to fellowship as a useful member of the family. It was also how Paul dealt with Peter earlier regarding Peter’s abrupt refusal to eat with Gentile believers. “I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” (Gal. 2:11). He did not discuss Peter’s problem with anyone else but confronted Peter directly. Moreover, there is no indication in the Bible that this behavior was ever a problem for Peter again.
Of course, direct confrontation and loving discipline require courage and dependence on the Holy Spirit. Both pave the road to maturity in the faith and encourage the true repentance necessary to effect a loving restoration and ultimate healing of the body. Such is the biblical pattern to follow.
Helping With Burdens
Next Paul describes how believers are to minister to those enduring difficult times and circumstances.
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (6:2).
The Greek word for “burden” refers to a crushing load, something far too much for someone to bear alone.2 Helping an individual bear that burden, Paul says, fulfills the law of Christ. When Christ was on earth, He told which of God’s commandments was the greatest: “Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Mt. 22:37). He then added, “And the second is like it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Mt. 22:39).
The second command hinges on the first. If we love the Lord properly, we love those whom He loves. Scripture abounds with verses showing how earnestly the Lord Himself desires to lift our burdens (Josh. 1:9; Ps. 3:3–4; Isa. 41:10; Hab. 3:19; 1 Pet. 5:7). Since He loves us so much that He wants to help us through our trials and deep waters, we should endeavor to do the same for other members of the household of faith.
Some Christians, however, are reluctant to minister to those who are heavy laden. Paul explains that one reason may be conceit.
For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden (6:3–5).
When people think more highly of themselves than they do of others, they lack the heart for those whom they consider inferior. The Scriptures, however, teach that we should esteem others better than we esteem ourselves. In Philippians, Paul devotes almost an entire chapter to humility and admonishes believers to have the same mind as Christ Jesus, who regarded others as more important than Himself (Phil. 2:3).
The biblical cure for conceit is found in Galatians 6:4. Everyone should “prove his own work.” Rather than compare our work to that of others, we should evaluate it in relation to the greatness, grandeur, and glory of God. With that perspective, we become like the prophet Isaiah when he saw the Lord and immediately cried out, “Woe is me!” (Isa. 6:5). How can anyone be conceited when he compares himself to the Lord? Thus we humble ourselves under the hand of God and rejoice in His grace and mercy as we bear our own burden (v. 5). The word burden here differs from that in verse 2. It refers to a weight or load that all are assigned to carry.3 The Lord expects us to bear a burden, but not one so heavy it can crush us. Those burdens are meant to be shared.
Caring For Teachers
Believers also should minister to those who teach the Word of God.
Let him that is taught in the word share with him that teacheth in all good things (6:6).
We are to share physically with those who share spiritually, many of whom suffer deprivation even today. Pastors, for example, work long and hard, studying and ministering to their flocks. They frequently forsake quality time with their own families to spend countless hours helping others; and they are on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Yet some go without regular remuneration and even endure disrespect and criticism. Paul says it is the responsibility of the Body of Christ to care for its pastors, Bible teachers, and missionaries.
Counsel For Everyone
Be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have, therefore, opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith (6:7–10).
Paul now provides practical instruction for all members of the Lord’s family. Using the illustration of planting and reaping, he encourages believers to live godly in Christ Jesus. If a farmer plants tomato seeds, he expects to harvest tomatoes. The prophet Hosea said Israel sowed “the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” (8:7). If we do evil, we can expect an evil result. Paul exhorts believers to persevere in doing good and living godly because eventually we will reap the rewards.
Paul loved the faithful followers of Messiah at Galatia and writes to them himself rather than dictating the epistle to someone else. “Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand” (6:11). Because of this verse, many believe Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7) involved his eyes, which may have been permanently affected when he met the risen Messiah on the Damascus Road and temporarily went blind (Acts 9).
As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law, but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid that I should glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature (6:12–15).
Judaizers were telling the Galatian believers that they had to be circumcised before they could embrace Jesus as Messiah. Their stand was selfish and not designed to give glory to God. Circumcision contributed nothing toward making them “a new creature.” That transformation came from faith in Jesus and in his death and resurrection. So Paul emphatically denounces the Judaizers’ message as a perversion that leads to bondage, and he revisits his primary theme by telling believers that those who encourage circumcision are only interested in outward show. The Law was not to be an outward show but an inward reality. Those pressing for Gentile circumcision did not observe the Law themselves. And unless one obeys the entire Law, he is guilty of breaking it all (Jas. 2:10).
And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God (6:16).
Finally, Paul indicates “this rule” (to glory in God alone) contains a promise of peace and mercy. Believers sometimes attempt to place constraints on other Christians, telling them how to live out their faith. But placing people under the Law never produces peace. It produces pride and bondage instead. The Bible says that Christ is the completion, or end, of the Law “to everyone that believeth” (Rom. 10:4). Rather than living under Law, believers should live under the control of the Holy Spirit. Then they will have the peace of God.
The phrase and upon the Israel of God has been misused for centuries by well-intentioned Christians who erroneously claim that the church has replaced Israel. God never substituted the church for Israel. The text here clearly indicates two distinct groups: “as many as walk according to this rule,” meaning Gentile believers, and “the Israel of God,” meaning Jewish believers. The Israel of God clearly refers to the remnant of Jewish people coming to faith in the Jewish Messiah.
Paul’s final words express his position as the possession of the Lord:
Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen (6:17–18).
He uses the then-familiar image of a slave who was physically branded by his master. Paul considered his body, which was marred in service to Christ, as branded by the Lord Himself. Thus the marks authenticated his apostleship.
The theme of the letter is Law and grace. Paul concludes with his desire that the grace of the Lord, not the Law, be their portion. What a wonderful blessing is the grace of God to those who are of the household of faith.