Spirit-Led Service Galatians 6:1–10
“Through every believer has the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit does not have every believer,” wrote A. W. Tozer. Many Christians find it easy to talk about being Spirit-filled but show little evidence of it in their daily walk.
Being Spirit-filled is not some mystical experience or so-called “second work of grace.” Nor does some ecstatic utterance of an unknown tongue signify that the person speaking has been Spirit-filled. Being Spirit-filled involves continual, moment-by-moment control by the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. Those filled with the Spirit will manifest the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23) in their character and service. In Galatians 6:1–10, Paul gave a series of practical examples of how Spirit-led believers are to live.
Spirit-led believers are in touch with the needs of their brothers. The apostle illustrated this through a hypothetical example of a brother caught in sin. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye who are spiritual restore such an one” (v. 1). The word fault has the idea of slipping or lapsing into sin. Some interpret the word overtaken to mean that he was caught in the act of sinning. Others teach that believers carelessly living in the flesh can be overtaken by sin before they are aware of committing the offense. This interpretation fits the context.
In cases like these, a person who is “spiritual” (Spirit-filled) should help restore sinning believers back to fellowship. The word restore was used in the first century to describe the setting of a broken or dislocated bone. It was also used to describe fishermen mending their nets. Setting bones and mending nets must be done with great care and precision. Spiritual people are to carry out their ministry of restoration in a “spirit of meekness” (that is, with gentleness and love) (v. 1.) The emphasis is not on the brother’s sin but on his restoration.
How would legalists try to restore a sinning brother? Legalists are often in competition with their brothers, displaying an air of self-righteousness; therefore, they most likely would condemn the brother rather than show compassion or concern (cp. Lk. 18:9–14).
Paul cautioned those involved in restoration, “consider thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (v. 1). Consider means to look on the matter with continual diligence, guarding against falling into the same solicitation to commit sin. Restorers must guard against self-righteous attitudes by looking down on the ones to whom they are ministering. They must remember that they are subject to like temptations and, in a weak moment, could themselves fall. Peter is a good illustration of this. He promised not to deny the Lord (Mt. 26:33), but within a matter of hours he denied Him three times (Mt. 26:34, 69–75).
The same weaknesses are seen in Christian workers today. In the past ten years, numerous leaders have succumbed to sins that they had condemned from the pulpit. Paul has well stated, “let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
Those seeking to restore a brother have the responsibility of bearing his burden. “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (v. 2). The burden is any weight or load too heavy to bear. The word is used figuratively and refers to any temptation, sin, or moral weakness too difficult for a brother to overcome. In this context, it could have been pressure from the Judaizers to embrace their legalistic position. Others in the fellowship are to bear their brother’s burden as if it is their own. Simply put, they are to give sympathy, comfort, counsel, and a helping hand when needed.
Christians who take on this commitment “fulfill [satisfy the requirements of] the law of Christ [i.e., the law given by Christ]” (v. 2). The commandment to “love one another” (Jn. 13:34; 15:12; Gal. 5:13–14; 1 Jn. 3:23) fulfills all other laws because it “worketh no ill” to anyone else or to society in general (Rom. 13:8, 10).
Legalists practice just the opposite. They impose heavy commitments on their followers but never lift a finger to ease the load (Mt. 23:4). On the other hand, Christ bears the burdens of all believers (1 Pet. 5:7) and desires that His children do likewise.
Christians talk and sing about love and bearing one another’s burdens, but all too often few become involved. Excuses are myriad: “I don’t have the time.” “I have my own problems.” “I’m not experienced.” Even some pastors guard their time so closely that they thrust some of their own responsibilities on others within the church.
In seeking to be burden bearers, Christians must guard against an attitude of spiritual superiority toward sinners. Paul said, “if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself” (v. 3). In other words, those who think they are spiritually superior in such situations are self-deceived and commit the sin of spiritual pride. The best of people, held up to the standards of a Holy God, are nothing: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18). Christians have no reason to lift themselves above a brother because all they are and have was provided by God (1 Cor. 4:7). People with this type of attitude are not Spirit-led. Those who are spiritually proud are disqualified from helping others because they have distorted vision. They must first remove the log that is in their own eye before they can see to remove the speck from their brother’s eye (Mt. 7:1–5).
For this reason, it is crucial that Christians examine themselves in order to “prove [their] own work” (v. 4). Prove means to put to the test for approval. Believers should compare their walk to God’s standard, not their brother’s; then they can “have rejoicing in [themselves] alone, and not in another” (v. 4). There is no thought of overestimating self or excessive boasting in this passage; rather, it speaks of proper rejoicing as an approved servant before God.
People who test their own works find that they too have burdens to bear. Paul reminded us that “every man shall bear his own burden” (v. 5). There may seem to be a contradiction between verses 2 and 5, but such is not the case. The word for burden (baros) in verse 2 refers to a heavy, oppressive load, the weight of which is too great for a person to carry alone. Conversely, the word for burden (portion) in verse 5 refers to a lightweight pack that can be carried on the back. In other words, believers have a responsibility to bear personal burdens that are light and bearable. All Christians are responsible for their own conduct and service, for which they will give account at the bema judgment (1 Cor. 3:10–15; 2 Cor. 5:10). Such knowledge should preclude any feeling of spiritual superiority or spiritual comparison among believers.
Paul provided his readers with a practical way in which believers in Christ can communicate (koinoneo) (v. 6) with one another. The word communicate means to participate in a common fellowship of sharing. It is difficult to know exactly what the apostle meant by “share … in all good things” (v. 6). Some believe he was referring to financial support in return for spiritual help. Elsewhere he instructed that “the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor [financial remuneration], especially they who labor in the word and doctrine” (1 Tim. 5:17; cp. 1 Cor. 9:7–14). Others believe he meant to provide mutual encouragement within the fellowship and was not referring to financial gifts to those who minister.
Many scholars embrace the latter position for several reasons. First, the context speaks of evil (vv. 1–5) and moral good (vv. 9–10), not financial support. Second, the good things in context are defined as spiritual, not material. Third, Paul would not have admonished the Galatians to support their teachers for fear that the Judaizers would be quick to accuse him of attempting to win over the Galatians for his own financial gain. Fourth, Paul’s enemies were always quick to say that he was in the ministry for financial gain. Fifth, Paul was seeking to encourage the Galatian believers to continue fellowshipping with the grace teachers around the Word of God for mutual enrichment and to forsake following the Judaizers.
Sowing and Reaping
Paul issued a strong warning to those Galatian believers who did not think it mattered which group of teachers they followed (teachers of grace or Judaizers). He commanded, “Be not deceived [lit., stop being deceived]” (v. 7). In other words, if they did not think it mattered which teachers they followed, they were already self-deceived. This type of attitude mocks God (v. 7). Mocking is turning up the nose at, ignoring, or holding in contempt. But God cannot be “mocked” by mankind (v. 7). He is unaffected by anything we think or do. Therefore, those holding this attitude are hurting only themselves.
God is never inconsistent in applying His divine law of sowing and reaping. That which is true in the physical realm of sowing and reaping is also true in the spiritual realm: “whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (v. 7). This law is immutable: “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” (v. 8).
The word flesh refers to the old nature that manifests the sins already mentioned (5:19–21). The result is corruption, a picture of spoiled crops decaying in the field, which no farmer would reap. If eaten, spoiled crops can cause severe sickness or even death. In the spiritual realm, sowing to the flesh ultimately leads to destruction and death (Jas. 1:13–15). Those following the Judaizers’ pseudoreligious system of works/righteousness were sowing to the flesh. Embracing this position produced a harvest of spiritual degeneration and decay and eventually spiritual death.
What about Christians who sow to the flesh? Will they be separated from Christ? No, but they lose the joy of their salvation, experience an unfruitful spiritual life, and be subject to chastisement.
Those who sow “to the Spirit,” said Paul, “reap life everlasting” (v. 8). They will receive eternal life along with a harvest of spiritual blessings in this life and into eternity.
The apostle gave a promise to encourage any of the Galatian believers who were becoming discouraged by the continual grind of fighting the Judaizers or receiving little appreciation for living a good life in Christ. He wrote, “And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (v. 9).
Sowing in the Lord’s service is often hard and can be extremely tiring. Some do not see immediate results from their efforts and become weary and faint while serving. But those who persevere in well doing will reap in due season. A Spirit-filled walk keeps believers from losing heart, relaxing in their service, and giving up before the harvest.
Crops are reaped at various times in nature, and the same is true of spiritual reaping. Some reaping will be realized in this life, but only the judgment seat of Christ will reveal the full harvest that believers will reap. In light of this, Christians must guard against becoming lax in their daily living for the Lord or shrinking back in their service for Him. Those who faint forfeit future rewards.
Knowing that they will reap what they sow, believers have a spiritual responsibility to “do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (v. 10). With these words, Paul pulled together his primary teaching in Galatians 5:13–6:10. Only Spirit-filled believers can show this kind of love to other people.
Jesus said that it is impossible to say we love the world of ungodly people if we do not love our fellow Christians (Jn. 13:34–35; 1 Jn. 3:14; 4:20–21). When is this love to be shown? “As we have, therefore, opportunity, let us do good” (v. 10). The word opportunity means a seasonable or appropriate time. The exhortation is not just to do good when some special opportunity arises or when we feel like it, but to look for occasions in this season of life while we have the opportunity. Right now we are to sow “good” (that is; spiritual benefits and blessings) to all, whether spiritual or material.
In order to carry out Paul’s instructions concerning burden bearing and sowing good to those around us, we must be filled with the Holy Spirit. Dr. Elwood Stakes, founder of the famous Ocean Grove Religious Community in New Jersey, was moved by the same need. In 1879 he wrote the song, “Hover O’er Me, Holy Spirit.” John R. Sweney, camp meeting musical director, wrote the music. “While on my knees in prayer, God seemed to speak the melody right into my heart,” said Sweney. The third stanza of this simple gospel hymn speaks to our need: “I am weakness, full of weakness. At Thy sacred feet I bow; Blest, divine, eternal Spirit, Fill with pow’r, and fill me now. Fill me now, fill me now, Jesus, come and fill me now; Fill me with Thy hallowed presence, Come, O come, and fill me now.”
We must continually ask ourselves the question posed by Dr. Tozer:
“Though we have the Holy Spirit, does the Holy Spirit have us?”