Bear One Another's Burdens (Galatians 6:1-10)
"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load. 6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he 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 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith." Galatians 6:1-10
Last week, we learned about walking by the Spirit, which included the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; "against such things there is no law." Now we love to talk about the fruit of the Spirit. We even have a song about it. If you will recall, the theme of our VBS three years ago was the fruit of the Spirit. Any one of our children in this church could stand up here and give you the fruit of the Spirit, which is wonderful to think about.
But while we may rejoice to memorize the fruit of the Spirit, which is certainly worthwhile, we're not as familiar with the works of the flesh. Why is it important to know what the works of the flesh are? Let me give you three reasons. The first reason is because the Spirit says the works of the flesh are evident. In other words, we must know what they are because the Bible says so. Galatians 5:19-21—"Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these."
When we get to the fruit of the Spirit, and we read that the fruit of the Spirit is "love," we must recognize that "love" is not "sexual immorality," because as verse 17 says, "The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other." Our world equates sexuality immorality with love. But if we know God's definition of love, we won't be taken in by the world's re-definition of love. What did God say was love?
Jesus said in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." The definition of love is, very simply, Jesus Christ. And the love of Christ is sacrificial. No love will ever be greater than what Jesus did for us. But in light of what Jesus did, laying down His life for our sins, we likewise should lay down our lives for each other. That doesn't mean we can atone for one another's sins. But we understand the application of Christ-likeness given in a passage like Philippians 2:3, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." And then Paul says that thinking this way is having the mind of Christ.
Ephesians 5:25 says, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her." This doesn't mean that a husband must literally die for his wife. But he must consider the needs of his family ahead of his own ambitions. It's not wrong for a husband to have ambitions. But his priority is first to his family. Take this principle for the home and apply it to the church. Consider one another's needs ahead of your own. In doing this, we love one another, and we won't be doing the work of the flesh.
The second reason is so we don't do them. The rest of verse 21 says, "I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." This is the penalty for those who walk by the flesh rather than in the Spirit. Whoever lives according to the flesh will perish under the righteous judgment of God. This should cause us to hunger for the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation to all who believe. Just like the hearing of the Law brings knowledge of our sin, the hearing of the works of the flesh does the same. Then we reach for the gospel, which produces godliness—the fruit of the Spirit. When we walk by the Spirit, we do not gratify the desires of the flesh.
The third reason we should know the works of the flesh as well as the fruit of the Spirit is because we understand the first half of Jesus' command, "Repent and believe." Dave has been teaching through Mark on Sunday morning. At the start, Mark 1:14-15 says, "Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel."
The command of Christ to repent and believe means that we turn from something and we turn to something. We repent or turn from our sin, and we believe or turn to Christ. Apply this understanding to the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. You are turning from a sin nature which manifests the rotten works of the flesh. You are turning to a new nature which produces the beautiful fruit of the Spirit. So knowing the works of the flesh specifies what we are turning from when we are told to repent. The fruit of the Spirit specifies what we will be turned into when we obey the command to believe. Make sense?
So I have spent ten minutes this morning talking about what we talked about last week. Why have I spent so much time talking about this again? Here are three more reasons. Number one, because I like talking about it. Number two, because not all of you were here last week (no conviction or condemnation intended).
Here's the third reason: because the section on the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit is book-ended with this command: Love your neighbor. Galatians 5:14 says, "For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" Then we get to the fruit of the Spirit in verse 16-26. Now we start chapter 6 with the same command in verse 2: "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ," the command to love one another.
Let's consider, once more, the fruit of the Spirit: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." What do you need in order to produce and share the fruit of the Spirit? People! You need people to show love to, do you not? You need people to rejoice with. You need people to exhibit peacefulness. You need people to be patient with. You need people to be kind to. You need people to be good to. You need people to be faithful to. You need people to be gentle with. And you need people to be self-controlled toward.
And, furthermore my friends, you need people that they may display this same fruit back to you. You need to let people love you, and do not make it hard on them. You need people to take joy in you, to show you peace, to show you kindness, to give you goodness, to be faithful to you, to be gentle with you, and through accountability, you need people to help you develop self-control.
A lot of us have this sense that the Christian walk is just about me and Jesus—just my relationship with God. My friends, it's not just about you and God. You certainly have a relationship with God through faith in Christ. But Christianity is not just about your association with God, or even just you and your family trying to tough it out in this crazy world. The Christian walk requires fellowship with other Christians. Jesus did not call you to closet Christianity. He commanded you to love each other. And you need each other to fulfill the Law of Christ.
As author and theologian Tim Challies has said, "Sanctification is a community project." You grow in holiness and righteousness and the knowledge of God and therefore also the fruit of the Spirit with other believers. You cannot fulfill the Law of Christ by yourself. You cannot grow in your faith on your own.
Second Timothy 2:22 says, "So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." That passage is Galatians 5:14 through 6:10 simplified. "Flee youthful passions," means repent from works of the flesh; "and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace," which you might recognize are the fruit of the Spirit! "Along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart," means that you do this with the church—the body of believers who call on the Lord from a heart being made righteous in Christ.
Sometimes, loving one another means that we will need to call one another to correction. In the context of loving one another and growing together, we have Galatians 6:1—"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted." My friends, calling one another to correction is a requirement. It is a command of Christ.
In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus said, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."
That last statement, verse 20, we often tag on our prayer gatherings and Bible studies: "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." That's not about a prayer gathering. God is with you when you are praying by yourself, amen? This is in the context of church discipline, and it is the command of Christ that we follow it.
Notice something in this progression of discipline. It starts with a one on one confrontation, and if the person refuses to repent, it gradually becomes more and more public until the whole church is involved. Understand plainly my friends: sin is not, nor has it ever been, a private matter. It takes the body of Christ to help you overcome it. James 5:15-16 says, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed."
Consider that in Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul calls out two women in front of the whole church: "I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion," talking to the rest of the body, "help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel."
We don't know what the conflict between these two women was, but we get the sense that it had been going on for a while and had not yet been resolved. Paul names two disagreeable women before the church—it's written down in history for all of us to read—and then the apostle commissions the church to restore them in a spirit of gentleness, treating them as sisters.
All throughout this process of discipline, we are told to correct "in a spirit of gentleness." In 1 Peter 3:15, we are told to answer unbelievers with gentleness and respect, and in 2 Timothy 2:25 we're told to correct opponents with gentleness. That same gentle spirit most definitely should apply to the way we correct disagreement among brothers and sisters.
Second Thessalonians 3:13-15 says, "As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother."
Notice this directive on discipline begins with, "Do not grow weary in doing good." In other words, do not hesitate to issue correction. Proverbs 12:1 says, "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid." We often take a verse like that and apply it to the person who hates to receive correction, but it also applies to the person who will not issue correction. But love helps one another, even in fighting against sin.
Galatians 6:2 says, "Bear one another's burdens," and this is right after we read, "restore him in a spirit of gentleness," and "keep watch on yourself." To admonish a brother or sister, or even to pray for them and be heart-broken over their sin, is to bear their burden. Some of us are going to struggle more than others with the temptations of our flesh. "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ," the law to love one another. John 13:34, Jesus said, "A new commandments I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." And didn't Jesus love us though we had sinned against Him?
Look now at verses 3-5: "For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load." Now this is odd. We just read bear one another's burdens, and now we're being told each will have to bear his own load. Doesn't this seem to be a contradiction? It might seem to be, but it's not.
"Bear one another's burdens" is a different phrase than "bear his own load." In fact, the phrase "bear his own load" in the Greek is like a phrase that appeared earlier in Galatians 5:10, when Paul said of a false teacher, "The one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is." Romans 14:12 says, "Each of us will give an account of himself to God." Do you bear a burden of guilt, or have your sins been lifted by Christ? We have these moments now to bear one another's burdens, for we cannot bear their load for them at the judgment seat.
Consider the statement in verse 4: "Let each one test his own work." Second Corinthians 13:5 says, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" You are responsible to warn your brother or sister when they step off the path of righteousness. But you can't make the decision for them to step back on.
This is a painfully difficult position to be in, to watch a loved one go astray, to have warned them, to have pleaded with them, and still they go their own way. Some of you have seen friends wander from the faith, children, a spouse. All five of my own flesh and blood brothers and sisters have either castigated me for warning them or they've left the faith entirely. I know how this feels. But you can't make them turn back. Pray and ask that the Lord would grant them a spirit of repentance. And once again, "keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted." Do not follow them off the path. "Walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous" (Proverbs 2:20).
Verse 4 goes on to say that the one who tests his own work will boast in himself and not his neighbor. I thought we weren't supposed to boast in ourselves. Second Corinthians 10:17 says, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." And that's precisely the point. If your works have been carried out in God through Christ Jesus our Lord, your boast over your work will be in Christ working through you. Philippians 2:13 says, "For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." You can't make someone else do good works. But you can do your own work, and do it all to the glory of God.
Galatians 6:6 says, "Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches." Let's summarize what we've read so far: Look out for your brothers and sisters, keep watch on yourself, bear one another's burdens, don't think too highly of yourself and deceive yourself, test your own work. Now Paul says, "Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches." My explanation of this passage may sound somewhat self-serving; nevertheless, it is for your edification.
Let's say you witness a brother in the Lord losing his temper or a sister in Christ gossiping. You follow that first instruction of Jesus to go and confront them, just between the two of you. Jesus said if they listen to you, you have gained your brother. Mission accomplished! You don't have to go to that next step of bringing two or three witnesses to confront them. There's no reason this needs public exposure.
So now what? Well, tell your pastor. Go to your pastor and say, "You have taught us that this is how we are supposed to handle the situation. We have followed the instruction of Jesus, and we are rejoicing in repentance." Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.
Several years ago, I baptized a teenage girl who had repented and had been rescued from some pretty serious sin. Just a few weeks ago, her father texted me a picture of her graduating from college, and said she was still walking with the Lord. It brought tears to my eyes. I told him that, and he said it brought tears to his eyes just to text it to me.
My friends, it may feel like all hell is breaking loose underneath you. And when that happens, my door is open. I will pray with you, and where needed I will remind you of the hope and promises we've been given in the word of God, so that you may find sure footing and be able to stand firm on solid ground. But in the times when it feels like the floodgates of heaven have opened up and poured out on you, would you do me a favor and share those moments with me, too? I will share your tears of sorrow, but I long even more to share your tears of joy.
"Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches." Let me continue to press into this. Again, I say this not for my own benefit. There is another pastor sitting here: Pastor Dwight;you're your lay-elder, brother Dave. About half of you will have a different pastor within the next two years as the military moves you on to another location, so what you are learning here will also serve you there. We also have some visitors today, so you are welcome to find application in this also.
Examine the relationship you have with your pastor. Are you thankful for him? Would you consider the relationship to be a blessing, or do you not really care for what your pastor has to say? If it seems like most of what you say to him is critical, or just about any time he gives you advice or council, you disagree with it, ignore it, or try to go against it, exactly what benefit is that to you?
Hebrews 13:17 says, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you."
Remember that the Apostle Paul is writing to a church that has lost their grasp on sound doctrine, and what has resulted is biting and devouring one another. He's trying to bring them back to the glorious truth of the true gospel, and explaining to them what the fruit of that gospel will look like. First and foremost, they will love one another: "Bear one another's burdens," Paul says. Included in that command is the relationship they will have with the elders of the church. Do not be a burden on them. Rather, lighten the load they already have to bear. And do so in this way: "Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches."
Let's look now at Galatians 6:7—"Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap." Remember again verse 1 says, "If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted." There are two parts to this: restore your brother or sister, and keep watch on yourself. The Apostle Paul has given the explanation of this passage in two parts. Verses 2 through 5 explain the first part, to restore one another. Verses 7 through 9 explain the second part, to keep watch on yourself. (Verse 6 is kind of a bridge between the two parts. It could go with either part one or part two.)
Should you not keep watch on yourself and fall into temptation, do not be deceived and think to yourself, "Oh, well God is a gracious God. He'll just forgive me, right? After all, He's God! And I'm such a likeable person! How could God not love me?" That would be mocking God. You're sinning and daring God to do something about it. Stand in fear, believer. He will do something about it.
"Whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will form the Spirit reap eternal life." In other words, there are consequences for behavior. Maybe God won't destroy you for the sin you've decided to indulge in. But there will still be consequences. Maybe this one little sin won't cause a great amount of damage, but you get nothing good from it. You will only reap corruption—meaning that it may lead you to do it again, and again, and again, until you're given over to your own depravity.
Do not flirt with such danger, my fellow Christians. "The one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life!" Seek the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God! As we will be teaching the children this coming week at VBS, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal. The things of the Spirit are free from corruption. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
"And let us not grow weary of doing good," Paul says in verse 9, "for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith."
All of the instructions that we've been concerning ourselves with here have been for the church. "Bear one another's burdens," is an instruction for the church, how brothers and sisters in the Lord show love to one another. It is not going to be the same way we show our concern for the world. Yes, we are also to the warn the world of their sin, but we are also told not to be yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14).
We are first and foremost to care for one another. When you get paid, where does your money go first? It goes to providing for your own household, right? Then whatever else you have gets invested in other areas. So that is going to be the same with your church. Care first for the body of faith. We will have opportunities to show good to everyone. But the church, your church family, is our primary concern, bearing one another's burdens that we may fulfill the Law of Christ.
I have an apple tree in front of my house that has never produced a good apple, and I get mad at it every year. But at the same time, I've never put any work into that apple tree. I don't care for it, I don't prepare it for spring, I don't spray it for bugs, I don't keep bad limbs trimmed back. And I just expect it to produce good fruit and then complain whenever it doesn't.
Apply that to your growth in the church. Are you mad that you're still fighting sin you've never seem to overcome? What kind of work have you put into it? Are you looking down on other's sins and saying, "Why hasn't Gabe done something about this?" Well, what are you doing to grow your brothers and sisters in the Lord? Good fruit takes hard work. And we've been commanded to bear one another's burdens. Do not grow weary in doing good, for you will reap a harvest if you do not give up.