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Friday, December 1, 2017

Galatians (6:1-5) (Lesson 22)

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Galatians (6:1-5)                                                                   (Lesson 22)

Welcome one and all to HBS.

This week we begin working on the final chapter of our Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians and we need to remember “context is king.”  Every studious student of God’s Word should be aware, if you’re want to understand what lies directly ahead, you have to have a handle on where you’ve been.  In the first 12 verses of chapter 5, our Apostle Paul launched his final assault on the Judaizers and their false gospel built around the rite of circumcision:  Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision Christ will be of no benefit to you (5:2).

Just prior to this he laid the groundwork of his argument by establishing the truth each Believer in Christ Jesus is a child of freedom by virtue of their identity as a child of the free Jerusalem, whose children come into being by the promise (4:23-26):  So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman (Hagar), but of the free woman (Sari).  It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 4:31).

In the first six verses of chapter 5, Paul addressed the Galatians, the hearers of this message, the ones he taught.  Then in 5:7-12, he addresses the Judaizers who preached their false message.  In both cases, the language is precise and not subtle.  Freedom, as Paul uses it here, refers to freedom from the frustrating struggle to keep the law to gain God’s favor.  It is the freedom of knowing with all certainty you are accepted by God, because of what Christ has already done – it is finished, indeed!

And yet, Paul had to command them to keep standing firm and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery (5:1).  Paul isn’t telling the Galatians to keep standing firm in their holiness or in their righteousness.  He commands them to stand firm in their freedom or liberty; this is what they are to robustly defend.

The yoke of the Law is the yoke of slavery, because it places those trying to keep it back under the burden of 613 commandments, which they cannot possibly keep and thus under its curse, which they merit for we all are helpless, lawbreakers.

The particular yoke of bondage the Gentiles were being influenced to accept was the religious rite of circumcision.  The Judaizers told the Galatians they had to be circumcised to be fully accepted by God, since they believed God only accepted those who had this sign of the covenant.  Paul was stunned when he heard they were leaving his gospel for another gospel; having escaped the ritualism of paganism, they were about to accept Jewish ritualism, which prompted him to write:  You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth (Galatians 5:7).

The Galatians had obviously changed course; since they had abandoned God’s gospel of grace and Paul’s leadership they were no longer running well.  Paul preached the gospel and taught the Galatians Christ’s substitionary sacrifice on their behalf was designed to set them free from the Law.  He has indicated it is possible to yield that freedom because we’re witnessing people in Galatia opting to become enslaved once again to the Law or to bondage.  But Paul has also pointed out the approach one decides to take to God in light of Christ’s sacrifice matters greatly.  This would mean to “run well” involves remaining solidly fixed upon the correct approach they take to God, which is grace and not works.

A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough (Galatians 5:9).  Leaven is used here to symbolize the false doctrine of the Judaizers.  In our text Paul is issuing a warning to the Galatians.  If they allow the Judaizers, the folks who have hindered their walk with their Savior, to keep teaching their grace-plus-works gospel, that false gospel would eventually spread to other congregations.  Make no mistake, Paul’s point is clear:  legalism is no small thing.  It denies one’s liberty and puts them into bondage and under the law’s curse.  It nullifies the Lord Jesus Christ and His work of the Cross, and it violates the work of the Holy Spirit.  It puts people under obligation to the entire law, and it keeps them from running the race that has been set before us.

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13).

"Opportunity for the flesh" - is the same as saying "Don't return to legalism."  Paul is saying the same thing in verse 13 that he said in verse 5:1 that you have been set free, therefore, don't use that freedom to once again subject yourself to the yoke of slavery, to legalism. After all, what is legalism?  A Legalist believes in my own strength, in my own power, in my flesh - I can make myself righteous and I can earn some favor before God.

We have been talking about the flesh versus the Spirit - legalism versus grace. Defining the flesh, as God defines it in the book of Galatians, is that which I can do on my own, in my own strength or my own power.  "Flesh" isn't just the sins of the flesh that we typically think of.  It is legalism too.  It is trusting in religious ceremonies and rituals; it is whatever I think I can do in my own strength and in my own power to make myself righteous.  That is the flesh - that is legalism.

In contrast, when the Believer is walking in the Spirit they understand fully they cannot make themselves righteous.  They can't make themselves like Jesus Christ.  Therefore, they depend on the power of the Holy Spirit to do the work they cannot do themselves.  They also fully understand they don’t deserve what the Holy Spirit is doing for them.  There salvation was not on the basis of merit or because they did enough good works to gain God’s attention.  It is purely on the basis of God’s grace that they experienced salvation and the life of the Spirit in them.

But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another (Galatians 5:15).

This is a significant verse for us as we move forward into chapter 6.  You see, the Galatians were already at each other, because the legalists have come in and convinced them they have to compare themselves with one another and compete with each other.  This is how it was in Galatia, and for many churches it isn’t any different today.  The legalist mindset is alive and well because people are either ignorant of what this book teaches or they ignore Paul’s teachings outright.  But legalism feeds people’s pride and where you find pride you will always find its cousin, strife.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:25-26).

In Galatians 5:16 Paul urged Believers to "walk by the Spirit," but in 5:25, although he seems to be issuing the same command, he is not repeating himself.  There is an important difference in these two Koine Greek words that are translated:  "to walk," in these two verses.  In 5:16 he used the common word for putting one foot before the other in the ordinary process of walking.  The word used in verse 25, however, means:  "to get in line with," or "to follow after."  Here Paul views Believers not as a group of individuals, each of whom is seeking to walk in the Spirit.  Instead, he compares them to an army (a unit) marching in line, in harmony.

Thus, from this we learn we are not only responsible to care for ourselves, but also for each other; and we will make progress only as we march together in harmony; as God’s one Church.  A group of people cannot march properly and successfully as a group if someone in front is stumbling or someone behind is lagging, or if someone fails to get in line.  We cannot make progress unless we are walking together in the Spirit.  So, Paul is saying we are responsible for one another.

One of the practical ways we can determine whether we are walking by the Spirit or walking according to the flesh is in our relationships.  Paul said in verse 5:26 if you are not walking by the Spirit, then you become boastful, which is a term that means:  "to have an over-inflated view of yourself."

Building on that thought, the one word that best describes a legalist is arrogant.  Legalism is a very selfish way to live.  It is selfish, because, by definition it means:  my eyes and my interests are turned inward.  I am constantly assessing how I am doing.  The legalist is continuously re-evaluating:  how do I measure up, how do I compare with everyone else?  Since they have an arrogant heart, they also have a challenging heart.  They feel spiritually superior to those around them, even if they’re not, (and they’re probably not) and they’re willing to go out of their way to prove it.  The spirit of competition is present within them and waiting for an opportunity to exploit the failures of others for their own personal gain.  If they lose a competition, then an envious heart is cultivated widening the gap in the church community even further.

The paragraph above describes the situation in Galatia and I pray you can see there wasn’t a lot of harmony in the church.  There was little unity in that congregation, which meant there was little, if any, fellowship in that community of Believers, because they were boastful, challenging, and envious of each other.  That’s a recipe for failure, because people by nature will bite and devour and consume one another.  In Galatians 5:15 Paul said that is exactly what was happening in Galatia.

In their desire to maintain at least the appearance of severity toward sin, the legalists of Paul's day had become calloused and even cruel toward those who had stumbled in their walk.  It is this problem that is addressed in Galatians 6:1-5.  Legalism has no interest in reducing the burdens humanity must bear.  Instead, it produces burdens for them to bear and then refuses to assist those on whom they are imposed.  However Jesus contrasted Himself with the scribes and Pharisees with respect to burdens:

"And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger (Matthew 23:4).  "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.  For My yoke is easy, and My load is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

Peter rightly criticized the Judaizers when he said:  "Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? (Acts 15:10)

Thus it’s appropriate for Paul to address the subject of burden-bearing with respect to the "Galatian problem" and in view of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  As I pointed out at the beginning of this lesson, understanding the context of chapter 5 is essential, if were to properly understand the written material in Chapter 6.  The contention and strife which characterized these churches was further evidence that legalism, rather than liberty, was the norm (5:1, 13).  It’s obvious the strife among the saints in Galatia was a product of the "works of the flesh," rather than the "fruit of the Spirit."

Please open your Bible at Galatians chapter 6:1.

Galatians 6

1: 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.

In verses 6:1-5 Paul provides the Galatians with a practical example of how the "walk in the Spirit" is supposed to work in the Body of Christ.  

Paul begins this section of the letter with a conditional clause and a hypothetical situation in the church.  He doesn’t have a specific event in mind, but he used the word “brethren which confirms the fact he wants the saints in Galatia to deal with his theoretical problem. 

The word “you is not meant to be singular but plural, which emphasizes the obligation of the church as a body of Believers to respond to the sin of a saint in their midst.  It is inferred in this verse that the sinner “(the one caught in any trespass) is a saint, so we are dealing with the church’s obligation to respond to the sin of a Believer. 

The word trespass is a unique word.  It is different from the word transgression, which Paul has used elsewhere in this letter.  It is the Koine Greek word Paraptoma (par-ap’-to’mah), Noun, Neuter, Strong’s Greek #3900, meaning:  a falling away; lapse a slip, to stumble.  In other words, hypothetically speaking, one of the Believers is not willfully sinning against God, but that individual has stumbled; has had a momentary lapse of reason. 

That thought leads us to the word caught.  Paul uses it here to suggest this hypothetical Believer was caught off guard.  Paul is describing a person who usually demonstrates the fruit of the Spirit, but has suddenly been overcome by the flesh.  The word caught was used back then for a bird or animal caught in a trap, which is why Paul chose the word.  It describes a Believer who has suddenly been overcome by some temptation; his or her lusts, or passions, got the best of them.  In other words, Paul is not dealing with a calculated, premeditated, and habitual sin, but with a person who has suddenly surrendered to or has been caught in one of Satan’s schemes and this has taken everyone in the church by surprise (2 Corinthians 2:11; Hebrews 4:15-16; 2 Thessalonians 3:5).   

All Believers experience times when they walk in the flesh and not in the Spirit.  When this happens, we can expect those who are walking in the Spirit to respond biblically by confronting our stumbling, i.e. our sin (Matthew 18:15; Romans 2:4; 1 Corinthians 5:12; Galatians 2:11-13; 1Timothy 5:20; 2 Timothy 4:2).

I’m sure you noticed it’s difficult to remain spiritual 24/7.  You and the family dress up, grab your Bibles, and head on out the door to attend church on Sunday morning and the experience is uplifting.  But before you sit down to Sunday dinner that same day you’ve already had at least one argument with your spouse or the children.  Tempers flare and words were exchanged that were probably wish you never said.  Our “mountain-top” experience or being spiritual is fleeting; we can go from one to the other very quickly.  Never underestimate how strong the flesh is.  Yet, Paul tells us in this verse who’s responsible or should respond to the brother or sister who has sinned:  you who are spiritual.”  Who would that be since we can’t maintain our spirituality?  Let’s all turn in our Bibles to 1 Corinthians 2:15-16 for the answer:

But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man.  For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE SHOULD INSTRUCT HIM?  But we have the mind of Christ. 

According to this passage, being spiritual is the same as having the mind of Christ, which is the same thing as walking by the Spirit.  So, the legalist is unable to help this brother or sister who was overcome by sudden temptation, and is no longer in step or in harmony with their congregation because the legalist is wrongly motivated.  They see it as an opportunity to “get ahead,” to assert spiritual superiority.  It is an opportunity for the legalist to judge and condemn, which places them a bit higher in the pecking order. 

But Paul defines this by saying the spiritual one is the person who is walking by the Spirit.  The spiritual one has the mind of Christ.  This is someone who has yielded control and is under the control of the Holy Spirit.  If a Believer is drifting off into sin, the only people who can help are “those who understand God’s grace;” i.e. those who have the mind of Christ, who are walking by the Spirit.

Paul has identified who the spiritual people are for the Galatians and for us, but it would be nice if a set of instructions came with that?  So, from a hypothetical aspect, we know there’s a Believer in our midst, overcome by temptation and has sinned, but now what?  Should we draws straws and the short straw fixes this problem?  That would be no.  Paul clearly said, “you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.

The Greek word rendered "restore" is Katartizo; meaning:  to mend torn fishing nets (Matt. 4:21).  In ancient Greece this word was for the setting of broken bones.  In Ephesians 4:12 the same term is used for the "equipping" of the saints.  In 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul used this same Greek word to describe divisions within the Corinthian church.  Clearly, the term conveys the positive implication of healing and restoration.  This word is used for knitting something together or restoring it to its original condition, and that's exactly what Paul is calling these Believers to do.  The spiritual Believers are urged to restore their fellow Believer who has been over-powered by sin back into harmony.  It’s a unified effort of restoration and this is a process.  It does not happen overnight.     

Paul said the restoration process is to be done in a spirit of gentleness.  This is the same Greek word used in 5:22 of the fruit of the Spirit.  You say, “That’s all well and good but you still don’t know where to begin.”  If you still have doubts.  If the task of restoring a Believer appears too daunting, and there’ no reason why it should; you can always start with these words of Jesus Christ who simplified the process:  ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF’ (Mark 12:31).  

Just about everyone has heard of the Golden Rule, “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.”  Start with this for everyone knows how to love in some form or fashion.  Who hasn’t taken care of a kitten or a puppy?  Who hasn’t attended to the needs of an ill child or an aging parent?  Who hasn’t volunteered to serve where there was a need?  Restoration is nothing more than caring, showing up, to demonstrate compassion and to love on someone with needs.     

Lastly, Paul said “each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted." What does this mean?  I’m glad you asked.  The word tempted here is the same word found in Matthew chapter 4 used of the “evil one” tempting Jesus in the wilderness.  In this context, it means, “to tempt with a view toward destruction.”  Paul wants the Galatians to know Satan will test and tempt all Believers in order to bring about their destruction.  Therefore they must be on guard at all times (1 Corinthians 10:12 2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 Peter 5:8; Ephesians 6:11).

I find it remarkable Believers will lock their cars and homes to protect themselves and their families from evil, but then they willingly permit evil a foothold into their lives via their television sets, personal computers, laptops, smart phones, I pads, and various other streaming devices.  Do you not know:  “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light… (Matthew 6:22-24).

The Lord Jesus Christ is saying all people should keep their eyes on God, or things of God, because the eyes are the windows to the soul. Therefore we should not put any unwholesome thing before our eyes.  If Jesus would not sit next to you on the sofa and view it with you, then change the channel or better yet, turn it off.  God cares about your music selection too, by the way.  You see, the eye regulates the motion of the body; an individual who is not focused on the things of God is unsteady.  In short they are not spiritual.  In order for a person’s conduct to be “right,” it is important for them to fix their eyes on spiritual things (Colossians 3:2).  Having their affections, their concerns in perspective, and unwavering; their conduct will line up with God’s Word.  Jesus said, “You cannot serve two masters. So the question is, “Who are you serving?”  “Who or what is the Main Thing in your life?”

Verse 2:

Galatians 6

2: Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.

Maintaining the word-picture of walking, Paul says that when you are going along the road and see someone who has fallen under a crushing burden too heavy for him, you should get under the load and help him bear it.

When we walk by the Spirit, we bear one another's burdens.  The law of Christ is the law of love.  I put it this way:  Seek the other person’s highest good.”  God put it this way:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Paul has already explained this in chapter 5. One of the ways we help a person is by helping them bear their burden or their load.

The problem is the legalist doesn't help carry the load; the legalist piles more on top of their load.  That’s exactly what Jesus said referring to the Pharisees.  The legalists don't make the load lighter; they make the load heavier, because they come with criticism and confrontation.

The "burden" we must bear is one that the stumbling saint cannot bear alone.  Just what is meant by the term "burden"?  The burden here is something the sinner is not able to bear on their own, whether it is the guilt of their sin, its controlling power, or the consequences of that act.  The burden could be depression, poverty, sickness, or deep remorse.

The bottom line is simply this:  we are our brother's keeper.  The legalist will deal with sin as the Law of Moses directs - by condemning the sinner; they pick up a stone…  However, those who have experienced the grace of God, which delivers men from sin, will manifest grace in response to the sin of others.  Only those who understand God’s grace can impart it.

One way in which we can help bear a brother's load is to help provide accountability for them.  Let's say you tell a struggling believer who’s dealing with a drinking problem, "If you feel you are going to cave or give in to this temptation, here’s my telephone number.  Call me anytime; allow me to help you carry the load."  You can bear somebody's burden by offering to come alongside in their time of need and holding them accountable.

Another way we can bear a person’s load is through a faithful prayer life.  We can also bear the burdens of others through encouragement.  Those facing temptation need lots of encouragement.  Paul was an encourager.  You might try following his example:  Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

We, who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, are called to come alongside those who have stumbled in their walk, pray for them, walk with them (it is a process), and help bear their burden.  The sad thing is in many churches the burdens of those who are hurting are ignored or overlooked altogether because the people attending church today are shallow, meaning, they don't want to get involved in other people’s business.  You do you, and I’ll do me” is the mindset of most folks today.  You’ll find this is especially true in many of the larger churches where cliques are formed up, and newbie’s are generally not welcomed.  The sense of community or unity has gone missing or it never existed.  People attend church services but they are just one family unit among thousands in attendance.  These folks will make contact with a dozen or so individuals while they are there, but they are not there to establish new relationships.  Sad to say, churches and the activities that take place in the church aren’t much different as you’ll find in the Civic Center, or the local sports arena.  People have come to see the church as a place to be entertained.  They arrive, sit down in their familiar seats, week after week, and watch the players do their thing.  They each have their favorite portion of the program, and some will take advantage of the sermon to nod off.  But here’s the thing, people aren’t being taught church doctrines today so they really don’t know how to deal with this problem.  And yet, The Creator God has spoken; we are commanded to bear one another’s burdens.  It is the law of Christ. 

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).

The word "look" is Skopeo; it means:  "to fix the attention upon with desire for, and interest in."  We are to be looking out for the interests of others.  How can we fulfill this command to bear one another's burdens if we don't look out for the interests of others?  We can begin here:  if we esteem others as better than ourselves, we will look out for their interests; we'll be concerned with their needs.  Please turn to Philippians 2:20-21:

Here Paul was concerned for Timothy’s welfare so he wrote:  For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.  For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:20-21).

Notice that he doesn't say others care for themselves and not you, but others care for themselves and not for Christ.  To be concerned for other Believers is to be concerned for Christ, to love Christ is to love His people, and be willing to bear their burdens.

In the next verse Paul mentions a danger we should all consider.  When you see your brother or your sister suffering or stumbling, don't excuse yourself, get involved.  Love is a verb, remember?

Verse 3:

Galatians 6

3: For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

First things first; our Apostle Paul is not saying we are nothing.  Paul is saying apart from the grace of God, in us, we amount to zero, morally, and that’s due to our sinful nature.  "There dwells in me, (in my flesh), no good thing," (Romans 7:18); “Apart from me, you can do nothing," (John 15:5); "Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth" (1 Corinthians 3:7). 

Permit me to ask this question.  Do you honestly believe God would send His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die a horrible death for nothing?  Every person born into this world is made in the image of God and has an eternal soul.  People will argue with me but from a biblical standpoint our time on this earth is for one purpose only and that is to come to a decision about Christ Jesus.  After this life you will spend eternity in one of two places, heaven or the Lake of Fire.  A person is either saved or not saved at the end of their life.  I can cite numerous Bible verses that clearly say true Believers are “the temple of the living God” and “we are God’s children” and also “God’s heirs,” which by adoption makes us brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Now do you call that nothing?  I don’t think so. 

So, Paul is speaking of the self-evaluation of pride that each legalist has in their own righteousness, based on their plan of obedience to the Law or works-based faith.  Self-righteousness causes a person to think he or she is something special when in fact they are not (1 Corinthians 3:18, 4:7).  Grace removes all grounds for boasting (2 Corinthians 10:12; Ephesians 2:8-9).

The solution to the problem of Believers measuring themselves by the performance of others is given in verse 4.  Paul commands Believers, who seek to elevate themselves at the expense of others, to focus on their own responsibility and accountability before God.

Verses 4-5:

Galatians 6

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 one another.  For each one will bear his own load. 

Paul says the competition and the confrontation has to stop; the Body of Christ is not about comparing yourself with one another to get ahead of each other.  Just examine your own heart because ultimately that is what you are responsible for.  When you stand before the Lord Jesus Christ at the Bema Seat Judgment, He won’t be comparing you with other people in the church.  He’s going to be examining your account.  It will be all about you.  You are responsible for your own heart.

Paul tells these Believers to stop comparing with everybody else and just look inward.  In verse 5 he said:  each one will bear his own load.  There is no contradiction in the statements made in verse 2 and verse 5, because he uses two different Koine Greek words.  In verse 2 it’s the word Baros, which means:  a burden, a load so heavy you can’t carry it alone.  But in verse 5 it’s a different Koine Greek word; it’s the word Phortion, which means:  a soldier’s backpack.  This is something you have to carry yourself.  By this Paul means to say you are responsible for your own heart and that is a load you have to carry yourself. 

Paul is talking about the practical fleshing out (the doing) of what it really means to walk by the Spirit.  It has to do with how I help those who are stumbling into sin.  It’s about my willingness and ability to bear one another's burdens.

(To be continued)

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