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February 20, 2005
If I am a spiritual believer (Galatians 6:1) I will be a Philippians 2:4 believer, one who does not look out merely for his own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. In other words, I carry two loads:
1. Your load (Galatians 6:1-2)
As an example of unspiritual conduct, note this anecdote which begins the 8th chapter of John :
2Early in the morning He came again
into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach
Now they do not mention how a women all by herself can be caught in the very act of adultery, but thats beside the point in their view.
5"Now in the Law Moses commanded
us to stone such women; what then do You say?"
By the way, that business of writing on the ground with the finger -- perhaps youve seen it done in Cecil D deMilles production where He wrote sins of the various Pharisees and scribes in the sand -- hypocrite, liar, adulterer, murder, and when they saw that, they thought, That must mean me. Probably, however, thats not what he was doing. Probably he was simply writing in the ground, ignoring them deliberately. In other words, what you guys are doing here is not germane to the argument. It was an insult. Its like when someone starts talking to you and you pick up a book and start reading. He was, in that sense, putting them in their place.
7But when they persisted in asking
Him, He straightened up, and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him
be the first to throw a stone at her."
There is a heated exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees, those who were so right in their own eyes, in Matthew 23:4. Jesus, speaking of the Pharisees, says:
4"They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.
13"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
25"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.
In Galatians 6, were going to talk about the responsibility that Gods people, as Christians, have to carry two loads. One has to do with how we regard other people. The other has to do with how we regard ourselves before God. Luke 18:9 talks about certain ones who trusted in themselves and viewed others with contempt poor choices regarding both loads.
Paul wrote Galatians because there were certain ones, we call them Judaizers, who were trying to influence the believers in Galatia. Paul had come and said its salvation by grace through faith plus nothing! The Judaizers came along and said thats not enough. Salvation by grace through faith plus works, plus circumcision, plus embracing perhaps dietary laws, calendar events, and so forth. They were adding to the gospel.
A Judaizer and a Pharisee would be good company for one another, those who would have some truth but would adulterate it by adding to the simple and pure gospel. This is what they tended to do, condemning others on the one hand and exalting or overestimating self on the other, or both.
We think, Oh, those Judaizers. Oh, those Pharisees. Bad people! We would never . . . Im not so sure. How about us? Are we spiritual or are we fleshly? Its interesting how Paul begins Galatians 6, You who are spiritual, do it this way, indicating that there is at least an option.
Have we in any way added to the simple gospel? Salvation by grace through faith plus nothing. Sometimes we do. Sometimes Christians will go beyond the simple gospel to embrace what I would consider secondary Bible doctrine beyond the simple gospel and make that a litmus test for spirituality. Sometimes we go beyond the simple gospel and decide a certain way of worship, a certain type of music, a certain food or a certain clothing or certain amusements -- all of these little things we can add in our thinking to the gospel that cause us to be wrong in our evaluation of others and of ourselves.
Any time we impose rules and add it to the gospel in any significant fashion, we become as Johnny Cash described himself just before he died, a C minus Christian. Am I performance oriented? If I am, that leaves the door open to pride. Oh, Im doing pretty well. And its an easy step from pride to comparison. Im doing pretty well. Youre not doing as well. Or, Youre doing really well and Im just . . .
Performance will uglify a beautiful gospel, which is why as Paul is coming down the home stretch of this epistle, he wants us to have it clear. When someone falls and we are performance oriented, we are in the drivers seat. Its all about us, and our evaluation, our judgment, and our comparison.
Have you ever noticed if you have small children, or ever have been one, how when perhaps a rival or another person messes up, there is that imp inside that says, Yeah, and theres a sick, twisted pleasure we can get when others fail. Why? Because in our flesh we really believe that if someone else is lowered, by comparison in some sense, we look a little better. That appeals to our pride. We really like that.
When someone falls and were performance-oriented, its all about us and we just violated the two greatest commandments. If judgment, if evaluation is all about us, I just put me ahead of God. That is a violation of commandment number one, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second commandment is, Love your neighbor as yourself. Both were broken if someone falls and I stand in judgment because my religion has to do with performance
1Brethren, 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.
We should all bear one anothers burdens but each one bears his or her own load. Which is it? Its both -- two loads, two burdens. Thats what it is saying, just like the Pharisee who thought so highly of himself and so poorly of others. Two loads, the others and my own. How do those who are spiritual regard those two loads? Thats what these five verses speak to us of. We need to be sensitive in these two areas. Gods people carry two loads if we want to be truly spiritual as opposed to just proud. There is a spiritual pride available to the Christian.
1. Your load (Galatians 6:1-2)
Lets talk about the loads. Im going to walk through the phrases as they are presented here. Even if anyone is caught in any trespass. There is a link there back to the end of the 5th chapter talking about what it is to be a true Christian, what it is to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God and how it is that the Holy Spirit of God will work His character over time, through circumstances, in the life of every Christian.
We might take a look at that and think were home free. Sin shouldnt be an issue. Transgression shouldnt even happen. Paul, and everyone else who has ever breathed honest air, realizes thats not the case. We still contend with the world, the flesh, and the devil. The apostle says even in spite of being born again, being indwelt by the Spirit, even in spite of the fact that these Judaizers, these Pharisees say youre going to need rules or youre going to go off the deep end. Were saying no, we only need Gods grace and Gods word.
In spite of all that, sin happens. Christians are overtaken in sin in spite of everything. It is so in a fallen world. The word in the New American Standard is caught. The word doesnt mean caught as though in a trap. It means overtaken, the suggestion of surprise, like an ambush. Kind of out of the blue is the sense that we get.
That word trespass is a compound word that means to fall beside. Its sort of like that last time you ran up the stairs and missed one. You just went down. Was it a surprise? Yes, it was not planned. The image that is depicted with these words reminds us that when someone in the kingdom of God falls, it normally is a surprise, perhaps to them. How many people have known Christ and have backslidden and awakened somewhere and said, Where am I and what have I done?
I did a little trip down memory lane not long ago, just recalling those I have known who have surprised me and landed in some tough, sinful situation of their own making. You like to think as you get older that nothing surprises you any more, but then Im surprised again. Sadly, I have known quite a number of believers, leaders, pastors, missionaries, who have fallen into sin of all types, usually immorality. Its a sad, sad, surprise, but it happens.
The point of these verses isnt to address that in itself. The point of the verses is to say those of you who are there, brothers, when you see this occur, what do you do? Our response to one who has fallen shows a great deal about who we are in Christ. It reveals immediately whether we are spiritual or just proud.
When we encounter one of these unpleasant situations, when a brother or sister is in sin, our choice is either to reject or to restore. The Bible here could not be more clear. You who are spiritual, you who are filled with the Spirit of God, you who are operating on biblical principles, your choice is but one -- to restore.
The word restore is an interesting word. Its the word used of the disciples of Jesus when they were still fishermen in the 1st chapter of Mark. Jesus is walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and there sits Peter and Andrew and James and John. They were restoring their nets. They had just come from fishing. They were mending their nets. They were making them serviceable again. They were restoring them; they werent shredding them. They were fixing them, same word. You who are spiritual, restore.
At this point we could go in a number of directions about the restoration process. It is my conviction that is the fundamental role of the church, in particular the church leadership, to deal with these issues. Matthew 18 is clear about an individual with whom we may have a problem. Working it out, resolving if at all possible. If he or she listens, great! You have won your brother. If not, you need witnesses. If he or she still will not hear and is resistant and the sin is clear, then we bring in church leaders, then perhaps it goes even further than that. Why? So we can remove them? So that we can purge our ranks? No, the Bible is clear -- so that we can restore. Thats the point.
The church is called not to look like the world. In the world, people who commit sins, crimes, whatever, are gone. In the church, however, which is supposed to be a redemptive body, we are called to restore. Sometimes restoration is misinterpreted. Sometimes the individual in question would accuse his brothers and sisters of attack or slander when all that is really happening is an attempt to save and to serve and to restore. Other times its accusations of defamation. No, the attempt is restoration. Sometimes its misunderstood. Sometimes, according to Scripture, an individual needs to be asked to leave. So that we can be pure? No, people are asked to leave as a gesture of seriousness and gravity underscoring the situation with a view to jarring the individual to repentance and restoration. Thats the idea.
When we face an issue involving the fall of another, another way of asking the question whether to reject or restore is: Are we concerned for that persons soul or are we concerned for our own feelings of comfort?
Heres an interesting attachment in this first verse, restore such a one. If the Spirit is involved, we will approach these types of situations in an attitude of meekness. Subservience to the Lord is our concern for the soul. This Spirit of meekness is the Holy Spirit who lives inside of us, who produces that character of meekness. If that happens, verse 2 says as we bear one anothers burdens in this way, we thus fulfill the law of Christ.
13For you were called to freedom,
brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through
love serve one another.
The whole Law, the Law of Christ, is fulfilled in this: Love your neighbor as yourself. Thats the Law of Christ. The warning, if you bite and devour one another, if you want to shred one another, you will self-destruct because we all have issues. We are all vulnerable.
Whats called for here is a balanced perspective on the part of the Christian, where we take into account the sins, the failings of others, while at the same time not neglecting our own liabilities. We all have them. There is balance in view here. Some are the spiritual police, it seems, and just want to keep an eye on everybody else while their own lives may need some work. Others couldnt care less about the other people. Some Christians are just so self-absorbed -- its all about me and my spirituality and how am I doing and am I happy and am I fulfilled and am I this and am I that. They forget there are other people in the body of Christ.
What Paul is saying in these verses is that you need balance. There are other people you need to be concerned about and be prepared to pick up on the other end and carry with them, but you have your own too. You are responsible, as an individual Christian, with how you react to the other one.
When I was a little boy, Gramma and Grampa had a farm, chickens and all kinds of things. I remember Gramma used to say, You want to come with me to help gather the eggs? I always did because I loved finding those eggs in those little nests of straw. That was fun. I remember tagging along behind Gramma. She was carrying a heavy bucket of feed in one hand and nothing in the other, walking totally crooked. Later it occurs to me, if you have equal loads you at least walk straight. At least theres balance.
Paul is saying, Hey Christian, you relate to others and you relate to yourselves in a similar fashion.
2. My own load (Galatians 6:3-5)
3For if anyone thinks he is
something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
We have been prepared for verses 3, 4, and 5 by verse 1. Verse 1 says restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness each one looking to yourself lest you too be tempted. Dont forget you in this. Carry the other persons load, help them out, but dont rule out yourself. Realize that you have a responsibility too. The verse literally says scoping yourself out. It means keeping an eye on yourself,
What I see in these three verses in Galatians 6 is that we are called to develop this in three ways, develop three things, three qualities, three areas of sensitivity, if were going to keep an eye on ourselves.
The first is caution. I pull this right out of verse 1 where it says While youre dealing with this sinner you caught, the one who surprised you, keep an eye on yourself lest you too be tempted because its a very real possibility.
In I Corinthians 10 verses 12 and 13 goes something like this, talking about let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall because there is no temptation overtaken you that someone else hasnt dealt with. Its pretty common stuff. The world, the flesh, and the devil are what you might call ubiquitous. Its hard to get away from it.
Caution -- it can happen to me. I know individuals who have fought for years over issues of drinking. They need to be real careful before engaging in a ministry in the bar. It can happen. I can fall. I knew a man who was burdened for youth in a city. Knowing that he had suppressed certain perverse inclinations of his own, he felt he could handle it, so he ministered to adolescent male prostitutes and landed in jail serving 18 months for an offense with them. Overestimating his own abilities, underestimating the power of sin and temptation.
Cultivate caution. Dabbling or even ministering in danger zones is foolish. People who have a problem with theft ought not be the treasurer. Dont let Colonel Sanders guard your chickens. Be cautious.
Secondly, develop humility. Look at verse 3: If anyone thinks he is something when he really isnt, he is fooling himself. An honest assessment of self. The Pharisees trusted in their heritage, trusted in their exhaustive Bible knowledge, trusted in their performance. They were sure they were fine. They had an estimate of themselves that was inflated to say the very least. The Publican, the tax collector, said Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.
Whenever we add works to faith, whenever we evaluate our spiritual performance based on how we do, we are candidates for pride and self-delusion. Its not accidental.
Third, develop honesty. There is an interesting connection in Titus 1. In Titus 1, Paul is warning Titus about people to watch out for on the island of Crete who are likely to give him grief.
Especially the Judaizers, the performance-based believers, or professing believers who are among the most deluded. Watch out for them.
Finally, he wraps this up with Galatians 6:4.
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.
We need to be a little bit careful about that. The word boasting doesnt mean bragging and blowing your own horn. It basically means feeling good about where you are. Its a sense of contentment or positive feeling about that was a success. Thats legitimate. God gives you deliverance. God gives you grace. You know a victory. Its fine to feel good about it. But Pauls caution here is to make sure its in regard to yourself and not because someone else is doing worse.
Its like sports. When you golf, just try to do better than you did the last time for yourself. Then youll have cause for feeling good about your game, not because perhaps you did better than another person. If youre into track, just beat your own time. Dont worry about other people. Thats the sense that its getting here. This is your load, or my load. Not to be compared with others, how they may be doing, but rather if were going to be pleased about progress, let it be with regard to self comparison rather than with someone else.
As I said earlier, some Christians seem to find delight in policing the ranks of others. Other Christians seem to be kind of self-absorbed and ignore others. What Paul is calling for is where we need to be. If someone is caught in sin, restore. Dont ever think it cant happen to you. Keep an eye on self at the same time.
taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®,
Jim Carlson 2005, Lone Rock Bible Church, Stevensville Montana, USA