Topic: Expository Passage: Galatians 6:1–5
This morning, we are taking a break from Romans to consider another key passage concerning our 2022 theme, “Love One Another” (read text).
Now that I’ve been pastoring for a while, it’s interesting to compare my assumptions as a college student about what pastoral ministry would look like and why I wanted to do it with what I actually do.
When I was 20, I wanted to be a pastor because I wanted to preach expositionally for the purpose of building long-term spiritual maturity and because I wanted to disciple others. And I’m thankful that God has allowed me to invest a lot of my time in these two passions.
But I must admit that God has given me a host of other responsibilities that I never considered when I was 20. I had no idea how multidimensional pastoral ministry would be. I love some of those other tasks, but there are others that I don’t enjoy as much and that I’m not as good at. I have to work to stay motivated and to fulfill them well.
Galatians 6:1–5 challenges me about a couple ministries that aren’t natural to me but that are very important. And they aren’t important for just pastors; they’re important for all Christians. Afterall our text is not addressed to pastors; it’s addressed to all Christians, who are walking by the Spirit, which should be all of us.
Paul addresses us all because the tasks are too big for a handful of people. They demand broad commitment from the entire church. And if we all embrace these tasks, or at least most of us, we can make a massive difference in each other’s lives, and we will come closer to loving one another well. The first responsibility we must fulfill is to…
I. Restore the Fallen (v. 1).
Verse 1 describes a scenario that we wish never happened but is all too common. Paul says, “If anyone (speaking in context of a fellow Christian) is caught in any trespass.”
“Trespass” can describe any sin, so this is a broad challenge with many applications. When I notice a brother struggling with any sin, I must jump into action. It’s also significant that sin has “overtaken” the individual. This verb communicates an element of surprise. The literal idea is that sin ambushed him. He didn’t intend to be where he is, but now he is trapped.
If you’ve been significantly involved with people for long, you’ve seen this happen many times. For example, it’s rare that someone who is walking with Christ and cultivating a good marriage wakes up one morning and decides, to cheat on his wife. Instead, he lets his guard down, he stops being watchful, and his defenses deteriorate. Sin takes advantage and traps him.
It can happen to anyone because we are all frail sinners. So, don’t ever presume on your ability to stand. Stay on guard. And when others fall, don’t look down your nose in disgust; instead, humbly remember, “That would be me but for the grace of God.”
So, v. 1 describes someone who is overcome by a sinful pattern. They may recognize the sin, or they may not. They may be repentant, or they may not. It could be a long-term pattern or a single act. Regardless, how must we respond?
Restore: The “spiritual” are to “restore” this individual. You may read this and think, “I’m off the hook because I’m not spiritual.” But we must understand spiritual considering 5:16, 25. All believers “live by the Spirit,” and they must “walk by the Spirit.”
Therefore, the spiritual are simply healthy Christians who by God’s grace are striving to obey his will. So, if you aren’t spiritual, you need to get there, and once you are, 6:1 is addressed to you.
God is commanding you, not just to pastors or special Christians, that when you see a believer stumble, you are responsible to restore him or her. This verb simply means to fix something. It’s used of rebuilding a wall (Ez 4:12, 13) or mending fishing nets (Matt 4:21). And Paul commands the spiritual to rebuild or mend the struggling believer.
You may think, “Pastor, that’s above my paygrade. What if he gets mad? What if she cries? What if he asks a question I can’t answer? What if he needs more time than I can give?”
Yes, it can be awkward and difficult, especially if we wait until a crisis to invest in meaningful relationships. But if we foster the kind of culture we have been talking about this year, obeying this verse will be much easier. Afterall preexisting love and trust that makes confrontation far easier. And if we are living close to each other, we’ll be able to spot problems and address them before they get bad.
That won’t solve everything. No matter what culture we build, some people will always resist, or they will find ways to hide sin. And they won’t always be happy when it’s discovered and confronted. But even if it gets awkward or tense, what really matters more, my comfort or the soul of a brother? Loving one another demands that we live this command.
Maybe you know about someone that needs to be confronted, or maybe they are repentant but they just need support. Love your brother enough to get your hands dirty. If you don’t feel adequate, get help. But don’t let fear or personal comfort keep you from caring for an eternal soul. Let’s support each other well in our battle with sin.
Spirit of Gentleness: Paul adds that in your efforts to restore, you must do so “in a spirit…” Paul probably added this statement because some in the church struggled with pride and petty division (5:15, 26). Paul almost certainly mentioned division, boasting, and envy because they were problems. Some in the church thought they were spiritually superior, and they were flaunting it to others.
But an arrogant, condescending attitude kills ministry. How do you react when someone confronts you with a condescending, arrogant spirit?. It’s hard to listen and not get defensive.
Therefore, effective ministry demands “a spirit of gentleness.” In other words, we must care for weak with a thoughtful, intentional mixture of compassion and strength. The sinner needs humble love, but he also needs firm correction.
Striking the right balance is not always easy. It’s easy to get frustrated or angry with the sins of those with whom we are close, but we must continue to love gently. At other times, we are too timid to say what needs to be said. We don’t demand repentance or the disciplines necessary to break the cycle. As a result, the sinner remains comfortable in his sin, and cycle continues. Genuine help demands a thoughtful and individualized plan of attack.
Then Paul adds that you must “look to yourself…” There is some debate about how to understand this clause. It’s popular to think that Paul is warning the confronter to be careful not to fall into the same sin as the person he is trying to help. For example, if you need to pull someone out of a nightclub, be careful that you aren’t tempted to stick around.
That’s a real concern, but the likelier option in context is that Paul is warning the Galatians against self-righteous pride that looks down with disgust on the person who has fallen as if I would never commit such a sin. Think of the Pharisees who were eager to criticize those they viewed as inferior and to see them judged for their sin.
But that attitude kills ministry, and it defies the gospel we believe. If I’m living at the foot of the cross, I will always be mindful of the fact that I am what I am solely by the grace of God which rescued me and continues to sustain me.
This attitude will dramatically alter how I react to the sins of a brother in Christ. I’ve been blessed many times as I’ve watched mature members of our church do this exact thing. They hear about a sin, and they don’t gossip or despise the one who has fallen; instead, they move toward him with humble, compassionate, and firm care. They care with gospel grace.
So, prepare right now to serve well when the need arises. Live at the foot of the cross, mindful of your need of grace. Then walk in the Spirit and cultivate the courage, discipline, and gentleness that are essential to ministry. As you do, God will direct your steps into fruitful ministry when the need arises. The 2nd responsibility we must fulfill is…
II. Bear Burdens (v. 2):
You may not be convinced that you will ever be ready to fulfill v. 1, but v. 2 is in reach for us all. A burden is a weight that is difficult to carry. In light of v. 1, Paul probably is especially thinking of a burdensome sin struggle, but a burden could be any sort of heavy weight a fellow believer must carry. It might be a health struggle. It might be a heavy responsibility like caring for a sick parent, stress over family tension, sorrow over a wayward child, or pressure at work. It could be financial difficulties or a tangible need like fixing a car or a leaky roof. Burdens come in many forms, and they often feel very heavy.
But God never intended for us to bear them alone. He designed the church to help carry the load. The idea is that we get underneath the load with the one who is weighed down, and we help carry it. We partner with our brother in bearing his burden.
It’s worth noting that the verb tense indicates that me must continually bear burdens. It’s not enough to offer token help that soothes our conscience but leaves people to be crushed by the load. No, we must stay with it to the end.
If someone is grieving, we don’t just send a card; we support them throughout the entire grieving process. If someone is enduring a health challenge, we don’t just make a meal, we keep helping until the challenge is past. If someone is overtaken by sin, we don’t just confront once, we hold them accountable until they achieve victory.
When you begin to think about what this means, it sounds overwhelming. There are a lot of burdens in our church, and it’s a lot of work to bear them. There’s no way that Pastor Tim and I or a even a team of us could keep up. That’s why God gives the command to the entire church. You are responsible to bear the burdens of the people in this body.
So, when you see a need, don’t sit back and hope someone notices. Attack it because it’s your responsibility. If it’s too much to bear alone, recruit some people to help. If you don’t know about any needs, build relationships, learn about needs, and respond proactively. Yes, there is a lot to be done, but if we share the load, we can bear it together.
As we do, we will provide a wonderful ministry to each other, and we will stand out as disciples of Christ. We live in an increasingly isolated society. So many people don’t have any people. When life gets hard, they have no one to lean on. But it’s awesome to watch people at Life Point rally for each other. It means so much to those who are burdened, and it’s a wonderful testimony to the world around us.
Law of Christ: Furthermore, Paul says we “fulfill the law of Christ.” We don’t have time this morning to fully discuss what the law of Christ is. But essentially, the law of Christ is the ethic of the NT as reflected in the teaching and example of Jesus and the apostles. In this context, Paul is especially concerned with Jesus’ example of sacrificial love (5:13–15).
Verse 14 is especially clear that loving each other is at the heart of godliness. This is because sacrificial love is at the heart of the gospel. And Paul’s point is that when we love each other enough to bear their burdens, we reflect the heart of Christ, which he demonstrated in his life and death. So, v. 2 is not describing a cool option for overachieving Christians; instead, this is at core of the NT ethic.
In sum, vv. 1–2 teach that loving each other is much more than a feeling, and Christian fellowship is much more than talking to each other or spending time together. It’s not enough to hang out on the fringes or come to the occasional service.
No, the law of Christ demands investing in relationships and investing in people. It demands partnering together in pursuit of godliness and in the practical challenges of life. All of us must take responsibility for the spiritual care of our brothers and sisters in Christ. The 3rd major responsibility is to…
III. Walk humbly before God and each other (vv. 3–5).
Verses 1–2 present some basic principles that, theoretically, will make any church thrive. But, unfortunately, in a real world of sin and competing passions, we often struggle to achieve the ideal.
God understands the struggle, and vv. 3–5 confront some real-world competition with God’s desire. Paul is particularly concerned with the self-righteousness and pride that were plaguing the Galatians. And few things destroy unity and fellowship like arrogance, especially a Pharisaical arrogance. Paul first responds by challenging us to…
We must recognize our own weakness (v. 3). This verse is a bit tricky to interpret because Paul is confronting problems in the Galatian church, but we can only hear one side of the conversation. If you’ve ever listened in on one side of a phone conversation, you know there’s only so much you can get.
But we know pride was a problem in Galatia. Paul just mentioned it in 5:26, and v. 3 warns the readers against deceiving themselves by thinking they are “something” when they are “nothing.” We should assume the verses are connected and that v. 3 confronts the pride Paul just mentioned.
But how does this fit with the conversation on fellowship in vv. 1–2? First, v. 1 warns against an arrogance that thinks I am above falling into sin and then despises the one who has fallen. This sort of pride kills fellowship and support. After all, who really wants help from someone who thinks he is God’s gift to mankind? So, v. 3 admonishes us to replace pride with the sort of humility that is necessary to serving each other well.
Second, the grammar connects v. 3 closely to v. 2, so it seems that some in the church believed they were above getting their hands dirty with other people’s burdens and above needing others to bear their burdens. They thought they were too good to help others, and too strong to lean on anyone.
Again, you can see how that kills biblical fellowship. It’s sad when believers are more concerned with their agenda than serving the body. It’s sad when believers are so proud that they are unwilling to depend on each other. It’s even sadder when a Christian thinks he is too important to get his hands dirty with the needs of fellow-Christians. It defies the example of our Savior who was so humble as to wash his disciples’ feet just hours before they would abandon him.
Therefore, Paul responds, they were “deceived,” and they didn’t realize they were “nothing.” We are all needy whether we realize it or not.
So, guard your heart against pride. Do not begin to think you are something when you are nothing. God says that you need to be vitally connected to the body for the good of your soul.
As well, you need to serve Christ’s church the way he served you. You are not so important, and your life outside the church is not so important that you don’t truly have time for Christians. May God help us to love each other like Christ loved us and to humbly support each other in the pursuit of godliness? We must recognize our weakness. Finally, vv. 4–5 state that…
We must carefully evaluate our lives in preparation for the judgment (vv. 4–5). These verses are also tricky to understand. Specifically, Paul has been talking about the church as an interconnected, mutually dependent body, so why do vv. 4–5 suddenly emphasize individual responsibility?
Again, the fact that we are only hearing one side of the conversation limits our ability to understand what Paul is saying. But considering the context, we should assume that Paul is still confronting pride and divisiveness.
More specifically, it seems that there was a lot of petty competition within the church over who was most righteous, and this extended to boasting in the size of their influence.
Notice what Paul says in 6:13. The self-righteous Jews took pride in influencing the Gentiles to be circumcised. You can imagine the testimony services at Galatia. One man stands and notes how this month he influenced three Gentiles to be circumcised. Then the next guy stands with a smug face and notes how he persuaded five Gentiles to be circumcised, and on it goes. Once again, it’s not a pattern that promotes church unity and edification.
In response, vv. 4–5 say that we shouldn’t compete with other Christians over who is the best; instead, we must “examine our own work” and stay focused on faithfully doing what God has called us to do.
This is because when we stand before Christ, he won’t be interested in hearing us boast about how we were better than someone else. Instead, he will examine how we fulfilled our own stewardship. His evaluation will matter far more than winning some petty battle with other people.
Therefore, we will “bear our own load” in that day because we will give an account of how we lived, not how someone else lived. And if, as v. 4 says, we examine our works and prepare well for that day, we will rejoice when we hear Christ say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
That’s a good reminder because it’s easy to get caught up in comparisons and competition, and to let jealousy and selfish ambition distract us from God’s eternal purpose.
Don’t get distracted by petty strife. Stay focused on faithfully doing what God has called you to do in preparation for your judgment. Then rest in the fact that God perfectly sees your service even if no one else does, and he will reward you faithfully.
This text should serve as a great reminder we are all on the same team. We aren’t just a bunch of random travellers who happen to be driving down the same road. We are a mutually dependent family. And we also aren’t competing for power, glory or attention. No, we are partners in pursuing godliness.
Therefore, if the Spirit has convicted you about places where selfish ambition, personal interest, or petty strife are compromising your commitment to the things that truly matter, then repent and forsake it. Replace these sins with sincere love for Christ, for his church, and for the mission he has given us. Embrace your obligation to care well for others.
Then build relationships that you can use to partner together in pursuing godliness. When you recognize a spiritual struggle or a burden, meet it. And when you have a struggle or a burden, have the humility to let others help you. And let’s all help each other prepare to stand with joy at the judgment seat of Christ.