24.12.2011 THE GOSPEL AND THE CHURCH
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10
In the passage for study this week, Paul reminds us that if we are the sons of God, then every fellow member of the church is our brother. If we walk in the Spirit, there will be no strife and contention among us; rather we will seek to bear each others’ burdens, uphold each other in love and never think ourselves better than others. The evidence of our living and walking in the Spirit will be seen in our loving relationships with other believers where we seek, like Christ to have a spirit of humility and service.
Galatians 5:25, 26 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
If we live and walk in the Spirit, there is one thing we will not be. We will not be proud and conceited. Conceit manifests itself both in confident people who have a superiority complex and those with an inferiority complex. Those with a superiority complex provoke others because they want to prove to them that they are superior in knowledge. Or they provoke people to challenge them so that they can prove that they are right. On the other hand, those with feelings of inferiority live life envying others who they feel are superior to them. Both attitudes are wrong, for they reveal that the love of the world with its pride of life (John 2:15-17) still live on in these members who call themselves Christians. They have received Christ and the Holy Spirit in-dwells them, but they are not living and walking in the Spirit.
These attitudes are entirely contrary to the Christian who is living by the Spirit. He lives a life of humility, not thinking himself better than others, and recognising that God loves and values all mankind, seeks to serve mankind in whatever capacity he can. He is also humble enough to receive help from a fellow Christian without feeling diminished.
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Romans 12:3
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Phil 2:3
Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
From verse 1-5 Paul tells us how we will treat each other if we are walking in the Spirit.
Verse 1: When we see a brother or sister overtaken by a fault or sin, our response should not be to condemn him or judge him, or pass by on the other side; rather we are to restore him in a spirit of gentleness.
‘...run unto him, and reaching out your hand, raise him up again, comfort him with sweet words, and embrace him with motherly arms.’ Martin Luther: Galatians
The word ‘restore’ in the original means to bring back to its original condition. The purpose is always to ‘gain our brother’ Matt 18:15.
Paul is also very clear about who should restore the brother ‘...you who are spiritual’. By this Paul means mature Christians who are guided by the Spirit and have learnt from Him to have a meek and gentle spirit, the mind of Christ (2 Cor 2:14-16). All of us who bear the name of Christ should not just have the Spirit in-dwelling our heart; we must listen to His guiding and teaching and allow Him to produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Some commentators describe the 3 attributes of ‘patience, kindness and goodness’ as the fruit of the Spirit that is manifested in our relationships with one another. The gentleness of the spiritual Christian also arises from the fact that he recognises and understands that he too, shares in the same sinful nature that has overtaken his brother in sin. This reminds us again that we are called to be like Christ.
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16
Paul is not here suggesting that the church must always have 2 classes of Christians – spiritual and unspiritual (carnal). All Christians are meant to be spiritual Christians i.e. led by the Spirit. But the sad truth is that not all Christians seek to be led by the Spirit.
Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Christ is the great burden bearer of our sin and guilt. In coming to Him, we find rest for our souls (Psalm 55:22, Matt 11:28). Nevertheless Paul makes it clear that Christians have burdens and that fellow Christians are called to help them in bearing their burden.
Firstly, it is not weakness to be upheld not only by Christ, but by a fellow Christian. We think we must be stoical, and forget that that is nearer Greek philosophy than Christian teaching! Paul was comforted by the coming of Titus, when he was burdened by the problems at Corinth and we have the example of Christ who wanted his 3 disciples to uphold Him in His hour of great agony (2 Cor 7:5, 6 and Matt 26:38). So too, we should be humble enough to let others help us.
Secondly, we must be willing to be burden-bearers. If we are willing, the Spirit will open our eyes to see those who need our particular help for their particular burden. For example, one brother may require social support, another may need financial support, still others may be bearing burdens of sin and leaders of the church need to be upheld in prayer. God will open our eyes to see whom we can particularly help. As the old song says, ‘Lord, lay some soul upon my heart, and love that soul through me...’
There is sometimes a danger that those who are by nature kind and generous get ‘burnout’ by trying to meet all the needs of people they meet. It is important that such people realise that they particularly need the guidance of the Spirit to discern what particular needs the Spirit wants them to meet. Otherwise they will be following the dictates of their own generous nature, rather than listening to the voice of the Spirit.
In bearing others burdens as the Spirit leads us, we shall be fulfilling the Law of Christ. Love is the fulfilling of His Law. So loving our neighbours, bearing their burdens are counted as fulfilling the Law of Christ.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. John 13:34
This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Galatians 5:14
Galatians 6:3 ...for if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
We should never think we are above others, above helping them. We all are ‘nothing’ in that, left to ourselves we are enemies of God, deserving of only death. In and of ourselves, we are nothing. When we become Christians, we become sons and daughters of God, and should recognise that all these blessings are found ‘in Christ’, and that every member of the Body of Christ is a partaker of the same blessings we have received in Christ.
Galatians 6:4, 5 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.
When we are Christians, redeemed by God through Jesus Christ, we should not compare ourselves with others. That is the behaviour of legalists, not of one who is led by the Spirit. We are responsible to God for our own relationship with Him and the results thereof – the faith that works by love.
Galatians 6:6-10 Sowing and Reaping
Do not be deceived. God will not be mocked. If we look for a good harvest, we must sow good seed. Paul gives us examples of this in the life of the church.
1. The teacher of the Word and him who is taught.
He who is taught the Word, should share in the support of him who teaches. This is a Biblical principle laid down in Luke 10:7 and 1 Cor 9:11; the labourer is worthy of his hire and those who have sowed spiritual things (ministers) can expect material benefits from their congregation, always however bearing in mind their great Example, Christ Jesus, who did not live in luxury. God will provide their every need according to His riches in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:19).
Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. 1 Timothy 5:17
‘Perhaps preaching is at a low ebb in the church today because we shirk the hard work involved. But if the minister throws himself into his ministry with the energy of a labouring man, and sows good seed in the minds and hearts of the congregation, then he may expect to ‘reap’ a material livelihood.’ John Stott: Galatians
Above all, the relationship between minister and congregation should be that of ‘fellowship and partnership’, the meaning in the original Greek. The pastor will not abuse his ministry through laziness and the congregation will not abuse their position by trying to control their minister.
2. The 2 fields
Paul is here reminding us of the contrast between flesh and spirit. In Galatians 5 we are called to walk in the Spirit. Now, he calls us to sow in the field of the Spirit, rather than in the field of the flesh. Instead of being led by our sinful nature and the principle of sin, we are called to die daily and be led instead by the Spirit.
The sowing of the flesh will result in moral corruption and decay which will end finally in eternal death.
But the sowing of the Spirit will lead to constant communion with God and under His guiding, we shall grow in grace, bear fruit unto holiness and the end will be everlasting life.
3. Let us do good to all, and particularly to those of the household of faith.
‘And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for we shall reap the harvest if we do not lose heart’. What is this reward or harvest?
‘Eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honour, and immortality.’ Rom 2:7
In James 5:1-8, he contrasts the reward of those who oppress their fellow men with the reward or reaping of those who in patience establish their hearts in Christ Jesus.
Christian Unity: The Human Body as Analogy
Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. Ephesians 4:3
The human body is used in the Bible to illustrate the Church, the Body of Christ. If we take the body to represent the church and each member as a cell in the body, here are some analogies.
All cells in the body (no matter how diverse or specialised) know they BELONG to one person, because they all carry the same DNA. So in the church every member must recognise this sense of belonging to Christ. We each have Christ’s name and identity, sons and daughters of God and the in-dwelling Spirit bears witness to this. The Holy Spirit lives in all who accept Christ Jesus and provides us with the sense of belonging to God.
In the body, the sense of belonging occurs in 2 ways. Every cell recognises and obeys orders from the brain and every cell has an inherent bond with every other cell in the body. So the Spirit calls me not only to respond to God, but also to join a Body where every member (cell) is bound in love to a community of diverse cells.
We are called to accept one another, serve one another, wash one another’s feet, pray for one another, forgive one another, confess our sins to one another, teach and admonish one another, comfort one another, bear one another’s burdens and above all, to love one another.
If we allowed the Spirit to rule our lives, we would have a community of believers to whom people would come, as they came to Jesus, for no-one would be made to feel unworthy, rejected or unloved.
This is the Christian manifestation of unity. The ‘tie that binds’ us is the Spirit, who leads us to provide the support that each member of the Body requires.
Father, may Your Spirit make me sensitive to the needs of my brethren, who are Your children.
The Biblical Basis of Christian Service
Freely you have received, freely give. Matthew 10;18
Too often we in the church, even as converted Christians allow our selfish human natures to mimic society in our attitudes to those who do not measure up to our standards, thereby causing within the church, the Body of Christ, members to feel lonely, unwanted and rejected. What an indictment this is to us who bear the name and identity of Christ, the God who touched the poor, the infirm and the deformed, the publicans and harlots. The church needs to be the place where people come to for healing from the hurts that a broken society has dealt them.
He has no form or comeliness [royal, kingly pomp], that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected and forsaken by men, a Man of sorrows and pains, and acquainted with grief and sickness; and like One from Whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we did not appreciate His worth or have any esteem for Him. Isaiah 53:2, 3
Socially, Jesus identified with the hungry, the sick, the estranged, the naked and the imprisoned. Isaiah tells us His mission was to the poor, the captives, the broken-hearted, the mourners... Isaiah 61:1-3. God calls us to the same mission today: ‘to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, to break every yoke, to share your bread with the hungry, to bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh...’ Isaiah 58:6, 7
In serving those who are in physical and spiritual need, we are doing it ‘unto Christ.’ Matthew 25:40
Lord, teach me to give and not to count the cost.