One thing we do as Christians is talk about the necessity of love. But what does love look like? In this paragraph we have read the apostle Paul directing Christians to walk by the Spirit and not participate in the works of the flesh. Those who practice the works of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God. Those who walk by the Spirit will not gratify the desires of the flesh. The natural outcome of walking by the Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit will be borne. But bearing fruit is not a competition among Christians. Rather than provoking one another and envying one another, we are to be helping each other grow fruit. It is this idea of helping one another that Paul expands upon in Galatians 6, showing us what love for one another looks like.
Do Something (6:1)
The apostle Paul begins with a situation where a person is caught in any transgression. We should be begin by observing that Paul is not reserving this discussion for what we would classify as a “serious sin.” Rather, if anyone is caught in any transgression. Please also consider that Paul is not saying that we are catching people in their sins. Rather, the person is caught or trapped in sin. They are ensnared by sin. Mounce’s Greek Dictionary says of this word regarding this passage that it means “to be taken by surprise, taken unexpectedly.” Therefore, we are witnessing a Christian who has been overtaken by sin. Paul gives directions for this situation.
The apostle Paul says that we must not standby and do nothing. We are not to despise the person or condemn them in our hearts. We are not to gossip to others about the person. We are called to restore the person. This Greek word that we have translated into English as “restore” was a word used in secular Greek for setting a fractured bone. The word means to knit together. Our concern must immediately be the restoration of the person. This is exactly what Jesus taught in Matthew 18:15-17.
“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. (Matthew 18:15 ESV)
Who? The spiritual.
Who is supposed to do the work of restoration? Paul says, “You who are spiritual.” Who are the spiritual? I believe our context would direct us back to Galatians 5:16-26 where the spiritual are those who are walking by the Spirit and that walk is observed by the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. The spiritual are those in whom the fruit of the Spirit is seen. These are the ones who should see the opportunity and take responsibility to go to a brother or sister in Christ who has been captured by sin.
How? A spirit of gentleness.
Paul also tells us how we are to go restore someone who is captured by sin. The spiritual are supposed to go to that one is a spirit of gentleness. Gentleness is one of the characteristics we read that reveals the fruit of the Spirit. We are coming to them with our emotions and words under control. A lack of gentleness is a sign of immaturity and is why the spiritual are commanded to go restore a fallen believer.
Warning. Paul also includes a warning for this process. The one who is spiritual who is trying to restore the brother or sister must keep watch on himself or herself. There is a temptation to sin in this process. Spiritual pride is a great temptation in trying to restore another. We must be mindful that anyone can fall and no one is above temptation. Even in trying to do the right thing, Satan will tempt us to sin in this process.
Burden Bearers (6:2)
Bearing one another’s burdens is described as fulfilling the law of Christ. Christ is the ultimate example of love and serving, who bore our burdens of sin so that we could be restored to him. We are commanded to love others as Christ loved us (John 13:34; Ephesians 4:32). Bearing burdens is one way we follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Remember what Paul taught earlier in Galatians 5:13-14 that through love we serve one another and thus are fulfilling the law.
This command implies that we have relationships with each other. We cannot help each other unless we are in relationship with each other and have fellowship with each other. This means we must open up to each other and welcome deeper relationships as family than just cursory, obligatory conversations. We must spend time together and speak to each other about spiritual things if we will have any opportunity to help each other grow and be able to restore each other.
This is a beautiful picture God has given us. If we walk by the Spirit, we will love one another more, and in loving one another more, we will bear one another’s burdens. In desiring to bear one another’s burdens we will attempt to restore anyone who is caught by a transgression.
Errors From Burden Bearing (6:3-5)
But again Paul must warn us about the proper way about how we can help each other and bear one another’s burdens. Paul must caution us against a temptation to pride. “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” It is important that we read Paul’s explanation carefully because it will help us in our fight against pride. Paul is not saying that for those of you who are important, then you can think you are something. But if you are not really anything, then do not think you are something. The middle phrase is the statement of truth that we need to hear. Before God we are nothing. Therefore, you must not think you are something because you are deceiving yourself.
The gospel is to create in us a new self-image. My sin and God’s grace humbles me. Yet his grace empowers me because all that matters is the praise and honor that comes from God. My value is not in myself but in God who loves me and gave himself for me. This is the new image we are to possess that the gospel creates in us. Jesus’ approval of me is what matters! What I think of myself is not important because I am likely wrong (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:4). We are nothing of ourselves but made valuable in Christ.
Paul gives us another way to keep us from pride in verse 4. “But let each one test his own work.” This is not a competition. We are not here for comparison. Keep your eyes on God, not others, when looking at your own work. Comparison wrecks us in two different ways. First, comparison leads to pride. We think that we are doing better than another person. Second, comparison leads me to think that I am unable to do anything. That person is doing so much better than me spiritually and I am nothing. There are ways that this also is pride because we desire people to compliment us and boost us up. So we are fishing for compliments by telling people how lousy we are as Christians. Both are sinful and both are damaging. Look at your own work before God and take joy in your work. Stop comparing yourself to others. Is this not refreshing to hear? Preachers don’t have to compare themselves to other preachers. Elders do not need to compare themselves to other elders. Churches should not compare themselves to other churches. Christians do not compare themselves to other Christians. Do the work given to you. Take joy in your own work that you have granted to you by God.
It is in this context that we must read verse 5. “For each will have to bear his own load.” This is not a contradiction to the command in verse 2. The point is to just carry your load. Stop comparing your load to others. Stop worrying about how you are doing in comparison to others. This is the same message as the parable of the talents. Each of us have been granted different loads and different responsibilities. But that is not relevant. What matters is what you do with what has been granted to you. In this, there is no room for pride because we are nothing before God, carrying our loads, and helping each other when we are caught in a transgression.
We need to care about each other. We must care enough to act when we see one another struggling spiritually. We must attempt to help with a spirit of gentleness, watching ourselves so that we are not tempted into pride because we are nothing. But God has made us his chosen possession by his grace. Look at your own work. Do not compare your load to others but carry your load, enjoying the work God has given you.