As the apostle Paul has been talking about discipleship, he has spent the time talking about our individual walking with the Lord in Galatians 5:16-25. Paul has told us that the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit are opposed to each other and that by walking by the Spirit means we will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Further, Paul has pictured what the works of the flesh look like so that we would see if we are failing to walk by the Spirit. Then Paul pictured what the fruit of the Spirit looks like so we would see if we are truly walking by the Spirit. Paul has called for us to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires and to keep in step with the Spirit in this spiritual walk. But following Jesus is not merely an individual effort. Following Jesus does not mean that we only look out for ourselves and only care for our own spirituality. Followers of Jesus must widen their vision to look at others as well as themselves.
One of the statements that was frequently repeated throughout 2020 and continues to be reminded to us as we go through this pandemic is, “We are all in this together.” Because we live with such a sense of individualism in our country, the effort was to try to get people to think beyond themselves as they handle this difficult time and consider the decisions that they made in light of the fact that we are all in the same boat. This idea of being “in this together” is even more important when it comes to thinking about how we follow Jesus together.
Restore Each Other (5:26-6:2)
In Galatians 5:26 the apostle Paul speaks about how we look at each other. He warns us to not become arrogant, provoking one another or envying one another. This statement really frames what the apostle Paul says in the first six verses of chapter 6. What does this look like to not be arrogant regarding one another? What does this look like to not provoke one another or envy one another? Paul is going to answer this and explain this in the following verses.
Paul begins in Galatians 6:1 telling us that if we see someone overtaken in any wrongdoing, to restore that person in a spirit of gentleness. The first picture that I want us to see that we are not left to our walk of discipleship by ourselves. We are to be watching out for each other. If we see someone who has been overtaken in wrongdoing, we are supposed to do something about it. We are not supposed to sit back and think that as long as I am watching out for myself that I am doing. I am supposed to watch out for you and you are supposed to watch out for me. The picture is that someone has unknowingly wandered off into a trap and is now caught in this wrongdoing. The person has been overtaken by this temptation. They are not intending to willingly rebel against God. Rather, they have wandered into the trap of sin. When we see it, we are supposed to try to bring about restoration.
Notice there are two descriptions about how this restoration should go. First, those who are spiritual should go to restore this person. There has often been a lot of confusion as people wondered who are these spiritual people and what does it mean. However, our context has clarified what Paul means. The spiritual are those who are walking by the Spirit. The spiritual are those who are keeping step with the Spirit. This makes sense. Someone who is not keeping step with the Spirit cannot restore someone who is also not keeping step with the Spirit. They both need restoration. So someone who is walking by the Spirit should now go to the person who gratifying the desires of the flesh and help them.
Further, what is this restoration supposed to look like? The restoration is supposed to be with a spirit of gentleness. This is where Galatians 5:26 comes in. If we go to that person in arrogance, we are not going to have a gentle spirit when trying to restore this one who has been caught by sin. If we have a spirit of provoking others, we are not going to have the gentle spirit needed for restoration. If we are jealous and envious, we are not going to be able to restore like God is telling us to in this text. Paul sets forward the goal for us: restoration. The goal is not winning. The goal is not being right. The goal is not saying, “I told you so.” The goal is not implying what a better Christian we are. The goal is the soul and helping to restore the soul that has been caught. This is why we must watch out for ourselves, as Paul warns in verse 1. We will be under condemnation if we are approaching this restoration with the wrong attitude and spirit.
Verse 2 amplifies this idea further. We are supposed to carry each other’s burdens. The context is this situation where someone has been overcome by sin. We have a responsibility to each other to help each other. In fact, notice that the apostle Paul says that we are fulfilling the law of Christ when we go and try to help the one who has been caught in sin. We are fulfilling the law of Christ when we help the person get free of this entanglement. I submit to you that the law of Christ is love. Going to help each other is love. Helping each other is fulfilling the law of Christ to love each other just as God in Christ has loved you. In the garden of Eden, Cain asked a question. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer is clear that we are.
Friends, we need to receive this as love when someone comes to us. It is not hate, but love. We are loving you by letting you know that we believe you have been overtaken by something and we want to help. Do not be upset by the help but grateful that people care. We do not practice a “leave me alone” faith. If we see something, we have to figure out the best way to approach you and try to help.
Having The Right Attitude (6:3-5)
Paul now gives three necessary attitudes that we need as followers of Jesus so that we will not be arrogant, provoke one another, or envy one another. These three attitudes are expressed in verses 3-5 of Galatians 6. First, in verse 3 Paul warns against us thinking much of ourselves. Paul says that we are deceiving ourselves when we think that we are something. Now it is important to understand that this is not a statement about our value or our identity. God is not trying to tell you that you have no value. We know that this is not true because God sent his Son to die for us, showing how much God values each person. The point is about how we look at ourselves. We are not to look at ourselves as something. We need each other. Arrogance thinks that we do not need each other. Pride thinks that we can do this by ourselves. Pride thinks that we do not need to get together as much as possible but can skip being together because we are spiritually successful. If you think you do not need a church family, then that is pride. One of the terrible things that happened during Covid was the message from churches that you can just be independent, not be together, and be just fine. The scriptures defy that thinking. We are dependent on each other. Further, we are completely dependent on God and have no room for boasting or pride.
For who considers you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7 NASB)
I am the vine, you are the branches; the one who remains in Me, and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5 NASB)
The second attitude Paul wants us to have is expressed in verse 4. As you read verse 4 you might think that it is a direct contradiction of verse 3. But Paul is telling us to enjoy our own work without comparison. Pride typically comes from comparison. We think we are better because we compare ourselves to other people. We can become boastful and arrogant when we compare our spiritual maturity or spiritual work with others. Paul is telling us to end the comparison. It is not comparing what you are doing with others. It is about just enjoying the work God has given you to do without comparison to others.
Further, Paul is telling you to grade your own work, not others. Paul does not tell us to test the faith of others. He does not tell us to test other people’s works. You need to test your own work. We like to test other people’s works and not test our own. Paul would tell the Christians in Rome that the truly spiritual find their praise from God, not people (Romans 2:29). Our walk with God is not about comparing ourselves to others. Our helping others who are overtaken by sin is not about comparing ourselves to others. Bearing the burdens of others is not about making much of ourselves.
Finally, Paul reminds us in verse 5 that we all must carry our own load. While we are called in verses 1-2 to help one another, at the end of the day we will be held accountable for our own actions with our own loads. Testing our work is important because if we are truly evaluating our actions, we will likely not be so arrogant and not provoke others. When I see myself for who I really am with my own spiritual walk, I really do not want to compare anymore because I have my own spiritual issues.
While we must help each other, it is critical that we examine our own work because we all must stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give account for ourselves. We are not going to be able to blame others for our spiritual condition. Our sins belong to us alone. We may have been given a bad deck of cards to play in life. But how you play those cards is up to you. You cannot blame your parents, your spouse, your kids, your family, your neighbors, your church, your shepherds, your preacher, or anyone else for how you played the cards God gave you. It is not your past. It is not your upbringing. It is not what people have done to you. It is you. You must carry your own load. You must give an account.
I say this to so many people who have been given a bad deck of cards to play in life. Do not let them ruin your life and ruin your eternity. Why would we let those who have hurt us and disappointed us continue to have power over us so that we do not enjoy the future life that God is giving to us? Why are you letting the past ruin your today and ruin your tomorrow? Carry the load you have been given. God has put us in the wilderness and is testing our hearts to reveal our faith to see if we will follow him or not.
So let’s pull all these ideas together as we think about discipleship. We are connected together and we are showing love by watching out for each other. We fulfill the law of Christ as we choose to help each other when we are overtaken by wrongdoing. If you are walking by the Spirit, then help them walk by the Spirit as you go to them in gentleness. But how do we keep from falling into arrogance, pride, provoking others, and envying others? Do not think you are something before God. Test your own work. Know you will be held accountable for carrying your own load. With these attitudes we can work together and walk together as we love and serve the Lord.