February 1, 2014

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians

Tom Lowe

             

Chapter IV.C.1: Responsibility toward the Weak and Sinful (6:1-5)

Galatians 1-5 (NIV)

1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 

2 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 

3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 

5 for each one should carry his own load.

 

 

Introduction

We are to bear one another’s burdens so that we fulfill the law of Christ. The better we know our own hearts and ways the less likely we are to despise others, and the more likely we are to help them when they must pass through illnesses and hardships. Regardless of how trivial men’s sins appear to be when they commit them, they will discover that they are a heavy burden when they must appear before God and account for them. There are two classes of burdens. First, there are those we can share with others, such as sickness and grieving. Second, there are those burdens we cannot share, such as our service to God. For example, if we fail in our personal faithfulness to God, no one else can do that for us.

 

 

Commentary

 

1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 

2 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 

3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 

5 for each one should carry his own load.

 

 

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin.

 

            ‘Brothers’ (or brethren) is an expression of kindness to gain the attention of his readers.

 

            Here the implication of ‘caught in a sin’ is of one taken by surprise and caught in the act; but it also has the idea of being snared by the sin itself, like one who becomes hooked on drugs. It may not refer to a great sin but to an awful blunder.

 

 

You who are spiritual should restore him gently.

 

            Here is a solemn warning against setting in judgment upon weak, stumbling believers. It is a plea for compassion, forbearance, and helpfulness for those who fall into sin. The sinner seeks sin—the believer flees sin. But even though he flees, he may still be caught in a sin, or the sin may catch up to him and snare him again.

 

            Now what is to be done to a person caught in a sin? Well, the spiritual folks, and many think they are spiritual, interpret this as meaning they are to beat him on the head with a baseball bat because he has done something wrong. There is a danger of not really wanting to restore him. We would much rather criticize and condemn him. However the believer does not lose his salvation when he sins. If a Christian is caught committing a sin, a spiritual Christian is to restore that one in a spirit of meekness. The task of restoration is not to be undertaken by novices in the faith but by those who are spiritual, that is, believers who walk in the spirit (Galatians 5:16), and who are mature in the faith—“The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment” (1 Corinthians 2:15; also see Heb. 5:13-14). Don’t think you are immune to what you are pointing your finger and blaming another brother for doing. You could do the same thing, “for there, but for the grace of God, Go I.” So restore him in the spirit of meekness.

 

Restore means ‘to complete’ or ‘put into proper condition’, like a brick mason repairing a wall or a physician setting a broken leg. In regard to the one ‘caught in a sin’, Paul pleads that they restore him to his former condition.  The one who does the restoring ‘should restore him gently’ or in a ‘spirit of meekness’, having in mind his own human limitations and proneness to succumb to temptation. The type of gentleness and meekness needed to restore a brother is that which is the gift of the Holy Spirit working in our spirit—“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. . .Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit’ (Gal. 5:22, 25). Meekness is that temperament of spirit toward God by which we accept His dealings with us without complaining; and with regard to men it is the ability to endure meekly their insults and outrages without withdrawing ourselves from the burdens which their sins impose upon us.

 

I am glad that I can say that the Lord Jesus goes along with me in life, and when I stumble and fall down, He does not fall. He is not affected. He is there beside me and He picks me up, brushes me off, and tells me to start out again. It is comforting to know that I have One near me who is not affected by my afflictions.

 

It takes a great deal of love and courage for us to approach a brother who has made a mistake and seek to help him. Jesus compares this to eye surgery (Matthew 7:1-5)—and how many of us feel qualified for that.

 

The basic process of restoration is outlined in Matthew 18:15-20.

 

15 "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. 18 "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."—Matt 18:15-20

 

 

But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 

 

Here ‘tempted’ doesn’t mean the act of testing the righteous, but refers to ‘being solicited to sin.’ Sin has been defeated in principle, and yet the Christian must still reckon with it as a power.

 

The believer living by grace realizes that no man is exempt from falling—“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). He has an attitude of humility, because he realizes his own weaknesses.

 

 

Carry each other's burdens.

 

            Burdens are extra heavy loads, which here represent difficulties or problems people have trouble dealing with. There are within the Scriptures eleven different words that are translated by our one English word burden. This means there are different kinds of burdens. There are some burdens you can share; there are burdens you must bear and you can’t share them with anyone.

 

Not all of us have the same burdens; I have mine, and you have your own set of burdens. What Paul is doing in this sixth chapter of Galatians is dividing burdens into two classes: burdens which we can share, and burdens which we must bear, and cannot share. Our faults, our tensions, and our grief are some of the burdens that you and I can share.

 

Carry denotes an action which requires endurance.

 

A serving and caring Christian lends a helping hand with heavy loads. Though the principle would apply to all burdens the context has special reference to the heavy and oppressive weight of temptation and spiritual failure. While the “spiritual” do the work of restoring, all believers are to become involved by prayer and encouragement. This, wrote Paul, will fulfill the law of Christ, that is, the principle of love—“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).

 

 

And in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

 

‘The law of Christ’ is the law of love which fulfills the entire law—“The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:14). 

 

If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

 

            Instead of thinking he is something special, he should feel the load of his own sin; and this will lead him to bear sympathetically with his neighbor’s burden of infirmity.

 

Each one should test his own actions.

 

            Here is the remedy for self-conceit. A man should put his own work to the test (lit., examine). Believers must first be sure their lives are right with God before giving spiritual help to others. That is what Jesus meant when he said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye” (Matthew 7:3-5). This means that rather than comparing himself with others he should step back and take an objective look at himself and his accomplishments. There is also the idea here that we should not run around getting everybody to carry our burdens.

 

Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else.

 

            A man should examine his own work, and if he finds anything there to give him satisfaction, ‘he can take pride in himself.’ But a man who really looks at himself alone is not likely to find a reason for having pride in himself. No doubt, Paul had the Galatian believers in mind here, who thought they had reason for ‘glorying in themselves, but it all arose from unjust and self-conceited comparisons of themselves with others, instead of looking at themselves. The only true glorying, if there is such a thing, is in the testimony of a good conscience, glorying in the cross of Christ.

 

For each one should carry his own load.

 

            This verse seems to contradict verse 2 where it says “Carry each other's burdens.”  But it is not really a contradiction, and that becomes apparent once we point out that the word burden in verse 1 is not the same as the word load, though the two words are usually considered to have the same meaning. In the verse Carry each other's burdens, the original is “baros” and the lexicon gives the meaning as “a heavy load or a weight.” But the word translated load is “phortion”and the concordance defines it as “a task or a service to be done.” The weights or loads we are to help one another bear must be viewed in the light of verse 1, where we are admonished to restore a weak brother caught in a sin. Instead of condemning them, and discouraging them, we are to assist them and help them to overcome their sin. We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak (Rom. 15:1). It includes instructing young believers, and encouraging stumbling saints. It would include comforting the bereaved and afflicted, visiting the sick and lonely, assisting those who are in financial straits, counseling and advising those who want to marry, and prayer for new converts. This burden bearing is motivated by grace and love and is done in keeping with His commandment—“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us” (1 John 3:23). These are the burdens we can share with one another.

 

 

There are burdens which are personal and are not to be shared with another. The term ‘load’ , as it is used here, designates what each man must bear for himself, like a soldier must carry his own pack; it’s his own personal responsibility, and is to be distinguished from the additional burdens of verse 2 which can be shared with others. These burdens, or load, you must bear alone, because they are personal work, a personal task which no one else can do for you. The word rendered load here is the same word used in Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus in this passage is talking about service. In it Jesus says: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." The burden here is associated with the yoke of service, obedience, and submission. Now the word load in this verse is the same word translated burden in Matthew 11:30. It refers to personal discipleship and service. And of this, Paul says no one else can substitute for you. It is your own individual personal responsibility for service. Each of us has a job to do, which we only can do. All of us have our own talents, gifts, and opportunities. If we fail in our personal faithfulness, no one else can help bear the burden, for it is ours alone. This is the meaning of “each one should carry his own load.”

 

            How can a person get rid of his burdens? There is only one place you can get rid of it, and that is at the cross of Christ—“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22).

 

            Dear reader, if you have not accepted Jesus as your Savior you are carrying a burden of personal sin that is too heavy for you; it’s a burden you cannot bear. Over two thousand years ago Christ took the burden of your sin, and He bore it on the cross. Today your burden is either on you, or by faith you have received Christ as your Savior and it is on Him. It cannot be both places—your sin is either on you or it is on Christ. And Christ does not share it—He bore it all.

the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22). Dear reader, if you have not accepted Jesus as your Savior you are carrying a burden of personal sin that is too heavy for you; it’s a burden you cannot bear. Over two thousand years ago Christ took the burden of your sin, and He bore it on the cross. Today your burden is either on you, or by faith you have received Christ as your Savior and it is on Him. It cannot be both places—your sin is either on you or it is on Christ. And Christ does not share it—He bore it all.

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