Thursday, August 06, 2009

Galatians 6:1-5

V1-5 – 1Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5for each one should carry his own load.

Paul expounds on keeping in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25), saying that we need to be involved in personal relationships (v1-5) and be financially generous (v6-10). First, walking in the Spirit involves reaching out cautiously to fellow believers who are caught in obvious sin. In v1, we could translate the instruction that “you who are spiritual should restore him gently” in several ways. One alternative would be to say, “If you are spiritual, then you will restore him gently.” Another possibility would be, “This gentle restoration should be done by those who are spiritual.” Any of these translations would be true and consistent with Paul’s context.

However, the emphasis seems to be threefold. First, it falls on the agent of restoration being spiritual, since knowledge, skill, and maturity are required for the gentle restoration of a repentant brother, especially since temptation of the restoring agent may occur. Second, it falls on the act of restoration, since this important task involves confrontation, correction, instruction, and continual encouragement in directing the erring brother back to
the right path. And third, it falls on the gentleness, or meekness, of the effort. Calvin says, “We are here taught to correct the faults of brethren in a mild manner, and to consider no rebukes as partaking a religious and Christian character which do not breathe the spirit of meekness... for no man is prepared for chastising a brother till he has succeeded in acquiring a gentle spirit.”

In v2, Paul speaks of carry each other’s burdens (Romans 15:1); Calvin says, “We must not indulge or overlook the sins by which our brethren are pressed down, but relieve them, which can only be done by mild and friendly correction.” And this, nothing more than loving friends and enemies as God’s love models, is to be done in order to “fulfill the law of Christ.” John Piper says, “Some of you wonder what you are supposed to do with your life. Here is a vocation that will bring you more satisfaction than if you became a millionaire ten times over: Develop the extraordinary skill for detecting the burdens of others and devote yourself daily to making them lighter. In this way you fulfill the law of Christ (v2).”

But Paul notes, as Vincent Cheung says, “At least two things would hinder someone from becoming involved with other believers in this manner. First, perhaps ‘he thinks he is something when he is nothing’ (v3), but here ‘he deceives himself.’ No one should think so highly of himself as to think that he is above caring for his brothers in the Lord. A second destructive tendency is constant comparison with others, and to draw illegitimate conclusions from his supposed inferiority or superiority to his brothers. No, Paul says he should examine himself against the law of Christ, and not to compare himself to others, but rather to carry their burdens as they have need.”

In v4, keeping in step with the Spirit includes testing yourself by God’s standards, rather than against others. If you think you pass the test, then you have reason to boast – but Paul notes that boasting in Christ and the cross is all he has (v14). The Judaizers were guilty of boasting in themselves, thinking they met God’s standards and helped others to meet God’s standards (v13), but they fell far short (Romans 3:23). In v5, Paul uses the word “load” (phortion), which is a different word than “burden” (baros), used in v2. “Burden” literally means “troubles,” and we are to help each other with our troubles. But “load” implies, as indicates, “The obligations Christ lays upon His followers, and styles a ‘burden’ by way of the contrast to the precepts of the Pharisees, the observance of which was most oppressive.” There is also an implication with this word of “faults of the conscience which oppress the soul.” It is in carrying one’s own load that we must not take pride in, for God is our “instructor” and our success in this endeavor comes by His grace and for His glory. So we help with others’ troubles, even in gentle restoration from sin, but we follow our own obligations to the Lord, remembering that everyone has a unique role to fill in the Body of Christ and the Kingdom of God.

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