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Bible: What Does Galatians 6 Teach Us About "Sowing and Reaping"?
The Apostle Paul
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Galatians 6: Bear One Another's Burdens/Carry Your Own Load/Study Questions
Taking Personal Responsibility for Others and for Yourself
Once more addressing the Galatians as brethren, the apostle directs his instruction toward the “spiritual” people among them.
These folks, he maintains, have a special responsibility to deal gently and humbly with someone who falters and is found guilty in some aspect of his/her Christian walk.
Such a believer ought to seek to restore this individual to fellowship with the rest of the church (v. 1).
[The “spiritual” seem to refer to spirit-filled believers, not just to Christians in general. Compare I Corinthians 2].
To make sense of the following four verses in this context, one must surmise that the erring brother has “issues”—“excess burdens,” as Ryrie puts it (New Testament Study Bible, 339)—that caused him to sin.
Therefore, the "spiritual" must help him carry that extra weight in order to resolve his problem and set him straight.
By accepting this obligation and committing themselves to it, the spiritual person will successfully obey Christ’s command to love one another (“the law of Christ”) [v. 2; cf. John 13:34].
Paul asserts that people who think that they are morally superior to others (and presumably believe that they would never fall into a trap themselves, or perhaps reason that they have no obligation to soil their hands with a sinning brother’s issues) deceive themselves (v. 3).
In order to steer clearly, individuals should focus their attention on how they conduct their own lives (v. 4a).
They can then rejoice in their own accomplishments, and not compare themselves with others (v. 4).
Each person must take personal responsibility for the normal concerns of his own life (v. 5).
Next, the apostle discusses the two responses people have toward "sharing" with others, and delineates the physical and spiritual consequences of these actions (vv. 6-10).
He begins his instruction with a general command: learners should "share in all good things" with their teachers (v. 6).
[Ryrie believes this "sharing" refers to meeting the teacher's material needs (New Testament Study Bible, 339).
Then Paul lays down a general principle: God will see to it that people who live their lives solely to satisfy the lusts of their flesh (“sow to the flesh”) and who do not “sow to the Spirit” will "reap corruption" (vv. 7-8a).
[Perhaps he had the Judaizers in mind here.]
On the other hand, those who persevere in doing good things for others will eventually reap “everlasting life”: a quality of spiritual life that has its origin in God (vv. 8b-9).
[Paul, of course, is not advocating salvation through good works here. He may be stating that faithful Christians will reap spiritual rewards in this life, or that their perseverance in the faith (manifested by good works) will eventually lead to their obtaining their goal: life in heaven.]
Paul concludes that the Galatians should take advantage of every opportunity to do good, especially if they can help fellow believers meet their needs (v. 10).
Preach Christ Crucified
Paul Combats Judaizers
Although it may be true that Paul used an amanuensis to transcribe his epistle (as was his wont), he may also have written the entire letter by himself, for the words “I have written” suggest that verse eleven does not appear to be the beginning of what he has written (v. 11).
His final thoughts return him to the primary topic of this epistle: the true gospel of Christ’s cross vs. the false gospel of the Judaizers.
He summarizes why the Judaizers tried to force the Galatian churches to revert to Judaism: they wanted to avoid persecution for preaching “the cross” (v. 12).
While castigating those who would no longer follow the Law, they themselves do not obey it; they only desire to maintain authority over the people (“boast in your flesh”) [v. 13].
Paul trusts that God would never allow him to take pride in anything other than the cross, for his co-crucifixion with Christ has separated him from the mindset and lifestyle of the world system (v. 14).
Reiterating an earlier conclusion (except for its last words), Paul emphasizes the superiority of possessing a life changed by Christ over the pride one feels in one’s nationality (v. 15; cf. 5:6).
Peace and Mercy
The apostle closes his epistle with a prayer, asking God to shower peace and mercy upon both Gentile and Hebrew Christians who conduct their lives according to their new life in Christ (v. 16).
Having endured much suffering for Christ, Paul desires that no one would cause him trouble and heartache anymore (v. 17).
[What are “the marks of the Lord Jesus”?
Could this reference be where Roman Catholicism derives the stigmata?]
Addressing the Galatians as brethren for the final time, he prays that Christ’s grace would comfort their spirit (v. 18).
Study Questions for Galatians
- What must Paul do at the outset of his epistle?
- From whom did the apostle receive his authority?
- What was the Galatian controversy?
- How does Paul respond to his opponents?
- Recount Paul’s autobiographical account.
- Where and for how long did Paul receive instruction from the Lord alone?
- With whom did the apostle meet after this time?
- With which “false brethren” did Paul vigorously debate?
- What did this sect believe, and how did the apostle oppose them?
- Who were the “pillars” of the church in Jerusalem?
- About what topic did Paul confront Peter?
- Who else acted the hypocrite on this occasion?
- What was the centerpiece of Paul’s message?
- With regard to their sanctification, what does Paul accuse the Galatians of trying to do?
- How does Paul use the following OT texts: Deuteronomy 27:26 (LXX), Habakkuk 2:4; and Leviticus 18:5?
- To whom did God refer when He made a covenant with Abraham and his “Seed”?
- With regard to the relationship between the Mosaic and the Abrahamic Covenants, what is it that the Law cannot do?
- Why did God “add” the Law?
- How did the Law act as a tutor?
- What does the “baptism of the Spirit” accomplish?
- What misconception did the Jews entertain regarding the purpose of the Law?
- What kept the Jews under bondage until the coming of Christ?
- Interact with the writer’s three guesses of how Paul became like the Galatians.
- Discuss Paul’s allegorical use of the Ishmael-Isaac accounts.
- What must the Galatians that revert to Judaism do in order for God to declare them righteous?
- What is the only way for believers to overcome the desires of sinful flesh?
- Discuss “the works of the flesh” and the “fruit of the Spirit”?
- How must “spiritual” people deal with those caught red-handed?
- Discuss the two responses people have toward giving to others, and delineate the physical and spiritual consequences of these actions.
- Summarize Paul’s primary topic in this epistle.
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