Responsibilities of Spirit-Led Believers

In the last chapter, we looked at life in the Spirit. Paul described the nature of a Spirit-controlled life. So, what does it look like practically to "walk by the Spirit" (5:16), to be "led by the Spirit" (5:18), and to "live by the Spirit" (5:25)? What are the results of Spirit-filled living? People respond in different ways. The devotional types might say that it leads to better quiet times. The mystical types might say it leads to charismatic experiences. Miracle seekers might claim it leads to power encounters or signs and wonders.

A biblical example of this tendency to elevate self appears in Nehemiah. As the people were working on various parts of the wall, some declined to get involved. The writer says, "their nobles did not lift 128a finger to help their supervisors" (Neh 3:5). Pride will create a heart that resists humble service to the church family.

Is verse 4 a contradiction of verse 3? Paul says, "But each person should examine his own work, and then he will have a reason for boasting in himself alone, and not in respect to someone else." Is this verse promoting pride? No, it is not. It is not a contradiction of verse 3. Paul basically says not to compare yourself to your neighbor. Instead, examine your own life in view of God's evaluation, and when you do, you will not be so prideful. Do not get puffed up because one is lower than you, either by way of sin, or by way of burden. Paul says to stop feeding your pride by comparing yourself to others. Measure your life by the laws of Christ, and then you will cultivate a humble attitude (cf. 2 Cor 10:12, 18).

I could see how someone would think that this verse contradicts verse 2. After Paul says, "Carry one another's burdens" (v. 2), he now says, "For each person will have to carry his own load." So which is it?

The Greek text helps here. Two different words for "burden" are used in these two verses. Paul uses the term baros in verse 2, meaning a "weight or heavy load" (Stott, Message of Galatians, 159). But he uses the term phortion in verse 5, referring to a "man's pack" (ibid.). The latter is translated "load" in HCSB and ESV. The meaning is clear. Some things in life are so heavy we cannot bear them alone. We need help. Other matters in life are the equivalent of what you might carry in a backpack.

Everything in your life is not a crisis. You do not have to call 911 or the National Guard; you do not have to convene a meeting. You need to carry your own backpack. But some things in life are too heavy for you not to ask for help. Do not treat loads as burdens, or burdens as loads.

Consider the following situations and decide which people have "burdens" and which ones have "loads":

I would argue that situations A-C are in the "loads" category and situations D-F are in the "burdens" category. You need to carry your own load when it comes to responsibilities like going to bed and waking up, working a job and spending money wisely, and raising your kids. But you need help bearing the burden of grief, abandonment, single parenting, and aging.

There are legitimate and illegitimate needs. We must carry our own load, but we must help with burdens. Some treat everything like a load. They refuse to tell anyone or ask for help. That is not healthy. Some treat everything like a burden, occupying hours of people's time with things they should take care of themselves.

I love the scene at the end of the film version of Tolkien's book, Return of the King. Frodo is close to completing his task of dropping the evil ring in the fire. But he is too weary and worn to make it up the mountain. Then, his loyal friend Sam says with tears and passion, "Come, Mr. Frodo! I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you." He proceeds to help him up the mountain so Frodo can end the drama once and for all. Spirit-filled believers help their brothers and sisters carry the burdens that crush them.

Generous Sharing

Galatians 6:6

In verse 6 Paul shifts gears a bit, saying, "The one who is taught the message must share all his good things with the teacher." Paul speaks to the responsibilities of both the teachers and the receivers within the household of God.

The teacher must expound the Word of God. The word "taught" and "teacher" both come from the same word, katecheo, which is where we get catechism (Stott, Message of Galatians, 167). It refers to the fundamentals of the faith. The false teachers deviated from the fundamentals of the faith. They departed from the apostles' teaching, from the word of God.

The role of the pastor-teacher is not to entertain or to use gimmicks to attract people to watch the performance. He is called to teach the truths of Scripture. Why? As a pastor, I am commanded to do so (2 Tim 4:2). But it is also because the Bible is what people need to hear.

Do you belong to a Bible-saturated church? To be sure, teaching is not the only thing the church does. Paul has already mentioned caring for the poor in verse 2:10, and he mentions mercy ministry in 6:10 also. But do not pit these two ministries against each other. We need faithful and effective Bible teachers, and we need people to care for those in need.

Notice also that it is in the context of talking about the Spirit's work that Paul drops this line about teaching. Being a Spirit-led church does not mean avoiding teaching substantively. In the book of Acts, the Spirit was performing amazing wonders, yet the church did not say, "Oh, who needs the Bible?" Instead, we find "they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching" (Acts 2:42). A Spirit-led church is a teaching church.

What about the receivers? Obviously, they should learn from their teachers, even re-teaching what they learn, but here Paul focuses on the responsibility to "share all [their] good things" with the one who teaches. Paul urges the believers to support teachers materially. This would include food, money, and whatever good things are appropriate for the teacher's welfare. Paul provided for himself sometimes to keep from burdening the church, but sometimes he did take support, as we see in Philippians and 2 Corinthians 11:8. He thought it was good for the church to support ministers (cf. 1 Cor 9:11-14; 1 Tim 5:17-18).

If Galatians is the earliest epistle, then this is the earliest reference to providing for the minister (George, Galatians, 420). While the times have changed, the potential for abuse in this area has not changed. Ministers must avoid laziness. Since ministers are often unsupervised most of the day, the temptation is to not work very hard. It is easy to131 receive a salary and enjoy the security while sowing and sweating very little. That is not living "above reproach" (1 Tim 3:2). Further, ministers must avoid greed. When you enter ministry you understand that you will never be wealthy. But once you begin, it is easy to "fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires" (1 Tim 6:9). Why is it that you rarely hear of pastors feeling called to lower-paying positions in the next phase of their ministries? Resist the love of money. Ministers must also never fall prey to ministerial professionalism. Not to be confused with excellence, this temptation is to treat your vocation like any other career. Clock in, clock out. No passion, no desperate prayer, no deep love for people, but all the while serving with a pasted smile and pious words. That is ministerial professionalism, and ministers must avoid it.

Why did Paul include this instruction here? Probably because the teachers in Galatia were in need. Otherwise, I doubt Paul would have mentioned it. Think about it: Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in every church that they planted (Acts 14:23). Maybe the people stopped supporting the ministers that Paul left in Galatia. Maybe they became infatuated with the new theology of the false teachers and stopped supporting those who were accurately catechizing.

Do not miss Paul's ultimate concern; it is not money. Paul's burden was for the furtherance of the gospel, and he knew that the God-ordained means for accomplishing this was the steady proclamation of the Word of God by faithful teachers. But these teachers would be limited if they could not take care of their daily necessities. By caring for the needs of the teacher, the church says, "We want the Word of God taught faithfully and effectively, so we will help support you." Care for those who teach, not out of obligation or tradition, but because you love the Word of God and want to see it spread to the ends of the earth.

Personal Holiness

Galatians 6:7-8

Paul has a different emphasis in these verses. He talks about sowing and reaping, but not in relationship to money. It has more to do with personal holiness.

John MacArthur says, "The Christian has only two fields in which he can sow, that of his own flesh and that of the Spirit" (Galatians, 188). 132This is a divine law: you reap what you sow. If you sow in the Spirit, you will reap the Spirit. If you sow in the flesh, you reap the flesh (5:16-25). To sow to one's flesh is to pander to it, give in to it, and coddle it—instead of crucifying it! The old adage is true: "Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny" (Stott, Message of Galatians, 170).

Holiness is a harvest. The seeds are mainly thoughts and deeds. Stott summarizes it powerfully:

Some Christians sow to the flesh every day and wonder why they do not reap holiness and victory and blessing. Let me provide some examples. When a dating couple gets caught up in the sensuality of the moment and engages in sexual activity outside of marriage, then they are sowing to the flesh. When a man fantasizes about taking control of an organization and decides to scheme and cheat to get to the top, then he is sowing seeds of destruction, not only for others, but for his own soul. When a woman secretly despises another woman in the church, without ever seeking reconciliation, she is sowing to the flesh, hurting her own soul and the fellowship of the church. When a husband and wife allow bitterness and resentment to build in marriage without ever trying to resolve their differences and forgive one another, then they are sowing seeds of the flesh, hurting themselves and the whole family. Remember, says Stott, "Holiness is a harvest; whether we reap it or not depends almost entirely on what we sow" (ibid., emphasis added).

Paul adds a warning: "God is not mocked." Regardless of who you are, you reap what you sow. Your sin will find you out. Paul says elsewhere, "Their destiny will be according to their works" (2 Cor 11:15). In contrast, those who have been born of the Spirit sow in the Spirit, and they will reap "eternal life" (Gal 6:8).

Choose your field wisely. Sow thoughts and deeds in the Spirit. The books you read, the people you are with, the things you do for 133entertainment, and the thoughts you possess are acts of sowing. Are they of the flesh or Spirit? When you are sowing in the Spirit, you will reap the reward of the Spirit-controlled life.

How does this relate to biblical community? Simple. What keeps us from restoring our broken brother gently (6:1)? Our failure to sow in the Spirit. Lack of holiness hinders real community. It is the one who is "spiritual" that does the restoring. What keeps us from bearing one another's burdens? It is pride. Where does that come from? It comes from sowing to the flesh. What keeps us from being generous? It is greed. Again, it is a sowing to the flesh. Why will we not "work for the good of ... the household of faith" (v. 10)? It is because we are too occupied with ourselves. Lack of personal holiness does damage to the family of faith.

Practical Goodness

Galatians 6:9-10

Paul concludes the section by offering some encouragement in verse 9 and an instruction on biblical community in verse 10. His encouragement is this: "So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don't give up." Compassionate ministry can make you weary. Contending for the gospel can make you exhausted. Every Christian can become discouraged in doing good deeds. So Paul says, Keep sowing. Continue loving one another. Keep resisting bickering with others. Keep rejecting false teachers. Keep bearing one another's burdens. Keep preaching the gospel. Keep doing good, and watch God work. There is a harvest out there! We reap what we sow, even though it may take years before you see fruit (as in the case with William Carey!), but it is worth it.

Remember also that even though the phrase "at the proper time" may be appropriately applied to this life, we should also note the future time. The larger application is that we will reap reward for faithfulness to God in the eschatological future (George, Galatians, 426). No deed is small in this life. Keep serving faithfully.

Finally, consider Paul's specific instruction, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith" (v. 10, emphasis added). Believers should be marked by practical goodness.

134Notice the universal and particular challenge. Universally, we must love our neighbor as ourselves. We should be sensitive to the poor in our community. We look for ways to show mercy to "all," to those around the world who have urgent physical needs.

Particularly, Paul says that we pay careful attention to those in "the household of faith." Look for opportunities to "work for the good" everywhere among the fellowship. Love your neighbor sensitively. But pay special attention to ways you can do good to those within the church. That may mean restoring a broken brother, bearing burdens, supporting your teacher, helping with transportation, paying a bill for someone who lost his or her job, tutoring that struggling kid, or baby-sitting for parents so they can have a date night. Look for ways to bless those in the household of faith.

Put the whole section together now. Let us be a Spirit-led people marked by gentle restoration, humble burden bearing, generous sharing, personal holiness, and practical goodness.

This is life in the Spirit. Were these qualities not embodied in Jesus? Yes, perfectly. Jesus restored us from our broken relationship with God. He continues to restore our souls. He carried our greatest burden, the crushing weight of sin. He kept God's law in our place, and then died in our place, removing the penalty of sin that was upon us, so that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate generous giver, who made us rich through His poverty (2 Cor 8:9). Jesus constantly sowed in the Spirit, lived a life of perfect righteousness, and reaped eternal glory. Jesus was a prophet mighty in word and deed, who "went about doing good" (Acts 10:38). Jesus gives us the example, and He gives us the Spirit to live out these responsibilities.

Reflect and Discuss

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