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Gal 6:1-10: Sowing to the Spirit by Serving the Church Print E-mail
Sunday, 18 June 2006

Along the coast of California there is a community of Redwood trees.  These trees are enormous.  Certain types can grow over 300 feet tall and up to 20 feet in diameter.  That is the height of a 30 story building and big enough to drive a car through the middle.  I use the word community to describe these forests for a reason.  As Lee made mention of when he came, although the trees are so big, their root system only goes under the ground about 10-15 feet.  So, how do they grow so big and live so long with such shallow roots?  They do it by community.  Let me explain.  Even though the roots only go down a few feet, they stretch out 60-80 feet from the base of the tree.  And in the forest, the roots intertwine with one another.  Thus, the root system forms one large community of support and strength for these enormous trees.  If not for such cooperation and community the trees would be much more susceptible to damage and destruction by wind.

The Christian life is also meant to be lived in community.  The community is to provide support and strength for the individuals who compose it.  We call this community the Church.  At the end of his letter to the Galatians, Paul is calling for his readers to faithful service in their communities in light of the glorious doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ.  Paul has argued that we are all brothers and sisters through faith in Christ (see chapters 3 and 4).  He said in 5:13 that as such, we should labor to serve one another through love.  We are to be communities of service and love.  As Barry taught us last week, we do this by walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh.  And in our text this morning, Paul will give us some clear commands concerning how we should serve and support one another.  Thus, we want to identify these commands this morning and our motivation for keeping them.

Yet, first, let me address our fathers this morning, seeing that it is Fatherís Day.  My specific exhortation to you is simple: lead out in the service of others.  As men, and specifically as men with children, you should be setting a godly example of service in your homes and in the Church.  We often abnegate this responsibility to the women or to the Ďradicalí Christians.  But the truth of it is this: fathers, you should be leading out in the ministry of service.  Thus, I encourage you to pay particular attention as to how you can be faithful in this labor.  As for the rest of us, we should encourage our Fathers in their calling and in their task of service.  May we be thankful for Godís use of them in our lives.

Thus, letís turn now to Paulís commands for serving one another.

First, we need to fight to restore a brother, or sister, caught in sin (v. 1).

In other words, we need to fight for one anotherís sanctification.  Look at what Paul says in verse 1.  If anyone in our community is caught in any transgression, then we are to restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Paul has already warned us against living to the flesh and the danger of letting sin run rampant in our lives.  Thus, it makes sense for him to tell us that if we love one another we will not let sin go unchecked.  It seems at times we have forgotten such truth.  We tend to think that confronting a person over their sin is unloving and rude and not like Christ.  Yet, Christ taught us exactly the opposite (see Matthew 18).  You cannot claim to love a professing believer and let them remain in unrepentant sin.  Such action is harmful to the individual and dishonoring to God.

So, what should we do?  Paul tells us to restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  The word Paul uses that is translated restore has medical connotations and refers to setting something straight again like a broken bone.  For those of you who have had broken bones you know that an important part to the healing process is having the bone reset.  This can be a painful, but necessary procedure.  That is why Paul tells us to do it with gentleness.  The work of restoring a brother who is caught in sin is difficult, painful work, which must be done with care.  Our goal is not to punish our brother but to restore him.

Paul concludes this exhortation with a warning.  He writes, Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  When we labor to restore a brother who is caught in sin, we can be tempted by at least two sins.  First, we are tempted by whatever it is that they are struggling with.  We must be aware of our own weaknesses and avoid placing ourselves in compromising situations.  For example, a recovering alcoholic is probably not the best person to go to the bars and help another brother who is struggling with alcoholism.  Granted, they can play a part in restoring the brother, but they need to be careful that they too are not tempted.  Second, we are tempted by the sin of pride.  After helping another person we may pat ourselves on the back for our great work.  That is pride.  Or we may think, ĎI know my sins are bad, but they are not as bad as his.í  So we help them with their sin and ignore our own.  That is pride.  We cannot help others with their struggles and ignore our own.  Rather, we must humbly and gently and cautiously, labor to restore our brother.

Second, we need to bear one anotherís burdens (v. 2-5).

This command is similar to the first.  Part of bearing one anotherís burdens is helping them in their fight against sin.  Yet, Paul seems to enlarge the command to deal with more than just struggles with sin.  Look at verses 2-5.  Paul has taught us that as Christians we are no longer under the Old Testament law.  Rather, we are to fulfill the law of Christ.  Christ has fulfilled the Old law for us through his life and death and we are called to fulfill the law of Christ.  Paul is referring to what he said earlier in 5:14.  We are to fulfill the law by loving our neighbor as ourself.

In order to do this, we cannot think to highly of ourselves.  Paul warns against this in verse 3.  We cannot think that we are above doing what Christ himself has not only commanded us to do, but has himself modeled for us.  He took our burden of sin and shame that we might now share in one anotherís burdens.  If you think you are above that, then you are claiming to be above Christ, which is indeed a horrible lie.  Rather, we need to realize that we are all sinners who have been saved by the glorious grace of our God.  None of us deserve it.  None of us have earned it.  Thus, we should serve one another as Christ has served us and commanded us to do.

Yet, as with the first command, Paul cautions us again.  Here, he cautions us against the comparison game.  We are not to be keeping tabs and comparing ourselves to one another to see who does the most work for the Lord.  Paul tells us to test our own work.  Again, we are not to help our brother bear his burden so that we can then turn and say, ĎLook what great work I have done.í  Neither are we to say one another, ĎI have helped this or that brother, who have you helped?í  All of this is pride and sin and thinking too much of ourselves.  If anyone has helped to restore a brother or labored to bear anotherís burdens by walking with them through difficult times, they have done so by the grace of God.  Yes we are to examine ourselves, but not in light of one another.  The standard is always Christ and will always keep us humble.

So, what about verse 5?  Is this not a contradiction?  No, there are burdens that we are required to bear and burdens we will share with others.  For example, no one can bear the burden of your own belief.  You are responsible for your relationship with Christ.  In fact, Paul uses different words for Ďburdení in the two verses.  The first normally refers to a burden that cannot be carried by one person and the second, in verse 5, normally refers to a lighter load that can be carried.  Thus, we are to labor in bearing one anotherís sharable burdens and bearing our own load.  No one in our community should have to go through difficult times alone, be they financial or spiritual or whatever.  As we bear our own load, we must labor to bear the burdens of others.  This requires honesty from all of us.  Some of you are trying to bear sharable burdens by yourself because you do not want to appear weak or broken to others.  You fear being judged.  Unfortunately, you may be justified in your fears.  Yet, I encourage you to swallow your pride and reach out for help.  We must build a community that is faithful in bearing each others burdens.  For only then can we truly fulfill the law of Christ.

Third, we need to take care of those who teach us the Word (v. 6).

Of course, this is somewhat awkward for me to talk about since I am your pastor, yet, Paul clearly addresses it in verse 6.  Look at that with me.  This command involves two parts.  First, notice what the teacher is supposed to be teaching: the word.  For Paul, this means the faithful proclamation of the gospel of Christ which is revealed in the writings of the New Testament and foreshadowed in the Old.  My charge is to preach the Word.  I have other tasks, but the most important thing I do is preaching the Word.  If I fail in this, then I will fail you as a minister of the gospel.  This is my charge.  Second, you are to support me, and others, in faithfully teaching the Word.  If I am faithful to my calling, then your calling is to share all good things with me, referring to financial care but not limited to that.  I pray that we will be a community of people who joyfully supports the ministry of the Word.

Paul gives us three commands: restore a brother caught in sin, bear one anotherís burdens, and supply for those who teach the word.  Yet, what is our motivation for keeping these commands?  Look at verses 7-9.  Our motivation for keeping these commands is this: Our God cannot be mocked, we will reap what we sow.  If we sow to ourselves and to our flesh, we will reap destruction.  If we are motivated by pride to help others, then the empty praise of men we receive will be our just reward.  If you are here and you have not repented of your sins and placed your faith in Christ, then the Bible tells you that you cannot please God.  You are sowing to your flesh and you will reap eternal destruction (see Romans 8:1-11). 

So, I plead with you, repent of your sins and follow Christ that you might be free from sowing only to your flesh.  Yet, if we sow to the Spirit, if we are humble in our service and faithful in bearing the burdens of others for their good and Godís glory, then we will reap eternal life.  Is Paul teaching works righteousness?  Is he teaching that we are saved by our service?  No, he is teaching that we are saved to serve.  We are not saved by works, but we are saved to works.  Thus, as Paul concludes in verse 10: So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.  You may be weary of doing good.  You may be tired of serving others.  You may be struggling under the load.  I say to you, do not give up, God cannot be mocked, it may not be until eternity but you will reap what you sow through Godís grace.  Therefore, do not give up, make the most of every opportunity to serve the Body of Christ.  By Godís grace, may our roots run together so that we might grow into a strong faithful community that brings glory and honor to our God.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Monday, 26 June 2006 )

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