1 “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, 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 they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.
4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,
5 for each one should carry their own load.
6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Galatians” 6:1-6
25 “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” Galatians 5:25-26
Without a doubt these are some of the most valuable verses, for Christians, in the entire New Testament. Paul has laid out his case throughout Galatians that you either “walk with the Spirit” (keep in step) or you live according to “works of the law.” These two ways of understanding our relationship with God are dramatically opposed to each other. He makes it clear throughout his letter that the Galatians became Christians through “faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus”. In other words, once a Christian has accepted salvation in Christ they absolutely cannot add to it or subtract from it.
For Paul anything that is mingled, substituted, added, or included in the purity of the Gospel, “Jesus gave Himself for us to deliver us from this present evil age,” (Galatians 1:4) is demeaning Jesus and making, “Christ of no advantage to you.” (Galatians 5:2). He also goes further by declaring “you who would be justified by the law you have fallen away from grace.” Galatians 5:4
Paul’s argument to the Galatians is simple. I preached Christ crucified and Christ risen to you and you rejoiced in the wonder of God’s grace to you “gentile sinners” that God should love you with such love. The proof of your conversion and acceptance was the giving of the Holy Spirit, not only at your conversion, but throughout your walk with Christ. As a result, you have been accepted as heirs of the promise (adopted into Abraham’s family) and have assurance of salvation through faith. So, why do you want to get circumcised and go into the slavery of the law since you are free in Christ? This is the essence of the theme of the book.
For Paul the law (Torah or waymarks) all lead to slavery (Galatians 5:1) because the role of the law is to condemn us and show us our inability to be, of our own accord, true sons and daughters of God. The law sends us to Jesus our healer, redeemer, and victor over the curse of sin, the law, and death.
The argument then becomes, if you are free of the restraints of the law or obedience to the law then you can do what you want and live a life of cheap grace. That charge is nothing new and has been going on towards Christians since at least the days of Galatians (written 20 years or so after Jesus death).
Paul responds to those charges by stating “no”—being free of the law method of salvation (though there never really was any such thing)—is being free to love. “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one world, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Galatians 5:13-14.
It is not law that saves us but the free grace of Christ. The fruit of the Spirit are the living experience of grace working through the Spirit in the heart of a Christian.
The law “written in the heart” mentioned by Jeremiah as part of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31: 31-34) is simply a reference to love manifesting itself through the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5 reflects the fruit of the Spirit (the transformed life) in contrast to a life under the law (16-25). Now let’s go back to Galatians 6:1 for just a moment to see how love motivated and driven by the Spirit manifests itself in our relationship with others.
The text begins, “If a man is overtaken in any trespass.” The nuance of the Greek is that if a man is caught in the act of sinning. If someone is doing something that is wrong and is practicing that sin, then the person is living according to the flesh. Overtaken can also have the meaning of entrapped or snared by habit. Either way the person is purposely sinning.
Now, the next part of the text states “you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” You who are spiritual doesn’t mean “super spiritual people”, it simply signifies fellow believers who are led and guided by the Spirit. To be more straight forward, you who love your neighbors are children of God because only the Spirit could motivate us. By the way, that idea of loving your neighbors means to have respect for them and treat them with dignity and care. It is not talking about emotional love as you have for your wife or husband or child.
We are to restore that person gently. The word restore has the meaning of “mend” like mending a fishing net or repairing a rip in a dress. Broken people need mended not tossed out on their ear. I watch potters mending broken vases and can’t help notice the care and time that goes into refitting (mending) pieces back into the pot so that the cracks don’t show. This is how Christians treat each other in relationship to the church.
I can’t even imagine how many people have been disfellowshipped from church for reasons that could have been resolved if people had tried to mend them back into the fellowship. How many people have drifted away from God and no one noticed or bothered to find out why? You see, a person can go to a good “law keeping” church and be cast out for sin but that church has missed the whole point of the gospel. The church, Christianity, is about restoring people not casting them out.
Our friend Puji is pastor of a church in Mongolia that is for street people (the homeless). Before the service each week he feeds people and has nurses patch up people’s wounds. The aroma in the room, he says, is often so bad that they have to move outside.
One of their ministries is to provide water for street people to wash their bodies and hair. Almost all of his congregation are addicts and have social issues. Puji serves these people faithfully and provides outreach as well to prisons, poor farmers, operates a Hospice, and does all this while driving a taxi to support his family because he takes nothing from the congregation—he only gives. And when people get on their feet, find a job, stop drinking, he moves them on to other congregations that are more stable so they won’t be tempted to fall back into their old ways.
When he sat in my front room he began to cry when he talked about going with the police down amongst the steam pipes under the city to identify bodies of people who were scalded to death by pipes letting go. Most attended his church. These homeless, broken, addictive people are his church.
Puji is restoring (mending) people into the kingdom of God through love. In most of our churches in North America every one of those people would be outcasts because of their lifestyle. Oh, we might tolerate them until they became members but then out the door if they dared slip back into the old ways.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2