Pastor Joshua Pegram
Do you believe in the sufficiency of God? Do you believe that God gives grace to endure whatever trials come our way? What are the means which God uses to help us endure in the face of difficulties?
Perhaps you are here this morning and are discouraged by your inability to see the fruit of the Spirit in your life. Maybe you feel like a small child just learning to walk. You keep falling down and aren’t sure how to get back up. Husband, perhaps you feel defeated once again for losing your temper and shouting at your wife or kids. Ladies, perhaps you nag and nag, knowing that you’re driving your husband away emotionally but not knowing how to live life any other way. Perhaps you’re a single person, struggling again to be content with your lot in life. We are all weak people in need of the grace of Christ.
As we work through this passage, we’ll see that there is an interplay of individual and corporate responsibilities in light of the gospel.
In light of what Christ has done for us and by the power of the Spirit, we must be vigilant in helping those in the body of Christ.
There are a number of individual commands in these 10 verses, but we’ll structure our study this morning around three plural commands. We’ll work through three main ideas from this text today: (1) Repair: restoring a fallen brother; (2) Preempt: bearing each other’s burdens; (3) Prevent: Sowing good to reap good. Repair, preempt, prevent. We focus on these things to develop a culture of discipleship.
1. Repair: restoring a fallen brother (6:1)
a. Restore is a word used for mending fishnets. It has the idea of repairing back to its original condition. Much like a fisherman would make sure his equipment is useful, we are to work hard to make sure the members of our local congregation are useful. (Imagine helping a child who is learning to walk; who has fallen and skinned up his knee.)
b. In community (6:1)
i. Note, first of all, that this command is addressed to brothers. The letter to the Galatians is addressed explicitly to the churches of Galatia, and chapter 6 shows that the commands here should be lived out in relationship with other believers. The commands of this chapter wouldn’t even make sense apart from a community of believers. Sometimes we condition ourselves to hear commands like we find here and begin applying them to ourselves individually. But if we go there first, I believe we’re making a big mistake and missing the big picture – God’s plan for moving His kingdom forward is the local church. If your first step is to read this passage and think about it individualistically, you’re making a good first step. But if you don’t connect it to the larger group—your local church—you’re missing the point.
c. Done by the church for the church (“you who are spiritual”) (6:1)
i. When you hear the phrase, “you who are spiritual,” perhaps your mind runs to a particular type of person. You know—a deacon, pastor, Sunday School teacher, or someone like that. Someone who is truly spiritual. This work is for those who are spiritually professional enough to handle the work.
If that’s what you think, that’s understandable; but that’s not what the text is getting at. Remember what immediately precedes Galatians 6. It’s Galatians 5—life in the Spirit. Walk by the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the desires of your flesh. So who is to do this work of repairing and restoring? Anyone with the Spirit of God attempting to live life by the Spirit. This is the work of the church, of all church members. We are all to be engaged in restoring fallen brothers! We are all to be working to develop a culture of discipleship in this local church. The “Some early Methodist church registers contained three columns for listing those persons who attended services of worship: the seekers, the saved, and the sanctified.” That is not what we’re talking about here—a special class of Christian.
d. With awareness of the needs of others (“if anyone is caught”) (6:1)
i. What we see here is that someone is “surprised” in a fault. The text can be taken two ways: (1) the person is caught by the transgression itself; (2) the person is caught by a brother. Either way, the point is that we are to be vigilant, ready to help people in need. Are you aware of the needs of those around you? Do you realize that there are people in this room desperately in need of someone to come alongside them and help them? As pastors, one of the things we get excited about is young families joining the church. I’m really sobered to tell you that half of the couples who have joined our church in the last year are on the brink of divorce. At least that’s what statistics would tell us. Don’t accuse the people around you, but think about them. Think about them hard. If recent days teach us anything, they should teach us that our problems—the problems each one of us has—are really big problems. Consider this, are we in a zoo or in the wild. Think about the elephants in captivity (Joy; Lady Bird) at the Greenville zoo and how different their lives are from the elephants in the wild. How do you imagine church life to be?
e. With gentleness (“in a spirit of gentleness”) (6:1)
i. We should be humbled by the application of the gospel to our own lives. As we see our sin, how great it is, and that we are not innately greater than the people around us, we should be humbled, and our humility makes us gentle in dealing with the sin of others. Approach others gently, because you are a sinner yourself. You have been freed by the gospel. I reacted very negatively when my daughter handed me a piece of gum she found under the table. Do we react the same way when someone shares a sin that they are struggling with with us?
f. With personal care (“keep watch on yourself”) (6:1)
i. Not only must we be gentle in caring for others, we must do it with personal care—keeping watch on ourselves. In helping others, we must be mindful of the fact that we are desperately in need of God’s grace ourselves. Do you view yourself sitting above the weaker brothers, helping those who are “more sinful” than you are? Or do you view yourself as a person needing change, helping others needing change? Keep watch on yourself.
Are you a brother or sister trapped in sin? Do you need help? Seek out help from others? Dad: Do you live out the gospel by considering others around you? Are your most important conversations about sports? Music? Hunting? Food? Family? Mom: Do you spend more time on Facebook than with your children? Have you withdrawn emotionally from your husband because it’s just too much work? When you come to church, do you know the people around you? (Commend those who do this well.) What structures are you participating in that demonstrate that you need help and that you are someone who delights in helping others?
One great danger in considering this passage is that we consider it apart from the context of who God is and what He has done. God delivers sinners through Christ! One of the great messages of Galatians is that all men can enjoy complete salvation through Christ. The gospel isn’t something for us to enjoy by ourselves. We enjoy it, proclaim it, and display it in community with other believers. Christ came to save sinners. Perhaps you are here this morning, and you are unfamiliar with the good news of salvation through Christ, or perhaps you have yet to rely personally on Christ to save you. You are trapped in sin, with no hope of getting out. If a believer comes alongside you to help you, you don’t respond to his confrontation and encouragement because you are still dead in your sins, reveling in the pigsty of sin. Christ is the only means of rescue from sin’s snare. I urge you—turn from your sin to Christ! We know that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved! Jesus is the one who truly picks up and repairs fallen sinners. Only after He has done a saving work in your heart can believers help in the work of encouraging you to hate sin more and more and love Christ more and more.
In light of what Christ has done for us and by the power of the Spirit, we must be vigilant in helping those in the body of Christ. We’ve seen the importance of repairing fallen brothers, of mending the nets, so to speak. We must work hard to restore those caught in sin. However, if we devote ourselves only to repair work, without proactively watching for each other, we will run ourselves ragged. That’s why Paul tells us we are to preempt. This is our next step in developing a culture of discipleship.
Perhaps when you hear this word, you think of “preemptive military strike.” While we’re not thinking of blowing anything up here, we are to look ahead, anticipate our needs and the needs of others and actively seek to preempt a fall by sharing the load of burdens too heavy to bear alone.
2. Preempt: bearing each other’s burdens (helping the weak) (6:2-5)
a. Bear burdens (6:2)
i. The burden of verse 2 is a load too great to bear. If we are left to carry these sorts of burdens alone, we will be crushed under the weight of the load. The curse of the fall brought about consequences for each of us, consequences which God does not leave us to bear alone. We have God’s Word and Spirit, but we also have the means of the fellowship and love of the body of Christ. Do you know that one means by which the Spirit works inside you is believers outside you speaking into your life? Again, note that this instruction follows right on the heels of walking by the Spirit. One means that God uses to see growth in the fruit of the Spirit is the body of Christ. Again, imagine helping a child learning to walk; you see the danger and help him avoid it maybe by pulling him back from the edge of the steps.
b. In community (“one another’s burdens”) (6:2)
i. One of the things readily apparent here in verse 2, like verse 1, is that this is to be done in community, in the context of a local church. God works in the world today through the local church. There are other organizations like Christian colleges, camps, and non-profits that have good things to offer us. However, none of them provides the help available through the local church. Are you committed to pursuing your spiritual health primarily through your local body? Or do you primarily think of spiritual growth as something you pursue with your Bible by yourself? Personal quiet time is important, but God never intended for His children to walk alone. We must all be committed to developing a culture of discipleship. One pastor put it this way: “Our faith is personal but not private.” Do you isolate the guts of your Christian life from the brothers and sisters around you, or can you think of names right now, people who know you, know your life, and know when you’re weak, when you need help? Teen: Do you see yourself as a member of this local church, as someone in need of help and someone who can help others?
c. In love (“the law of Christ”; cf. Galatians 5) (6:2)
i. This verse tells us that bearing the burdens of others is fulfilling the law of Christ. What is this law Paul is talking about here? Take a look at Galatians 5:13-14 where you will see that we are freed from the law in the sense that we no longer have to fulfill the ceremonial religious requirements outlined in the Old Covenant. But God makes clear that He still has significant expectations for us—loving our neighbor as ourselves. The love we have for our neighbor is directly related to the love we have for God. How do we know if we love our neighbor? Galatians 6 tells us we do this by bearing the burdens of others in the body of Christ. When was the last time you helped someone deal with a spiritual burden—one they could not have handled without your help?
d. In humility (“if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing”) (6:3)
i. The text comes with a warning too, in verse three. This is a hint of what we’ll see in vv. 6-10. We are all tempted to evaluate ourselves too highly, to consider ourselves more highly than we ought. The apostle says, though, that if we think of ourselves as something when we are nothing, we deceive ourselves. Of all the deceptions we experience in life, none is perhaps more tragic than self-deception. Have you ever been or ever seen someone singing with headphones in and you are imagining you sound like the recording? Have you ever seen that person? Have you ever been that person?
e. With personal accountability: examine yourself (6:4-5)
i. There is a responsibility in this passage to be aware of the needs of others, but Paul also instructs us to examine ourselves. The testing spoken of here is the same testing used of purifying gold, and it reminds us that God will one day test our work. Will you be found in Christ on that day? Has the work of Christ made you righteous in God’s sight? Then live as though you are God’s child, as though your work is a reflection on the nature of the God who has saved you.
ii. We also encounter a bit of a difficulty here when Paul seems to tell us it’s appropriate to boast in ourselves. Surely he can’t mean that, can he? This is not the only reference where Paul seems to commend holy bragging.
iii. When the apostle commends boasting in 2 Corinthians 10:12-18, it’s a boasting in Christ and His grace to and through us. If you examine your own work—truly examine it—then you will see that any good thing you have done comes from God’s grace. When you understand the work of Christ, you can boast all you want because your boasting will be in Him! Let Him who boasts, boast in the Lord.
iv. The text also seems to contradict itself in v. 5—“each will have to bear his own burden.” What then is the meaning of v. 2? Well, the contradiction apparent in our English Bibles is solved by considering the different words used for burden in this passage. V. 2 uses a word describing a weight beyond our ability to bear. V. 5 describes a burden more like a backpack. The boulders of life that are too heavy for one person to carry are weights that we share among the body of Christ. Yet each of us is personally responsible for the roles and burdens God gives us in this life. Some we need help with, some—like a backpack—we can carry ourselves. We should constantly examine ourselves and look out for each other, because we all have both types of burdens—the kind we can carry just fine and the kind that will crush us without help from others.
Are you being crushed under the weight of a burden you cannot bear? Perhaps you are here this morning caught in the snare of pornography. You have tried and tried to get out from under the load, to free yourself of the guilt. Yet you cannot win. You need help. Friend, God gives you the body of Christ to help with loads like this. Someone sitting in this room is a victim of spousal abuse—verbal, emotional, maybe physical. You don’t know what to do or where to go. The body of Christ is designed to help with burdens like this. Find someone to help.
Senior saint: Have you withdrawn into a shell and become so concerned with your own needs that you don’t see the needs of those around you? Are these last years of your life filled with helping others or with wondering why others don’t do more for you?
Perhaps the burden you need help with is the burden of self-righteousness. Maybe the reason more people aren’t helped is that we’re tempted to view the person who is honest about their sin as the odd man out—dare we say, the publican? I can remember a time within the last several years going to an older brother with whom I had a good relationship here in the congregation. I shared with him some struggles in marriage—nothing serious, nothing deep, no “big” sins; just the stuff of working and growing through married life. His reaction was so off-putting that it made me loathe to seek him out again, as though I was an alien to be dissected and studied to find out how someone could actually ask prayer for their relationship with their wife.
Does how you spend your time indicate how important your local church is to you? There are people in our body not being helped because we have men and women whose idea of being a good church member is sitting in a pew. And these are truly important means of service! Thank you for those who are here faithfully, serving faithfully. We need you here every week, and the corporate gathering of our church is the most important thing we do. But if that’s all we do, we are falling miserably short of true discipleship. Whose burdens are you helping to bear? Carry your own backpack, and be vigilantly looking for brothers and sisters in need of help, lest they be crushed under a boulder of care and sin. This is part of developing a culture of discipleship.
Keep in mind that the commands in chapter 6 come on the heels of chapter 5. How are we to examine ourselves and carry burdens? With reliance on the Holy Spirit and the work of Christ. Christ has called us to freedom, to walk by the power of the Spirit. When is a burden not really a burden? When it is sharing the yoke of Christ. Remember Christ’s words in Matthew 11:28-29—His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Friend, are you here today attempting to bear the burden of your sin alone? Christ’s yoke is easy and His burden is light. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the weight of your sin, run to Christ for rescue. Christian, if you sit here this morning feeling the weight of your sin pressing on your soul, remember that Christ bore our sin in His body on the tree. God looks at you and is pleased, not because you are strong and able to carry your own burden, but because Christ has borne your sin, and you now bear and wear His righteousness. Sin is no longer your burden to bear. Praise God that though there is much sin in us, there is even greater mercy in Christ!
We’ve seen that we should repair by restoring the fallen and that we should preempt by bearing one another’s burdens. In light of what Christ has done for us and by the power of the Spirit, we must be vigilant in helping those in the body of Christ. The third step we see in our text this morning is prevent: sowing good to reap good.
3. Prevent: sowing good to reap good (Don’t Be Deceived)(6:6-10)
a. Taught by the Word (6:6)
i. We have several verses here, and we won’t take time to work through them word by word, but there are a few key concepts for us here. The big idea is that of sowing and reaping. Paul appeals to an agricultural mindset here, as he did in chapter 5 with the fruit of the Spirit. You might say he makes sure the fruit is hanging low enough for us to pick it. He doesn’t want us to miss this teaching. We certainly have in vv. 6-10 the idea of supporting those who teach the Word. But the first key thing we should notice is that the Word is actually taught. What is the key to sowing good to reaping good? It is knowing, understanding, and applying the Word of God in our church body. The principle of sowing and reaping is closely connected to our teaching and receiving the Word of God. This is similar to our teaching children to walk and training and teaching good habits.
b. Walking in the Spirit (6:7-8)
i. The evidence that the Word is rightly taught and received lies in the fruit of the Spirit. If we sow to the Spirit, we will from the Spirit reap eternal life. We can’t separate the Spirit’s work from the work of Christ, but the fruit of the Spirit makes it clear that Christ has indeed accomplished His work of redemption in our lives. This brings to mind the words of James 2:18, “But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
c. With endurance (6:9)
i. We see that we are also to pursue the Spirit with endurance. This preventative work enables the engine of the body of Christ to grow into health. The implication of the text is that we are tempted to grow weary, to give up. Part of the work of repairing and preempting is being mindful of the fact that we all are tempted to grow weary in the fight against sin. Brothers and sisters, do not give up! If you are sitting here this morning, worn down, tempted to give yourself wholly to the desires of your flesh, do not give up! Christ is good enough, the Spirit strong enough, the Father faithful enough, to grant you a way of escape.
There is likely a man or woman sitting here this morning who is flirting with thoughts of an affair with a co-worker or friend. Brother or sister, get help. The body of Christ exists to help bear burdens like this. We need to perform preventative maintenance on our cars like changing the oil. We too need do preventative maintenance on our souls and the souls of our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a long process, Puritan pastor John Brown wrote, “Many Christians are like children; they would sow and reap the same day.”
d. In community (6:10)
i. Paul closes with a reminder that this sort of repairing, preempting, preventing help takes place in the context of a local congregation, in a local church. Our first responsibility is to those who are part of our local body. The description he uses here is “household of faith.”
You are part of this household of faith. What’s the difference between eating in a restaurant and eating at home—at least if your family is like mine? In a restaurant, we go to be fed; we’re not expected to prepare or clean up. At a family meal, we prepare the meal, we eat the meal, and we clean up the meal. Do you view your role in our local body as a restaurant connoisseur, ready to complain if the morning sermon steak isn’t done just right? Dig in! Help us with the dishes! Look around you for people who need your ministry, who need the ministry of grace that you will share with them. You are part of our culture of discipleship.
We can easily substitute the word “family” for “household,” as the most direct correlation for households would be families. We should think of the body of believers here as our family. Hampton Park Baptist Church is not these facilities, not the road you drove in on … or a road yet to be built. Our church is not this auditorium where we sit this morning. No, brothers and sisters, we are the body of Christ. It is no more appropriate for you to think of your family as the house you live in than it is for you to think of your church as the building you meet in. Thank you for those who serve by faithfully discipling people and by serving material needs through workdays, etc. Many of you do this so well! What kind of time do you dedicate to furthering the spiritual growth and health of the people here? Church workdays are great, and they are a great way to facilitate relationships that lead to health. Though church workdays are good, they are not sufficient. Church workdays in themselves—apart from meaningful relationships—are merely home maintenance. Professionals at Lowe’s can do that. We need men and women willing to care for one another. Buildings, workdays, and projects are things that can be accomplished by the Habitat for Humanity. Only as we give ourselves for Christ and His gospel to doing the same things with an eternal end in mind can we say we are living as the church of Christ should live in the world.
Sowing and reaping apart from the work of Christ, is sowing bad seed and reaping bad seed. Only as your life has been changed by the gospel of grace can you begin sowing seeds that will bear the fruit of the Spirit. Christ is of no advantage to those who work these things out in their own strength. Are you walking as you have received Christ Jesus, as one who has been rescued by someone else’s strength? Only as we run again and again to the finished work of Christ will we find the strength to endure, to finish the race strong, and to help others make it to the finish line.
In light of what Christ has done for us and by the power of the Spirit, we must be vigilant in helping those in the body of Christ.
Repairing, preempting, preventing. This is serious work God calls us to. Let’s take a few minutes to repent of sins ignored, to repent of brothers and sisters left to fight alone, and to run to Christ for mercy.