Gal 5:25-6:10 | Imperatives for a Caring Church

Text: Galatians 5:25-6:6-10

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, looking to yourselves, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one shall bear his own load. And let the one who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”

A person’s conduct toward others is largely determined by his opinion of himself. Now, Paul is picturing the church here as a caring community…as a family. You’ll notice that chapter 6, verse 1 opens with the word, “brethren,” and that chapter also closes with the word “brethren.” And in between he uses that expression, “the household” or “the family” of believers and what Paul is emphasizing is that we are a family…we are brothers and sisters in Christ. And our conduct toward one another is determined by our opinion of ourselves…and he’s going to talk about the conduct that we should have toward each other. But I want you to notice he is saying in that last part of chapter 5… “if we live in the Spirit” or “since we derive our life from the Spirit” let us keep “in step” or keep in line with the Spirit.

And then he says, “Let us not become conceited” or “boastful”…the idea is somebody who has a false illusion of himself…puffed up. That person is always doing one of two things…provoking or challenging someone and envying one another. Now, it’s interesting…here is a person who is conceited…I mean, he’s filled with pride…he thinks more of himself than he ought to think, and he’s boastful about whatever progress he may have made. Now, to those he considers inferior to him, he’s always provoking them…always challenging them in some way or another, always showing them that he’s better than they are and he’s going to prove it!

But, to those that he knows are superior to him, he envies them and is jealous of them. And so, a conceited person, a person who does not understand who and what he really is in Christ Jesus, who thinks more of himself than he ought to think…that he is the better member of the family will always be intimidating those that he thinks are inferior and will always be envying and jealous of those that are superior. And so, he says you’re not to do this…don’t do this…this is not what you’re to do, having been walking in the Spirit.

If you have been born again and you live by the Spirit…your life comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells within, then you ought to keep in step with the Spirit. And he talks about fulfilling the royal law, which is the law of love…which is, by the way, the first fruit of the Spirit as he mentioned there in verse 22… “but the fruit of the Spirit is love.” And so, we could say this…that a person’s conduct toward everyone else ought to be one of love. Now you would agree with me on that, wouldn’t you? Love one another…that’s the new commandment that Jesus gave us. We’re to love one another. He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” You do love yourself…love one another.

But you know, we talk a lot about love. We really do. And it’s easy to talk about loving people in a general, abstract, vague way. But it’s a different matter to put that love into concrete practical expressions. And that’s what the Apostle Paul does in chapter 6. First of all, he paints the picture…here is a family…a family that’s united by their bond in Jesus Christ. They derive their life from the Holy Spirit and deriving their life from the Holy Spirit, then they want to make certain that they keep in step with the Spirit. That’s a good military word…means to keep in step. Well, how do you keep in step? And he tells us in that sixth chapter.

There are four imperative verbs there…four commands that the apostle gives us. And I would call these “the imperatives for a caring community…for a caring church…” what you and I are supposed to do as members of the same family for one another.

Now the first imperative that you find is right in verse 1. He says, “Brethren, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him.” So, the practical mark of love among the brethren is restoring…a restoration. He says, “If anyone is caught in a sin…”, the word “caught” there really means to be overtaken. It has the idea of happening suddenly and he’s surprised at it. It’s sort of like a person who has been walking in the Spirit, by the way the word translated “sin” (trespass) there means “to fall out of step” and so you have this picture of walking in the Spirit and keeping in step with the Spirit…but here’s a man who suddenly steps aside and falls out of step with the Holy Spirit. It’s something not planned…it is not premeditated, but he is suddenly caught, overtaken.

Now, he’s not talking about somebody who is continually living a life of sin. I’m not saying we ought not try to restore someone like that in the fellowship, but primarily he’s saying this, “If you see somebody in the family and you know, suddenly, without warning, they just sort of get out of step with the Spirit…” which may mean they provoke, or they’re envious, or they in some other way are being unloving towards their brethren, he says, “What are we to do?” We are to restore that individual.

That’s a very interesting word, restore. It means “to set a broken bone” and it’s also used in Mark of the apostles when they’re mending their nets…putting them back together. And he says, “You’re a family, you’re a body and when one of the body falls into sin that’s like a part of the net being broken. As long as the net is broken that means you’re not going to catch as many fish.” That’s why they mend the nets every day. They would mend the nets in order to catch the fish. And there is a sense that you and I have to be practicing restoration, mending the nets, restoring these people because we’re not going to catch fish…we’re not going to win the lost. The ignorant lost person knows that the outstanding mark of a Christian is supposed to be love.

I think we’re having a difficult time overcoming today the world’s perception of the church, because the church is seen largely as judgmental of others…and we’re always pouncing on wounded Christians.

I had an occasion two or three years ago…not because I needed it…to sit in on a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. I was there as an observer. And I asked myself, “What am I doing here” because the people in that group were not people that I lived next door to. I mean, there was one boy and his girlfriend. Both of them had long hair and they were in leather jackets and leather pants and their jackets had chains all over and they were wearing boots with chains on them, and they’d been into drugs and alcoholism and everything and here was a homeless person and here was an ex-convict. But there were two or three Christians in that group.

And I sat there amazed at how frank they would be with each other! And they’d get up and tell what was going on in their life and where they were hurting and where they were having a hard time. Afterwards, I talked with one of the Christians and I said, “What you said tonight was so frank and so open and so transparent. Would you ever say that in your church?” He said, “I’d never say this in a church.” I said, “Why not?” He said, “I’m open here because I know there’s nobody here that’s going to condemn me. We’ve all experienced it. I feel like if I were to say some of these things in my church, there would immediately be condemnation and judgment pouncing upon me.”

Now when Paul says that when you see someone caught in a sin, he doesn’t say to judge them and condemn them and criticize them. What does he say? He says to restore them…to bring them back into line…to say an encouraging word…to say something to them to help them to be brought back and be mended as a part of the body of Christ.

Now it’s interesting who is to do this work. Notice he says, “You, who are spiritual should restore him.” Who is he talking about? “You, who are spiritual”? Is he talking about the “spiritual elite?” No, I think you could substitute the word “mature” for the word “spiritual.”

For instance, I want you to turn back to Romans 15:1…
“Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and just please ourselves.” We who are strong ought to bear…put up with the failings of the weak.

You know, I’ve been a pastor and I’ve said this, and I’ve heard other pastors say this, “You know, the problem with our church is these weak people we have…these people who are weak in the faith.” As a matter of fact, in chapter 14 of Romans, verse 1, he says,
“Accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose
of passing judgment…”

I want to tell you something…the problem in the church is not the weak believers. The problem in the church is the strong believers who are not fulfilling their duty of bearing their problems and helping them and accepting them and restoring them. It’s the strong in the church…it’s their responsibility…we keep saying, “Man, if those weak people, if those immature people who really don’t believe like they ought to believe and they’re weak in their faith…if they’d just get strong then our church could do great things!”

Listen, who is supposed to make them strong? Whose responsibility is that? I’ll tell you…it’s those of you who are complaining about the weak! So, he says it is to be the mature…those who consider themselves strong in the faith…they are to do the task of restoration.

But notice the manner in which they are to do it…how they are to do it! He says, “Do it gently…looking to yourselves, lest you too be tempted.” Why do you restore this brother gently? I mean, you don’t come in like a prosecuting attorney and tell him how bad he is and how awful he is…you gently with meekness and gentleness restore him. Why? Because, friend, the very same thing can happen to you!

Oh we see this brother over here and we say, “My goodness, do you see what he’s done? We ought to kick him out!” You know, you might want to be a little bit gentle in your judgment of him because I tell you something…the same thing can happen to you! The first thing is this, in a caring family we are to restore those who have stepped out of line in the fellowship of the Spirit.

You know they have all of the AA classes and NA classes and all of this and I thank God for them…I think they do a lot of good and everything, but I tell you, it seems to me if there’s any place that people ought to be able to stand and to say, “I’m hurting…I’m failing here” it ought to be in the fellowship of the church. And most of us are scared to death to do it! Why? We’re afraid of judgment…we’re afraid of condemnation from other people!

You know, we’re family! In my own family…my father and mother and brother and wife…if I’m not able to unload myself there and share with them my burdens and share with them the problems that I’m having, then where can I do it? That’s what the family is for! And he says the church is a family. The first command is that we are to restore one another.

The second imperative verb is in verse 2… “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” Bear or carry one another’s burdens. Now, when we get over here to verse 5, he says, “For each one shall bear his own burden (load).” He’s using two different Greek words. The word in verse 2 is a pressing load.

Here is a person in the church…a person in the family that right now is just so burdened…and it’s a crushing load…so much so that they’re just not able to handle it. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians and he said that he was in a situation where he despaired even of life and of course, what he was doing was trying to make the Corinthians understand because the Corinthians and some of the people who were leading them were criticizing and judging Paul because of the problems he was having. And he said, “I want you to understand that the trouble I had was beyond me…it was out of my hands and it was beyond my ability to handle…so much so that I even despaired of life.”

See, the problem with the Corinthian church is that they wouldn’t bear his load. Now, I want to ask you a question right now. How many of you right now at this moment are going through the greatest trial of your life? Not just going through a trial, but the greatest trial. How many of you right now are going through a trial? You have a burden that’s just about to crush you. You know what? You and I are supposed to bear each other’s burdens. It has the idea of going along and helping that person carry that load…through sympathy and encouragement and doing other things, there are a thousand ways that you can bear one another’s burdens. You see, there are some burdens that I can’t bear by myself. I’ve felt like at times that if I didn’t have somebody to help me in this situation I was despairing of my own life.

Now one of the things that I thank God for is Christian friends through the years who knew me and knew me too well and knew what I was going through and knew the burden that I was under and the trial that I was under and they’d come alongside and they’d say, “Let me help. Let me pray with you. Let me just be there for you.” We’re to bear one another’s burdens. See, nobody can live the Christian life by themselves. You just can’t. You’re not strong enough.

You know, I’m in many ways a very private person. My wife…one of the first arguments we had when we were married was that she used to say, “You know, your problem is that you could live forever without people. You’re so independent, individualistic, so private, you just don’t need people.” Well, she was fairly accurate. You know, I always thought that if anything tragic ever happened in my life, I didn’t want anybody around. I discovered something, folks. I discovered one day how desperately I needed people…Christian people…just to be there to put a hand on my arm or my shoulder just a hug…just to be there…and Paul said, “In doing this, you will fulfill the law of Christ which is the law of love.” Well, what did Christ do? He bore our burdens…right? And He’s still bearing our burdens. First Peter says, “We’re to cast all our cares upon Him because He cares for us.”

So, there is restoring. There is bearing. There is testing. Now, he says bearing one another’s burdens and this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Verse 3… “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing he deceives himself.” Now, what he means by that is he just said that you’re to bear one another’s burdens, but he said, “Some of you think you’re too good to do it. Some of you think so highly of yourself you think you’re really something! Some of you think you’re really something when you’re really nothing! You’re really something so it’s just beneath you to get down and grovel with somebody else and their problem. It’s just beneath you to go out into some areas and minister to somebody in great need.

Paul says, “Not only should there be restoring and bearing, but there should also be testing or examining.” Verse 4: “…let each one examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.” We’re always comparing ourselves to somebody else, aren’t we? “Well, ‘so and so is not doing that, and I’m doing as much as they’re doing.” Listen, stop comparing yourself with one another. That’s not the test. Test your own work. You know the test there has the idea of exposing, of examining…examine your own work! And if your own work is up to par, then you’ll have something to boast about! Those of you that are too busy to help somebody else to bear their burdens then test your own work.

Then comes that next statement… “for each one shall bear his own load.” The word “load” is used of a soldier’s pack. And a soldier had a pack and it was up to him to carry that pack. It was not an unbearable burden. It was not a crushing burden. It was his task. It was his job! And so what the Apostle Paul is saying is this… “Are you carrying your load? Or are you wanting somebody else to come along and take your load, your task and do it for you?” There’s a load that each one of us is to bear and we’re not to shove it off onto somebody else, you see. There must be a testing of ourselves…an examination of ourselves. Test your own works, before you judge somebody else, before you think you’re doing enough, before you think you’re too good to do certain things…what about the load that God has given you to carry? Are you doing your share? Are you carrying your load? Test yourself!

You know, it would be a wonderful thing if every member of our church would occasionally say, “I’m going to sit down and evaluate my church work…the work that I’m doing for the Lord. Am I carrying my load? Am I carrying my load in praying and visiting and in sharing my faith? Am I carrying my load in teaching? Am I carrying my load?” You know, it would be amazing we would all sit down once in awhile and evaluate our own actions…our own works.

There’s restoring. There’s bearing. There’s testing. And then there’s sharing. He says in verse 6 and following, “And let the one who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches.” Now, there’s the basis for the pastor’s salary and a good text for love offerings. It is! I just may just ought to stay there and say a little more about that. But let’s read on… “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to this own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”

There is to be sharing…sharing of our money, sharing of our heart, sharing of our time. As we have opportunity…and this life presents many an opportunity to do good to other people. Amen? As you have opportunity…one translation reads… “as you have time…” I don’t like that translation because we say, “Well, I’m too busy, I don’t have time…” I think the better translation is “…as we have opportunity…”

I never will forget one day I was in a meeting and we had finished the noon service but we were going out to eat and we were kind of in a hurry and we came to a stop light and we were the first ones at the light and so we waited and waited for that light to change and just before the light changed, one of those little Toyota type pickup trucks came along and the fellow was carrying a big old king-sized mattress in that truck bed and it just happened to slip off right there in the intersection. So he stopped his truck right there in the intersection and our light turned green, but we couldn’t go because he was blocking the intersection. So we sat there and watched him while he went around there and I tell you a king-sized mattress is not easy to handle. Here’s this man and he’d get it up here and it would fall down here and he’d go there. And I said, “Why doesn’t somebody get out there and help him?” And nobody did! Of course, I thought the pastor ought to do it.

Now, folks, I had an opportunity to do good and I didn’t take it. I didn’t share my time and my strength with him. Do good to all men. I tell you, some people are discouraging to work with. Some people are discouraging to try to help. Have you ever tried to help somebody and they just don’t come along? I tell you, sometimes when you try to help somebody who is an alcoholic or somebody who has been into drugs and you work with them and you work with them and they don’t seem to be getting any better, after awhile you just say, “Well, let them stew in their own juice.” No, listen to what Paul says, “We’re to do good to all people…” because he said earlier, “let us not lose heart (become weary) in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we don’t grow weary. Therefore,” he says, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men…”

So here’s what Paul is saying, “If we want to be a caring community, a family that cares for one another, then we’ll be restoring those who have been overtaken in some sin, who have stepped out of line with the Spirit…we’ll be bearing one another’s burdens…some people have a crushing load…and we’ll in some way try to bear their burdens. We will test your own works…make sure we’re carrying your load and then we will share all good things with all men, but especially with the household of faith.”

That’s what the New Testament church is supposed to look like.

© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005

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