Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.
6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. – Galatians 6:1-10
Remember that the main thrust of Paul’s argument in Galatians has been that we are not justified by the works of the law of Moses, but by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus. He has been emphasizing our freedom from the human effort to obey the law of Moses and our freedom to walk in the Spirit and grow the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Now he is getting really practical with it.
People who are legalistic are usually judgmental and critical of those who don’t live up to the legalist’s standards. When a legalist observes a brother sin, his natural tendency is to pile on. Wrong! Paul’s instruction is to restore him in a spirit of gentleness, not something that comes naturally to a legalist.
Paul digs a little in the legalist by his next statement: “Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Remember that Paul already told us that the way to overcome the works of the flesh is not through legalistic efforts but by walking in the Spirit. The legalist’s natural tendency is to work it out in the efforts of his flesh. Odds are you too will be tempted to commit the same sin you are criticizing if you are a legalist.
I love Paul’s play on words when he urges us to bear one another’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ. Then at the end of the paragraph, he says, “For each will have to bear his own load.” These two words, burden, and load are a great word picture. Burden refers to a load that is too heavy for one to carry alone. A load is just the usual weight we all carry in life. When we are just carrying a normal load, we are expected to man-up and carry it ourselves. However, when we observe a brother or sister who has an abnormal load, a burden, we are called on to help them bear their burden. This attitude and action fulfills the law of Christ.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35
Paul hits home again with the legalist when he says, “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” It is natural for a legalist to be arrogant. A legalist sets himself up as the judge of those whose obedience is less than perfect. It is the legalist whom Jesus addresses with the statement about taking the log out of their own eye before attempting to take the splinter out of another’s eye.
Wouldn’t you know it, money enters into the picture. Paul is chiding the legalist about their stingy approach to giving to support those who teach the word. The one who sows to his own flesh (the legalist) will reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit (the one who lives by grace through faith) will reap eternal life. Be persistent; you will reap if you don’t give up. So, as you get the chance, do good to everyone and especially your brothers and sisters in Christ.
This passage is like a thermometer by which we can measure how hot we are for Jesus. I have to ask myself to what extent am I a legalist? Think about it. Does the Holy Spirit put his finger on any hot spots in your heart when you look at whether or not you live in grace by faith in Christ alone or do you find an admixture of legalism in your heart? If so, the good news is you can confess your sin, repent, and move on in the grace of Jesus.