Helping and Loving. 5:26-6:10
In 5:13-25 Paul describes a life lived under the guiding hand of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, as opposed to a life lived indulging the sinful nature. In our passage for study, Paul encourages his readers to welcome and aid a fallen brother, to support a Word ministry, and to follow the leading of the Spirit, rather than the flesh.
5:26. Given the difficulties that have developed in the Galatian fellowship, Paul reminds his readers that a believer, living under the guiding hand of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, should not be filled with conceit and so damage the Christian fellowship by provoking one another.
6:1. Rather, Paul urgers his readers to gently include a fellow believer. We are to draw those on the edge into the full life of the Christian fellowship. We will be tempted to judge and ostracize, but as Jesus forgives, in like manner, let us be forgiving, accepting.
v2. The Spirit-led believer should also share the burden of a brother's sin (weakness, failure). Not only must we welcome a brother back into the fellowship, but we must support them as they seek to deal with the consequences of their sin. Such behavior fulfills "the law of Christ". This "law" may amount to Jesus' ethical teachings, possibly the law of love, but more probably, it is the principle of living freely by the leading of the Spirit, as opposed to living under the direction of the law.
v3. A believer properly acts with generosity toward a sinner because we are all sinners, we are all insignificant; what righteousness we possess, we possess in Christ alone. To think we are significant, apart from God, is to live in self-deception.
v4. To gain an understanding of our mutual insignificance requires unfettered self-examination. It is then, when we know ourselves, know our insignificance, know that our "righteousness is but filthy rags", it is then that we can rightly be self-satisfied in Christ. Such self-satisfaction is not the product of a comparison between ourselves and a fallen brother, it is not the product of "speck removal."
v5. So then, let us face our own weakness and failure, and this under God's mercy, rather than busy ourselves with the failings of others.
v6. Having explored the idea of bearing the burden of a brother's failure, Paul tackles the practical responsibility of financially supporting the Word ministries of the Christian community. Since the kingdom of God is realized through the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, it is essential to release gifted ministers for the business of teaching God's Word.
v7. In 5:13-26, Paul makes the point that the freedom we possess in Christ does not serve as an opportunity for self-indulgence. In verses 7-10 Paul warns of the consequences of self-indulgence and so encourages his readers to "walk by the Spirit." For a believer, as for everyone, God's justice cannot be mocked; the harvest of sinful living is destruction, cf. Job.4:8, Prov.22:8.....
v8. Paul goes on to explain the proverb he has just quoted. If we sow the field of life with sinful self-indulgence, we will reap annihilation; but if we sow the field of life with the fruits of the Spirit, we will reap eternal life.
v9. Given this truth, let us not loose heart in the leading of the Spirit, for in due time the eternal reward will be ours, as long as we persevere.
v10. In a final exhortation Paul calls for an application of the fruits of the Spirit toward all people, but especially toward "the family of believers."
Bearing one another's burdens
Our passage for study encourages us to properly use the freedom we possess in Christ; we are to follow the leading of the Spirit rather than the leading of the self. In particular, the passage focuses our attention on two practical ways of walking by the Spirit, namely, forgiving and giving.
A central principle evident in our relationship with God is that of his unconditional mercy, his forgiveness. In Christ God eternally accepts us, warts and all. On the basis of this kindness toward us, we are asked to show mercy toward others, we are asked to accept, without question, a brother or sister who has made a mess of their lives; we are asked to accept them, warts and all, in the same way God accepts us; we are asked to carry the burden of their imperfect character, their failure and the consequences of their sin. Of course, we may be offended or hurt by a brother's sin, and we may need to address that sin, but rather than condemn, we are bound to include, to encircle them with our acceptance and bear the burden of their imperfection.
So, be forgiving, be accepting.
In a world where organizations progress and grow on the basis of effective management and marketing, it is very hard for believers to allocate a large portion of their giving toward the maintenance of a Word ministry. Yet, Christ's kingdom is not of this world, and thus it is realized by spiritual means. The Spirit of Christ, active in the proclaimed Word of God, builds the kingdom. Thus, we must properly fund Word ministries like the Bible Society.
So, be generous in the support of the ministry of God's Word.
1. Discuss forgiveness in the terms of accepting a fallen brother.
2. Identify the different Word ministries in your church and consider if under-funding is hindering their effectiveness.
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