Paul now picks up his theme to use our freedom in Christ to love and serve others that he started in verse 13. If you think about it, his whole discussion on the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit is really a parenthesis in his main thought process. His main thought is to help us understand how Christ’s work and freedom are leveraged to serve others but along the way he takes a detour to explain that there is a fierce battle waging within us that could divert our focus from serving others. Having dealt with that he now comes back to his main idea – loving and serving others. Let’s take a look.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.
One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 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.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Gal 5:25 – 6:10)
There are a few words and phrases that stand out in this passage. I’ve underlined them above and share some brief thoughts on what they mean to us.
Restore – The expectation is that we would actively work to bring a person ensnared in some sin back into freedom from sin and “mend” whatever is causing them to sin. Our focus is to be on loving others instead of being boastful about our own holiness. When we realize that everything we are comes from the Spirit, then we can approach the others with a humble, gentle attitude. We can come alongside to encourage and support instead of to condemn and shame. Isn’t that what Jesus did? Unfortunately, we think of the word “spiritual” as meaning holy or saintly and so we quickly disqualify ourselves from even attempting to confront another person in sin. I think Paul is simply contrasting the person who is living out of the flesh as described previously and the person who is living, or trying to live, by the Spirit. So “spiritual” here simply describes our mindset, not how “sinless” we are.
Bear – We can help carry the burdens of others as they face difficult life situations, a death of a loved one, illness, broken relationships, hardships of any kind, helping them carry the load, bringing comfort and support to them. We help by supporting others, not by trying to run their life for them.
Test – Paul’s instruction is not to compare yourself with others but stand on your own work. In other words, we evaluate ourselves against our own calling and not in comparison to others. We can never do a fair comparison anyway. We don’t know what God has called them to and we don’t know what struggles they have had to overcome. We can’t possibly say we are better, more righteous or more mature than someone else. When we do we either see ourselves as better than them and so become conceited or we take the opposite approach and think of ourselves as deficient and unworthy. Either way is wrong.
Share – Share your time, money or resources with the leaders and teachers of your church so that they are not lacking. The “God is not mocked” and the” sowing and reaping” principles are tied directly to supporting our teachers and leaders. In other words, if we don’t share with our teachers we are mocking God. If we don’t share with our leaders we are sowing to the flesh and not the Spirit. These are sobering words.
Persevere (not grow weary) – We get tired of doing “the right thing”, of giving ourselves and not getting anything in return, investing in people or churches and not feeling appreciated, effective or valued. The key phrase is, “in due season”. We are such impatient creatures, wanting everything now. But Paul’s encouragement is that there is a time, a harvest time, in which we will see the reward for our labor. The promise is that we “will reap.” It is guaranteed; the reaping of the harvest is assured. We have to hold on to that promise, and not give up. We may not know exactly what “season” we are in or long it will take to get to the “due season,” but it is coming. Of that we can be sure. Giving up is not why Jesus bought us the freedom to live guilt-free, but to love and serve knowing that a crown of glory awaits us.
This whole passage is really an appeal to take care of one another and to care about each other. It is the way Paul expects us to walk by the Spirit and demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit as we live out His priorities. The “walk” and the “fruit” are not lived out in isolation but in community. That’s how do life and church – together.