By Sam E. Stone
This week we conclude a four-week survey of the book of Galatians. This also is the final lesson under this quarter’s general topic, “God establishes a faithful people.”
The Christians in Galatia had to contend with false teachers who insisted on the legalism of first-century Judaism. They taught that a person first had to become a Jew before he could become a Christian. Paul pointed out that this was never the case (Galatians 2:6-9; see Acts 15). The final two chapters of his letter show how the Holy Spirit helps believers be what the Lord intends them to be.
Fruit of the Spirit
Our text begins with the significant, little word But. Paul has just listed the acts of the flesh. Now he contrasts these with the fruit of the Spirit. The flesh is like a weed, producing nothing that could be called fruit (Ephesians 5:9-11). A similar contrast is found in one of Jesus’ parables (Matthew 7:16-20). These examples of the Spirit’s fruit are listed in three groups of three each. Similar lists are given in Ephesians 4:2; 5:9; and Colossians 3:12-15. Against such things there is no law. Those who do God’s will find no law of God interfering with their efforts (1 Timothy 1:9). This affirms Paul’s previous point (Galatians 5:18).
Those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinful nature. When a repentant believer is baptized into Christ, he is crucified with him (Romans 6:2-6; Galatians 2:20). Passions and desires describe the things we love. If we think more of ourselves than we should, we will be even more likely to provoke and envy others. In the following verses, Paul contrasts how Christians should treat each other.
Fellowship in the Church
Paul uses brothers as a generic term meaning fellow Christians, men and women. If someone is caught in a sin. Perhaps sinning against you (Matthew 6:14). You who are spiritual. Earlier Paul emphasized the need to be Spirit-led (Galatians 3:2, 14; 4:6; 5:18, 25). Restore him gently. The original word for “restore” is used elsewhere of setting a bone or mending a fishing net. You also may be tempted. Satan is always looking for a chance to trap another Christian, just as he did the person who sinned.
Christians are responsible to carry each other’s burdens. While the Galatians were freed from keeping the rituals of the Mosaic law, they did have another responsibility. They were to bear their neighbors’ errors and weaknesses, their sorrows and sufferings (Romans 15:1-3). In this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. In helping others, we obey Jesus’ commandment, “Love one another” (John 13:34). James calls this the “royal law of love” (James 2:8).
Paul warns the person who thinks he is something when he is nothing. This is self-deception. He dealt with this common failing in other letters as well (Philippians 2:3-11; Romans 12:3, 16). A person must test his own actions. Self-examination is commanded by the Lord (2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 Peter 1:17), especially before partaking of Communion (1 Corinthians 11:28).
Each one should carry his own load, Paul commands. This does not contradict verse 2. Rather it emphasizes the fact that each person is individually responsible for his actions (Romans 2:6; 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). We must answer to God for what we do. We cannot shift that responsibility to someone else. All the more reason not to compare ourselves with others. The apostle adds a reminder that those who preach and teach God’s Word deserve to be paid a fair wage for their work (1 Corinthians 9:7-14;
1 Timothy 5:17; Philippians 4:14-19).
Family of God
A man reaps what he sows. This principle was mentioned many years before by Job (Job 4:8). The apostle Paul cited it also when teaching about stewardship (2 Corinthians 9:6), but here makes an even broader application. If God’s children follow the desires of the flesh, sowing to please the sinful nature (Galatians 5:19-21), destruction is assured. By contrast, if we live to please the Spirit, eternal life awaits us (Romans 8:13).
It is easy to get tired and discouraged. The devil is ready to move in at such times, tempting us to quit doing what we should (2 Thessalonians 3:13). When Jesus returns, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. God’s family will ultimately experience the “law of the harvest” throughout eternity.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.