6 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression (in the context Paul is speaking both about the acceptance of the Judaizers‘ teach-ings and about the passions and desires of the flesh), you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 6:1
Law can only deal with externals, with actions. It can only identify them and judge them as right or wrong. It can do nothing to prevent them or to change the motivations behind them. Virtually every-thing Paul lists as the “works of the flesh” are internals… The atti-tudes out of which actions proceed and which, therefore, are beyond the reach of Law.
This is the problem with Law, and the problem which the Gospel of grace in Christ resolves. Law can only point out the actions which are the evidence of deeper heart issues: It cannot offer any remedy for those heart issues and has no power to correct or heal them. And the sharp voice of Law is almost always only noticed under negative circumstances, when the Law is broken. Its approvals, when they are heard, are those of a tyrant and are never given without a cost, a “bit of flesh” in payment.
As Paul says in the letter to Colossians:
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teach-ings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. Colossians 2:20-23
The Gospel of the Kingdom deals entirely with internals by trans-forming the “inner man” and by bringing into existence “a new creation in Christ” who has the “mind of Christ” and the “Spirit of God“, and who therefore has a completely different set of attitudes as well as the power by which to embrace them. This is clearly seen in the New Covenant which, as in verses 22 and 23 above, deals primarily with attitudes and motivations, and in almost every case regards any actions that an individual might take as symptomatic of deeper issues.
The issue here, with the re-introduction of the Law, was that as “religious” form once again replaced spiritual reality in the lives of those who were embracing the teachings of the Judaizers, these were allowing themselves to become inwardly more and more sinful as they were allowing themselves to become outwardly more and more self-righteous. They were apparently beginning to act out in the various ways Paul lists, probably because the Law, as they were being instructed in it, was not specifically dealing with those areas and they were not being challenged to address them. They had stopped nurturing the life within and it was withering away. As had the Pharisees who condemned and crucified the Lord in Jerusalem, those in the Galatian fellowship who were returning to the cor-rupted gospel were becoming harder in conscience and more judg-mental toward the others in the Body.
Law tends to make its practitioners prideful and contentious: It is easy to see whether or not others are conforming to outward standards of practice and to commend those who are and condemn those who are not. Paul urges those of the fellowship who were spir-itually strong and wise enough to do all they can to restore these confused believers to right understanding, and he cautions them to be careful that they not get sucked in themselves by the persuasive arguments of the Judaizers.
When we stop living by the Spirit and begin again to live by outward rules and precepts, we will more and more find ourselves “caught by… transgression(s)“, because on the one hand we do not have the strength in ourselves to resist the temptations that assail us from every side in this world, and on the other hand there are not enough laws on the books to cover every contingency we might run into even if we could manage to keep them. When the Israelites tried to run their lives by keeping the Law, they ended up producing the Talmuds, which were the Rabbinical commentaries that tried to apply the Law to every possible circumstance of life. By the time Jesus began His ministry these extra-biblical writings would have filled a small library and had become the “traditions of the elders” that the Lord railed against so passionately. Because of these myr-iad rules and rulings mercy and compassion and the knowledge of God was lost while rich Pharisees and Saducees kicked beggars out of their way and counted out ten of every hundred seeds that they planted in their fields to bring to the Temple as tithes.
Nothing has changed really in the two millennia of the Church, and Christendumb has in many ways repeated the same pattern as Is-rael. Only by living the Spirit-formed, Spirit-filled, Spirit-led life can the Christian avoid being pressed into this same mold. Paul here is exhorting those who are spiritually strong and mature to do all they can to guide those who have slipped into legalism back into confi-dent faith in the Grace of God.
Bear one another‘s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (In Christian love watch out for one another) For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 6:2–3
(But not in a boastful or judgmental way. Look first to yourself to be sure that you are walking humbly before the Lord. Those who were infiltrating the fellowship were claiming to be superior in their au-thority, knowledge, and righteousness.) Promotion comes from the Lord, and it is the Lord who authenticates and validates our ministry in His name. Psalm 37:34;James 4:10 We have nothing that we are not given through our union with Him, and therefore we have no-thing to which we can lay claim or in which we can boast as our inde-pendent accomplishment.
But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 6:4 (Here “neigh-bor” specifically refers to those who are Christian) For each will have to bear his own load. 6:5
(Ultimately, each one of us is going to stand before the Lord alone. We will not be able to shift the responsibility for our lives and how we lived them to another person. There is only one other person who has been given as mediator and advocate for each one of us before God. That person is Jesus Christ. No one comes to the Father except through Him.)
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was ap-pointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. (1 Timothy 2:5-7)
We are not going to be judged on how many trophies we are able to present when we stand before the King… on how many sales we have closed. We are going to be judged against the measure of Christ. We are going to stand, as mirrors, and what will be looked for is the clarity of the reflection of the Son in us.
One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. 6:6
Paul is not speaking of material things but of spiritual things here (He speaks of the right of a teacher to receive material support elsewhere, and such a right does obtain in Christ). If the teacher is walking in Truth, then those whom he teaches will reflect in their own lives the Truth that they are being taught. The teacher will be known by the fruit he produces both in his own life and in the fruit that grows from the seed he plants. He will not have to boast or brag about this; it will be self-evident and others will point it out. Cf. Mat-thew 10:24-25
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. 6:7–9
(This is not the same as Karma, though the idea of Karma may be a dim and broken reflection of this truth. Karma has some complicated explanation that deals with never-ending spiritual progress and with lessons to be learned in each cycle of reincarnation, and has nothing to do with good or evil, right or wrong, righteousness and sin. What Paul is speaking of here is the fact that our choices and our actions have consequences, and that at a specific point in time these conse-quences become eternal. The cycles of Karma have no end: The Bi-ble teaches that there will be a terminal point where that which is good will be rewarded and that which is evil will be condemned.)
So then, we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. 6:10
(Again, Paul makes a distinction: Christians are first to minister to and meet the needs of those within the Body of Christ. And by this, in my opinion, he means first their immediate circle of fellow belie-vers. It is clear from his letters that he commends and expects that Christian charity will naturally overflow from the local church to other Christian fellowships when they have needs. Because we have the resources of Christ to draw upon and because the love of God toward all men is moving through and constraining us we then are to continue this overflow to the world around us. Nevertheless, the Church is not to become an NGO of some sort and it is not our pri-mary mandate to try to alleviate the hardship and poverty of the fallen world apart from the preaching of the Kingdom of God. It is never our job as Christians to enable a sin-sick and dying world. As Jesus Himself instructed, we are to “Let the dead bury the dead.” Our outreach and ministry to the world is only to be in terms of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and if they are not willing to come to terms with the Kingdom, then we are to leave them to themselves. If the world wants the blessings that we have received from the Lord, it must be on our terms… never on theirs.)
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. There-fore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.‘ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” Matthew 10:5–15
See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (a creation of an entirely new kind) cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. 6:11–16
(The Israel of God is that body which is constituted of faithful be-lievers in contrast with the Israel of the flesh or the Jerusalem from below, the son of Hagar. This multitude consists of those of blood Israel who are of the faith of Abraham (see Romans 9-11) and of all the Gentiles who also have living faith (“other sheep not of this fold“) John 10:16 . The Bible speaks of this number as being both large and small. I would offer that out of the total number of human beings that have ever lived it is a large number of individuals, but that as a percentage of all mankind since Adam it is the “little flock” Luke 12:32 of which Jesus spoke. It was Christ Himself who said that, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14 And it was Christ who told the Parable of the Soils in which fully three-fourths of the seed scattered failed to produce its crop. The Father “desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the Truth” 1 Timothy 2:4, but each one of us has the option to reject His offer, and the scripture seems to indicate that a very significant number of us do. I leave that troubling paradox in the counsels of God. And I ask the question that really should be kept upon that shelf we all should have in our hearts upon which abide all of the “mysteries” of our faith: “Can finite resistance eternally resist infinite love?”… It is an honest question.)
From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. 6:17
By this Paul is making an allusion to circumcision of the heart, the true circumcision, and also to the many scars and other physical evidences on his own body of the price he has paid for the choice he has made to serve the Lord and preach the Gospel. 2 Corinthians 11:21-12:5 The Judaizers could offer no such credentials… Their “gospel” preserved them from persecutions.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen. 6:18