Live by the Spirit

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

Galatians 6:1-6

Love is at the very core of this paragraph.  No longer is Paul giving the Galatians “what for.” Now, he is telling them more about this life in the Spirit.  Notice that he begins addressing what should be done if someone sins; they should be restored gently.  How this contrasts with the impulse of some to finish the person off with condemnation and abuse!  He also mentioned that we should be careful in doing this, lest we too should fall into sin; I think it is interesting that Paul dropped that in where he did.  Consider the picture of the one who is helping his brother or sister back into line.  I suppose it might be human nature, but how easy it would be to adopt an air of superiority when working with one who had stumbled, when we ourselves might not have fallen into the trap; maybe that is the kind of temptation Paul had in mind.

The next sentence is a great one, too.  “Carry each other’s burdens…” sounds to me like the opposite of “not getting involved.” Help each other out in any circumstance that arises is Paul’s loving message here. Then he follows up with another injunction that if we think we are something we’re not, we’re self-deceived.  It strikes me how important it is to keep in mind who and what we are in Christ, rather than letting ourselves get carried away with our own good deeds, our own righteousness and our own importance.  No, we are Christ’s humble servants who rejoice in putting the other person ahead of ourselves; we are His disciples who love our brothers and sisters in the Lord.  That’s it. Any glory this might generate is the sole property of God.

Paul says that we should also test our own actions to ensure that we remain on the right path, that we should avoid making comparisons with others.  I think this might be his advice for two reasons.  First, so that we avoid the temptation to think we are better than someone else, and second, to avoid our thinking that we are less than someone else there is no favoritism in Christ! Of course if there is no favoritism in Christ, it would also be correct to say that there is also no free lunch; we can carry our own loads, which I think is to say that we can all serve Him to the best of our abilities.

Finally, Paul has a rather cryptic comment: Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.  What an odd thing to say right there! After saying we all should carry our own loads, he throws in “nevertheless” and talks about sharing “all good things” with our instructor if we receive instruction in the word.  I guess you might be able to come to more than one opinion about what he is talking about here, but my take is that Paul is reminding the people that the elder who also teaches is to receive “double honor,” which is to say that they should be paid. Yes, believe it or not, that is the general view of most scholars on this verse.  I have spent almost 20 years as an elder who did the teaching, sometimes exclusively.  I never received a dime, but there was also a ministerial staff that cited this as reason they were paid…

Happily, I’m OK with carrying my own load!

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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26 Responses to Live by the Spirit

  1. Wally Fry says:

    Don

    Thanks for this ang how very timely it was(again). This Sunday we visited another church and that was the Sunday School lesson. It wasn’t so great a lesson honestly, and the four of us who had gone visiting(seeing an elderly couple who had moved up north) were sort of disappointed. So, thanks for this great post. I’m going to actually sent the link to those friends so they can see what we missed in class!

  2. Hmm. I’ve never heard that interpretation of Paul’s last line. I’ve always connected it to the prior line, meaning that they have shared what has gone wrong with their lives (sin), they should also share what is going right, i.e., feedback.

  3. paulfg says:

    Two things stand out reading your fine post Don:

    “Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.”
    Someone posed the observation (LM in conversation elsewhere on something else): is your relationship with the church, or is it with God?
    I have never heard it put that way – yet this verse and that observation, your post here … all seem to highlight that same thing: first and foremost – who is your relationship with? It has struck a chord in me that crosses into “everything” – actions, reactions, thoughts, words, the lot – just who are they guided by and done on behalf of?

    “Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.”
    Maybe I am odd, for I see this as a sharing of learning and reconciliation – not a gritting of teeth for chastisement. Nor simply reward for being “brought back on message” by an elder. Is it just me, or would Paul have been less “cryptic” on such “sensitive matters”? I read his words and think he had no need to be coy.

    Great thinker as always!! Thank you!

    • Don Merritt says:

      “is your relationship with the church, or is it with God?”

      Leave it to LM to make it so clearly come down to the bottom line; great question!

      Here’s another question for us to ponder: Are they mutually exclusive, or is the latter the natural response to the former?

      I agree with you that Paul has no need to be coy in his second part; no. not at all. “ALL good things” Is there a limit to “all”? For most of us, it would seem that there is… but then are not all of us “works in progress”? 🙂

    • Paul, if I may. I covered this in my study on the Good Samaritan, which covers our relationship to each other and to the church. I think it would also apply to our relationship with God:

      “The message is clear – the needs of our fellow man supersede any religious or societal rules or obligations. Our duty to our neighbors is more important than attending church or social events – people come first!”

      Salvation is a gift from God, not from the church. Jesus told us that we were to worship the Spirit in truth, no on a temple on the hill. Church is but an aid for salvation, if we need it, not a requirement.

  4. Pingback: Live by the Spirit | Fertiileground's Blog

  5. sallysuccess says:

    Hi, I agree with what you say, though through the last paragraph, I do not see how the call for elders to be paid relates to the phrase “…Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor”.

    Thanks!

    • Don Merritt says:

      You have lots of company 🙂

      The relation between the two, as least in my view, is in the implication of the “all”. If elders who also teach are to be paid, and we are to share “all good things” with our instructor, then can being paid be excluded from “all good things”?

      Anyway, that’s how I see it…

      • sallysuccess says:

        Ok, thanks for the clarification. I now see your point.
        Guess I was looking at those who receive instruction more as the “elders” and God as the “instructor”, so I was wondering how this could be possible.
        Ok, makes more sense now.

        Thank you!!!
        Shalom.

  6. Hi Don! First of all, huge thanks for following my blog! It always blesses my heart when I see you’ve visited. Re- the above passage. One way of showing superiority is not to give time to a weaker brother or sister. Last year a couple of elders came to see me as my Accountability Partners. They’d come on a Friday in between dropping off their kids for youth club and picking them up. So I sort of got the in between. It felt hurried, eye on the time, and I was a little hurt. The Holy Spirit showed me that we need to think about HOW we’re received? Is it in some poky back room in church with an eye on the time or is it in comfortable surroundings with no hurry? In other words, we should treat our weaker brother in the same way as an honoured guest in our house. Hope this makes sense.Really enjoyed this post. Remain in the Truth – Reuben

  7. P.S Has anyone ever said -you look like David Soul? It’s a compliment Don. Blessings – Reuben

  8. You know – the blonde one in ‘Starsky and Hutch’!!!

  9. Toni says:

    In respect to verse 6– …we should share all good things with those who teach which strengthens their burden for teaching. Also I believe that includes supporting their burden for teaching by providing for their material needs which can be done in a variety of ways. Great post!
    And, thank you for liking my blog post. May God continue to Bless you for the teaching you do!

  10. You got it right. In the context, Paul is saying that the instructor should be paid. In 1 Corinthians 9:14 he says, “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel,” and in vs. 18 he gives the reason for foregoing this right saying, “What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.”

    I’ve presented the gospel without charge for over 30 years, never looking for payment (I’m not boasting). The Lord has filled up my cup to overflowing. The opportunities provided by the Lord to present Him to the people have been my reward. I’m a work in progress as I go deeper and deeper into the heart of my Savior, seeking to know the reason why He should love me so…

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