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The Spiritual Fruits of Gospel Grace: Some Thoughts and Reflections on Galatians 6

1 June, 2009

brannansmall1Once more, here are some of my notes and observations on a sermon from Dominic Smart, available here.

Paul closes his letter to the Galatians by continuing to apply the realities of life in the Holy Spirit in wonderfully practical ways. As Paul seeks throughout this letter to pull the Galatians back to the gospel of the grace of God in Christ, he presses this dynamic: when we know deep down that Christ is our only and complete righteousness, then we become likewise gracious and bear true Spiritual fruit. If we become legalists in our relationship to God, on the other hand, it will be mirrored in our relationships with one another. What we are before God is who we will be before one another. Paul in this chapter spells out for the Galatians some hallmarks of a Christian community which lives in this fruitful grace of God.

We don’t shoot our wounded (v. 1). Paul begins,

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (See further Ps 141:5; Rom 15:1; 1 Cor 2:15, 4:21, 10:15; 2 Cor 2:7; 2 Tim 2:25; Heb 12:13; James 5:19)

We should seek and show mercy and restoration, in gentleness and grace, as has been shown to us. We only stand, after all, because Christ is strong, not us.

We carry one another’s burdens (vv. 2ff.). These burdens aren’t the sins, but the pressures and anxieties and difficulties of life. This requires that we know and care for one another, for whom Christ has borne all burdens fully and finally. Along with this, we evaluate ourselves realistically (v. 3):

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Gal 6:2-3; see further John 13:34; Rom 15:1; 1 Cor 3:7, 18; 2 Cor 12:11; Gal 2:6, 5:14; 1 Thess 5:14; 1 John 4:21)

We each stand before God (v. 4):

But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. (See further Rom 14:12; 1 Cor 11:28; 2 Cor 13:5)

Paul isn’t here advocating stark individualism or works-righteousness against the grain of the rest of what he’s said, but that we all have the same, direct standard to which we have access and One to whom we ultimately answer. Paradoxically, Paul says we must ‘bear one another’s burdens’, while we each have to bear our own load; then our ‘reason to boast’ will be in ourselves alone, but Paul himself will not dare ‘to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (v. 14). Paul is constantly and radically pointing us in our own load-bearing and boasting to the only one in whom we may have true confidence and hope, our Lord Jesus Christ. ‘In Christ’ is who we are. This guards against the self-righteousness at one extreme, and the self-loathing at the other, which so easily creep in through constantly comparing and evaluating ourselves in light of others and over against others, rather than the confidence and motivation we have when we all look to Christ by the Spirit. The same dynamic is at work in the following verses.

Gratitude and sharing are our mutual practice (vv. 6-10):

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 a 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. (See further Job 4:8; Prov 3:27; Hosea 8:7; Matt 10:22; John 9:4, 12:35; Rom 6:21, 15:27; 1 Cor 6:9, 9:11, 15:58; 2 Cor 9:6; Eph 2:19, 4:28; 1 Thess 5:15; 2 Thess 3:13; 1 Tim 5:8, 6:18; Heb 3:6, 10:36, 12:3, 5; James 1:16, 3:18)

Such fruitful practice is a sign of recognising that we have been loved and provided for by God to the uttermost, and thus we love and provide for one another in thankful response. This gracious environment is one in which love and fruitfulness  flourish. We live before God with one another, and he knows what we’re sowing (v. 9) — and sowing in the Holy Spirit leads to even more liveliness in ‘doing good’. There are so many hindrances to doing good, in the church and outside, but by far the biggest for Paul, it seems, is living and sowing by works for ourselves rather than by grace and for others through the Spirit.

Verses 11ff. are a parting shot at the legalists:

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. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. (Gal 6:11-16; see further Ps 125:5, 128:6; John 3:5, 7; Rom 2:28-29, 4:12, 6:4, 6, 9:6-8; 1 Cor 2:2; 2 Cor 11:13; Gal 2:3, 3:7, 9, 29, 5:6, 11; Phil 3:3, 7, 8)

The Judaizers had been using the Galatians for selfish gain through boasting and personal comfort in this life; Paul’s only boast is in Christ and his work — New Creation, all to the glory of God.

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One Comment
  1. Donna Ellis permalink
    8 June, 2009 11:59 am

    Good Stuff, Thanks for sharing Brannan.

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