Paul has already told us that the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit are inconsistent with one another. But a problem is caused because people who live in accordance with the two “lists” have to associate with one another, both in the world and in the Church. Now what? There is a certain amount of jumbling for the time being.
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith
(Gal. 6: 1-10).
What is the alternative to biting and devouring (the besetting sin of the religiously scrupulous)? It is obviously the life of the Spirit, and Paul talks here about how a Spirit-led man functions in this very messy world. If someone else stumbles, a man must be qualified to correct him before he undertakes that task (v. 1). We are called to share the load, one with another (v. 2). But there are those who do not grasp the situation rightly, or their own role in it (v. 3). Objective testing is most necessary (v. 4). Carrying one another’s burdens is not a replacement for pulling your own weight (v. 5). Those who are taught should seek out ways to bless the teacher (v. 6). This is the context for the famous phrase that a man reaps what he sows (v. 7). There are only two possible crops—flesh and Spirit (v. 8). Agriculture is not an “instant” kind of business (v. 9). We therefore are to “sow” good in the field of all men, but we should pay special attention to one portion of the field—the household of faith (v. 10).
How should be bear one another’s burdens? It is not the case that everyone in the church is equally wise. It is not the case that everyone does an equally good job staying out of sin. And so this means that one person must frequently be put right by another. If someone sins, then one who is spiritual should correct him, considering himself, lest he also be tempted (v. 1). But too often when we are motivated to correct, we are not qualified to do so, and when we are qualified to do so, we are not motivated. This means that our motivation has to change from personal irritation to simple obedience.
Rather than seeing these comments as disjointed, random observations, we should consider them as part of the same context. Restoring someone after they have sinned is part of bearing one another’s burdens (v. 2). When do you carry someone else’s pack? When they have fallen. But some men do not think they have fallen (v. 3). And some men are not spiritually qualified to correct others like they think they are (v. 3). So what do we do? Each man is to test the quality of his work objectively, that is, with some reference beyond his own personal opinions (2 Cor. 10:12). Then he can rejoice in what he has done (v. 4). This why only the humble can have true job satisfaction.
Let us return for a moment to a point made above. Those who feel like correcting others are not qualified to do so. Those who are qualified to do so do not feel like it. And herein lies a problem, especially in the management of the household. Far too many parents correct their children when they are not spiritually qualified to say or do anything. And when they are qualified to do their parental duty, they do not do it, remaining lazy and complacent. Why are the children disciplined? Are they disciplined because they need to be loved in this way? Or are they disciplined because mom or dad has a headache, and “will not put up with that racket another minute!!”
The one who is taught should fellowship in all good things with the one who teaches. The word for communicate is the verb form of koinonia, and this refers to everything from verbal thanks and gratitude to financial support, and many things between. “Do not be deceived,” Paul says (and this is certainly a place where one might be). God is not mocked. How you treat those who teach and pastor you is the seed you are putting in the ground. But remember, this is broadly construed (all good things), not narrowly construed. In other words, a full and harmonious relationship between godly teachers and the taught is necessary to keep the ungodly teachers from getting into the field and planting a crop of Religious Flesh. And this harmonious relationship needs to be cultivated across the board.
And it is hard work to maintain. It is possible to get weary in that work, especially when false teachers are trying to undermine the entire process. And it is important to remember that harvest does not occur immediately after the obedience of plowing and planting. We are called to wait in hope. We will reap in due season, provided we do not get discouraged during the wait. This is why Christians need to be dedicated to doing good for all men. But since we are finite, we are not capable of doing the Universal Good Deed. We have to start somewhere. Paul tells us to start within the Church, and a key place to focus attention within the Church is on the relationship between teachers and taught. And when you start in the Church, you should make sure to start with the person right next to you. And that will be rewarded with a glorious harvest.