The Book of Galatians: Chapter 6 (verses 5:25–6:5)
January 16, 2024
by Peter Amsterdam
The Book of Galatians: Chapter 6 (verses 5:25–6:5)
While the first two verses here are part of Galatians chapter 5, most commentators consider them to be the first two verses of chapter 6. Accordingly, I am including them as part of Galatians 6.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.1
Believers live by the Holy Spirit, therefore they must march in step with and obey the Spirit. Paul wants the Galatians to ask themselves whether they live by the Spirit. He expects that they will answer that they do.
The word “live” refers to the life that now belongs to believers due to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If the Galatians have such life by means of the Holy Spirit, they are called to keep in step with the Spirit. The Greek phrase translated as keep in step with is found only four other times in the New Testament. Three of them are in Paul’s writings.2 It emphasizes that believers should align themselves with the Spirit. Life in the Spirit is not automatic; the battle against the flesh continues, so believers must continue to walk in tune with the Spirit (5:16) and be led by the Spirit (5:18).
Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.3
Paul explains more concretely what it means to keep in step with the Spirit. Paul warns against pride, which is manifested in irritating and inflaming others, resulting in quarrels and fighting. Believers are out of step with the Spirit if they are irritating or aggravating others, if they provoke others to anger. From conceit and pride comes envy, so that one becomes resentful at the success and happiness of others, or finds joy in the difficulties of others. When believers serve one another in love, they will not succumb to envy.
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.4
Paul says that those who are tripped up in sin should be gently restored by fellow believers. Instead of being arrogant or judgmental of others, believers are to exercise love and concern for them. Their goal is to build one another up. Rather than rejoicing when others fall, Paul tells the Galatians that they are to restore those who have fallen into sin.
Even though believers are filled with the Spirit, they still live in this present evil age (1:4), so they will sin. Paul doesn’t say that those who commit sin are unwilling victims. Believers are fully responsible for their sins. Paul says that when one becomes aware that another believer has been caught in or overtaken by some transgression or sin, they should speak privately with the offender in order to restore him or her to fellowship with Christ.
Those who are “spiritual” are called to care for and restore those who have sinned. The “spiritual” are not an elite group of believers, neither are they sinless. All of the Galatians received the Spirit when they heard the message of the gospel (3:2, 5). They received the promise of the Spirit (3:14). God has given them His Spirit because they are His sons (4:6), and they live by the Spirit (5:25). Therefore, those who walk by the Spirit (5:16), are led by the Spirit (5:18), and are keeping in step with the Spirit (5:25) are to reestablish those who have fallen.
They are to restore them gently and meekly. A gentle and humble spirit does not provoke one who has sinned, but rather treats them with dignity. Such gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit (5:23). Those who envy others find joy in the sins of others. Since others’ faults are displayed, they look better by comparison. However, the one who truly loves others and is walking in the Spirit will approach others with firmness, since they have sinned, along with humility, so that they are treated gently.
Paul reminds the believers: Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. He explains what humility involves. One does not focus on the sins of others because they have sinned, rather those who help restore the fallen are to be humble because they are aware of their own fallibility and inclination to sin. Being aware of one’s own failures will keep believers from being arrogant.
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.5
The command here is a general exhortation to carry one another’s burdens. It could refer to helping others when they sin. However, it seems unlikely that it would be limited only to bearing the sins of others, as believers have a variety of burdens that aren’t equated with sin, such as persecution, sickness, financial difficulties, etc.
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.6
Those who are proud are warned about thinking they are better than others. Such people are conceited and proud and consumed with themselves. Those who do not help others in their struggles, who live in isolation, are guilty of pride. Paul may be speaking of those who are proud because they think they are immune to temptation, and therefore they need not worry about their failings. Such arrogance cuts people off from others. However, it is deceitful; for those who are proud are impressed with themselves, when they have nothing to be proud of.
But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.7
Believers who are aligned with the Spirit show concern for others. They fulfill Christ’s law of love when they bear the burdens of others and restore those who sin with gentleness and humility. They violate Christ’s example when they are filled with themselves and irritate others. Believers are to live in community with others and to care for the needs of others.
On the other hand, believers are personally responsible before God for their own lives. Therefore, Paul calls them to examine their lives carefully and realistically. They aren’t to deceive themselves by overestimating what they have accomplished. The boasting that Paul refers to is futuristic. It’s likely that he is referring to the final judgment, the day when the Lord will assess each person’s work.
For each will have to bear his own load.8
On the final day, one will only boast about his or her own work, as each one will carry his or her own load before God. Paul says that even though we are to help one another and bear each other’s burdens, we finally carry our own load in this life. We are responsible for our own behavior.
Paul emphasizes here that believers are to support and help one another with the cares of this life. At the same time, they must remember that they will stand alone before God on the day of judgment. Believers won’t be judged in relation to what others have done, but rather on their own lives.
(To be continued.)
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.