My brothers [and sisters], if indeed anyone is caught off guard falling into some [or other] blunder [of the flesh], you who are [showing the gifts] of the Spirit, should restore such a person in a gentle spirit, self-critically, lest you also are tempted. Bear each others loads and in doing so you fulfil the law of Christ. For the one who thinks he is something, being nothing [in himself], [simply] deceives himself. But one's own work needs to be [privately] examined and then any exultation will be his own and not in [or by contrast with] his neighbour. For each person will carry their own load. And those instructed in the word should share all good things with the one instructing.
     Don't allow yourselves to be led astray. God is not mocked. The one sowing to his own flesh will from the flesh harvest corruption; but the one sowing to the Spirit will, from that Spirit harvest eternal life. And so, let us not grow discouraged with doing good, for in due course we shall [indeed] harvest; only keep on [maintaining the good work]. And therefore as occasion offers, let us engage in doing good to all, and in particular to those of the household of faith. - Galatians 6:1-10/transliteration by Bruce C Wearne

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Self-examination is a key aspect of restoration within the church. PICTURE: Daniil Kuzelev/Unsplash

 

IN A NUTSHELL

Here is Paul's modus operandi for dealing with those who leave the Spirit's path. It contrasts with his own approach when, with great zeal, he persecuted those who believed. As a set of suggestions "in step with the Spirit", it confirms the approach he put into practice when he was called to set Peter right.

The chapter and verse divisions in the Bible often give a wrong impression. This is a good example. Do we think we have made an important discovery when we link 6:1 to 5:26? Of course, what Paul says here is linked to what he wrote immediately prior to it.

Because there is a tendency among those who believe to still be "caught off guard", then we should prepare ourselves to respond in ways that respect our created and redeemed inter-dependence. The Spirit's fruit is shown to us in our life-together. We corporately need that fruit displayed for the time when temptations come and we blunder down wrong paths.

This then is an important part of the walk. We walk together. Paul gives no ground for one member establishing him/herself at the expense of other members. Self-conceit, provocation, competitivism, envy are all manifestations of the flesh and thus cannot build us in our lives together.

The path of the Spirit on which we walk in step (STOIKOOMEN) (5:25) - contrasting with the "ways of the world" (4:3,9 STOIKEIA TOU KOSMOU) - does not fragment into each member asserting his or her priority (6:3). Instead, the focus is upon what Paul discusses elsewhere as the normal functioning of the "body of Christ". Without this insight there seems to be a contradiction between: "Bear each others loads and in so doing you will fulfil the law of Christ" and "For each person will carry their own load".

The focus is upon the Spirit's community. "Those blundering" are to be treated with gentleness (5:23 and 6:2). Paul has addressed a church full of blunderers. Jews and Gentiles are to walk in step with the Spirit. Indeed this confirms the teaching of Jesus that it will be the "gentle" (PRAUETETOS) who inherit the earth, and is consistent with James that it is they who constitute the receptive ground for the seed of God's word (James 1:21).

The new complexity in the relationships that the Spirit maintains means that if one stumbles, there are fellows to provide support, but the potential to stumble cuts into the path of all. That is why it is the occasion of self-reappraisal (verse 2).

If one through a blundering trespass is cut off, bridges have to be built to restore this person to the true ground for unity. Presumably, temptations to adopt a divisive ethic are going to persist even after this recent zealot threat has been overcome.

Instead of self-assertiveness - the futile effort to make oneself a 'legend in one's own lunch-box' - there arises a gentle and careful stewardship of each other in a God-given network of inter-dependence.

There is simply no ground for any one member presuming to have achieved something purely on their own - any self-examination of one's own work will, as Paul says elsewhere, lead to the question, "What do I have that I have not received?" And so, in the context of sharing such a deep level of self- criticism, the Spirit Himself opens the way by which each carries his / her own load. This is nothing other than the law of Christ manifest in the life of the believing people of God. It calls forth a song of praise: "I have seen a limit to all perfection; but Your commandments, Lord, are very broad" (Psalm 119:96).