Galatians 6:1-5, “1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5 for each one should carry his own load.”
Commentary on Galatians 6:1-5
Galatians has been called the “Magna Charta of Christian liberty.” In bold, clear strokes the Apostle Paul reveals how grace frees the Christian from law, not that we might sin, but that we might discover a new power for righteous living through faith and the Holy Spirit.
Wherever Paul went and established churches he was trailed by “Judaizers.” These were Jews—sometimes Jewish believers—who came to the newly founded churches and taught that to be a real Christian one must submit to Old Testament Law and in effect convert to Judaism. This did have a certain logic. Jesus was a Jew, and the roots of Christianity were undoubtedly Jewish. So many new Christians followed the teachings of the Judaizers. Paul vehemently rejected their “faith/works” Gospel and writes urgently to explain why mixing works with faith robs the Gospel of its power in the believer’s life.
Few New Testament books had more influence in shaping the Reformation’s rediscovery of salvation by faith alone. Martin Luther so loved the book he called it by his wife’s name because, he said, “I am wedded to it.” As important as this book has been historically, it is perhaps even more important to us as individuals. It is here we learn the futility of struggling in our own strength to do what is right. It is here we discover the freedom of being renewed from within and so enabled by God to become persons who are right: right with God and right with our neighbor through good and loving acts that express the reality of Christ alive within us. Along with Paul’s letter to the Romans, this book constitutes a complete theology of the Christian life and a guide to the source of power that we need to live that life daily.
6:1-5 In the closing verse in Chapter 5 and onward, Paul shifts gears from contrasting the work of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit, where he concludes that Christians are to live Spirit-led lives, and shares how we are to live out the life of liberty and faith in practical ways. It is easy to talk about the fruit of the Spirit while doing very little about it. Christians need to learn that it is in the concrete situations, rather than in emotional highs, that the reality of the Holy Spirit in their lives is demonstrated. One way of doing this is by carrying each other’s burdens.
6:1. Paul deals with a hypothetical case of a Christian who is caught in a sin, or better, is “caught by a sin.” The thought is that of someone running from sin but sin, being faster, overtakes and catches him. Two passages show how the legalists responded to such (cf. John 8:3–5; Acts 21:27–29). But a Christian should restore (a word used in secular Greek for setting broken bones and in the NT for mending fishing nets) him. The task of restoration is not to be undertaken by fledglings in the faith but by those who are spiritual, that is, believers who walk by the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:16), and who are mature in the faith. Furthermore, this delicate work must be done gently and with the consciousness that no one is immune from falling into sin (cf. 1 Cor. 10:12).
6:2. A serving Christian lends a helping hand with heavy loads. Though the principle would apply to all burdens the context has special reference to the heavy and oppressive weight of temptation and spiritual failure. While the “spiritual” do the work of restoring, all believers are to become involved by prayer and encouragement. This, wrote Paul, will fulfill the law of Christ, that is, the principle of love (cf. 5:14; John 13:34).
6:3–4. Something must be laid aside if a believer is to be a burden-bearer and that is conceit, an attitude that breeds intolerance of error in others and causes one to think he is above failure. The remedy for self-conceit is found in verse 4—everyone is told to test his own actions. This means that rather than comparing himself with others he should step back and take an objective look at himself and his accomplishments. Then he can take pride in himself over what God has done in and through his life (cf. Rom. 12:3). The Greek word kauchēma, rendered “pride,” means personal exultation, not sinful pride.
6:5. The Christian does in fact test himself by carrying his own load. This does not contradict verse 2 because the reference there is to heavy, crushing, loads (barē)—more than a man could carry without help. In this verse a different Greek word (phortion) is used to designate the pack usually carried by a marching soldier. It is the “burden” Jesus assigns to His followers (cf. Matt. 11:30). There are certain Christian responsibilities or burdens each believer must bear which cannot be shared with others. Jesus assured His disciples that such burdens were light.
6:5. Each one will carry his own burden. Although this verse seems to contradict v. 2, the context is different. Here Paul addresses individual accountability for doing the work of the Gospel; each believer needs to do his or her part. Verse 2 is about mutual support within the body of Christ; believers should persevere together through hardships.
Study Guide Galatians 6:1-5
- The next 8 weeks we will spend time looking at the “one anothers.” There are roughly 47 “one anothers” in the New Testament, most speak of unity, love, and humility.
- Read 1 John 3:16, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”
- What is the bottom line of this verse?
- Why is it important to understanding the “one anothers?”
- Bearing one another’s burdens. What does it mean to carry one anothers burdens? Take some time to think about and discuss all the different types of burdens people may be under.
- Why do we sometimes we find it easy to be sympathetic to others who are under heavy burdens that they did not choose…but not so much when we deem it to be “their fault?”
- Why is it important for us to understand that sharing each other’s load is not related to “whose fault it is,” but rather to the reality that someone God has given me to love needs my help? How does this change the situation?
- What did Paul mean when he says to carry one another’s burdens and then later says to carry your own burden? Is there a contradiction?
- How can pride be a barrier to carrying one anothers burden? How can it keep us from allowing others to help?
- What role does trust play in carrying others burdens?
- In what ways does authentic love expressed and experienced in real life situations over time build and strengthen trust? Give some personal examples?
- Read the following statement: When trust is present, misunderstandings can happen yet grace is given. Trust gives the benefit of the doubt. When trust is absent, everything good slows down. When trust is absent, every word and facial expression is scrutinized and held in suspicion. When trust is absent, misunderstanding is the norm, even good intentions are misjudged and rejected.
- Compare and contrast the differences between the presence and absence of trust.
- Share with the group different ways you have experienced “trust” and the difference it made in your life.
- Now consider the times of distrust in your own life… was it because of your own lack of trust? Explain why.
- Now think of you own life and consider the following question: Has God ever given you help in shouldering your burdens, but you have treated God’s provision as less than the gift of grace that it is? How so?
- Consider the power of trust. Have you done the work to earn trust? Remember that trust is earned, it is never forced on someone.
- Do you have people in your life that you trust? Why or why not? What can you do today to close the gap on trust?
Start closing the gap today between the level of trust you have with others and where it could be. Carry one another’s burdens…let others help you with yours. It will very often be inconvenient…but you are not called to a convenient life…you are called to a Christ-like life. Decide today…when I know that I should help lift up the load of another I will. Then go lived deciding how…not deciding if.