Return to Study Guide for Galatians -by Don Kugelberg, Long Beach, California USA
Spirituality is a hot topic these days. Everyone is interested in the topic but it seems none agree on how to find it. A search on Amazon.com reveals 5,271 books alone which cover the topic of spirituality. Some of the titles include: Spirituality for Dummies; Essential Spirituality, The Seven Central Practices to Awaken Heart and Mind; and Mother Earth Spirituality: Native American Paths to Healing Ourselves and Our World.
One of the strange things about the quest for Spirituality is that many want to become spiritual without connecting to the Holy Spirit. Here’s a quote from the introduction to Spirituality for Dummies:
My goal is for this book to be accessible to seekers from all walks of life and from all faiths – including those with no religious orientation at all. This book focuses on nondenominational spirituality, and is therefore intended to resonate with all doctrines and paths.
Even within the church itself, there is widespread confusion about the meaning of true spirituality. Some try to find it in acts of private devotion, seeing the path as intensely private. This is not a new trend.
The Desert Fathers were founded by Simeon the Stylite in 423. He built a short pillar at the edge of the desert in Syria and spent the next six years on top of it. He explained that he was a simple Christian who wanted to commune with God in solitude. Living on the pole was his way of separating himself from the world and its distractions. His tradition continues on in the Monks who live and worship at the “Monastery of Christ in the Desert” based in New Mexico.
For others, Spirituality begins in the church, where public worship which includes liturgy, candles, burning incense and chants drives their experience. Still others look for a more exciting spirituality and look for an encounter with the Holy Spirit through miraculous healings or speaking in tongues. They divide the church up between those who speak in tongues and those who do not.
All of the examples above are based on the notion that spirituality is something we define for ourselves. We tend to define spirituality by the things that we do which cause us to feel “spiritual”. It is something that we produce within us through some ritual or method.
Paul’s letter to the Galatians speaks of Spirituality in an entirely different light. Paul said that spirituality is based on our relationship with a Holy God who produces his character in us through the working of the Holy Spirit. He draws a stark contrast between what we produce on our own:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
And those produced in us by the Holy Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The Holy Spirit does not produce these fruits for our own gratification but rather to be exercised in our lives. In the next section we look at this morning, we begin to see how Paul takes the Galatians from the abstract to the concrete as he instructs them on how the indwelling of the Holy Spirit should come to bear on their situation.
It is important that we see the tie between 5:25 and the balance of the passage we read. Please note that a new paragraph begins in the 25th verse and continues through verse 5. In Paul’s letter, this formed one thought. Verses 6 through 10 form the accompanying thoughts. Following the grammatical construction is important. Chapter divisions which came later for convenience can distract us from the author’s intention.
If we divorce the end of chapter 5 from the beginning of chapter 6, it looks like Paul is presenting the church with a series of unrelated instructions for living while, in fact, what Paul is doing is applying how the fruits of the Spirit are to be manifested in the context of their situation.
Note that in 5:15 Paul said “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” One can see the division as the Judaizers corrupt the teaching of the true gospel and push their agenda. This indicates the church’s condition as Paul pens his letter. He returns to the thought in 5:26 “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
This is a graphic picture in the Greek. Paul says “Don’t become conceited, challenging each other, envying one another.” We adopt these attitudes in the flesh. We feel either one of two ways. If we see ourselves as superior to another we challenge them because we want them to know and feel our elevation over them. If we feel, on the other hand, inferior, them we envy those in what we perceive as a higher position.
This is exactly what was happening in the Galatian church. Each side though it had the superior position and this was ripping the church apart. Notice Paul’s reference further on in the passage:
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
In Numbers 12:3 it tells us “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.”
Here was a man who through God’s power led 2,000,000 jews out of Egyptian slavery and brought the most powerful nation on earth at that time to its knees. In Numbers 12 shows Moses under attack.
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it.
These verses immediately precede the verse calling Moses humble and are an example illustrating how humble Moses was. Stuart Briscoe commenting on this section said:
He chose to show great strength and reserve…He held his peace…Moses made no attempt to explain his unique status with God. In fact, we would never have known about it if God himself has not taken Moses’ critics to one side and set the record straight. It takes a certain kind of restraint and strength to refuse to brag, to live humbly with honor, and to choose not to use weapons of defense that would blow the opposition out of the water.
Read Numbers 12:4-14. Not only does Moses not defend himself, he beseeched the Lord to remove Miriam’s punishment! He exhibited what Paul called gentleness and one of the commentators defined as strength under control. It is what Paul has in view in
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.
Moses did not gloat over his position. God Almighty had defended him and smote Miriam with leprosy as a warning to the nation of what would happen to those who spoke against the Lord’s anointed. He exhibited strength under control. He kept watch over himself and did not allow his pride to cause him to fall.
Paul speaks of lovingly restoring those who are caught in any transgression and watching our attitude that we not consider ourselves morally superior which is pride. Paul tells the Galatians that they should “Bear one another’s burdens.” The burden illustrated in the Greek is one that is too heavy to be borne alone. This contrasts with verse 5 where he says “For each will have to bear his own load” and the load pictured there is backpack sized. People who are proud do not generally bear another’s burden. They think more in terms of being catered to.
Paul’s admonition to carry one’s own burdens are balanced by the recognition of some who in fulfilling their mission to the church need special support from the whole church. These are a special case whose financial burden is meant to be carried by the church at large.
One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.
I again, present the position that Paul raises this point as something that needs to be corrected in the church at Galatia at that moment.
Perhaps those presenting the gospel were not being supported by the church and therefore could not adequately defend against the Judaizers.
He then continues by saying:
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for 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.
Notice that this passage directly relates to the previous. Although it is an overarching spiritual principle that God cannot be mocked – it relates specifically here to the support of teachers in the church. If the Galatians do not support the teaching of the Word in their midst they will pay the consequences (as they already are).
Laws of the Harvest
1. We harvest what we plant.
2. We harvest in a different season then we sow.
3. We always harvest more than we plant.
4. We can do nothing about last year’s harvest, we can only influence tomorrow’s
Paul concludes with Galatians 6:10:
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Return to Study Guide for Galatians -by Don Kugelberg, Long Beach, California USA