In our study on Galatians 6:1-10 in the dg, we noted that all the various exhortations in this passage are positive and need to be worked out in the community of Christ, the church.

But in the discussion that follows, various ones raised the problems of carrying these out practically. For instance, to restore one who transgressed, is it better not to do anything in case of a negative reception despite doing it in gentleness; or is it better to ask someone who is in a better spiritual position to carry out the task? If by doing it, we encounter a negative response, does this mean that we should not try again should another brother or sister need correction; one member suggested that if we failed, we should try and try again, for ‘success’ might come about if we do not give up in the face of failure in previous cases.

The discussion was helpful but some may end up perplexed, wondering what we ought really to do as there may be so many options available and we may end up taking the wrong one.

It is helpful to note that Galatians 5 and 6 were penned by Paul in the context of the whole book of Galatians. Paul started this epistle by rebuking the Galatian Christians for abandoning the true gospel. In chapter 3, Paul wrote: “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by words of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (vv2-3 ESV). Notice that Paul shared that hearing with faith and responding with faith are associated with the response in the Spirit; hearing the words of the law and responding in seeking salvation by keeping the law are associated with the flesh, and this is indeed foolish!

Then in chapter 5, after affirming that we cannot be saved by works and keeping the law, and confirming that we can only be saved by faith in Christ alone, Paul went on to elaborate that the former leads to slavery whilst the latter leads to true freedom (vs 1). However, freedom does not mean licence to sin and an opportunity for the flesh (vs 13).

Instead, this freedom is manifested through loving one another (vs 13b); in fact the whole law is fulfilled in loving our neighbor as ourselves (vs14). But the flesh is seen in its ugly manifestation of ‘biting’ and ‘devouring’ one another, resulting in destruction and consuming one another (vs15).

Then Paul went on to share on ‘Walking by the Spirit”. We are familiar with the opposition of the flesh against the Spirit and vice versa, and the Apostle went on to list characteristics of the work of the flesh as contrasted with the fruit of the Spirit (nine facets but one fruit, displaying character rather than external deeds).
The next section in Chapter 6 follows: we must not forget that the exhortations in chapter 6 follows from Paul’s epistle to the Galatian Christians (i.e. the previous 5 chapters. We must look at this section in its right context: Paul is actually explaining what walking in the Spirit amounts to in practical terms and in the outworking in God’s community. Each exhortation by itself is positive and good, but it needs to be carried out in the context of walking in the Spirit, and not in the flesh. Seeking to carry out each exhortation by the flesh would spell ‘disaster’ and negative outcome.

Notice that restoring one caught in transgression should be done gently, humbly, by one who is spiritual: that means the person doing it is spiritual (implying he or she is walking in the Spirit, and led by the Spirit). Also realise that two facets of the fruit of the Spirit are gentleness (patience) and meekness (humility). Only who is led by the Spirit and is walking in the Spirit is enabled to do this effectively.

Bearing one another’s burdens is in fact an expression of love, and since the Spirit is the Spirit of love, those who are spiritual can do this wholesomely, without being taken advantage of by those who are fleshly.

The Spirit is also the Spirit of truth; hence to correct untruth and to defend the truth is part and parcel of walking in the Spirit. This explains why Paul laboured to correct the wrong gospel, even to the point of correcting Peter (this may be seen as ‘inappropriate’ by some but it is in fact Paul led by the Spirit to protect the truth of the gospel).

Doing good (that which is truly good in the eyes of God) from pure motives (‘built ‘inwardly by the Spirit) is a manifestation of true love (fulfilling the law) and definitely in line with walking by the Spirit and being led by Him.

We have to be careful to conclude that someone is walking in the Spirit or in the flesh by just looking at their outward deeds and words. Only God can see all the motives and realities in one’s heart and life.
But what is clear is this: God is not deceived, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. Hence continue to sow to the Spirit and not to the flesh and the various exhortations in 6:1-10 would be accomplished in a way that is pleasing to God.