Gospel Shaped Community (5:26-6:10)
Bible Passage: Galatians 5:26-6:10
In the final chapter of Galatians, Paul turns to the community life of the church. He has spent most of the letter urging them not to turn away from the gospel to a false teaching that would insist on believers observing the law. The gospel that he has so strongly contended for is one that is lived out in the way we relate to one another as the family of God. In this passage, Paul shares some of the ways this new life in community is to be lived out.
It’s not a Competition (v26): Verse 26 follows on the heels of Paul’s instructions to be guided by the Spirit. The three linked commands given are to not become conceited, not competing against one another and not envy one another. When our lives are lived on the basis of the law then it is easy to see how we can be competitive and want to put ourselves ahead at the expense of others and take pride in our own achievements. Because of the gospel, our own accomplishments are not what matters, so there is no need to glory in them nor to compare them with the accomplishments of other people. Rather we can recognise what the Spirit is doing in the lives of one another and celebrate those things.
Gently Restore (v1): There will inevitably be circumstances where somebody is caught in sin. This presents a number of possible problems for the rest of the community. One is that the issue will be allowed to continue unchallenged, another is that it will be dealt with in a proud and unloving manner, and another still is that it will spread and others in the church will fall into the same sin. Paul’s instruction is clear and direct: that those who have received the Spirit should get involved. The purpose should not be condemnation or judgmentalism but a desire to see the person restored. The manner should not be harsh or mean-spirited but gentle. And the attitude should not be holier-than-thou but taking great care not to fall into the same temptation.
Bear Each Other’s Burdens (v2): This is a simple but powerful instruction. Everybody in the community has different challenges and struggles, and the purpose of being community is helping one another with whatever is going on. These may be practical needs, financial issues, prayer requests, pastoral needs, desires for friendship or many other things. As a community we are to be there for one another and meet the needs that each other has. This is in contrast to what Jesus said about the Pharisees in Matt 23:4, who placed heavy burdens onto people but did nothing to lift them.
Be Humble (v3-5): These verses address the issue of how we perceive ourselves. Verse 3 speaks to having a too high view of the self, which is something that can easily come in a legalistic environment. Verse 4 follows on by focussing on comparison. It can be easy to assess the things that somebody else has been doing in addition to our own works, and this can cause us to become proud. However, this is not what we are called to do. We should simply continue ‘carrying our own load’ as verse 5 puts it, with no place for pride or for comparison.
Be Generous (v6): The point of verse 6 is generosity, and in this context it is particularly referring to financial support for ministers of the word. This is a principle that it taught throughout the New Testament. It is good for all believers to give regularly and generously to their local church to ensure the Bible is well taught, the people are cared for and the lost are reached in their community and beyond.
Keep Going In Faith (v7-10): These verses return to the issue that has been at the heart of Paul’s thinking through the letter; the flesh versus the Spirit. Whichever of the two we sow into now is what we will reap a harvest from later. Sowing into the ways of the flesh will simply lead to an abundance of corruption, but sowing into the Spirit leads to eternal life. The application of this is found in verse 9 and 10, that we are not to grow weary of doing good and working for the good of all, especially the family of faith. It can be easy to tire of doing the same good things over and over again, but we should remember that God sees it all and God will reward it all.
- Ask people to reflect on whether Paul’s vision for the gospel being lived out in community is true in their life. What steps could they take to make it more so?
- Invite people to reflect on these six points about the community life of the church and ask the Holy Spirit to highlight one of them for them to take a particular action to put into practice.
- Pray for the Spirit to draw near to and strengthen any who are feeling a weariness in doing good.