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Lowell Brueckner

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The Spiritual Person


My comments on the book of Galatians conclude with this article. I hope they have been of use to you...

Galatians 6:1-18

1.  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. 
2.  Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
3.  For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
4.  But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 
5.  For each will have to bear his own load. 
6.  Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 
7.  Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 
8.  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. 

9.  And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 
10.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith

God is the God of restoration. Shall we term restoration a second chance? My favorite biblical example of God’s willingness to restore is that of Samson, after he miserably compromised his Nazarite secret with a foreign woman, who immediately betrayed him. As a result, the covenant hair of his head was shaved, he was taken prisoner, his eyes were put out and he was made to grind at a mill. The next verse brings tears to my eyes and hope to my heart: “But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved” (Jud.16:22). As simple as it is, I love this verse, because it reveals the nature of Samson’s God. The Holy Spirit wants to convey the fact that He is the God of restoration. The duty of the spiritual Christian is to restore a fallen brother and to do so in a spirit of gentleness.

The whole history of Israel is a testimony to God’s patience in dealing with its failures and waywardness. God Himself makes this statement: “I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed…” (Ez.34:16). It is the cause behind the fact that Christ came into the world, and therefore, it is the very reason that we have a gospel to preach and receive. Jesus declared it: “Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mt.9:13). Of course, many other examples could be given and many quotes made concerning restoration.

I was a little surprised in my study to find the example of Nathan, the prophet, dealing with King David, among the restoration cross references. It shows to us the means, by which restoration can take place. God does not grant restoration without an acknowledgment of the sin, which caused the person to stray in the first place. Under the wise direction of the Holy Spirit, Nathan very forcefully brings David’s sin to his attention, concluding, “You are the man!” (see 2 Samuel 12:1-14). David confesses, “I have sinned against the Lord” and Psalms 51 shows the depths of his remorse and repentance: “My sin is ever before me” (Ps.51:3). Nathan gently assures, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” Nathan was David’s true friend.

No one can effectually be of any real help to a friend or brother without the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. It is a spiritual person… someone who is full of God’s Spirit and is able to follow His leading… who can restore. He does this as gently and humbly as possible, because a spiritual person is also aware of his own weakness and vulnerability. He knows that he could be the one, who transgressed, just as easily as the one, who fell. I suppose many men could be given credit for a statement, which I read many years ago, concerning D. L. Moody. He and a walking companion came upon a drunk in the street and Moody made this observation to his friend, “There, were it not for the grace of God, am I.”

The same spirit also applies to bearing one another's burdens. The spiritual person sees the possibility of being under an unbearable load, just as the one, which a neighbor is bearing. There is no guarantee that sickness, financial disaster, or even more tragically, some spiritual test might strike him. Therefore, he stretches out his hand to one, who is stumbling under a burden. Even Jesus, on the way to Calvary, needed the help of Simon of Cyrene to carry His cross. It is a mutual obligation in Christ’s kingdom and it is another law of the heart. The Christian willingly gives himself to help another advance.

Probably one of the most disturbing areas of pride is that of one who “thinks he is something, when he is nothing”. Pride is ugly enough, when someone has something to brag about, but the one, who is self-deceived, overrates his wisdom, knowledge and spirituality, in general. He thinks himself well capable of handling any situation, when in truth, he is deficient. Spiritual pride not only occurs in individuals, but to bodies of Christians, as well, such as the Laodicean church: “I have need of nothing” (Rev.3:17). They thought outside help was not necessary for them, when in truth, they were the weakest, most needy, and most miserable in the eyes of Christ. God hates this attitude.

Concerning such a situation, verse four is interesting and helpful. The apostle invites the believer to a sincere evaluation of his condition. It can only take place in the Spirit and only by someone, who is willing to humble himself and be totally honest. This is a person with an open Bible, willing to study the Word and then, in earnest prayer, look at himself with the same seriousness, with which he will one day stand before Christ. If he is honest and humble, he will get an accurate assessment from the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, he will be able to rejoice, if he sees that he has been useful. There is nothing wrong with the honest satisfaction of being a faithful servant. If you find this to be truly the case, my friend, humbly rejoice in it! In this same context, he can recognize an individual usefulness, and not only that which comes, because he is associated with a good team… “his reason to boast will be in himself alone.” Notice the Corinthian boast: “‘I follow Paul’, or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or “I follow Cephas’” (1 Co.1:12).

Burden is the word translated in verse 2 and load is used in the ESV in verse 5. Burden in verse 2 refers to going down under a weight. In verse 5, Paul is continuing from his last thought in verse 4, in which each one is encouraged to look singularly at his own Christian service. This word means task or service. Most of the commentators, to whom I refer, relate this verse, in one degree or another, to the Judgment Seat of Christ. Everyone will stand alone on that day and “will give an account of himself to God” (Ro.14:12).

An important part of the Christian life is the ability to discern priorities and put them in their proper place. The religious people of Christ’s day had a serious deficiency in this area, “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel” (Mt.23:24). In verse 6, Paul points to the value of the true teaching of the word of God and the proper appreciation that is to be shown for it.

Then, he speaks of the uncompromising law of sowing and reaping… what one sows, he will reap. He applies it to the previous subject of the flesh against the Spirit and puts it into the context of these verses, referring to final judgment before Christ. Someone may fool men throughout his life, but “God is not mocked”. To try to serve Him in a fleshly manner, is mockery to His holy majesty. This may relate to the subject that Paul has taken in this entire epistle… that of coming under the law in an attempt to please God and obtain salvation, or any other manifestation of the flesh in divine service.

Fleshly service, in the long run, always is self-pleasing, and is a seed of corruption that will reap corruption. It means to cater to the ego, glory in its ability, and it is short-lived, though it may seem highly successful among men. The flesh is destined to destruction and so are the deeds done in the flesh.  

That which is done through the Spirit always is eternal, so the person, who walks in the Spirit, will bring forth fruit that endures. Therefore, let us not “grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up”. True spiritual seed is not only permanent, it is also certain. Someone may live a lifetime without seeing results, but if he has sown in the Spirit, the harvest will come someday. Some will live and die, without experiencing the harvest, but these will finally see the smile of Christ and hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Mt.25:23). Eternal rewards are not for the impatient, as the writer of Hebrews counsels: “You have need of endurance, so that when you done the will of God you may receive what is promised” (He.10:36).

The only way to impart good in another person’s life is through the Spirit. “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” I think of Rehab and the good done to the Israelite spies… Israel was the ‘household of faith’ in her day. God gave her that opportunity and she entered into it by faith. It was not a work of self-righteousness, an attempt to do some good deed and thereby please God. From the time that a work began in her heart, to the time that she hid the spies; from the time that she found a place in Israel, to the time when she became a human ancestor of the Messiah; and to this time, in which she rejoices in the presence of God, it was from beginning to end, all a work of the Spirit.

11.  See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 
12.  It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 
13.  For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 
14.  But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 
15.  For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 
16.  And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. 
17.  From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. 
18.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen. 

Paul generally dictated his letters and another wrote them; Paul would then add his signature. Tertius mentions himself as the writer at the end of the epistle to the Romans (Ro.16:22). However, in this case, probably to show his personal care for the Galatians and because of the criticism given him by his Judaizing opponents, he writes the letter himself. Some believe he only wrote these last verses himself and some believe that the “large letters” are due to an eye problem. He writes of a bodily ailment in 4:13 and in verse 15, he seems to hint that this illness had to do with his eyes.

The apostle shows again that the teaching of circumcision and the keeping of Moses’ law is a convenient one that compromises with the entire Judaic system (5:11). In this way, the false teachers avoid persecution from the Jews. There are always preachers and teachers, who tell people what they want to hear. Their work is done for selfish reasons and they are looking for success at the cost of truth, indicated by phrases in verse 12 and 13… “a good showing in the flesh” and “that they may boast in your flesh”. You will also notice, as is the case of all cultish leaders, that they are authoritarian manipulators: “Would force you to be circumcised”.    

Verse 14, in which Paul says that he glories only in the cross, is very significant. The true preaching of the cross was, and still is, an unpopular message. It not only presents the only way to salvation, but also, the only way to true Christian living. It is the theme of God’s strength manifested through weakness and of life gained through death. Those who live by the flesh will never want to take these measures, but Paul, taught by the Holy Spirit, sees the glory of this message.

Here, for the third time, Paul teaches the need to identify with the cross. Not only is the cross a substitutionary sacrifice, but it forever transforms the true believer. This time, Paul speaks of the cross in relation to the world. Because of the cross, “the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” It is another affront to those who like the message of liberty presented in this letter, but refuse to understand that there is a cross, standing in the way to liberty. The cross crucifies the world in the life of the Christian. He is not free to participate in the things of the world, he is freed from them. The world is not his attraction, any more than a crucified man is attractive. Notice also, that the world does not find Paul attractive. We already saw the reason in chapter 4. Paul does not own, either the personality or the message, that the world is seeking.

Verse 15 also holds a very key truth to the essence of Christianity: New birth, bringing forth a new nature, is its rule and law. No outward act or sign can ever suffice to mark the life of a believer; he must be born again (Jn.3:3)! A new mind and a new heart dwell in a true Christian and he wills and does the purposes of God. Christianity must be heart religion, performed freely by the power of a new nature.

Paul reserved his blessing for this kind of people and not for the whole of outward Christendom. Few there are, who find this way, because broad and pleasing to the natural man, is the way that the majority take. The apostle has been dealing with Judaism and now he shows, who the true Jew is. The Israel of God are those who have wrestled with the Lord and have been transformed from Jacob to Israel. Paul does not mean that God has rejected natural Israel from His plan, in any way. He gives us clear teaching of their ultimate salvation in Romans, chapter 9 through 11.

Paul bore the marks of his crucifixion physically. He holds the scars, as the consequences of being faithful to the unpopular message of the cross (see 2 Corinthians 6:4-5 and 11:23-33). All his hardships only served to soften his spirit. He communicated with his Galatian brothers from his heart to theirs. He is concerned, above all, for the welfare of their spirits, and his blessing is meant to go in that direction. Paul knows the value of the soul and spirit and that is what has motivated him to write this letter. The Holy Spirit has inspired him in order that it can be for our use today.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Co.4:16-18). 


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