Sunday, July 22, 2007

6:6-10 Supporting the Minister

6 One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.

After giving the theological teaching about the need to cling to life in the Spirit and salvation by faith, rather than by works and rituals, Paul, in chapter 6 makes a series of practical applications of this truth. Paul has discussed restoring those caught in sin, bearing the loads of others, and testing your own work without comparing it to the work of others.

Verse 6 seems a bit out of place here in this discussion of the Spirit versus the flesh. It seems to interrupt the flow, and, I think, has caused many to misinterpret the following verses as being part of the same subject as verse 6, as opposed to part of the larger discussion of walking in the Spirit rather than walking in the flesh.

So, verse 6 says that those who are taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. 1 Corinthians 9 also reflects on this. There Paul said:

3 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, [1] as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?

8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?

Jesus taught this same principle, by the way. In Luke 10:1-7, when Jesus sent out The Seventy, he told them to stay in one house when they came to a town and to eat and drink what they gave them, because a laborer was worthy of his wages. In 1 Corinthians 9:14, Paul said the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

6:7-9 Sowing and Reaping

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.

In verse 7, Paul returned to his original topic of walking by the Spirit instead of by the flesh. He is tying together his teaching on the fruits of the Spirit and the practical applications he has been giving. He gave it to us in plain terms. If we sow to the flesh, we will inherit corruption. But if we sow to the Spirit, we will inherit eternal life. In Romans 2:5-10, Paul said:

5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking [or sow to the flesh] and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good...

In Romans 8:6, he said the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.

This is really the message of Psalm 1:

1:1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Further, we cannot mock God by sowing to the flesh, yet expecting or claiming to reap from the Spirit. We cannot fool God. 1 Chronicles 28:9 says the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. Luke 16:15 says God knows your hearts. We also cannot mock God by claiming to be a Christian saved by faith while really believing in salvation by works or ritual.

This farming metaphor would be striking to Paul’s audience. They were much more in tune with the growing of food than we are in the city. If you sowed corn, you reaped corn, not wheat. This was a metaphor they could readily understand.

In the context of the Paul’s teaching here, sowing to the flesh is believing in justification by works, by ritual circumcision and obeying the Jewish law. Some had sowed to that, and they reaped corruption, backbiting, devouring each other, spying on each other’s liberty, using deceptive tactics to introduce the false gospel, boasting about the number of their converts, acting in envy, creating factions, causing dissension, and all the other works or fruit of the flesh. God will not accept or honor this.

These verses are often misused, saying that if we sow by giving to a particular ministry or preacher, we will reap, that is, gain financially from giving financially. But, I think this is taking the verse on sowing and reaping out of its context.

In verse 9, Paul said not to grow weary in doing good. “Doing good” means believing the gospel and sowing to the Spirit. Why should we not give up? Because we look forward to the time of harvest, the “proper time” Paul mentions, meaning, I think, when he returns. That is the time of our reward. Jesus made that clear in his parables. Judgment and reward come after his return and the resurrection. This again is a rebuttal to the prosperity gospel. Our time of reward is in eternity, not on this temporal earth.

Jesus did good while he was here on earth. He preached, he cast out demons (Matthew 9:1), he raised the dead (Matthew 9:18-26) and fed the hungry. Jesus account of the final judgment in Matthew 25:31-46 shows the righteous will be known by feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and imprisoned. Paul lived this out also, taking up a collection for the Jerusalem church.

We are to do good to each other. Doing good is part of sowing to the Spirit.
The Judaizers, or legalists, may devour each other alive as they manifest the fruit of the flesh, but we help each other. Legalists divide, we build up.

6:11-18 Final Thoughts

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 [2] 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 is signing the letter himself, using large letters. I think this means Paul dictated the rest of the letter to a scribe, but from here to the end he writes in his own hand to emphasize the main point of the letter.

That point is made in verses 12-16. It is to resist ritual circumcision and the imposition of the law. In verse 12, Paul disparaged the motives of the Judaizers. He said they wanted to avoid persecution for the cross. They wanted to fit in with the Jews, and avoid conflict with the Romans, who allowed Jewish worship.

In verse 13, Paul went even further, saying they do not even keep the law themselves. Jesus criticized the Pharisees for this also. Rather, they just want to boast that they subjugated Gentiles to Judaism.

In verse 14, Paul contrasted his motives and attitudes. He would not boast in the flesh, only in the cross of Christ. The cross leaves no room for pride, it only speaks of our weakness and need.

The only thing that matters is a new creation. It does not matter if you are circumcised or not, only if you are born again.

Paul wished peace on all who follow this rule, even Israel, meaning his persecutors.

Finally, Paul sealed the letter with the authority gained by suffering – he bore the marks of suffering for Jesus on his body.
This is the end of the study in Galatians. Our next study will be in 1 Samuel.
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