Studies in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians
by Bob Burridge ©2017
Lesson 16: Galatians 6:6-10 (video)
Doing Good in God’s Kingdom
While we need to be careful about dangers from outside the church as they work against God’s truth, we also need to be careful about our own conduct within the church.
In this last chapter of Paul’s letter to the Galatians there are some final admonitions to the churches of Galatia. They are preserved for us here in our Bibles so we can learn from them too.
Paul reminded the church that it should support those doing the work of the teaching ministry.
6. Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.
When the church neglects the way God set it up to operate, it can’t do its work effectively.
There was a time in the history of Israel when the people neglected the church in its Old Testament form. They directed their efforts and resources to their own needs first. They stopped prioritizing the work of God’s Kingdom in their lives. They worked on their own homes and businesses (certainly good and right things to do), but they made the mistake of putting those needs first in their lives. Times were hard so they withheld the tithe as the first item in their personal budgets. This left the place of worship underfunded, and her ministers underpaid. With a weakened church corruption grew around them, and in their own lives too.
In the time of the Apostles the church in the region of Galatia was neglecting good teachings. The main point of the book of Galatians was to correct the error of the legalists, the Judaizers. Like so many still today, they believed that their own deeds were necessary for their guilt to be removed. But the Bible always taught that we are redeemed by grace alone. Being made right with God is the work of the promised Savior alone, and is applied individually by faith alone.
The Greek word “kataeche-o” (κατηχέω) is translated here as “taught” and “teaches”. Only the grammatical form is different in each case. Our words “catechize” and “catechism” come from this same Greek word. We need to be taught about God’s truth and promises, and about how we should then live as Redeemed children of God. But when God’s people aren’t taught well, they fall for cute stories, and a religion of self-effort.
In 2 Timothy 4:2-5 Paul encouraged Timothy to focus on the teaching part of his ministry: He said, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
The teaching ministry of the church is the primary work of its called and ordained Elders. All Elders are to be teachers. That’s the main distinctive of their job description in the Bible. Some Elders are more extensively trained to analyze the Scriptures carefully, to teach the people during worship and in classes, and to oversee the administration of the Sacraments. These are often called Pastors or Teaching Elders because they shepherd God’s people in the ways God said. The other Elders are Ruling Elders who apply God’s teachings to church policies and practices. But all Elders are to be careful instructors of God’s word to the people.
Good teaching isn’t easy work, and it’s not done with just anecdotes or with tricky rhyming words. Every Scripture passage needs to be carefully, cautiously studied as it was originally written. The setting has to be understood, and how it all fits in with the rest of Scripture. Elders have a high level of responsibility and answer to God for everything they teach.
It was the failure of the local Elders that let the heretics deceive the Galatian churches. The first part of this Epistle was taken up with correcting their misguided teachings. In this part it’s about how they are able to do their work.
The Elder’s work of teaching God’s word isn’t considered to be labor for their provisions. Their work was not forbidden on the Sabbath. It’s service for God’s Kingdom. But those who teach in the church are to be provided for. That responsibility falls upon those who learn, those guided by the church teachers.
Paul took this up in 1 Timothy 5:17-18, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
The Reformed commentator John Gill commented on Galatians 6:6 concerning those who teach. He said, “… such as are under their instructions ought to impart of their worldly substance to them, for their honourable and comfortable support and maintenance; for since they spend their time, and make use of their talents, gifts, and abilities, for their instruction in spiritual things, it is but reasonable (and no such great matter) that they partake of their carnal things; and especially since it is the will and ordinance of Christ, that they that preach the Gospel should live of it.”
There is a connection between all human efforts and their results.
7. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
8. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
Those who do the work of planting crops, reap the results of their labor. This is so plain in God’s creation that to think otherwise is to mock God the Creator. This basic economic principle applies to all those who work for us, including those who teach and guide us in the church.
“Sowing to the flesh” is used here the same way it was earlier in this epistle. It’s not about physical labor. It’s labor that ignores the spiritual dimension of all things. It caters only to our physical concerns. So “sowing to the Spirit” also follows what Paul explained before in chapter 5. It means laboring with the spiritual dimensions of life in mind. It works to promote the honor of God, and to represent his teachings and ways accurately.
Doing what’s truly good is evidence of God’s work of grace in the sower’s life. It shows that they are redeemed, and therefore will reap everlasting life as God promised. God rewards all faithful labor. We should also reward those who labor for us. The people should do all they can to free up the Elders to engage in careful study of God’s word so they can teach responsibly.
But we should be careful not to grow tired of doing good.
9. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
10. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Laboring for God’s Kingdom is our purpose on earth. It’s our obligation, and ought to be our joy. The principle here is much larger than the support of good teaching in the church.
In doing good, we should not let ourselves become discouraged or disheartened. Like any work we do, even in doing good things, we can get discouraged at times. We have to work with limited time, limited resources, limited strength, and limited abilities. Each of these needs to be budgeted very carefully so that we don’t neglect our obligations, and so we don’t become frustrated by doing more than is reasonable.
One of the most common problems brought to Pastors for personal counseling is the discouragement people feel when they get overwhelmed even by good things. You can’t do everything you might want to do. You can’t own everything your heart desires. You can’t be an expert or even competent at everything you try to do. And you can’t support every charity, ministry, and cause that comes along. Knowing your limitations is as important as knowing your opportunities.
We need to set reasonable goals where we prioritize our duties to Christ and to his church. Then we need to make sure we care for our families and loved ones. After that you budget your resources to best use and enjoy the blessings God provides.
But don’t give in to evil temptations that lure you to use what God gives you unwisely. When it warns us not to “lose heart”, it literally says not to “faint/relax” (the actual Greek word for “heart” isn’t there in the original text). Keep on track with your budget of time, resources, strengths, and abilities without getting discouraged.
There are obstacles sent particularly to discourage us from advancing God’s Kingdom. Evil is coordinated by the Great Deceiver and by our own fallen nature to distract us from honoring God’s ways. Many have been lured away by material goals, popularity, — even by family.
God’s priorities are the good things Paul is writing about here. Hard times economically or personally are never good reasons to abandon our obligations in God’s Kingdom. God’s truth, glory, and people need to be our focus while we live here on earth. Our families and friends should be cared for, and encouraged to do the same. Only then, when we’ve done those things, can we morally use our resources for other matters. Then we can enjoy those blessings beyond our needs and obligations without guilt or distraction.
Every opportunity should be grasped and used to it’s fullest potential. In 1 Corinthians 15:58 the same Apostle said, Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Sometimes, the work we do for our provisions and for others isn’t well rewarded visibly. But the best rewards are those that are yet to come. God never goes back on his promise to reward his people eternally.
That you are rewarded at all is because of the work Christ did in redeeming you, and because of the good he did which by grace is credited to you. But once redeemed, God calls you to responsible Kingdom Citizenship.
Reach out to the world God sends you into every day. Promote his truth and glory and develop the Holy Spirit’s fruit in your life. Do your part to preserve the peace and purity of the church.
Then Paul adds: “… especially to those who are of the household of faith.” We have a special duty to do what’s right and good toward those in the church. The household of faith is our spiritual family. We need to look upon the needs of other believers as a priority over those who are yet without Christ. We need to be sure of our care for those in our church family.
We need to plan our time, resources, strength, and abilities to put them to good and faithful use to promote Christ’s Kingdom and church with nothing else getting in the way. As we serve we need to give thankful praise to the one who made us and redeemed us by grace.
(The Bible quotations are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.)