November 12, 2017

Yes, You Are Your Brother’s Keeper

Galatians 5:26-6:5

The relationship between the first brothers in the Bible did not turn out well!  Abel ends up dead at the hands of his brother.  Cain ends up cursed by God.  In the middle of the drama the Lord asks Cain where his brother is to which Cain responds “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  God does not dignify Cain with an answer to this question but throughout the pages of Scripture, including our passage this week, we see that the answer is a resounding yes!  Not only are you your brother’s keeper, you should be ready to bear his burdens.  Even when your brother is caught in sin and you feel justified in condemning him, you are called not to judge him but to restore him.  You are your brother’s keeper!

#1 What We Are Not To Do

Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.  Galatians 5:26

Before Paul affirms positively what we are to do with our brothers, he first tells us what not to do.  It is important to remember as well what preceded this verse.  Paul says in verse 25 that we are to keep in step with the Spirit.  Lest we think that keeping in step with the Spirit is just about some internal personal piety, Paul points us in this verse to our relationship with others.

Let us not become conceited.  The word in Greek for conceited is kenodoxos.  It is used only here in the New Testament and could literally be translated “empty glory.”  This is “groundless conceit”, someone who has “delusions of grandeur.”  Or as Paul will puts it a few verses later this is someone who “thinks he something, when he is nothing.”

Provoking one another.  Conceit which is an attitude of the heart works itself out in two directions.  First, if I think of myself as superior to someone I will be led to provoke them.   The connotation here is to call someone out, to challenge them.  I am better than you and I will prove it.

Envying one another.  On the other hand if I am full of conceit but come across someone who I perceive to be superior to me, I will be led to envy that person.  It interesting to note that Paul traces both envy and provocation back to conceit.  The root issue in both instances is pride – that we think too much of ourselves.

#2 What We Are To Do

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

So Paul says let us not provoke one another, let us not envy one another but rather let us bear one another.  That is let us bear the burdens of our brothers (and sisters).  In doing this we will fulfill the law of Christ.  Remember that Paul said back in Galatians 5:14 that the whole law was fulfilled by loving our neighbor as ourself.  Now back in the Gospels it is recorded that Jesus said the first commandment was to love God and the second was to love others.  Why does Paul leave out love for God?  Why does he say here bearing one another’s burdens (and not love for God) fulfills the law of Christ?  Because I cannot truly love God if I do not also love my neighbor.  Love for God is expressed (not exclusively of course) in love for my neighbor.

#3 How We Are To Do It

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.  Galatians 6:1

Paul shows us here how we are to bear one another’s burdens.

Brothers.  Or as the NIV puts it “brothers and sisters.” Paul reminds those who belong to Jesus that they also belong to one another.  Your siblings have a claim on you.

If anyone is caught in any transgression.   That is to say if a brother is overtaken by some sin.  This is an acknowledgment again that we continue to wrestle with the sin nature even after we come to faith.

You who are spiritual.  Who are the spiritual ones?  Those who have had some special experience with God?  Been ordained for ministry?  No.  This refers back to chapter 5 – those who have the Holy Spirit.  Those who are living by the Spirit and keeping in step with the Spirit.  This is a recognition that bringing someone to repentance is a spiritual activity.  It is the work of God the Holy Spirit.

Should restore him.  Not belittle or condemn him for falling into such a sin.  Not ignore him. Not go and tell others.    Not give him a piece of your mind.  But rather we work to bring the fallen brother to full restoration.

In a spirit of gentleness. Gentleness which was previously listed as a fruit of the Spirit.  Gentleness means we do not correct someone out of anger. We have a spirit of understanding and compassion.

Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.   All the while we are keeping watch on ourself.  We are reminded that Jesus told us first to remove the plank from our own eye before we attempt to remove the speck from our neighbor’s eye.  Jesus was not forbidding us from correcting our brothers but rather telling us we need to first deal with our own sin.  That is what Paul is saying here.

#4 Why We Might Have Difficulty in Doing It

3For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5For each will have to bear his own load.  Galatians 6:3-5

What would keep someone from bearing the burdens of another?  Thinking too highly yourself.  (Or as Paul put it earlier in the passage becoming conceited.)  If I am so puffed up with pride, rather than helping a brother in  need, I will be more likely to condemn him.  I will delight that his sin is finally being found out.  We are self-deceived if this is our pattern of thinking.  Paul says we must think of ourselves in the right way.

Verse 4 sounds a little confusing.  The NIV translation is helpful here: “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.”  Paul is calling us to think soberly about ourselves so that we might see ourselves accurately.  We should test our own actions measuring them not against the actions of another but by Scripture.  Then if we have any reason to boast, we will boast in ourselves not in our neighbor.

Paul concludes “for each will have to bear his own load.”  Is he contradicting what he previously said about bearing one another’s burdens?  The Greek is helpful here. The word for burden back in verse 2 has the connotation of being a very heavy weight–something that cannot be carried alone.  The word for load here in verse 5 could be translated “backpack” or “luggage.”  It is much lighter weight.  What do we learn?  First, in our effort to bear one another’s burden, we are not taking all of the weight on ourself since there is a load even the fallen brother will have to carry.  Second, we recognize that even as we are attempting to restore a fallen brother, that we too have a load to carry for ourselves.

We are reminded in all things that we are to cast “all our anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).”  And that Jesus himself says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28).”  We can carry the burdens of others, we can carry our own load, only because He ultimately carries it all.  Jesus and Jesus alone carries on his shoulders the penalty for our transgressions.  We cannot carry that load for someone else.  We dare not carry it for ourselves.  This is taken to the cross. And at the cross we find the spiritual strength to bear one another’s burden and indeed to carry our own load.

Discussion Questions

Thank you Pastor Dave for posting the questions this week!

Read Galatians 5:26. Keeping in step with the Spirit affects our relationship with others.  What are we not to do? How does pride show itself in both provoking and envying one another?

Read Galatians 6:1-2. What must we do if someone is caught in sin? What must we not do (see the blog)? How must we do it? Are those who are spiritual less prone to temptation?

Read verse 3. George MacDonald once wrote, “For the greatest rascal in creation there is yet a worse condition, and that is not to know it, but to think oneself a respectable man….except a man has God dwelling in him, he may be, or may become, capable of any crime within the compass of human nature.” How am I tempted to take pride in myself? Why is this wrong? See Jeremiah 9:23-24.

Read verses 4-5. Notice that verse 2 mentions bearing one another’s burdens, but verse 5 talks about bearing our own load. How is a load different than a burden? Which is heavier (see the blog)? Am I trusting that Jesus is giving me a load that is exactly right for me at this time? How does it affect my brothers and sisters if I don’t carry my own load? See 2 Corinthians 5:10.


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