by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 1 Study # 2 September 1, 2013 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
(289)Thesis:The Law of the Christ is basic Christianity 101.
Introduction:With Galatians 6:1-5, Paul, for the first time in Galatians, actually delves into "believing responsibility" in respect to others. There are other "commands" in Galatians, but they mostly deal with issues that have to do with personal responsibilities in respect to one's own "spiritual life". In this present paragraph Paul moves from his focus upon the Galatians in respect to their relationship to the God of grace to a focus upon the Galatians in respect to their relationships with each other. It seems rather significant that it took five chapters to make a case for walking in the grace of God by the Spirit of God before there was any detailed instruction regarding the believer's interaction with others in the Church. At least one conclusion seems obvious: one's own relationship with God needs to be "on track" before anyone attempts to get others to get their relationships with God "on track". This is the essence of the "physician heal thyself" principle (Luke 4:23), and it highlights the tendency everyone has to try to get "others" to do what is right without being more concerned with doing what is right.
I. The Undergirding Reality: the Law of the Christ.
A. The "Law" as an inviolable principle of Life.
1. Paul's focus upon "Law" in Galatians has been predominantly negative because he has been combatting the notion that "Law" can and should be used to insist upon certain behavior issues in the "do this" and "do not do that" format.
2. It is interesting that in our present text, he actually makes a "Law" the basis for his command.
a. Because "Law" can be used to signal different things in different settings, we need to be clear on what Paul's is calling "the Law of the Christ".
b. The "Law of Gravity" is not the same thing as "the law of the land"; one declares an operating principle of the created universe and the other declares what the courts of a given governmental structure will enforce in terms of one's behavior.
c. Paul apparently assumed that the Galatians would "track with him" in his move from the concept of "perform or else" to the concept of "inviolable operational principles that make behaviors effective, ineffectual, or, even, destructive".
3. Paul's reference to "the Law of the Christ" is a reference to the way "the Christ" has set the universe up to run effectively.
B. The "Law" as the principle of "gracious self-sacrifice for another's sake".
1. In attempting to define "the Law of the Christ", one has "options".
a. We can simply "guess" and insert our opinion into the text.
b. We can look at the focus of the context to see what Paul, without further explanation, assumes that context will lead us to think.
2. The focus of "Galatians" is one: faith in God means seeing Him as a gracious Person whose values and truths reach out to others for their benefit.
a. "Christ crucified" is the heart of this letter as well as Paul's overall ministry (1 Corinthians 2:2).
b. "Christ crucified", then, is the heart of "the Law of the Christ".
c. "The Law of the Christ" can be defined, then, as that principle wherein a person seeks the benefit of another without restraints imposed by the actions of that "other" [putting one's self on the line for the sake of another without regard for whether that "other" deserves it].
1) There are limits created by the responses of the "others" (Matthew 10:14).
a) In the "fruit of the Spirit" realities, "longsuffering" is the foremost requirement, followed by gentleness and kindness.
b) This means that those "limiting responses" probably need to be allowed to become patterns and not simply one-time events.
2) These limits are "after the fact" issues, not "before the fact guides" (in our dealings with those who need what we offer but do not appear to want it, we never know which of our actions will lead to good ends and which will not).
II. The Requirement Imposed by "the Law of the Christ".
A. The description of the requirement: bear one another's burdens.
B. The meaning of the requirement: taking on the weight that rests upon the shoulders of another.
1. The issue of "burdens" is the presence of a metaphorical weight that is seen as inescapable.
a. Paul's word choice is that of a word that is never used in the New Testament in a literal, physical sense.
b. The contexts invariably use "weight"/"burden" in non-physical settings to generate a mental image of something that has to be carried about.
c. Typically, the idea is negative except in one text (2 Corinthians 4:17).
d. The metaphor is that of "responsibility" that "weighs" heavily upon the one upon whose "shoulders" it rests.
2. The verb used in this text has no automatic sense of "significant weight" (one can "bear" a feather, or millstone); it simply means that the thing "borne" is not carrying itself along [Paul used this verb in Galatians 6:17 to refer to scars in his physical flesh].
3. A case could be made for the idea that 6:1 creates a "burden" for those who are "spiritual".
a. There is a reason that the activity enjoined by Paul is this text is often ignored by a large block of "spiritual leaders".
b. That reason is this: attempting to deal with those who have succumbed to temptation is a taxing activity.
c. However, the entire issue of being "spiritual" is one of having "taken up one's cross to follow the example of Christ in His 'grace' dealings with others".
d. So, in reality, the "burden" of obedience to Paul's insistence is only such for those who are not really "spiritual" [A kindred text is John's "His commandments are not grievous" (1 John 5:3): that is only true for those who have actually bought into "the love of God"].
e. Yet, Paul's "ye which are spiritual" is plural so that the restoration of a deceived brother automatically suggests several "brethren" who are bearing each other's "burden" in the attempt to relieve the deceived brother's "burden".
1) No one enjoys having to deal with transgressing brothers (the task is a "burden").
2) But when there are several who are willing to put their shoulders to the task that "burden" is significantly less weighty.