Paul has been making clear that sinners are justified — pardoned and accepted by God — through faith in Christ and not by works of the law. We receive eternal life by believing and not by doing: by believing in Christ who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age. Instead of trying to climb up to God by our good deeds and by the things we do, we’re to trust in Christ the Saviour, who suffered and died on the cross in order to bring us to God. And so, keeping the law is not the way to receive eternal life. That’s what the false teachers in Galatia were saying. They were saying you have to keep the law in order to receive eternal life. But Paul was making clear that no one will be justified by keeping the law, because the law only condemns us and it cannot save us. The law shows us our shortcomings and failures. The law shows us our sin and guilt. The law condemns us, because none of us has done or can do everything that the law requires.
And since the law condemns us, it therefore shows to us that we need a Saviour. Since the law condemns us, it therefore drives us to Christ the Saviour, who is able to save us from the law’s condemnation; and who is able to give us eternal life as a free gift. That’s what Christ does for us and for all who believe in him.
But Paul has also made clear that when we believe in Christ, not only are we justified, so that God pardons us and accepts us, but we also receive the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit works in every believer to produce his fruit in our lives and to enable us to do what the law requires, which is to love and serve our neighbour, and to live the life of heaven now.
The entire law is summed up in a single command, Paul wrote back in verse 14 of chapter 5: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ And the Holy Spirit, working in us to renew us inwardly in God’s likeness, enables us to do that more and more. And last week, Paul gave us four instructions on how to live a Spirit-filled and heavenly life now, so that we’ll love one another more and more. We’re to restore gently our fellow believers who have stumbled into sin. We’re to carry each other’s burdens. We’re not to deceive ourselves, but we’re to be humble and helpful. And we’re to test our own actions to see that they’re good and praiseworthy. That’s what we learned last week; and in today’s verses, Paul continues to instruct believers on how to live the Spirit-filled and heavenly life now.
And it begins in verse 6 with an instruction to God’s people to support those who have been set apart to preach God’s word.
Paul says in verse 6:
Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.
So, Paul assumes that there will be those among God’s people who have been set apart to teach God’s word. In other words, there will be someone who is an instructor.
And the instructor’s role is to do what? Well, it’s obvious really, but it’s important that we’re clear on it: the instructor gives instruction ‘in the word’. The word, of course, is the word of God. So, when you come to church, you should expect to hear God’s word. I am your instructor, your preacher; and my calling is not to teach you my own word. I’m not to give you my own thoughts and my own views and my own opinions and to tell you what I think. What I think will not do you much good and it will certainly not lead to salvation. No, the preacher’s calling is to preach God’s word, because the word of God contains the gospel, which is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. God’s word is a powerful word, because it’s the means he uses to create faith in the hearts of unbelievers; and by means of his word, God builds up believers in holiness and comfort, because believers are taught to be holy by God’s law and they receive comfort and encouragement from God’s promises. Remember what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians? He wrote that Christ did not send him to baptise, but to preach the gospel, because while the message of the cross seems weak and foolish to some, it is in fact the power of God for those who are being saved. And since God has promised to work in our hearts by the preaching of his word, he has set apart men to teach his word.
And here Paul tells believers who receive instruction in God’s word to share all good things with the instructor. And by ‘sharing all good things’, Paul is referring to financial support and to providing the instructor with the things necessary for life. As proof of that, there’s the parable in Luke’s gospel of the rich fool who was wondering where to store his grain and his ‘goods’, or his ‘good things’. And then there’s the parable of the rich man and Lazarus; and when the rich man died, Abraham said to him that in this life he had received his ‘good things’. So, when Paul refers to ‘good things’ in Galatians 6 he’s referring to the goods we need, the things we need, for life. He’s talking about providing material support, financial support, to those who have been set apart to teach God’s word. Believers are to provide preachers with such support, so that they’re able to devote their time and their energy to studying and teaching God’s word.
Paul’s letter to the Galatians is one of his earliest letters. And so, it’s remarkable that already it was taken for granted that there would be those who should be set apart and called to be ministers of God’s word. And living a Spirit-filled and heavenly life now means supporting the ministry of the word. You’re able to support the ministry of the word through your weekly offering which goes towards paying my stipend. But you’re also able to support the ministry of the word in other places by giving to missionary organisations which support the preaching of God’s word throughout the world. A couple of weeks ago on Sunday evening we heard from Phil Dunn who works for EMF. EMF supports ministers who are working in churches throughout Europe, where the need is so great, but many of the churches are so very small. The PCI’s United Appeal goes to supporting various ministries through the PCI, including the work of Home Mission ministers and workers who are preaching God’s word in the Republic. David Murphy, who grew up in Immanuel and who is now preaching God’s word in Co. Mayo, will be speaking here in a couple of weeks time. He’s someone who needs our prayer support and our financial support, so that he’ll be able to focus all of his energies on his ministry.
An unbelieving world may think we’re crazy for giving away our money to support those who teach and preach God’s word. But we do it, and we’re commanded to do it, because we understand that the ministry of the word is so important. It’s so important, because God has chosen to use the preaching of his word to convince and convert sinners to faith in Christ and to build up believers in holiness and comfort. We pray for Christ’s kingdom to be extended throughout out the world. And Christ’s kingdom is extended through the reading and preaching of God’s word, by which Christ himself, from his throne in heaven, calls sinners to come to him for salvation. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But in order to call on him, they must believe in him. In order to believe in him, they must hear of him. In order to hear of him, someone needs to be sent to preach. And God has sent his preachers into all the world. And here’s Paul, writing under the inspiration of God’s Spirit, instructing believers to support those who have been called by God to preach his word.
And so, will you do that? I’m not asking for more money for myself. So, don’t misunderstand me. But will you support the ministry of the word in other places? Will you give what you can to support those who have been called by God to preach and teach his word? Will you do that? Because here’s Paul the Apostle who is teaching us to share all good things with those who instructs us in God’s word.
Verses 7 and 8
But let’s move on now to verses 7 and 8 where Paul says to his readers and to us that we must not be deceived by thinking that God can be mocked. God cannot be mocked. To mock someone means to fool them or to outwit them. So, while we might fool or deceive ourselves and other people, we cannot fool or deceive the Lord, because he knows all things. A scam artist mocks us by deceiving us with his trickery and he makes us feel foolish when we realise how we were taken in. But the Lord is not taken in by anyone. In particular, he ensures that a man will reap what he sows. We might like to think and we might tell ourselves that there’s a way around that principle. However, there is no way around that principle: God will ensure that we will always, always reap what we sow.
This, of course, is true when it comes to farming and gardening. The farmer who sows potato seeds will reap potatoes, not carrots. And the gardener who plants daffodil bulbs will reap daffodils, not roses. And the principle is true, not only when it comes to farming and gardening, but it’s also true in the life we live. We reap what we sow. Reaping in the Bible often refers to the final judgment, when the Lord Jesus will come in glory and with power with all of his angels to judge the living and the dead. Just as a farmer will send into the field his servants to gather the wheat into the barns and to burn up the weeds, so the day is coming when the Lord Jesus will send his angels to gather together all who have trusted in him; and they will be brought in to enjoy everlasting life in his presence. On the other hand, all those who did not believe in him will be sent away to be punished forever for what they have done. Reaping in the Bible refers to the coming judgment and to the time when believers and unbelievers will be separated from one another forever.
So, if reaping refers to the coming day of judgment, what does the image of sowing refer to? Well, given what we’re just read in verse 6 about sharing all good things with those who instruct us in God’s word, it seems that Paul is using the image of sowing to refer once again to how we’re called to be generous. He’s calling on us to be generous with what we have. And this matches what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9, where Paul urges his readers in Corinth to give generously to support needy believers. And he tells the Corinthians that whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. And so, here in Galatians 6, he’s using the image of sowing to teach his readers that they too must be generous with what they have.
And he explains what he means in verse 8 where he again contrasts the flesh and the Spirit. The NIV refers to the ‘flesh’ as the ‘sinful nature’, but the translation ‘flesh’ is better. And do you remember? The flesh is associated with this present evil age; and those who belong to this present evil age are controlled by the flesh and they do what is evil. But then, those who have trusted in Christ — who gave himself to rescue us from this present evil age — belong by faith to the age to come. And they’ve received the Holy Spirit who renews them inwardly, so that instead of doing what the flesh desires, which is evil, they’re able more and more to do what the Lord requires. The Holy Spirit leads them in the right way and helps them to live in conformity to the age to come.
And so, Paul refers to all those who sow to please their flesh. He’s referring to those who don’t believe in Christ and who still belong to this present evil age which is destined to perish and whose lives are dominated by sin. And so, they will use what they have selfishly. They’ll use what they have to satisfy their own sinful and selfish desires; and they will not dream of using what they have for the glory of God who made them.
And then he refers to all those who sow to please the Spirit. And he’s referring to those who trust in the Lord Jesus as the only Saviour of the world. And by faith, they have received not only justification so that they have been pardoned and accepted by God, but they have received the Holy Spirit who is now guiding them and helping them to live a heavenly life now. And as a result, they will use what they have for the good of others. Instead of using what they have to satisfy their own sinful and selfish desires, they will aim to use what they have for the glory of God who made them and who has redeemed them.
And since those who sow to please their own flesh do not believe in Christ and belong still to this present evil age which is destined to perish, then they will reap eternal destruction when Christ returns to judge the world. He will condemn them for what they have done, because they did not believe in him and seek salvation from him.
And since those who sow to please the Spirit believe in Christ, and belong to the age to come, then they will reap eternal life when Christ returns to judge the world. He will give them eternal life in his presence, not because they did anything to deserve it — because they too are sinners — but because they trusted in Christ, the only Saviour, and received from him the assurance of sins forgiven and the hope of eternal life.
So, don’t be deceived. God cannot be mocked. You can’t fool God or outwit him and he will not be taken in by anyone. He will ensure that we will reap what we sow. Those who do not believe and who spent their lives sowing to please their flesh will perish, whereas those who believe — and who therefore spend their lives sowing to please the Spirit — will receive eternal life.
And so, if you have not already done so, will you believe in Christ the Saviour? Will you go to God in prayer and confess your sins? Will you ask him to forgive you for the sake of Christ who died for sinners? And will you ask him to fill you with his Spirit to enable you to live a Spirit-filled and heavenly life now, which means being generous with what you have so that you will use what you have for the good of others and for the glory of God?
And for those who already believe, verse 9 is for you, because in verse 9 Paul warns believers not to become weary in doing good. Well, since the context of this verse is about sharing all good things and sowing generously, doing good must mean doing good with what we possess and with our money. No doubt we can apply Paul’s words more widely than that; and take it that he means that we must do all kinds of good in our daily lives. But in particular, we’re to do good with our money.
And we’re not to grow weary. When we become weary, we stop doing the good things we once did. But don’t do that, says Paul. Don’t grow weary, but persist in doing good and persevere with your generosity, because, he says, ‘at the proper time’ we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. The proper time is the time set by God for the day of judgment. And on that day, the Lord will reward his faithful servants who believed in him and who tried to serve him. We cannot earn or merit these rewards, because what we deserve is condemnation for our sins. But the Lord promises good things to those who serve him faithfully. And so, if you’re a believer, the word of the Lord to you today is that you must not grow weary, but you must continue to sow to please the Spirit and to aim to use what you have for the good of others and for God’s glory.
Therefore — Paul says in verse 10 — as you have opportunity, do good to all people Opportunities to do good are not things which we plan or arrange, but they are those opportunities to do good and to be generous which come our way in our daily lives. Think of the Lord’s parable of the Good Samaritan: the men in the parable were on their way to Jerusalem; and an opportunity to do good came their way when they came across the injured man on the side of the road. And so, the Lord puts people in our way, so that we will do them good.
And when those opportunities arise, we should be prepared to do good to ‘everyone’. So, no one should be excluded and we should be prepared to be generous to whomever we encounter. But we’re to do good especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Do you see that at the end of the verse? So, there’s a kind of priority to our giving and to our generosity which means we’re to show generosity first and foremost to our fellow believers. That might surprise us, because often we think we’re to put the needs of unbelievers first, so that we might win them to Christ. But God in his word tells us that the priority goes to our fellow believers. And so, do you remember the description of the early church in the book of Acts? We’re told that there were no needy persons among them. Why not? It wasn’t because none of them was poor; instead it was because those who could afford it shared what they had with the poor believers among them.
And, if we’re obedient to the Lord and do good to one another, then an unbelieving world will see how we love one another and how we care for one another. And they will want to know why it is that we love one another like this.
And so, there you are. Living a Spirit-filled and heavenly life now will mean that you will support the ministry of the word, so that those who are called by God to teach and preach his word can devote their energies to this vital work. And living a Spirit-filled and heavenly life now will mean using what you have for the good of others, and especially for the good of your fellow believers. This is God’s will for you, and he gives his Spirit to all who believe in his Son to transform you inwardly, so that more and more you’ll be able to resist the desires of the flesh and will live to please the Spirit.