- Locate the passage
6:1-10 is the first preaching unit in the final chapter of Galatians.
- Identify the Genre
The macro level is epistolary. The micro level is expository/hortatory. This passage contains six key commands.
- Determine the Structure of the Passage
On the basis of the hortatory appeals in this passage, it may be divided into four distinct divisions. Verses 1-2 contain two imperative commands that address the manner in which believers should relate to one another.
Verses 3-5 form the second major division. These verses deal with the importance of testing one’s own work and bearing one’s own load.
The third division is found in verse 6. Here, the command is to share with those who teach the word.
The passage’s final division includes verses 7-10. Employing a harvest metaphor, Paul commands the Galatians to avoid deception and weariness.
- Exegete the Passage
In verse 1, Paul writes about the proper response of believers to the contingency of one caught (prolemphthe-aorist passive subjunctive-“detected” or “overtaken”) in any trespass (paraptomati). Those who are spiritual are commanded to restore (katartizete-present active imperative) such a one in a spirit of gentleness (prautetos-“gentle power” or “tamed strength”). Interestingly, the verb katartizo is used in the Gospels to describe the mending of nets. In secular Greek, it was used to describe a physician’s setting of a broken bone. The work of restoration also involves looking (skopon-present active participle) to yourself lest you also be tempted (peirasthes-aorist passive subjunctive). Verse 2 includes the command to bear (bastazete-present active imperative) one another’s burdens (bare-“crushing weight”). Such action will fulfill (anaplerosete-future active indicative) the law of Christ.
In verse 3, Paul describes one who thinks (dokei) himself to be something when he is nothing as self-deceived (phrenapata). Verse 4 enjoins the reader to test (dokimazeto-present active imperative) his own work. When he does this, his reason for boasting will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. The principle here is that the believer should not seek to excuse and exalt himself by dwelling on his neighbor’s weaknesses. There is no contradiction between verse 2 and verse 5. In verse 5, Paul declares that each person will bear his own load (phortion-used of a soldier’s backpack). Some burdens and responsibilities are non-transferable.
Verse 6 conveys the truth that life in the Spirit is a life of sharing and generosity. The one who is being taught (katechoumenos-present middle participle-“being catechized”) the word is to share (koinoneito-present active imperative) all good things with the one who teaches (katechounti-“catechizes”).
In verses 7-10, Paul employs the metaphor of the law, or principle, of the harvest. The use of the present imperative with the negative adverb in verse 7 (me planasthe) speaks of stopping something already in progress. Paul commands the reader not to be deceived (planasthe-present middle imperative-“be led astray”). This command is based on the fundamental truth that God is not mocked (mukterizetai). This is the only use of this verb in the Greek New Testament and it offers the picture of one “turning up the nose” as a gesture of contempt. According to the divine law of the harvest, one will reap whatever he sows. One is deceived and “mocks” God when he acknowledges the physical law of the harvest (he knows that he will not reap corn if he sows cotton) but ignores the moral/spiritual law of the harvest (he sows to the flesh and expects to reap the Spirit). Verses 9-10 address the threat of weariness as it relates to God’s “harvest.” The idea of sowing followed by immediate reaping is attractive but unrealistic. Spiritual “farming” involves sowing, waiting and reaping. For this reason, Paul urges the Galatians not to grow weary (egkakomen-present active hortatory subjunctive) of doing what is good. In due season (kairo), they will reap a harvest if they do not give up. Therefore, as they have opportunity (kairon), they should do (ergazometha-present middle subjunctive –“should work”) good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household (oikeious) of faith.
- Let the Structure of the Text Drive the Sermon
- Relate properly to others. (1-2)
Restore the fallen.
Bear the burdens of one another
- Test your own work. (3-5)
- Share with the teacher. (6)
- Avoid deception and weariness. (7-10)
- Relate properly to others. (1-2)