Be Responsible

Sunday School Lesson for July 20, 2003

Background Passage: Galatians 6:1-18

Focal Teaching Passage: Galatians 6:1-10

Be Responsible in Bearing Burdens (6:1-6)

Verse 1

This concluding chapter of Paul’s epistle serves as a direct and practical example of how his previous exhortation in 5:25 should be evidenced in the life of the church. Those who are, indeed, living and walking by the Spirit must show forth the power and reality of the Spirit by being responsible members of the body of Christ. This is especially true in matters of church discipline.

In the first verse the apostle addressed how the congregation should handle those who become "caught in any trespass"—that is, how believers can demonstrate responsibility by helping others bear the burden of sin. The exact nature of such a trespass is not clear, but is likely connected to the "deeds of the flesh" in 5:19-21. When a member of the believing community becomes entangled or trapped in a sinful behavior, the "spiritual" ones are to initiate a process of gentle restoration.

Verses 2-5

Next, Paul provided another practical way that Christian maturity is made evident within the body of Christ. It is displayed by humbly and generously assisting those within the fellowship who are suffering hardship—that is, by helping others bear the burden of practical needs. Paul commanded his readers to "bear one another’s burdens" (v. 2). This seems to describe the willingness to help a brother or sister in Christ shoulder a heavy load—the various kinds of hardships and difficulties all men face at one time or another. When such a gracious spirit of concern and care for others characterizes the church, Paul declared that the "law of Christ" is fulfilled. That is, by manifesting sensitivity and responsiveness to the needs of others, the teachings of Jesus, especially regarding sacrificial love for others, are brought to practical expression and fulfillment. Thus, we should understand Paul’s phrase "law of Christ" as referring to "the whole tradition of Jesus’ ethical teaching, confirmed by his character and conduct, and reproduced within his people by the power of the Spirit" [Bruce, 261]. Note, however, that there is both a warning and a responsibility associated with the apostle’s call to bear one another’s hardships:

Verse 6

Finally, Paul provided one additional avenue for the expression of spiritual maturity. Those in the body who are the beneficiaries of the ministry of God-called teachers—those who are "taught the word"—should be willing to "share all good things with him who teaches. That is, they should help bear the burdens of full-time Christian service. This is a way of saying that the members of the body of Christ have the responsibility of providing for the financial needs of those who serve the body with gifts of preaching and teaching (cf. 1 Cor. 9:14; 1 Tim. 5:8). As Bruce explains, the teacher "relieves the ignorance of the pupil; the pupil should relieve the teacher of concern for his subsistence" [263].


Be Responsible in Doing Good (6:7-10)

In this section of the chapter Paul’s exhortations centered on the importance of manifesting Christian maturity and responsibility by doing "good" to others. We should keep in mind that the Christian notion of good is far superior to that found in other ethical systems. Goodness, first, reflects the character of the God whom we serve (Ps. 106:1; 136:1; Jer. 33:11). Secondly, Christian goodness is based upon the moral and ethical standards set forth in God’s Word. That which is good is that which corresponds to His will as expressed in Holy Scripture. Finally, goodness has been perfectly modeled for us in the life of our Savior. He is the "good Shepherd" whom we have been called in grace to follow (John 10:14).

Four exhortations related to the theme of goodness are evident:






Major Themes for Reflection and Application

One: Love and discipline—This passage reveals that real Christian love is demonstrated through accountability and discipline within the body of Christ. Why is discipline so neglected today? What are some of the factors that make biblical church discipline so controversial? How can a local congregation become more faithful in this duty?




Two: Burdens and maturityVerse 2 indicates that Christians have burdens too. That is, we see that believers are not immune to the difficulties and hardships of life. This raises some significant questions about the nature of the Christian life. For example, are hardships always caused by disobedience or sin in a person’s life? Are burdens evidence of God’s love or disfavor? How can hardships, difficulties, and needs foster the development of spiritual maturity?




Three: Goodness and evangelism—Think about what it means, in practical terms, for believers to be engaged in doing "good to all men" (v. 10). You might want to first define what a good Christian is. Remember how good is defined and exemplified in Scripture. How can doing good become a powerful tool for the proclamation of the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ?