CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER SIX (Lesson CXXVIII)

6:2 Also, be willing to share by helping them with their problems. When you do so, you are faithfully obeying the Law [principles] of the Anointed One.

EXPOSITION

During his learning period, while sitting under the instruction of the great Jewish teacher, Gamaliel, Paul no doubt heard about the way Jews are supposed to help out those who are struggling with a load too heavy for them to carry. We see it exemplified in the Levitical laws of the First Covenant, where Moses talks about how we should treat each other. And he illustrates compassion with this motto: if you see an animal that cannot walk because it has too much to carry, you must stop and help that animal. You must help that animal even if it belongs to one of your enemies.[1]

But Paul knew he was dealing with some Pharisee Judaizers who Jesus called out as worthless leaders, especially of the spiritually handicapped. He named them “know-it-alls of the Law” who will not be treated lightly by the Lord because they load down with so many burdens of dos and don’ts they cannot carry, and when they fall, they do not lift one finger to help them.[2] That’s why Paul warned the Romans not to become so complacent with their manners and customs that they will not stop to help others unless it makes them look good in the eyes of others.[3]

In observing some of the things that were going on among the believers in Thessalonica, Paul told them to warn those who became lazy in their service to God, comfort those who are frightened, take tender care of those who are weak, and be patient with everyone.[4] Because by doing so, they will carry out the teachings of the Law because they do it in the name of Jesus the Anointed One. Perhaps one of the Apostles told Paul about the time Jesus washed all of their feet, and then He informed them that this was an example He was giving them to follow. In other words, said Jesus, do to others what I did to you.[5]

Classical Bible scholar John Gill tells us that the Jews speak of the law of the Messiah as preferable to any other. For instance, in their Midrash Kohelet (Interpretive Commentary on Ecclesiastes), “The law,” they say, “which a person learns in this world is worthless in comparison to the ‘the law of the Messiah.’” By fulfilling it means, “doing it, acting in obedience to it,” and “completing it,” which cannot be done by sinful creatures.[6] [7]

In the second application of the fruit of the reborn spirit, Paul explains how we can help this same restored fellow believer keep on going and not give up. Remember, they are dealing with restoration and renewal, not reprimand and rebuke as well as the problem that got them into trouble in the first place. Early English translations render the Greek verb bastazō as “bear,” allowing readers to understand it as removing the whole load and placing it on oneself. While the primary intent of the word means to assist, it does not suggest that we take everything on ourselves and permanently make their problems our problems. If we do, we will then try to work things out for them all by ourselves, and they will become codependent on us for everything.

It denotes: “to lift, sustain, motivate,” which suggests doing something to temporarily take enough of the load off their shoulders so they can stand to move on. It also allows them time to consider all the options available in finding a permanent solution to their difficulty. In so doing, we can free them up to cope with the issues that got them into the mess, to begin with, without the pressure of simultaneously seeking immediate reinstatement and regaining the goodwill of the pastor and congregation.

COMMENTARY

Early church writer Victorinus of Pettau now makes note that here Paul returns to addressing the whole congregation so that every person would help other people with their heavy burden of faults. That way, what one suffers becomes easier to deal with by having help to make the necessary modification. For this is what it means to “bear burdens: to endure the weakness of another person patiently” and “correct it.” [8] In other words, after Paul gives his charge to each individual to bear some responsibility in helping out those who are weak, he now makes sure that the whole body of the Anointed One realizes that it is a joint effort. Just like one depends on their arm to reach down to pick up a child in danger, the hand must grasp that child, and then the legs carry it to safety.

Chrysostom illustrates this with the building of a house. The material for the foundation is different than that used for the floors. Plus, they design the ceilings differently than the walls. So, it is, in the foundation, floors, walls, and roof of the Body of the Anointed One. The same thing applies to the organization of our bodies. As members work with each other, they do not require that each one function the same way. What each contributes in common constitutes both the frame of the body and the structure of a building.[9] In other words, when attempting to help a fellow believer, keep in mind the role they play in the local assembly of the Anointed One. You would certainly expect a different function for the usher than you would for an assistant pastor. That’s why in one of his sermons, Chrysostom says living a failure-free life is impossible. Paul also exhorts the Galatians not to scrutinize the shortcomings of others severely. Instead, be compassionate enough to help them deal with their failures so that their own may, in turn, receive help from others.[10]

Jerome says we must admit sin is a burden, as the psalmist affirms.[11] This burden the Savior bore for us, teaching by His life what we ought to do. He bears our iniquities and grieves for us and invites those who are cast down by the burden of sin and the Law to take up His light yoke of virtue.[12] Therefore, the one who does not demean their brother or sister’s salvation is the one who must extend their helping hand as needed. As long as they are real, they should cry with them that weep; they should offer to share their burden. Try to imagine how they would feel if they committed the same sin. Such is the person who fulfills the Law of the Anointed One through love.[13]

Theodoret of Cyr advises us to look at it this way: You have one shortcoming but not another. The neighbor’s case is the opposite. They have a weakness, but not the one you have. You must help them with theirs, and they help you with yours. This way, the Law of Love fulfilled. By “the Law of the Anointed One” (“Law of Christ” – the “Anointed” – NIV)  here in verse two, Paul means the Law of Love, for Jesus Himself said, “I give you a new commandment, to love one another.” [14] [15] It is a clear signal that Love is a two-way street. When you hear someone say, “love yourself,” that’s a one-way street. It is better to say: Love what others see in you about yourself.

Pope Leo the Great has a fascinating commentary on what Paul says here in verse two about fulfilling the Law of the Anointed One. When speaking of the Law of the Anointed One as the love for unity, it means only those who feel no guilt when they become weary in helping others. So, let those who grow impatient listen to what Paul is saying. Didn’t they know that it is better to be patient than potent? As King Solomon said, “He who controls his temper is better than a war hero, he who rules his spirit better than he who captures a city.” [16] Pope Leo feels that winning a victory over a city from without by power is not as impressive as conquering it from within by patience. The same is true with the mind.[17]

A later medieval scholar, Bruno the Carthusian (1030-1101), interprets Paul’s encouragement that believers bear one another’s burden, is focused on those in the congregation that are respected and held in high esteem because of their ministry. And by sharing such people’s hardships, it means to suffer with them through prayer and fasting so that the individual can find forgiveness. Our divine Counselor will fulfill the Law, even though He who knew no sin took our sins upon the cross, and in so doing, was bearing the burden of those who could not do so on their own.[18] The Anointed One gives us a model to use when helping an erring brother or sister to get back on the right track and continue on their way the heaven’s reward.

Martin Luther gives his view of how by helping the weak believer carry their load fulfills the will of the Anointed One. For Luther, the Law of the Anointed One is the Law of love. Jesus the Anointed One gave us no other law than this law of mutual respect. To love means to bear another’s burdens. Christians must have strong shoulders to carry the responsibilities of their fellow Christians. Faithful pastors will recognize many errors and offenses in the church, which they oversee. In civil affairs, an official has to overlook much if he is fit to rule. If we can have patience with our shortcomings and wrong-doings, we ought to be patient with the weaknesses of others.

In other words, do not put more emphasis on their faults than we do for ourselves. Luther points out that those who do not act impartially expose their lack of understanding of the Law of the Anointed One. Love, according to Paul, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.[19] Jesus did not issue this commandment for those who deny His being the Anointed One. Neither is it intended for those who continue to live in sin. Only those who are willing to hear the Word of God and then inadvertently fall into sin to their great sorrow and regret, carry the burdens which the Apostle encourages us to bear. Let us not be hard on them. If the Anointed One did not punish them, what right have we to do it?[20]

[1] Exodus 23:5

[2] Luke 11:46

[3] Romans 15:1

[4] 1 Thessalonians 5:14

[5] John 13:14-15

[6] Midrash Kohelet, folio 83a

[7] Gill, John: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 166

[8] Victorinus, Marius: Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

[9] Chrysostom, op. cit., loc. cit.

[10] Chrysostom: The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Galatians Ch. 6, p. 100

[11] Psalm 38

[12] Matthew 11:30

[13] Jerome: On Galatians, Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). p. 93

[14] John 13:34

[15] Theodoret of Cyr:  On Galatians, Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). op. cit., p. 94

[16] Proverbs 16:32 – Complete Jewish Bible

[17] Gregory the Great: The Book of Pastoral Rule, op. cit., Part 3, Ch. 9, p. 543

[18] Bruno the Carthusian: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[19] 1 Corinthians 13:7

[20] Luther, Martin: Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s