by Dr. Robert R. Seyda



Cornelius a Lápide (1567-1637), comments on Paul’s directions that believers should help each other in carrying their burdens. He determined that these burdens were, first of all, “the weakness of others.” Of course, this does not mean “physical” weakness in their body, but “spiritual” weakness in their faith. However, Lápide does not feel that this includes their irritability and harsh words spoken in haste, nor their moodiness and irritable disposition. Lápide believes that a better interpretation of “burdens” would be whatever oppresses a fellow believer. It would include their illnesses, battles with depression, their sinful tendencies. In quoting Augustine, Lápide says we should be feet to the lame, eyes to the blind, and a cane to the elderly.[1] Richard Longenecker feels that Paul is talking about a believer’s “oppressive” burdens.[2] It might also include demanding and severe discouragement.

Anglican Vicar Cyril W. Emmit (1820-1903) infers that this reference to the Law of the Anointed One does not point to the Gospels or those unwritten things the Apostles preached, but the Law of the Messiah’s Kingdom,[3] as illustrated in our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount.[4] And George Barker Stevens (1854-1906) emphasizes our understanding of the Greek noun nomos that Paul uses when speaking of “law.” It identifies the Law of Moses, the law of the land; the laws of the believer’s assemblies; the laws of nature, etc. In other words, something that established to describe a command or a predictable outcome. But here in verse two, he uses it to point out the “Law of the Anointed One.”

As such, it would be more of a principle than an ordinance. Jesus the Anointed One taught and illustrated in His life what He also required of His disciples to share their abilities and resources in helping the needy and less fortunate. In this case, the Law of the Anointed One became known as the “Law of Love.” Love God, love your neighbor, love each other. That is the main principle by which Christians and the Church should operate.[5] In his paraphrase of verse two, Stevens calls this the “true Law,” which we are to obey is that of the Anointed One, which requires us through love, to share the cares and sorrows of others.[6]

Puritan Bible scholar Thomas Croskery (1830-1886) sees Paul pointing out that there are no divisions of spiritual-moral classes in God’s assembly of believers. The Apostle tells believers that the sins and infirmities of others are not to be merely endured but taken up as burdens. In other words, don’t just stand there and watch them suffer, do something! It takes more than counseling to “support the weak, to be patient toward all others.” Travelers are often called on to carry the burdens of their comrades who become faint along the way. It would be a dangerous thing for the weak if healthy believers were to ignore them and force them to carry their burdens unassisted.

Martin Luther said that “a Christian must have strong shoulders and stout legs to carry the load, that is, the weakness of the brethren,” quotes Croskery. The Christian life is a burden-bearing experience, but, after all, it is something far short of the supreme Sacrifice – “We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” [7] Let us, therefore, help them carry their transgressions upon our hearts to God’s throne room of grace and mercy, as well as giving a shoulder for them to lean on as they continue to walk toward deliverance. Any contentment we experience is not the exercise of our Christian liberty. Instead, it is a joyful celebration of their forgiveness and restoration to a rightful place in the assembly of believers.[8]

Vice-Principal of Wells Theological College, Edward Huxtable (1833-1893), takes what Paul says here about sharing each other’s tasks as a notice for every healthy believer in offering to carry the heavy loads of one another. In other words, don’t wait until asked to help. Sometimes believers get so involved with their affairs they don’t seem to have time for others who are in greater need of help. The supposition that the Apostle Paul was glancing at the burden of Mosaic observances was not the problem of those who only follow the Messiah’s teaching, but that seems far-fetched, says Huxtable. Most of these problems of the weaker believer are ones they bring on themselves, for which some Christians feel it is not their responsibility to help out. If they brought it on themselves, then let them deal with it. These can be such as things as an uneasy conscience, difficulties in their domestic, social, or Church relations, monetary needs, or other responsibilities.

But the precept of reaching out in care and compassion seems to go beyond the requirements of the particular case of an errant brother or sister. It applies to all the needs, spiritual or secular, which we deal with ourselves. The important thing is the fulfillment of the Anointed One’s Law in the form of sharing one another’s obligations. Many have supposed the word “Law” used here applies to a specific commandment; for example, Christ’s new commandment that we should love one another. The Apostle James may have had the same thing in mind when he writes of the “royal law.” [9] Paul, however, never uses the term in this sense in his writing. It seems better to take it to mean the whole moral institution of the Anointed One, whether conveyed in distinct teaching or His example and spirit of action. Whatever the case may be, please God first, your brother or sister second, and yourself last.[10]

An American theologian Benjamin Wisner Bacon (1860-1932), who taught at Yale Divinity School, feels that we should better understand Paul’s reference to the “Law of the Anointed One.” It is not to a specific teaching, even though the “new commandment” to love one another is at the center of the Anointed One’s Law.[11] Instead, by using the word “law,” Paul is speaking of the “Jesus’” principle of rulership, the constitutional principle of His kingdom.[12] [13] Instead of looking at what Jesus said in His teachings, look at them as a platform for truth. It is one thing to go by what a law says, and another thing to operate based on a principle. The Jews conducted themselves based on the commandments in the Law. Christians are to behave themselves based on the principles of the Gospel.

Samuel L. Brengle (1860-1936), a Commissioner in the Salvation Army who dealt with many of those with spiritual faults and moral failures, agrees with Paul that we should deal gently with them lest we grieve the Spirit and they become backsliders. He noticed that when professing Christians press down hard on backsliders, it is usually only a question of time before they backslide further. We can reasonably believe that in their hearts, they regressed, not rushed, into sin. Remember, in the very act of killing the rebellious Absalom, Joab himself rebelled against the expressed wish and command of his king, though he did it under the cloak of loyalty.[14] Brengle likewise says that those who are severe in their dealings with sinners and backsliders under cover of zeal for righteousness and devotion to truth are themselves rebelling against the example and attitude of Jesus. Unless they repent, the world will surely witness their fall.[15]

Sunday School teacher J. L. Nye (1881-1965), collected stories to go with certain scriptures. He shares an incident that occurred in England around the year 1656. It seems that the United Kingdoms’ court system was in shambles. Judges made their laws and easily bribed to give a favorable verdict. It so happened that a rich gentleman died and left his estate to his two sons. The younger son at home decided to take it all by declaring that his older brother was dead and buried. But he decided to make it official. So, he hired a judge and some jurors to announce his brother officially dead. But Matthew Hale was a highly respected lawyer, and judge, appointed recently as the Chief Justice of the King’s Supreme Court (1671-1676), heard about the trial and what was planned by the younger brother.

So, he learned where the trial was held and went to the village. He borrowed the clothing of a local mill worker and joined the crowd inside. Somehow, he convinced the younger brother to put him on the jury. Since he looked like an uneducated mill worker, he got the job. When the giving of the bribes began, they gave each juror ten pieces of gold. But when they came to Hale, seeing that he was nothing but a low-class mill worker, they gave him only five gold pieces. Once they distributed the bribes, the jury handed in their verdict. They declared older brother had no right to get any part of the inheritance. But before the judge could gavel the trial over, the poorly dressed mill worker stood up and addressed the judge. “Hold it, my lord, said the mill worker! We are not unanimous on this verdict. These other jurors received ten pieces of gold in bribery, and I got only five.” “Who are you, shouted the judge? Where do you come from?”

At that moment, Matthew Hale pulled off his stained mill clothes to reveal his royal robes. “My name is Matthew Hale; I am from Westminster Hall. I am the Chief Justice of the Kings Supreme Court. Get off that bench, you scoundrel!” The chief justice voided the verdict and ordered that the older son receive his portion of the inheritance. Says, Nye, the Chief Justice, put on the clothes of a miller just for this older brother. In the same manner, Jesus put on the clothes of a carpenter. But at the right moment, when all of humanity was about to be declared unfit to receive any part of God’s inheritance, He stood up and revealed Himself as the Messiah, the Son of God. Then he paid the price on our behalf to cancel the death sentence over our heads so that we all could be part of His inheritance. So, the Anointed One did that for us, can we not do the same for others?[16]

[1] Cornelius a Lipide: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 331

[2] Longenecker, Richard N. On Galatians, op. cit., Volume 41, 13845

[3] Emmit, Cyril W., On Galatians, op. cit., p. 59

[4] Matthew 5-7

[5] Stevens, George Barker: The Pauline Theology, 1892, op. cit., pp. 164-165

[6] Ibid. Modern Paraphrase of Galatians, p. 44

[7] 1 John 3:16

[8] Pulpit Commentary: op. cit., Galatians, Homiletics, Thomas Crockery, p.317

[9] James 2:8

[10] Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., Galatians, Exposition, Edward Huxtable, pp. 295-296

[11] See Galatians 5:14

[12] Mark 10:42–45; cf. Philippians 2:5–11

[13] Bacon, Benjamin W. On Galatians, op. cit., p. 106

[14] 2 Samuel 18:1-33

[15] Brengle, Samuel L., On Galatians, Soul Winner’s Secret, Ch. 16, p. 81

[16] J. L. Nye: Anecdotes, op cit., pp. 123-124

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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