CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER SIX (Lesson CXLIII)

I like what William A. O’Conor (1820-1894) says about doing good to everyone. There is no need, he says, for coming up with ingenious methods and hunting for occasions to do charitable work. Ordinary life gives us daily opportunities for practicing this fruit of the reborn spirit. We are to take every gift God gives us to do what’s right. Both when it’s convenient and inconvenient. People who go out looking for chances may stop searching if they don’t find what pleases them, or try something different made available to them. That’s because they know they’ll get less notice and applause when they do certain things that are unnoticed.

O’Conor also says that the phrase “Doing good” is somewhat vague, and may allow doing something evil so that good may come of it. In each case, we should do the thing that is precisely right and good. The Greek adjective agathos Paul uses here can mean doing something beneficial, useful, pleasant, excellent, and upright. Thayer, in his Greek Lexicon, says that agathos in this verse means “doing what is upright, honorable, and acceptable to God.” [1] It’s another way of saying do good when it is appreciated and do good when it is unappreciated, as long as God values it. And Paul knew this went against the Jewish Law, which states to do good to only to other Jews. But by doing what’s right to all those we meet, we can learn to do good to those whom we have not yet met.[2]

Edward Huxtable ((1833-1893) feels that Paul is saying here in verse ten that our efforts should include all people. God lets rain fall on both the good and the bad.[3] Furthermore, it must also consist of those around us who do not necessarily share our values or points of view. Whatever we do for others, it must be for their benefit, not ours.[4] Our behavior should never be marked with treating one class of people better than another.[5] Doing things without bias, discrimination, and bigotry was an entirely new idea to the Gentile world and scarcely heard of in the Jewish community. However, the Book of Jonah teaches us that. But Paul does go on to say that charity begins at home. Show love to those outside the congregation of the Anointed One. Show the same passion to those inside the body of the Anointed One.[6]

Paul knew how hard it was to keep oneself motivated in doing good things for others at the cost of their resources and even their health, especially when it goes unappreciated or not used for its intended purpose. At the same time, Paul did not want the Galatians to take his cheerleading on helping others by overdoing it or try to outdo each other.  So, he encourages them before they become exhausted, trying to meet every need to “keep their eye on the goal.” Like a farmer fighting the heat, hard ground, and sowing seed in what looks like endless rows, Paul is trying to motivate them to start dreaming of that same empty field ripening into a great harvest.

Even a casual observer can see that to remain healthy and do an admirable job of reaching out to someone in need would require the fruit of the spiritual oneness with the Anointed One in sterling quantity. No one can keep up such humanitarian efforts with no end in sight, especially when those we attempt to reach are less than hospitable. As believers, we must always view the compassion we have for those suffering and in need, and our endeavors to meet those needs, as something we do according to the will of God. The essence of transforming love becomes not only an expression of mercy to those we serve but also an expression of appreciation to God. If our involvement is only generated out of obligation or wanting to make ourselves look good, weariness will come quickly, and discouragement will follow even quicker. We can see the difference in being told to dig a hole in the ground for no reason or ask to dig a hole to find water because the family was dying of thirst.

Paul wanted them to understand that they should not look for instant success or reward.  God will send a harvest in His own time. But what kind of crop should they anticipate? When you take the time and effort to reach out to others, and they reward you with support, whatever you do, says Paul, don’t feel obligated out of guilt to turn around and repay them in some form for their giving. You receive a gift and then give something as a “thank you” in return to the donor. The benefactor then, in turn, gives you another token of their love for you, and you give back another “appreciation momento” to them for the contribution they just gave you. How much longer can this go on? No, no! Let God bless them for their generosity. Otherwise, it would only make them feel like they were loaning you the good things they share. Remember, God blesses both the giver and receiver.

Grant Osborne sums up verses nine and ten by saying that Paul stresses the positive side of the caution in verses seven and eight, in fact, of all of 5:13–6:8, as the consequences of doing good. The Galatians needed to sow good deeds, and when they did so, they would reap a “harvest” of rewards. Life in the Spirit at the community level will always include good works as the faithful “bear each other’s burdens” and take care of their leaders. The “good” of which Paul speaks here is primarily sharing one’s resources to care for the needs of others.

But Osborne also points out that there is the danger of “becoming weary” and then to “giving up” in terms of caring, about which Paul also warned the Thessalonians: “Never tire of doing what is good.” [7] It may well have been an issue based on seeking earthly pleasure and spiritual laziness of the kind expressed in Hebrews.[8] The Galatians needed to fight such worldly tendencies and center on what God called them to do: Share and do good. Osborne says we should make it a goal for today’s Church, as well as the reason for a church to develop and maintain a program of congregational care.[9]

Richard Longenecker makes a good point about what Paul says here in verse ten about keeping the saints in mind when sharing our goods with others. Earlier, Paul said, you make sure that you do good works that are beneficial to all humanity. But here he seems to restrict it mainly to those in the fellowship of believers. Is this a contraction, asks Longenecker? Not at all. Paul merely points out that believers get so involved helping unbelievers outside the church, they take no notice of believers inside. It’s like a mother getting so engaged in assisting orphans that she doesn’t notice the needs of her children. And pastors sometimes get so excited about the new people in the congregation with follow-up visits and personal attention that they don’t notice some of the regulars who stopped coming.[10]

I remember traveling to a remote coal-mining region of Yugoslavia to preach for a small but vigorous congregation that met in a converted farm shed. It was the first time any preacher from outside the country had traveled to their village to minister to them. These people lived on meager incomes, to begin with, but as Christians, they were further disadvantaged because only those who joined the Communist Party received the higher-paying jobs. After a song and short prayer, I preached for almost two hours (which included a translation of course) as the congregation responded with enthusiasm. Then they sang for about an hour, after which the interpreter told me they wanted another sermon, and if I didn’t have anything, give my testimony. It went on for another hour and a half. Nobody got up and left; no one fell asleep, and not one sat back and did not join in.

Afterward, when we went to the pastor’s house, we enjoyed a wonderful meal of fried pig fat about two inches thick with crackly skin, along with a stack of potato pancakes and rich, dark syrup. My interpreter came to me and handed me an envelope, explaining that the people wanted me to have this. I figured it might be a picture or some souvenir from that area. Instead, it was an offering of Yugoslavian Dinar equal to about $25.00 – a substantial sum in their economy. My first inclination was to refuse it and tell the translator to give it back because they could use it a lot more than me.

However, the Holy Spirit immediately admonished me and told me to keep it because by returning it, I would be giving the impression it wasn’t enough; or that the money of poor people wasn’t worth anything to me. The Spirit convicted me that in so doing, I would be stealing their blessing of giving to the Lord.  I quietly thanked the Holy Spirit for His guidance and told the interpreter to tell the people how humbled and blessed I was for their generosity and would pray God’s most abundant blessings on them. They had shared their good things with me and showed God their appreciation for Him sending a preacher to preach the Good News and encourage them to remain healthy and faithful during this time of trial and hardship.  In the end, I was the one most blessed.

Likewise, Paul wanted to encourage the saints in Galatia not to grow impatient or weary in sharing good things with their preachers and teachers and sharing each other’s burdens. In so doing, Paul spoke of their reaping a harvest, an increase of more fruit of the spiritual oneness with the Anointed One, and the blessings and favor of God on the sower’s life and ministry.  Remember, one seed of wheat produces many heads of grain; one apple seed gives birth to a tree full of apples. But just as the harvest comes in its season, so at the right time, the spiritual yield will come. There is always the lapse of time between sowing and reaping. Just don’t become exhausted or exasperated and give up or give in before harvest time.

[1] Cf. Romans 2:7, 10; 5:7; 7:12, 13; 8:28; 9:11; 10:15; 12:2, 9, 21; 13:4

[2] O’Conor, William A. On Galatians, pp. 100–101

[3] Matthew 5:45

[4] See Colossians 3:23; 3 John 1:5

[5] Ephesians 6:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:14

[6] Pulpit Commentary: op. cit., Galatians, Exposition, Edward Huxtable, p. 305

[7] 1 Thessalonians 3:13

[8] Hebrews 5:11; 6:12

[9] Osborne, G. R. On Galatians: Verse by Verse, op. cit., pp. 207–208

[10] Longenecker, Richard N. On Galatians, Volume 41, op. cit., Kindle Location 14096

About drbob76

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