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Paul colors this section of Galatians with a number of metaphors.  Having established the conflict between the flesh and the spirit, he goes on to urge the Galatians to walk according to the Spirit, just as they have been called.  Yet the first metaphor he employs is a military one:  “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).  In its most basic sense, the word translated as “walk in step” refers to an army in formation, either standing in a line or on the march.  Christians are therefore called to march in the Spirit as a well disciplined unit, just as Paul “lives in observance of the law” (Acts 21:24, using the same word).  When we do so, we will not be like braggart soldiers, boasting of empty deeds and provoking one another, but those who have a reason to boast in what God has done.

Paul goes on with this imagery to describe one who has stumbled.  If one missteps while on the march, it is the duty of “the spiritual” to restore him.  The army is not to march roughshod over one who falls, but to lift him up in order to preserve the integrity of the line.  However, in a shift from the plural to the singular, Paul warns each of us individually to “watch yourself lest you also are tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Judgment and restoration belong to the whole church (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:4-5, 6:1-8; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11).  Diligence and vigilance belong to the individual (1 Thessalonians 5:3-11; Mark 13:32-37).

Part of helping up the one who has stumbled is to share his burden.  The metaphor shifts here.  Christians are called to “bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).  These burdens are generally heavy weights, things which draw us downward.  Given the previous statement, it seems that Paul refers to our own personal failings and weaknesses.  “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1).  This fulfills the law of Christ, namely that we love one another just as Christ first loved us (1 John 4:19-21).

After all, “if anyone thinks himself to be something, being nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:3).  Pride and lovelessness have no place within the bond of peace.  As Paul said in the previous chapter, divisions and dissensions are the fruit of the flesh.  Empty boasting proves nothing.  Such boasting always magnifies the self over the weakness of someone else.  Yet are we so free from danger that we can afford to look elsewhere and condemn our brother (Romans 14:4; 1 Corinthians 10:12; Matthew 7:5)?  We must set our own house in order, for we all have our own “load” to carry.  This load, a different word from before, is like cargo, carried either on an animal or in a ship (as it is used figuratively in Matthew 23:4 and Luke 11:46; and literally in Acts 27:10).  Yet Jesus Himself lays this burden on us (Matthew 11:30), for it is the cross given to each one of us to carry daily (Luke 9:23-24).  Yet the personal discipline of the cross yields the fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:7-11).

Paul now moves to another point.  “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches” (Galatians 6:6).  The student, or more literally the catechumen, should share all good things with his teacher or catechist.  Catechesis, literally “to sound through, i.e. to teach orally,” shows that Christian education is bound up with being a part of the body.  Learning through the written word, while not forbidden, loses something of what God intends, because reading is often individual.  To learn aurally is not merely a practical matter for an illiterate culture, but a reality of what it means to be in the Church.  We are bound to one another, just as we learn from one another.  Those whom God has set to be the “sounders” in the Church should get their living by the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14), not because they need to pay for a retirement plan, but because the whole body prospers in the Gospel.

Paul reinforces this point with his final metaphor of sowing and reaping.  God will not be mocked, or in the same sense, we cannot turn up our noses at God.  Whatever you plant you will also harvest.  This is not the false, pagan notion of karma, an impersonal what goes around comes around.  This is a recognition of God’s justice (Deuteronomy 32:35; Isaiah 59:18).  To separate ourselves from the body in empty boasting and pride will lead to our destruction.  We cannot imagine that we have no need for the rest of the body.  Such divisiveness is a fruit of the flesh, not of the Spirit.  If you sow to the flesh, you will reap the only fruit possible from the flesh, which is destruction (Hosea 8:7; Job 4:8).  But if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap the only fruit possible from the Spirit, eternal life (James 3:18).

Therefore, we are called to not be negligent in our task of doing good.  Such good can only flow forth from the Spirit.  Being in Christ, we are called to do good to all men, since Jesus tells us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).  Such works will heap burning coals on his head, or even cause him to the Father who is in heaven (Romans 12:20; Matthew 5:16).  Yet more than this, we are called to first build up the Church.  To ignore the needs of the house while taking care of the stranger is to be worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8)!  There can be no division within the Church, because we are walking together in Christ, being made like Christ, and finally being saved in Christ as one holy people.

God’s gifts are never meant to be a reason for pride.  Sin uses them as an opportunity to cause divisions within the Church when they are meant to unite.  Paul gives a number of reasons why this ought to be so.

First, we are part of the Church because of grace and mercy alone.  The Corinthians in particular had been actual idolaters prior to knowing Christ.  All men, however, were once pagans and enemies of God.  No one is able to actually confess that Jesus is the Lord apart from a real and living faith which can only come from God.  Using God’s gifts as an opportunity to set ourselves apart within the body and cause division is to imagine that we are owed something, which even our very salvation shows that we are not.

Second, distinctions within the Church by no means divide its unity, because distinctions between the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity by no means divide His unity.  God has revealed Himself as three Persons–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–yet there is only one God.  The mystery of who God is translates also to His Church, because she is in Him.  Our different gifts all flow forth from the same source.  One God, one Church, one faith.

Third, all of these gifts come from God according to His will.  They do not belong to us so that we may use them as we please.  If one person has a particular gift, that is according to God’s will, not to some innate ability.  No one therefore has a “right” to express themselves within the Church.  God gives all gifts according to His plan for His Church, both in kind and in degree.

Fourth, God’s gifts are meant to build up the Church according to His good pleasure.  If they come from God in the way He desires, then He also desires them to serve a specific purpose.  God may choose to deliberately limit how much a particular gift serves the Church, because it will do what He has sent it to do.  God’s gifts are never wasted or neglected, because they are His and His alone.  If we exercise them, we do so according to His pleasure and purpose.  In that way, no gift ever destroys the unity of the Church, because no gift is ever used contrary to God’s will.

Fifth, the spiritual gifts of God are individual and particular.  No man ever possesses all of them at the same time.  We depend on each other just as much as we depend on God, because we are His body.  There can be no room for pride when we recognize that we are not individuals before God.

Finally, as Paul will go on to say especially in 1 Corinthians 13, because all of these gifts belong to God and are given according to His will, we should not expect any of them.  Some of these gifts have passed away, because they have served the purpose for which God sent them.  Speaking in tongues and miracle working, for example, may still arise if God so wills it, but using them in a way which causes division misunderstands why they were sent in the first place.  God’s gifts are not a cause to boast, but a way to build up in love.  When they pass away, and they will pass away (1 Corinthians 13:8), the partial will give way to the perfect.  Love will abound even as the gifts which built it up pass away, because God gives them so that we may love one another.