The Heart of Galatians

Recently, while I was reading Commentary on Galatians by Martin Luther, I ran across the phrase ‘tyrants of men’s consciences’ when he was referring to the judgement and condemning attitude of some of the people during Luther’s time. They were promoting intimidation to keep people in line with the religious legalism that was prevalent.

I was specifically reading about Romans 6:1-5 in the commentary. There is some puzzling language in those verses that look like contradictions:

6 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. 4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For every man shall bear his own burden.

First and foremost, in order to understand what’s written here, you have to look at the context. In Galatians 5, Paul continued to lay out the flesh vs spirit problem the Galatians were having. They were into performing according to the flesh. In the later verses of Galatians 5, he lists the fruit of the spirit which are products of the operation of holy spirit in people’s innermost hearts. Galatians 6:1 starts out and closes with ‘Brethren’. This book is written to brothers and sisters in Christ.

Another thing to keep in mind is that God didn’t put the chapter breaks in His Word, man did. If we look at verses 25 and 26 in the previous chapter and verse 1-5 of chapter six it reads:

25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. 4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For every man shall bear his own burden.

With all that in mind, the apparent contradiction starts to untwist. We help one another with burdens (baros – like an overloaded ship that presses downward). We fulfill the law of Christ by loving one another and helping one another. We remind each other of the power and love of God that lifts the load. In verse 5, we read that we carry our own burden (phortion- like a ship that is carrying cargo, its proper invoice weight. A ship travels better with a certain amount of weight that prevents being tossed to and fro).

If someone is overtaken with a burden we help because we know that we at times deal with overloads and this happens in life. We walk by the spirit rather than by the flesh knowing that is the only way to help.  The only boasting that goes on is about God and what He is able to do.

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