“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” – Galatians 6:1-3
The Apostle Paul is here speaking of the Gospel lived out in the Christian life. He is calling every Christian to emulate the sin-bearing work of Christ and become burden-bearers of one another. He appeals to those “who are spiritual” to restore the trespasser. The Holy Spirit is the consummate restorer of trespassers. We are called to “live by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25), and that the fact that the Holy Spirit has been given to us is “proof that we live in him and him in us” (1 Jn. 4:13). The Triune God did not just justify us, but lives in us in the person of the Holy Spirit, and thus puts believers in the category of the “spiritual,” that is, those who live according to “the law of the spirit of life” (Rom. 8:2). God has given us a life-giving, rejuvenating, empowering, renewing, restoring spirit that continually intercedes for us (Rom. 8:26-27). Needless to say, we do not deserve to be graced by the indwelling of God Himself in our spirit. It is a work of grace (Phil. 2:8-10).
The Holy Spirit applies the work of Christ to our lives. The work of Christ was to bear the sins of His people on their behalf (Is. 53). Today’s passage reminds us of that sin-bearing work of Christ granted to us by no inherent merit, but rather in spite of our sin and by sheer divine grace. God orchestrated His Gospel in this manner so that there would be no room for boasting or looking down on other fellow believers. Since all human beings are sons of Adam (1 Cor. 15:22), and God graciously chooses to redeem some of them through Christ (1 Cor. 15:22), we are all at His mercy. Even after receiving His mercy in the gospel, we are continually reminded of our desperate need of grace when we sin, and when we look around at the fallen world we live in. When we look at our sinfulness, we do not have a ground to look down on others, because we need forgiveness as much as our brother or sister next to us. That is one of the points of today’s passage. When we look down on another fellow sinner, we are implicitly stating that we are something, when in reality we are nothing. Christ is all and in all (Col. 1:17, 3:11). We are nothing but unworthy servants, who have only done our duty (Luke 17:10). We are to emulate the sin-bearing work of Christ and bear each other’s burdens, as Christ did and continually does in our behalf. This is called the fulfillment of the law of Christ, the Gospel itself lived out in our lives.
Let us bear each other’s burdens and restore fellow trespassers, knowing that we trespass God’s law every day, yet are covered by God’s grace. Let us fulfill the law of Christ, a Gospel-filled life, by forgiving and bearing the burdens of fellow believers, just as Christ did and continually does for every believer. Let us remember that though we are nothing, we possess everything in Christ as royal sons of God (Eph. 1:3; 1 Cor. 3:22; Jn. 1:12).
“The Law of Christ is the Law of love. Christ gave us no other law than this law of mutual love: ‘A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another.’ To love means to bear another’s burdens. Christians must have strong shoulders to bear the burdens of their fellow Christians. Faithful pastors 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 overlook our own shortcomings and wrong-doings, we ought to overlook the shortcomings of others in accordance with the words, ‘Bear ye one another’s burdens.’
Those who fail to do so expose their lack of understanding of the law of Christ. Love, according to Paul, ‘believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.’ This commandment is not meant for those who deny Christ; neither is it meant 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 own great sorrow and regret, carry the burdens which the Apostle encourages us to bear. Let us not be hard on them. If Christ did not punish them, what right have we to do it?” – Martin Luther
- Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians: http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mlg/galatians-6.html