“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:1-2 (NKJV)
I took a closer look at the context of this Scripture recently (Galatians 5:13- 6:10) and discovered a few things I want to share with you. We all struggle with things at times that require the assistance of others to help us into a place of freedom. But many believers today find themselves in environments that aren’t conducive to receive the help that they need. For example, some churches no longer practice deliverance or experience miracles because they believe they died out with the original apostles, or they don’t want to offend the “seekers,” or they don’t believe Christians need deliverance or they’re stuck in religious performance and no longer have access to the flow of the Spirit. How unfortunate for those who are in need of deliverance or a miracle! If the Kingdom culture of the supernatural is not established in a church, the members will find it difficult to access on their own what they need in times of desperation.
Taking it a step further, other churches have a culture that mirrors the business and political communities around them more than authentic family relationships. When this is the case, pride often hinders believers from admitting they need help with something because it damages their reputation of “having it all together.” In their minds, honesty and vulnerability equal demotion in their attempt to strive for preeminence in their Christian environment. For this reason many choose to remain in bondage because the promotion of their gifts has greater value to them than freedom from their fleshly bondage. It’s not impossible, but it’s very difficult to transcend the environment around you to move into a place of freedom when it isn’t modeled in front of you by leadership or established in the church culture around you.
Just a few verses prior to the verses above, Paul shares with the Galatians the contrast between walking in the Spirit and fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. He then lists 18 works of the flesh (the 18th is “and the like”) followed by 9 fruit of the Spirit. Notice the terminology of “works” of the flesh and “fruit” of the Spirit. He used the word “works” because the Galatians were going back to the works of the law that they were previously delivered from, thus cutting off the supply of divine grace to walk in the Spirit. Paul wanted them to know that religious flesh is just as harmful as carnal flesh and that given some time, both religious and carnal manifestations of their flesh would overtake them.
Psalm 1:3 gives us a picture of believers today who are grounded in the Word next to “rivers of water” (ministry flows of the Holy Spirit) who supernaturally “bring forth fruit in their season.” You don’t have to work for fruit, you just need to stay connected to the Source of life. Fruit is the byproduct of receiving the grace of God that you access by faith and walking in the Spirit based on how He leads you. As you continue to obey the leading of the Spirit, you will find more and more internal fruit of your union with the Spirit as well as external fruit of your spiritual calling being fulfilled. There will be undeniable evidence of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Now let me take you to the garden of Eden. There were two trees in the garden, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So in essence, there were 3 kinds of fruit in the garden: good fruit, evil fruit and Life fruit. When you read through the 18 works of the flesh you will notice that half of them are blatantly evil (carnal) sins that manifest externally such as drunkenness, murder and adultery whereas the other half are deceptively good (religious) sins that are sometimes hidden internally such as dissensions, heresies, and selfish ambition. Half are carnal, half are religious. But both are flesh. Nine good fruit, nine bad fruit and nine perfect fruit.
The fruit that Eve ate in the garden was a good fruit, not an evil fruit. But the consequences of her actions (and Adam’s too) led humanity to be overtaken by both religious and carnal flesh. When believers are bound by evil manifestations of sin and don’t seek freedom, in time this will lead to religious efforts to hide their sin and treat others inappropriately. The devil just needs an inroad, an opportunity to set up a beachhead to expand his influence throughout our flesh. Whether that starts with religious flesh or carnal flesh, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.”
Then Paul says that “those who practice such things (works of the flesh, both carnal and religious) will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Some Christians think this means that those who do these things won’t go to heaven when they die. If that’s the case, that eliminates over half the church because I know quite a few believers who struggle with these things on both sides of the flesh fence! The meaning of this verse is explained in Galatians 6:7-9 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” This is all about spiritual momentum. What you feed grows. What you starve shrinks. The choice is yours.
Once again, this Scripture is not referring to dying and then going to heaven or hell. It is talking about the consequences for our actions when we obey the lusts of the flesh or the leading of the Spirit. Everlasting life is synonymous with eternal life and here’s what John 17:3 has to say about that: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” You already have access to eternal life if you have a relationship with God. It’s that everlasting life that caused your spirit to be born again! John 3:16 says that if you “believe in Him you HAVE everlasting life,” not GOING TO HAVE IT when you go to heaven!
In fact, John 3:3,5 says “…unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God AND …unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Conversely, Jesus was saying that if someone is born again, they can (present tense) see and enter the kingdom of God. He said nothing about dying and going to heaven. In essence, he said that the born again experience gives you access to the kingdom of God because now that you have eternal life, you can access your inheritance. On other occasions Jesus said the kingdom of God is (present tense) among you and that if he cast out devils (and he did) then the kingdom of God came upon them (past tense). The kingdom of God was never presented as only a future reality in heaven. It was revealed through revelation and demonstrated with power as a present reality for others to receive and function in.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Our Father IN HEAVEN, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come (from heaven to earth). Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That prayer gives definition to the kingdom of God: the rule and reign of God, whether in heaven or earth, where the will of God is made known and done to glorify Him. “Falling from grace” has nothing to do with murder, adultery or drunkenness. But it has everything to do with losing your ability to inherit the kingdom of God in your life when you choose to lean on your own understanding and trust in your flesh.
To be estranged means ‘to be removed from your customary environment or associations.’ It also means ‘to arouse mutual enmity where there had formerly been love and affection.’ You lose your ability to receive the life and grace of God if you continue to place your trust in religious works. But the same goes for those who are trapped by the bondage of evil flesh. It doesn’t disqualify you from receiving everything pertaining to your inheritance, but every fleshly manifestation that has you bound hinders you from receiving corresponding blessings from God that are necessary for you to fulfill your divine destiny. And the longer you continue in sin, the more it will grow and affect other areas of your life as well as hinder additional parts of your inheritance.
Verse 9 clarifies what it means to “sow to the Spirit.” It says if we continue to “do good” we will reap, as long as we don’t allow discouragement to keep us from doing the right thing. Doing good has to do with obeying the voice of God, both in the written Word and through the leading of the Spirit. And the fruit of the Spirit is what God manifests in our hearts and lives as we continue to walk in the Spirit. So when Paul says that people who struggle with the works of the flesh can’t inherit the kingdom of God, that means that fleshly activity hinders our ability to receive corresponding spiritual downloads that are only available to those who respond the the voice of God in obedience while crucifying the voice of their own flesh.
The fruit of the Spirit is internal evidence we are accessing our spiritual inheritance, the kingdom of God in our lives. The works of the flesh serve as external proof that we have cut ourselves off from corresponding blessing, the ability to access spiritual inheritance in our lives. It’s all about momentum. The more you obey the Spirit, walking progressively in the Spirit, the less you will fulfill the lusts of the flesh. But the more you fulfill the lusts of your flesh, the less fruit of the Spirit you will experience.
Having said all of that, let’s take a closer look at the verse I shared at the beginning of this. “If a man is OVERTAKEN in any trespass…” Overtaken has a two-fold meaning in Greek. The first part is self-explanatory but the second part sheds some light on the subject. The first part of overtaken means “to be trapped, imprisoned, in bondage, addicted or in repetitive behavior that can’t be overcome in one’s strength.” The second part means “to be detected before one can flee from the scene of a crime.” This verse gives the description of someone who has been taken captive by a particular sin and can’t break free, as well as someone else who discerns what is happening. It also paints the picture of our tendency to try to hide our weaknesses from others, trying to get away with things without getting caught or detected, which can be either spiritual discernment or actually being an eyewitness to someone’s sinful behavior.
The phrase “you who are spiritual” has nothing to do with gifts of the Spirit in the context of this passage. It has everything to do with those who manifest the fruit of the Spirit and specifically have dominion over the specific sin that someone else is struggling with. However, the gifts of the Spirit can be instrumental in accurately discerning what is happening as well as helping to provide deliverance and wisdom for others to break free. The word “spiritual” actually refers to someone who is moved by the Spirit to take action regarding what is detected, not in a condemning way, but as a brother who can come alongside another brother to encourage, pray and minister freedom to them. It also can refer to those who have oversight over those who are struggling, and because of that oversight God gives them the ability to see the struggles of those they care for as well as the wisdom to help them overcome.
Because many Christians respond in their own religious flesh when made aware of the carnal flesh of others, this makes it difficult for some to open up about their struggles. Many want to be free but don’t know who they can trust. Compound this with the church cultures we mentioned above that make it even more difficult to get free and you can see how people feel trapped in their predicament. I like how this verse also addresses those who are spiritual by saying “consider yourself lest you also be tempted.” That serves as a gentle reminder that those who discern that others need help need to safeguard against pride, knowing that they also needed help in times past and may need help in the future. That verse addresses the hypocrisy of some in leadership who feel they are the answer to everyone else’s problems but won’t admit when they need help themselves.
The last thing I want to point out is an apparent contradiction. Verse 2 says that we should “bear one another’s burdens.” But verse 5 says that “each one shall bear his own load.” To bear means “to carry, sustain, support, endure, uphold and to understand a matter and receive it calmly.” That paints a picture of someone operating in compassion and wisdom at the same time to help others in time of need. To bear also denotes responsibility and authority. Truthfully, we’re all responsible for our own actions and the outcome of our lives. But in the family of God, we have leadership who is given the responsibility to help those under their care with things out of their reach or ability. But spiritual leaders aren’t just called to minister to others. They’re also called to equip and empower them to take charge of their own lives. This is where the apparent contradiction makes sense. Yes, we all have to bear our own load. We answer to God for our actions. But we also have to look out for one another.
We need to discern the difference between matters we can handle on our own and things we need help with. Then we need to ask for help in the right places. For those in leadership, it’s no different. We need to take responsibility for ourselves but at the same time reach out for help when we need it. Leadership can’t be consumed with ministering to others while neglecting to bear their own load, ministering to themselves. That’s where the balance comes in. This is not about nitpicking and pointing out every fault we see in others. It’s about engaging in relationships that God ordains and fulfilling our part to help others and be helped when necessary. We don’t need any more people who specialize in pointing out problems. We need people who walk in love, wisdom and power to help others overcome what they can’t on their own.
The scripture above says that when we “bear one another’s burdens,” we “fulfill the law of Christ.” When the Galatians started to go back into the works of the law, “Christ profited them nothing” and they “fell from grace.” Religion has a way of separating us from God, from one another and from the very grace of God that we need. But when we “confess our faults one to another, we are healed.” When we walk in humility concerning our struggles and humbly help one another through them, this places us in a position for the grace of God to be released into our lives. And Christ, which is the Greek word “christos” meaning the Anointed One and his anointing will begin to flow in the body the way it was intended to. This brings healing and freedom to all of us! We’re called the body of Christ for this very reason! Let’s function like family so we can access the grace we need to overcome, the inheritance that is laid up for us in heaven, right here and right now when we need it the most!