‘Spiritual’ Friends and Churches, Part 1 Galatians 6:1-2 


Spiritual Friends and Churches

How to be a part of the solution and a help during difficult times

Galatians 6:1-2

Galatians 6:1 starts with, “You who are spiritual”–who is that and what is that? What does it mean to be spiritual? Are you more spiritual in the desert than in the city, and are you more spiritual in a suit or jeans? In a church building or a school? Singing chants or singing choruses? What does it mean to be spiritual?

Philip Ryken comments, “Everyone is interested in spirituality these days, but no one seems to agree on what it means. In the marketplace of ideas, spirituality sells. The bookstores are loaded with titles about angels, near-death experiences, and ancient pagan religions. The Internet is full of websites set up by New Age gurus. And spirit shops are everywhere. One of the strange things about this new fascination with the spiritual life is that many people want to become spiritual without getting religious.”

For them, spirituality is something private and spontaneous, whereas religion is public and rigid. The reason spirituality sells is people can make it whatever they want. According to sociologist Robert Wuthnow, “Growing numbers of Americans piece together their faith like a patchwork quilt. Spirituality has become a vastly complex quest in which each person seeks his or her own way.” Unfortunately, the same may be said of the Church, where there is today widespread confusion about the meaning of true spirituality.

Some Christians find their spirituality in acts of private devotion. Having one’s quiet time, fasting, and going to a retreat center are the basic actions of Christian spirituality. For others, the spiritual life begins at church, in the context of public worship. True spirituality comes from reciting an ancient liturgy, lighting candles, and waving incense. Or it comes from playing the right music, with instruments or no instruments–or with emotional choruses or only ancient hymns. Still other Christians seek an emotional spiritual experience. They want to be healed or delivered by the Holy Spirit. They divide the church into those who have particular experiences and those who don’t.

The letter to the Galatians offers a totally different understanding of a spiritual life. Spirituality is not a take-your-pick through the pluralism of today. Christian spirituality is based on a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ who has spoken His eternal Word. The spiritual life is not something you define for yourself. True spirituality is defined by the existence and character of the one true God.

Contrary to what some Christians think, this spiritual life is not something we produce within us through some form of ritual or certain behaviors. Simply stated, genuine spiritual life flows from the third person of the Trinity. The life of the Holy Spirit can be nurtured using His means of grace–reading Scripture, attending public worship, etc. But the spiritual life itself comes from God. Only His Spirit can produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

And get this–the Spirit does not produce this fruit for our private enjoyment. True spirituality is not an individualistic quest for self-fulfillment. The life of the Spirit flourishes for the sake of others. It is not experienced primarily in private, but exercised in public. Spirituality does not grow in isolation, but within a community of believers who are indwelt by the Spirit. A true spiritual life is meant to be shared. Genuine spiritual living is less like a fruit tree hidden away in a secret garden, and more like one that grows in a public park.

So now in chapter 6 of Galatians, Paul describes the genuinely spiritual church and the truly spiritual friend–what they are like, what they are known for, what they prioritize, and what they are willing to do which demonstrates they are indwelt with the Spirit. Read aloud what Paul says in verses 1 to 6 of Galatians 6, noting that Paul is speaking to the churches in verses 1 and 2, and to individual Christians in verses 3 through 6.

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. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. 5For each one will bear his own load. 6The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him” (Galatians 6:1 to 6).

Verses 1 to 6 make it really clear, to be spiritual is to “one another” each other. Spiritual people restore one another from sin, bear one another’s burdens, consider others more important than themselves, are responsible for their own lives, do not think too highly of themselves, and share with one another. This is a leap for many of you. Not only is the Lord asking you to live different than our culture, but our King is also calling you to live different than most churches.

Most of you realize we can’t be considered a Christian who doesn’t hate the world and love Heaven. But for most of us, it’s far more difficult to live different than our friends, to disagree with our family, to live contrary to our upbringing–even dramatically altering the way we have participated in church. But that is what God is calling the Galatians and you to do in this passage.

If you are indwelt with the Holy Spirit, verses 1 to 6 is what a spiritual person does. This is how the Christlike behave. This is what a truly Spirit-filled church looks like–not people swaying back and forth, falling down, shouting and speaking gibberish. Six main indicators of the spiritual church and six main qualities of the spiritual friend–when you cooperate with the Spirit of God indwelling you, this is what you are like.

Verses 1 to 2 this week and verses 3 to 6 next week–you need them all. This passage is designed to transform us into truly spiritual believers–will it? Verses 1 to 2 are plural and verses 3 to 6 are singular. This week Paul is emphasizing the Church in verses 1 to 2. And next week Paul is emphasizing the individual believer in verses 3 to 6. So what does Paul say to us together as a church? A genuine spiritual church . . .

1  PICKS OTHERS UP  Verse 1

How do we treat each other as a church? How do spiritual believers function in community? Being spiritual first means restoring one another from difficulties with sin. Galatians 6:1, “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.” Each word in this verse is significant.

Brethren” tells us Paul is teaching Christians in God’s family–all of us in community. We are all sons and daughters of the one true God, adopted by faith in His Son. But the fact that we are family and forgiven does not stop us from struggling with sin. When we are not filled with the Spirit, we are living by our own strength in the flesh and the deeds of the flesh are sin. We can be walking towards Christ, becoming like Christ and suddenly slip into sin and get stuck.

Paul makes certain you know it could be anyone—”if anyone is caught.” It doesn’t matter if you are a new Christian or a spiritual leader–Paul says “anyone”. The Greek word “caught” might describe someone who is caught in the act of sin, like the woman in John 8:4 caught in adultery. Or it might describe someone who is just walking along on the road toward Heaven, who slips on the ice of temptation and falls down.

Regardless, the sin described here is not intentional or deliberate or habitual, but unexpected sin, and now they are down. In the context of Galatians, it is most likely a reference to the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19 to 21–like the impurity of pornography, the idolatry of a person or place you go, strife between friends, jealousy of a classmate, outbursts of anger against your kids, disputes with a fellow worker, or becoming drunk at home. And Paul clarifies, “caught in any trespass”–it can be any sin . . . a little lying, some hidden lusting, ingrown eyeball selfishness, or secret pride–any sin.

Trespass” is falling aside, getting off the path, going where you’re not supposed to go. There are times when a disciple following Christ trips up, falls down and gets stuck in sin. In the process of being a disciple, sometimes you need counseling to get unstuck from sin. So Paul gives you God’s solution–what you do, who should do it, and how it is to be done.

WHAT should be done? Paul is direct—“restore such a one.” Restore means to return to its former condition. Restore is used in medicine of setting a broken bone or resetting a dislocated joint. When you break a bone, you have to isolate it to heal in order to mend the bone. When you trip up into some sin, God wants His body to restore you–to fix what is broken and get you back on the road to Heaven.

This is radical stuff for most Christians today. You don’t run away from the person who has slipped on the ice of temptation and now is broken with sin–you run to them. You must not ignore them. You are spiritual medical students, but not timid medical students. Timid medical students who see a bone sticking out of an arm, are afraid to touch it or render aid. As a result, the bone is never set and the wound doesn’t heal. You can’t be timid or talky.

Talky medical students want to describe how awful the bone is as it is sticking out of the arm. They love talking about the patient who fell–criticizing them for falling down and needing to go to the spiritual ER in the first place. The worst medical student is not timid, talky, but the terminator. This is the self-righteous medical student who wants to terminate the one falling in sin, as if they themselves never battle or struggle with sin. The terminators are the church attenders who shoot their wounded.

Which one are you–timid, talky or the terminator? Paul tells us the genuinely spiritual believer is the one who restores–fixes their broken bone. When Christians are caught in sin, they don’t need isolation, or amputation, or cremation–they need restoration. When you hear of a slip, are you harsh, critical and judgmental? Or are you broken, comforting and helpful? Restoring someone is rushing to them and picking them up. They have fallen into sin and you help them get to their feet again.

The New Testament teaches a lot about this process of restoration–it’s called church discipline. When it is unintentional sin, it is not habitual nor overtly destructive or dangerous. Then apply 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” Hey, if you can get over it, let love cover it. Recall how many times you’ve sinned and others loved you and gave you grace—covered it.

But like Galatians 6, when they’re caught in a sin they’re trapped, fallen down and stuck. Then apply Matthew 18:15 to 17, “If your brother sins, [variant reading, “against you”] go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

There are four steps—1) go to them privately–don’t tell anyone, not even your family–and go to them seeking to help them confess, repent, and get help with their sin. You are there to help. If we are a spiritual church, this should go on all the time in our midst with no one else knowing. 2) if they don’t confess, repent and get help with their sin, then confront them again with two or three witnesses, who will also seek to help, as well as witness the confrontation. They don’t have to witness the sin, but they witness the confrontation and are involved in seeking to help their brother or sister.

And now 3) the elders are only told at this point, and they also seek to plead for repentance in order to restore. And 4) Matthew 18:17, the entire church family cuts them off from the blessing of community and true fellowship, in order for them to hopefully repent and be restored to the church family. Galatians 6 and Matthew 18 are how to deal with personal sin—restore.

RC Sproul shocked me with his history lesson–after the Reformation, so many different kinds of protestant churches were given birth that they got together at one point to determine what was a legitimate church and what was not. They came up with three criteria. One) the Gospel was truly preached. Two) the sacraments of baptism and communion were practiced. Three) church discipline was exercised. The reformers agreed, if a church did not practice church discipline according to the Word of God, then that church did not qualify as a valid church. Wow–what would those reformers say about churches today?

Back in the 16th century, they were so serious about church discipline, they would actually torture their own members. They invented devices they’d use in order to inflict pain in their discipline. One device in particular was used on the tongue of gossips–why? Because they believed in a real, everlasting Hell. And they believed it was justifiable to torture the body in order to save the soul, in order to lead them to repentance. We practice church discipline, but we do not torture.

But we do practice church discipline when someone is trapped in sin. Then in addition, only when they’re unwilling to repent in order to be restored. Restored is not describing punishment, but providing care, mending the net, repairing the bone, settling the dispute–helping those who’ve slipped to get back on their feet again. The one who is caught in sin needs to be freed from sin.

WHO is to do it? “You who are spiritual”–I love this. This is not an official person, not an elder, pastor, or leader, but “you who are spiritual.” You don’t wait for an invitation from the sin-caught Christian. They don’t have to ask for help. “You who are spiritual” take the initiative–you go to them, even if they don’t like it. And make certain you hear this–you don’t send the sin-injured Christian to unbelieving counselors, but to those who are spiritual.

The moment you are born again, you are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. You know Romans 8:9b, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Every Christian has all the Holy Spirit. In that sense, every Christian is spiritual. But at any given moment, and in the context of Galatians 6:1, it is those who are filled with the Spirit and developing a walk with the Spirit who are truly the spiritual.

Any believer who lives filled, meaning dependent upon the Spirit, saturated and obedient to the Word of God, not grieving or quenching the Spirit with any known sin and seeking to please Christ by being a servant and seeking to share the Gospel of Christ, is at that moment, spiritual. “You who are spiritual”—the ones who follow Christ are spiritual. The ones who keep short accounts with the Lord are spiritual. And if you’re truly spiritual, then you will seek to restore those caught in sin.

It doesn’t mean you can’t get help–but it does mean you must help. Every Christian here is to seek to be in the Spirit, not in the flesh. And as you are, then you are to help any believer who is caught in any trespass. How is it to be done? Read verse 1, “Restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”

How #1  “in a spirit of gentleness

The reason only spiritual people should restore sinners is that only spiritual people can. They do so with a heart of gentleness or meekness, which is part of the fruit of the Spirit. The Greek “gentle” means humble, considerate, mild, kind, gracious and even-tempered. If sinners are restored gently, it will take a spiritual person to do it, because only a person in the Spirit can truly be gentle or meek.

If you’re a harsh employer or a harping mom, that means you’re spiritually immature. Angry words are never necessary to defend God’s righteous character or perfect Word. The only way to restore a believer who’s tripped up in sin is with gentle sensitivity. If it can’t be done gently, then it should not be done by you. Even bold Martin Luther instructed a brother to restore like this. “Run unto him, and reaching out your hand, raise him up again; comfort him with sweet words and embrace him with motherly arms.”

Restoring a believer in bondage to sin is no different than setting a broken bone. The process is bound to be painful no matter who does it. But the more deftly the bone is set, the sooner the healing can begin. And you will discover next week, that restoration requires humility, selflessness, responsibility and more. Again verse 1, Paul adds . . .

How #2  “each you too one looking to yourself, so that will not be tempted

The big temptation in verse 1 is pride. Paul is warning you, since it is not difficult to feel self-righteous when you’re correcting someone else’s sin–or worse, when they repent. You might be tempted to take credit for that which only God can do. Maybe their sin was gross or base and you never struggled with sin at that level–that circumstance can lead you to look proudly down on them and to exalt yourself over them. Or if you’re restoring those with out-of-control immoral desires, you must beware of the temptation to satisfy their desires yourself.

Paul warned later in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” The truly spiritual believer doesn’t watch from a distance, but comes alongside struggling Christians to help them overcome their bondage to certain sins, to restore. You pick them up.

#2  HOLD OTHERS UP

The second kind of spiritual work believers pursue in the church takes less gentleness and more effort. Luther said this work requires strong shoulders. It is less like setting a broken bone and more like carrying the stretcher. You and I in this church are to, verse 2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” How many of you are willing to admit that Christians have burdens? We have heavy burdens, which here obviously, include battles with sin–but also sorrow, worry, doubt, failure, poverty, loneliness, illness, divorce, disability and depression.

Not only do we face such hardships, but there are times when we are incapable of handling them, dealing with them—and even depending on the Lord for them just by ourselves. Sometimes our burdens are so heavy, we must share them in order to carry them at all. It is true, God Himself carries our burdens–in fact He carried the impossible burden of our sin and our guilt. And He bore that burden on the cross and died for our sins.

And it is true, if our Lord carried the heaviest and greatest of burdens, then He can also carry any lighter ones as well. Psalm 55:22, “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” Peter 5:7, “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” God’s shoulders are broad enough to carry any and all of our burdens. But even though that’s true, it does not mean, the Lord is the only one we should share them with.

Our Lord designed a way to lighten our load, and that is to have other Christians carry our burdens with us—to share the load and lug our heavy difficulties with us.Text Box:   And the Christians who bear those burdens with us are those who are spiritual. Do you know what a bellhop is? Still today, but mainly in the past, when you would check into a classy hotel, once checked in, the man behind the desk would ring the bell [ding-ding], and a boy to young man would grab your luggage and take it to your room. They would carry your baggage for you [ding-ding] and your burdens were carried.

So today in the church, when you are overwhelmed with loss [ding-ding], lost in your difficulty [ding-ding], isolated in your loneliness [ding-ding], spiritual Christians were intended by the Lord to come alongside you to help carry your load for a season [ding-ding]. They will pray, they will listen, they will offer warm hugs and speak kind words, offer a meal to share, give an appropriate Christian book–they will help carry your load [ding-ding].

When you see anyone in the church struggling under the weight of heavy troubles, you need to offer your shoulders–bear their burden, share their weight, and pull their heavy load with them. This is not for leadership, but for all of you who are in the Spirit. Why is it important? Verse 2b, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

This is shocking–Paul has been passionately teaching the Galatians that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, with no law, no works at all. What in the world are you saying, Paul—”and thereby fulfill the law of Christ”? Well, Paul already told us in Galatians 5:14, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

We are called to keep the Law of love, even though our salvation doesn’t depend on it. Though we are not under the Law, nevertheless we fulfill the Law. When Paul says “the law of Christ”, it is the moral law, the law of love. It is Christ Himself who taught this and lived this law of love. John 15:12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” The law of Christ is the law of loving one another. And one way you fulfill the law of love is to bear one another’s burdens. By caring for each other in this way, you become law-abiding Christians.

Galatians 1 to 4 proved you’re not saved by keeping the Law. But we prove we are Christ’s when we bear each other’s burdens the way Christ bore our greatest burden, and the way He continues to bear our burdens as our great High Priest. We are not saved by the Law, but we show by the Law, we are Christ’s. Hold each other up. Bear your brother’s and sister’s burdens.

TAKE HOME

A  Are you cultivating your SPIRITUAL life?

The problem with spiritual disciplines is legalism and externalism. No steps you take make you into a spiritual person. God saves you, indwells you and creates a hunger in you. Are you feeding that hunger? Are you fueling the hunger for relationship with Christ? Your spouse requires time, communication, relationship in order to maintain your marriage. Your Lord requires time, communication in prayer and the Word and intimate relationship in order to maintain your spiritual life.

Are you merely dating Jesus once a week or are you married to Jesus every day? Maintain your relationship with Christ. The puritans would say, any practice that awakens, strengthens or deepens your relationship with the Triune God is a healthy means of grace.

B  Are you TURNING to the Lord and to others to bear your burdens?

All of us have difficulties–health, money, relationships, family, hurts, and other burdens. First, 1 Peter 5:7, “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” Secondly, depend on others to bear your burdens. Some of you used to have those relationships and have drifted away. Or someone hurt you and you stopped. Others never started. Community Groups and ministries are where you build relationship and burden bearing takes place. Will you trust Christ and rely on others to share the load?

C  Are you genuinely LOVING other Christians?

There are a small few here who live only for family. You have no ongoing intimate connection with other believers. There are many reasons for this, but the one which is scary is you live for self, not the Savior. You live for your will and not His Word. If you love God, you will love other Christians–love meaning sacrifice for them.

First John 4:20 and 21, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; …21And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” Do you regularly serve others, give to others, and help others–meaning love others? There is no way you can call yourself a Christian without loving others.

D  Are you COMMITTED to help others biblically?

All of us need help from time to time. All of us need love, restoration, confession, rebuke, ow repentance and counsel. Paul makes it clear–never the counsel of the ungodly. Psalm 1:1, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.” Do not send people to sit under unsaved counsel to get help with their problems. Turn them to depend on God’s Gospel, God’s Word, God’s Spirit, God’s Church through godly men and women who point to the sufficiency of God’s Word, Spirit, Church and Gospel.

E  Are you truly a SPIRITUAL person?

Are you indwelt with the Holy Spirit? Do you know His power to free you from the penalty of sin and the power of sin. Is He working through you to minister your giftedness and showing off His fruit of love, joy, peace, and patience? And are you filled with the Spirit, where He strengthens, guides, and directs you to obey His Word? And most of all, are you filled in such a way that you pick up others and hold up others?

All Christians have the Holy Spirit! Do you? If not, turn to Christ today. What about the rest? You have got to come back next week. Paul is even more practical, more helpful and more pointed. All who are spiritual must return.

About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.

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