The people of God in our day live at a time of growing apostasy and immorality. It is a day of relative ease, on the other hand, in that the church undergoes no strong persecution. It is, therefore, a day of great temptation. There is a very real temptation to go to sleep—to turn our eyes away from our weaknesses and sins, in order to continue the so-called peace that we enjoy. The attitude of the world that everything is okay as long as it does not personally hurt another, is an attitude that the church is tempted to follow.
But those walking in the Spirit, the chosen, redeemed, and quickened in Christ are led by Christ’s Spirit to hear anew Christ’s admonition which is set forth inGalatians 6:1-3, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”
In this article we will consider these words of our Lord given to us through the apostle Paul. Christ admonishes us to bear one another’s burdens. At the outset, we must understand that the apostle is not speaking here of the burdens of poverty, sickness, etc., although it is true that God’s children will also bear these burdens of one another. But the apostle speaks in particular of the burdens of sin, those burdens which result from sin and weakness.
Hence, We see the apostle speaking of a hypothetical case of a daily reality within the church. God’s people are not yet perfect—although they are made new creatures in Christ, and are renewed in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, and seek in hope and trust the promised eternal glory of fellowship with God. God’s people in this life yet contend with the flesh and therefore with sin. This is our everyday experience.
Now sin disrupts the walk in the Spirit. It robs one of his hope and comfort. And sin disrupts the manifestation of the life in Christ. Further, sin is abhorrent to God and to His people. In short sin brings into the church of Christ deepest misery. Thus Christ, knowing His Church with a perfect and intimate knowledge, addresses His own as they dwell in the midst of this world. And He does so in order to give them strength in the battle of faith, and to give them the victory. He does so by calling us to bear one another’s burdens—this especially in relation to the sin of a brother in the midst of the body of Christ.
Again we point out that Christ knows His church and He knows the devastating effect of sin upon His Church and His people. He bore God’s eternal wrath because of it! Thus Christ instructs us that, when a brother or sister is overtaken in a fault, in a certain sin, we must restore him or her. It happens that members of the church do fall beside the way of truth. They walk in sin. And that sin affects other of God’s people—the Church. This may be directly, in that the sin is committed against another member of the body of Christ. But it is always true generally that if a member of the body is hurt, the whole body is affected. This is a part of the devastating effect of sin in the Church.
The sin is not spelled out in the text, but because the term for sin speaks of a stepping beside the truth—thus to err, to sin—it can be the departure from doctrinal truth, or the forsaking of the truth in an ungodly walk. It is evident, also, that the sin spoken of is not either one that is repented of, but is a sin in which one walks for a time impenitently (whether for a long or short time). Such sin disrupts the walk of the child of God in faith and robs him of comfort, confidence, and hope.
Thus it is a burden, a weight, that brings misery to the brother or sister. And this is true whether the one sinning consciously admits it or not. Sin opposes the Spirit, sin is natural, of the’ flesh, and it prevents a walking in the Spirit. This cuts off from the conscious fellowship of God and from the fellowship in the Lord in the body of Christ. It keeps one from the conscious enjoyment of all the wonders of grace.
Now, to emphasize, this affects not only the man that so walks, but the entire body of Christ. This is literally the case when sin is committed directly against members of the body of Christ, for sin drives a wedge in our fellowship and communion in the Lord. And this is an abomination to our God. But it is also true that a walk in sin by one member does harm to the whole body. For it always dishonors the Christ, Who is the Head of the Church. And it always does great harm to the one sinning.
Thus Christ Who perfectly cares for His people admonishes us to bear one another’s burdens. Our text rightly pictures sin as a burden. It is a weight that brings trouble upon one! Hence, another’s sin may never be an occasion for lightheartedness on the part of other members of the body of Christ. We may not laugh at or overlook the sin of a brother, and perhaps say, “that is his problem.” For sin always brings one in danger of hell-fire. Thus indeed the sin of another brings deep concern for those of like faith in the body of Christ. And we are given by grace to see that the purpose of bearing one another’s burdens is a matter of the love of God and the brother in Christ. The purpose is the deliverance of the brother from the terrible weight of sin and its curse.
Jesus imperatively tells us to restore such a one so departing. The term means literally to render sound or complete. Sin tears down the one sinning. It takes away comfort and strength—it leaves one weak. For the consciousness of Christ is removed by an ungodly walk. Peace of mind and soul departs! And this, if not checked, leads to greater distress and trouble. It brings often a breach even in the manifestation of the Church of Christ.
We are, therefore, called to restore such a one. That is, we are told by Christ that we may not leave the brother or sister who walks in sin alone. One may not turn his face away from the sins of others, for this will not restore. Nor may we merely talk about the sin of a brother, for this will not restore, but tends further to tear down! Christ commands us to restore the brother, to seek him out in the love of Christ, and to care for him and remove his burden. We are to become involved, to restore him to his rightful place in the body of Christ. And our text makes it plain that this is not something that we might choose to do or not to do. Christ gives no choice in the matter to His Church. This His people shall do; anything else is displeasing to our God and His Son Jesus Christ.
But how? How can such as we, who are ourselves sinners, restore a sinning brother? Jesus addresses the spiritual ones. Obvious it is why Christ calls our attention to the fact that it is the spiritual ones that are so admonished (that is, those in whom Christ abides by His Spirit and Word). For naturally we would not, could not, bear one another’s burdens. For the natural man stands in enmity against God and also against the neighbor. We are naturally creatures of pride and are filled with hatred. For natural man is totally, utterly depraved. This manifests itself in our natural seeking of numero uno alone. One naturally is not concerned with the brother, but delights in the destruction of the brother unto the exaltation of self. Naturally there is only a delight in the troubles of another, a delight in those who sin.
Hence Jesus also instructs His people, who by grace would hear Him. “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” The children of God are thus led by Christ, also when heeding His word in the way of grace—that is, to bear the brother’s burden by restoring him that sinned—to confess they are nothing. This is necessity for those who would exhort, instruct, and correct the erring brother. Any other portion will keep us from the walk of love towards the brother. Our pride would prevent us! Only when we are brought by the Word of Christ to a deep understanding of our own nothingness, is it ever possible to go to the sinning brother with admonition. Jesus instructs us to bear the brother’s burdens in meekness. Only as the Lord makes -us to see our own sin, and the gracious deliverance in His blood, is it possible to speak of that deliverance with the brother walking in sin. And only then, as Christ fills us with the testimony of His Word, so that we rely only on His Word to quicken and correct the brother, are we able to go to him.
Only the Spiritual Ones!
And this spirituality comes wholly from without, only as Christ by His Spirit hath revealed unto us our sin by His Word! Only as He hath brought us down to the dust and ashes in contrition for sin! Only as Christ hath poured out upon us the bounties of God’s forgiving grace! Only as He hath bound our consciences by His Word! Only as He has shown to us in our inmost depths the way of escape in His precious blood! Only as Our Lord leads us by His Spirit and Word to know of Father’s everlasting covenant faithfulness to save us who are sinners! Only as Christ convicts us and gives to us a contrite heart! Only then does His Church hear this admonition; and only then have they strength to bear the brother’s burdens, and then with trembling!
But Christ is faithful, and by His Spirit He prepares His elect, and so enables them to care for the brother in his error and sin. Then in humility and by grace alone which abides in them God’s children turn to the brother walking in the way of sin. It is only with the Word of Christ that we may turn to the brother. We know that all natural reasoning will not avail. We understand that we could use all of the natural examples in this world (of where his sin will lead him), and still it would be of no avail. Only in the way of confession of our own sin, may we approach the erring brother. And in this way taking the Scriptures in the deep attitude of prayer is one able to instruct and exhort. In the deep consciousness of that great love of God Who has sent His only Son to die for us while we were yet sinners, do we approach the brother in need, And our trust is that God is willing to use such frail means as we are, to save His church. Thus as Christ gives us the grace to so walk before him, the brother will be cared for. For the Word alone has the power to restore as Christ is pleased to apply it unto the heart of His wayward children. And together by grace are we drawn to the cross and salvation. Thus is restored the one walking in sin whom Christ is pleased to restore. May God grant us grace so to bear our brother’s burdens.
God does hear this prayer of His saints. Christ gives His body the strength so to labor with the burdens of the brother; and so is fulfilled the law of Christ. This too is the assurance of our text. The law of Christ is fulfilled. The law of Christ is the law as it is set forth in God’s Word. It is God’s Word to His church. The essence of the law Jesus set forth as the love of God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and the love of our neighbor as ourselves. The law sets forth the covenant relation between God and His people.
It is called the law of Christ in our text because it is the law which Christ realizes and fulfills. Christ alone, as the Head of the elect Church, chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, walked before our God in harmony with the law. He in satisfaction of the law stood in our place before God, serving Him in perfect love as the obedient Son. He suffered in our stead the curse of the law against the disobedience of our sin. And, according to the law, in His self-sacrifice on the cross merited for us eternally a place in God’s fellowship. The love required by the law He now works in the hearts of His children. He assuredly calls Hisbody out of darkness into the light. Christ breaks the bondage of sin, and by His Spirit applies the law to the hearts of His people. He causes the word of God to dwell in His body so that they walk in the love of God and of their neighbor.
Thus our text says that by bearing one another’s burdens the law of Christ is fulfilled. Not that we add to the obedience of Christ to the law or to its satisfaction. That is impossible! But thus is filled to the brim the law, in the sense that Christ simply accomplishes His purpose in saving the church. Christ’s work and word is faithfully accomplished in those given Him. By His Spirit and Word He leads His church, giving us grace to bear one another’s burdens, and thus in faithfulness saves His church. And so shall He lead us till the day He comes to bring us to glory when no longer shall there be burdens.