THE GREAT SELF-DECEPTION (Galatians 6:3)
The law of Christ must be fulfilled in the church. Except our righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees and Scribes we shall not enter into the Kingdom of heaven. For Christ did not come to destroy the law and the prophets, but he came to fulfill them. When we shall be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect—then shall also the law of Christ be completely and perfectly fulfilled by us!
It is a horrible thing to be deceived by others, and such as deceive us are not blessed in our memory. Deception is the very work of the Devil himself. But words can hardly describe the pity of any one who deceives himself. Pride cometh before the fall. What a pity it is to try to restore a brother overtaken in a fault, and then to find that in God’s estimation and judgment your “report card” reads: zero, nothing!
You and I cannot very easily read this third verse ofGalatians 6 without being required to ask the question: is Paul speaking of me too? For Paul says “if anyonethinketh to be something, being nothing.” This is therefore a judgment which allows for no exceptions to the rule. It is the rule by which high and low, men of erudition and the unlearned, rich and poor, of low degree and high degree are all judged by the Judge of heaven and earth. God makes no exceptions to His rule. And that sobering truth is here implied in this sentence of Paul. This makes us all to place our hand in our bosom!
You will ask: how can a man thus think himself to be something? Do you ask? Is it not true that, generally speaking, it is true that the less a man is the more he often thinks himself to be. The Dutch have a proverb “when you make nothing something you cannot use it.” It is a fact, too, that often the great and able man is a humble man. For that is true greatness. How could a creature be great and not humbly bow before God’s throne? The great man walks before God. And it is such who are “spiritual” in the congregation who are great. This may mean that there are times when it would be wise “to set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church,” (I Cor. 6:4b) These at least are not hampered in their judgment by imaginary greatness.
As to the case in point here “to think to be something when one is nothing,” it must be said that Paul is referring contextually to a would-be mender of souls, and to one who, in so doing, has never learned tenderly to bear the burden of the brother. He is such who does not fulfill the law of Christ. Meekness of wisdom is lacking in all that he does. Such are as a would-be nurse who makes two bruises while attempting to bind up one wound.
Whom does anyone fool and deceive when he thus thinks himself to be something when he is nothing?
He deceives himself!
Such a man leads his own mind astray. This is a deception which is quite universal. To be delivered from this deception a man must really be delivered from a great plight. It is a humiliating experience to come to one’s self thus and to look one’s self squarely in the eye and to say to yourself; man, you are deceiving your own mind! You are not insane but you are deluded and drunk with the wine of your own self exalted pride and overweening self-importance. YOU are not spiritually sober and, therefore, you are not in a condition to go to a brother overtaken in a fault to restore him! You are nothing, a mere zero!
Thus speaks Paul when he says: for if any man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself!
A GROUND OF BOASTING IN ONE’S OWN WORK (Galatians 6:4)
God judges a man according to his works. Christ, standing between the seven candle-sticks, says: I know thy works! And by the works a man must judge himself. He must, in so doing, not look merely at the outward deed. He must also look at his inward motives of the heart.
Writes Paul “But let every man prove his own work.” He must see whether it can stand the test of the touch-stone of God. It is so hard for us, poor sinners, to do this in a becoming manner. We are very fickle and arbitrary. This is especially true when we must try ourown work, our own deeds, judgments, commitments; when we must test our own attempts at restoring the brother overtaken in a fault. The most difficult person to be truly honest and frank with is one’s self. Such great honesty Jesus portrays in the parable of the Prodigal son, of whom Jesus said “and when he came to himself, he said. . . .” (Luke 15:17)
This prodigal son did not have the difficulty of the Pharisee which Jesus portrays in another parable. This Pharisee did not measure and adjudge of himself in the light of the perfect law of liberty, but he compared himself with those whom he considered far worse than himself. We are told by Paul here that we must not adjudge of our own work by comparing it with the faults of our neighbor. Then we have only a ground for boasting in ourselves and our great accomplishments, because we have done so much better than he, or at least not as badly as he has. That seems to be, without doubt, the sense of the phrase “and not in another.” We must so walk and conduct ourselves and so judge ourselves that our work can stand the text of God’s work on the basis of its own intrinsic value and worth. And when we have done all these things we are still unprofitable servants. We have only done what we ought to do.
It is far better to mind our own duty than to look at our neighbor’s faults. Do not think of your worth and talents as compared with theirs, but see to it that you own work is right. The question for each of us is not, what do others fail to do, but what am I myself really doing. What will my life’s work amount to, when measured by what God expects of me? For not my neighbor’s faults, but my own honest work shall be the ground of my satisfaction.
“This was Paul’s ‘glorying’ in the face of the slanders by which he was incessantly pursued. It lay in the testimony of his conscience. He lived under the severest self-scrutiny. He knew himself as the man only can who ‘knows the fear of the Lord,’ who places himself every day before the dread tribunal of Jesus Christ. . . .He ‘knows nothing, against himself.’ But this boast makes him humble. ‘By the grace of God’ he is enabled to ‘have his conversation in the world in holiness and sincerity coming from God.’ If he had seemed to claim any credit for himself he at once corrects the thought: ‘yet not I,’ he says, ‘but God’s grace that was with me. I have my glorying in Christ Jesus in the things pertaining to God, in that which Christ hath wrought in me’ (I Cor. 15:10; Rom. 15:16-19)” G.G. Findlay, Epistle to the Galatians.
Thus the boasting in one’s own work is not a boasting in the flesh but must needs be a glorying in the Lord in the fruit of a sanctified walk. It is the blessedness of those who “so do” as Jesus taught them! This should be the constant striving in our lives in the midst of the brethren! Thus only will we be truly be bearing our brother’s burden by bearing our own burden, and fulfilling the law of Christ.
THE LORD’S RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT OF OUR WORK (Galatians 6:5)
Each of us has his own peculiar burden from the Lord. This burden is likened to the burden upon a donkey. It must be borne, carried. Ministers have their duties in distinction from elders; elders have their duties in distinction from deacons. Angels have their duties in distinction from man. Every man and angel has therefore his own burden, which fits no one else. This burden, so to speak, belongs with the man in his place in the church.
Presently there comes the day of judgment. Then shall each have to give account of what he has done with his talents and opportunities. The man with one talent as well as the man with five shall be judged. For we all must be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ.
In that great day of judgment God will not judge in a comparative way. He will not ask whether we have done better than our neighbor has performed. He will give an absolute judgment. Therefore our comparing ourselves with others does not profit. God will search out what really is. And according to that he will reward. And that will be thus with each one personally and without any exception to the rule. (Rom. 2:6-11)
This all has meaning for us now when we must restore the erring, bear with the weak, aid the poor, care for the sick, and comfort the dying. It is as so beautifully stated by Findlay “After all, it is the men who have the highest standards for themselves that as a rule are most considerate in their estimate of others. The holiest are the most pitiful. They know best how to enter into the struggles of a weaker brother. They can appreciate his unsuccessful resistance to temptation; they can discern where and how he failed, and how much of genuine sorrow there is in his remorse. From the fulness of their own experience they can interpret a possibility of better things in what excites contempt in those who judge by appearance and by conventional rules. He who has learned faithfully ‘to consider himself’ and meekly to ‘bear his own burden,’ is most fit to do the work of Christ, and to shepherd his tempted and straying sheep. Strict with ourselves, we shall grow wise and gentle in our care for others.”
And again we quote from Findlay, “In the Christian conscience the sense of personal and that of social responsibility serve each to stimulate the other. Duty and sympathy, love and law are fused into one. For Christ is all in all; and these two hemispheres of life unite in Him.”
Brethren, let us walk in this meekness of wisdom, says Paul.
Presently, there comes a day, when the “good and faithful” servant shall hear from Christ’s lips: enter into the joy of thy Lord.