The First Wednesday Fellowship Group is a place to share with delightful friends questions about what you’ve heard about God’s Word, and share with others what we know and understand. It is all very gentle. You can sit and listen. You can have your say. You can just come and enjoy a cup of tea and a biscuit! However, it is known that there are people who can’t find the time on a first Wednesday afternoon to be part of the group. Therefore, this column in our newsletter is an attempt to link us all in fellowship one with another. And it is all possible because of the dedicated work of Ann Shadbolt to whom we extend our thanks.
In January, the First Wednesday Fellowship Group was to have looked at Galatians, Chapter 6, Verses 1 to 10.
Galatians, Chapter 6, Verses 1 to 10:
What is it all about?
Paul had hardly reached the shores of Syria, on his return from his long residence in Corinth, when he was met by bad news. Someone had been spreading a narrower type of Christianity among the churches he had organized in Galatia a few years earlier, and the Galatians were swinging away from Paul’s simple doctrine of faith.
Amongst the issues giving Paul concern were: Christians who were adamant, and aggressively so, that:
(1) You could only be a Christian if you could trace your ancestry back to Abraham, or you became a Jew; and, whether you are a Jew or not,
(2) You kept to the Jewish Law and the interpretations of the Law as they had been ‘worked out’ over the centuries since the Law was given to Moses.
And there were other issues like, Paul was not one of the 12 apostles and had no ‘first-hand’ experience and authority i.e. a follower of Christ from Baptism to Ascension and witness to the Resurrection. All of which had disturbed Paul and the Church in Galatia.
Paul was a practical Christian. As suggested above his was a simple doctrine of faith: Christ was born, lived, died, rose again and came again and did so that all – Jew and non-Jew (Gentile) – could enter into a new relationship with God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Further, though not one of the apostles he had been blessed – authorised – by the Holy Spirit to preach, teach, grow the Church, as all are who have been so blessed by that same Spirit in a particular way for a particular purpose.
The Galatian mission had been the most fruitful part of the work Paul had done in company with Barnabas four or five years before, on what is usually described as his first missionary journey. They had first preached in Cyprus and then crossed to the south coast of Asia Minor, where Paul seems to have been prostrated by illness, perhaps one of those fevers still so severe along that coast. From the lowlands his companion had taken him up into the high-lying interior to Galatia, so that Paul could afterward remind the Galatians that it was because of an illness that he had preached the good news to them the first time. So the gospel came to Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Again, on his second journey, these Galatian churches were among the first ones visited by Paul and Silas after setting out from Syrian Antioch; indeed, it was at Lystra that a young man named Timothy became a member of their missionary party. So Paul knew these churches well; in fact, he was peculiarly bound to them through Timothy, who had developed into a trusty lieutenant.
What then is this particular passage all about? Well, it is Paul being practical.
First, he recognises that it easy to state that you are a Christian. That is, you belong to a group of people who also state they are Christians, they are followers of Christ.
Second, he recognises that it is easy for somebody to make statements about in what they believe.
And, third, Paul recognises that those new to the Faith, and the more established in the Faith, were all capable of acts, deeds, words, thoughts which denied they were truly Christian and denied their belief statements.
They needed help. And that help is what Galatians 6:1-10 is all about: where help can be found.
Verse 1 places responsibility for bringing back, helping back, an individual who has done something which separates them from what God would have them be is for all in the community of Faith to work to restore the individual. However, that obligation on all comes with a warning. The warning is that those who take action to restore a person who has denied their faith might also be tempted themselves. The demand on the Christian is to act in love we have for one another.
Verse 3 makes an interesting point. People who believe that they ‘tick-all-the-boxes’ in terms of their commitment dedication to being Christian have to be honest to God. Only Christ was perfect in the sight of God. All others are striving for perfection. Therefore, nobody should think themselves superior to others i.e. more perfect than others. All will offend God at some time. All, therefore, are bearing a requirement to help all to come to state of Christian perfection – inch by inch, step by step, stage by stage – with no sense of being more superior than our fellow believers. Self examination is part of being a Christian as we bear our own strivings and help others in their striving.
Paul acknowledges that the person professes they belong to Christ but live their lives differently are no longer walking in the Spirit. They are out of step, going in a different direction to those who are striving to live the life of faith. The fellowship, the relationship has been broken – note this – by the person who is out of step. That individual is urged not only to listen but be instructed as to what is needed to correct the situation, restore the fellowship, mend the relationship.
And what is the message? The message is two-fold. First, God understands, forgives, when an individual separates themselves from him. Second, is that bold statement: You reap what you sow. Therefore, if you live a life which diminishes your worth it is not God who does the diminishing, it is you. Don’t blame God. Blame yourself.
The closing verses are addressed to the household of faith. The call to be disciples can be wearying, even disheartening. Continual work and witness, the task being undertaken can be burdensome and there is the desire that they can be shifted to others. Paul encourages by returning to the sowing/reaping text and points that failure to spread the word, not to live in a community of believers, means there will be no growth. And, Paul sets down “the good” done to correct and instruct those of the household of faith who wander.