Sharing By Grace
“Now the one who receives instruction in the word
must share all good things with the one who teaches it” (Galatians 6:6).
In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).
The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.
In the first section of the epistle proper, 1:11-2:21, Paul defended his apostleship. In 3:1-4:31 the Apostle clarifies the implications of justification and sanctification by faith and why it’s true. His final section (5:1-6:10) demonstrates how this grace works in life. Grace works through liberty. Christ set us free to demonstrate His righteousness in ways that transcend any enslaving set of rules or moral codes (5:1-12). This liberty isn’t so that we can indulge the self-centered desires of our flesh as we did before we trusted in Christ. Using our freedom in that way will cause us to lose our inheritance in the coming kingdom (5:13-21). We’ve been set free to walk in the Spirit (5:16-18) so that we can display Christ’s righteousness through the fruit of the Spirit (5:22-26). But even this transformation isn’t about us; it’s about Christ and others. What we’ve really been set free to do is to love and serve others (6:1-10).
Those who walk in the Spirit glorify God in their liberty. Freedom from the Mosaic Law does not mean freedom from responsibility. Truly spiritual Christians will fulfill the “law of Christ” by bearing the burdens of one another’s sins (1-5), bearing the financial burden of teachers of the Word (6-9), and taking every opportunity to do good, beginning with the family of God:
You who walk in the Spirit: Share your finances with those who teach you the word of God!
I. Live by the Spirit and diligently bear the financial burden of those who teach you the Bible, realizing that God knows where you’re investing your resources—selfishly or as the Spirit directs—and will bless you accordingly (6:6-10).
A. Command to those living by the Spirit (5:16-26): Provide for the physical needs of those who provide for your spiritual needs by teaching you the Word of God (6:6).
1. The resemblance of language in this passage with other passages on giving to the needs of spiritual leaders leaves no doubt that Paul is speaking of material needs (1 Corinthians 9, especially v 9; Philippians 4:10-14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18).
2. This was a radically new concept, especially for the Jewish Christians. Under Judaism pupils paid a tax, and the teachers’ pay came through the Jewish government. (Dr. Tom Constable, Notes on Galatians)
3. Though Paul, as a church planter, did not personally claim this right (1 Corinthians 9:12; 2 Corinthians 11:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:9), he did teach it as an obligation for the church (1 Corinthians 9:4; 1 Timothy 5:17-18), and rejoiced when the un-coerced Philippians sent him a generous gift to support his ministry (Philippians 4:10-14).
B. Underlying Principle: God knows if you are investing your resources according to the desires of the flesh or according to the leading of the Spirit and will bless each one accordingly. Therefore, don’t grow weary in giving to the needs of your spiritual leaders because you will reap spiritual blessings (7-9).
1. The law of sowing and reaping: God knows how you’re using your money and promises a richer experience of eternal life to all who use their money in the other-centered ways the Spirit directs rather than the self-centered ways the flesh desires.
Note: The term “eternal life” has two different aspects to it—quantitative and qualitative. It is the life of God that He shares with those who believe in His Son. Quantitatively, it is the life of God that will never end we receive by faith (John 10:28ff). Qualitatively, it is the rich experience of that life that depends on walking in fellowship with God (John 10:10). I believe it’s this second sense that Paul is using “eternal life” here.
2. So don’t be preoccupied with what you’re giving up, that will cause you to grow weary in doing this good thing. Be preoccupied with what you’re gaining as you deepen your relationship with God and experience more of what the Spirit wants you to experience through your new life in Christ.
C. Concluding Burden-Bearing Command: Take every opportunity to bear someone’s burdens, especially your fellow-Christians in your community of faith (10).
II. How Grace Works in Community: Liberated Christians who are living by the Spirit will give to the physical needs of their spiritual leaders and look for opportunities to do good, especially to the household of faith.
A. The best way to stabilize the finances of a local assembly is not by programs, threats, and manipulation. The best way to stabilize the finances of a local assembly is to make disciples who trust grace and know how to walk in the Spirit.
B. When the command to financially support the spiritual leaders is ignored in a local church, everyone loses because the leaders will be distracted by physical needs.
Who ever serves in the army at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Who tends a flock and does not consume its milk? Am I saying these things only on the basis of common sense,or does the law not say this as well? For it is written in the law of Moses, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”God is not concerned here about oxen, is he? Or is he not surely speaking for our benefit? It was written for us, because the one plowing and threshing ought to work in hope of enjoying the harvest. If we sowed spiritual blessings among you, is it too much to reap material things from you? (1 Corinthians 9:7-11)
C. The Principle of Sowing and Reaping reveals the absurdity of “not talking about money in church.” Christians need to know that God is interested in their finances and that their use of money is connected to their experience of eternal life.
D. The Spirit-controlled Christian is always on the lookout for someone to help, especially his or her fellow-Christian.