Fifthteenth Sunday After Pentecost: Bearing One Another’s Burdens


Hu Jen-chuan was just two years old when he fell from a table and went into a coma. When he woke after six days, he was unable to talk or move. Like any parent, his mother, Liu Kuei-lan, was terribly distressed. Yet her distress was multiplied by the fact that she could not afford to place him in medical care or any type of rehab. Instead she has cared for him herself, and for the past thirty years, she has carried her son on her back. As she’s grown older and more frail, she has fallen and fractured bones while carrying her grown son who weighs 180 pounds. Yet she continues to carry him. When asked how this sixty-five-year-old, ninety-five pound woman can do it, her reply is simple: “He ain’t heavy, he’s family.”

Galatians 6:1-5 says:

Brethren, and if a man be overtaken in any fault, you, who are spiritual, instruct such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

There are things we go through that need the help of other people. This means that in relationships, we find weight bearers to help us carry what we could not and cannot carry by ourselves. God makes it that way so that we can’t do Christianity by ourselves.For if any man think himself to be some thing, whereas he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.

But let every one prove his own work, and so he shall have glory in himself only, and not in another.

For every one shall bear his own burden.

Galatians 6 is the antithesis of Galatians 5. In chapter 5 people are devouring, criticizing, and destroying each other. But in chapter 6, Paul challenges the church to help carry one another. That is what the body of Christ does.

Keep this in mind: the sign of a healthy body is its ability to heal itself. The church is called the body of Christ, and when it is healthy, the church has healing components within itself. That’s what Paul sees when he reminds us to carry each other’s troubles or burdens.

Our privacy, though, can become our downfall. When we are afraid to come clean and be vulnerable that we need help with our marriages, our thought lives, our finances, or our children, we are only deceiving ourselves and setting ourselves up for failure.

Verse 3 is a warning to those who try to appear stronger than they really are: “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”

The Christian life isn’t meant to be done alone. Only weak people think they are strong enough to do the Christian life alone. If you try to make yourself look like a superhero, a super-Christian, your life expectancy will not be very long.

The New Testament puts this phrase throughout its pages: one another. It shows we need each other. Listen to a few of them:

  • Build up one another (Romans 14:19)
  • Accept one another (Romans 15:7)
  • Care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25)
  • Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
  • Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
  • Be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18)
  • Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13)

There are things we go through that need the help of other people. This means that in relationships, we find weight bearers to help us carry what we could not and cannot carry by ourselves. God makes it that way so that we can’t do Christianity by ourselves.

I want to begin in verse 2, as it is really the heart of the text. Verse 2 is the command. Verse 1 is an application of that command. Verses 3-5 is the warning we all must heed in applying this command. In fact, this is my outline this morning:

  1. The Command (verse 2)
    2. An Application (verse 1)
    3. A Warning (verses 3-5)

First, ...

  1. The Command (verse 2)

The command comes in verse 2, ...

Galatians 6:2
Bear ye one another's burdens; and so you shall fulfill the law of Christ.

This verse talks about seeing someone in need and doing what you can to help them--taking the burden off of their shoulders and placing it upon your own. Doing so is an expression of love. It may take the form of encouragement. It may take the form of hospitality. It may take the form of service. It may take the form of prayer.

When you see a need that you can meet, take the burden off your brother's back, and place it on your back. Paul says that as you do this, you "fulfill the law of Christ." This is the law of love that Jesus gave us in the Sermon on the Mount, ...

Matthew 7:12
All things therefore whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them. For this is the law and the prophets.

This is the law of love that Paul mentions in chapter 5 and verse 14...

Galatians 5:14
For all the law is fulfilled in one word: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

And this is so not what the Pharisees of Jesus' day did. Rather than taking burdens upon their own shoulders, they laid it upon others. Jesus said, ...

Matthew 23:2-4
"Saying: The scribes and the Pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses.

All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not; for they say, and do not.

For they bind heavy and insupportable burdens, and lay them on men's shoulders; but with a finger of their own they will not move them.

That's the way of the selfish legalist, always requiring of others what they, themselves are not willing to lift. That's not the way of a follower of Christ.

Like all of the other "one another" commands, this command is utterly others-centered. When someone has a need and you can help, the follower of Christ will help! A follower of Christ will take the burden upon himself. And even when you don't have the resources to meet the need, you can always pray. Thereby taking up a burden of prayer for the hurting party.

Now, stepping back from verse 2, we see that a particular application that Paul is laying out here in Galatians 6 is the burden of sin. This is my second point, ...

  1. An Application (verse 1)

Galatians 6:1
Brethren, and if a man be overtaken in any fault, you, who are spiritual, instruct such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Here's the picture: someone is going along in life, and they had a fault to overtake them.

Saint Augustine explains the word fault in this way, “One sins either in ignorance of truth or under the limitations of infirmity.”

It's a bit like a parent catching a child looking at porn. It's a bit like being in a social setting, when someone blurts forth some profanity. It's a bit like some teenagers being caught by their parents doing something wrong. It's a bit like someone being caught in a lie. It's a bit like someone becoming so angry with another that he takes a swing at you.

Paul, here, is instructing those in Galatia how to respond to such a one. He says that they should be "restored." Rather than pointing out the sin for all the world to see, the sin is to be confessed and relationships are to be mended. That's the idea of this word translated, "restored." In secular Greek, this word is used to describe the setting of a fractured bone.

In Biblical Greek, this word is used of the disciples who were mending their nets (Matthew 4:21; Mark 1:19). It's a "fixing" word. In the context of a sinning brother, it means "fixing" what is broken. It's confessing sin before the Lord. It's forgiving the hurt that the sin has caused. It's repairing any broken relationships.

Paul calls upon those who are "spiritual" to engage in such a work. You can see it right there in verse 1, ...

Galatians 6:1
Brethren, and if a man be overtaken in any fault, you, who are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

That's a loaded word, because Paul has been talking about the "spiritual" ones toward the end of chapter 5. The best way to capture this is go back into Galatians 5. Let's begin reading in verse 16, and as we work through these verses. I simply want to comment lightly on them.

Galatians 5:16
 I say then, walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

Paul is setting up here the contrast between the spirit and the flesh. Walking by the spirit is walking in the ways of God, controlled by the Spirit of God. Walking in the flesh is walking in your own ways, controlled by your own passions and desires (which we see in verse 17).

Galatians 5:17-18
For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would.

18 But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law.

In other words, if the spirit is leading you, you will walk in the ways of God. But if you are not being led by the spirit, you will walk in the ways of your flesh. Then Paul continues in verse 19 to describe the deeds of the flesh. And it's not pretty.

Galatians 5:19-21
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury,

20 Idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects,

21 Envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God.

These are social sins. They are sins against others. Sins that are hurtful to others. These are selfish sins. They are sins that want something and will hurt others to get it. That's why there is strife and fits of anger. Because you are not getting what you want. And so, you amp up the pressure to get what you want.

The spirit-led life, however, is much different. Verse 22, ...

Galatians 5:22-24
But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity,

23 Mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against such there is no law.

24 And they that are Christ's, have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscence’s.

In other words, those who are led by the spirit will not be seeking their own desires, but will be seeking the good of others. And so, they will be patient with others and kind and gentle and loving. And so, the summary comes in verses 25 and 26.

Galatians 5:25-26
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

26 Let us not be made desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

And so, we see at the end of chapter 5 a contrast. It is a contrast between those living in the Spirit, and those living by the flesh. And when we come to chapter 6, Paul is calling upon those who are SPIRITual to restore the one "overtaken in a fault" Now, I trust that you can see why Paul wants those who are "spiritual" to help in the restoration. Because it must be done "in a spirit of gentleness." Look again at verse 1, ...

Galatians 6:1
Brethren, and if a man be overtaken in any fault, you, who are spiritual, instruct such a one in the spirit of meekness....

Meekness is a fruit of the Spirit. And meekness is what you need to "restore" a sinning brother.

What does it mean to be meek?

The definition of meekness is: Mild of temper; soft; gentle; not easily provoked or irritated; yielding; given to forbearance under injuries.

The perfect picture of this is John, chapter 8, which tells the story of the woman caught in adultery. The scribes and Pharisees were ready to stone the woman. But Jesus was meek. The Pharisees may well have had stones in their hands with their arms cocked! But Jesus was bending down, writing with his finger on the ground (John 8:6). The Pharisees continued to press Jesus, "So what do you say?"

Finally, Jesus stood up and said to them, ...

John 8:7-8
... He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

And again stooping down, he wrote on the ground.

The scribes and Pharisees dropped their stones and left, one by one (John 8:9). When all were gone and Jesus was alone with the woman, Jesus stood up and said to her, ...

John 8:10-11
"Woman, where are they that accused thee? Hath no man condemned thee?

11 She said: No man, Lord. And Jesus said: Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more."

What a perfect picture of application of Galatians 6:1.

Galatians 6:1
Brethren, and if a man be overtaken in any fault, you, who are spiritual, instruct such a one in the spirit of meekness....

Now, this isn't an excuse for any of you to say, "I'm not spiritual, so I don't have such a responsibility." Parents, you have a responsibility to restore your sinning children. If you seek to do so by yelling at your children, you will do it badly. But if you do it in the spirit, things will go differently.

Proverbs puts forth two categories of children: wise and foolish. Proverbs 22:15 tells us that the rod removes foolishness from a child. Proverbs 29:15 tell us how the rod gives wisdom. And so, We are directed to discipline our child for foolish behavior--not childish behavior, but foolish behavior. Because, in the end, that's what we are aiming for: wise children.

What took place in the confines of my home growing up ought to take place in the life of the church. As people are caught in faults, spiritual people ought to come around them and help restore them. This is the primary application of verse 2, bearing burdens. As we help people deal with the burden of sin in their lives, we are helping to bear their burdens.

Now, it's not that we take their sin off of their shoulders and onto ours. Because, that does no good. In fact, we need to help them place their burdens on the shoulders of Jesus who "bore our sins in his body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24).

The good news is this: Jesus wants to take our burdens. Jesus is a willing burden-carrier. Psalm 55:22 says, "Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you." And when burdens are cast upon Jesus, they go away. That's the reality of the gospel. Jesus takes our burden of sin upon himself. It will never come back.

We ought to come alongside of those with their burdens of sin and direct them to Jesus. And here's the glory: when it's done, the burden is lifted. Through confession their faults are forgiven. And relationships are restored. And when it's done, it is a great thing.

But it does come with a warning. The warning comes at the end of verse 1.

Galatians 6:1
Brethren, and if a man be overtaken in any fault, you, who are spiritual, instruct such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

" considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." In other words, if you see yourself as the spiritual one in the process of restoration, you have a particular danger. You have the danger of pride and arrogance, thinking that you are the righteous one.

Be careful, lest you become a scribe or a Pharisee. The Bible says in Luke 18:9 that such people, "who trusted in themselves as righteous, and despised others, he spoke also this parable:" And Paul says to beware of this danger. We have seen The Command (verse 2) and An Application (verse 1). And now we come to ...

  1. A Warning (verses 3-5)

Galatians 6:3-5
For if any man think himself to be some thing, whereas he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.

But let every man prove his own work, and so he shall have glory in himself only, and not in another.

For every man shall bear his own burden.

Beware of those who look to the sin of others, but fail to look at their own lives. Jesus said it this way, ...

Matthew 7:1-5
Judge not, that you may not be judged,

For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.

And why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye?

Or how sayest thou to thy brother: Let me cast the mote out of thy eye; and behold a beam is in thy own eye?

Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam in thy own eye, and then shalt thou see to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

So, as we bear the burdens of others let us look carefully to ourselves. Because it is so easy to succumb to spiritual pride. Especially when you see things go well with your restoration work. When you see your children turn from their sin. When you see your friend turn from their sin. You can be so happy. Because it's a joyous thing when you are used of God in this way.

But sadly, there are times when this doesn't work so well. A question that Galatians 6:1 doesn't answer is this: "What happens when you seek to help others caught in their fault and they ignore your counsel? "What happens when people refuse to repent." The answer to that question comes in Matthew 18.

In this chapter, Peter asked Jesus. "Lord, how often shall my brother offend against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?" (Matthew 18:21). Jesus says, Jesus saith to him: I say not to thee, till seven times; but till seventy times seven times. (Matthew 18:22). What prompted the question? Jesus' discussion upon what to do when the restoration project doesn't work so well. Let's begin in verse 12, ...

Matthew 18:12-14
12 What think you? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them should go astray: doth he not leave the ninety-nine in the mountains, and go to seek that which is gone astray?

13 And if it so be that he find it: Amen I say to you, he rejoiceth more for that, than for the ninety-nine that went not astray.

14 Even so it is not the will of your Father, who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

Here you see the joy of restoration. Jesus couches it in a parable of a shepherd rejoicing at a found sheep. The sheep is the one who was "caught in a sin" (Galatians 6:1). The joy is real! When someone turns from their sin back to God, there is great joy. As Jesus said in Luke 15:7, "there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just who need not penance."

Verse 14 tells us the heart of God--that he takes no pleasure when a little one perishes in sin. In the same way, we too ought to take no pleasure when a brother goes astray. Jesus instructs us, ...

Matthew 18:15
But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother.

This is Galatians 6:1. You have come in a spirit of gentleness in private, seeking to deal with the matter alone. And when there is restoration, a brother is gained. Verse 16 tells you what to do if this is not the case:

Matthew 18:16
And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand.

The idea here is that you want to establish that it's not a personal vendetta that you have against your brother. Instead, there are others who come along side and can testify not only to the facts of the sin, but also to the spirit of the restoration attempt. The progression continues in verse 17, ...

Matthew 18:17
 And if he will not hear them: tell the Church. And if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.

The idea here is of ever-increasing circle. It's not only one person who seeks to restore a brother caught in a transgression. It's not only two or three people. It's not ten or twelve. It's the entire Church, who is called to pursue the sinning brother.

The goal of this entire process is Galatians 6:1, "restoration," calling the straying brother back. If the brother confesses his sin and comes back, there is great rejoicing. Because the gospel has been made evident! And people gather around in joy. And angels in heaven rejoice.