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Doing Good to All March 27, 2013

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Galatians 6:1-10.

Summary: Paul begins by exhorting the Galatians to comfort any fellow believer, who has been tricked by the devil, with a loving and meek spirit; indeed, they should remember that they can fall more dangerously and shamefully than their deceived brethren. He also exhorts them to bear the faults of others – thereby obeying the law of love. Now the authors of sects do not understand Christ and His law. The Galatians, though, should ensure that their work is sincere and sound; they must not seek their own glory or rely on the praise of others, but they must please God. Indeed, believers will only be able to rely on the witness of their own conscience at the Final Judgment.

Paul then exhorts the hearers of the Gospel to look after their teachers. He also reminds those who hate God’s ministers that God will punish them; thus, ministers should be supported and cared for. Those who give nothing to God’s ministers while only supporting themselves will reap eternal corruption, but those who cherish God’s ministers will gain eternal life. Moreover, believers should – in general – do good, even if their efforts are met with ingratitude, as they will receive abundant fruit at harvest time (the Final Judgment). Paul concludes by exhorting the Galatians to support all needy believers.

Thoughts: In verse 1, Paul exhorts believers to act lovingly toward a fellow believer who has been deceived by the devil. Luther offers an interesting perspective on this point:

It is especially good for us who are in the ministry of the Word to know these things, lest while we are trying to touch everything to the quick, we forget the fatherly and motherly affection that Paul here requires of those who have charge of souls…Pastors and ministers must indeed sharply rebuke those who have fallen; but when they see that those persons are sorrowful for their offenses, they should begin to raise them up again, to comfort them, and to mitigate their faults as much as they can – yet through mercy only, which they must set against sin, lest those who have fallen are swallowed up with depression.

As I noted in a previous post, this commentary is based on a set of lectures that Luther delivered at Wittenberg University in 1531. As Luther presented this material to future pastors, one must wonder if his students took his words to heart. During their ministerial careers, did they have the requisite strength to “sharply rebuke those who have fallen,” even at the risk of losing members of their congregation? If any of the believers who they rebuked were “sorrowful for their offenses,” did they overcome their natural desire to belittle them and “raise them up again?” Clearly pastors are held to a high standard, and those who are contemplating a career in ministry should be mindful of Luther’s comments on this verse. Readers of this blog who happen to be ministers should feel free to chime in.

In verse 4, Paul exhorts believers to focus on their Christian walk without comparing themselves to others. Luther offers some pointed thoughts on this:

Therefore, anyone who truly and faithfully does his work will not care what the world says about him. He does not care whether the world praises him or criticizes him, for his conscience tells him that he has taught the Word purely, ministered the sacraments rightly, and done everything well, and this cannot be taken from him.

Clearly the struggle with vainglory and pride is a lifelong battle for believers. Now if it were possible for a believer to serve God faithfully and avoid receiving any feedback from others regarding their ministry, perhaps it would be somewhat easier for that believer to avoid feeling prideful. Yet this scenario is fraught with problems; if a believer does not receive any feedback from others regarding their ministry, how will they gauge the efficacy of their service? What if they are making errors in their ministry that need to be addressed? Even if they could serve without receiving any feedback from others, would their sinful nature incite prideful feelings in them? From my own experience, dealing with vainglory and pride is an unpleasant process; I constantly struggle with these sins. I long for the time when my prideful feelings will vanish.

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