"Reaping What We Sow!"
This week, we come to the end of the last major section of Galatians. Though Paul says
some important things in the next and concluding section of the letter, these verses we’ll look at this morning
mark the end of his formal argument. This section began in the middle of chapter five where Paul reminds the churches in
Verse six (which begins this section) evidently addresses another area in these churches where they were not living by the Spirit. Let’s briefly address this before we move into the main body of Paul’s concluding argument that brings this section to a powerful close. Verse six reads, “One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.” Paul here addresses an issue he raises in other letters. Because he only mentions this matter, it’s hard to know why he raises the issue. The point of connection with the rest of the section is that this area is also one where their conduct was not Spirit-driven. Evidently, there were faithful teachers in the Galatians churches who were not being adequately compensated by the churches and in the context--Paul informs them of their obligation to rightly care for them. To do otherwise is fleshly—not of the Spirit. Although Paul never insisted on compensation for himself, and from the Corinthians, he flat-out refused to take any money; he consistently teaches that those who minister in the word should be adequately compensated by the church.
The relevance of this teaching has become apparent to me recently as I have listened to men of God in other churches who have been given barely enough to live on by their churches. Paul is clear in texts like 1 Corinthians 9:14. “In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” In two other letters he quotes the Old Testament saying, “You shall not muzzle the ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” The Galatians had apparently been under-compensating their teachers, who needed the freedom not to work in a trade to enable them the time to study the word. A church cannot expect a word from God from their pastoral staff who, instead of praying and studying, are out trying to earn a decent living. A failure to adequately care for their ministers was at best, a lack of the Spirit’s fruit of kindness. No one in ministry should expect to get rich from the ministry of the word, but just because someone is in ministry, that does not give the church license to under-compensate him. Paul says--that’s not the way of the Spirit.
Before we read the conclusion of this section, let’s set the table a bit. In this last section,
Paul drives home to these Galatian believers that walking by the Spirit—living by the Spirit—being led by the Spirit—bearing
the fruit of the Spirit is not an option. We should never assume that this Spirit-controlled life is only for the super-spiritual
among us and the rest of us can take a pass.
Paul’s argument has been--this is who we are in Christ if we are indeed in
Christ—we are Holy Spirit-people and therefore that will be reflected in our lives.
Paul uses these last few verses to place an exclamation point at the end
of this section on living by the Spirit by declaring that there are vastly different eternal consequences for living
by the Holy Spirit and living by our flesh.
He is expanding on what he says in 5:21 where he lists the works of the flesh
and says, “…I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such
things will not inherit the
Beginning with 6:7, Paul writes, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” The big idea here could be stated this way: We must not be deceived into thinking that the way we live in this life—whether by the flesh or by the Spirit—will not render eternal consequences. Paul is concerned that these Galatians, who had been living in large part fleshly, highly explainable lives, not be deceived into thinking that this fleshly kind of life would result in eternal life with God. Paul is obviously not saying that our performance earns us eternal life. That would completely undermine the gospel he has so carefully unearthed chapters three and four.
What he is saying to summarize this section of the letter is that our freedom in Christ will produce, by the Spirit, a life that increasingly reflects the life of Christ. If that is seen, good consequences will follow us into eternity. If it is not seen, horrific ones will ensue. To communicate that, Paul uses the metaphor of sowing and reaping. We’ll look at that in a moment, but I want to spend some time on two introductory remarks Paul makes that are very important. The first is his command in verse seven, “Do not be deceived…” Why does Paul begin this section with this word introducing the notion of deception? At least three reasons. First, because all our sin is in some way an expression of our deception. Whenever we sin, we are choosing to believe some lie. That lie can be wrapped in 1000 different packages. It may be, “Because God gives grace, that sin is not that big’ a deal” or, “the sin will bring more pleasure than not sinning” or, “God “understands” my weakness and it’s ok.” So, part of his reason for framing this argument within the context of deception is--Paul is warning these believers not to sin and sin always involves deception.
Second, these Galatians had been deceived, not just by the false teachers as it relates to the gospel, but about what it means to live in spiritual liberty. In the name of liberty, they had been “biting and devouring one another” [5:12]. They had been doing the “works of the flesh” [5:21]. They had been “provoking one another, envying one another”[5:26]. They had been “thinking they were someone when they were not” [6:3]. When Paul concludes his argument with the initial warning, “Do not be deceived” he is not wasting words. This was a problem for the Galatians—they were being deceived. Finally, this warning is appropriate because apart from grace believers are easily deceived. Without God’s means of grace like the word of God—other believers who will honestly speak into our lives, prayer and a Spirit-driven, humble, brutal honesty about our weaknesses, we will be deceived. Its not IF we will be deceived, its when. In the garden, Adam and Eve were deceived and they had no sin nature. One thing I take from that is that humans are vulnerable to deception even in their strongest moments. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” That’s repeated verbatim in chapter 16 and it teaches us that deception is always a possibility because we do what seems right to us and what seems right is not always right.
How many times have you heard from people who made disastrous decisions that deeply hurt them and other people and who, in response to the decision said, “It seemed right at the time.” How many believers have we met who were blatantly out of the will of God—the Scriptural teaching is black and white, yet in their deception, they see nothing wrong with the wayward path they have charted. It seems right to them. That means there is a weakness in our “seemer”-that function of our mind that seems. Part of being a fallen human is that our “seemer” is defective. Unless our minds are totally renewed by the Scripture, we are vulnerable to deception and no one’s mind is completely conditioned by the word of God. We all have blind spots that are caused by a bent in our personalities; by the way we have allowed our fallen culture has influenced us, or by our own selfish desires that we justify as “needs.” We must all walk in a good deal of humility here about our vulnerability in this area or we will be even more apt to deception.
Notice what they are specifically NOT to be deceived about in verse seven. Don’t be deceived about this--“God is not mocked…” The word “mocked” here literally means to “to turn up one’s nose in contempt.” The force of the expression is to declare that God cannot be evaded or outwitted. In light of the Galatian context, Paul is saying, “You are mocking God—thinking you can evade or outwit him when you so called believers habitually devour one another or when you refuse to recompense the ministers of the word among you and assume God’s eternal blessing is on you.” When we live under the flesh, we are deceived because we believe God either minimizes, overlooks, or worst of all, approves of our sin. If we believe that as long as we go to church and speak the evangelical jargon, but treat God with contempt by living according the flesh—living like the world does, then we are deceived because no one plays God for a fool. You can’t con God! When self-professed believers habitually live in the flesh and refuse to repent, they mock him in at least three ways. First, they mock his nature by assuming he will not ultimately respond to their sin in a manner that is holy and just. “God is the final judge, but my circumstances are exceptional.” It’s so easy to be deceived into thinking, “I have a special thing going with God.” It’s to those people Jesus addresses Matthew 7:22, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Those people were deceived. They thought all their ministry in God’s name was their ticket to heaven—they worked for GOD! But they were fleshly—weren’t born of the Spirit, and to allow them into his presence would deny God’s holy justice.
When professed believers habitually live in the flesh, but persist in assuming they have a spot reserved in heaven, they mock God’s offering of his Son for our holiness. As we have said many times in our study of Galatians, Jesus’ death on the cross not only frees us from the penalty of sin, but also the power of sin. The cross of Christ purchased not only our pardon, but also our holiness. Hebrews 10:10 speaks of the will of God and says, “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” God sent his Son to the cross so that we might be made holy through the Spirit. When professed believers habitually live in the flesh and not the Spirit, then they are turning up their noses at the profound sacrifice God made to make us holy. They are spitting on the cross with their fleshly lives saying in effect, “I will not avail myself of what you did to make me holy through the cross. The implication is, “You didn’t need to do it. The sacrifice of your Son was not necessary.” That’s a mockery of God’s greatest work. Finally, people who live according to the flesh often mock God by distorting his agape love into superficial sentimentality. These people show contempt for God by assuming that his profound and powerful grace is equivalent to the spineless permissiveness of weak father.
Let’s look more specifically at this sowing and reaping metaphor Paul uses to convey this truth. Paul says, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption…” What he means in the context is—don’t be deceived—God cannot be played. There will be no worming out of God’s justice. If you sow into your corrupt, rotting, flesh—then from that same corrupt, rotting flesh, you will reap corruption. The word “corruption” implies a gradual decay—like the rotting of a corpse. As you sow—that is, as you give yourself—your thoughts, your energy, your time to your selfish flesh, that flesh will display its corruption. If you sow sinful seed into the soil of your flesh, you will reap the rotten fruit of sin. In the immediate context he is saying, “If you sow miserliness toward providing for the ministers of the word, you will get tepid preaching and teaching from unprepared ministers. If you continue to bite and devour one another, you will see your church split.” There is a well worn expression that goes—“Sow a thought, reap an act, sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” That fits here.
What you sow in your thoughts and acts, you reap in your character and ultimately, in your eternal destiny. That is irreversibly the way it is—that does not move or change—that is the way God set up this world. We mustn’t be deceived into thinking that we are the exception to that. There are no exceptions. Paul is NOT talking about a believer losing their salvation here. He is saying that if you habitually sow to the flesh, you will over time reveal that you ARE flesh. You are not of the Spirit because people who have the Spirit have been given a new heart that increasingly wants to honor Christ as they, by God’s grace, kill off their sinful flesh so the Spirit will more and more influence over them.
Paul cites this truth as an axiom—no exceptions.
This applies across many fronts and that’s why it’s appropriate to take just
a moment on this Sanctity of Life Sunday to apply this not only to our individual lives, but to our nation. Since Roe v. Wade
became law 36 years ago, we have—with the full sanction of the federal government, legally exterminated 50 million
human beings created in the image of God. Beloved, that is an astronomical level of sowing to our nation’s selfish “flesh” and the
corruption that we are now reaping is seen everywhere.
And that corruption will only continue to increase unless this trend is reversed. Examples of this
moral and spiritual decay abound. The
The other side of this spiritual axiom is much more encouraging. Paul says, “but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Sowing to the Spirit is just another way of saying “walking by the Spirit,” “living by the Spirit,” “bearing the fruit of the Spirit.” The harvest that brings is eternal life. The challenge is of course that this is very hard. That’s why Paul follows in verse nine with, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” There is an ongoing conflict between the Spirit and the flesh and it’s hard to fight off our selfish, sluggish, rebellious flesh—to do this day in, day out, year in, year out for decades. It’s hard to bear one another’s burdens over the long haul. It’s hard to consistently, daily, yearly show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It’s tempting sometimes to lose heart and give up. Let me illustrate this challenge from those who are working in pastoral ministry. Jimmy Lee Draper, former president of Lifeways Ministries, says that for every 20 people who go into the pastorate only one retires from the ministry. Some of those men aren’t called and it is good for them to be out of vocational ministry, others have other problems, but those factors alone don’t explain the 95 percent drop-off rate within the pastorate. One lesson from that is--doing good is hard over the long haul.
Notice Paul motivates these Galatians by causing them to look to the future. He says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” There is a promise of reaping—you will reap eternal life and its worth it all! Its worth all the suffering and fighting against your flesh—don’t give up. If that promise of reaping eternal life doesn’t do much to motivate us, that’s a good sign our love for God is tepid. If my love for God is blazing hot, then the prospect of spending an eternity with him without this flesh which seeks to constantly interfere with my relationship with him—that will keep me going when I want to throw in the towel. If the promise of eternal life with Jesus does not motivate us to keep on, we must confess our lukewarmness and seek after the means of grace to help us love God more. We must seek to strengthen our faith in the gospel that promises eternal life to those who persevere to the end. We do that by immersing ourselves in the promises of God through the gospel. We need to soak our head in the promises of God and focus more on the glorious promises of eternal life and less on the obstacles.
Romans 6:22-23 “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” First Corinthians. 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” First Peter 1:8-9, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Stoke the fire of eternal hope which chases away weariness with the fuel of gospel promises.
Paul applies this message in verse 10 saying, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Paul encourages us to show the Holy Spirit’s fruit of goodness as we do good to everyone, especially those in the family of God. Paul is saying that whenever we have the chance, when we see someone in need that we can help—do good to them. He singles out the church as a priority, not because we are more deserving of help, but probably because it shows Jesus to others when we demonstrably love one another. This is the way our freedom in Christ should be manifested—in loving others in tangible ways—not in sowing to our selfish flesh. That’s Paul’s argument in this section.
Is your life increasingly under the influence of the Holy Spirit? Are the fruit of the Spirit being more and more seen in you? If you are in Christ, that is who you are—believe that. If you are being slack with the sin in your life—if you find yourself making excuses for your spiritual lukewarmness, beware of being deceived. God is full of grace and mercy and patience, but he will not be played for a fool and the eternal consequences of mocking him are horrific. Likewise, if God is working in your life—showing himself more through your life, don’t give up. Go back to the gospel and renew your mind and your heart for Jesus’ sake. May God give all of us the grace to see clearly where we are with God and use our liberty in the Spirit for his glory and our eternal joy.
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