The Myth of Self-Sufficiency

The Millennial Evangelical, Chris Martin, examines Galatians in regards to the hardships that we all bear and how to recognize and abstain from self-reliance.

Chris Martin  ·  January 3, 2017

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The duty of bearing one another’s burdens is stated in the imperative mood; it is not an option but a command. One of the much-neglected features of contemporary Baptist church life is the congregational covenant, an expression of communal commitment in responsibility, setting forth the ethical standards and obligations incumbent upon all members. Historically, Baptist church covenants have encouraged not only public worship, personal devotion, and congregational discipline but also a caring and pastoral attitude on the part of each church member toward every other member. In this context Gal 6:2 has been frequently paraphrased in these historic documents. On November 4, 1790, an English Baptist church meeting in the Horse Fair, Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, set forth as a part of its congregational covenant the following statement, agreeing:

To walk in love toward those with whom we stand connected in the bonds of Christian fellowship. As the effect of this, we will pray much for one another. As we have opportunity, we will associate together for religious purposes. Those of us who are in more comfortable situations in life than some of our brethren, with regard to the good things of Providence, will administer as we have ability and see occasion, to their necessities. We will bear one another’s burdens, sympathize with the afflicted in body and mind, so far as we know their case, under their trials; and as we see occasion, advise, caution, and encourage one another. We will watch over one another for good. We will studiously avoid giving or taking offenses. Thus we will make it our study to fulfill the law of Christ. … These things, and whatever else may appear enjoined by the Word of God, we promise in the strength of divine grace to observe and practice. But knowing our insufficiency for anything that is spiritually good, in and of ourselves, we look up to him who giveth power to the faint, rejoicing that in the Lord we have not only righteousness but strength. Hold thou us up, O Lord, and we shall be safe! Amen!

Living by the Law of Christ

Bear one another’s burdens, Paul said, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Nowhere else did Paul use the expression “the law of Christ”, although 1 Cor 9:21 contains a similar phrase, “though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law.” Throughout the earlier part of Galatians, Paul frequently pictured Christ and grace opposed to law and works, showing conclusively that justification can never be achieved by observing the requirements of the Mosaic legislation, which no one can do perfectly in any event, but only through faith in Jesus Christ, who in his atoning death on the cross bore the curse of the law and now freely offers salvation for all who believe.

This is the heart of the gospel and Paul is not here backtracking or sidestepping from this fundamental doctrinal commitment. However, as Paul has shown already in Gal 5–6, the moral law of God has never been abrogated or annulled, although the civil and ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic legislation have been made obsolete by the coming of Christ.

The moral law of God, epitomized in the Ten Commandments and summarized in Jesus’ restatement of the “new commandment” given to his disciples (John 13:34; 15:12; 1 John 3:23), continues to play an important role in the life of the justified believer. In sum, the “law of Christ” is for Paul “the whole tradition of Jesus’ ethical teaching, confirmed by his character and conduct and reproduced within his people by the power of the Spirit” (cf. Rom 8:2).

Chris Martin is an Author Coach at a Christian publishing company. He blogs regularly at MillennialEvangelical.com to help pastors better understand, reach, and equip millennials. You can find him on Twitter@ChrisMartin17 or on Facebook at Facebook.com/MillennialEvangelical.

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