Where the world comes to study the Bible

Sowing and Reaping (Galatians 6:6-18)

Introduction

I remember hearing the story of a circuit-riding preacher whose attire revealed that he had little of this world’s riches. He, himself, was thin and in less than perfect health. His horse, on the other hand, was sleek and well kept. When a parishioner asked the preacher why he looked so poorly and his horse looked so good, the preacher’s response was, “I look after my horse, but you look after me.”

I am not at ease in approaching the sixth verse of Galatians chapter 6 because it has a very direct bearing on my life and ministry as a teacher of the Scriptures. I hope that you know me well enough to feel confident that I do not wish to use this text to serve my own personal ends. I am sensitive on the subject of sharing with those who teach for the same reason you are—that there are many who, in the name of Christ and Christian ministry, line their own pockets with funds gained from gullible people. While this is a serious problem, it is not the problem underlying our passage.

While I was growing up, we attended a little country church, where a godly pastor faithfully taught the Word of God. I did not appreciate this man and his wife as I should have, probably because of some experiences. For example, on one occasion our youth group had planned a very special event. We were going to a smorgasbord in Tacoma, Washington. We had a lovely meal and then the floor show commenced. The atmosphere of the restaurant was “gay ’90s,” and so the chorus line routine began. I can still remember the horror on the pastor’s face as he physically dragged us out of that place.

What I did not know until much later was that this faithful preacher and his wife were so poorly paid that they used to buy chinchilla meat. Now the fur of a chinchilla is something very special, and the chinchilla coat is highly prized, but so far as a meal is concerned, a chinchilla is simply a close relative of a rat, and without his fur, he is just as appealing.

It is not the self-seeking, money-grabbing minister which is in view in our text, but rather those, like the pastor who had to buy chinchilla meat, whose needs are the problem which this text seeks to correct. There were those in the Galatian churches who had been faithfully proclaiming the Word of God, but who were barely able to make both ends meet. It is this problem, I believe, that caused Paul to speak very candidly about the responsibility of the congregation to minister to the needs of those who teach the Word. This problem, however, is but a symptom of a deeper, underlying problem, that which was characteristic of the Judaizers, and which had contaminated the Galatians.

Our text is problematic. The commentators differ as to how these verses fit together. The subjects of each section are clear, but their relationship is illusive. Verse 6 contains the apostolic instruction to share with those who teach; verses 7-10 deal with the principle of sowing and reaping; and verses 11-17 contrast the motivation of the Judaizers with that of the Apostle Paul. My approach to this text will be a bit unusual. After some introductory comments on verse 6, we will turn to verses 11-17, where we will seek to find the problem underlying the passage. Finally, we will consider the principle of sowing and reaping laid down in verses 7-10, which are Paul’s solution to the problem.

From Bearing Burdens to Sharing Blessings
(6:6)

And let the one who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches (Gal. 6:6).

As we begin our study of the passage before us, let me make some preliminary observations concerning verse 6.

(1) No one is better qualified to convey this precept than Paul. The Book of Galatians, unlike most printed material we receive in the mail from Christian ministers and institutions today, does not come with an appeal for funds, accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope in which to send a contribution. Paul is not speaking for himself or for his own personal gain. Paul is speaking for those in the Galatian churches who have needs (burdens) which others have the obligation to help bear. Paul’s practices regarding finances (both his personal funds and those given through him) were beyond reproach (cf. Acts 20:33-35; 1 Cor. 9:4-18; 2 Cor. 8:20-21; 2 Thes. 3:6-11).

(2) The precept of verse 6 prescribes a practical outworking of the principles of verses 1-5. In verses 1-5 of this chapter, Paul has laid down two fundamental principles: (1) Christians must help to bear the burdens of others; and, (2) each Christian must individually bear his own burden. Sharing good things with those who teach us is a very practical way of applying both principles. The responsibility of proclaiming the Word of God was a burden which the Old Testament prophet was to bear (cf. Nah. 1:1; Hab. 1:1; Zech. 9:1; 12:1; Mal. 1:1). As an apostle and teacher of the Word, Paul sensed the preaching of the Word the burden he must bear: “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16).

The other apostles felt the same compulsion, so that they could not obey the command of men to stop preaching Christ (Acts 5:27-32). Preaching and teaching the gospel is thus the special burden of those whom God has gifted and called for this ministry.128 In order for those who have been given this burden to bear it, the body of Christ must support them by bearing some of the burdens pertaining to providing for their material needs. Sharing all good things with those who teach is thus the bearing of the burdens of teachers and enabling them to bear their own burden (of teaching).

(3) In verse 6 Paul does not stress payment for services rendered so much as it does participation in the ministry of the Word of God. There are other passages which deal with the obligation of the church toward those who spend full time in a teaching ministry (e.g. 1 Cor. 9:1-14; 1 Tim. 5:17-18; 2 Tim. 2:3-7), but the emphasis never seems to be simply that of looking at a man’s ministry as a job, for which he is to be paid. There is more to it than just money. For example, in 1 Timothy 5:17 the expression “double honor” certainly calls for a generous provision of salary, but the “double honor” of financial provision conveys as well the esteem and appreciation which are elsewhere called for apart from monetary or material goods (e.g. 1 Thes. 5:12-13; 1 Cor. 16:18).

In Galatians 6:6, the verb form of the term “koinonia,” “fellowship” is translated “share.” While “sharing” in a financial or material way is encouraged in the New Testament, it does not normally include the idea of payment, but of mutual participation in ministry with and to other members of the body of Christ (cp. “contributing,” Rom. 12:13; “contribution,” Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 9:13; “sharing,” Heb. 13:16). Thus, the “sharing” of the Philippian church was not merely some kind of payment for Paul’s ministry to them, but a participation in Paul’s ministry to others (cp. Phil. 1:5; 4:15; cf. Matt. 10:40-42). Having “fellowship” materially with those who are in need is a demonstration of our unity and interdependence as members of Christ’s body, the church.

The expression “all good things” also tends to soften any sense of “salary” in this passage. While I realize that in certain societies doctors and preachers have been repaid for their services in chickens and garden produce, the sharing of “all good things” seems to give a broader sense of obligation. Then, too, the principle of “sowing and reaping” in verses 7-10 speaks of “doing good” as an investment. Since “doing good” in the broader context is not earned or merited by the one who is the recipient, we should be cautious about pressing the idea of payment for services rendered on the part of those who teach.

(4) The precept laid down in our passage was not a rigid rule. A little thought will cause us to recognize that the command given here is to those taught, rather than to the teacher. By this I mean that the responsibility to share is that of those who are taught, but this does not justify the teacher’s insisting that he be remunerated, nor that he take a gift which is given. Looking at Paul’s practice, for example, we see that being financially supported was viewed as his right, and thus he was free to waive it in the light of other principles and priorities (cf. 1 Cor. 9:15-23).

Furthermore, not only was the preacher free to minister without cost, but the church was not always obligated to reciprocate or remunerate those who taught. Those who were “false apostles” (cf. 2 Cor. 11:13) or “false brethren” (Gal. 2:4) should surely not be supported in their ministry, for to do so would be to participate in their evil deeds (2 John 10-11).129

More than this, however, there is a more restricted responsibility conveyed in Galatians 6:6. The responsibility here is that of those “who are taught” to those “who teach.” The inference is that we are obligated (in this context, at least, but see also 3 John 5-8) only to those who teach us. Just because a person is a self-proclaimed teacher is no basis for our obligation to him. It is those who have been taught who are obligated to the teacher. Frankly, there are a large number of “teachers” who should not be encouraged because of their shoddy methods and message, even if it is an orthodox one.

Are we obligated, then, to give to everyone who teaches us? I am inclined to think not. In the first place, when Paul worked with his own hands, he would not take money from others, but gave to them (cf. Acts 20:33-35; 2 Thes. 3:8). How can one share with one who won’t accept it? Similarly, the instruction to give those elders “double honor” pertained specifically to those who “worked hard at preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17), which suggests that there were those who were less devoted to preaching and teaching the Word and thus did not need to be supported.

The terms “taught” and “teaches” in verse 6 further support the contention that every teacher need not be salaried or supported. The inference of the Greek term (from which our expression “catechism” is derived) used twice in verse 6 is that of teaching which is both thorough and systematic, of the type Paul speaks of in relation to his ministry among the Ephesians (cp. Acts 19:9-10; 20:18-20).130

(5) There were practical reasons for the practice of this precept, just as there were for setting it aside. Paul often refrained from being supported by others for the sake of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:18-23). As an itinerate preacher, Paul, by outward appearances would have been considered just another one of the many religious hucksters who went from town to town, conning the naive out of their money. In the book Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain referred to this as “missionarying.” In order to avoid unnecessary suspicion, Paul supported himself, removing at least one charge against him. In this way, the gospel was enhanced by Paul’s refraining from his right as a preacher of the gospel.

There was a considerable difference, however, between the itinerate ministry of Paul, who was single, and the more long-term ministry of those teachers in the Galatian churches who were most likely married and had families.131 Paul frequently labored “day and night” (2 Thes. 3:8), which would not be advisable for a family man. Paul often was able to live in the home of others (cf. Acts 16:15; 18:3), but this would hardly be advisable for a preacher with a large family. Can you, for example, even conceive of putting up my wife and me, along with our 5 girls, for month after month, year after year? Paul rightly recognized that the growth of the church was dependent, at least in part, upon being consistently and consecutively in the Word of God. If this were so, then the saints would need to assume their responsibility to support those who taught the Word.

(6) Paul had the ability to differentiate between his personal convictions and the principles of the Word of God. I will mention this only in passing, but it is a vitally important quality for one who publicly ministers the Word of God: the ability to distinguish between principle and personal conviction. How easy it would have been for Paul to have advocated that everyone imitate his practice of “tent-making” in order to support himself and thus more effectively proclaim the gospel. Paul realized, however, that his experience was not the norm, and that the church does need teaching which is both consistent and qualitative.

Having said this, let me also point out that there are very few who seem willing to consider Paul’s methodology, feeling that the only significant ministry is that one which has an official position, with a staff title, an office, and a salary. While Paul’s practice was not the norm, it is one which all of us should seriously consider. Just as we should consider staying single in order to be more effective in ministry (cf. 1 Cor. 7:7-9; 25-35), so we should consider secular employment, if it would make us more effective servants of our Lord.

(7) There is a direct relationship between the precept laid down and the “Galatian problem.” The precept of sharing with those who teach is neither accidental nor incidental. This was Paul’s response to a problem which I believe was a direct result of the teaching of the Judaizers. In order to understand how the teaching of the Judaizers resulted in the neglect of those who taught, let us look to the latter part of this chapter for the problem which precipitated Paul’s specific instruction in verse 6.

The Cross versus Circumcision
(6:11-17)

11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. 17 From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.

It is probably true that little in these final verses of Paul’s epistle is new, but what is written is crucial for it closes Paul’s letter with the essence of the difference between Paul and the Judaizers. The importance of what is written in these verses is underscored by Paul in verse 11. In his day, there were no typewriters or word processors, such as I am using at this very moment. When I wish to emphasize a point, I simply boldface the words, having the printer strike over the letters a certain number of times, or underlining what I have written. Paul did the same thing by taking the pen in hand (possibly taking it from the hand of an amanuensis) and writing what follows with large letters. The effect is to inform the reader of the importance of what is written as well as to remind us of who is writing it.

The issue which Paul makes with the Judaizers is that between the cross of Christ and circumcision. To Paul, the cross was the source of his salvation. More than anything else, the “cross” summarized Paul’s message, while circumcision was the essence of the teaching of the Judaizers. The real reason for this is explained in verses 12-17. Paul gloried (boasted) in the cross of Christ, for it was there that his sins were washed away, borne by the Savior. The gospel which he preached was the message of the cross (cf. 1 Cor. 1:17-18, 23; 2:2; Gal. 3:1; 5:11; Eph. 2:16; Phil. 2:8; 3:18; Col. 1:20; 2;14).

To the Judaizers the cross was offensive because it was the cause of their persecution and suffering. To find one’s salvation solely in the cross of Christ was so abominable to the unbelieving Jew that those who thus believed were persecuted. To avoid this persecution, the Judaizers played down the cross and promoted circumcision. This setting aside of the cross for circumcision enabled the Judaizers to gain the praise of the Jews, rather than the persecution which Paul and other Christians experienced.

To Paul, the cross was everything and neither circumcision nor uncircumcision was anything. What really mattered was death to sin (and the Law) and becoming a new creation through what Christ accomplished on the cross (v. 15). The Judaizers took pride in their own circumcision and they boasted in the circumcision of others, even though neither was able to keep the commitment of circumcision, which was to perfectly keep the law of Moses (v. 13). While the mark of circumcision was the Judaizer’s badge of discipleship, the marks on Paul’s body, those of his persecution, were significant to him, for they were evidence of his belonging to Christ (v. 17).

The issue underlying the contrasting views of Paul and the Judaizers toward the cross and circumcision is that of suffering and persecution. The Judaizers knew better than to think that they could actually keep the law (v. 13). All they really wanted to do was to solve the pragmatic problem of Jewish132 persecution. Paul did not enjoy suffering in some masochistic fashion, but he did find joy in suffering, for it enabled him to appreciate his salvation (Gal. 2:20) and to identify with the sufferings of His Savior (cf. Phil. 1:19-30; 3:7-21; Col. 1:24-29).

When you get right down to it, the cross sums it all up. The gospel which saves men is “the word of the cross.” Discipleship is a matter of “taking up one’s cross and following Him” (Matt. 10:38; 16:24; Luke 9:23). When one determines to avoid suffering at all costs, as the Judaizers did, the offense of the cross will lead to exchanging the “word of the cross” for “circumcision” or some other act which pleases men, but which offends God.

Now we can begin to understand why Paul found it necessary to instruct the Galatian saints to support those who ministered the Word of God to them. People pay for goods and services in accordance with the value they attach to them. We will not pay the same price for silver as we will for gold, simply because we value gold more highly. The Judaizers (and some of the Galatian saints as well) placed a very high value on human approval, on the absence of pain and persecution, and on present prosperity. Since the true gospel produced persecution (cf. Acts 14:22; 2 Tim. 3:12; I Peter 2:19-21), and the “different gospel” promised peace and prosperity, it is not difficult to figure out who were the teachers that were most generously supported.

Whether or not the Galatian saints had totally accepted the theology of the Judaizers, they had come to accept much of their thinking. To pay the preacher for teaching them that they would need to suffer for the cause of Christ, that they must “take up their cross” was spending good money on a bad cause. Who wants to pay for hearing about pain and persecution? The principle of verses 7-10 seeks to correct such thinking.

The Principle of Sowing and Reaping
(6:7-10)

7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. 10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

The problem which the Judaizers had with suffering was but a logical outflow of their short-sighted world view. The Judaizers, like most men today, seek to experience pleasure and to avoid pain, for they view life only in terms of what is present and physical. This erroneous world view is corrected by the longer range perception described as a principle of sowing and reaping, which is taught in verses 7-10.

“Sowing and Reaping” is a very common biblical image, which is especially relevant to the problem of the Galatian churches. The following are a few of the factors which make this principle so relevant to the Galatians.

(1) “Sowing and Reaping” stresses the responsibility of the saint without doing a disservice to the sovereignty of God. Paul has previously spoken of the “fruit of the Spirit” in chapter 5. The “fruit of the Spirit” are the produce of God’s grace in the life of the Christian. When Paul speaks of “sowing and reaping” in chapter 6, he places his emphasis on that which we are to do, but in a way that reminds us as well that it is God who gives the fruit. The farmer does not produce grain. He sows grain, he tends the field, and he harvests the grain which God gives. The imagery of farming thus adequately balances the matter of divine sovereignty and human responsibility.

(2) “Sowing and reaping” helps us gain an eternal perspective. Sowing and reaping are separated by time. Sowing is the beginning of the process, while reaping is the culmination of it. When the farmer sows his field, he must do so in faith, trusting that all of his efforts will eventually be worthwhile. Nearly everything which the farmer does, he does in the light of what he hopes to be the outcome. So it is with the spiritual life. It is true that, for the present, holding fast to the gospel of God’s grace will often result in present denial and suffering. The principle of sowing and reaping reminds us, however, that our sowing will ultimately be rewarded by our reaping, but that this may only be so when our Lord returns. The preoccupation of the Judaizers with present prosperity and praise was the result of their losing sight (if they ever had it) of eternity.

(3) Paul’s principle of “Sowing and Reaping” reminds us that we will reap what we have “sown.” What is reaped is the result of what is sown. When one sows wheat seed, he expects to reap wheat. Paul employs the image of sowing and reaping to show the direct correlation between what is done in this life and what we reap in eternity. According to Paul, we have but two choices as to what we will sow in this life. We can either sow “to the Spirit” or we can sow “to the flesh.”

Sowing “to the Spirit” is investing our resources in those things which are “spiritual” and thus eternal. This investment is achieved through the Spirit of God, not through the flesh. The reward which is reaped is “eternal life” (v. 8), which I take to include all of the blessings of eternity, in addition to the blessedness of experiencing God’s grace in the present.

The counterpart to “sowing to the Spirit” is “sowing to the flesh” (v. 8). By the emphatic reference to sowing to “his own flesh” (v. 8), Paul underscores the self-centeredness of this pursuit. Sowing to “the flesh” is investing in that which is physical, mortal, and thus passing, rather than eternal. It is the proverbial “going around only once,” “gusto grabbing” of every age. Since this world, along with our earthy bodies, is to be done away with, why are we investing in that which corrupts? Sowing to the flesh is like buying truckloads of potatoes and putting them in a bank vault, hoping to prosper from them in ten years time.

Paul’s reminder that we reap what we sow is a solemn word of warning to those who think that we can be blessed spiritually while living in and to the flesh. What we do in this life has consequences, both for the present and for eternity. To think that we can expect God to bless that which is of the flesh is an insult and an offense to God. How can we possibly expect a righteous and holy God to bless unrighteousness?

(4) The principle of “sowing and reaping” contained the solution to the problem in the Galatian churches, which was evident in their failure to provide for those who taught them. In 1 Corinthians 9:11, Paul taught that since he “sowed” spiritual things among them, he was entitled (a right, however, which he did not claim) to “reap” materially from them. The principle of sowing and reaping which we find in Galatians 6:7-10 is very similar. In this case, however, Paul maintains that sharing “all good things with those who teach the Word” is actually sowing on the part of those who are taught. Not only do they reap the spiritual benefit of the teaching now, but their sharing insures that they will reap benefits eternally. And if someone would dare to object that the teaching they are receiving is not that of present prosperity, Paul would have them know that the present benefits are “peace and mercy” (Gal. 6:16), and “eternal life” (Gal. 6:8), which endures forever.

Conclusion

The way the church presently functions, it is not easy for us to obey Paul’s instruction in verse 6. How long has it been since you personally felt that you had a part in sharing with those who teach you? As a practical matter, it is unfortunate that the payment of preachers has become institutionalized, for it makes it even more difficult for individuals to share with those who teach. While our offerings are used to pay the salaries of those who teach, we, as individuals, feel that we have little part in the process. My advice is that you prayerfully consider ways in which you can personally have a part in response to the teaching of others, which has enriched your life.

The problem of the neglected teachers was detrimental to the ongoing teaching ministry of the Galatian churches, but, much more, was an indication of a wrong orientation and motivation. The “different gospel” of the Judaizers tended to focus almost entirely on the present and on prosperity. The “true gospel” which Paul preached focused upon the cross of Christ, by which men are saved, and of which the saved must partake by taking up their own cross.

I am sad to have to say that this same erroneous orientation and motivation are just as prevalent in the church today as it was in Paul’s day—perhaps even more so! Why is it that many of the messages which are preached and books that are written have “success” as their goal, rather than faithfulness and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ and to His Word? Why do we measure success by outward, external standards, and often by the praise of men? It is because we, like the Galatians of old, have become too preoccupied with ourselves and with our present happiness, contentment, and success. This is why those whose message is that of the cross go without, while those whose message is the “good life” prosper. Let us take the principle of sowing and reaping very seriously.

The principle of sowing and reaping applies to us in some very practical ways. In the first place, it should motivate us to be diligent and faithful in our task until the Lord’s return. I find that many Christians begin a ministry with great zeal, only to lose heart. Sometimes it is because no one expresses appreciation or gives any recognition for what they are doing. Sometimes it is because they are criticized for what they are doing. Sometimes it is because they have become bored with their job and want something more exciting, more successful, more significant. The principle of sowing and reaping encourages us to faithfully endure, looking not to the immediate gains, but to those which lie ahead, in the reaping of things spiritual.

The principle of sowing and reaping will give us a new sense of urgency about our tasks as well. On one hand, we see that reaping may be a long time away, but, on the other, we recognize that there is only a limited amount of time to labor, yet an eternity to enjoy the rewards of our labor. While verse 9 stresses the need of endurance, verse 10 emphasizes the urgency of the present task in light of the limited time left. The farmer has but a few days in which he can sow the seed. If this time passes by, it is too late. So, too, the Christian has that same sense of urgency, knowing that when our Lord returns, the time for labor is over. Let us seek to do good, now.

We may wonder just what the “good” which we are to do (with urgency and endurance) is. I have to say that while “good” may include many different things, the one which is most emphasized in our text is that which involves the sharing of our financial resources. Certainly this is one of the primary ways in which those “who are taught” are to “share all good things” with “those who teach.” I believe that just as the “all good things” in verse 6 includes money, so does the “good” which we are to do to all men in verse 10 We have done a fair bit of fancy footwork to avoid our responsibility in the area of social justice, but this passage exposes our hypocrisy.

The thrust of Paul’s words in this text is very similar to that of our Lord when He said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21). While it is true that we will invest our money where our heart is, it is also true that our heart will be where our treasure is. If we would truly place a high priority on the teaching of the Word of God, we must be willing to “share all good things” with those who proclaim it to us.

I am once again impressed with the importance of the Word of God in the life and growth of the Christian. The reason why Paul can so emphatically instruct Christians to share with those who teach is because he is convinced of the value of the teaching of God’s Word. Let us place a high priority on the teaching of God’s Word as well.

There is a very fundamental difference between the motivation of the Judaizer and the motivation of the one who seeks to sow to the Spirit. The Judaizer is really only concerned with himself, and so he will compromise the gospel, minimize the cross, and place the heavy burden of circumcision and the Law on others in order to make things easy for himself. Paul, on the other hand, and all who would be like him, had the mind of the Master, and thus was willing to take up his cross, in order to serve others. As our Lord put it, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

If there is any one thing which will motivate the Christian to take up his cross it is an appreciation for the cross of Jesus Christ, which He bore for our salvation. Our estimation and appreciation of His cross is often the measure of the cross we are willing to bear for others.

It is my prayer that the cross of Jesus Christ is precious to you because you have found in it (Him) the forgiveness of your sins and the assurance that you are a new creation. It is by the cross that you have died to the Law and its condemnation. It is on the basis of the work of our Lord on the cross that you can be assured of full and final sanctification. And if this is so, then you will also be willing to take up your cross of self-sacrifice and suffering for Christ’s sake, for the sake of others, and for your own sake as well.

Paul’s final word to the Galatian Christians is but a reminder and repetition of the theme of the epistle—the grace of God. There is no more comforting message than that of God’s grace. It is to the grace of God that Paul commends his readers. May we, like them, be overcome with the grace of God to us, and may we manifest that grace to others as we seek to “do good to all men.”133


128 In no way is this statement intended to minimize the imperative for all Christians to proclaim the gospel. It is simply an acknowledgement of differences in spiritual gifts and calling (cf. 1 Cor. 12:4-6). For a more detailed explanation, consult the exposition of Galatians 6:3-5 in lesson 17.

129 In 2 John 11:11 the expression “participates” is a translation of the Greek verb “koinoneo.” Just as ministering to those who minister is sharing in that ministry, so supporting the ministry of false teachers is sharing in their evil work.

130 Some may wonder if I am not inconsistent here, for while Paul taught thoroughly and systematically, he also did so while supporting himself (Acts 20:33-35). My response is that he did so “working hard” (20:35), or, as he said to the Thessalonians, “working night and day” (2 Thes. 3:8). Such a ministry may be sustained by a single man for a certain period of time, but it is certainly not the ideal for a family man over the long term.

131 I base my assumption that most of the full-time teachers were married on the fact that in 1 Corinthians 9, Paul speaks of himself and Barnabas as unmarried men as exceptions, rather than the rule (1 Cor. 9:5-6). In addition, the requirements for elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 strongly suggest that elders would normally be married and have families.

132 Actually circumcision was a means of avoiding Roman persecution as well as that of the Jews, but Jewish opposition is here in focus. The Roman government viewed Christianity as a faction within Judaism (cf. Acts 18:14-16), and thus to be circumcised was to be regarded by Rome as Jewish, and thus a legal religion. To refuse circumcision thus ran the risk of not only offending the Jew, but of being regarded by Rome as a member of an illegal religious sect.

133 The same Greek term, rendered “good,” is found in verses 6 and 10. The “good” of verse 9 is a different term, but it has essentially the same sense. The fact that “doing good” involves sharing in a financial or material way is also seen in Hebrews 13:16.

Related Topics: Fellowship, Sanctification