Who Is Responsible?

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Galatians 6:1-10


I.         One of the issues that has divided brethren is that of doing good.

            A.        The question is who is responsible?

            B.        One side argues that it doesn’t matter, so long as the good is done. The other side argues that you cannot give away a responsibility God has given to you.

II.        Before we get into the actual verses, we need to first address the question: Is the church merely a group of Christians?

            A.        If it is, then the argument that whatever God commanded of an individual can be done by the group

            B.        There is a distinction in funds - Acts 5:3-4

                        1.         Notice that while the money are his, he could have done whatever he wanted.

                        2.         But it was no longer his own, it was given to the church.

            C.        There is a distinction in address - Matthew 18:15-18

                        1.         As a problem is trying to be resolved, it goes first to the individual, then to a small group of Christians, and finally to the church.

                        2.         If the church is merely a collection of individuals, then it could not referred to a separate step

            D.        There is a distinction in environment - I Corinthians 14:34-36

                        1.         Women are to be silent in church, but may ask questions at home.

            E.        There is a distinction in obligation - I Timothy 5:16

                        1.         The individual had responsibility to care for widows in his own family - I Timothy 5:8

                        2.         The church was given a restricted set of qualifications - I Timothy 5:9-11

                        3.         The individual was specifically told not to turn over his responsibility to the church.

III.       Doing Good - Galatians 6:7-10

            A.        In Galatians 6:7-8, who is being addressed?

                        1.         We see words like “man,” “he,” and “his flesh.”

                        2.         These are words to the individual.

                        3.         A church doesn’t have flesh since it is an organization

            B.        The point is that a person harvests what he sows.

                        1.         Good seed will yield a good crop. Bad seed will yield a bad crop.

                        2.         Hosea 8:7 makes the same point, but also notes you get back more than you plant

                                    a.         Most don’t count on that.

                                    b.         Doing a little bad, doesn’t get you a little bad consequences - Proverbs 22:8

                        3.         So we need to sow righteousness - Proverbs 11:18; Hosea 10:12

            C.        “And” - Galatians 6:9 continues the thought

                        1.         Paul says we are not to give up doing that good

                                    a.         Literally the phrase in Greek is “Let us not keep on giving in to evil while doing the good” (Robertson’s New Testament Word Pictures).

                        2.         Just because the farmer sows seed, does he quit because he got no results the next week? Of course not.

                        3.         Do we give up because the results of righteousness don’t come in as quick as we had hoped? The answer is the same: Of course not!

            D.        What is meant by switching from the singular third person to plural first person?

                        1.         While the warning against sowing sin was not directed to any particular individual, the command to not give up is for everyone, including Paul.

                        2.         Could it be a shift from the individual to the church? Such doesn’t work grammatically.

                                    a.         If you are talking about the church, it is singular, though it is made up of multiple individuals.

                                    b.         If you use the plural for churches, then you are referring to many groups. So if this was addressing the church we went from talking about individuals in the third person to many churches in the first. That is not a natural shift, especially while continuing a point.

                                    c.         “We” includes the speaker. Paul is an individual, he is not a church.

                        3.         It is not a shift of responsibility from the individual to the church. The church is not even in consideration in these verses.

                                    a.         Start again in verse 1, “a man,” “you,” “anyone,” “himself,” “he,”

                                    b.         Note particularly Galatians 1:4-5 and realize that Paul is not talking about the church, but individual Christians.

                        4.         The shift from singular to plural is common in Galatians, often occurring when Paul summarizes his points.

                                    a.         For example, see Galatians 5:16-26

                                    b.         It means the conclusion drawn is not just for some, but for everyone, including Paul.

                        5.         The use of “all”

                                    a.         When Paul says to do good to all, “all” broadens the target of the good to every example of what is under consideration.

                                                (1)       If Paul was talking to churches, the “all” would refer to all churches.

                                                (2)       But that would not make sense because churches would be of the faith by their very nature, so you could note say especially those of the household of faith.

                                                (3)       Besides God’s household is not made up of churches but of Christians.

                                    b.         The translators know that Paul is talking about people and add the word “men” or “people” to make it explicit.

                                    c.         So “Let us do good to all” is about people doing good to other people, not churches doing good to other churches.

            E.        What is our duty? To do good, to not give up, to take advantage of opportunities, and to put priority on helping other Christians.

IV.      Visiting Widows and Orphans - James 1:27

            A.        After spending so much time on Galatians 6:9-10, James 1:27 should be straight forward.

            B.        The context is clear: “Anyone” and “oneself” is not addressed to a church

                        1.         Churches don’t have a tongue or a heart

            C.        Visiting doesn’t mean stopping by for a brief chat or sending a check.

                        1.         From the Greek word, episkeptomai

                                    a.         Thayer: “to look upon or after, to inspect, examine with the eyes; . . . in order to see how he is, i.e. to visit, go see one. . . . to look upon in order to help or benefit; e.g. to look after, have a care for, provide for . . .”

                                    b.         Vine: “to look upon, care for, exercise oversight.”

                                                (1)       Note that the word episkeptomai is related to the Greek word for overseer. The word we derive the office of a bishop or elder who oversees the work of a congregation.

                                                (2)       Here a child or widow is being overseen

                        2.         Other uses of the word in the New Testament

                                    a.         Luke 1:68, 78-79 - Zacharias prophesied that God would visit mankind – A prophecy about the coming Messiah.

                                                (1)       Christ did not have brief chat with mankind. He did not send a representative on his behalf.

                                                (2)       Christ’s visit was a direct, personal interaction with mankind.

                                    b.         Acts 7:23-24 - Moses’ visit to his brethren involved his taking personal action in their defense.

                                    c.         Acts 15:36 - Paul and Barnabas visited the brethren directly to see how the work was progressing.

                                    d.         Matthew 25:35-36 - Visiting those in prison

                                                (1)       Not by sending gifts, but by directly interacting with those in prison

                        3.         Vincent’s Word Studies: “James strikes a downright blow here at ministry by proxy, or by mere gifts of money. Pure and undefiled religion demands personal contact with the world’s sorrow: to visit the afflicted, and to visit them in their affliction.”

            D.        To claim that the church can take care of orphans and widows and that fulfills the Christian’s duty is absolutely against what James 1:27 says.

V.        You and I are responsible

            A.        The duties of the church and the Christian do overlap, but there are areas of distinction.

            B.        A command to the Christian does not necessarily apply to a church.

            C.        Even when there is an overlap because both are commanded, one does not relive the other of their responsibility.

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