10 Mar 2024

Bearing One Another’s Burden [Galatians 6:2-5]
  • Topic: Bear, Burden, Christ, Church, Command, Fish, Galatians, Gospel, Group, Life, Pride, Scripture, Spirit, Verse, Walk, Wife


The grace of the Gospel is not intended for individual blessings alone. The grace of the Gospel is meant to overflow into the communal life of the church. By grace, believers can walk in the Spirit and enjoy victory over sin in daily living. By grace, as believers walk together in the Spirit, we will also bear one another’s burden in the community. This demonstrates that we are bearing the fruit of the Spirit together in the church. This accomplishes the life the gospel creates in the fellowship of believers.

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Sermon Transcript


In the Chinese service, I have just completed a sermon series on the book of Galatians. The Book of Galatians is about the Gospel, the Gospel of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that allow us in the moment we trust in Jesus, to be forgiven of our sins and justified or made right with God, so that this grace can lead us to a freedom in Christ - a freedom to know God, a freedom to draw near to Him to have a relationship with Him, that is not based on what we have done, or what we can do. And this freedom will be made real through the power of the indwelling Spirit. So, just now we have read together Galatians chapter 5, beginning in verse 16, although I will only be speaking on Galatians chapter 6, verse 2 to 5, and the topic is on bearing one another's burden. 

So, the question is why go all the way back to Galatians 5, verse 16? The answer is simple. It's because the command to walk in the Spirit governs this entire passage all the way to chapter six, verse 10. In other words, to walk in the Spirit is not an individual experience of the Gospel alone. To walk in the Spirit is intended to overflow in verse 1 to 10 of chapter six, into how we live and do life together as a church. And so, what is the outcome of life in the Spirit - of walking in the Spirit - of living out this Gospel of grace that brings freedom in Christ? It is contained in one simple command here, which is to bear one another's burden. So, if you have your Bibles, kindly turn with me to Galatians chapter 6, and look at verses 2 to 5 with me. 

Now, it is sad that Christians can sometimes think that it is an individual experience alone. And as a result, we think that the more spiritual you are, the more you are filled with the Spirit and you're walking in the Spirit, all it matters is to elevate your own relationship with God and experience of His blessing. And as a result of that, we think that perhaps the Christian journey is like a lone ranger journey. And so we feel that if we read our Bibles, if we pray, if we grow in the Lord, we're going to get lonelier and lonelier. And therefore, we have in the pursuit of God, ride out by ourselves into the setting sun. Now this is not just a Western thought. I'd like to share with you that on the Eastern hemisphere, we also have our own “Du Gu Qiu Bai” (Solitary & Begging for Defeat). So, who and what is “Du Gu Qiu Bai”? “Du Gu” means solitary. “Qiu Bai” means begging for defeat. So, in the Chinese thinking, in the Eastern world, that is also the idea that when you are so accomplished in your powers and skill, you are going to be very lonely - so lonely, that in the martial arts world, no one can be your match! And so, you're begging for someone to challenge you and even defeat you, because you are so lonely up there. 

Now, in religion, today, we are also influenced by Eastern mysticism, which suggests that the spiritual and the pursuit of higher, deeper spiritual life is found in solitary meditation and your personal “Enlightenment”. And I just want to challenge that thought with the Scripture today, and allow you to see that the command to walk in the Spirit does not stop at the end of chapter 5, but it governs the whole passage to chapter 6, so that is intended to overflow into how we live and do life together as believers. From this passage, I want you to see that bearing one another's burdens, requires us to weed out pride in our heart, to walk in the Spirit together. This is not a separate command. Paul, the apostle has not changed the subject. He is still talking about walking in the Spirit. It’s important to connect this thought. He is still talking about walking the Spirit, but he has gone beyond the individual into the communal, into the community of believers, into the fellowship of the church, and he's challenging us now in this body of believers, to be bearing one another's burden. Is that sound-effect special?


I was trying to pace myself with it. Okay, now..



Let's first look at this command with the significance of bearing one another's burden - at the significance of bearing one another's burden. Now the Scripture tells us in Galatians, chapter 6 verse to bear one another's burdens. The Greek word here is “Baros”. “Baros” here refers to something that is so heavy, that is so weighty, that you cannot bear it alone. Now, if you look at verse 1, that gives you a specific example of how Christians are to help bear one another's burden: in the example of someone overtaken in a trespass or overtaken in sin. But bearing one another's burden is not confined to one that is stumbling into sin. Bearing one another's burden includes any kind of crisis in our lives, whether it be because of what happens in your family, or what happens because of illnesses that struck or because of financial difficulty due to unemployment, retrenchment, that causes excessive stress upon your life. And so, it can come in any form, shape, and size. And when such burdens come into our lives, the Bible tells us that we are to bear one another's burdens. 

Now, for Christians, we tend to think that if we are spiritual, if we are close to God, like Psalms 55 states, we would cast our cares upon the Lord. Like Matthew chapter 11, calls out to us we will come to Jesus, all who are weary and heavy-laden and He will give us rest. And so, there is a tendency to conclude that if we are successful in our walk with God, we will be stress-free, we will not have such burdens; it’s a proof of our spirituality, the success of our Christian life, that we do not need help from anyone else. And that is the wrong thinking. Because that is more stoical and human than it is Christian and spiritual. Yes, Jesus has borne the burden of our sins, but He intends for us to - through human friendships - through the fellowship of believers to be bearing one another's burden because we will still 

have worries. We will still have struggles. We will still have weaknesses. We will still have stresses. 

For some of you who know, in about two years ago, I was diagnosed with the critical illness of cancer. It was a very difficult period in my life together with my family and I am very thankful for the church here at Gospel Light, that have reached out to me and my family, that have supported us in this journey. And through this journey, I have learned a lot about the importance of community personally. As part of my treatment, at the end of the year 2021, I need to undergo a major surgery to remove the diseased area. Unfortunately, after the surgery, I had complications that does not allow me to be discharged within four to five days. And so, I stayed on. My doctor told me one of the longest among his patients about 17 days. Haven't broken his record, but very near. And because of that, for two weeks, I wasn't able to eat at all. So yes, it's possible to lose weight, just don't eat. And that's why I end up in this shape today. As I was discharged, I was very weak physically. But because of that major surgery, I was advised by a lot of well-meaning Christian friends in the church that I need to take a lot of fish and fish is supposed to help. Now I don't mind salmon, tuna or cod, but I don't like the kinds of fish that they describe. What? “Ngor Hir”, “Ang Kao”. You may be familiar in Hokkien what these fishes are, but they're basically the “Chinese” kind of fish. That kind to me is very fishy. And because it's so fishy, my wife has no experience buying and cooking it. Neither do I. In fact, anytime she wants to do it, I say, “Oh please! Spare us! Spare us! Spare us!”


But when I was discharged, we agreed that I have to eat fish. So, I said, okay, eat one month, one month of this fish after that must stop already, but we don't know how to buy. And remember, I was just discharged and I was very weak, and I couldn't do anything. And my wife is so busy taking care of me and my daily needs that she could have, if she wanted, gone on the Internet, done some research, charge up in the morning, queue at the market, talk to the people. But that all sounds like it's too much for us to bear. And so, we thought and prayed about it. And finally, we decided to approach a brother, y'all may know him. His name is Mr. Lim Kay Hong. And according to our perception, he eats a lot of fish. He has all his “lobang”, and he know how to buy fish, we think. And so, we text and reach out to him. And thankfully, he said, “Yes, I will get it for you.” And before we know it, after a couple of days, he appeared at our door with two big bags of fish. That was such a blessing to our heart! Because I have no experience, neither do my wife, we have no knowledge and all that will take a lot of effort and work in our moment in time when we have need. And he helped to bear our burden. And so, I had fish for a month for my recovery. And one month later, I told my wife “Tolong! Tolong! Please, please, no more fish.” But you see, our friend, Kay Hong, is so happy and excited to buy fish that when he knew that I didn't like fish, after that one month, he looked at me and said and call out and say, “Do you want some more fish?” And I said, “No more. No more.” Otherwise, my burden very heavy and different burden now! 

But you see, this is what the Bible is talking about. Yes, you can go it alone. Yes, you can be a lone ranger all your life. Yes, you can claim those promises in the Scripture and wait at home for a miracle to happen. But you know what the Bible actually says? Walk in the Spirit. And how do you do that in the community? Bear one another's burden. I also remember that during that journey, the Admin of our church very kindly set up a prayer group for us, for my family and I. And there are times when I would honestly be gripped in fear, I would get depressed because physically I'm hurting. And there was like a lot of uncertainty about the outcomes. And during those moments, I will ask my wife, please post on the chat group, this particular need and ask them to pray for me. And she would do so very willingly, very eagerly. And I understand that this can be very subjective to some of you. But when we posted - when my wife posted that prayer request, and the people in church begin to respond and begin to pray - I actually felt my heart lifted up from the burden, I felt the gloom almost like being driven away and yes, I was still experiencing pain, I was still going to face uncertainty for the day, but somehow, my heart was lighter, and I felt that I could carry on!

 And so, whether physically or spiritually, God did not intend for us to go it alone. His desire is for the Gospel to so transform your individual life, as you walk in the Spirit, that you will begin to bear one another's burden in the church. And the Scripture tells us that the significance when we all begin to walk in the Spirit and obey this command, is that you will begin to fulfill the law of Christ. This is how high the Apostle Paul elevated the command to bear one another's burden. It is equated to fulfilling the law of Christ. 

And if you turn in your scriptures, to Galatians chapter 5, verse 14. Galatians chapter 5, verse 14 tells you that the law of Christ is simply this that we are to by love serve one another. This is linked to John chapter 13, verse 34, that a new commandment I give to you that you love one another, as I have loved you, by this should all men know that you are My disciples. This is not a goody, goody feel-good command. This is not something that “Oh, let's just come together, hold hands and sing songs and be happy.” No. It’s a lot more than that. It is about doing life together, roughing it out, being there, being available, because we understand that when we are living out the Gospel, walking in the Spirit, doing life in the church together, it is a journey, a journey in which I am fulfilling the law of Christ, I'm doing something so significant, so precious, so important that it comes up that it is commanded in the scripture, and it will tell people that I am truly a born-again, believer. 

Lean Forward Towards the Community of God

And so, what does it requires? Some people may think, oh, I'll just join a care-group. I'm glad you are in a care-group. And if you're not, do look for one. Some people may think, oh, I'll just join a ministry group, we have great time chatting together. I'm glad you're in a ministry group or in a prayer group. That's all wonderful. But you see, it takes more than just being physically present. You need to be available. You need to be honest. You need to be transparent. Some of you have been in our church, perhaps for years, but you have always stayed on the fence, or kept away. Some of you may be new, visiting our church, and you're not quite assured or certain. And so, you tend to want to observe a little more and all that may be understandable. But I'm just saying this, if we are going to be doing life together in the church, if we are going to be walking in the Spirit together, then stop leaning away from the community. Lean forward. You may not be ready to take the next step. But let your posture, let your leaning, be moving towards getting more connected in the body life of the church. Because we just don't know when God wants us to help someone else. Or when God wants us to allow someone else to help us, so that together, we can experience the law of Christ, the law of love, the law that would bring about the glories and the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ - in our very midst. 

Now, after having given this command, I think it would be quite sensible and practical to go into the “So this is what you do next!” So, this is the “How to.” This is the “What is the next step to take.” And most books are written that way. And that's how we think. But I want you to see with me that at this point, the apostle Paul seems to be making a turn. And instead of telling us the “How-to” and the “What”, he's addressing the “Why”. Why people do not bear one another's burden in the church. And so, we're going to follow Paul’s thought and look at the stumbling block to bearing one another's burden. 

Stumbling Block

And so what is a stumbling block? The Scripture tells us in the next verse 3: For if anyone thinks he is something. (This is one of the most scaring indictment on pride in the Scripture) It’s someone thinks he is something. In other words, he feels when he comes to church, that he's better than others. Whether it's because he has a higher economic standing, or whether he has a better education, or he came from a good Christian background, or he has superior theology, or he had some Bible training, whatever it may be, or he had years of ministry experience, he has seen so much more, whatever the reason, maybe he comes to church thinking, he's somebody.


And that's pride. I remember years ago, when my wife and I were in China, we were invited by a group of pastors who wants to give us a treat or a meal, to express their appreciation for some training on discipleship we have conducted for them. And so, they invited us - not naming the city, I think it'd be a bit sensitive - to this huge building, and when we arrived, as foreigners and strangers in that area, we were lost. So, we got up the escalator and we saw a group of about four to five, well-groomed, well-heeled, you know, middle-aged ladies; they seem safe to approach for help. And I want to demonstrate to you what we experienced, because it was so shocking, that my wife and I remember it up to this day. So, imagine with me, here's me and my wife are coming out the escalator. And there we saw in front of us, this group of ladies, middle-aged ladies, well-groomed, well-heeled, seemingly benign, we went up to them and ask them in Chinese, “Where is this restaurant?” And this is their response, every single one of them.


They walk right past us, as if we didn't exist. They didn't even look at us. They didn't even say, “Sorry, I don't know.” They didn't even bother to give me a glance like, who are you? They just walk right past us like “Hello?” What's that? That's pride. They think they are somebody and therefore we are beneath them. We might as well have not existed. Now, I'm sure you don't do this here. I haven't seen this in Singapore. And I'm sure you wouldn't do this in the church. But I'm asking you. I'm asking myself, “Do we walk past people in our lives with that same spirit?” You might as well have not existed, because I'm too busy with myself, with my life, to even glance in your direction. Because your concerns are too petty for my attention. That is the reason why we don't bear one another's burden as far as Paul is concerned. That's why he turned the steering wheel and say, “Stop. No, no, no, no, no, we're not going to talk about that ‘How-to’s and the ‘Whats’. I'm going to deal with the ‘Why’ because this is why this is not happening in the church.” It'll happen in the church because you think you are somebody. That's pride. And that pride is the antithesis, it is contrary, it is the enemy of the grace, to the grace of God to the walk in the Spirit. It will cripple you spiritually. It will cause you to be nobody. That's why the Scripture tells us that you know, when you think you are something when you are nothing, and that is so sobering. That is so shocking. It's almost demeaning. I mean, imagine if this is all you read, and you went back to church, I think the mental health after that will go downhill. Right? You’ll have poor self-esteem. 

But Paul has been very, very honest here. He's saying, you know, no matter what you think you know, no matter what you think you are, outside of Christ, outside of the walk in the Spirit that brings out the fruit of the Spirit, you can’t help anyone - spiritually. Yes, of course, you can do some work. You can speak some words. You can make a name for yourself. However, it means nothing in God's kingdom. Now this problem of pride affects not just the one who is supposed to bear one another's burden, it could also affect us who needs help. In other words, I can be so prideful that I reject and refuse help from anyone. It can also affect those who are busy helping, because they are so eager to help in order to be significant in the church, in order to feel needed, in order to win praises, in order to demonstrate their abilities and powers. And when that happened, it is pride at work that cripples what God is doing. So, the command to bear one another's burdens is not a superficial command. It’s not to go out there and hold hands and sing songs and let's bring some food and we're also happy together. We will know that it's on the surface, but on the inside, on the inside, the command to bear one another's burden is the result of the fruit of the Spirit. So that the deed of kindness and help we give or receive is done with such humility, it points people to Jesus, our Ultimate Burden-Bearer. 

Reflection by John Piper on Ministering True Spiritual Help

So, let's look at what one pastor says about this. He said concerning bearing one another's burden in the area of restoring a brother overtaken in trespass, he says, the spiritual person, the one who is walking in the Spirit will help the erring brother or sister by pointing only to Christ where there is healing. So, when I say outflow of your walk in the Spirit, as you become more and more spiritual, it shouldn't stop there, it should overflow into the community so that as you walk together, and you see this as stepping out to help, it points people to Jesus, from Whom you and I have received help, grace. And we are able to do so. However, the proud person, the one who thinks he is somebody will not help, because attention will be drawn to himself where there is no healing at all. In other words, regardless of what experiences or knowledge or what battles you have fought, no matter how much theology you think you have, but if you are not abiding in Christ, Jesus says, you will bear forth nothing. And over here, Paul says, that one who is not humbly walking in the Spirit, and living out the grace of the Gospel through faith, he may think he's somebody, but he is nothing. Because when all the attention is drawn to myself, I cannot bring any healing. And so, the Bible tells us, be aware, be warned, this is a stumbling block. Otherwise, you deceive yourself, you walk around thinking you have done so much for God, you think that you're such a nice person, you think you're so friendly, you're so good, but on the inside, it's not fueled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, who is changing you but it is fueled and empowered by personal pride, and ego. And that's a temptation for all of us! 

Missionary Jonathan Goforth’s Story on God’s Power

The story is told of a missionary by the name of Jonathan Goforth more than 100 years ago, who was a missionary to China. And while he was in China, he heard of revival fires in Korea, and he went up there and witness it. And God used him to bring the fires of revival back to China. And so, during one of his furlough when he went back to Canada, he was a larger-than-life figure to the church that he came from. And so, people gathered to hear him speak. And the chairperson, who introduced Jonathan Goforth praise him to the skies, to the point whereby Jonathan Goforth would blush at the thought of what he is suggesting about him and his ministry. So, when Jonathan goes off to the pulpit, he began by telling a story. He said, “You know, there was a story told of a woodpecker, who was pecking away at a tree. And so, when he was nesting there, he gave three hard pecks with all his might at the tree. And coincidentally, at that point in time, lightning struck the tree and the tree fell down. Fortunately for the woodpecker, he flew away in time in a deep stage of fright and fear, and perch on another tree. When the leaves and the dust settle after that shocking event, he looked at the fallen tree, and then thought to himself, “Who knows? With three pecks of my beak, I could fall such a huge tree!” And this is pride. This is self-deception. When we think that we are so good, so wonderful, that because of our contribution, because of our thought, because of all that we have done, that the church is going forward, or my group is growing. And all that is antithetical, that is contrary to the Spirit in which we are to bear one another's burden. 


And so, what can we do, Paul went on to get the prescription of self-examination. Self-examination. And I want you to see with me that verses four and five, must be read together, otherwise, you will get lost about this passage on bearing one another's burden. So, I repeat verses four and five must be read together. So, let's begin with verse four. The Scripture tells us, “but let each one test his own work”. The matter was, you have to examine yourself, what are we to examine? If we connect it to the overriding governing command of Galatians 5:16, which runs all the way to Galatians 6:10, we are to see if we are walking in the Spirit.


And the only way we could be walking in the Spirit is because of the grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that we are really saved. And therefore, we have the indwelling Spirit, and we are yielding to the Spirit, we are to examine if we are putting to death, the works of the flesh. We are to examine and test ourselves, not just taking a “regular spiritual pulse” and saying, “Oh, I have read my Bible today. I have prayed, I've gone to church this week, I should be all good.” No, that's not as simple as that. We are to check if our words, our attitudes, our actions are submitted to the will of God, to fulfill the law of Christ. And if you are doing so, the Scripture says, then your “reason to boast will be in himself alone.” Now this is kind of strange, right? Because on one hand, there was this warning against pride. Now on the other hand, that is this word about “boasting”! But you see this boasting means your confidence. Your confidence is in the Gospel. Your confidence is in the fact that you are accepted in the Beloved. Your confidence is in the fact that you see the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life, of love, of joy, of peace, of kindness, of goodness of gentleness. You begin to see this and you realize, “Thank God, I am keeping in step with the Holy Spirit today.” And that is why it means your reason to boast or be in himself alone, that I'm walking right with God, that I am not disobeying His command, I'm not living in sin, I am living by the power of the Holy Spirit. And if you are doing that, you won't be finding boast in your neighbor.

And that is the common tendency for believers. If you have no confidence in your own relationship with God, then you compare yourself with another Christian, then you look at that Christian and think, “Actually I come to church longer, earlier, I read the Bible more. I think I served more than him. I think I got more friends. You know, by the way, I'm Instagram famous.” So, we compare the number of likes, we compare all this nitty-gritty stuff. And Paul is saying, that's the wrong focus. Your self-examination should be focused on the grace of the Gospel in your own life, so that you are confident that you're accepted in the Beloved and walking daily with God. And this is why it's so important. 

Jonathan Edwards, revivalist in America, greatly used by God said this, “ ‘Tis inexpressible, almost inconceivable, how strong a self-righteous, self-exalting disposition is naturally in man. And what he will not do and suffer, to feed and gratify it.” In other words, if you and I do not check our own hearts, and examine ourselves, if we're walking in the Spirit and putting to death the works of the flesh, the tendency is for us to get carried away, to think we are somebody when we are nothing, and we are self-deceived. Now, this is the load that we are supposed to bear. For those of you who know Greek, you may know that this is the Greek word “Phortion” for a knapsack, backpack, a weight that you can carry yourself. And this is the common misunderstanding. “Baros”- big burden. “Phortion” – small. So big one, I help. Small one I carry myself. So, that is what we conclude. So, we think that that is what the passage means. I'm sorry, that's not what this verse mean, because it's connected with verse 4.

Self-examination of Own Load and the Judgment Seat of Christ

It is telling you this: That no one else can examine your own heart. No one else can help you live your Christian life. No one else can check. If you're truly born again, no one else can help ascertain we are walking in the Spirit. And this is the load that you are responsible for. Because if you are bearing this load, then the outcome is not just your own spirituality, you will begin to engage in the church life to carry one another's burden in the right spirit. And on top of that, I want to point out to you that “each will have to” (verse 5) – it is in the future tense. In other words, this is the load that you not only have to bear yourself, presently your own walk with God, whether you're walking in the Spirit, whether you're fulfilling the law of Christ, this is something you will have to give an account to God one day. This is when you stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and have your life work examined, whether they are of gold, silver, and precious stone, no one else can stand in your place. You have to bear this load yourself. So that's why the self-examination is important. Because the self-examination is my own individual walk and life. Whether I am fulfilling the law of Christ, whether I am walking in the Spirit, whether I'm accessing His grace, having victory over sin, all these things I need to check so that when I come to church, I will be bearing one another's burden in the right spirit. 

Questions for Self-Examination

So, to sum it all up, allow me to use these questions to guide you along. 1) For self examination: Am I walking in the Spirit? This is the load you have to bear. 2) Is there any work of the flesh in my life? You have to deal with your own selfish desires and temptations and you have to identify if there are any sin harboured in your own heart. 3) Am I bearing the fruit of the Spirit? You have to look out to see if you're growing in the Lord. But you see a lot of Christians stop right there and think as long as I do this, I'm good. No, we need to move on to the community, to the church life and ask ourselves 4) What am I doing to bear another's burden? What am I doing to help in that right spirit. And then, when you are active in the church, being available, being loving and being kind and helping out and seeing people blessed by your ministry, number 5), (this is a load you have to bear yourself) Do I feed on thinking of myself as somebody? How sad if we have done so much in the church, help so many people and we fall by the wayside? Because we get carried away by the self-deception of pride. That is why from this passage, I want to challenge and encourage all of us, including myself, that bearing one another's burden require us to weed out pride in our hearts, so that we can walk in the Spirit together. And God knows what He wants to do in our church when we begin to live life, according to His Word, the people we will have opportunity to help. And the people who needs help and will receive it in the right spirit so that at the end of it, they experience not how great this “so-and-so” is but how great God is. And that is what God wants to do in our church. So that by everything we do - all the fellowship and the ministries and the help that we provide - we are constantly pointing people to our Savior. And may this be true in Gospel Light Christian Church.

Let us pray. 

Our Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your Word. We thank You for Your reminder that this Christian life is not meant to be lived alone. But neither is it meant to be lived in our own strength. That helping one another is not just a simple question of being friendly and nice, because they are deep issues and real struggles in which You want to show Yourself strong and gracious through the lives of those that You bring forward to help. And may our church be such a church that You can use so that when we bear one another's burden, we will fulfill the law of Christ, and we will demonstrate what it means to walk in the Spirit. Together! We give thanks. We ask all this in Jesus name, Amen.