These small group studies of Galatians 6 contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Galatians 6 Bible Study Guide – Bear One Another’s Burdens
I. Our relationship with other believers (1-6)
II. Do good to all (7-10)
III. Jesus and the cross are central to our faith (11-18)
I. Our relationship with other believers (1-6)
• What does Paul mean in verse 1 when he says, “you who are spiritual”?
• What attitude should they have when correcting others?
• What is the goal of confronting brothers and sisters in their sin?
• What must we be careful of when we do it?
• How can you bear others’ burdens?
• What law is this fulfilling?
• What does verse 3 mean? Are we something or nothing? Explain your answer.
• Do we have a reason for boasting? What does Paul mean in verse 4?
• How can we bear our own load?
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. The main theme of the book of Galatians is that we are justified by faith, not by the works of the law. But many opponents of Paul and proponents of the law would argue that those not under the Old Testament law would give in to the impulses of sin so that “grace could abound.”
In the last chapter and a half of Galatians, Paul emphasizes the type of life Christians under grace are to live. Being under grace does not mean that we can sin as we like. Instead, it means that the Spirit leads us. He transforms us from the inside out. In this chapter, Paul continues to answer the implied question, “What should a Christian do if he is not under the law?”
2. Restore the sinner – Paul clarifies that though we are under grace, it does not mean we should tolerate sin. It is not only Paul’s responsibility but each believer’s responsibility to confront the sin they see in other believers. In this verse, we see several principles for confronting others with their sin:
• If anyone is caught in any trespass – This book is written to believers, so it would seem natural to interpret “anyone” as “any believer.” When unbelievers are sinning, we preach the gospel to them. When a believer sins, we confront that sin. The word “caught” also indicates that the person is “stuck” in the sin. It may not be just a passing one-time mistake but a habit or temptation that has ensnared them.
• You who are spiritual – To begin with, this means it is not just the responsibility of leaders to confront sin in other believers. Each believer, intent on obeying God, has this responsibility. If you see a sin problem, talk to that person directly. Don’t just passively wait for a leader to notice or do something about it. What does the “one who is spiritual” mean? Spiritual can have a broad meaning of someone who is a believer who seeks to obey God. Note that being spiritual does not equal perfection. A spiritual person is a believer who has the Spirit of God and can therefore understand and evaluate spiritual things.
• Restore – Pay careful attention to this word! The goal of confrontation is not to make the person feel bad. It is not to make yourself feel good, nor is it to show off your knowledge. The purpose of confrontation is not to vent your anger or frustration. It is not to express your annoyance. The aim is to restore the person to a good relationship with God (James 5:19-20). This should be your one guiding motivation.
• A spirit of gentleness – This is a key reminder that your attitude, tone of words, volume of speech, facial expressions, and gestures are all important. You are not to yell. You are not to lose your temper. Your goal is not to shame the person but to restore them. You should feel compassion for the person. Use tender, kind words.
• Each of you looking to yourself, so that you will not be tempted – When you are called to correct/restore others, make sure you do so in a spirit of humility. Evaluate yourself and your attitude to ensure you have the right motivations and are not acting as a hypocrite. Do not be like a police officer who goes around forcing other people to follow traffic laws while disregarding them yourself.
Group Activity: Here is something a bit different to try, which should be fun and beneficial. The goal is that you will have a visible picture of the difference between correcting someone with gentleness and correcting them with anger/annoyance/frustration. Split into two groups. Give each group 5-10 minutes.
Group 1 needs to come up with and enact a simple skit. Come up with a scenario where one of you has been caught in sin. One or more of you need to confront this person about his sin. Do it but with anger/frustration/annoyance and incorrect motives. Group 2 needs to do the same thing, but this time correct the person with gentleness, applying the principles we learned in this passage.
Reflection: What did you learn from this exercise? What did you see that should be avoided? What were some good examples that you can apply when you need to correct others? Which type of correction is more effective? Why?
3. Bear one another burdens –
This verse ties in with verse 1. We are not a group of individuals following after God completely by ourselves. We are part of a group, part of a family. A family should help each other.
What kind of burdens might this refer to? How specifically can you bear them for each other?
Based on the context, one way of bearing others’ burdens is to gently restore those caught in sin. Beyond that, it means helping and supporting each other. The word “bear” means to carry the weight or the load. Stresses, worries, health problems, and spiritual struggles are all types of weights that we bear.
By listening to others with attentive and compassionate ears, we can help to release the weight of the load. Besides listening, we can pray, counsel, or serve. If someone is sick, we can make a meal for them. If someone is sad, we can take them out to eat. If someone is stressed, we can invite them over for prayer, dessert, and games. If someone is lonely, we can give them a gift. To do these things, we need to have relationships with other believers. We also need to be observant and sensitive. We can remind them that Jesus’ yoke is light (Matthew 11:28-30. Also 1 Corinthians 1:3-5). This is fulfilling the law of Christ, which is to love your neighbor as yourself.
Application: Do you notice when others are stressed or discouraged? Do you take initiative to help? What is a specific way you can bear one another’s burdens this week?
4. Verse 3 –
Galatians 6:3 – For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
We should understand this verse within the context of the theme of Galatians. I believe we can take this verse to represent the person who pridefully tries to follow the law and fulfill its requirements himself. Paul himself was like this (Philippians 3:3-7) prior to coming to Christ. The person who thinks he is something is the person who is circumcised and trusts in his own good works.
But this person has no standing before God, and even his good deeds are like filthy rags in God’s sight. Therefore, he is nothing. He has no relationship with God. He has no salvation or eternal life. He is not a child of God. Each person is created by God and has inherent value. But spiritually, we have nothing and can offer nothing unless Christ has regenerated us.
Application: Don’t be prideful. Do not put trust in your good works.
5. Test his own work and bear his own load – We should understand verse 4 combined with verse 14 (See Ephesians 2:8-9). Obviously, we can’t earn salvation ourselves or boast that we have fulfilled God’s requirements. Neither should we go around telling other people how good we are or the great things we have done for God.
In that case, what does it mean to “test your own work”? The main point of verse 4 seems to be properly evaluating the work that you have done for God and not taking credit for what others have done. Jesus told the disciples that others planted the seeds, and they reaped the harvest (John 4:38). The disciples should look at what they did for God in an accurate way and appropriately appreciate what others have done.
Each person has personal responsibility before God. We are responsible for own actions and not the actions of others. We are not answerable for what others do to do us, but for how we respond to them. We are responsible to take advantage of the opportunities we have to serve God well.
Note that just because others are supposed to help us bear our burdens does not mean we should not carry our own load. Our own load comprises the normal things we can and should bear ourselves. Burdens are the things that are too much for us to face alone.
God has given each of us specific things He wants us to do. This is our work, our load. These are things that He has called us to do. We are not to offload these responsibilities on others. Then when we do it, we should still realize it is only because of Christ’s work in our heart that we can do it. It is God’s grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Application – Are you wasting your life or making good use of it? If you were to face God today and He asked you to show the work you have done for Him on this earth, what would you have to show for it? How much time have you spent building God’s kingdom, and how much time have you spent building your own? On that day, you will not be able to point to others and either blame them or take credit for what they did. In some respects, you will be alone standing before the judgment seat. Will you be able to stand with confidence, or will you feel ashamed? What work does God want you to do for Him that is still unfinished? What work will you do for Him this week?
II. Do good to all (6-10)
• What principle can we learn from verse 6?
• In what other Bible passages can we see this principle being taught or modeled?
• How do verses 7-10 fit in with the context of this passage and the overall context of the whole book?
• What can we learn about God in verse 7?
• What do we learn about people in verse 8?
• What do we learn about ministry in verses 9-10?
• What kinds of things may cause us to lose heart when serving or ministering to others?
Luke 10:7 – And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.
1 Timothy 5:18 – For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”
2 Corinthians 9:6 – The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Proverbs 22:8 – Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail.
Hosea 8:7 – For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.
1. Share all good things with the one who teaches – Take care of your Christian leaders. This principle is found throughout the Bible. It is God’s model for us to take care of those who spend their time and resources sharing the gospel. It is also beneficial for those who are being taught to learn how to serve. We all need to learn not just to let others do things for us and always receive, receive, receive, but to do things for others. From another perspective, the ones sharing the gospel and God’s Word with us are giving us the most valuable gift possible. They are good stewards of what God has entrusted to them. We, in turn, should be good stewards of whatever God has assigned to us.
2. Whatever one sows, that he will also reap – The principle of reaping what you sow is evident throughout Scripture. It comes from a simple fact that every person in an agrarian society knows. You will reap the same kind of thing that you sow. If you sow corn, you will reap corn. If you sow wheat, you will reap wheat.
God has so designed this world that this fact is true in many areas of life. If you are friendly, you are likely to have many friends. If you help others, others are likely to help you. If you are generous, others are likely to be generous with you. If you are diligent, then you will be paid. If you are lazy, you may not have food to eat.
Spiritually, this is true as well. If you repent, God will forgive. If you keep sinning, God will punish. If you seek God, He will answer you. If you trust in yourself, then you can only rely on yourself.
Furthermore, in the context of this passage, when you sow to the flesh, you will reap corruption. This connects with the passage in chapter 5 on the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit. The person who chases after pleasure will reap the consequences. Paul says, “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked.”
God sees everything you are doing. Paul is reminding his readers that relying on God’s grace rather than their own good works does not mean they have the license to sin. When you pursue the works of the flesh, expect God’s justice.
Sometimes there is a time delay between the sowing and the reaping. Some seeds are very slow to grow.
Bamboo is one example of this. Bamboo seeds can take 4-5 years to sprout. You could plant a bamboo seed and not see any effects of the seed whatsoever for years. Then in the fifth year, these shoots sprout. And when they do, they are the fastest-growing plants in the world. Some bamboo can grow up to about 90 feet (28 meters) in only 5 weeks after not even sprouting for 5 years.
Spiritual sowing and reaping are like this. It may take a long time before you see the results of your actions (either good or bad), but sooner or later, you will reap what you sow.
3. Do not grow weary in doing good for in due season you will reap if you do not grow weary –
This verse is a great encouragement to those who have been ministering for God but have seen few results.
There was a man who ministered in Africa for decades, sowing the gospel seed. He didn’t see one person come to Christ. And finally, he left the mission field and returned home. Years later, other missionaries went there. They were shocked to find there were a number of churches in that area. So, they started to ask around as to how these churches started. They learned that after this missionary left, people believed. They had Bibles that he had given them, and they formed churches.
Sometimes you will never see the seed you plant for God grow. It could be that someone else will harvest what you have sown. But sometimes also, God will let you see it in order to encourage you to keep going.
Over the years, I have held numerous Bible studies where I shared the gospel. People come and go, and there are so many of them that I don’t remember all their names or faces. I often wonder what happens to those people. On one occasion, I heard a story that encouraged me to remember this verse and never give up. I heard through a friend about one lady who shared her testimony. She shared how she had gone to one of these studies and heard the gospel many years before. At the time, she wasn’t interested. But God began working in her heart, and she believed. She shared the name of the person who first shared the gospel with her, and it was me! My friend thought it would be encouraging to me, so he passed on her testimony to me. And he was right!
I do not remember this lady. But the seed was sown in her heart. And years later, she believed.
Do not grow weary in doing good! You will reap a harvest in due time. When is due time? It is God’s own perfect timing.
You may keep sharing the gospel with family and friends. Or you may keep working in a ministry field for a long time and see few results. Don’t give up!
Application: Is there someone who you can encourage to keep sowing the gospel seed? How can you uplift them this week? Is there an area that you are growing discouraged in? How can this passage encourage you to redouble your labors?
III. Jesus and the cross are central to our faith (11-18)
• Why might Paul have made the comment about his handwriting style here in verse 12?
• What shift does this show us in his letter? (He is reaching the conclusion/ending.)
• What is the motivation of those trying to make the Galatians get circumcised (12-13)?
• In what way does the cross of Christ represent the fact that the world had been crucified to Paul? What about that Paul had been crucified to the world?
• Would Paul win if he convinced everyone not to be circumcised? Why or why not?
• What brand-marks did Paul bear?
Matthew 5:10 – Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Deuteronomy 30:6 – And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
Jeremiah 4:4 – Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.
Romans 2:29 – But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. See with what large letters I am writing this to you of my own hand – Many Bible scholars speculate that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:6-7) was poor eyesight. Verses such as this indicate that this might be the case. If Paul had poor eyesight, then he might write very large letters so that he could see what he was writing.
Paul often used secretaries and dictated his letters. But this one was so important that he wrote it himself. In addition, Paul called attention to his writing style to prove to the Galatians that he was writing it himself. Throughout the book, he used many arguments to convince the Galatians not to bow to the Judaizers. So here we see one more. Paul considers this issue so serious he pens the letter himself and makes sure that they know he is personally writing it. Therefore, he appeals to his own authority as an apostle and his relationship with them to convince them to turn back from false teaching.
2. It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised – The false teachers were motivated by religious pride. Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, these people were self-righteous. Infatuated with appearance, they would do anything to look good. By adopting the works-based approach, the false teachers could feel good about their own supposed spiritual worthiness.
Application: We must be wary of religious pride. We are not better than others because we observe certain spiritual practices such as going to church or tithing. Such things do not help us become worthy in God’s sight. Jesus, the Lamb of God, alone is worthy. What are some areas where religious pride may manifest itself in your life?
3. In order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ – Paul mentions another reason why the Judaizers attempted to follow the law. They wanted to protect themselves from persecution. Jews would not persecute other Jews who were circumcised and practicing the Old Testament law. Why would they persecute one of their own?
However, they would persecute Christians. These people were afraid of painting a target on their own back. Therefore, they took the path of least resistance and tried to maintain the status quo by keeping Jewish practices and traditions.
2 Timothy 3:12 – Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Every believer who faithfully follows Jesus will be persecuted to varying degrees. Avoiding persecution should not be a factor of our motivations.
Application: Stand up for the truth. There will be many times when doing what is right will paint a target on your back. Do not shirk back, and do not compromise. Be bold. Be wise. Be faithful.
4. Those who are circumcised do not keep the law – No one can keep the law. That fact is clearly illustrated throughout the Old Testament. Jesus is the only person who has ever lived who completely fulfills the law. Every other person falls short (Romans 3:23). That is why we trusting in ourselves is hopeless, and we need a Savior.
5. Do not boast except in the cross – Paul made up his mind to only boast in the cross. We should do the same, constantly deflecting credit from ourselves back to God, who should receive all the glory.
Application: What are some subtle ways that you may try to get praise or credit from others? What are some ways that you can practice giving glory to God as a lifestyle?
6. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything – Paul has taught throughout the book that circumcision cannot save anyone. It cannot help you earn God’s favor. Some people might react to that and pridefully declare, “Ha, I have never been circumcised. I never will be.” They could take pride in the fact that they are not under the law. People can be prideful about anything!
So, Paul makes it clear that uncircumcision also does not count for anything. Many uncircumcised people go to hell. A person is not worthy of God’s grace just because he refuses circumcision.
We can summarize Paul’s message in the book of Galatians simply like this: nothing you can do can make you right with God.
Rules cannot save you. Religion cannot save you. Traditions cannot save you. The only way you can be saved is if God regenerates you and makes you a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) because you believe in Christ and repent of your sins.
7. I bear on my body the marks of Jesus – Paul had been through all types of persecution because of his relationship with Jesus and his faithfulness to preach the gospel. He had been beaten, whipped, and stoned. We have seen Paul use every possible argument to convince the Galatians to come back to the true gospel. And here, at the end of the book, he tosses one more last argument at them. Paul tells them, “I have suffered a lot! Don’t make me suffer anymore!”
Application: If you have learned one thing from this book, it should be that works cannot save you. Faith in Jesus alone saves. So, the application from Galatians is to admit in your heart and before the Lord that you are not worthy. Then cast yourself on God’s mercy and depend on the Lord, who is mighty to save. The knowledge in this book should make each one of us humble while strengthening our appreciation for the grace of God.
Galatians 6:18 – The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
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