A New Commandment, Crop and Creation
As we begin a new year many of us will talk about new adventures we want to take, new goals we would like to accomplish, new relationships we would like to build, and new opportunities we would like to be given. These are good things to think about, but at the end of Paul’s letter to the Galatians he talks about three new things that should be on our heart and mind as we begin 2022—a new commandment, a new crop, and a new creation.
A New Commandment
At the end of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he exhorts believers to walk by the Spirit, (see Gal. 5:25-26). Then he unfolds what this means, including to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (6:2). The law of Christ is the new commandment Jesus gave to His disciples, “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). The commandment to love wasn’t new (see Deut. 6:4-5), but Jesus brought something new to the commandment by displaying a deeper meaning of love for His disciples than they knew from the law of Moses.
Paul explains that one way we bear another’s burden is to gently address their sin (Gal. 6:1). But we must be careful. We must not think we’re spiritually superior. How easy it is to be deceived by our own hearts and think we’re better than we really are (Gal. 6:3). Remember, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). We also must keep focused on the work God has called us to do (Gal. 6:4-5; see also Eph. 2:10). We must not look at others and envy their gifts, or think our gifts are better than theirs. Instead, we must focus on what God has given us to do and do it by His power for His glory.
A New Crop
When a person is justified they become a completely new person. The Holy Spirit changes us from the inside out. Even so, there is a war going on in our hearts between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit (Gal. 5:17). Sadly, we think that we can get away with sowing to fleshly desires, but Paul teaches us that in God’s kingdom, we reap what we sow (Gal. 6:6-10). If we sow in fits of anger we will reap unrighteousness. If we sow in envy we will reap bitterness. If we sow in pride we will reap judgment. The good news is that believers don’t have to sow these kinds of seeds. Because we have been given the Spirit of God, we can reap a new kind of crop. When we sow to the Spirit by engaging in the means of grace (the Word of God, the sacraments and prayer) the Lord uses these means to grow the fruit of the Spirit in us.
This principle of sowing and reaping should motivate us to “not grow weary of doing good” (Gal. 6:9). If we sow in goodness we will reap a rich harvest. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, we should be the first to see a need and meet it, whether it’s with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors or most especially, our church family (v. 10). Who needs you to disciple them, care for their children, clean their home, take them a meal, help them with a work project, or listen to them?
A New Creation
Paul closes his letter to the Galatians by boasting in Christ alone. He is the only one who has kept the law perfectly on behalf of God’s people. He is the only one who has borne the sins of God’s people on the cross, reconciling them to God. Through the cross of Christ, the world has become an enemy of believers, but none of its pomp and power can hold us in its grip. In Christ, we are a new creation (Gal. 6:15). Nothing else counts. We are justified in Christ alone. Every person who looks to Christ alone for salvation receives God’s grace, peace and mercy.
Dear reader, are you a new creation in Christ? Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). For those of us that have already become a new creation, let us live by the new commandment, reap the new crop of the Spirit, and celebrate our new creation. In other words, let us love one another. Let us persevere in the work to which God has called us. And let us lift high the cross of Christ, boldly proclaiming justification is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.