In my previous post, I explained why I am writing about honest interpretation of the Scripture. I can’t explain what I mean by dealing with Scripture honestly without giving you examples.
Galatians 6:7-9 is associated with an experience for me. Long ago, in the Southern Baptist church in which I met my wife, I dropped in on the church’s most popular adult Sunday School class. The teacher was an acquaintance, and I was on good terms with him.
As was common in those days, I “chanced” upon the class while a controversial passage of Scripture was being covered. In the 1980’s, it seemed to me that no matter how hard I tried to avoid controversy, God kept putting me in the midst of it. In this case the controversial passage was Galatians 6:7-9.
Galatians 6:7-9, In the New American Standard Version, reads:
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
The teacher (paraphrasing from memory) said, “This means we can lose our salvation.” Then he paused and added, “Just kidding. No, It doesn’t.” He probably addressed some other verses about why we can’t lose our salvation, but said nothing more about Galatians 6:7-8. He just moved on.
I wrote him a note that said, “Brother, even if you don’t believe that Galatians 6:7-9 does not say you can lose your salvation, it is certainly a warning. You should at least have passed the warning on to your class in some way.”
Rather than replying to me, he delivered the note to the pastor. The pastor called me into his office and asked how I dared send a note like to that to one of his teachers. (Both I and the teacher who sent the note to the pastor would learn over time that the pastor’s spiritual gift was intimidation. It was the teacher who would eventually be put out of that Baptist church for crossing the pastor’s wishes.)
Anyway, I told the pastor that I thought I was simply sending a note to a friend. Changing the subject, I asked if he objected to what I wrote. I don’t remember what he said, but I do remember it went nowhere, and he was as frustrated with me as I was with him.
Those conflicts make great stories, but I better get to the point.
How does one honestly interpret Galatians 6:7-8?
You need no advice or explanations to interpret Galatians 6:7-8. You already know what it means without my saying anything. If you sow to the flesh, you will reap corruption. If you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life. You cannot reap corruption and eternal life both. They are opposites of one another.
This is obvious, but the pattern I was taught as a young Christian was that if I don’t believe a verse, I should use every method I could find to make it say what it does not, whether that explanation is reasonable or not. In fact, I commonly heard arguments that were not only unreasonable, but entirely irrational.
“Galatians 6:8: Is Eternal Life Earned?” has one of those irrational arguments. Author Bob Wilkin says, “While all believers have eternal relationships with God, not all will have abundant eternal lives with Him.” He goes on to explain that reaping corruption means winding up with meager eternal life rather than abundant eternal life. In other words, what seems obvious–that one cannot inherit corruption and eternal life both–is false. We can inherit corruption and still have eternal life!
The answer to that ridiculous argument is to simply point out that it is ridiculous. We all know it is ridiculous.
The author justifies his ridiculous interpretation by giving verses that he believes contradict the obvious meaning of Galatians 6:7-8. Those verses, in his mind, give him the right to say any ridiculous thing he wants about any passages that seem to contradict his interpretation of those other verses.
I was taught this sort of ridiculous reasoning, too. As a young member of the Assemblies of God, I reasoned ridiculously with the Baptists, and they reasoned ridiculously with me. Most Christians get used to this outrageous way of arguing.
I’m begging you. Please stop being ridiculous. There are reasonable solutions to seemingly conflicting passages of Scripture. We can find them if we pursue them, but how can we expect to learn what is true using the ridiculous Bible interpretation method described above?
The only thing I want to point out from Galatians 6:9 is that it says that if we want to “reap,” we must not grow weary in doing good. In context, what we reap for not growing weary in doing good is eternal life. In context, “sowing to the Spirit” produces “doing good.” There is another verse in Scripture that says “doing good” leads to eternal life as well. That verse is Romans 2:7. Hush, though, not too many evangelicals are aware Romans 2:7 is in the Bible.
More on this in the next post.