Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 23, 1967
NUMBER 29, PAGE 1-3,7c-8a

Working That Which Is Good Toward All Men

Cecil B. Douthitt

"So then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith" (Gal. 6:10.)

Gal. 6:1-10 is directed primarily to individual Christians; however, everything that individuals are taught to do in these verses, other passages teach the churches to do. That anyone would deny that the work divinely assigned to the churches brings good to all men, and especially to the household of the faith, is exceedingly doubtful.

Many other passages of scripture teach that individual Christians may or must do many things and perform many duties which the churches are not authorized to do but Gal. 6:1-10 is not one of those passages. Both the individual Christian and the local church as such, as they have opportunity, must work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith.

I. A Corresponding Duty With Every Blessing

God has always assigned a corresponding duty with every blessing bestowed upon his people and his institutions. They both must be channels of blessing; as they have opportunity, they must use the gifts of God in blessing others in order to accomplish their mission on the earth.

1. Adam. After God had created the earth and all things therein, he created man in his own image, male and female created he them.

"And God blessed them: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth, and subdue it" and exercise dominion over the earth and everything on it; in that way they were to use their blessings in making the earth a better place on which to live. God put the man in the garden of Eden "to dress it and to keep it" (Gen. 2:15.)

2. Abraham. The promise of a three-fold blessing to Abraham was followed immediately with the divine injunction: "And be thou a blessing" Gen. 12:1,2.)

Therefore, Abram was under obligation to be a blessing — to render a service. He did so use his gifts from God, and did render that service. And all along his journey to the "city which hath the foundations", the altars that he erected and the smoke from the sacrifices thereupon were a blessing to the idol worshippers in giving them idea of the one living God and the kind of worship he had appointed for the patriarchs.

3. Israel. In the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, in the giving of the law at Sinai and their organization, and in the building of the tabernacle and the temple, we see clearly that God intended for Israel to work that which is good toward mankind by preparing a people for the reception of the Saviour of the world. "So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ" (Gal. 3:24.) Israel was great in her national life insofar as she performed that work.

4. True greatness and service. Jesus taught that true greatness is measured by service rendered. He said "Whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant; even as the son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many'(Matt. 20:26-28.)

In order for the church to be "exalted above the hills" and be the greatest institution on earth, it must work that which is the greatest good toward the greatest number. If some other institution works that which is good toward all men, and the church does not, then it necessarily follows that some other institution is greater than the church, according to the Lord's definition of greatness.

II. The Good Of The Soul

The soul is the most valuable thing on earth. (Matt. 16:26). Then the greatest service that can be rendered is soul-service, and the good of the soul is the greatest good that can be worked toward all men: that is precisely the kind of "good" under consideration in Gal. 6:10.

Charity or supplying the physical needs of the poor is not the thing at all under consideration when the apostle says, "Let us work that which is good toward all men". Many other passages assign a work of charity to individuals and to local churches; but Gal. 6:10 does not, as the context clearly shows.

The words, "all men", in this verse include far more than merely the poor. We must work that which is good toward ALL men, both rich and poor — toward every responsible creature on earth. This word "all" in Gal. 6:10 is just as broad as the word "all" in the Great Commission; it includes every responsible person in all the world.

If charity toward the poor is the thing enjoined in Gal. 6:10, neither the churches nor individuals could work that which is good toward all men, even if they wanted to do so; because only a very few men in the world or in the household of the faith are objects of charity.

Can churches or individuals work that which is good toward the Rockefellers, the Fords the Kennedys and all other rich men? Certainly so. How? By charity? Certainly not; but only by teaching and persuading them to obey the word of truth, thereby working that which is good toward their spirits. The one and only way that the people of God, either individually or collectively, can work that which is good toward all men in the church and in the world is by working for the salvation of souls. Now, that is a kind of "good", and a kind of work that is toward all men without exception.

From the very first day of its existence the church in Philippi had "fellowship in furtherance of the gospel", thereby working that which is good toward all men through their support of the apostle Paul as he preached the gospel and planted local churches. (Phil. 1:5; 2:24? 4:15,16.) "Other men by paying wages to Paul while he ministered to the church in Corinth and preached the gospel to sinners in that city. (II Cor. 11:8.9).

Therefore, we are forced to the conclusion that, even though Gal. 6:1-10 is directed to individuals and not primarily to churches as such, other New Testament passages do teach by divinely approved example that churches must work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith.

III. The Context

A careful study of the first nine verses of Gal. 6 should convince sincere students of the word of two facts: (1) Charity is not the thing under consideration in the tenth verse. (2) Everything these verses teach individuals to do, other New Testament passages teach the churches to do.

Verse 1. Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any trespass, ye who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to thyself, lest thou also be tempted."

This verse enjoins the spiritual to try in the proper spirit to restore the erring brother, and has no reference whatever to supporting an object of charity, or to the restoration of bodily health or any material thing. The welfare of the soul, not temporal welfare, is the thought. The same thing is taught in James 5:19, 20. "My brethren, if any among you err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins".

In I Cor. 5 and II Cor. 2:6-11 this work of restoring a sinful brother is assigned to the "church of God which is at Corinth". The apostle Paul specified certain steps for that church to take in its efforts to restore the incestuous brother in their midst. "Unto the church of the Thessalonians" he gave instructions to guide that church in its work of restoring the disobedient brethren. (II Thess. 3:14, 15).

Why should the brother who is sinned against ever "tell it to the church", if restoring the sinful brother is not the duty of the church? (Matt. 18:15-17)

Verse 2. "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."

Under some circumstances one brother may bear the burdens of another by giving him the things needful to the body; a local church may do the same thing. (See II Cor. 8:13,14). But that is not the point of emphasis in Gal. 6:2. To what burdens, and to what law of Christ does the apostle refer?

The Greek word, baros, translated burdens in this verse, appears also in Acts 15:28 and in Rev. 2:24. In all three of these passages it has reference to the weights or burdens of heart and soul. The "reproaches", the burdens of heart and soul were borne by Christ for others. We fulfill that law of Christ by doing likewise. "Now we that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each one of us please his neighbor for that which is good, unto edifying. For Christ also pleased not himself; but as it is written, the reproaches of them that reproached thee fell upon me." (Rom. 15:1-3.)

The duties assigned to elders in Heb. 13:17 and in I Peter 5:1-4 show that the church as such also must bear the burdens of spirit in its work of edifying the people of God. The church at Jerusalem engaged in that work when it sent Barnabas, the son of consolation, to the Gentile brethren in Antioch (Acts 11:20-26.)

Verse 3. "For if a man thinketh himself to be something when he is nothing he deceiveth himself"

Of course the injunction in this verse is to the individual, but the description of the church in Laodicea (Rev.:14-21) proves and demonstrates the possibility of a church's being guilty of its violation. It pertains to the work of benevolence in no way whatever.

Verse 4. "But let each man prove his own work, and then shall he have his glorying in regard of himself alone, and not of his neighbor."

The words "man", "his" and "himself' show that this is addressed to the individual, but the independence of the local church demands that it, too, prove its own work; it also forbids the surrender of its work or resources to another. The autonomy of the local church requires that each church shall have its glorying in regard of itself alone, and not in the activities of some other church.

Verse 5. "For each man shall bear his own burden."

Yes, each man has a load, a responsibility that he himself must bear in the salvation of his soul. Who can read the letters to the seven churches of Asia (Rev. 2 and 3) and then doubt that each church shall bear its own burden?

This burden must be borne by the man himself, regardless of what it may be. If the material need of the physical body is the "burden" to be born in this verse, then both the individual Christian and the church could say to the indigent, "Bear your own burden, go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; and yet give them not the things needful to the body." The Greek word, phortion, translated "burden" in this verse appears five times in the Greek Testament, but in none of its usages is it connected with the needs of the body.

Verse 6. "But let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things."

How could the Holy Spirit state more definitely the kind of work which is good toward all men than is stated in this verse? By teaching the truth and supporting those who are teaching it, one thereby is working that which is good toward all men, both rich and poor. Just as clearly as this verse places this obligation upon individuals, other passages place the same responsibility upon local churches. (See II Cor. I 1 :8,9 ; Phil. 4:15-17; I Cor. 9:9-14)

Verses 7 and 8. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life."

Many passages teach that a man sows to the flesh by dissipation, intemperance, incest or immorality in any form and reaps a harvest of corruption. But these sins are not the point under consideration in these two verses. A man can sow to the flesh by investing only in material things which are sure to end in decay and corruption, as all material things must. That is the kind of sowing the apostle is discussing in this passage. As far as we know, the foolish rich man (Luke 12:15-21) was not a drunkard or a glutton or guilty of immorality in any form. Yet he sowed to the flesh and reaped corruption by investing all in material things and doing nothing for the soul. He laid up treasures on earth where moth and rust consume, and made no investment in eternal things that never decay. Jesus taught the same truth in Matt. 6:19,20. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.

Surely no one can deny that a church as such also can sow to the flesh or sow to the Spirit. Some are sowing to the flesh now by investing their money in picnics and parties, fun and frolic, recreation and refreshments, coffee and cakes. Other churches are sowing to the Spirit by their "fellowship in furtherance of the gospel," as the church at Philippi did. (Phil. 1:5)

Verse 9. "And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.'

God is not slack concerning his promise. Though a thousand years may come and go, his promise is as fresh in his mind and as sure of fulfillment as if he had spoken it the day before. (II Peter 3:8,9.) Therefore, his people may know that then labor is not vain in the Lord (I Cor. 15:58), and that they will reap eternal life, if they faint not.

IV. A Special Obligation

Verse 10 places upon every Christian a special obligation toward all the members of God's household, the church (I Tim. 3:15). This special interest in the people of God is assigned only to individuals in this verse; but other passages show that this special responsibility to the brotherhood rests also upon the churches as such.

This pertinent question arises: If working that which is good toward all men means working for the salvation of their souls, what special effort can be made by a Christian or by a church on behalf of them that are of the household of the faith? The New Testament shows that both individuals and churches did devote special and foremost attention and effort to the spiritual growth and welfare of the children of God.

In Matt. 28:19,20, the apostles were ordered to teach the new converts all things which Christ had commanded. Beginning on Pentecost they and the churches they set in order did that very thing. The apostles remained in Jerusalem for some time after the establishment of the church there, working that which is good especially toward them that are of the household of the faith.

After Samaria had received the word, Peter and John were sent on a special trip to work that which is good toward the brethren there (Acts 8: 14-17.) The church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to the young congregation in Antioch where he and Saul taught for a whole year, thereby working that which is good especially for the church in that city (Acts 11:22-26.) The Lord set many workers in the church for the specific purpose of working that which is good toward the people of God (Eph. 4:11-16); all elders have a special assignment to that work (Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:1-4.) Twenty two of the twenty seven books of the New Testament were written especially for the guidance, encouragement and comfort of Christians.

Time would fail, if we presented all New Testament proof to show that all Christians and all churches must work that which is good "especially toward them that are of the household of the faith."

Fort Smith, Arkansas