Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
In this section Paul encourages us to sow good things. He has already mentioned a few in the previous verses such as restoring those who are overtaken in a fault, bearing one another’s burdens, and communicating with those who teach. Throughout the NT there are many other good things, and it would be instructive to look at those scriptures and meditate upon them.
D7.1 In due season
Paul is keen to emphasise that there will be a period of reaping, providing we do not faint. Taking as an example sowing seed in the natural. When sowing seeds in the garden they are usually buried and hidden from view. There may be many days, weeks or even months before they germinate and grow. But even when they grow they do not produce fruit immediately; they have to grow to a mature plant, the flowers have to be pollinated before the fruit appears; even then the fruit will not be ready until it has developed and become ripe. Or to put it succinctly, it takes time for to get to harvest!
Just think what would be the case if someone was impatient! Every so often, if there were no signs of growth, the person would keep digging up the ground to see if there was germination; or when it did appear they over fed it, strained it in order to hasten results. It is very likely that the plant would die somewhere along the line! Or imagine there was a giving up because the results weren’t as quick as they were hoping for! Neglect would also see the demise of such a project.
There is an interesting phrase in Psalm 1.
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
The tree brings forth fruit in its season. In nature there is a right season when fruit appears. Not all plants are the same. Some fruit earlier, some later, some quickly, some slowly. But the fruit does come. Whatever the case to give up, or be over zealous because it doesn’t follow our plans or preconceived notions would be folly indeed.
In Galatians Paul is exhorting us not to be weary for the time of reaping is sure, whatever the time scale is. This is an encouragement for perseverance, he does so by the use of two words.
The first is that we are not to be weary. This means to lack courage/ lose heart/be fainthearted. It is easy to give up if we see no results. But just like the good gardener, who sees no result for a long time, we are to continue in the work, knowing that there will be fruit at some stage whether we see the results or not. After all we are to walk by faith!
For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.
II Thess. 3:13
In Thessalonica there appears to have been some believers, who would not work. Instead they were going around being busybodies. This word has the meaning of wasting one’s labour in order to meddle with the affairs of others. Or to put it another way, to be so caught up with other people’s business one’s own is neglected. Just imagine what would happen if our imagined gardener was using his efforts on his neighbour’s plants instead of his own! No prizes for the results.
The exhortation in II Thess. is simple – don’t be weary in doing what you have to do, just get on and do it with quietness. If we are to reap in due season, whether in this life or the next, we are to not be weary in well doing our our business, for if we do we will soon be meddling in the affairs of others. If the temptation is to meddle with others’ business then – don’t, for it will distract us from doing what God has given us to do.
The other word Paul uses is faint. Here the idea is of relaxing. Like the unloosing of a bowstring. If a bowstring is unloosed it can not perform its task of producing music when applied. How apt an illustration this is. We are to be so ready that when the Master takes us up we are ready in His hands. It is so easy in life when faced with times of nothing happening to relax and not bother. So what is the answer?
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:….. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
Consider Jesus! If anyone had reason to relax, give up it was Him. Despite His popularity everybody forsook him at the end. But He had His eye on what lay beyond Calvary, He looked at the results of his great sacrifice and resurrection. He reaped in due season because He fainted not. If we consider Him then we can avoid weariness and faintheartedness. They that wait on the Lord do indeed renew their strength.
The second thought here is to do with God’s chastening. When we are chastened of the Lord it is not very pleasant and may cause us to be discouraged, or even to despair. But we are told not to faint, but look beyond it and see the end fruit – in this case righteousness. It so easy to keep our eyes on the immediate and forget the bigger picture, in this case that the Lord is in control and His workings are for our good.
In encouraging us not to be weary or faint Paul tells us to look beyond the present, consider Jesus and take His viewpoint.
D7.2 Do good to all
Apart from being part of the fruit of the Spirit we are told here that it is also a way of sowing. This is no contradiction if one thinks about it. In nature fruit is there not just for eating, but within it is the seed for sowing the next generation, thus there is a cycle, in short, seed, fruit, seed….
Opportunity means as we have the opening to do so.
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity
Whilst in prison Paul wrote to the church at Philippi thanking them for there care shown to him. Previous to this they had not been able to do so, for whatever reason. But now the opportunity had come they had taken it. It has been said that the opportunity to do good imposes the obligation to do so. Indeed there may not be given another chance. Imagine our gardener tending his plants. If there is bad weather he is unable to do good to them. However if the weather is favourable then he must needs look after them whilst the opportunity is there, since he may not know when he will have the next chance to do so. Opportunities to do good need to be taken, by God’s grace let us do so.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; aand your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
Paul’s exhortation to do good extends to all men, and in the above passages we have Jesus telling us the same. This time, however the emphasis is on our enemies. Jesus tells us to love them and do good to them. The reason is simple, God Himself is good to them! So basically we are to be like our Father in heaven. The way we are to be good is laid out in principle: we are to bless and pray for them, turn the other cheek and lend hoping nothing back. Basically doing good to them. Not taking revenge but to love them. As we are doing this we are sowing in their lives. Paul says something similar in Rom.12:17-21 where we are told to overcome evil with good. We are told in Rom 2:4 that the goodness of God leads to repentance, let that goodness of God be worked out in us.
D7.3 The household of faith
Whilst we are to be good to all men Paul also says, especially to those of the household of faith. We first need to establish who these people are.
But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave [= conduct/dwell] thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
I Tm 3:15
Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
We note in both these scriptures that the emphasis is on the people of God. There is no mention of a physical building! This seems such an obvious matter but it is surprising still that no matter how many believers acknowledge the truth, they still refer to buildings as the church! Paul makes it quite clear that we do not go to church, rather the church comes together. I Cor.14:23. This is not nitpicking, because our thinking affects our behaviour. If we think in some way that the house of God is a building, whether it’s the one we attend or not, then there is the danger that we will exclusively focus on that group of people who go there.
However the scriptures quoted make it plain that every born again believer is part of God’s house. The implication is then clear. When we meet other believers we are in fellowship with other members of the household and we need to dwell accordingly; whether in a building designed for that purpose or not. The emphasise is not on ‘church meetings’ but rather how we treat one another.
If we have the correct understanding in our hearts we will not be partisan, that is stick to our ‘set’ or particular group. Our hearts will be enlarged to all those who love the Lord. The fellowship may be restricted because of differences of opinions on certain issues, but they are still brothers and sisters. It is sad that believers allow certain things to divide them, such as secondary doctrines, practices, opinions etc. If we are to do good to the household of faith then whilst we are free to hold such views, we must lay them down for the sake of the brethren; if we refuse then as we discussed in a previous study they become idols, and in this case can lead to exclusivity or isolation.
Whatever we sow that we shall reap. No amount of denial or sophistry will change that basic spiritual law. Let us sow to the spirit, walk in the spirit and see that precious fruit of God come forth for His glory.