The Expository Files

 

 

"God is not Mocked"

Galatians 6:7-9

 

What a strange thing for a title to say. “God is not mocked”? Have you watched TV recently? Isn't He often mocked quite often everyday in all kinds of forums? And didn't Pharaoh mock God when he said, “And who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” (Exodus 5:2). And what of  the mockers that surrounded the cross of Jesus? (Matthew 27:41-43) and the soldiers who had earlier tormented Him (Matthew 27:27-31)? And are we not correctly told that “in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts.” (2 Peter 3:3).

         

The Text

          “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in good time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6:7-9).

 

“Mocked”; The Definition

          “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked...” (Galatians 6:7a). 

          The Greek word translated “mocked”  is used only in this passage in the New Testament, though a closely related word is used of the soldiers who mocked Jesus. The word is “mukterizo” (mukthrzw), a verb in the present tense and middle voice. What this means is that literally Paul is saying that “God is not being mocked” by those who hold Him and His will in disdain.  Literally, it means to “sneer at”, “turn up the nose at”, “treat with contempt”.

          It would describe the attitude of the criminal who thinks he has gotten away with something. He is in his fast sports car and being pursued by the police. As he crosses the border out of their jurisdiction, he stops his car, gets out and taunts them. He's not afraid of them; he's gotten away with it and they are powerless to do anything about it. He has escaped judgment and punishment.

          Many people evidently think they have escaped judgment for sins. They think that they are presently succeeding in mocking God with no consequence. What they fail to realize is that God allows such not because He is powerless to stop it, but because He has appointed a time to rectify things, and that time has not yet arrived. It will, but in the meantime even the most foolish outrages are permitted to continue with hopes that another heart can be reached by the gospel and a soul saved before the Day arrives (2 Peter 3:8-10). Those who think otherwise are being deceived.

 

Sowing and Reaping

          “...for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7b,8).

          God has ordained that we reap what we sow. That seems fair, but often it does not appear to work out that way. Even Solomon had observed that many times people do not get what they deserve. He said, “I have seen everything during my lifetime of futility; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his wickedness.” (Ecclesiastes 7:15). He finally admitted his inability to figure it out, but also reaffirmed that there would come a time when God would right the wrongs and bring all things back into harmony with truth and righteousness; the righteous will receive according to their righteousness and the wicked according to their evil; “Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly. But it will not be well for the evil man...” and “The conclusion, when all has been  heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it be good or evil.” (Ecclesiates 8:12,13a; 12:13,14).

          This principle of reaping what one has sown is a spiritual principle which will not be thwarted, though sometimes it appears otherwise during our lifetimes here. And yet, we have a saying, “What goes around comes around.” which essentially says the same thing. Sinners reap much hardship today as a result of their sins, but the final reckoning is yet in the future. A person, though his own selfishness and greed may never know the warmth of a truly loving relationship with another human being. He may become wealthy and be surrounded by “friends” but he has lost much more than he has gained. How many have never known the love of God; His peace, mercy, joy and confidence. Has he really come out ahead?

          “The one who sows to the flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption.”  Sowing to the flesh means to carry out the deeds of the flesh. Pail lists them as “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorceries, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these... those who practice such things shall not enter the kingdom of God.”  Galatians 5:19-21).  The word “corruption”  is from the Greek word “phthoran” (yqoran).  It means “destruction, ruin, deterioration, loss”.  It would be used to speak of someone whose health and been ruined by a disease. The idea of a continuous process of deterioration is connected with this word, such as the ongoing decay of the physical world (Romans 8:21). The sinner destroys himself spiritually by corrupting his soul, and eternally by consigning himself to the eternal, ultimate ruin and depravity prepared for the devil and his angels.  (Matthew 25:41).

          “But the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.”  Sowing to the Spirit means to live by the Spirit and thus produce “the fruit of the Spirit.” This includes “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”  (Galatians 5:22,23).  For those who “walk by the Spirit” their destiny is “eternal life.”  This refers not only to the everlasting nature of our heavenly home, but also of the blessedness of the quality of life there.  Paul tells of the incorruptible nature of our new, spiritual bodies with which we will inhabit our new home (1 Corinthians 15:42-54).  Our present bodies of flesh and blood cannot inherit such a wonderful place. We must be changed. All will be made right (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:1).

 

Let Us Not Lose Heart

          “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6:9).

          It would be easy to lose heart without the faith and hope in our hearts that we will indeed receive of the promises of God. If it seemed as if there were no final reckoning and all our sacrificing was more or less in vain. It is when we lose sight of our goal that we are in the most danger (cf. Hebrews 12:1,2; John 14:1-3).

          The consequences of such lack of or loss of faith is plainly implied here. We reap only “if we do not grow weary.”  Some suggest by their doctrine that there is no “if” to it; that once one is saved he will reap whether he grows weary or not. But the Holy Spirit says “if” and so must we if we are to faithfully proclaim His word.

          But we do not intend on growing weary. Our hope is fixed on Jesus. We know the consequences of “sowing to the flesh” and desire to avoid them. To those that insist on mocking God; yes, sometimes they make us angry at the heartless, foolish words and actions they use in opposition to the Redeemer. But more than anger, there is a profound sorrow that they judge themselves unworthy of eternal life. We will reap what we sow.

 


There was probably a reason for it. Some of the brethren at Thessalonica had quit their jobs and had been filling their up their now ample spare time with ungodly pursuits. Perhaps the reason was doctrinal. There had been some who were making all kinds of statements about the coming of the Lord. Why plant the crops or build the house if Jesus is coming next week?

In the first letter to the church of Christ at Thessalonica, Paul had warned them to busy themselves in righteous, honest labor and had told them to admonish the "unruly" among them (1 Thessalonians 4:11; 5:14). He had also sought to clear up misconceptions about the second coming of Christ, both about its nature (4:13-18) as well the fact that no one knows when it will be (5:1-11). To cease working because somebody claims to know that Jesus' coming is imminent is a foolish thing to do, and not at all pleasing unto the Lord.

The second letter to the church of God at Corinth elaborates further on these things. The Holy Spirit makes it clear that there is more history to come before the Lord's return, so the first century date-setters were wrong, just as they have been in every century since, including our own (2 Thessalonians 2:1-ff).

But some had not heeded the earlier admonitions and were continuing to lead undisciplined lives; to being busybodies and refusing to work. What is the  church to do about this? Our text provides the answer (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15).


The Errors Involved
"...from every brother who leads an unruly life...if anyone will not work, then neither let him eat, for we hear that some among you are leading an  undisciplined life, doing not work at all, but acting like busybodies...and if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter..." (2 Thessalonians
3:6b; 10b-11; 14). There are at least four errors that are involved in Paul's rebuke:

a) Leading an unruly life - The context itself helps define this error by explaining it is "not according to the tradition you received from us." (3:6c). We often think of "tradition" as human in origin, but actually the word only refers to teachings handed down from one to another. In this case, it comes from God through the inspired apostles. Their lives lacked proper adherence to God's rules for living. God had given a command, but they were not obeying it.

b) Not working - Specifically, they were not obeying God's command to work and make our lives productive (cf. Ephesians 5:28; Titus 3:8,14). Even before sin entered the world, man was assigned responsibility, though the once pleasant task became difficult toil after the fall. (Genesis 2:15; 3:17-19).

c) Acting like busybodies - What a remarkable thing! These brethren were now misusing their time to meddle in other people's business, but the reason they had so much time is because they were not taking care of their own business! Their lives had thus become useless (cf. 1 Timothy 5:13).

d) Not obeying apostolic instructions - To reject the words of the apostles was to reject God, for the words they wrote came directly to them from Him.
Those who truly believe obey these things (1 Thessalonians 2:13). On the other hand, those who do "not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" will be lost (2 Thessalonians 1:8,9). The most tragic result of those caught up in this error was not that they were wasting their lives (though that is bad enough) but rather that they were forfeiting their own souls.

Paul's Good Example
"For you, yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you." (2 Thessalonians 3:7,
cf. vss. 8,9). Paul had a right to receive material support (1 Corinthians 9:1-18) as he preached the gospel, and sometimes did. But at Thessalonica he and the workers who traveled with him had given up that right so that they could provide a good example to their new converts. It had meant for long hours, but Paul had felt it important that these new believers have some living examples of a living faith. Those who were not working were
failing to follow this godly example (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:33-11:1; Philippians 3:17).

The Response of the Church
"Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who...if anyone will not work, then neither let him eat...But as for you brethren, do not grow weary of doing good...take special note of that man and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame. And yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." (2 Thessalonians 3:6a; 10; 13-15). This problem had existed for some time. Exhortations and warnings had been given, but some had refused to listen. Paul commands that the following course be taken by the church:

a) Keep aloof from unruly brethren - The word "aloof" ("withdraw" KJV) is translated from an interesting Greek word. Among its definitions, "stellomai" means to "furl a sail", and that is probably its meaning here. So why is it translated this way? The word has to do with a naval military maneuver where one ship seeks to avoid contact with a hostile ship by "furling its sail". Paul is telling the brethren to maintain a certain distance from those who are unruly, and he further qualifies this later by both being more specific as well as explaining that some level of contact is permitted.

b) Neither let him eat - This is not a command to follow the man around and grab food out of his hands every time he is about to take a bite. But it is a statement that a man who will not work ought not to be supported with food by the members of the church. Jesus commends feeding the hungry, but those who create their own neediness by their own, freely chosen, ungodly idleness are not to be assisted. Neither the church nor the individual has any responsibility to provide for the idle.

c) Do not grow weary in doing good - Sometimes, bad habits can spread. If I work hard for my food, but my next door neighbor gets his donated to him
as he relaxes day in and day out, I may begin to wonder if all my work is worth it (it is; in the dignity, esteem and self-respect earned by being productive and doing good work). Paul urges the faithful not to follow the examples of those who had stopped "doing good".

d) Take special note of that man - The members of the Lord's church were to individually note for themselves the unruly nature of the one living in an undisciplined manner. The Greek literally means "to mark for oneself, to note for oneself".

e) Do not associate with him - The idea is to "not mix together" with the unruly; to "not keep company" with him. This word is used three times in the New Testament, all occurring in contexts discussing church discipline (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:9,11). Of course, there are other commandments of God which further expand on the extent of this lessened association. For example, if I owe a brother money, I would need to be honest about my debt and pay him. If he were hurt, I would try to help him. If he or she were one of my parents, I would still have a son's obligation to render parental honor. If it be my husband or wife, I still have certain responsibilities to fulfill there as well. These all involve other commandments of God, and this one must be obeyed in the light of the others, and the others in light of this one.

f) Admonish him - There is a limited amount of association that is proper with such a one. He is not to be regarded as an enemy to be crushed, but rather a brother who needs to be made ashamed and admonished. The goal of all admonishment is to both warn and encourage so as to put into one's mind a sense of proper conduct.

"Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and
strengthen your hearts in every good work and word."
(2 Thessalonians 2:16,17).
 

  By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 21.3; March 2014

 

 

 

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