7 Be not deceived. God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows, that will he also reap. 8 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. 9 And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who are of the household of faith.(Galatians 6:7-10)
R.C. Sproul once quipped that everyone was a theologian and that the problem was, some were worse than others. The same can be said of farming. As is usually the case in God’s non-neutral, covenantally-bound world, it’s not if you’ll be a farmer, but which kind of farmer will you be? Will you be a diligent farmer, carefully curating crops for the harvest of God’s glory? Or will you be a bloviating farmer, always talking and hand wringing, never working, and usually complaining about the rain?
Everyone is a farmer because we are made in God’s image, and farming is one of God’s favorite tasks. The concept of sowing and reaping comes to us from the hand of our gracious Creator, and it’s littered throughout the pages of Scripture. For example, Job 4:8 says, “Just like I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble, reap the same.” Proverbs 11:18 reads, “The wicked works a deceitful work, but to him who sows righteousness will be a sure reward.” Applying it to charitable giving, Paul remarks in 2 Corinthians 9:6, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
One final illustration pertains to our Lord’s usage of this agriculture reality in the Parable of the Sower. Christ the Great Farmer came to sow the seeds of the word of God and the growth depended on the quality of the soil: would it fall on the well-worn path of the stale religious leaders and prove to be ineffectual? Or would it fall on the rich soil of desperately hungry people?
The context of the book of Galatians is well known. Writing to Christians brothers and sisters scattered about the region of Galatia (Modern-day Turkey), Paul rebukes the Judaizers for preaching a false gospel. His condemnation of them, coupled with his unyielding persistence of the true gospel of God’s grace, forms the bulk of the letter. In chapter five he addresses the issue of living righteously by walking in the Spirit. In order to produce the fruit of righteous living, one must walk in the Holy Spirit and not in the flesh (5:16). The flesh, which should be understood to mean the natural man dead in sin, desires unrighteousness and is set against the things of God. The spiritual man, however, is set in line with God because he has been changed. Instead of a cold, passive obedience to the torah (the law of God), the Spirit renovates and man and places that longing for obedience in the heart of a man. Torah goes in just like the Spirit goes in. “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (5:24). He goes on, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (5:25).
As is usual of Pauline theology, he basically says, “Since it is true that the Spirit has regenerated your heart, and since Christ’s death has been credited to your account thus fulfilling the laws penal demands, go and live like this is the case. You are free to obey.” When he gets to chapter six, he starts laying out the practicality of obedience. Things like restoring a brother who has sinned is the mark of a spiritual man (6:1). Bearing one another’s burdens (v. 2) and teaching the word freely to others (v. 6) is set within the context of Christian community.
The apostle Paul roots his theology of the Holy Spirit within the sowing and reaping paradigm. God is not mocked, we should not be deceived, and this is because whatever you sow, you will reap (v. 7). When you sow the seeds of an apple tree, you will not produce a palm tree. When you sow tomatoes seeds, you do not produce cucumbers. So it is with our walk with Christ on this earth. When you sow to the flesh, Paul says in verse 8 that you reap corruption. You quite literally obliterate yourself, death being the anti-resurrection undoing of one’s person. However, if you sow to the Spirit, you reap eternal life, that is, you reap the harvest of resurrection living now.
The prospect of sowing to the Spirit against sowing to the flesh may seem daunting, which is why Paul says in verse 9 not to grow weary. The farmer ought not to plant the seed and expect it to grow the next day. Christianity is not a flash-in-the-pan ministry. We do not do smoke and mirrors. There is no accelerant to quickly move the immovable God. We sow and we prayerfully wait. Don’t give up, don’t grow weary; do your job and wait for God. Psalm 27:14, “Wait on the LORD; be strong, and may your heart be stout; wait on the LORD.”
Everyone’s a farmer. Everyone sows to something. Is it to the flesh? Is it to the Spirit? Paul says to do good to all people, “especially to those who are of the household of faith” (v. 10). I take this to mean that our sowing to the Spirit will spill over into Christian community. If it’s not spilling over, you’re not putting anything in, and now we have a different problem.
But how do I know what kind of farmer I am? You say there are good ones and bad ones, how might I know? Good question. There are several ways to identify the quality of your farming and I have chosen a few.
YOUR FARMER IDENTITY
1) What is it you believe about God? As a man thinks and feels, so he acts. Do you find yourself believing God to be unjust? Does God not work quickly and on your timetable? Do you impatiently sow your seeds to the Spirit by rushing along your prayers and Bible reading expecting God to unequivocally meet your demands? Do you even plant the seeds of God’s word in your life? Are you memorizing Scripture so as to store it in your heart in an effort to not sin against God? (Psalm 110:11).
If it is true that God is sovereign, and that he created and sustains all things, does your sowing to the Spirit reflect this belief ? Are you a fickle, half-hearted person with very little trust that God sustains all things? Are you double-minded, unsure if God cares about even the minutest of details in your life? If so, you’re sowing to the flesh, not the Spirit.
2) What is it you believe about man? Man is made in God’s image and is subordinate to him. If this is true, then our obedience to God and subsequent service to others is a mark of Spirituality. God has placed within his covenant a hierarchical system of law enforcement which means that you have an obligation to God first. So many Christians ignore their covenantal responsibility before God opting instead to live a Christian life that is very shallow. We are told to love God and love neighbor; are these responsibilities on your mind? Do you care about other image bearers enough to sow to the Spirit and reap the things of the Spirit? Or do you isolate yourself (quarantine notwithstanding) and believe you have no obligation to pour yourself out in service to others? Regarding relationships with others, you’re only going to get out of the relationship what you put in. Struggling in marriage? Put more seeds to the Spirit in the ground of the marriage. Struggling in friendship? Sow to the Spirit by encouraging someone and reaching out. Sometimes that false on deaf ears, and frankly, you may spend your entire life trying to love someone who simply won’t be loved. Only you can decide when and how to continue or start sowing somewhere else.
3) What do you believe about law? It amazes me that so many ostensible Christians kick against the very thing the Spirit has implanted in their hearts. Why anyone would arrogantly besmirch the law of God when the Holy Spirit was the one actively involved in the administration of the law to the Christian upon regeneration is beyond me. Regardless, the covenant of God has a law and the law is the terms of the covenant. When we sow to the Spirit, we are seeking first the kingdom and justice of God. This panting for justice and righteousness moves from inside of you and out towards others—at least it should. Sowing to the Spirit means being consistent about the standards of God. Are you hypocritically holding others to a different standard? Do you lament the speck in someone else’s eye while ignoring the log in your own eye? Sowing to the flesh as it pertains to the law of God means sowing condescension and impatience towards others and reaping hypocrisy and consternation in relationships. People who use the law as a club on others and never use it to club their own pettiness are people sowing to the flesh, not the Spirit.
4) What do you believe about judgment? An oath calls forth God’s enforcement of the law, bringing blessings and cursings. What we believe (sowing) about how God works in the world determines the outcome of our lives (reaping). If we lack the proper foundation of God’s law word, we’ll most certainly lack any real application of it. Sowing to the Spirit means recalling to mind that we are oath-bound people. We must judge with righteous judgment. We are not permitted to judge improperly. Sowing to the Spirit requires a cultivation of proper judgment. What do you believe about this person and what they did? Do you assume the worst? Or do you apply Christian categories?
5) What do you believe about time? God seeks to advance his Kingdom and the reaping is his to accomplish. In order to sow to the Spirit we must remember the priority of time: what are we doing today to push the crown rights of Jesus tomorrow? What seeds of righteousness are you scattering in your life right now? You can’t undo the past and you can’t predict the future: the only thing you can do is do the sowing right now. Not putting it off, not trying to fix the past, sow to the Spirit now. We are not permitted to be lazy; today is the day to sow to the Spirit.
Heavenly Father, we ask and pray with faith and hope that you will be true to the promises of your word. We desire to sow to the Spirit and not the flesh, which means a radical reorientation of our priorities, time, and money. We want to advance the Kingdom of Christ through the means you’ve given us today, so we ask for help. Would your Spirit be ever-present with us as we labor in our families, churches, and nations. Would Christ the King be honored and extolled, in Christ’s name I pray, AMEN.
*This was a devotional/sermonette given to the saints of Cross & Crown Church for Sunday, April 26, 2020.