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In Galatians 6:5 does "his own load" refer to : the law of Christ (Leviticus 19:18)?

Galatians 6:2-5 | NASB

[2] Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. [3] For if anyone thinks that he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. [4] But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting, but to himself alone, and not to another. [5] For each one will bear his own load.
  • What does "his own load" refer to?
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Galatians 6:2

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

Carry
βαστάζετε (bastazete)
Verb - Present Imperative Active - 2nd Person Plural
Strong's Greek 941: Perhaps remotely derived from the base of basis; to lift, literally or figuratively.

burdens,
βάρη (barē)
Noun - Accusative Neuter Plural
Strong's Greek 922: Probably from the same as basis; weight; in the New Testament only, figuratively, a load, abundance, authority.

Galatians 6:5

For each one will bear his own load.

should carry
βαστάσει (bastasei)
Verb - Future Indicative Active - 3rd Person Singular
Strong's Greek 941: Perhaps remotely derived from the base of basis; to lift, literally or figuratively.

load.
φορτίον (phortion)
Noun - Accusative Neuter Singular
Strong's Greek 5413: A burden; the freight of a ship. Diminutive of phortos; an invoice, i.e. a task or service.

Galatians 6:2 and 6:5 describe two different concepts.

  1. The "burdens" and "load" are two different Greek words.
  2. The two verbs are the same but the tenses are different: present and future.
  3. The adjuncts "one another" and "his own" are completely different.

Galatians 6:2 talks about loving one another by helping each other out presently.

Galatians 6:5 talks about an individual by himself is responsible/accountable for his own conduct, now and in the future. No one else is responsible for him.

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"load" refers to an obligation that is "laid on us", not a physical weight that a donkey would carry, although the word originally comes from this notion of beasts of burden carrying weights. Here, the meaning is abstract and refers to responsibilities, obligations, things that we must do.

Paul here is contrasting these two obligations: the obligations we have towards the brethren and the obligations we have towards ourselves.

The Law of Christ

To understand what Paul meant by the "loads" look at the context: "and so fulfill the law of Christ".

What is the "Law of Christ" - it is a common term in the first century church and also appears elsewhere, e.g., here Paul writes to the Corinthians:

To those outside the law I became as outside the law (although I am not outside the law of God, but subject to the law of Christ) in order that I may gain those outside the law. 1 Cor 9.21

Theological Interpretations

Today there are multiple theological interpretations of what "The Law of Christ" could be. For completeness sake, I will quote from a summary of well known commentaries/theologians:

  • Betz explains the “strange” concept of “the law of Christ” as a mandate for Christians to participate in “divine salvation” through faith and “following the Spirit” “Galatians 6:2” Hermeneia: Galatians

  • Bruce sees little difference between “the law of Christ” in Gal 6:2 and the commandment to love one’s neighbor in Gal 5:14 (see also 1 Cor 9:20). He adds that Paul’s language here may be intended to contrast the sort of law the Galatians were asked to accept (see Gal 1:6–9). “Galatians 6:2” The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Epistle to the Galatians

  • Dunn argues that Paul refers to Jesus’ interpretation of the law in His teaching and actions for the following reasons: (1) traditions about Jesus’ ministry were passed down by early Christians, including Paul; (2) at various points, Paul’s letters allude to shared knowledge of traditions found in the synoptic gospels; (3) Paul seems to draw upon Jesus’ teaching in Gal 5:13–14; and (4) Paul repeats the call to love one’s neighbor in Rom 13:8–10; 15:1–2; Gal 5:14; 6:2. Dunn concludes that the “law” in Gal 6:2 is not different from the Jewish law; it has been interpreted by the love command “in the light of the Jesus-tradition and the Christ-event.” “Galatians 6:2” Black’s New Testament Commentary: The Epistle to the Galatians

  • According to George, “the law of Christ” is the entire tradition of Jesus’ ethical teaching now reproduced in believers by the power of the Spirit. “Galatians 6:2–3” The New American Commentary: Galatians

  • Jervis mentions that Paul may have taken over the phrase from his opponents. He argues that Paul simply refers to the “way” of Christ illustrated in His life and self-sacrificing death. “Galatians 6:2” Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Galatians

  • Longenecker offers an extensive overview of the various scholarly interpretation of the phrase “the law of Christ.” He concludes that ho nomos tou Christou in Gal 6:2 and ennomos Christou in 1 Cor 9:21 both refer to basic principles rooted in the gospel that should be applied to specific situations, empowered by the Spirit, and motivated and conditioned by love. However, Longenecker warns against interpreting the passage as presenting Jesus as a new Moses and His teaching as an ethical code. “Galatians 6:2” Word Biblical Commentary: Galatians

  • Luther views “the law of Christ” as the only law given to believers—that of mutual love (see John 13:34) and carrying one another’s burdens. “Galatians 6:2” Crossway Classic Commentaries: Galatians

  • Martyn offers a succinct summary of the various explanations of Gal 6:2 by grouping them into five categories. Martyn interprets the phrase “the law of Christ” in light of Gal 5:14 and several passages in Romans (Rom 3:27; 7:22, 23, 25; 8:2, 7), concluding that Paul refers to the law that “Christ has brought to completion for the life of the church.” “Galatians 6:2” Anchor Yale Bible: Galatians

  • In McKnight’s view, by “the law of Christ” Paul means submitting to Jesus’ teachings that fulfill the law (e.g., Matt 5:17–20) and to the Spirit (Gal 5:6, 14, 18, 22). “Galatians 6:2” The NIV Application Commentary: Galatians

  • Rather than regarding “the law of Christ” as Jesus’ interpretation of the law of Moses, Witherington maintains that the “pattern of burden bearing and self-giving” represents the essence of “the law of Christ.” Mangum, D., & Brown, D. R. (2012). Galatians (Ga 6:1–18). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Practical Interpretations

I think the theological interpretations are less interesting than looking at how the early church lived. That can give us some clues as to what they believed the "Law of Christ" meant in terms of practical issues like carrying burdens, rather than getting caught up in how this law fits into other laws in a systematic theology. The early church:

  • sold their possessions and shared with each other
  • welcomed each other into their homes and lived in communion
  • When one had a need, the rest of the church filled it
  • ate large common meals together (agape meals)
  • performed great acts of faith and self-sacrifice

Here is Paul again:

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.

So I propose that use of the word "law" is meant to contrast with the Law of Moses, and that the "Law of Christ" refers to being dead to the world (and thus the law) but being alive in newness of Spirit, as evidenced by bearing fruit for God.

So then, my brothers, you also were brought to death with respect to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to the one who was raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. Romans 7.4

And again:

For when we were in the flesh, sinful desires were working through the law in our members, to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the law, because we have died to that by which we were bound, so that we may serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter of the law. Romans 7.5-6

There is a connection between renouncing our own privileges and bearing the fruit of the spirit, just as there is a connection between being pruned and bearing more fruit. All these go together. If you are not dead to yourself, you will not be able to bear much fruit. If you are alive to the Spirit of Christ, you must be dead to yourself, and you will automatically bear fruit.

Galations 5.22-26

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh together with its feelings and its desires. If we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.

Carrying each other's burdens

If we accept that The Law of Christ refers to the death of the self and walking according to the Spirit of Christ in us, as evidenced by bearing fruit, then "carrying each other's burdens" fulfills the law of Christ:

  • If we put others ahead of ourselves, this requires a putting to death of our ambitions and is also evidence that we have done the same. It is also the fruit that we have done so. Thus the law of Christ is fulfilled by living in self-sacrificing communion. Thus "burdens" refers to financial, physical, and spiritual burdens. We are to live in self-sacrificing communities.

This is the first load that we are to bear.

The Second Load

"But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting, but to himself alone, and not to another."

What is "our own work", in the context of fulfilling the Law of Christ? Why it's to reckon ourselves dead. It's possible, for a time, for someone to fake living in communion. They may care for their brethren, but grudgingly. Only in their own hearts can they know if this is so.

So we are commanded to examine ourselves, but only to see whether Christ is in us. Not to see if we are "good" people. Similarly we are to examine our work to see whether it is the result of serving the flesh or the spirit.

But our conclusion can't result in boasting to others. You don't say "I paid your car bill out of a genuine love for Christ as opposed to out of desire for praise by the brethren" Such a boast is absurd. When we examine our works, we cannot boast to others, but we have reason to boast only to ourselves, that "Yes, this former desire of mine has finally been killed and I am no longer a slave to the world as I once was, because Christ has been revealed in an area where I did not see him before". When we boast, we boast in the Lord's victory. If we think of it as our victory, then we do not yet have victory.

This is our burden, our own burden, and no one can carry this burden. We are each to take up our own cross, even though by carrying our cross, we will bear fruit that corresponds to carrying each others' burdens.

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