For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. [Gal 6:3-5]
Now some might say that Paul certainly thought an awful lot of himself. In reading 2Corinthians chapter 11, we might think that Paul is boasting about all that he has accomplished. In Romans 11, he says that he magnifies his office. But this is where rightly dividing the Word of Truth is necessary. We must distinguish between Paul as the man who was once known as Saul of Tarsus, and Paul, the called apostle of Jesus Christ and the apostle of the gentiles. His office was, and is a high calling and a high position. When speaking from that office, it is important that he speaks and writes with the authority of that apostolic office. We see the two aspects of Paul in the following:
I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing. [2Co 12:11]
The truth of the matter is that Paul always marveled at the grace of God that called (actually, pressed) him into service. He was the chief of sinners (1Tim 1:15). He called himself less than the least of all saints (Eph 3:8). He referred to himself as the least of the apostles and not fit to be called an apostle (1Cor 15:9), yet God’s grace and call was not dependent upon his fitness to ministry, but on the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
But to us all as members of the Body of Christ, we are called to remember our place and not to think of ourselves higher than what we are:
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think [of himself] more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. [Rom 12:3]
Some may think themselves wise because of past education, or upbringing, or status, but the scriptures remind us that we have nothing except what was given to us from God. We are to use what we have to the glory of God, and should never think of ourselves as indispensable. The work of God will go on without us, but how blessed we are when we submit ourselves to His work, and to His wisdom.
Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. [1Co 3:18-20]
That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. [1Co 1:31]
The world’s wisdom does not commend us to God, and when we become arrogant in our abilities, we often miss some of the simplest and most important things. The Corinthians boasted of their knowledge and their leaders, but they ignored gross sin in their midst. This was allowed to continue while they boasted:
And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. [1Co 5:2]
Another thought in this idea of not thinking higher than we should of ourselves in in the area of theories about things not revealed in the scriptures. Our theories about the councils of God before creation or other things of such nature which are not revealed in scripture are speculations. There are many things that God has chosen not to reveal, and that is His sovereign prerogative to not reveal them. Paul warns of this type of fleshly vanity, which leads away from Christ:
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. [Col 2:18-19]
Our wisdom is found in Christ and in His Word. What He has revealed is what we should preach and teach. Going beyond what scripture reveals will never lead to anything profitable. Paul goes on from this thought of not thinking higher than we ought to think to a reminder, or maybe we are being taught for the first time about being responsible to God for ourselves:
But let every man prove his own work
This is the mention of the judgment seat of Christ in the book of Galatians. This is a good reminder that we are responsible to God for ourselves, and not for others. We are not here to fix others so that we may have the glory.
But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, [As] I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. [Rom 14:10-12]
We are responsible for how we bear one another’s burdens, fulfilling the law of Christ. We labor much on the behalf of others, but not for our own glory. We do it for their good. Paul wrote to the Colossians that he preached to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. It was his job to preach. It was their job to listen.
Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things [done] in [His] body, according to that he hath done, whether [it be] good or bad. [2Co 5:9-10]
It is our job to listen as well.
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. [1Co 3:10-15]
God gave to Paul, actually committed unto Paul, a dispensation of the gospel (1Cor 9:17). The dispensation of grace was given to him to make known (Eph 3:2). In the passage above, he declares that he is a wise masterbuilder, and that he laid the foundation that we are to build on. That foundation is Jesus Christ. When the foundation of a building is laid, it is often etched in the wet concrete the date that the foundation is laid. Paul says this about establishment:
Now to Him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, [be] glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen. [Rom 16:25-27]
Did you get that God establishes the believer according to Paul’s gospel? Did you get also that God will prove the work that we build on that foundation to prove what sort it is? What will be the result of work that does not abide that is built on that foundation? What will be the result of work that is built on another foundation?
We are all responsible to God for our own work. For every man shall bear his own burden. One of the burdens that we bear is the burden of others for their good and benefit.
For what [is] our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? [Are] not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For ye are our glory and joy. [1Th 2:19-20]
When Christ sits on His judgment seat, we will rejoice when others receive their reward. We will rejoice when we know we helped another believer along the way to receive those rewards. The Lord will richly reward those who put others above themselves and bear their burdens-for His sake!