Burden Bearing

Man carrying a tree trunk or large branch

Contrary to what some have said, the Bible does not contradict Itself.  The beauty and the wonder of the Bible’s accuracy is truly something to behold.  However, there are times that some opponents and skeptics will present what they believe to be evidence of contradiction.  Take for example two particular verses in Galatians chapter six.  The first remark of note is the second verse.  “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).  The other reference is verse five.  “For every man shall bear his own burden” (Gal. 6:5).  If one has not studied the Bible carefully, he might be convinced that Paul wrote contradictory commands.  That is just not so, and we will examine why that is the case.

          First of all, each person is responsible for obeying God.  The idea that I can obey for another person is false doctrine.  Individual responsibility is taught in both the Old and New Testaments.  Ezekiel wrote, “Yet say ye, Why?  doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father?  When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live.  The soul that sinneth, it shall die.  The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son:  the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezek. 18:19-20).  That is not difficult to understand.  However, it is disheartening to realize how many people believe otherwise.  Take for example the command to be baptized.  That command must be obeyed in order to be saved (Mark 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).  With that being the case, there have been ones who have believed that one person can be baptized for another person.  This is a doctrine of convenience and pacification.  It is designed to give “comfort” to people because they do not want their friends and family to be lost.  According to some, if you have a friend or loved one who dies without being baptized, then you can be baptized for the dead person.  This doctrine is believed by multitudes today, but it is not a new idea.  During his discourse on the subject of resurrection, Paul indicated that there were people back then that had practiced “baptism for the dead”.  In no way did Paul support that view.  Instead, Paul showed the folly of doing such if there is no resurrection.  He wrote, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all?  why are they then baptized for the dead” (1 Cor. 15:29)?  Truly, it was folly because no one can be baptized for another by proxy.  Each individual is responsible for making sure that he obeys God.  This is supported by another of Paul’s writings.   “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” (2 Cor. 5:10).  Therefore, Paul was correct to write that “…every man shall bear his own burden” (Gal. 6:5).

          With that being settled, how could Paul also write, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2)?  This verse indicates the special relationship that a Christian has with his brothers and sisters in Christ.  While it is true that I cannot obey for you, I can help in other ways.  Take for instance, a brother or sister who has a need.  Through benevolent acts I can “lighten the load” for that person.  This falls in line with the exhortation, “Let him that stole steal no more:  but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Eph. 4:28).  Likewise, Paul wrote, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10; cf. 1 John 3:16-18; James 2:14-17).

          Another way that a Christian can help to bear his brother’s burdens is praying.  James wrote, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).  I believe strongly in prayer.  It is a blessing to go to the Father on behalf of those I love.  Christians should utilize this blessing regularly.  It is certainly encouraging to know that my brethren pray for me, and that I pray for them.

          In this brief study, we have examined two verses that some might call contradictory.  In fact, they are not contradictory, but rather they are two ways that burdens can be lessened.  Instead of fabricating ideas to discredit the Bible, it would be wise for all to read, understand, and obey before it is too late.
~ Corey Barnette