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[S1E2] Reaping And Sowing

Clearly, genuine believers can still "sow to the flesh" because they still possess the fallen flesh (see more detailed discussion below). The result of sowing "evil seed" is corruption which is interpreted by these commentators as a loss of rewards and/or a curtailment of growth in holiness (sanctification).

[S1E2] Reaping and Sowing

(2) Other commentators (e.g., Charles Haddon Spurgeon, John Piper, Kenneth Wuest, John Eadie, Charles Simeon, et al - see below) interpret the sowing to flesh that reaps corruption as a reference to an unregenerate person whose end is corruption.

The previous verse (Gal 6:7-note) presented the mere figure of sowing and of reaping, with certainty of reaping what may happen to have been sown. But the seed may be of two kinds, or the seed may be sown with two different purposes, and each purpose naturally and necessarily leads to its own result. (Commentary on the Greek text of the epistle of Galatians)

Sows (4687) (speiro from spao = draw out, pull) literally means to scatter (seed) and the opposite of reaping or gathering. Speiro is used figuratively to describe the sowing of the "seed" of the Word of God, the Gospel (="the word of the kingdom" - Mt13:19, cp Mk 4:14 15, 16, 18), "the ideas and precepts that have been implanted like seed in their hearts, ie, received in their hearts (Mk 4:18)." (Thayer). Jesus used speiro repeatedly in His parables (Mt 13:3, 18, 24, 31)

Remember that non-believers have no choice - everything they do is sowing to the flesh, for flesh inherited from Adam (Ro 5:12-note) is all they possess. Only those in Christ have a choice of sowing either to the flesh or Spirit. Note also that there is no "middle grown", no "neutral zone" so to speak (cp Jesus' teaching on the principle of "masters" in Mt 6:24-note, see also Josh 24:15, 1Sa 7:3, 1Ki 18:21, Gal 1:10, 2Ti 4:10-note, Jas 4:4-note, 1Jn 2:15-note, 1Jn 2:16-note, 1Jn 2:17-note)

Every time we allow our mind to harbor a grudge, nurse a grievance, entertain an impure fancy, wallow in self-pity, we are sowing to the flesh. Every time we linger in bad company whose insidious influence we know we cannot resist, every time we lie in bed when we ought to be up and praying, every time we read pornographic literature, every time we take a risk that strains our self-control we are sowing, sowing, sowing, to the flesh (Stott, J. R. W. The message of Galatians: Only one way. Leicester, England; Downer's Grove, Ill., U.S.A.: Inter-Varsity Press or The Bible Speaks Today New Testament)

Reap (2325) (therizo from théros = summer, harvest time time of harvests) conveys the picture of cutting ripe grain and gathering the bundles together. To reap, to harvest, harvest, reaping.

Dobson, Feinberg, et al - For he that soweth to his flesh. The one who is constantly (Greek present tense) sowing with a view to the promotion of his own corrupt, sinful nature; that nature which is opposed to God and unrenewed by the Holy Spirit. Shall of the flesh reap corruption. Physical, moral, and spiritual rottenness and ruin. (Dobson, E G, Charles Feinberg, E Hindson, Woodrow Kroll, H L. Wilmington: KJV Bible Commentary: Nelson)

Sowing to the flesh means to allow the old nature to have its way. So also, sowing to the Spirit means to allow the Holy Spirit to have his way. The one who does the latter is walking by the Spirit (5:16), and is being led by the Spirit (5:18). What happens to these contrasted representative individuals? Already in this life, but especially in and after the resurrection at the last day, he who has been sowing to please his flesh will from the harvest-field of the flesh reap destruction, decay. On the other hand, he who has been sowing to please the Spirit will from the harvest-field of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

Although his trust in Christ saves him from spiritual death, a sinning believer can nevertheless reap corruption, suffering physical death and many other tragic earthly consequences, as did some of the unrepentant Corinthians (1Co 11:30). (MacArthur, J. Galatians. Chicago: Moody Press or Logos or Wordsearch) (Note that MacArthur does not interpret sowing to the flesh as an unbeliever, which is surprising considering his stance on passages of a similar ilk.)

Corruption is not the cessation of human existence, but is the positive existence of grief and woe, temporal and eternal. That nothing less is meant is apparent also from the second clause. Whoever sows in the Spirit, devotes his life to Him and lets himself be governed by Him; he shall reap eternal life from the Spirit (Ed: Do not misconstrue what he is saying - he is not saying sowing to the Spirit MERITS eternal life, for that is only obtained by grace through faith. He is saying that in some way which only eternity will fully disclose, believers are "contributing" to their future "eternal life". We simply cannot say much more until we are there!). For the Spirit is the grand life-giver and preserver operating through an inner law of life laid down by God. Eternal life speaks of the whole of life, both of body and soul, the glorified life of the resurrection on the new earth. The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Galatia. (The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Galatia)

In sum, while some excellent expositors (eg, MacArthur, Wiersbe) interpret sowing to the flesh as sinning believers and corruption as "loss of rewards", the majority of conservative commentaries (recent and old) interpret these phrases as referring to unbelievers who will reap eternal corruption separated from the holiness of God. Although, I also favor this interpretation based on the specific facts listed above (See here)

Sows - as noted above, "sows" is in the present tense which depicts one's lifestyle. Present tense does not picture perfection but direction, for no believer ever achieves perfection (in this life but only the life to come). It is absolutely impossible for an unregenerate person to sow to the Spirit, for they do not possess the Spirit of Christ. All their sowing is solely to the flesh and so all their earthly endeavors (thoughts, words, deeds) are but corruption! This sounds harsh but it is absolutely Scriptural. That we as believers can now even participate in such "holy horticulture" as sowing to the Spirit should be cause for great joy, humility, thanksgiving, and praise at "so great a salvation!" (He 2:3-note) May we never lose a sense of awe and wonder over what our great God hath wrought in each of our lives at the time of redemption and regeneration made possible by the payment of such a precious price, the blood of the Lamb, God's very own Son (cp 1Pe 1:18, 19-note)

To reemphasize, sowing is not something "mystical" -- We "sow" with our thoughts (even our motives! 1Co 4:5), our words (Mt 12:37) and our deeds (cp our "good works" Ep 2:10-note). It follows that essentially all of our life (sleep might be an exception) is characterized by continual sowing -- every moment of every day we are either sowing to the flesh or the Spirit.

The sowing is figurative for what has already been stated literally in Gal 5:16: walking by (the) Spirit; Gal 5:18: being led by (the) Spirit; Gal 5:25: living and keeping in line by (the) Spirit; thus the opposite is walking, being led, living, and keeping step with the flesh. Our life here is a sowing of the one kind or of the other. (Lenski New Testament Commentary - The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Galatians to the Ephesians and to the Philippians)

We ought never to forget that we are all, while we live, in a state of probation. We are constantly sowing seeds which will spring up and bear fruit, every day and hour in our lives. There are eternal consequences resulting from all our thoughts and words and actions, of which we take far too little account. "For every idle word that men speak they shall give account in the day of judgment." (Mt 12:36.) Our thoughts are all numbered, our actions are weighed. No wonder that Paul says, "He who sows to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." (Gal 6:8.) In a word, what we sow in life we shall reap after death, and reap to all eternity.

It is a self-evident truth, that there can be no harvest where no seed has been sown. But the fact that there is coming a moral harvest in each individual life- a future reaping of present sowing- is a truth equally demonstrable. The life that now is, is the seed-time of a life that is to come. The future of human destiny derives all its complexion and its form from the present of human character. The spring does not more certainly deepen into summer- nor the summer fade into autumn- nor the autumn pale into winter- nor the winter bloom again into spring, than does our present probation merge into our future destiny, carrying with it its fixed principles, its unchanged habits, and its tremendous account.

And what, my dear reader, are you sowing? I wish this question to have all the earnestness and force of a personal appeal. With what seed, again I ask, are you sowing for the future? If you are unconverted, nothing is more true than that you are sowing to the flesh! You may be rigidly moral, deeply intellectual, profoundly learned, exquisitely refined, outwardly religious, generous, and amiable, and yet all the while you are but sowing to the flesh, and not to the Spirit. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh," and nothing but flesh. "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit," it is spiritual and divine, heavenly and holy; and, what is more, it is imperishable. No lowly seed of divine truth, or grace, love, or service, sown in this present life of suffering and toil, shall ever be lost. All other things shall perish- the world with its loveliness and love, the "lust, of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life," all shall pass away and vanish; but not one seed of grace implanted in the heart of man by the Holy Spirit shall ever perish. The Divine image once restored to the soul shall never more be obliterated. Nothing done by Jesus, or for Jesus- no sin laid down, no cross taken up, no holiness cultivated, no labor wrought, no service done, no cup of cold water given- nothing, the fruit of love to God and of faith in Jesus Christ, shall ever be lost. Oh, who does not earnestly desire that in his heart and life may be sowing the good incorruptible seed, that shall, though long buried and concealed, yield a golden harvest of future joy, bliss, and glory? (Octavius Winslow. Daily Walking with God - April 3) 041b061a72

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