God is not mocked. The gospel is not a joke. We inherit eternal life by grace alone through faith alone, but if you sow to your flesh (and we saw the works of the flesh back in chapter 5 v19-21), you will not reap eternal life. Not because you don’t deserve eternal life. None of us do. But because, if you’re continuing to sow to your flesh, you clearly haven’t understood the gospel. If the gospel of salvation by faith alone meant you could carry on indulging your sinful desires and expect God to just let you off, it would indicate that sin is not really a serious thing; God’s holiness would be a joke. To continue sowing to the flesh and expect to reap eternal life is to act as if God’s holiness is a joke and to mock him. God will not stand for that. The one who continues sowing to the flesh will reap corruption.
Paul says “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked”. Apparently there were people in Galatia teaching that this gospel Paul preached did indicate sin is not really a serious thing – that you could carry on sowing to your flesh and expect to receive eternal life. I’m not sure whether people were actually promoting that message, or whether the legalists were misrepresenting the gospel. I think in the context of the letter as a whole it’s more likely that Paul was concerned with legalists who were making out that the gospel of truly free grace encourages people to sin. They would warn of the danger of antinomianism: “if you preach that people are really saved by grace alone, they will think it’s ok to carry on indulging their sinful desires, so we need to make sure they know they need to work for their justification”. Paul says “do not be deceived”; the true gospel does not make light of sin. You may well find that some people hear about grace and think they can carry on living however they like, but the answer to that is not to qualify God’s grace with a bit of justification by your own effort; the answer is to keep preaching the true gospel as clearly as you can.
“Whatever you sow, you will reap”
I already mentioned in connection with v6 that if we sow sharing all good things with the one who teaches us the word, we’ll reap the benefits. As in Mark 4 where Jesus told his disciples that with the measure of attention they pay to hearing the word the benefits will be measured to them, the more we invest in listening to God’s word – reading the word itself, listening to the word preached, reading books that explain Biblical truth – the more benefit we will get from it.
“Whatever you sow, you will reap”
It’s certain. Not “you might reap”, you “will reap”. “In due season”. We would love to get immediate results. In the 21st century when we can pretty much look up anything on Google immediately on our phones, and just pop down to Tesco to buy all kinds of things, or otherwise order it from Amazon and expect it to arrive in a couple of days, we’re not used to waiting for things for very long. Whatever we sow, we will reap, in due season. That was another of Jesus’ points in Mark 4: a man scatters seed on the ground, he sleeps and rises night and day, the seed sprouts and grows, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear, and then, when the grain is ripe, he puts in the sickle for the harvest has come. There’s a period of waiting between sowing the seed and harvesting. Likewise there might be times where we’ve tried sowing to the Spirit and don’t feel like we’ve noticed any benefit from it. Don’t give up. You will reap in due season.
In chapter 5v17 Paul talked about the battle going on within us between the Spirit and the flesh. I heard an illustration once that suggested this battle within us is like having two dogs fighting. If one dog represents the Spirit and the other represents the flesh, which dog will win the fight? The one you feed more. If you sow to the Spirit (feed the spiritual dog), you’ll end up reaping eternal life. If you sow to the flesh (feed the dog of the flesh), you’ll reap corruption. If you feed on God’s word, you’ll reap good fruit. If you fill your mind with things that appeal to the desires of your flesh, you’ll reap the kinds of things Paul mentioned in chapter 5v19-21.
If there were people in Galatia teaching that the gospel of grace means as long as you claim to trust in Christ for your justification you can carry on indulging the desires of your flesh and still expect to inherit eternal life, they were dead wrong. It’s a fearful thing to sow to the flesh. Those who do sow to the flesh, and do those works of the flesh in chapter 5v19-21, will not inherit the kingdom of God. Whatever you sow, you will reap.