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Bearing and Erring?

Critics claim that Paul contradicts himself in Galatians.

Because the Bible declares itself to be “God-breathed” and “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), it will be offensive to mankind’s natural inclination, which is to follow in his or her own selfish and sinful ways. Hence, great effort has been put into suppressing such ideas (see Romans 1:18-32). As such, there have been many false claims that the Bible is littered with errors and contractions and thus must be discredited as a Divine revelation.

Paul is teaching that Christians ought to volunteer to help one another with their spiritual difficulties, gently restoring those who have sinned.”

Jason Lisle

As an example, consider the allegation brought against the apostle Paul that he contradicted himself regarding the bearing of burdens. In particular, should every man bear his own burden? Apparently yes according to Galatians 6:5, but no according to Galatians 6:2. In this passage Paul teaches believers that if anyone is overtaken in any trespass, “you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens,” Paul says, “and so fulfill the law of Christ. …But,” says the apostle, “let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own burden.” (Galatians 6:1-2, 4-5)

So it seems that Paul instructs believers to bear one another’s burdens and yet in the very next breath says that each person should bear his own burden. However, the error does not lie in the apostle’s teaching but with the critic. In fact, as logic expert Jason Lisle explains, the critic has committed the equivocation fallacy where he has assumed that “burden” is being used in the same sense in verse 2 as it is in verse 5:

“Not only does context preclude this,” explains Lisle, “but the original Greek word is not the same between these two verses. Verse 2 uses the Greek word baros for “burden” and has the meaning of a weight or trouble. In context with verse one, Paul is teaching that Christians ought to volunteer to help one another with their spiritual difficulties, gently restoring those who have sinned. Verse five uses the word phortion for “burden” which has the meaning of a “load.” In context with verse 4, Paul is teaching that each person should be concerned with the work that has been assigned to him, and not presumptuously judge others of their assignments. There is no contradiction in instructing people to help each other, but reminding them that they will answer to God for their own assignments, and not another’s.”[1]

Ryan Hembree is a daily co-host, speaker, and writer of Bible Discovery. He also hosts a YouTube channel that shows the unity of the Bible and how science and Scripture fit together. Ryan also has an honorary Masters of Ministry in Creation Science from Phoenix University of Theology.

[1] Jason Lisle, Keeping Faith in an Age of Reason, 109.

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