Paul begins chapter 6 with yet another exhortation that refutes the error of “once saved, always saved:” “Brethren, if a man 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.”
First, note the exhortation is given to the brethren. Second, the one overtaken in a trespass is also a brother. Third, the erring brother is to be restored, that is, put back in his former condition. Fourth, this is to be done in view of oneself, lest he also be found in “disrepair” at some time in the future and in need of restoration.
In light of this, we are to “bear one another’s burdens” (v 2). We are to bear with our erring brethren the weight of the burden of sin that encumbers them in order that they might have the capacity to be restored. Again, this is to be done in view of one’s own fallibilities (v 3).
Continuing to verses 7-8, Paul speaks to bearing fruit. From the Beginning, God determined that seed would produce fruit after its kind (Gen 1:11-12). We are also here reminded that we must sow good seed to reap a good harvest (cf Matt 13:24ff). In this text, the flesh is contrasted with the Spirit (cf Rom 8:5ff). Sowing to the flesh means to pursue the ends of our own desires. This will ultimately lead to the destruction of our souls (James 1:13-16). Sowing to the Spirit is to pursue self-denial with the expectation of reaping a heavenly harvest.
Finally, Paul closes his epistle with this declaration, “From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (v 17). The word “marks” is the Greek stigmata, from whence comes the English “stigma.”
It is unclear as to exactly what marks Paul here speaks. It could be the many physical scars that he bore due to the physical persecutions resulting from his ministry (cf 2 Cor 11:23-30). It could also be that Paul is making reference back to his well established reputation as a faithful servant of Christ, one who would not be intimidated by false teachers (Gal 2:4) or unduly influenced by brethren of considerable reputation who themselves were in error (Gal 2:11-14).
Perhaps it was both. In any event, in applying this to myself, it should be evident to anyone, friend or foe, that I am a faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.