It is true that our Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Psalm 103:8). However, He is also immutable or unchangeable (cf. Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Isaiah 46:9-11; Ezekiel 24:14; James 1:17). The Bible is very clear that God does not change, neither His mind, His will, nor His nature. Hence, there are rules or principles laid down by God that cannot be thwarted. St. Paul spoke of one such rule or principle in his epistle to the Galatians: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8).
The apostle begins this text with the warning: “Be not deceived.” This word “deceived” literally means to be led astray either by ourselves or by someone else. The world is filled with people who have been deceived, people who think that the lie is the truth and the truth is the lie. That is why so few people care anything about the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. They have been deceived into thinking that the Gospel is a fable or a lie.
The devil has deceived many into thinking that his word, rather than God’s Word is the truth. We read of the devil and his deception in Revelation 12:9: “And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.” It began way back at the beginning of history with our mother, Eve. When he first came into the garden he tricked our mother. He deceived her into believing that his word was the truth, rather than the Word of God. The devil has been doing that ever since and will continue to do that until the end of time. And in that he is not alone. He has raised up many false prophets and teachers who follow him in leading people astray.
Many people have been deceived into following false christs (cf. Matthew 24:4-5). This is also why there is so much sin and wickedness in the world today. There is a relationship between the truth and holiness and the lie and sin. The truth leads to Godly living. The lie leads to wicked living. If a man is to live a Godly life he must know and love the truth. That is why it is so important for us to have a knowledge of the truth. We cannot even think of being Godly, of doing good, of living a pious life, if we do not know the truth of the Gospel. The whole of our Christian life rests upon the truth.
We should be careful not to be deceived by worldly thinking, or by the false teachers and prophets out there in the world. Paul, however, is not talking about deception in general here. He is talking about a very specific deception. Notice the rest of verse 7: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” One of the greatest joys of the devil and of false teachers is to deceive us into thinking that we can sow and not reap what we sow. The devil would like us to think that we can do evil, that we can sin, that we can live a wicked life, and still reap good instead of evil. We can break God’s commandments and still be blessed by Him. We can live like the devil, do all kinds of wickedness, and when we die we still go to heaven and receive all the joys that God has given. That is the deception which the apostle talks about here.
The Judaizers were examples of such deceived people. They thought that all they had to do was follow some outward rituals, some observances, and then they would be Christians. It did not matter that there was nothing in their hearts. It did not matter that they trusted in themselves and their own works, instead of Christ. It did not matter that they were wicked. They were Christians and they were going to heaven. They were truly deceived. They thought that they could sow and not reap what they sowed. And that is the case with so many who profess to be Christians today.
Sometimes we deceive ourselves or are deceived by others into thinking that we can sin and get away with it. We can do certain evils and God will not discipline us. This is a terrible wickedness. This is not only being deceived, but this deception is a mocking of Almighty God. That’s what the text says, “God is not mocked.” That means that when we are deceived with respect to this particular principle, we mock God. The word “mock” means to turn up the nose or sneer at. That is what we do when we are deceived in this particular way. We turn up our noses and sneer at God. Some people actually sneer at God over this principle. They laugh at God. They make fun of God. They dare God to come down out of heaven and judge them for their sins. They ridicule the idea that anything will happen to them because of their wickedness.
But God will not be mocked. That does not mean that a man cannot lift up his nose and sneer at God or try to get away with sowing without reaping. But what it does mean, is that in spite of all of this, the rule of God stands. Man can think what he wants to think. Man can deceive himself if he wants to be deceived. Man can be as wicked as he wants. But all of that will not change God’s rule. What a person sows, he will surely reap. That rule of God is always operative, both in the natural and spiritual realms. It is a law which God has put into the very fabric of the universe. That rule can no more be changed than the rule that we must eat and drink to survive. Or the rule that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. God is not mocked, because whatever a man sows, that will he also reap — no matter what. When a man plants an orchard of apple trees he does not harvest oranges or peaches or pears (cf. Matt 7:16). And so it is in the spiritual realm. Whatever we sow, no matter what that might be, that is what we reap. Nothing more, nothing less. Our spiritual harvest is exactly equal to our spiritual sowing (cf. Romans 2:6; Proverbs 1:31; Job 4:8).
Up to this point Paul has been speaking in general terms about this rule, but in verse 8 he becomes more specific. From the words it is clear that the apostle is applying this general principle to moral, ethical, and spiritual things. He uses words like “flesh,” “corruption,” “Spirit,” “eternal life.” These are spiritual concepts. First of all, let us look at the first part of the statement: “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption.” The word “flesh” as we have seen many times now in the book of Galatians, refers to our old, sinful nature, the old man, all that we are in Adam, all that we are apart from the grace of God, apart from regeneration. It is that wicked nature that is passed down to us from father to son, going all the way back to our first father, Adam. The flesh is that sinful nature which produces the works of the flesh: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and all such things. To sow to the flesh is the same thing as doing the works of the flesh. It is the same thing as walking in the flesh, or living according to the flesh, or fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. One who sows to the flesh lives out of his sinful nature. He does the sin that his sinful nature encourages him to do. He lives the wicked life. He commits adultery. He murders. He lies and so on and so forth.
But that is not all. For a person might sow to the flesh without committing any of these outward sins. One sows to the flesh also when he is entirely occupied with the things of this world, with earthly things, with materialistic things. A man may be honest, honorable, and religious, but if he doesn’t look to heavenly things, if he does not seek Christ, the Gospel, and the truth, then he, too, sows to the flesh.
A person who sows to the flesh will from the flesh reap corruption. The idea is that if we plant a field of flesh, sinful deeds, we will harvest corruption. The word “corruption” means literally destruction, parish. It is very closely associated with the idea of death, as the punishment of sin. God told Adam that in the day that he ate of the forbidden tree he would surely die and he did die. He died both spiritually and physically. Thus we find a passage like Romans 8:13, which is very similar to our text but which uses the word “death” instead of “corruption”: “For if you live according to the flesh,” — that’s the same as sowing to the flesh — “you shall die: but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” The idea is that if a person lives after the flesh and commits all kinds of sin, he will reap all the corruption that belongs to death. He will reap the misery of sin, the misery of separation from God. He will reap physical death and one day, if he does not repent, he will reap eternal corruption in hell.
Finally, let us notice the last statement of the text: “… but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” This statement begins with the conjunction “but” and it indicates to us that here we have just the opposite. The Spirit here is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit whom we receive at the time that we are regenerated. He is the Spirit who gives us the new nature and who produces, out of that new nature, the fruit of the Spirit, good works, such things as love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, and many other things like that.
To sow to the Spirit means that we walk in the Spirit. We live according to the Spirit. We do those things which are the fruit of the Spirit. This is our calling as Christians. We are those who have the very Spirit of God Himself living in our hearts. We are to walk by that Spirit and sow to that Spirit. And when we sow a field of Spirit works, Spirit fruit, then when harvest time comes we will reap eternal life.
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29) Eternal life — that is the very opposite of corruption and death. Eternal life is God’s life. It is not merely physical life. It is not the life of this world. It is the life of Jesus Christ. If we sow to the Spirit by the grace of God, when we die we will go to heaven. And there we will be with Christ. There we will have blessed fellowship and communion with our Saviour. And when the world comes to an end, we will enter into the glory of the eternal kingdom of God in the new heavens and the new earth. Then all the blessing of that kingdom will be ours. We will enjoy all the good things that God has for His people, things which we have never imagined, things which our eyes have not seen, things which we have never heard with our ears. And that will be our place forever. Eternal life is life that goes on forever and ever. That’s the blessing that we harvest when we sow to the Spirit.
But not only eternal life in heaven, also eternal life right now in this life. Rather than fear, rather than misery, rather than turmoil; peace and joy, happiness, comfort, feeling good inside. And in our relationships with each other, peace and harmony. When a husband sows to the Spirit, he’ll have a wife who loves him, who submits to him, who is good to him. When a father sows to the Spirit, he’ll have children who honor him, who obey him, who want to make him happy, who will please him. When we sow to the Spirit, our brothers and sisters in the Lord will feel good about being around us. They’ll want to encourage us, help us, and share with us. And even our neighbours who are non-believers will be at peace with us. We’ll have peace in our home. We’ll have peace in our church. We’ll have peace in our community. We will reap what we have sown. That’s quite a principle, isn’t it. It has very serious consequences. We better take it seriously, whether we are young people, children, or adults. We better reckon with God’s rule: “Whatever a man sows, this he will also reap”.
God’s Word is like the sower’s seed, let us be the fertile ground where it might take root and grow: