Restoring Others Gently – Galatians 6:1

Paul described what those who “walk by the Spirit” look like in Gal 5:22-26. In the first part of chapter 6 Paul gives another example of walking in the Spirit from Galatians 5. There is a contrast between bearing the burden of the Law (Acts 15:10, 28) and bearing one another’s burdens. These burdens may be spiritual, but there are real physical burdens in mind here as well. The household of God is called to do good to all people, beginning with those in the household who cannot carry their own burdens.

Those who live by the Spirit will restore one another when they are “caught in sin.” What does this mean? To be “caught in sin” sounds like the person is caught red-handed, in the act of a sin. Sometimes people think that if they are not caught, it does not count against them (like speed limits, for example).  But the word Paul uses (προλαμβάνω) translated “overtake” in the aorist passive, as in hunting down an animal (T.Judah 2:5, for example).

Image result for hester prynneIf a person is caught, they are to be restored (καταρτίζω), returned to their former condition. The verb is used for folding and mending nets in Matt 4:21, or to complete what is lacking in 1 Thessalonians 3:10. The restoration is to be done gently (πραΰτης), the same word Paul used as part of the fruit of the Spirit in Gal 5:23. This means that the church is not arrogant or inconsiderate when dealing with a public sin, they seek to restore the person to fellowship without humiliating the person who was caught by a sin. The goal of any correction in this verse is a restoration of the brother who has sinned. Paul is not creating some sort of inquisition here.

But Paul also warns the reader not to think too much of themselves. His main concern is conceit and self-deception. Like Gal 5:26, Paul is concerned that the one who “walks by the Spirit” will be tempted, thinking that they are spiritual when they are not. By helping another believer deal with their own burden of sin, someone might become conceited, thinking that they are better than the one caught in sin. There is a balance between confronting a brother or sister in Christ who has a problem and meddling in things that are not your business.

Self-examination is therefore critical for a community of believers. While Paul has encouraged restoring a brother caught in sin, he is not inviting the congregation to investigate the private lives of members of the church looking for potential sins. This verse does not call for an inquisition which investigates church members looking for potential sins.

On the contrary, the first (and only) person that a believer ought to investigate is himself! In verse 1 he says that the spiritual ones who are trying to restore a person caught in sin ought to examine themselves first (σκοπέω). In verse 4 he says that each believer ought to test (δοκιμάζω) their own work. Both words have the sense of critical examination.

Contrary to popular belief (and practice), Christians are not called to a life of critical examination of the lives of other people. After carefully examining their own loves they may be able to restore a brother or a sister in Christ who struggles with sin, but there is no warrant in the New Testament for the sort of judgmental attitude associated with Christianity. If this balance between self-examination and gentle restoration were practiced regularly, how would it transform the church?

4 thoughts on “Restoring Others Gently – Galatians 6:1

  1. It would transform the church immensely and most likely turn more people towards the church. Many people turn away from the church because of hypocrisy. It is just like what Jesus spoke about in Matthew 7:3-5 “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye”. We must look at our own sin and try to fix ourselves before one another. To spiritually grow and reach other people we must evaluate ourselves. Yes we are suppose to help one another not sin, and sometimes hold each other accountable. Many churches think that they can be the judgement for God and say who is going to Hell or not. This is only the place of God and the churches definitely aren’t perfect, so they need to stop pretending to be.

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  2. Sometimes it is difficult to want to do good to all but it especially makes it difficult when the people in your own household do not want to participate in their burdens. The phrase ‘caught in sin’ really makes me worried about my life as a whole because I can think back on separate actions where I did something I knew was not the correct thing to do, but did not get caught which did not bring about punishment and I learned nothing from the situation. These past situations sort of make me think “what is coming for me?” because I did do wrong but was not caught. I find it hard to believe that the church would not look down upon someone who is caught in the act of sin especially in those times because I know today an example would be of a teen pregnancy who gets terrible look from the church members.

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  3. Thinking Through Paul mentions that, “by ‘flesh’, Paul is not referring to human bodies; instead, by this term, he describes the human penchant to live self-interested lives” (TTP 103). The flesh is of a self-interested nature, it is a promoter and pleaser of self. Paul exhorts us, “-walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16). So, while I certainly agree that we must examine ourselves before taking a speck out of a brothers eye, for it could cause more destruction to both of your lives. Paul said, “If we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way” (1 Corinthians 11:31). We can conclude that self-examination is crucial to that of a believers life. However, is this self micro-managing that of the Spirit? isn’t that Lawful living?

    The key to these questions is walking in the Spirit. “For the law of Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). Note that Galatians 6:1 says, “If another believer is overcome by his sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person.” The way of walking in the Spirit in this is bottom line loving them more than you do yourself, that’s humility and I would say that is certainly part of the Law of Christ.

    This really would transform the church because it is us cooperating with God’s will, and God’s got BIG plans for the world. Fear, shame, guilt, pride, it is all self-focused. But when we put our affection towards Christ amazing influence is brought forth!

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