It ought not to be overlooked that the first ten verses of this sixth chapter of Galatians are a continuation of the admonitions contained in verses 25,26 of the former chapter. Paul applies to two particular matters the content of the truth that living by the Spirit calls for a consistent walk by the Spirit of Christ. For they who walk by the Spirit, being led by the Spirit, do not ever fulfill the lusts of the flesh. That is like a great beacon light shining upon the path of our earthly pilgrimage until the day of Christ. (Gal. 5:16).
Particularly these verses, which we are about to study, illucidate the orderly walk (“stoichein” Gal. 5:25) of the power of the Spirit of Sanctification. This is the Spirit, Who shed God’s love abroad in our hearts, so that we have a faith which works (is energized) by love.
Paul singles out two aspects of the life of the congregation in which this walk by the Spirit must be evidenced as a good fruit of practical thankfulness, which is the keeping of the commandment of love for the brother. Firstly, he shows in a “case study,” how walking according to the Spirit is evidenced in the merciful restoration of a man (anthropos) who is overtaken by a transgression of the law (verses 1-5). And, secondly, he exhorts to the loving care, which members of the church must show for their teachers, and for all those who are the poor in the household of faith (verses 6-10).
THE TENDER AND MERCIFUL RESTORATION OF A FALLEN SAINT (Galatians 6:1-5)
Full of earnest and apostolic appeal, Paul addresses the Galatian saints as “brethren.”‘ These “brethren” include also the sisters in Christ. In a sense the entire admonition is couched in this term: brethren. A somewhat hasty perusal of the Scriptures indicates that the term “brethren” does not refer to natural ties of blood (“Blood-brother” sic) but refers to the new relationship which is ours through the regeneration in Christ Jesus. It is the new birth by which we have the power, the right, and the authority (exousia) to become the children of God (John 1:11-13). In the household of faith (Gal. 6:10b) all things are basically and radically new. The household of God is the family of the freeborn sons of Sarah, born from above (John 1:11-13,). How pregnant with meaning the term “brethren” is in the book of Galatians may be seen in all the places where Paul speaks of the saints as brethren: Gal.1:2,11; 3:15; 4:12,28,31; 5:11,13. Paul has never lost confidence that these brethren, “through the Lord,” will be wooed back to the faith, that Christ be once more formed in them (Gal. 4:19;5:10). How much of Paul’s travail of soul is in each of these texts, where he calls them “brethren,” may be seen in the fact that the last word in this entire epistle is “Brethren” (Gal. 6:18).
The Bible never speaks of a brotherhood of fallen mankind, the so-called “brotherhood of man” of which deniers of the Christ speak. This is the language of those who would deny the truth that the church is gathered “out of every tongue, tribe, people, and nation.” Such deny the reality of the enmity which God Himself has made between the seed of the Serpent and the Seed of the Woman (Gen. 3:15; Rev. 7:9-10). The term “brotherhood” is used in Zechariah 11:14 and I Peter 2:17. In both of these cases the term definitely refers to the peculiar tie and relationship between the members of the household of faith. In Zechariah the Lord speaks of the unity between the tribes of Judah and Israel. This tie was symbolized in the one stave which is called “Bands.” When this band is symbolically broken, it refers to the Lord’s sovereign breaking of the “brotherhood between Judah and Israel” (Zech. 11:14). On the other hand, in I Peter 2:17 the term definitely refers to the church of the reborn saints in Christ, the eldest brother, the firstborn brother amongst the brethren, as an eternal abiding family in the Father’s house (John 14:1-3). Here is a brotherhood which is separated from the rest of mankind by God’s sovereign election and reprobation. They are an elect nation, a holy priesthood, a peculiar possession, called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light.
Thus we must view the number of the “brethren” here, as the freeborn sons of Sarah, with the rights to the eternal inheritance in the Fatherhouse with its many mansions. We should notice that Paul speaks here ofa man (anthroopos) in the church, that is overtaken in a fault. Such a man is one of the saints, a chosen one of Christ. He falls into a sin, is overtaken in a transgression. He fell into this sin rather unawares. He is a brother or a sister in Christ, one who professes to be a living member of God’s church. But he (she) is but a man, homo! His breath is in his nostrils. Yet, he is a member of the household of faith. It was by the precious blood of the Lamb, without spot or blemish, that his new status was brought about (I Pet. 1:18). Such brethren call God their Father (Gal. 4:6-7; I Peter 1:17). Such are partakers of the heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1). The term “partakers” (metochoi) does not suggest the idea of personal fellowship (See Heb. 10:33) but rather the participation in some common blessing and privilege. (See Westcott on Hebrews on Heb. 3:1) In this communion of saints, saints in all their imperfection of lust warring against the Spirit, we must see this “man” who is overtaken in a fault, a transgression!
Here in the midst of the redeemed brotherhood, in the household of faith, it happens (yes, in the divine wisdom and pedagogy!) that a man is overtaken in a fault. We are ever surrounded by sin which so easily besets us (Heb. 12:1). The pitfalls of Satan against us are many and various, are they not? Daily we must pray, according to the instruction of Him, who was tempted in all things, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (evil One)” (Matt. 6:13a). This is a prayer in the household of faith. The children of our heavenly Father pray thus for themselves and for all the saints, with whom they know the length and breadth, the height and depth of the love of Christ (Eph. 3:14-19). Here we have the intense battle against Satan, the world, and our own flesh, do we not? We must pray lest we be overcome in this battle, must always give strong resistance until, at last, in glory we have the complete victory, and the victor’s crown! And for this battle we heed the power of the Holy Spirit of Christ (I Peter 1:5; II Peter 1:3). This battle is not a proud Pelagian-humanistic effort, a legalistic work-righteousness, but it is of the battling saint. And he is but a “man,” who was overtaken in a fault.
Yes, Paul says, he was overtaken in a fault!
I believe that we must be cautious not to minimize the “fault” of this saint, this “man,” and conceive of it as being a rather insignificant sin. It is much more according to Scripture to conceive of this sin as being rather grievous, such as “overtook” both a David, a man after God’s heart in the sin of adultery, and Peter in denying his Lord (II Sam. 11:1-5; Luke 22:54-62). Yes, even father Abraham, whose footsteps of faith we must press as sons of adoption, lied, once and again, in moments of weakness (Gen. 12:10-13;20:2). He was overtaken in a fault. Even Isaac was overtaken in the same “fault” (Gen. 26:7-9). And God is called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is He not? He is not ashamed to be called their God as the great city-Builder (Heb. 11:16). It ought not be glossed over that the term in Greek for “fault” is “paraptoomati,” and that this term is translated some seven times in the KJV as “offence,” referring to the Fall of Adam in Paradise. It also refers to our “offence,” for which Christ was delivered to the accursed tree (Rom. 4:25;5:15-20). The term in the Greek is also translated “trespasses” in Eph. 2:5, Col. 2:5, referring to our being legally and spiritually dead. And, therefore, we believe this to be not merely a minor sin, a mere “fault,” which Paul presents as a possibility for a Christian, a man, to be overtaken with. Paul is speaking of a transgression by the Christian of the royal law; he is overtaken by such a “fault”; he falls into sin. He was tempted and succumbed. What a sad spectacle: a fallen saint for whom Christ died. Yet, for him there is the comforting word: I have prayed for you that your faith fail not! (Luke 22:32)
The verb “overtaken” does not mean, as we already suggested, that a fellow-saint found him out. No, it means that “he through weakness fell into sin.” (See “FORM OF BAPTISM”) The German translation of Luther here translates the term overtaken “proleemphthee” by the verb “ubereilt” which is akin to the Holland translation “Overvallen. ” The poor saint fell before he realized it. Hence, here is not the case of a hypocrite, who masqueraded as a saint and is found out, but he is one who has walked in the commandments of God by a true faith in thankfulness but who, at a given time and in an hour of unwatchfulness, was overcome of a transgression. Now his conscience is injured, he is mortified as was a David and Peter by their sin and transgression. He does not feel that he has a rightful place among the brethren anymore, or that he shares in the love of God in Christ Jesus, and, that, too, with the hope of eternal in his heart. All is now dark and distressing for him. He is undone, or at least he must be brought to see the greatness of his sin before a holy God and Father. He lies prostrate in the dust before God. Or he still tried, as did David (Psalm 32:3-4) to shield himself in the hope that he will not be found out. Such a man must be restored!
Such a man must be restored in the spirit of meekness!
The verb in the Greek for “restored” is katarizete. The term means: to adjust thoroughly, to knit together, to unite completely. Once again the “man” must be joined together again in the same mind of Christ (I Cor. 1:1;2:16). The joy and peace which Christ gives to poor and filthy sinners, must, once more, flood his soul with inward and constant delight. He must sing with David of the blessedness of the man whose sins are forgiven (Psalm 32:1). He must experience with holy delight that where sin abounded grace does much more abound (Rom. 5:20). He will then say far more emphatically than before his “fault”: shall I continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid! (Compare Canons of Dordt, Fifth Head Of Doctrine, Articles 4,12-13) Yes, everyone who is perfected (kateerismenon), who is wholly restored and amended, shall be as his master (Luke 6:40). Here is the fulfillment of the law written upon the fleshy heart of the fallen saint!