A Man Overtaken in a Trespass (Galatians 6:1)
Paul states the matter here very carefully and succinctly. This was indeed necessary in the situation in Galatia. There was the sin of using liberty in Christ as an occasion for the flesh. (Galatians 5:13-15) They did not practice sufficiently the truth that the entire law is fulfilled in one word, namely, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself! Hence, they were biting and devouring one another. And the danger was not imaginary that they would be consumed one of the other. In such an atmosphere it would be dangerous not to state a delicate matter carefully, and within its proper proportions and limitations.
The apostle employs a conditional sentence. If a man be overtaken in a fault. This is wholly possible in the church of Christ on earth. When this happens then the situation must be remedied not as would have done the sons of thunder, John and James, the sons of Zebedee. They would have had fire come down from heaven to consume the Samaritans who would not receive Jesus enroute to Jerusalem. The Lord chides them by saying: ye know not of what manner of spirit ye are of! Jesus had set his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem to die on the Cross. His calling is quite different from that of Elijah on Carmal. His is the still small voice heard at the holy mount of God. And it is the still small voice which alone can cope with a situation when a man is overtaken in a fault!
What does it mean to be “overtaken in a fault?” The Greek term is “trespass.” Paul does not speak of a man who walks in sin. The term here means that a man sins, has overstepped the line. He may have sinned against any of the commandments. He did not walk in love as he ought to have. It seems that Paul is referring to a single instance, an incident, which was disturbing to the church. In this he was “overtaken.” Some interpreters would hold that this being “overtaken” means that his sin and guilt are established beyond any shadow of a doubt. He is already convicted. Other, however, explain this to mean that a man was overtaken by a fault. He fell into temptation. He was tempted somehow by the Devil, the world and his own flesh. He did not give strong resistance through the Holy Spirit. The result is that he was surprised, looking back, that he committed what he did. It was a rude awakening for him. Suddenly he sees the full implication of his trespass!
There is something very delicate in Paul’s speaking of a “man” being overtaken in a fault. We all are sinners. We are but man! And sin so easily besets us. We all stumble in many. There is here a warning finger which none of the genus, called man, can fail to heed. Human sins, human faults in all of human relations—even in the church. This is true whether we be male or female, bond or free, Greek or Barbarian! And even though such faults cannot go unheeded, it must not surprise us too greatly when a “man” is overtaken in a fault! And this man might be you, or it might be I! Surely this is already food for sanctified thought.
RESTORED IN THE SPIRIT OF MEEKNESS—(Galatians 6:1)
It is a very delicate task to restore a brother who has been overtaken in a fault. The term in the Greek is an exhortation in the present tense. Restore such a one and keep on doing so! The verb in the Greek is “katartizein,” which is a verb which is used of fishermen who are mending the rend in their net. () Evidently, the rend here is twofold in the case of a man overtaken in a fault. There is, first of all, the rend in the man’s soul and conscience. He is embarrassed, humiliated; he feels the deep need of a merciful understanding of his sin and plight. The finger is pointed at him of his own conscience before the Lord. But that is not so bad. He knows that the Lord understands! But he must also know that the brethren understand and sympathize with him even as does our merciful High-Priest. This requires deep and pitying sympathy! However, this restoration is also such that he must be restored in the congregation. The unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace has been disrupted. And the rend must be restored, the offense must be removed, depending upon the nature of the trespass! And sadness must be replaced with joy and gladness. There must be joy not only in the church, but even there must be rejoicing by the angels in heaven, who do always behold the face of our Father.
Such restoration must and can only be brought about “in the spirit of meekness.” Scripture often speaks of meekness as a Christian virtue of great price and which is of great value before God. And Paul knows how to admonish to walk in this spirit. Such meekness is the very opposite of coming in a harsh, censorious, sharp and castigating manner. It is the tender concern of a shepherd for his sheep which has gone astray. It is as tender as a nurse, full of bowels of compassion, and which prays for our own enemies. Does not Paul himself write how he is deeply concerned about the Galatians that he can say, “of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you”? (Galatians 4:19) For is this Christ not meek and lowly of heart? (Matthew 11:29) Is he not the King who is meek and lowly, riding upon the foal of an ass?
What is meekness? Is it not the deep confidence that God alone is the Judge, and that he will reward the righteous and punish evil-doers? Meekness is spiritual strength. Wherefore Paul would rather come with meekness, the spirit of meekness, than to come with the rod.
Remember that a man must restore another man! Well, then, let it be done in the spirit of meekness!
YE WHO ARE SPIRITUAL (Galatians 6:1)
It is the duty of the church to restore a brother overtaken in a fault. But not all in the church are able to restore a brother. Only those who are spiritual. This does not mean that those who are not able to restore are carnal. But Paul speaks to those who are and claim to be spiritual. “Ye who are spiritual” says Paul. This means that such are not only living by the Spirit but are also walking in the Spirit. They are not challenging each other and vying with each other for position and for prestige and vain-glory! They walk according to the rule: love is the fulfillment of the law of God!
The Devil cannot cast out the Devil. He is not divided in his kingdom against himself. Well, then, the flesh cannot cast out flesh, the evil in the church and restore a brother overtaken in a fault! It is for this reason that Paul says: ye who are spiritual!
But, then, a warning is uttered!
THE GREAT PIT-FALL IN RESTORING AN ERRING BROTHER. (Galatians 5:1b)
The great pit-fall in restoring an erring brother is that in the act and process of so doing we are tempted to sin. Doctors and nurses must be very careful about becoming contaminated with the very disease they are combating. Many a scientist has died from the results of his own scientific endeavors and explorations. Many a man who has attempted to rescue a drowning man himself became a drowning victim in the attempt, and sad to say, two men drowned instead of one being saved! The rescuers in a burning building must, while they are going about their business, give heed to themselves!
Writes Paul, crisp and clear: taking heed to thyself!
There are two things which we ought to notice here. The first is that Paul changes from the “ye restore” to “take heed to thyself.” He enjoins this in the singular number. Secondly, we ought to notice that this taking heed must ever be simultaneous with the restoring of the brother. Satan enjoys a shining target. He delights in nothing more than that the operation of the restoring of the brother be defeated and that he can add another man to his list of tempted ones! You sally forth to restore the brother, to be a mender of souls? Watch out for the Tempter! This is a delicate business, to be a restorer of souls! Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
FULFILLING THE LAW OF CHRIST (Galatians 6:2)
There are burdens in life which must be borne. Cain said: am I my brother’s keeper? The Christian says; let us bear one another’s burdens. We are members of each other in Christ. He is the Head and we are members of His body. Each has his own place in life. Each has brethren placed about him in this valley of tears.
This is the predominant motif in restoring the brother who is overtaken in a fault. That makes for a spirit of meekness. In this bearing of one another’s burden we see a law. It is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. It is a rule of faith which works by love. It is called here “the law of Christ.” It is that which was exhibited by Christ in the washing of the feet by Jesus in the upper room in the night in which Jesus was betrayed. Pure and undefiled religion before God is to visit widows and orphans in. their affliction and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. That is fulfilling the law of Christ. It is the very opposite of biting and devouring one another.
Writes the Rev. G.G. Findlay “This law (of Christ G.L.) makes the Church one body, with a solidarity of interests and obligations. It finds employment and discipline for the energy of Christian freedom, in yoking it to the service of the overburdened. It reveals the dignity and privilege of moral strength, which consists not in enjoyment of its own superiority, but in its power to bear ‘the infirmities of the weak.’ This was the glory of Christ ‘who pleased not himself’. (Rom. 15:1-4) The Giver of the law is its great Example. ‘Being in the form of God’ He ‘took the form of a servant’ . . . . . ; He became obedient unto death of the Cross. (Phil. 2:1-8). . . . .There is no limit to the service which the redeemed brotherhood of Christ may expect from its members” Let us not forget that when I could have helped my brother in aiding him in bearing his crushing load, and did not, I have failed in fulfilling the law of Christ; I have not done so unto the least of Christ’s brethren.
Says Jesus: Amen, Amen I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them! (John 13:16, 17)