COMMENTARY ON GALATIANS
LESSON NUMBER 56
Gal 6:1 "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted."
RESTORING THE ONE OVERTAKEN IN A FAULT
When a person or a church adopts "another gospel," and begins to depend upon flesh, people will be overtaken in a fault, or caused to live in error. That is simply what happens, because spiritual advance cannot be made "in the flesh" - and "another gospel" is always one that is in and of the flesh. That is, it is always of human origin, and never of Divine origin - unless it is a judgment for not receiving the love of the truth (2 Thess 2:10). If believers do not grow up into Christ "in all things" (Eph 4:15), taking heed to build themselves up on their most holy faith (Jude 1:20), the flesh becomes corresponding stronger, pulling its victim into the quagmire of transgression. The reason this takes place is that the flesh is can only be crucified by faith, and faith owes its presence and strength to the Holy Spirit. It is His "fruit" (Gal 5:22). Furthermore, the Law, which the Galatians had embraced, "is not of faith" (Gal 3:12). Wherever a Law mentality is embraced, faith is placed into the background, and in that condition, by default, sin comes into the foreground, and does so with strength. This is why it was necessary for Paul to speak of restoration, for a person who departs from the faith, being removed from the who called him into grace, restoration is necessary. There is a sense in which those overtaken in a fault have to be brought to a place where the Lord will once again receive them (2 Cor 6:17-18). To put it another way, when someone is removed from the One who called them, they must be restored, or reconciled. Our text will confirm that often, if not always, this involves the endeavors of someone who is "spiritual." In fact, our text is an example of this taking place on a congregational level. Paul, who is himself in accord with the Lord, and living by faith, is laboring through this epistle to bring the Galatians back into harmony with the God they had left. If it sounds serious, it is because it is. In today's Christian world, a propensity to law is not considered to be a serious matter. In fact, it is often perceived as the preferred way. People imagine that men are at liberty to think in this manner, and that it ought to be tolerated in love. However, out text shows us a more excellent way.
IF A MAN BE OVERTAKEN IN A FAULT
Gal 6:1a "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault . . ."
This salutation suggests that everyone in Galatia had not participated in the defection. As with the dead church in Sardis, there may very well have been, "even" there, those who had "not defiled their garments" (Rev 3:4). It was also said of the church in Thyatira "many" had not embraced the false doctrine taught by a false prophetess termed "Jezebel" (Rev 2:24).
BRETHREN. Other versions read, "My friends," NRSV and "Brothers and sisters." GWN This term does not suggest that everyone in Galatia were in Christ, accepted in the Beloved, and living by faith. The word is addressed to a precise category of people: "brethren." These are the people Jesus is "not ashamed" to call "brethren" (Heb 2:11) - the "sons" He is bringing to glory (Heb 2:10). These are the people who have passed from death unto life, and their love for one another confirms this to be true (1 John 3:14). As a body of people, they are known as "the brethren" (Eph 6:23; 1 Thess 5:26; 1 Tim 4:6; 1 Pet 1:22; 1 John 3:16). No inspired man ever assumed people were in this category. It was the responsibility of every person to examine himself and determine if he had been begotten of God, born of God, delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the Kingdom of God's dear Son. This all comes under the heading of examining oneself to see if you are "in the faith" (2 Cor `13:5). If so, words such as this are to be taken personal, and a God-honoring response rendered. Actually, this exhortation holds no meaning whatsoever to those who have removed themselves from God and are living in alienation from Him. Such a person does not have the faintest notion of the meaning of "spiritual," whereas it resonates upon the heart of the elect.
One of the great transgressions of the modern church is the assumption that everyone identified with a religious institution is in Christ, and are consequently brethren. This has been the occasion for confusion and, in some cases, of compromise. Each believer must take the admonition of Peter seriously: "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye DO these things, ye shall never fall" (2 Pet 1:10).
OVERTAKEN. Other versions read, "overtaken in any trespass," NKJV "caught in a trespass," NASB "caught in a sin," NIV "detected in a transgression," NRSV "taken in any wrongdoing," BBE "suddenly taken in any offence," GENEVA "gets trapped by wrongdoing, GWN "discovered in some sin," NET and "Trapped in sin." CEV
As used in this text, the word "overtaken" is translated from a word meaning, "to take one by forestalling (him I. e. before he can flee or conceal his crime)," THAYER "surprise, overtake, detect; passive be overtaken, be caught (unawares)," FRIBERG and "to learn something by surprise - 'to detect, to surprise, to catch, to be discovered." LOUW-NIDA
This language speaks of being snared, or taken captive, because the person was walking in the flesh, and too close to the wicked one. It is like a moth that flies around a flame again and again, each time getting closer, until its wings are singed, and it falls helpless to the ground. To be "overtaken" is to have spent too much time in a dangerous area. It is to have traveled too far in an environment dominated by the enemy. The further one ventures into such territory the less sensitive they become to very real danger.
IN A FAULT. A "fault" is a trespass, offence, or sin. STRONG'S Technically, it is "a deviation from the truth and uprightness; a sin or misdeed," THAYER and "as a deviation from living according to what has been revealed as the right way to live false step, sin, transgression; used of serious offenses against both God and men." FRIBERG This is the result of ceasing to walk in the Spirit, and beginning to walk in the flesh. It is leaving the highway of holiness, and adopting the world's manners. It is the result of forgetting one was purged from his old sins, and finally arriving at a point where truth and the lie cannot be seen, and the conscience is deadened.
The person who is overtaken in a fault cannot extract himself. He has walked too close to the pit, and has thus fallen into it. Every time such a person conceded to the flesh, he became weaker. His vision became less precise, and his heart was hardened.
A lot precedes being overtaken in a fault. The devil cannot invade the heavenly places, and cannot touch what is born of God (1 John 5:18). However, when a person chooses to live apart from faith, he has no alternative but to step into the domain that is ruled by the wicked one. That is an area in which Satan is invincible. When a person does not take the way of escape that is provided by God with every temptation (1 Cor 10:13), the Lord cannot be mocked. Soon the escape route cannot be found, and the person is taken captive by the devil (2 Tim 2:26). Now, someone must come to their assistance, for the devil has captured them, and there is not a thing they can do about it, In fact, they do not even know they are captives.
The wisdom of men cannot help people who have been taken in the fault! There is no system of recovery that has been developed by men that can accomplish such a task. Those who present such plans have not told the truth. Any thoughts they have about the imagined success of their systems is only a delusion. Only the Lord can deliver. That is why He, and He alone, is called "the Deliverer" (Rom 11:26). Those who had to be delivered from the guilt and power of sin initially, cannot deliver themselves from subsequent captivity to sin.
YE WHICH ARE SPIRITUAL
6:1b " . . . ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness . . ."\
There is a sense in which the correction of the Galatian churches will come from those who are among them. Paul is sending an epistle to correct their understanding, but the actual restoration will be wrought by those within those churches who have perception. This is in perfect harmony with apostolic teaching concerning ministration and edification through various ministries within the body (Eph 4:11-16; Rom 12:3-6, etc.). Now, those with ears to hear will take heed to the means of restoration.
YE WHICH ARE SPIRITUAL. Other versions read, "you who have received the Spirit," NSRV "you who are of the Spirit," BBE "you who have the Spirit," CJB "you who are godly," NLT and "you who are spiritual [who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit]." AMPLIFIED
A "spiritual" person is one who is "spiritually minded" (Rom 8:6), and is described as one who does "mind the things . . . the things of the Spirit" (Rom 8:5). It is the opposite of being "carnally minded," which "is death" (Rom 8:6). This is a person who is thoroughly capable of "judging all things" (1 Cor 2:15), perceiving the real circumstance, and having access to the real resources. No other person should attempt to restore someone who has been captured by the devil. For example, Paul could not speak to the Corinthians "as unto spiritual," but had to lisp to them in spiritual baby-talk (1 Cor 3:3). A "spiritual" person can hear the things of God and readily acknowledge what is really a command from God (1 Cor 14:37). A person who has trouble grasping the truth, having to mull over it for lengthy periods of time, should not attempt the action here described.
Those with "spiritual understanding" (Col 1:9) can discern the "things of the Spirit" (Rom 8:6; 1 Cor 2:14), or the things that the Spirit teaches. The Holy Spirit guides into the truth, and shows the children of God "things to come" (John 16:13). He is the "Anointing" who teaches effectively, so that the individual who is taught by Him "knows all things," being able to traffic in the truth, and, consequently, abides in Christ (1 John 2:20,27). The person who is so taught is "not ignorant" of Satan's "devices" (1 Cor 2:11), and has his "senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb 5:14). This is the kind of person who is dispatched to restore the fallen ones, not the immature who cannot handle the Word of God aright (2 Tim 2:15).
Spiritual people are difficult to find these days, just as surely as they apparently were in Galatia. Flesh is too dominant in the modern church, which condition reduces the possibility of fallen people being restored. I have frequently witnessed novices attempt to restore their friends who have fallen, only to be themselves captured by the devil again. As soon as they commenced their attempts their thinking became distorted, they became critical of the brethren instead of the fallen ones, and foolishly and inordinately exposed themselves to one in whim the devil was working freely, and with little, if any, inhibition.
No person should jeopardize their own soul in an effort to reach another soul. There is a very definite sense in which this is tempting God. Paul wisely admonished Timothy, "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee" (1 Tim 4:16). Those who fail to do this will have no success in restoring the fallen, and should make no attempts to do so.
RESTORE SUCH AN ONE. Other versions read, "should restore," NIV "put such a one right," BBE "should set him right," CJB "instruct such," DOUAY "help that person turn away from doing wrong," GWN "recover him," MRD "correct that one," NAB "help that person back onto the right path," NLT and "help to amend him." TNT
To restore someone overtaken in a fault is to one's spirit what the healing of infirmity is to the body: the malady is removed, and wholeness is restored. Restoration, or recovery, is not merely refraining from the transgression that has overtaken the person, but turning the person from darkness to light, so that they are once again "alive unto God" and "dead indeed unto sin" (Rom 6:11). If the fallen individual does not commence to live unto God, live by faith, and walk in the Spirit, they have not been restored.
IN THE SPIRIT OF MEEKNESS. Other versions read, "in the spirit of gentleness," NKJV "gently," NIV "in a spirit of love," BBE "spirit of humility," CJB and "without any sense of superiority and with all gentleness." AMPLIFIED The point here is to avoid awakening even more hostility in the fallen one. Yet, in this text, this is not for the sake of the one who has been overtaken in a sin, although that is involved (2 Tim 2:24-26). The "spirit of meekness" is one in which the person is not "quarrelsome, but kind to all, able to teach, and patient when wronged" (2 Tim 2:24, NASB). Such a one is not seeking to argue, and does whatever is necessary to avoid giving flesh the advantage. This does not infer that compromises are made, or transgression treated lightly. It does mean that a "spiritual" person is able to detect Satan's ploys and avoid them. As we will see, the aim is not to put the transgressor at ease, and lead such to view their infraction of the will and word of the Lord as though it was minor. It is never of minor significance for a person to be overcome by the devil, brought into bondage to sin, or overtaken in a fault.
6:1c " . . . considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted."
The teaching to which we are being exposed is not at all common in our time. I know of no approach to restoring fallen souls that makes much of this aspect of the matter. The modern emphasis is generally placed on the one being restored. Here, however, it is placed upon the one doing the restoring. He is to think about himself.
CONSIDERING THYSELF. Other versions read, "looking to yourself," NASB "watch yourself," NIV "take care," NRSV "for fear that yourself may be tested," BBE "keep watch on yourself," ESV be ye cautious," MRD and "keeping an attentive eye on yourself." AMPLIFIED This parallels the word Paul gave to Timothy: "Take heed unto thyself" (1 Tim 4:16). Married couples who refrain from ordinary relations to give themselves to prayer and fasting are told to "come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency" (1 Cor 7:5). Again, those who feel they are solid in the faith are admonished, "let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor 10:12). Paul told the elders of Ephesus, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves" (Acts 20:28). Those who build on the Foundation are admonished, "let ever man take heed how he buildeth thereupon" (1 Cor 3:10). Archippus was admonished, "Take heed unto the ministry thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it" (Col 4:17). Paul wrote to Titus, "In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity" (Titus 2:7). Hebrew believers were told, "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God" (Heb 12:15). John the beloved wrote to the elect lady and her children, "Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward" (2 John 1:8).
Jude approaches this subject in the same manner, warning those who pull people out of the fire to do so with care, and even with fear. "And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh" (Jude 1:22-23). Saving "with fear" is not attempting to frighten people into returning to the Lord. Here, the fear is found in the one doing the saving, not in the one being saved. The Amplified Bible reads, "on others take pity [but] with fear, loathing even the garment spotted by the flesh and polluted by their sensuality."When we are in the proximity of the devil's work, there is danger to be considered. If we are not "spiritual" we will not be able to detect his presence and influence. In such a case, we will approach the sinner as though he simply did something wrong, and requires someone to clarify the matter for him. However, this is not at all the way things are.
The person who is "overtaken in a fault" has been captured by the devil, and is under his control. The situation is similar to that of a young boy who was dominated by a demon who moved him to jump in fire and water, and even wallow on the ground foaming. When Christ's disciples, who had cast out demons before, attempted to cast the demon out of that boy, they could not do sol - and they were not accustomed to failing. When they asked Jesus why they failed, He candidly told them the real situation. Matthew records Jesus saying, "Because of your unbelief," adding "Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting" (Matt 17:19-21). Some modern versions omit this explanation. NIV/NRSV
In our text, Paul provides an even more extensive insight. He states it is necessary that the one doing the restoring be "spiritual" - that is, having the mind of the Spirit, and a keen awareness of the situation. It is essential that a believer be able to assess their own progress and status in the faith - particularly if they are going to deal with those under Satan's control.
LEST THOU ALSO BE TEMPTED. Other versions read, "Take care that you yourselves are not tempted," NRSV "you yourself may be tested," BBE "put to the test in some way," NJB and "fall into the same temptation yourself." NLT
Just as "a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (Gal 5:9), so Satan's influence also spreads, contaminating unalert souls in the proximity of those he dominates. This is the fatal flaw of those who advocate making worldly friends. It is why fleshly friendship is never held out as a deterrent to Satan's work,. Or a Divinely sanctioned means of saving or rescuing one caught in the devil's snare.
It ought to be noted here that friendship and fleshly relation can in no way neutralize what Satan is doing. On the other hand, what Satan does can take hold of unwary souls, luring them into the very same snare as that of the one they are attempting to rescue. This is why godly parents should never willingly subject their children to those who are dominated by the wicked one - whether friends or relatives. If believers that are not mature can be adversely impacted by those controlled by Satan, how can we expect children to be free from such dangers?
Among other things, this text shows the necessity of being "spiritual" - filled with, and led by, the Holy Spirit of God. This is not an option for the people of God, for "they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom 8:8). For this reason, they dare not attempt to rescue those who have been overcome by sin. Their attention must be focused on growing up into Christ.