Paul now changes his way of addressing these Galatian believers. Right off he uses the word, “Brethren,” which denotes an abrupt transition from the “selfishness” he had been addressing (5:26) to “selflessness,” (6:1-2).
VERSES 1-2: BROTHERLY CONCERN
VERSE 1: Restoring the Sinning Brother
“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.”
By his use of the word “brethren,” (adelphoi) Paul is now attempting to get his exhortation on a personal plane. He is using this word “brethren,” (adelphoi) as an expression of kindness to catch their attention.
THE OBJECT OF RESTORATION
“if a man be overtaken in a fault”
Literally: “if a man is taken in some deviation”
This could also have been rendered as, “If a man has been entrapped, or falls into a fault.” We might put it in our own words to say, “If a man is caught doing something wrong.” Regarding why Paul brings out this issue, Warren Wiersbe, in his book, Be Free, says, “Because nothing reveals the wickedness of legalism better than the way the legalists treat those who have sinned.” Just look at how the scribes and Pharisees wanted the adulterous woman to be stoned to death (John 8:3-5). Also, these same Jews wanted to kill Paul because they thought (without a shred of evidence) that he had taken a Gentile in to the temple courtyard of the Israelites (Acts 21:27-29).
OVERTAKEN: (prolêmphthêi)–This word literally means, “to take before; to anticipate,” or “forestall.”
We might say that it means, “to be surprised by the fault,” or “hurried into error,” or before he is really aware of it. Although it cannot be denied that what the man may have done is sin, this means that he may have been influenced by someone else to participate in that sin (fault). In this case it is referring to the Galatian Christian who has been deceived by the Judaizers; however, the principle shown here is that it could apply to any situation where a child of God has been led unwittingly into a moral or doctrinal error.
There is some disagreement among Bible expositors as to what was Paul’s real intent in this verse. Some expositors even think that Paul refers to the Christian himself being overtaken by the sin before he is even aware that he has done any wrong; while others contend that this refers to the act of a Christian detecting a fellow believer in the commission of a sin, or catching him unawares in it. Either interpretation might be appropriate.
The problem that Paul is addressing here is the danger that those who are really trying to live the Christian life is that they are apt to judge the fallings of others too harshly. These are those sorts who really do not display the compassion of the Christ. Regarding such, one would not go and sob out a story of failure or defeat, for they would be unsympathetic and judgmental.
FAULT: (paraptôma)–This word literally means, “a fall beside, a false step, a blunder, a failure to achieve. Simply speaking, it means “sin,” or “wrong doing; a slip or lapse.”
Paul uses the Greek word paraptôma (which simply means “sin,” or “wrong doing”) to show that he is not necessarily referring to a deliberate sin, but a slip that might come to someone, like being on a dangerous path or icy road. He is referring to those believers who, though desiring to do the right thing, end up doing the wrong thing because he is not fully acquiring for himself the Spiritual guidance for Christian living. He may still be relying on some sort of legalistic rules or regulations. As a result, he has lapsed into a sin because he is not spiritually able to prevent it.
THE MEANS OF RESTORATION
“ye which are spiritual”
Literally: “the spiritual ones”
This is referring to the spiritually led (5:18); the spiritual experts in mending souls. Paul means, you who still retain the grace of the Gospel, and have wisdom and experience in spiritual things; you who are advanced in Christian knowledge and experience. Even the most spiritual Christians, and those most advanced in knowledge and piety, are still exposed to aggravated sins. The knowledge of this should make them kind and compassionate towards all sinners, and active in efforts to reclaim them. It should make them also watchful, humble, and prayerful; remembering that but for the grace of God they might have been doing the same sins.
“restore such an one in the spirit of meekness;”
Literally: “restore such a one in the spirit of meekness
RESTORE: (katartizete)-–This Greek word is used of reconciling factions. It lays the stress on curing, not punishing.
Meaning of Restore:
This word is used in a medical term for “setting a broken bone,” or of mending nets (Mark 1:19), or of equipping or preparing (Rom. 9:22). It is even used in a military sense for supplying an army with provisions, or manning a fleet. As used here by Paul, he means, “to set the erring brother right,” or “to bring him into line.”
Qualifications of the Restorers:
1. They must be “brethren”–(adelphoi)
Keep the problem “in the family;” let the solution be done by “the family.” Do not air the “dirty laundry” to the unsaved world (I Cor. 6:1-8), for it really is none of their business, and they really could not see there was any problem. Solomon said, “a friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17).
2. They must be “spiritual”–(pneumatikoi)
More problems will arise when a legalist or carnal believer attempts to correct a sinning brother.
Restoration must be done by those who are walking in the Spirit, and who are producing the fruit of the Spirit. Only such people can act out of love, gentleness and proper spiritual wisdom. Notice that Paul says, “ye” which are spiritual. In the KJV, this word “ye” denotes more than one, while “you” simply refers to one person. Our modern English does not differentiate between the plural and singular word “you.”
Understand this one important point: restoration is not a voluntary ministry; rather, it is an obligation given to every spiritual brother. The Greek word for “restore” (katartizete)-–is really a repetitious word, meaning that the spiritual believer should be prepared to do the job over and over. It is a continuous process, involving time, patience and discipleship training. It cannot be accomplished in some instant crisis experience. In using the analogy of mending a net, every believer may be seen as the net for drawing others to Christ (“fishers of men”). If a “rip” occurs in the net, (“the fault”), then the spiritual brothers must serve to “sew up” the weaker brother (“net”). He is to be assisted in this job by the pastor who was given to the local assembly, “for the perfecting (same word) of the saints” so that the saints might be doing the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:12).
THE ATTITUDE OF RESTORATION
“considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”
Literally: “considering yourself; that you not also be tempted”
I love the way that Dr. David Stern, in his translation of the Jewish New Testament, worded this phrase. He said, “keeping on eye on yourselves so that you won’t be tempted too.” This is about as clear as it can be stated. This is why Paul warned Timothy, “watch thou in all things…” (II Tim. 4:5).
There are two most important attitudes for the ones who restore.
1. They must restore “in the spirit of meekness.”
a. They must be characterized by the fruit of the Spirit (5:23)
b. They must not display an attitude of judgmental criticism.
c. They must be firm, yet tender and compassionate toward the sinning one.
2. They must restore in the spirit of self-protection.
a. They must not be holier-than-thou.
There is a great difference between a man who being suddenly assailed falls into sin, and the man who transgressed in consequence of having “walked in the counsel of the ungodly, or stood in the way of SINNERS.”
b. They must be constantly scrutinizing their own lives, while at the same time they are ministering to the sinning brother.
c. They must understand that the holiest saint or most spiritual man here on earth is within the reach of temptation;
and may possibly fall himself; therefore he ought to treat a fallen brother with great tenderness and regard.
The purpose for this self-evaluation is seen in the negative clause, “…let thou also be tempted.” Restorers must be aware that they are capable of committing the same fault. All Christians must recognize that they will fulfill the lust of the flesh if they stop walking in the Spirit. Spiritual experts (preachers in particular) need this caution. Satan loves a shining mark.
VERSE 2: Bearing the Burdens of the Brother
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
This is a general precept, and requires us to sympathize with our brethren in all their sorrows and sufferings, and to bear a part with them under the load and burden of oppressive loads and desires; particularly, bearing with the weaknesses and infirmities of our brethren.
“Bear ye one another’s burdens,”
Literally: “Keep on bearing one another’s burdens”
In the original Greek text, this word for “bear” (bastazô) is in the present active imperative tense denoting a continuous action. It is the same word used of Jesus bearing His Cross in John 19:17. The noun baros means weight as in Matt. 20:12; II Cor. 4:17. It describes when one's load (phortion)–v. 5, is about to press one down; then give him help in carrying it. It means to have sympathy or feeling for each other; and consider the case of a distressed brother as your own. The problem addressed here is that every man has peculiar temptations and easily besetting sins, which constitute for him a heavy burden. We should aid each other in regard to these situations and problems, and help one another to overcome them.
The truly spiritual believer will not just be concerned about the problems of others, but he will also actively take upon himself their cares. We are to help each other, sustain each other, and if we see one about to stumble under his burden, hold him up. Regarding this, Warren Wiersbe says, “The legalist is always harder on other people than he is on himself, but the Spirit-led Christian demands more of himself than he does of others that he might be able to help them.”
“and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
Literally: “and so you will fulfil the Law of Christ”
In our English translation it may seem that the “burdens” in v. 2 and the “burden” in v. 5 are the same, and there may even seem to be a contradiction between the two verses. However, in v. 2 the bear means “heavy burdens;” that is, those too great for one to bear alone. In v. 5 the burden is phortion, which means, “a pack,” just the right size for a man to carry. We must each bear our own packs of trouble. The Law of Christ which we are to fulfill is the golden rule of love for brethren.
The Greek word rendered as “fulfil” is from pleroô, which here means, “to satisfy the requirements of.” Also, know that in the Greek text the definite article, “the” is found before “Christ”–i.e., The Christ. This use of this wording gives the law here an official character and importance. Christ gave us His own example: He bore the diseases of the infirm in that He showed compassion for them by healing them (Matt. 8:17). He also bore the cross (John 19:17) and subsequently the sins of the world on His own body.
The believer “fulfills the Law of Christ” when he likewise removes the weights that would crush others. In the body of Christ, “the members should have the same care one for another. An whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it” (I Cor. 12:25-26). Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The spiritual believer will immediately respond in the affirmative.
The Law of Christ will not allow us to reproach an offender, or to taunt him, or to rejoice in his fall as so many would do. We are to help him to take up his load of infirmities, and sustain him by our counsels, our exhortations, and our prayers. Christians who are conscious of their infirmities, have a right to the sympathy and the prayers of their brethren. They should not be cast off to a cold and heartless world; a world rejoicing over their fall, and ready to brand them as hypocrites. They should be covered by brotherly kindness; and prayers should be made to ascend without ceasing around an erring and a fallen brother.
By his use of the term, “Law of Christ,” Paul seems to be saying to these sliding back Galatian believers, “if you are so het up about obeying a Law, then obey, or fulfill, the Law of the Christ.
VERSES 3-5: PROPER CHRISTIAN ATTITUDES
Regarding attitudes, Solomon wrote, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). Attitudes are basically more important than actions because they produce the latter. Your attitude determines whether an action is genuine or hypocritical.
VERSE 3: Attitude of Humility
“For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”
This verse emphasizes that if a person has the conceited idea that he is morally and spiritually superior, that to what he really is, this supposition tends to make him unwilling to take the burden of responsibility for restoring a sinning believer. Any believer who has such an attitude, is deceiving himself as to this own true statues, and is certainly far from fulfilling the Law of Christ.
“For if a man think himself to be something,”
Literally: “For if anyone thinks to be something”
If he has a high conceit of his own knowledge and attainments as a Christian. Every Christian will have some opinion of himself, but if he is a Spirit-led Christian he will have a biblical opinion of himself; however, it will not be a high opinion of himself. Such a Christian knows that he is whatever he is by the grace of God (I Cor. 15:10). He will glory in the Lord, and not in his flesh.
But in contrast: the legalist or carnal Christian will have, and display, high opinions of himself–“For if a man think himself to be something…” As we can see, Paul was not impressed by such individuals, and neither was Christ. He criticized the arrogant spirit of the Pharisee who prayed, “God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are” (Luke 18:11). God hates such proud attitudes and looks (Prov. 6:17). Here is described the man who has proud thoughts of himself, who thinks himself more righteous and holy, more steady and steadfast, than his fallen brother.
“when he is nothing,”
Literally: “being nothing”
There are no people more censorious or uncharitable than those among some religious people who pretend to more light and a deeper communion with God. They are generally carried away with a sort of sublime, high sounding phraseology, which seems to argue a wonderfully deep acquaintance with Divine things; stripped of this, many of them are like Samson without his hair.
Pride, in the sight of God, is despicable. What makes pride even worse is when the person really has nothing to be proud of–“when he is nothing.” There is an old Arab proverb that says, “If a man know not, and know not that he knows not; he is a fool; shun him!” The Church of Laodicea was proud and thought it was rich and self-sufficient, but Christ said of them that they were to be “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17).
“he deceiveth himself.”
Literally: “he deceives himself”
“ leads his own mind astray”–A.T. Robertson
The logical result of pride is self-deception–“he deceiveth himself.” Paul used the term “deceivers” for the Judaizers who attacked the churches in Crete (Titus 1:10). Self-conceit is the chief hindrance to displaying sympathy towards our fellow men. Every believer must realize that he is totally dependent on the grace of God for his salvation and daily enablement. This must be true so that no flesh should glory before God (I Cor. 1:29).
VERSE 4: Attitude of Self-Fulfillment
“But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another”
This verse deals with the self-deceived man of v. 3, who boasts of his own superiority when he compares himself with the Christian brother who has fallen into sin. His only ground for boasting is only in respect of his much-touted “superiority” to his weaker brother.
“But let every man prove his own work,”
Literally: “But let each one prove his work”
That is, put it to the test by comparing it with the Word of God, the Bible and the infallible rule which he has given, and by which we are to be judged in that last great day. Notice Paul said his works, not merely his own opinion of himself. Instead of commenting upon the weaknesses of others, let him test his own work. If his work stands the test, then he can rejoice in it, but not because he is superior to another. A man proves (tests) his own work by asking himself these questions: “Did I complete the task? Did I do it for the glory of God, and not mine?”
PROVE: (dozimazô)–This Greek word, which is here rendered as “prove,” (literally meaning “test,”) is often used by Paul.
In ancient Greece the primary application of this word was for testing metals (e.g. gold, or even iron) to see whether they are pure. This makes this word an appropriate metaphor for testing one’s moral worth, and influence. However, understand that this “proving” may even be influenced by our attitude.
This verse gives the remedy for self-conceit: “Let a man prove himself.” Put your life out there where we can see if it is all you say it is. When compared with another’s, a man’s work might come off well; but when tested on its own merits it may not win the seal of approval. To put this verse plainly, Paul is saying that Christians are not to form any estimate of themselves by comparing themselves with others, but to put themselves to the test to find out just what is their true characters and lives that merits approval from the Lord.
“And then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone”
Literally: “and then he alone will have a boast in himself”
If it is shown by his testing that he has passed the test; in the evidence which he has of his own conformity in heart and life to God's truth, he might have something to rejoice about, but he alone will have cause for that rejoicing. His rejoicing should be in private, not in public self-glorying.
“In himself” might have been better rendered as “with regard to himself,” or, “concerning himself.” The point of this phrase seems to be that an individual believer may easily deceive himself concerning his abilities and spiritual worth, but when he steps back and takes an objective look at himself in light of the Word of God his ego and pride is shattered. Any means the believer may have in boasting will simply lie in what his own examination has told him–in his merits as compared to his own advantage.
REJOICING: (kauchema)–This Greek word literally means, “grounds for boasting,” or “object of boasting.” Simply speaking, it means pride or ego-gratifying, self-emulating boasting. However, this word is not to be connected with glory (doxa), which is to always be connected with God.
“and not in another”
Literally: “and not as to another”
In the Greek this is a general expression, and it means, “in respect of the other,” which would suggest not any other besides himself.
VERSE 5: Attitude of Accountability
“For every man shall bear his own burden.
As was pointed out in verse 3, this word rendered as “burden” is phortion, which means, “a pack,” (such as a backpack) just the right size for a man to carry. We must each bear our own packs of trouble, i.e., carry our own weight, and not always go running to others for help. Each of us is to be held accountable for our own actions, not those of others. A truly spiritual believer will bear the responsibility for his own tasks; likewise, he will not attempt to blame others, or adverse conditions, for his own failures. A truly Spirit-led believer will joyfully help others with their problems, but he understands that he must shoulder his own accountability alone.
The connecting word “for” (gar), really joins this verse to verse 4, or is at least a continuation of the same thought. The reason why a believer cannot rejoice in the failures of others is because he knows he must give an account of himself before Christ (Rom. 14:10), and because he that Christ Himself will try his works at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Cor. 3:13). Then Christ’s own future examination will show whether the man’s personal examination of his own work was honest and true.