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. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. [Gal 6:1-2]
The last chapter ended with a challenge, that if we live in the Spirit to also walk in the Spirit. Then, the opposite of this was to desire “vain glory”, and to provoke and envy one another. If we recall back to 5:19-21, the vain glory is very much in accord with the works of the flesh. And there is nothing like law-keeping religion to excite the works of the flesh. But this does not need to be, and Paul does not call on the Galatian believers to shun those operating in the energy of the flesh. He is seeking their restoration. He is not seeking restitution. In this call, it is instructional and an example for us all living under grace, that whether doctrinal faults as in Galatia, or behavioral faults as in Corinth, there should be spiritual believers who take it upon themselves to restore the ailing brother. That was the entire point of this epistle that the Lord gave to Paul to write, and has preserved for our edification and instruction. Those overtaken by the false doctrine of the false apostles needed to be restored to the place from which they had fallen. They needed to be restored to grace.
Sometimes, it seems, there is a joy to see grief in someone that has caused grief in you. That is not, however, walking in the Spirit. That is pure fleshly energy. That is not operating under grace or showing the grace that you have received to others. It is not the way that Paul dealt with the Galatians or the Corinthians:
And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is [the joy] of you all. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which [was inflicted] of many. So that contrariwise ye [ought] rather to forgive [him], and comfort [him], lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm [your] love toward him. For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. To whom ye forgive any thing, I [forgive] also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave [it], for your sakes [forgave I it] in the person of Christ; [2Co 2:3-10]
The goal of all of it was not grief. It was rather the repentance of him that was in the wrong. It would not, and should never be a stick to beat the offender down.
Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. [2Co 7:9-10]
We live in a day and age here in America when no one is supposed to “judge” anyone. Matthew 7:1 has become the most important verse of scripture. But let us remember that we do not have an “anything goes” Christianity. We have been called to holiness (1Cor 6:20, Col 1:22, and many more). The goal of correction is not “judging” but it is restoration. I cannot restore my car by ignoring the rust and I cannot restore my brother by ignoring the fault. But I can graciously come along side him and restore him, and then rejoice in his restoration.
Notice too that the instruction is to “ye which are spiritual”. The ministry of restoration is not for everyone. The Christian operating in the flesh cannot restore another Christian operating in the flesh. Only those who are walking in the Spirit are qualified.
But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. [1Co 2:15-16]
This is not in any way to say that restoration ministry is best left up to the professionals, but it does mean that if one is not walking properly himself, he has no energy to help someone else.
Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? [Luk 6:39]
The Christian who is walking in the spirit will walk in a spirit of meekness. He will not be operating in anger, and will not joy in the fall of others. There does come a time when the rod of correction (1Cor 4:21) is necessary, but coming in the spirit of meekness is the Lord’s way of correcting. There is a time when the erring brother will not take correction. There may be a time too that the sin is so gross that the heavy hand of correction must come quickly, but even then remember the goal:
For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, [concerning] him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. [1Co 5:3-5]
How wonderful it will be to see our brother who was in error confirmed, and saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Let us not confuse this with justification, for that was by grace when we believed on Him Who justifies the ungodly, but at the judgment seat of Christ, we want to see our brother richly rewarded. How great a blessing we will have been to him.
Let us remember too that we are also capable of falling into error.
…considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
As we consider ourselves having also the possibility to fall into sin and error, let us treat our brother in the way we wish to be restored. Verse 2 gives the call to bear one another’s burdens. We can only do this here. We may wish to bear another’s burden at the judgment seat, but we will all only bear our own there (vs 5). This ministry is available to the believer walking in the spirit now.
As we bear one another’s burdens we do fulfill the law of Christ. While we are not under law, it is a joy to fulfill it simply by walking in the Spirit.
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. [Rom 8:4]
The law of Christ may refer here to simply living in the way that is prescribed to us living under grace. Paul may also be hearkening back to something specific, like:
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. [Mat 7:12]
In either case, there is encouragement and warning here. You believers walking in the Spirit, work for the restoration of your brother. And do it in the kindness that you would want to be shown if you were the one at fault. Remember the grace that was shown to you:
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. [Eph 4:32]