When Others Do Wrong

Studies in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

by Bob Burridge ©2017

Lesson 15: Galatians 6:1-5 (video)

When Others Do Wrong

Small things can have devastating effects if they aren’t taken care of right away. A tiny loose thread is easily overlooked until it gets pulled and a knit sweater starts to unravel. We appreciate it when a friend points it out so we can fix it before the damage is done.

When we’re driving on an interstate and not paying close attention, it’s easy to miss an exit and end up going miles out of the way. It’s helpful to have an alert passenger to help us watch for things like that.

On a more serious scale it’s happened to nations in the course of history. People get lulled into not paying serious attention to actual policies and laws being passed. Slick talking politicians get them excited about impossible promises and tough talk, but their words can’t alone preserve our liberties and resources. Little by little those nations become weak and vulnerable to enemies.

Little missteps might seem unimportant, but if left unchallenged they lead into dangerous territory. Aiming at something as big as a planet might seem easy enough. But it depends on many small variables. The unexpected effect of the sun shining on a Mars mission space craft caused a very small deviation in it’s path. After about 17 minutes it was pushed off track by about 10 inches. After a month being slowly nudged off course it was off by about 1,891 miles, more than the width of the moon.

People’s lives can get pushed way off track by little things too. Things sneak up on us from seemingly insignificant compromises. They don’t seem to be very bad at first. But when our lives are shaped into patterns that don’t fit with the way God made us to live that little nudge over the years turns us way off course and the consequences can be devastating.

It’s easy to be drawn in little by little until wrong things grow into serious problems. Evil has a way of sneaking up on us, and it’s no accident. This is where we benefit from caring believers who do the hard thing and help us see the danger before it’s too late.

The situation in this first part of Galatians 6 deals with a very real and practical problem. Those we care about, other believers in Christ, often get taken in by something morally wrong. There are right ways and wrong ways to deal with those who need our help.

Verses 1-5 give us a set of principles to guide us.

1. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
2. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
3. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
4. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
5. For each one shall bear his own load.

Believers in Christ still do things they shouldn’t do and neglect things they should do. Since Paul calls them “brothers”, we know he’s still writing to Christians. This isn’t advice for how we deal with those outside the family of the True Church. The ones who are overtaken are those who evidenced that they were redeemed by Jesus Christ.

The previous part of this Letter to the Galatians explains what things he’s talking about. After listing the wrong attitudes and behaviors that come from the fallen heart in 5:22-23 Paul listed the fruit the Holy Spirit produces in God’s people, “… love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

Those who fall into the opposites of these ways, and who get caught up again in behaviors that go against God’s moral principles, are in need of help. The word translated as “trespass” is from the root word “paraptoma” (παρ-άπ-τωμα). The word refers to going where it’s forbidden. More literally it means “to go off the path”. Trespasses are not lesser sins that don’t offend God as much. As Dr. Lenski says, “this word is never used in the mild sense in the New Testament”.

These are the sins that tempt us personally, things we might not be able to see as sinful on our own. They are sometimes immoral things we were brought up with as if there’s nothing wrong with them. They may be things our culture and the unbelieving world excuse as normal. They are things glorified in movies, music, facebook, and television.

The people Paul’s talking about here are overtaken by surprise. They fail to appreciate the danger until the consequences begin to take hold. That’s how the word “overtaken” was used at that time. One ancient writing uses that word to describe a ship suddenly caught by waves. The unexpected swells threw the ship against rocks that tore it apart.

Paul doesn’t mean that the brother transgressing isn’t aware that what he’s doing is wrong. But he’s ignoring the seriousness of it, and suffers the consequences.

When this happens, there is an important responsibility to those who are able to help. We have an obligation to reach out to help those not doing things God’s way.

Those who are “spiritual” are those walking in the spirit as described in the last chapter. They aren’t a special class or rank of Christians. We don’t get divided into spiritual and non-spiritual believers, as if there’s some second step beyond being redeemed. It’s not a second work of grace that sets some apart as better than the rest. Every believer should be striving to live as God guides him by his word, and by the convictions of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

No one is immune to falling into sin. No Christian is perfect. The great King David sinned very seriously. The Apostle Peter pretended he didn’t know Jesus when the Romans arrested his Lord. He even abandoned the Gentile Christians to please some visiting immature Jewish believers (Galatians 2:11-14). Moses fell into sin in the wilderness. Jeremiah had to be taught to trust God’s calling.

When each of them was walking in God’s ways, they were a help to others who were tempted. Sin didn’t become their way of life. They didn’t defended it, excused it, or openly rejected God’s truth.

Those who will not admit their own faults, who get angry when corrected, or who prefer the advice of a God-ignoring world, aren’t behaving as “brothers” in the Lord.

We’re told to restore that person The Greek word here for, “you restore” is “katartizete” (καταρτίζετε). Our words “art” and “artisan” comes from it. It’s that careful and skilled work “to re-shape something”. The Christian commentator John Gill explains the original use of this word. He says, “The allusion is to the setting of bones that are broken, or out of joint, which is done with great care and tenderness.” The same word’s used in Matthew 4:21 of mending fishing nets that were torn.

When we help it should be with a careful, skilled, gentle, and humble attitude. As helpers, we need to be aware of and admit our own vulnerabilities and weaknesses. There is no room for an attitude of superiority. This “affectionate admonition” should be humbly submissive to God as the real helper. We come to him in prayer before we attempt to restore others. We need to use his word carefully, not just offer our own criticisms and opinions.

Philippians 2:3 says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” In the “love chapter” in 1 Corinthians 13, verse 4 says, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;”

We need to remember that we too can and do fall at times into unintended sins. We are all susceptible

Even the Apostle Paul himself knew that he battled the remains of sin in himself. In Romans 7:17-21 he wrote, “But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.”

He’s not denying personal responsibility when he sins. But he admits that the lingering effects of the fall are still there battling away in all of us.

There is a great danger of feeling superior or judgmental of others when they fall into a sin. The poet Mantuanus said in his “De Honesto Amore”, “This is a common evil; at one time or other we have all done wrong. Either we are, or have been, or may be, as bad as he whom we condemn.”

Meekness and gentleness are the particular element of the Spirit’s fruit that are relevant here.

Bearing one another’s burdens is more than just a good suggestion.

2. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Bearing their burden doesn’t mean taking over their responsibilities. It means comforting, sympathizing, understanding, and understanding their struggle. It also means forgiving them individually if you were personally harmed by their sins. You need to be patient with them, and make them know they are loved, cared for. You might even have to endure hardships while dealing with the demands of helping others

This is the fulfilling of the law of Christ. Jesus said in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” In James 2:8 the Bible says, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well;”

By law here, it’s not referring to the laws of Moses. It means the principles God gives us to live by as his redeemed children.

It’s not to be done as if the helper sees himself as a superior.

3. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

To forget where the glory belongs when someone is helped, is to steal God’s glory. To give the glory to men as if they could do it without God’s enablement and mercy is the height of human arrogance and ignorance. No one can obey God’s commandments in Scripture who thinks he needs no one else, or that no one else needs him.

Honest self examination is a vital part of helping others.

4. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

Your duty is to look to your own responsibilities in each situation where you help others. When you know that you’ve humbly tried to restore another believer, you have good reason to rejoice in what God has done through you.

You have that peace that you have helped someone and obeyed God’s assignment to you. It’s humbling and gives you a good reason to be thankful when you’ve been used by God as he works his grace in others.

At the end of this little passage Paul adds these words.

5. For each one shall bear his own load.

He’s not contradicting what he just said. The bearing of one another’s burdens by helping them recognize and overcome sin is the fulfilling of our own duty to God through Christ. We’re responsible for our own attitudes, words and actions. If we pass up opportunities to be a positive encouragement to those slipping into sin, we forfeit God’s blessing.

Don’t wait until the little things become big things. When we see someone slipping slowly into wrong attitudes and behaviors we need to pray for them, encourage them, be a humble friend to help them see the danger. The longer it goes uncorrected, the harder it becomes to restore the person to a right fellowship with God. Their sinful habits become harder to overcome. We don’t give up even at that point, but the restoring work becomes harder.

At times we all need some helpful course correction in the Kingdom of Christ. It’s the responsibility of each of us, humbly as those who are also just redeemed sinners, to reach out in love, even when it’s hard to do so, to help another believer get back on track.

When we do, we discover the joy of helping those who need a biblical and loving word of advice.

(The Bible quotations are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.)

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