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Restore The Fallen Brother

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The admonition in Galatians 6:1 to restore a fallen brother, or sister, is one of great importance in Christian living. In this passage, Paul said, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” The implication of this statement is that each individual Christian has the responsibility to get involved in the good of others. Christianity demands that Christians be sensitive to the needs of others and respond to them. 

The basic thrust of the whole book of Galatians is this: not only followers of Christ have by virtue of their birth in Christ certain privileges, such as the privilege of being children of God (Galatians 3:26), they also have obligations.

After discussing in chapter 1 to 2 matters personal to Paul, including the defense of his apostleship, then doctrinal issues in 3 to 4, Galatians offers in chapter 5 to 6 practical and helpful advice. The advice, in chapter 6, concerns the restoration of a brother “overtaken in a fault,” that is one who has succumbed to sin. Some scholars claim that the final section in this chapter was written in large letters by Paul’s own hand (cf. v. 11), thus suggesting that the first part of the epistle was dictated by him and put in writing by an assistant, which would make his injunction regarding restoration a point of great emphasis if this view was true.

The word “restore” suggests the idea of mending something that is broken. Christians who commit the sins of the flesh often suffer from guilt. They are usually mentally broken as a result of their actions, and need to be mended. The importance of the spiritual service of restoring those who have trespassed is seen in the fact that sin is an overpowering force. In view of the statement “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (v. 2), it is fair to say that a trespass that overtakes a Christian is a burden on their conscience.

The term “burden” translates some eleven different words both in Old and New Testaments. When it is used literally, it denotes something laid on someone for the purpose of being carried, and this is easily understood. Figuratively, it refers to “responsibility” (Matthew 11:30) or “sorrow,” as is the case in Galatians 6. In the spiritual sense, the burden makes demands on one’s mental resources.

While it is true that some disciples of Christ carefully plan to sin, more frequently it is a matter of a person falling victim to sin unawares. In this latter scenario, the individual has been overtaken. Sins which can overtake Christians are listed in Galatians 5:19-21; they range from drunkenness to adultery.

Paul went on to provide a guideline to help us in the restoration process. Restoration must be done by “ye which are spiritual.” This is a direct reference to those in the church who “have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:24) and are under the control of the Holy Spirit. They are “led of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:18). Ascertaining that you are “spiritual” becomes easy because the fruits of the Spirit that you produce in your life can be seen. Jesus taught this principle in Matthew 7:20 when talking about false teachers. He said, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” Indeed, people can be known by their fruits, that is by what they do and say. The fruits of the Spirit, Paul said in Galatians 5:22, are “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”.

Paul also said that the spirit in which the restoration is to be conducted is one of “meekness” or gentleness. Making a person who has yielded to sin feel bad about their mistake, even in a subtle way, may reinforce their own sense of guilt and self-defeat. Instead, we should approach them in a spirit of kindness, concern and consideration with a genuine desire to help.

The restorer, Paul finally advised, should always have his own limitations in mind. Do not think that because you are not a victim of a particular sin you are spiritually stronger. Do not imagine either that you are immune to temptation. And be careful not to be so busy trying to help others that you lose sight of your own need to pray and read the Bible regularly to guard yourself against temptation. The apostle’s warning is very clear, “considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

Constant Coulibaly

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