Galatians 6:1, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
Life in the church is often messy. The church, as one pastor said, is a hospital for sinners and not a museum of saints. The church is made up of sinners who have been justified by Christ, yet we still battle against the flesh, the world, and the devil.
We are to walk in the Spirit, and our lives should be characterized by the fruit of the Spirit, but we all know from Scripture and our experience, that we often sin. There are times when we or someone close to us in the church is caught in a transgression. Paul’s beginning instructions of Galatians 6 teach us to walk with anyone who is caught in a transgression.
Galatians 6:1 breaks down into three parts.
- A sibling in Christ caught in transgression.
- Gentle restoration by those who are spiritual.
- Keep a close watch on your life.
A Sibling in Christ Caught in Transgression
Paul uses the term brothers. This is addressed to the church. What Paul is about to say is the work of the whole church and not just the leadership of the church.
Paul uses the phrase if anyone is caught in a transgression. We could literally say ensnared by any transgression. This brother or sister in Christ has begun to walk out of step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25).
It is intriguing that Paul is not sounding alarmist here. Transgression is not normal for the Christian, but when someone is caught in it our response to it should not be that the world is ending.
Gentle Restoration by Those who are Spiritual
Our response should be restoration. Those who are spiritual, those who are walking in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25) are called on by Paul to restore the person who is caught in any transgression.
They are not to do this with a conceited spirit or from envy or in an effort to provoke the person caught in the transgression (Gal. 5:26). Rather, the restoration is to be done in a spirit of gentleness.
There are two pieces to this that deserve our slowing down and considering them.
Those who are spiritual are to restore those who are caught in any transgression, ensnared in sin. It is evident as we read this, that this is not easy work, nor will it be delightful at times. Any time we interact with sin it will be messy. But it is needed.
Additionally, notice that Paul says the goal is restoration. When we confront the person, who is sinning, we are not do belittle them, nor are we to ostracize them. But in a safe, Spirit-led way we are to restore them. A relationship has been broken, and it needs to be restored.
Our sin interrupts our communion with God. Therefore, we want to restore them to the fellowship they have with God through our union with Christ. Sin also interrupts our fellowship with the saints. The restoration is two-fold. We want to help them restore their communion with God through repentance and confession of sin, and their fellowship with the church, the body of Christ.
All of this is to be done in a spirit of gentleness, which is a mark of the Spirit’s work in our lives (Gal. 2:22-23). We imitate Christ, who does not break a bruised reed nor blow out a smoldering wick. Christ is gentle with us, therefore, we must be gentle with His other disciples.
When we are not gentle, we run the risk of unintentionally keeping the person in their sin. They are responsible for their actions, but so are you. A lack of gentleness also will not glorify Christ. It shows a lack of love for one another, which proves to the world that we are His disciples (John 13:34).
Keep a Close Watch on your Life
As we restore a brother or sister caught in sin with gentleness, we must keep a close watch on our own lives. We need to make sure we are keeping in step with the Spirit, and are seeking to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. To echo the words of Jesus, we need to make sure we have taken care of the log in our own eye before we worry about the speck in our brother’s eye (Matt. 7:3-5).
But, keeping a close watch on our life is not an excuse for inaction. Paul is not saying we should examine ourselves so much that we can never take action and help a brother who is caught in transgression. This gets us back to keeping in step or walking by the Spirit. Without His help, we cannot see our own lives as we should nor the lives of others.
This verse can make us uncomfortable. With all honesty, it makes me uncomfortable. I do not like conflict, and confronting sin at times feels like conflict. But Paul is saying restoring a person who is caught in sin with gentleness is for their good. Without the Holy Spirit’s help, we cannot do this, indeed we will not do this.
One sign that we are walking by the Spirit is a growing concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We will hate sin in our own lives and in theirs. Our love for them will be shown in gently confronting their sin so they might be restored to communion with God and any fellowship that has been broken within the church.