Calvary Road Baptist Church


Galatians 6.1

During my senior year in high school, our football team was undefeated in league play, with a very tough game scheduled against Burns High School, in Burns, Oregon, in the southeastern corner of Oregon, a long way from home. The game would be played at night, in the bitter cold and likely with harsh winds, so our head coach scheduled our practices that week at 7:00 PM each night. I had broken my right ankle making a tackle a couple of weeks before, so the coach wanted to make sure a backup was ready should I need to come out of the game. I had a regular backup, but he had inexplicably decided to work on his car after school one day, and hot radiator water all over his right hand left him with painful second degree burns. That left my brother, practicing to play out of position, just in case.

People who have never played football in the bitter cold in the northern tier of states have no real idea what contradictions are involved. Your feet and hands are so cold that you can barely feel them, while at the same time you are profusely sweating under your helmet and the various pads you are wearing. When it gets cold enough, as it certainly does at night in the winter time, you can see the steam ascending from sweaty heads and necks, while at the same time hands are pale from lack of circulation. It was during one of our team’s famous full speed scrimmages that my brother took a vicious hit, or delivered a vicious hit, and climbed up from the tangle of bodies on the hard, frozen field with the ring finger on his right hand pointed directly at his pinky finger from the second joint, completely and terribly dislocated. Though he was in a great deal of pain, it was not as tormenting as it would have been had it not been so cold.

We all gathered around and looked at his hand, our mouths open with wonder, as athletes of that age are. What was to be done? We had no doctor at football practice in our small, central Oregon town. We certainly had no emergency medical technician. However, we did have our wonderful coach, who had played football for the Chicago Bears, and knew exactly what to do in that case. Nothing. “Leave it alone. Don’t touch that finger,” the coached ordered. So, we stood there for several minutes, my brother cradling his right hand in his left hand, and watched with amazement. As my brother stood there, completely inactive, his cold hands became even colder as his heartbeat slowed. Our eyes became as big as saucers as we watched that big, pink finger that made a hideous right angle, completely straighten over the course of two or three minutes. Then our coach directed the trainer to very gently stabilize the finger with a splint and strips of tape, and our practice continued. We had a big game coming up. However, practice was over for my brother, and there was no one to take my place next Saturday. I would play the whole game on a broken ankle.

I think about our football coach from time to time. He was a great guy for a kid to play football for. True, he was no doctor. However, he was an experienced hand when it came to football. He had a pretty good idea what to do and what not to do most of the time. What he did in my brother’s case was just the right thing. Had he tried to do too much, or pretended to be a know-it-all he might have done some real harm. As well, had he done nothing at all, my brother might have suffered some long term damage. Coach knew he was no doctor, and did not try to pretend otherwise. He did, however, know enough to be a real help to my brother.

Think about my brother’s dislocated finger while you turn to our text for this evening, Galatians 6.1. When you find that verse in God’s Word, stand and read along with me:


“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.”


“The word rendered ‘restore’ properly signifies to put a dislocated member of the body into its proper place.”[1] “It is plain that though the apostle’s language be indefinite, ‘if a man be overtaken in a fault,’ the injunction does not refer to mankind generally, but to the members of a Christian church.”[2] Thus, we do not, in Paul’s letter, find Christians left fending for themselves when they are out of sorts, when they are spiritually dislocated. Rather, we find that other Christians in the congregation are urged to provide a sort of spiritual relief.

My friends, and I speak for anyone who professes to be a Christian and is a church member, I need your help. God has no intention of you or me living out our Christian lives in isolation from the ministrations of other church members. A brief lesson this evening that should serve to clarify your duties, obligations, and responsibilities as a church member, with particular respect to your role in the lives of other church members who are overtaken in a fault:




“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault”


It is clear that Paul is discussing your observation rather gossip. There is no basis for taking any action based upon someone’s gossip. “Did you hear what so and so said?” Paul is instructing the Galatian believers on the proper course of action to be taken when they see something with their own eyes. This reminds me of the youngster in our Christian school some years back who was doing something he should not have done as I was passing by, so I said, “Don’t do that.” He responded by denying he had done anything. I pointed out that I saw what he did and was correcting what I saw. He continued to deny. I had to become somewhat more forceful, though he continued to deny. Don’t tell me that President Clinton’s determined denials in the face of evidence to the contrary did not have its effect on younger generations. Here, Paul directs us to deal with what we see.

What is it, precisely, that is seen? The Greek word translated “overtaken,” prolambanw, refers to being overtaken by surprise, or to being overtaken before you can escape.[3] Do you observe some church member who is unwittingly on the edge of catastrophe, who seems to be inching towards calamity, who by folly or by making provision for the flesh seems to be setting the state for tragedy? That is what Paul is referring to in this verse.




“ye which are spiritual”


Are you qualified to provide this ministration because you are a Christian? Is that what Paul means when he writes, “ye which are spiritual”? Or are you qualified to provide this ministration because you happen to see your brother overtaken in a fault? You know, some people specialists at detecting and ferreting out the faults and shortcomings of other Christians. We should wonder, it you are particularly better at noticing such things, and if you get a kick out of speaking to such matters, are you qualified to deal with these things by virtue of the fact that you are a Christian?

While the description “spiritual” is often used to denote converted men in contrast to unconverted men, keep in mind that the word is also applied to Christians who have a somewhat more respected reputation than other Christians. They are Christians who have greater credibility than do others, owing to the fact that they seem to possess a consistency and maturity that those with prejudiced views, or those with irregular or doubtful habits enjoy.

Being mindful that Galatians 6.2 reads, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” and Romans 15.1 reads, “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves,” it is likely that Paul uses the word “spiritual” in Galatians 6.1 to refer to the same kind of Christian he refers to in Romans 15.1 using the term strong.

Are you a strong Christian? Never mind if you see the faults of others like nobody’s business. Are you considered by other believers in the congregation to be a strong Christian, a believer with gravitas, with substance, with seriousness, with sincerity? Are you somewhat seasoned and experienced enough to really know what you think you see? If you see someone who is dislocated, do you know enough to know if that dislocation will straighten out on its own? Have you observed enough to know what needs immediate attention and what needs a little time? As well, do you know enough to know that what needs attention needs attention by someone other than you? While the humble tend to need encouraging in this respect, the brash tend to need some restraint.




“restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”


Two things to be very careful about:


First, there is the way you deal with the person whose fault you see overtaking him. Some dislocated fingers will slip back into place on their own, while some must be put back into place. Do you know the difference? Have you ever done it before? I know someone whose solution to every case of profound discouragement he sees is a brutal and uncompromising rebuke. My friend, that guy very frequently does far more harm than good. Not every dislocated joint needs to be snapped back into place. Sometimes they can be gently and tenderly eased back into place. This is why Paul made mention of “the spirit of meekness.” Where does it say in the Bible that someone who needs your ministry needs to be yelled at, barked at, or have the hide ripped off him? Even Titus 1.13, where Paul writes, “Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,” does not necessarily mean correction is to be made with an angry scowl on the face and a harshness in the tone. Perhaps stubbornness or deafness will eventually require an escalation of intensity as you talk to the person you are trying to help, to gain his attention or to reinforce your seriousness. However, I would hardly think Paul is advocating that you come out of the chute by saying, “I just feel like I need to tell you in Christian love that I think you are completely destroying your testimony, and that you need to straighten up and fly right or I am going to talk to pastor.” Thus, your first consideration when talking to that other person is that other person. Approach that person gently, tenderly, lovingly, cautiously, but with a firmness and courage that will frequently be needed to encourage humility when the person overtaken in a fault is stiff-necked.

Then, there is the way you take caution about yourself when you deal with the other person. Paul concludes the verse, “considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” When you see someone overtaken in a fault, there is the potential for danger in the lives of at least two people. Obviously, there is danger of that other person’s stumble into sin being imminent, if it has not already occurred. What is not so obvious is the spiritual danger you who see the problem is going to experience. Not that you will be tempted to commit the same sin you see overtaking the other church member, though that is sometimes a possibility. It is that your involvement in seeking to help that person gives rise to a whole set of temptations you are now exposed to. You could be tempted to be proud or tempted to be judgmental, to name just two possible temptations. My friend, it is dangerous to engage in spiritual conflict, and spiritual conflict is exactly what you are engaged in when you talk to another person about a spiritual issue you see confronting him. Are you ready for that? Are you prepared to handle more temptations than you presently face? Are you presently so successful with the temptations you are already facing that you feel confident to take on more? Not that you should not seek to be a blessing to others, but that you should know that it is not a walk in the park, it is fraught with danger not everyone anticipates, and you have to be on guard. Read what Paul tells his readers following our text:


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

3      For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.

4      But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

5      For every man shall bear his own burden.

6      Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.

7      Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

8      For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

9      And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

10     As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.


It is obvious from what we have just read that God’s plan for observing issues that we face and then effectively dealing with those issues is not the prerogative of pastors only, but falls within the job description of every church member, as experience and wisdom are acquired over time. Another thing that should be obvious is that it is possible for any one of us to be overtaken in a fault, and for each of us to need the involvement in our lives of spiritual Christians around us. What that means is, I need your help.

Should you ever see me overtaken in a fault, I need for you who are spiritual, you who are humble (Galatians 6.3), you who bear your own burdens (Galatians 6.5), you who are consistent givers (Galatians 6.6), and so forth, to minister to me in this way, as you should be willing for others to minister to you in this way.

Implicit with our relationship with Jesus Christ and with each other in this church is the recognition that our lives are not lived, and not to be lived, in isolation from one another. We have eyes. We see things. And sometimes we see that things are not right, not the way things ought to be. In such cases it is our responsibility to already be spiritual Christians, to already have a reputation for consistency and faithfulness, so that when we see something we are already qualified to minister to the needs of that one who is overtaken in a fault, successfully restoring him like a dislocated joint put back into place.

God bless you as you strive for the consistency and personal consecration that qualifies you to properly address what you see, so you do not inadvertently end up causing more harm as a result of actions you take than would have occurred through your inaction.

[1] John Brown of Edinburgh, Exposition of Galatians, (Lafayette, IN: Sovereign Grace Publishers, Inc., reprinted 2000), page 317.

[2] Ibid., page 316.

[3] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 518.

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