Brothers, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness…
In all the writings of St. Paul there is no more Christ-like utterance than this. It breathes the very spirit of him who came to seek and to save the lost. It seems to be addressed in particular to the more spiritual members of the Galatian Churches - to those who had not been carried away in the tide of fashionable Judaizing. There was a danger lest the severe rebuke administered by the apostle to their erroneous brethren should provoke a vain and censorious spirit in these men. St. Paul warns them of that danger (Galatians 5:26), and points out the right course that is open to them. Instead of judging they were to help to restore the fallen in all gentleness and humility.
I. THE DUTY OF RESTORING THE ERRING. Too often they are harshly judged, condemned, despised, crushed, so that if they are strong they are confirmed in their errors by pride and motives of sheer self-defence, and if they are weak they become reckless and despairing and a ready prey for greater evils. The censorious will have to answer for the terrible responsibility of confirming guilt and checking repentance. In no case is it ours to judge. But to brand and ostracize the guilty is to incur the heavy guilt of those who make others to sin. How different would the history of the Church have been if, instead of the controversy which aims only at silencing opponents, there had been the counsel that seeks at restoring brethren! But it is important to see that there should be no aim short of restoring the erring. That is a false charity which ignores sins in others. They must be faithfully pointed out and earnestly opposed. The great end must not be mere punishment nor easy indifference, but restoration.
II. THE PERSONS CHARGED WITH THIS DUTY. The spiritual. It requires such, for it is a delicate duty. We are not all fit for it. Spirituality should produce charity. The spiritual are not to withdraw from their weaker brethren in Pharisaic pride. Such pride, indeed, is a proof of utter unspirituality. No nobler mission can be open to the purest souls than that of restoring the erring. It was Christ's great work, and he does not liberate his people from the duty of taking their share in it. The more a man has of the spirit of Christ the better will he be able to succeed in this beautiful labour of love.
III. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH THE DUTY IS TO BE CARRIED OUT.
1. Charity. Consider that the unfortunate man has been "overtaken" in a trespass. Make due allowance for the peculiar form of the temptation under which he fell and for the surprise with which it came upon him,
2. Meekness. The duty is not to scold, but to heal. The healer of souls must show the utmost possible gentleness, consideration for wounded pride, and respect for natural reserve, and should do all he can not to humiliate the offender more than is necessary, nor to injure his self-respect.
3. Humility. "Looking to thyself, lest thou also be tempted." It is not necessary to appear immaculate in order to restore another. The pride of assumed superiority will be the worst possible hindrance in such a work. It is well to remember that, if we had met the same temptation, we might have had even a more grievous fall. And some day our time may come, and then the present offender may be our restorer. Let the work be done, then, as by a brother to a brother. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.