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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE GALATIANS - Chapter 6 - Verse 1
GALATIANS Chapter 6
This chapter is composed entirely of affectionate exhortation, and the expression of the apostle's earnest solicitude in the behalf of the Christians in Galatia. He exhorts them Ga 6:1 to bring back to the ways of virtue any one who through the strength of strong temptation had been led astray. He entreats them Ga 6:2) to bear one another's burdens, and thus to show that they were true friends of Christ, and governed by his laws. He entreats them not to be lifted up with pride, and not to affix an inordinate estimate to anything that they possessed, assuring them that their true estimate was to be formed from the character of their own works, Ga 6:3-5. He exhorts them to minister to the wants of their public teachers, the preachers of the gospel, Ga 6:6. In Ga 6:7-10, he reminds them of the solemn day of judgment, when all will be tried; assures them that men will be judged and rewarded according to their works; and entreats them not to be weary in well-doing, but to labour on patiently in doing good, with the assurance that they should reap in due season. In Ga 6:11, he shows them the interest which he felt in them by his having done what was unusual for him, and what perhaps he had done in no other instance—writing an entire letter in his own hand. He then states the true reason why others wished them to be circumcised. It was the dread of persecution, and not any real love to the cause of religion. They did not themselves keep the law, and they only desired to glory in the number of converts to their views, Ga 6:12,13. But Paul says that he would glory in nothing but in the cross of Christ. By that he had been crucified to the world, and the world had been crucified to him, Ga 6:14; and he repeats the solemn assurance, that in the Christian religion neither circumcision nor uncircumcision was of any importance whatever, Ga 6:15. This was the true rule of life; and on as many as walked according to this principle, he invokes the blessing of God, Ga 6:16. He closes the epistle by entreating them to give him no more trouble. He bore in his body already the marks or sufferings which he had received in the cause of the Lord Jesus. His trials already were sufficient; and he entreats them to spare him from future molestation, Ga 6:17, and closes with the benediction, Ga 6:18.
Verse 1. Brethren, if a man be overtaken. Marg., although. It is a case which the apostle supposes might happen, Christians were not perfect; and it was possible that they who were true Christians might be surprised by temptation, and fall into sin. The word rendered be overtaken prolhfyh, from prolambanw means, properly, to take before another, to anticipate, 1 Co 11:21; then to be before taken or caught; and may here mean either that one had been formerly guilty of sin, or had been recently hurried on by his passions or by temptations to commit a fault. It is probable that the latter here is the true sense, and that it means, if a man is found to be overtaken by any sin; if his passions, or if temptation get the better of him. Tindal renders it, "If any man be fallen by chance into any fault." It refers to cases of surprise, or of sudden temptation. Christians do not commit sin deliberately, and as a part of the plan of life; but they may be surprised by sudden temptation, or urged on by impetuous and headstrong passion, as David and-Peter were. Paul does not speak of the possibility of restoring one who deliberately forms the plan of sinning; he does not suppose that such a man could be a Christian, and that it would be proper to speak of restoring such a man.
The apostle, in this verse, refers evidently to those who have fallen into some sensual indulgence, Ga 5:19-21; and says that they who have escaped these temptations, and who are under the influences of the Spirit, should recover such persons. It is a very important qualification for those who would recover others from sin, that they should not be guilty of the same sin themselves. Reformers should be holy men. Men who exercise discipline in the church should be "spiritual" men—men in whom implicit confidence may be properly reposed.
Here it means, not to restore him to the church after he has been excluded, but set him right, bring him back, recover him from his errors and his faults. The apostle does not say in what manner this is to be done; but it is usually to be done, doubtless, by affectionate admonition, by faithful instruction, and by prayer. Discipline or punishment should not be resorted to until the other methods are tried in vain, Mt 18:15-17.
Not with anger; not with a lordly and overbearing mind; not with a love of finding others in fault, and with a desire for inflicting the discipline of the church; not with a harsh and unforgiving temper; but with love, and gentleness, and humility, and patience, and with a readiness to forgive when wrong has been done. This is an essential qualification for restoring and recovering an offending brother. No man should attempt to rebuke or admonish another who cannot do it in the spirit of meekness; no man should engage in any way in the work of reform who has not such a temper of mind.
Considering thyself, etc. Remembering how liable you are yourself to err; and how much kindness and indulgence should therefore be shown to others. You are to act as if you felt it possible that you might also be overtaken with a fault; and you should act as you would wish that others should do towards you. Pliny (Epis. viii. 22) has expressed a similar sentiment in the following beautiful language: "Atque ego optimum et emendatissimum existimo, qui caeteris ira ignoscit, tanquam ipsc quotidie peccet; ira peccatis abstinet, tanquam nemini ignoscat. Proinde hoc domi, hoc foris, hoc in onmi vitse genere teneamus, ut nobis implacabiles simus, exorabiles istis etiam, qui dare veniam nisi sibi nesciunt." The doctrine taught by Paul is, that such is human infirmity, and such the strength of human depravity, that no one knows into what sins he may himself fall. He may be tempted to commit the same sins which he endeavours to amend in others; he may be left to commit even worse sins. If this is the case, we should be tender, while we are firm; forgiving, while we set our faces against evil; prayerful, while we rebuke; and compassionate, when we are compelled to inflict on others the discipline of the church. Every man who has any proper feelings, when he attempts to recover an erring brother, should pray for him and for himself also; and will regard his duty as only half done, and that very imperfectly, if he does not "consider also that he himself may be tempted."
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