on Galatians 6 :1
Brethren, if a man be overtaken - Εαν προληφθη· If he be surprised, seized on without warning, suddenly invaded, taken before he is aware: all these meanings the word has in connections similar to this. Strabo, lib. xvi., page 1120, applies it to the rhinoceros, in its contests with the elephant: he suddenly rips up the belly of the elephant, αν μη προληφθη τῃ προβοσκιδι, that he may not be surprised with his trunk. For, should the elephant seize him with his trunk first, all resistance would be afterwards in vain; therefore he endeavors to rip up the elephant's belly with the horn which is on his nose, in order to prevent this. It is used also by Arrian, in Peripl. Mar. Eryth., page 164, and page 168, to signify a vessel being suddenly agitated and whirled by the waves, and then dashed on the rocks. See Kypke.
Ye which are spiritual - Ye who still retain the grace of the Gospel, and have wisdom and experience in Divine things;
Restore such a one - Καταρτιζετε τον τοιουτον· Bring the man back into his place. It is a metaphor taken from a dislocated limb, brought back by the hand of a skillful and tender surgeon into its place.
In the spirit of meekness - Use no severity nor haughty carriage towards him; as the man was suddenly overtaken, he is already deeply humbled and distressed, and needs much encouragement and lenient usage. There is a great difference between a man who being suddenly assailed falls into sin, and the man who transgressed in consequence of having Walked in the counsel of the Ungodly, or Stood in the way of Sinners.
Considering thyself - Σκοπων σεαυτον· Looking to thyself; as he fell through a moment of unwatchfulness, look about, that thou be not surprised; As he fell, so mayest thou: thou art now warned at his expense; therefore keep a good look out.
Lest thou also be tempted - And having had this warning, thou wilt have less to plead in extenuation of thy offense. It is no wonder if a harsh and cruel censurer of a weak, backsliding brother, should be taught moderation and mercy by an awful proof of his own frailty. Such a one may justly dread the most violent attacks from the arch enemy; he will disgrace him if he can, and if he can overtake him he will have no small triumph. Consider the possibility of such a case, and show the mercy and feeling which thou wouldst then wish to receive from another. From the consideration of what we are, what we have been, or what we may be, we should learn to be compassionate. The poet Mantuanus has set this in a fine light in his Eclogue, De honesto Amore: -
Id commune malum; semel insanivimus omnes:
Aut sumus, aut fuimus, aut possemus omne quod hic est.
"This is a common evil; at one time or other we have all done wrong.
Either we are, or have been, or may be, as bad as he whom we condemn."
on Galatians 6 :1
Brethren, if a man be overtaken - Margin, "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" (προλημφθῃ prolēmphthē from προλαμβάνω prolambanō), means properly "to take before another, to anticipate" 1 Corinthians 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. Tyndale 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 or 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.
Ye which are spiritual - Who are under the influences of the Holy Spirit; see the note at Galatians 5:22-23. The apostle, in this verse, refers evidently to those who have fallen into some sensual indulgence Galatians 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 persons; people who exercise discipline in the church should be "spiritual" men - people in whom implicit confidence may be properly reposed.
Restore such an one - On the meaning of the word used here, see the note at 2 Corinthians 13:11. 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; Matthew 18:15-17.
In the spirit of meekness - With a kind, forbearing, and forgiving spirit; see the note at Matthew 5:5. 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 one 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 ... - 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 toward you. Pliny (Epis. viii. 22) has expressed a similar sentiment in the following beautiful language. "Atque ego optimum et emendatissimum existimo, qui caeteris ita ignoscit, tanquam ipse quotidie peccet; ita peccatis abstinet, tanquam nemini ignoscat. Prolade hoc domi, hoc foris, hoc in omni vitae 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 endeavors 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. Everyone 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."
on Galatians 6 :1
6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in any fault - By surprise, ignorance, or stress of temptation. Ye who are spiritual - Who continue to live and walk by the Spirit. Restore such an one - By reproof, instruction, or exhortation. Every one who can, ought to help herein; only in the spirit of meekness - This is essential to a spiritual man; and in this lies the whole force of the cure. Considering thyself - The plural is beautifully changed into the singular. Let each take heed to himself. Lest thou also be tempted - Temptation easily and swiftly passes from one to another; especially if a man endeavours to cure another without preserving his own meekness.