Monday, January 18, 2010

Galatians Journal: Chapter 6, verse 1

Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.

As we begin the final chapter of the book of Galatians, we find Paul continuing in his transition from the practical application of the theology and spiritual principles he had presented in the first 4 chapters of the letter to our personal lives, and personal relationship with God in the concepts of “Freedom in Christ” and “Walking in the Spirit” to taking those same concepts and applying them to our interpersonal relationships within the Body of Christ.

“Brothers” -- Despite the criticism Paul levels at the Galatians throughout the letter, he never doubts the authenticity of their faith or their basic relationship with Jesus. I find this incredibly encouraging. As often as I fall back into the old, worldly concepts of relying on “the rules” to feel right with God; as often as I use ethnicity and culture (especially the “culture” and practices of my own church compared to others) to define who I am, who “they” are, and who “we” are; as often as I indulge my sinful nature and take advantage of the freedom I have in Christ – my relationship with Jesus isn’t based on a report card as to how I’m doing in these areas. When I am trapped in these failures, it means I have sought fulfillment or pleasure in something other than my relationship with Jesus. I may have fallen, but I’m still a “brother.” Keeping a good relationship with both God and my “brothers” is vital.

“If someone is caught in a sin” The King James Version (a translation that is an attempt at a word for word translation of the original Greek, as opposed to the translation I prefer, the New International Version, which translates by looking at not just the words, but their use in context and phrases) renders the word for “caught” here as “overtaken.” While I am not a Greek scholar by any stretch of the imagination – I just use a computer based lexicon to try and deepen my understanding – the original language and its meaning in context sheds some interesting light on this concept. The original word rendered as “caught” here and as “overtaken” in the King James is difficult to translate into English. It implies the concept of forestalling, stopping, or hindering something in advance, like preventative medicine, or deploying the troops to quell a riot before it starts. It also carries the connotation of crime prevention – stopping a person before they can act. There is also an element of surprise here – the person being caught either doesn’t know he’s doing wrong, or doesn’t think he’ll be caught. There is also a sense of inevitability in the word – the “overtaken” aspect implies being overwhelmed, conquered, and beaten.

But “caught” here must also be viewed from the other side – the ones who see the sin in us. A fish can be “caught,” but the fisherman also “caught” the fish. The admonition here is on the latter. The warning/advice here is meant for those of us who see another Christian – a “brother” – in sin. Both sides are ultimately helped in this equation.

“You who are spiritual” By “spiritual,” Paul means mature. Despite all the issues Paul is trying to address in the Galatian community, he recognizes that many of them truly “get it,” have a solid relationship with Jesus, and are “deep” enough and mature enough to deal with these kinds of sensitive issues. Again, I find this incredibly encouraging.. Compare this to 1 Corinthians 3: 1-3, where Paul is addressing the entire Corinthian congregation, including the leaders, I presume. He castigates them for “not being ready” for a deeper walk with God. Because I see a deep connection between the churches of Galatia and my own church, and the other churches in the area within and around my home town in the sense of a timely, “rhema,” prophetic word from God, again – I find this all very, very encouraging.

“should restore him gently” The word for “restore” here has multiple meanings. It means to repair, and was used to describe the setting of broken bones, mending fishing nets, bringing factions together, or to complete a project to its finish. It also means to equip, to fit out, like a soldier preparing for battle by putting on his armor and gear. It means to put in order, arrange, or adjust, like tuning a car’s engine. In the ethical sense, it means to strengthen, perfect and help make a person what they ought to be.

Recall that gentleness is one of the fruits of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:23) Again, this all fits into the concept of RELATIONSHIP. I like the use of the word “restore” here to describe the setting of broken bones. You can’t do that by yourself. You need others. You need the Body of Christ. Yet, this process must be done “gently” or more damage could result. Holy Spirit inspired gentleness is the proper way to address faults. This is not usually the way its done in the church today. Legalism is the way sin is addressed. But legalism leads to confronting spiritual issues by fleshly means. The answer from the legalist – e.g. the Judiazers in Paul’s day – was to follow the rules more closely, and change outwardly so “they” fit in better with “us.” There is no place in their world for truly meeting the spiritual need of others. The fruit of the Spirit of gentleness implies humility and examining ourselves before we correct someone else. Here in our American culture, we have a lot of trouble with humility.

“But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” Obviously, we must take care when confronting sin in others. We may tempted to join them in their sin – its so easy to take on that “yoke of bondage” again (see Galatians 5:1) or to indulge the sinful nature (see Galatians 5:16). But the concept of temptation here means much more than lust or envy, or the concept of having the sin of the person being confronted becoming like “forbidden fruit” to the one doing the confronting. The legalist is haughty and judgmental, and condemns those who are “caught in sin.” In Romans 2, there is a warning about judging others improperly, and a statement that those who pass judgment in such a manner “are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” While time and the space constraints of this blog/notebook will not permit me to present a full analysis and explanation here, in short, those who make “bitter root” judgments, those who pass judgment on things that are not important in the grand scheme of God’s worldview, they have those judgments come back on themselves – condemning them, even cursing them, if you will – to fall into the very sinful behaviors they have judged so improperly. Self-righteousness will lead to a very bitter harvest in this situation. I believe it is self-righteousness that Paul is warning us to here with regards to being "tempted."

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