Restoring The Erring 

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

In the Book of Galatians, the Apostle Paul gave a powerful command to Christians:

Galatians 6:1-2-Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Let’s notice several things about this passage.  

First, look at the subjects of the passage. Paul commands those among the “brethren” (I.e., the church) to carry out the process of “restoring” certain individuals.

Who among the brethren is to do the “restoring?”

It is those who are “spiritual.”

In the Book of Galatians, Paul refers to those who are walking with God as those who are walking “in the Spirit” and who are therefore bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17, 22-23).

So, those who are commanded to “restore” the ones who have been overtaken in trespass are the faithful members of the church.

This means this is a command to every member of the Lord’s church (and not just elders or preachers).

Second, look at the specific ones in the passage who are in need of this restoring. Paul says it is the ones who have been overtaken in any trespass.

The word translated here as “transgression” or “trespass” literally means ‘a crime,’ and was used as one of the words to describe a willful sin that a person commits.

The passive form of the verb “overtaken” in this sin suggests that he was “caught in the act,” and is now in need of ‘restoration.”

There is here the reminder that every child of God struggles with sin (1 John 1:8), and that this struggle does not “go away” when a person obeys the Gospel (cf. Hebrews 4:15; 12:1-2).

While some teach that once you become a Christian you never struggle with sin, such is simply not true.

Indeed, we must continue to put to death the deeds of the flesh with the help of the Spirit or we will die (Romans 8:12-13).

Third, look at the actual word translated as “restore.”

It is a very interesting word in the Greek New Testament.

William Barclay describes it for us:

“The great practical interest of katartizein lies in the fact that it is the word used in Gal. 6.1, for, as the AV puts it, ‘restoring’ a brother who is taken in fault. If, then, we can penetrate into its meaning it will greatly assist us in forming a correct view of the method and purpose of Christian discipline. In classical Greek it has a wide variety of meanings, all of which can be gathered together under one or other of two heads. (i) It means ‘to adjust, to put in order, to restore’. Hence it is used of pacifying a city which is tom by faction; of setting a limb that has been dislocated; of developing certain parts of the body by exercise; of restoring a person to his rightful mind; of reconciling friends who have become estranged. (ii) It is used of ‘equipping or fully furnishing someone or something for some given purpose’. So it is used of fitting out a ship and it is used of an army, fully armed and equipped, and drawn up in battle- array. Its uses in the papyri do not add greatly to our insight into its meaning. There, too, it is used of something ‘prepared for a given purpose or person’. It is, for instance, so used of clothes which have been made and prepared for someone to wear…It is the word which is used of the disciples ‘mending their nets’ (Matt. 4.21; Mark 1.19). It may possibly there mean that they were ‘folding up the nets’. But whether it means mending or folding up the idea is that the nets were being prepared for future use….Now when we take this and apply it to Christian discipline certain most significant things emerge. (i) It is clear that Christian discipline is never meant to be merely retributory punishment; it is not simply vengeance on the evil- doer. (ii) Discipline is meant to ‘mend’ a man and to ‘repair’ him. It regards him more as something which has been damaged or injured than it does as a deliberate sinner. (iii) Discipline is meant to ‘equip’ him better to meet his temptations and to meet the battle and the demands of life. It regards him as a man ill and inadequately equipped and it regards the duty of the Christian society as being that of sending him out better able to deal with the things which defeated him. (iv) It regards the evil- doer as one imperfectly constructed to deal with life and it calls on the Christian community to give him a more perfect knowledge and more perfect strength to overcome evil and to do the right. So, then, when we study this word, we see that Christian discipline is never vengeful and retributory and sadistic. It is always constructive. It is applied always and only for the sake of helping the man who has erred to do better.” (William Barclay, New Testament Words, 2641-2672 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press)

From this word, it is clear that Paul wants the Christians to persevere and not “give up” on restoring the erring.

Why?

Because God has not given up on them.

In fact, even the extreme action of “church discipline” (also known as the withdrawing of fellowship) is done partly for the purpose of trying to motivate the erring to repent of sin (1 Corinthians 5:5).

Notice that the restoration process may be difficult: it can be painful for a person who is involved in sin to turn his life around and turn back to God.

The church family is there to help the erring make those transitions.

Too often, we can turn away from the erring and shirk our responsibilities.

Sometimes, the restoration of the sinner can be a long and difficult process and will require the help of the church family.

A good example in this regard is to be found in helping those who struggle with drug addiction.

Helping family and friends as they struggle with substance abuse is a long process, in many ways one that never ends.

We must be willing to do what we can to help each other.

Sadly, I have heard members of the church before make the comment, “Well, we don’t need to worry about addicts, that isn’t our responsibility.”

Oh yes, it most certainly is!

God has placed us in this world to help sinners, and all sinners are in that boat.

We need to realize that when we help people as they struggle with sin, it will be a process.

Interestingly enough, the word “restore” used here is in the tense which suggests that this is a continual action.

We need to continue restoring our friends who struggle with burdens.

Friends, did you know that the Son of God came to this world to save you from your sin? He died on the Cross of Calvary to pay the debt for your sins. He was buried, and He arose again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

Won’t you today accept His offer of salvation?

The Word of God teaches that we must hear the Gospel (Romans 10:17), believe in Jesus Christ (John 8;24), repent of our sins (Luke 13:3), confess Him before men (1 Timothy 6:12), and be baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38).

Why not accept His invitation today?

If you are a child of God who has drifted away from the Lord (perhaps “overtaken” in a trespass as this passage teaches), then why not today repent of your sin and confess it to the Lord to be forgiven (1 John 1:9)?

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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