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. Bear ye one another’s burdens; considering thyself lest thou also be tempted.
Remembering that chapter divisions were not in the original, these verses read on naturally from the end of the previous chapter. There we were exhorted not to promote self, nor provoke others to evil and envying; now we are exhorted to encourage and help one another. This is in total contrast to the false brethren that we have come across in this epistle.
Firstly, the false brethren spied out the liberty in Christ and then tried to bring believers back into bondage ( Gal.2:4). Then they tried to exclude the Galatians from Paul and thus bring about their isolation ( Gal.4:17) and, as we shall see later in this final chapter, they wanted to glory in the believers’ flesh (Gal.6:12-13): that is have the Galatians bear the false brethrens’ sign, whether it be in doctrine, outward uniformity of practice or whatever – this instead of being identified with the Lord in the life. Thus the work of the false brethren results in bondage, isolation and wrong identification.
D3.1 The Law of Christ
Paul exhorts us to care for one another, and here in particular, to bear one another’s burdens. The word for burdens here indicates a heavy load or infirmity; the sense of the word fault is that of a blunder, one who has been caught off guard and has made a slip up. So here is a picture of a believer who has unwittingly made a false step, has by mistake gone off in the flesh.
My little children these things write I unto you that ye sin not. And if any man sin we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.
There is provision not to fall and slip up, but if we do there is provision for restoration and forgiveness as well. In Galatians Paul places an emphasis on the body of Christ to help in the restoration of the one who has been overtaken. In so doing we fulfil the law of Christ. What is that law? It is the principal that we have met before, and is stated elsewhere.
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Love is the fulfilment of the law. The law of the Old Covenant could not be kept because it gave no power, no ability to the heart, to obey. The New Covenant changes all that, we are given a new heart and have the indwelling Spirit who fills us with the love of God. Hence we fulfil the requirements of the law. By loving our neighbour we will serve one another and, in this context, will help to restore an erring brother or sister, seeking their welfare. We will not rejoice in the evil that a brother has fallen into but rather seek to do what we can to see him restored.
Paul also warns that we should take care lest we are also caught off guard and are tempted and fall ourselves. No one is immuned from falling, to think otherwise is pride. I Cor. 10:12. In contrast to the false brethren we are to help our erring brother in a spirit of meekness and of love. Notice Paul’s wording here, he says those who are spiritual are to restore such an one. From the context of the epistle this means those who are walking in the Spirit helping those who, have by mistake, faltered and gone off in the flesh. This implies that any help to such an one should be done in the spirit and not after the flesh by invoking methods of the world, flesh or the devil.
D3.2 Jesus, our example
For an example of restoration we turn our attention to Peter’s restoration by Jesus after he had denied the Lord.
D3.2a Peter’s trespass
Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.
But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples…….
Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.
Mtt.26: 31-35; 69-75
Jesus foretold that Peter would deny Him, and Peter adamantly, and no doubt genuinely, said he would die before he would deny His Lord. However when the test came he not only denied Him once, but that three times and also with oaths and curses! In Luke’s account we have two extra pieces of of information
And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me…….Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off. And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not. And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
Here the we have the detail that Satan desired to have Peter and was doing all that he could to destroy this apostle, but the Lord had prayed for him. The second thing we see is that when Peter had denied the Lord one glance from the Lord was sufficient to bring back to remembrance the words of warning. Peter wept bitterly.
What went through his mind, we can hardly imagine. Perhaps some of words that Jesus spoke earlier in His ministry stuck with him: But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Mtt.10:33. Had he blown it for good now? Think of all the privileges that he had, he saw the Lord first-hand, he was an eye witness of His glory, he had heard the wonderful truths of the kingdom and had seen many mighty miracles of healing, deliverance etc. He had even been given authority to work miracles himself. But now, despite every good intention of the flesh, he had denied the Lord openly, not once but three times. Had he blown it for good? We can not know the grief and thoughts that he had, but for sure he was a broken man.
This is the state of Peter; he had been overtaken in a fault. Yet the Lord loving restored such an one. How this happened is very instructive.
D3.2b Peter’s restoration
On resurrection morning we have this interesting conversation between the young man (angel) and the women.
And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.
Tell Peter! Peter was singled out, this was to make it clear to him that he was still included in God’s plans. The Lord had not, after all, cast him away nor denied him in front of His Father. Tell Peter! Of course we see from Luke’s account that, when Peter was warned he was not going to be a castaway, for the Lord talked of his conversion; all this though would have been lost in Peter’s bitterness and remorse. Now he is singled out especially. What an encouragement that was to him!
Later on we have an incident recorded only by John.
After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea. And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead. So when they had dined,
Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?
He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.
He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?
Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.
Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
The disciples had all gone back to their old calling of fishing. The Lord didn’t rebuke them for this, instead He repeated the miracle that He performed right at the beginning of His ministry – the draught of fish. (Lk.5:4-11). He had brought them back to the beginning of things. As soon as they recognise Jesus Peter was the first out of the boat and went to meet the Lord. He knew now that he had not been cast away.
Then we have this well known conversation between Jesus and Peter. This was a really heart searching dialogue, for three times Peter had denied the Lord, now three times Jesus asked him if he loved Him.
On the first occasion when the Lord questions Peter it is not clear as to what Jesus was referring when saying ‘do you love me more than these?’ It is assumed that Jesus was referring to the rest of the disciples, because Peter had claimed that he did, when he was told of his forthcoming denial.( Mtt.26:33). Peter is now given a reality check. His reply was yes but he left off the ‘more than these’. He had recognised that his boasting in the flesh was nothing more than bravado. The second time Jesus asked He also dropped the comparison. Jesus had come down to the level of Peter.
It is also worthy of note that the words used for love are different. On the first two occasions Jesus asked Peter He used the word agape- the Greek word used for God’s love in the NT. But Peter replies with philo, a lower type of love. The third time Jesus asked Peter about his love, He used the same word as Peter, philo and not agape. Jesus had come right down to the apostle’s level once more. Jesus did this to open Peter’s eyes to his own condition in reality. Before he could be restored Peter had to see his own condition, all pretensions of the flesh had to be removed. But note how Jesus did this: there was nothing of harshness, nor anger but one of gentleness, and love.
Finally Jesus gave great encouragement to Peter. instead of saying that he was finished Jesus gave him a commission. He was to feed the Lord’s sheep and lambs. That is to take care of the Lord’s people. A commission which he passed on to others towards the end of his life. (I Pet.5:1-4). Not only did the Lord bring forgiveness and restoration to fellowship with Himself, but also restoration to usefulness.
How wonderful this all is. What love and thoughtfulness the Lord showed! When a brother errs, going after the ways of the flesh he may indeed think that he has blown it, that there is no more opportunity for him. But that is a lie of the enemy, we as his brethren are to encourage him and help in his restoration. Firstly by going out of our way to include him. Secondly, that brother has to be brought to the reality of his condition, clearly he needs to be under conviction by the Holy Spirit. But if we have a role in that we must handle him in gentleness and love, and not to give way to the natural instincts of ‘battering’ him into submission ! Finally by restoring them to usefulness. How this is done depends on the individual, but the point here is to include and not exclude him. Where would any of us be if the Lord dealt with us as we would deal with others in the flesh?
When handling people we are to follow the Lord’s example and do so in the Spirit.