I have recently completed a new Bible study guide for Paul’s epistle to the Galatians. It is an 13 lesson, inductive Bible study, designed so that God’s word is the main body of the book. Feel free to download it for your own personal study or for a group study.
“Brethren, if anyone 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.” Galatians 6:1
There is no doubt that the greatest joy of being a Christian is seeing those who had wonder far from God come back home. What a joy it is to see those who were once overtaken by sin break free of the chains of Satan by the power supplied to them by Jesus Christ. If the heavens could be peeled back they would reveal the angelic host rejoicing that one of God’s lambs had been saved.
As Christians we have many responsibilities and one of those responsibilities is to restore those who have been overtaken in sin. For our lesson today I would like for use to consider the words of the apostle Paul in Galatians 6:1. Since it is our responsibility to restore those overtaken in sin then we would do well to learn more about our responsibility to those who have been overtaken in sin so that we can better fulfill our God given duty.
“If anyone is overtaken in any trespass…”
First, Paul doesn’t want Christians to show partiality. He teaches this by saying, “If anyone is overtaken in any trespass…” Paul wants us to see that it doesn’t matter who the person is or what they have done, since they have a soul we are to seek to restore them to the Lord.
But, too often we’re only willing to help those we are closest to; or whose sins we are the most comfortable with; or whose sin was the most public; or those who we personally regard as important to us and to the work of the congregation. Friends these things ought not to be. Rather, let us have the mind of Christ and see every soul as precious and worthy of salvation and seek to restore them no matter what they have done to be overtaken.
“You who are spiritual should…”
Second, Paul calls for mature, spiritually-minded Christians to take action and lead the effort to restore the overtaken. For this very reason, there is a real need for mature, spiritually-minded Christians in every congregation.
Let me take this opportunity to say a word about the need for Christians to be shepherded by elders. One of the main roles of elders is to “keeping watch” over the souls of those in their congregation (Hebrews 13:17). Christians, who purposefully do not attend congregations with elders, are missing out on one of God’s great gifts for them (Ephesians 4:11-16), the gift of someone to “keep watch” over their soul and to restore them when they are overtaken.
“Restore such a one in gentleness…”
Third, Paul wanted the spiritual Christian to “restore” the overtaken in a spirit of “gentleness.” The goal of our going to the overtaken is to “restore” them or put in another way “mend” them as the word is translated in Matthew 4:21. That which is torn is not mended with harshness but with “gentleness” less it tear even further. So it is with one overtaken in sin, if they are to be mended it will require “gentleness” so that they their separation from God is not further torn.
“Considering yourselves lest you also be tempted.”
Finally Paul concludes the verse by saying, “Consider yourselves lest you also be tempted.” Two thoughts come to mind here:
The first is the golden rule, “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.” (Matthew 7:12) Why does the spiritual Christian approach the overtaken with gentleness? Because he is considering his own weaknesses to sin and he is treating his brother the way he would want to be treated.
Second is, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” (1 Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9) Why was there a need to restore the overtaken? So that others, including the spiritual Christian, would not be tempted to follow the same sins as the one who was overtaken. Paul desired that the leaven of sin be purged from the whole by restoring the lost.
We have many responsibilities as Christians but none as important as restoring the overtaken that are among us. Let us with all love and gentleness seek them out, and kindly bring them back to God. This is our sacred responsibility. May God bless you in your endeavors to seek and save the lost.
There are people in this world who possess the natural ability to lead and command the respect of others. Whether you call it charm, charisma, magnetism, or whatever, such people wield a powerful influence on those who look up to them as the embodiment of all they would like to become themselves.
Peter apparently possessed such qualities and was a leader among the apostles. It was Peter who always listed first when the apostles are named in scripture (Matthew 10:2; Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13). It was Peter who declared Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:16). It was Peter who took the lead in seeing the need to replace Judas (Acts 1:15-26). It was Peter who stood up and raised his voice above and proclaimed Jesus as the Christ on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14).
We have all known and have been influenced by people like Peter. Every one of us has our “hero” that we have looked up to through the years. Perhaps it was a parent that was your hero, or an uncle/aunt, or grandparent. Perhaps it was a helpful teacher or an encouraging coach. Perhaps it was a preacher, or pastor, or a silver-haired saint.
The opportunities for good that leaders and hero’s possess are tremendous; but so are the responsibilities. The confidence of others is a trust that must be carefully protected. On one hand a leader can influence someone to achieve greater heights; while on the other the sinful actions of a leader can lead their admirers to the lowest of lows.
Such was the case with the apostle Peter and his refusal to eat with the Gentile Christians at Antioch (Galatians 2:11-21). Peter had come down to Antioch and was socializing and eating with the Gentile Christians in the church there. But when certain Christians came from James in Jerusalem, Peter was afraid of what they might say about him eating with Gentiles (see Acts 10:28; 11:2-3for an explanation of Jewish thoughts on eating with Gentiles) so he separated himself from the Gentile Christians and wouldn’t eat with them. Peter’s hypocritical actions lead the rest of the Jews in the church at Antioch, including Barnabas, to stop eating and having fellowship with their Gentile brethren. When Paul saw Peter’s actions he rebuked him to his face in front of those who were led astray by his actions.
There are three lessons we, as leaders, can learn from this incident that will help us maintain our influence with those who look up to us:
Leaders must live more cautiously than others. Every Christian is warned not to place a stumbling block in his brother’s way (Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 8:9). Because of their potential for influence, leaders are to live even more cautiously than others. While it may not have mattered much for one Jew to not have eaten with Gentiles, it mattered tremendously when Peter did not eat with them. Peter failed to live more cautiously than others. He failed to realize that others would follow his lead and sin by “playing the hypocrite.”
As leaders, whether as parents, or preachers, or professionals, we must live more cautiously than others. People (our children, our congregations, our friends) are looking up to us as leaders for guidance in what to do, for permission to do it, and for the encouragement to keep it up. Many times the guidance, permission and encouragement they are seeking comes not from our words, but from our actions. Since our actions speak as loudly as our words, we need to exercise caution in the way we live our lives. Cautious living is simply a cost – an inevitable cost – of influence and leadership.
Leaders must weigh the impact of their decisions. Leaders must be prepared that their decisions will have a greater impact on others than the actions of those with lesser influence. While Peter was probably not the first Jewish Christian to not eat with Gentiles the actions of the less influential had gone unnoticed by the majority. It was inevitable that Peter’s sin would result in greater impact by all the Jews in the church at Antioch, including Barnabas, refused to eat with their Gentile brethren (Galatians 2:13).
As leaders we must carefully weigh the decisions that we make, because our decisions impact the lives of others. We must weigh the impact of the words we say, the purchases we make, the relationships we keep, the jobs we take, the hobbies we have, the places we live, the church we attend, and the list goes on and on. And while it may seem overwhelming, having to weigh the impact of our decisions is simply a cost – an inevitable cost – of influence and leadership.
Leaders must endure sterner rebukes. Paul said that he withstood Peter “to his face… before everyone.” (cf. Galatians 2:11, 14) Paul recognized that Peter’s actions required an immediate and stern rebuke in front of those whom he led astray and those whom he hurt by his sin. Peter could not have the luxury of a private meeting with Paul; Peter had betrayed a trust. Nothing less than an open rebuke could counteract the harm that had resulted from his sinful action.
As leaders we must endure sterner rebukes when we do wrong. It’s inevitable that when we have not lived cautiously, nor weighed the impact of our decisions we will led others astray by our actions. The temptation is to demand our right for a matter to be treated fairly (which means privately) but it is only fair that as public leaders we receive stern, public rebukes for our errors. Sterner rebukes are simply a cost – an inevitable cost – of influence and leadership.
When “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was involved in the Black Sox Scandal of the 1919 and was on his way to trial, a small boy, hurt, disappointed, with tears in his eyes, was heard to cry, “Say it ain’t so, Joe, say it ain’t so.” Each of us is likely someone’s hero and a looked up to leader. Let us, when we are presented with temptation, look ahead to the potential tears, and hurt and disillusionment that we could bring upon those who look up to us; let the cries of, “say it ain’t so…” ring in our ears and motivate us to live cautiously, weighing the impact of our decisions, and accept a sterner rebuke for our errors.
This article has been adapted from Bill Hall’s article entitled, The Cost of Influence and Reputation from his book Two Men… Articles on Practical Christian Living published by Gary Fisher, 1998.