CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER SIX (Lesson CXXII)

6:1a My dear brothers and sisters, when you catch a fellow believer unaware that they are drawing away from what they know to be right, those of you guided by spiritual unity with the Anointed One should gently, and with forgiveness. Help put them back on the right path, always keeping this in mind: the same thing could happen to you.

In the First Covenant, we have several examples of what Paul is hinting about here concerning someone who either knowingly or unknowingly does not heed the warning and walks into temptation’s trap. For instance, after the flood, Noah planted a vineyard and one day drank too much of the wine and became intoxicated. It leads to an embarrassing incident that caused his grandson Canaan, through Ham, demoted to the life of a servant to all of Noah’s other descendants.[1] Rabbi Avraham Saba comments that getting drunk on wine was not Abraham’s downfall; it was not taking care to cover himself inside his tent. That allowed Canaan to be tempted beyond his capability to resist.[2]  So, carelessness caused Noah’s mistake.

Then we have Abram’s bad decision as he and Sarai were about to enter Egypt. So, he pulled her aside and whispered to her, “Look, I know that you are a beautiful woman. When the Egyptian men see you, they will say, ‘This woman is his wife.’ Then they will kill me and keep you alive because they want you. Tell them that you are my sister. Then they will be kind to me because of you. In this way, you will save my life.” [3] What he didn’t realize was that it was his deception that would almost get him killed. I’m sure that Abram was taught not to lie. But he took a chance, and it almost turned out to be a catastrophe instead.

Then, of course, we read about where Moses struck a rock instead of speaking to it as the LORD told him to do, and it caused him to be barred by God from going into the promised land. Sometimes we all do things in anger that we know is wrong while we’re doing; it can only result in violence and not victory.[4] According to Rabbi Saba, that reason Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it, was because he turned to the Lord and said, “are we expected to produce water for You from this rock?!” Apparently, the people demanded from Moses that he produce water from a specific rock of their choosing.[5]

And then, there’s David’s horrible mistake of taking what did not belong to him and ended up having to murder to do it.[6] Greed can be a terrible factor in causing a person to ignore the teaching and what is accepted by society as a crime. We could go on with Peter[7] and others. But what we see here is what many scholars interpret as Paul’s meaning when he talks about someone whose actions are motivated by foolishness, lying, greed, fear, etc.

Paul uses the Greek verb prolambanō, which Thayer, in his Greek Lexicon, sees as someone trying to keep something from happening, but before they can flee their crime, they get caught. I like the way the Living Bible renders King Solomon’s proverb that says, “It is senseless to pay to educate a fool since he has no heart for learning.” [8] But Paul’s main aim is to teach the Galatians (and us) how we deal with such a person. As he told the Romans, accept them because they need help and don’t argue over how wrong there were to do what they did.[9] That’s why God made some strong so they could help the weak.[10] And the writer of Hebrews (which many accept as Paul), advised us to be upright in our conduct so that those who’ve fallen will see us and get up and keep going.[11]

But Paul does not trumpet this proclamation as a call to arms on poverty, crime, disease, or lawbreaking. He immediately talks about the needs that he sees in the spiritual lives of those who are children of God. Their weak spirit in faith may lead to some of that, not as bankers, detectives, doctors, or police in the secular world but in the Spiritual realm. He told the Romans what leads to a person getting into so much trouble that they end up lying, being greedy, dishonest, or becoming stubborn. He was clear by telling them that if they let their sinful tendencies control their mind, it will lead to failure. But if they allow the Spirit to control their mind, it will lead to a significant life and peace.[12]

To live by being led by our Spirit-filled reborn spirit, it will help any person able to make judgments about all these things that the Spirit reveals to us. That’s why anyone without the Spirit’s help will not be able to make a proper evaluation and then look at all the options available to make the necessary changes. But worldly people without the Spirit’s insight, will not know what to say or do.[13] And there were some of those in Corinth. During his first letter, Paul said: Brothers and sisters, when I was there, I could not talk to you the way I talk to people who are led by the Spirit. I had to speak to you like ordinary people in the world. You were like babies beginning their union with the Anointed One.[14]

The whole purpose of Paul’s address here is not to make the spiritual members of the congregation judge and jury. He didn’t want them to think that as soon as some brother or sister makes a foolish mistake due to pressure or inattention, to interrogate them until you have every last bit of evidence to convict them and send them on their way. The Greek verb katartizō Paul uses here is translated by the KJV and NIV as “restore,” which means “to render fit,” “make sound,” “make complete.” Several ways exist to accomplish this. To mend or repair it. Equip, put in order, arrange, or adjust. Ethically, to strengthen, make complete, wholesome, what it ought to be. In his Lexicon, Thayer favors this last choice. It is what Paul recommends as the proper way to treat such brothers or sisters in helping them recover.

How to handle a person who foolishly committed a grievous sin is shown by the prophet Nathan when he approached King David after his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and placing her husband in the line of fire on the battlefield where he died. Instead of accusing David directly, he used an illustration of the heartbreaking affair that helped highlight what David did, so he could see the awful sin involved. Then he told David, “you are the man.” David’s conviction proved so strong that he wrote Psalm 51 to show his repentant spirit.[15] In other words, don’t’ accuse them of sin; let the other person say, “God forgive me, I have sinned.”

When wise man Job was going through the trial of his faith, even his friends tried to help him understand that it was a test, not a trial. After all, they said, “Job, you have taught many people. You encouraged those who were ready to quit. Your words helped those who were ready to fall. You gave strength to those who could not stand by themselves.” [16] It sounds like Job was doing it Paul’s way long before Paul came along. Paul may have also been inspired by the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “With good this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.’” [17]

The prophet Ezekiel got the correct method from the Lord, who told him to let His people know that He will search for the lost sheep. He will bring back the sheep that were scattered and put bandages on the sheep that were hurt. He will make the sick sheep healthy.[18] No wonder Jesus told those who doubted His message of getting right with God, with His mission of coming specially to save wayward believers,[19] in His parable of the lost sheep.[20]

The Apostle James, who was present when Jesus told this parable, includes the same theme in his letter.[21] Also, Jude explains it very clearly in his letter: Help those who have doubts. Rescue those who are living in danger of hell’s fire. There are others you should treat with mercy, but be very careful that their filthy lives don’t rub off on you.[22] And the Apostle John echoes the same call for those who are spiritually mature not to interrogate those who go astray but invest in their lives by helping them turn around and go back to the straight and narrow way to holiness and heaven.[23]

However, unless such rescue and restoration are done humbly with love, it will not be useful in the long run. Jesus set the tone for this when He invited anyone imprisoned by sin through the Law to take off that harness and put on His yoke because He was gentle and humble in heart. By wearing the yoke of the Anointed One, we too will be mild and humble when we go out to help people get rid of the harness of sinful tendencies and put on the yoke of discipleship offered by Jesus.[24]

Paul tells the Corinthians that this was a lesson that he learned from the Master, so when he offered to go back to Corinth to help them straighten out many who were overtaken by mistakes, that he would not come with the intent to punish them. Still, he would come with love and a gentle spirit.[25] And just in case they doubted him, in his second letter, he told the Corinthians that he was pleading with them with the humility and gentleness of the Anointed One.[26]

[1] Genesis 9:20-24

[2] Avraham Saba: Tzror Hamor, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 165

[3] Ibid. 12:11-13

[4] Numbers 20:10-13

[5] Avraham Saba: Tzror Hamor, op. cit., Vol. 4, p. 1662

[6] 2 Samuel 11:2-27

[7] Matthew 26:69-75

[8] Proverbs 17:16

[9] Romans 14:1

[10] Ibid. 15:1

[11] Hebrews 12:13

[12] Romans 8:6

[13] 1 Corinthians 1:15

[14] Ibid. 3:1

[15] 2 Samuel 12:1-15

[16] Job 4:3-4

[17] Isaiah 35:3-4 – New Living Translation (NLT)

[18] Ezekiel 34:16

[19] Matthew 9:13

[20] Ibid. 18:12-15

[21] James 5:19-20

[22] Jude 1:22-23

[23] 1 John 5:16

[24] Matthew 11:29

[25] 1 Corinthians 4:21

[26] 2 Corinthians 10:1

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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