Christ's Love in Action

by Wayne Barber

Christ's Love in Action

From time to time in our Christian lives, we will be overtaken by a sin-and it is then that we realize how much we need one another. In the 6th chapter of Galatians, after Paul has just shown the wonderful fruit of God's Spirit, Paul brings up a very possible situation we all must deal with: How does a believer deal with another believer who has openly sinned? What is the response of this love that only the Holy Spirit can produce?

Paul says: "Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass…" (Gal. 6:1). The phrase "even if a man is caught in any trespass" is interesting. The "if" here is a third-class conditional "if." This is a situation that could happen and probably will. The verb "is caught" is in the subjunctive mood. Third-class conditional "ifs" go with the subjunctive mood. Paul is painting a picture of a very probable situation. The word for "caught" is prolambáno. It comes from pro, "before" and lambáno, "to take" or "to overtake, to take beforehand, to overtake with surprise."

There are really two thoughts here and they are brought out in different translations. The first thought is seen in the KJV, NKJV and Young's translation: It is the thought that "a person has been surprised by sin's overtaking him." They all translate prolambáno as "overtaken." "If a man be overtaken by a fault." They view the verb prolambáno as a sin that has overtaken a man, like a hunter that finally caught the prey. You can see their point! Before Christ we chased after sin, but after Christ came into our lives, sin chases us and sometimes surprises us by catching us.

The verb "caught" is in the aorist passive, indicating that something happened to the person. He was "overtaken."

But the other truth in this phrase is found in the NASV translation, which indicates that this person has been actually caught in his sin. He has been surprised and now others know of his sin. The NASV translates it "even if a man is caught in any trespass." It is not just that a believer has sinned and has been overtaken by sin. He was caught. Galatians 6:1 goes on to advise: "…You who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness." Unless a person is "caught," how would a brother know to go and restore him?

So both truths seem to be in play here.

Now, this act of sin that a believer had been caught in would no doubt enrage believers who are not living surrendered to Christ. You can just hear them saying arrogantly, "How could he?" Or, "I can't believe he did that!" This is how our flesh reacts. Only the Holy Spirit can produce the kind of love that would be sensitive to the needs of the one who has been caught in sin. It is supernatural to be sensitive to someone when you know of his sin. Flesh condemns and wants to carry out the sentence, but the Spirit seeks to restore.

I believe that Paul is anticipating the wrong reaction to others' known sin. This would explain why Paul urges, "you who are spiritual" to restore the fallen brother in a spirit of gentleness. You see, sin in another believer's life can only be properly responded to through Christ's Spirit in us.

Every believer who is allowing God's love to be produced in him has a responsibility to his errant brother. The word "spiritual" is pneumatikós, According to Spiros Zodhiates' Word Study Dictionary, it is a believer who is enjoying the influences, graces, and gifts of the Holy Spirit. In other words, he is being filled with the Spirit. The love of Christ is produced in his life. Such believers are the only ones who ever have sensitivity to the believer who has been caught in the act of sin. Woe, when those who are not allowing Christ to live through them, try to deal with a brother who has been caught in the act of sin! They will rip you apart and have no mercy whatsoever.

"…Restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness." "Restore" is the word katartízo, from katá, "with," and artízo, "to adjust" or "to finish." It means to put a thing in its appropriate condition, to mend, like a doctor putting a broken bone back into place. Restore is in the present imperative. The present tense refers to an ongoing process and the imperative mood is a command. No option.

It doesn't mean to destroy the sinner with your words. It doesn't mean to tell everybody else! It does mean, be in the process of restoring a brother who has sinned. Such a response is proof that Christ is being allowed to reign in one's life. Oh, for a person filled with God's Spirit when our sin is discovered!