Exposition: This world is a place of continually needed repair. Oh, that everything would stay in a “brand new” condition! But cars, clothes, furniture, appliances and homes all require ongoing repair work. People, yes, Christian people, need restoration, too. And as a faithful servant of God, the apostle sought to mend the broken church of Galatia. John Flavel said the following well;
And indeed it is not so much the expense of our labors, as the loss of them, that kills us. It is not with us, as with other laborers: they find their work as they leave it, so do not we [sic]. Sin and Satan unravel almost all we do, the impressions we make on our people’s souls in one sermon, vanish before the next. How many truths have we to study! How many wiles of Satan, and mysteries of corruption, to detect! How many cases of conscience to resolve! Yea, we must fight in defence [sic] of the truths we preach, as well as study them to paleness, and preach them unto faintness: but welcome all, if we can but approve ourselves Christ’s faithful servants.
In pursuit of this goal, Paul gives some positive, practical steps that every congregation of believers must take, as it seeks to keep in step with the Spirit. Let us remember before we consider these verses that all is based on Christ and the gospel.
Exposition: Three features of a Christian who mends other Christians
I. The gentle restorer (6:1a) – The atmosphere in the Galatian church had been that of “law keeping for acceptance by God and one another”. This mood produces a harsh and judgmental attitude among people. However, we are not under law, but under grace (Rm 6:14). Praise God! When we realize what sin is—rejecting God, refusing to love God totally, and rebelling against God and his ways—we would all be condemned already for our ongoing sinfulness. For example, who here loved everyone this week with the love that Jesus loved us? Who perfectly lived a life of humility in God’s presence? Who was always thankful? Who kept away from every kind of evil? Who was patient with everyone? I point this out, not to lay a guilt trip on you, but to keep all of us within a scriptural way of looking at life.
Quote: “It is easy for certain types of religious people to sit in judgment on one who has suddenly yielded to some moral temptation, to make their disapproval manifest, but this is not the way of Christ” (Bruce). This easily happens when we forget the biblical teaching of sin and grace! However, we would consider, how can people be helped properly (and therefore best) in such situations?
A. The gentle restorer recognizes that other believers struggle with sin. His own struggles with sin sharply remind him that other saints also stumble (cf. Mt 7:2-5).
1. “Sin” is a trespass, a stepping aside out of the way, rather than keeping in step with the Spirit.
2. The Lord’s followers can find themselves “caught” in a trespass. It is too easy to wander off the right way.
B. The gentle restorer knows who can help and how to help.
1. All Christians (“you who are spiritual”) can help. Consider what Paul says in other places (Rm 15:14; 1 Th 5:14).
2. Mending is a work for gentle and humble hands. It is not for those who would push their own agenda on others. It is not for the proud who would look down on the spiritually afflicted.
Quote: “To gain this object he explains the purpose of godly reproofs, which is, to restore the fallen and make him sound again. This will never be accomplished by violence or through a spirit of accusation, or by fierceness of countenance and words. It remains that we must show a calm and kind spirit if we want to heal our brother.” [Calvin]
Illustration: It has been said that the church is the only army that shoots its own wounded. Needless to say, this ought not to be! In this work, we must first of all have the mind of the Lord Jesus (Is 40:11; 42:3). [Recommend The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes.]
II. The cautious restorer (6:1b) – I used to work as an estimator for a general construction company. I quickly learned that you must be very careful in estimating any job. Sometimes I would joke with my boss that if we won the bid, then either he or I missed something. For some reason, he wasn’t amused! Usually we focused on new construction, but once in a while we would pick up restoration or remodeling jobs. Those were much more difficult to estimate, because you never knew what you might get into! On these we had to be especially cautious.
A. The cautious restorer realizes that vigilance over one’s own soul is a crucial part of helping someone else.
1. If you are not cautious about seeking to help someone up, you might fall.
Illustration: Consider the lifeguard’s method of rescuing a drowning swimmer.
2. If you are not cautious about seeking to help someone you complicate that person’s problem.
Illustration: How many physicians in older times that didn’t know about bacteria would treat wounds with unclean hands!
B. The cautious restorer considers the danger of temptation. When you counsel someone else, and you are always counseling others, you must consider how another person’s sin might affect you.
1. An immature believer has poor spiritual vision. He sees the evil of sin, but fails to perceive the dangers of occasions to sin. He thinks restoration is an easy matter, grows careless in spiritual duties like private prayer and self-examination, and is suddenly entangled in the sin himself.
2. The mature believer clearly sees where temptation can lead, and so he strives to avoid it (Mt 26:41).
Illustration: As medical people in our day face great danger from disease in helping the sick, so spiritual doctors in our day face all the evils of contamination from the new paganism, other false religions of our day, and certainly from worldly wisdom, which ignores God and the gospel.
III. The burdened restorer (6:2) – Restoration is difficult work. It is not a job for those who confuse Christianity with a life of ease and pleasure that is free from pain and suffering. One of Satan’s great lies to the church has been that salvation is a vacation from service to God and others. No, we all are Christ’s ambassadors during a very bloody war.
A. The burdened restorer accepts the burdens that must come on him or her when he or she helps someone.
1. Frankly, the task can be wearisome, because you find out that when you lift the load off your brother or sister’s back, you must carry it on your own.
2. Some of these burdens, besides being heavy, are also distasteful. Nurses must take care of bed pans, catheter bags, and do other unpleasant tasks. But aren’t you thankful they are willing to care for others. Let’s thank our nurses now. Helping someone who needs spiritual restoration leads you into the swamps and sewers of sin. You will hear and see evil that will affect you.
3. Note very well: We don’t overlook or minimize the burdens of the fallen, but we try to unburden them, so that they can stand again.
B. The burdened restorer finds that in doing this, he is fulfilling the law of Christ.
1. The believer is a law keeper. He obeys the new Lawgiver.
2. Christ’s law emphasizes love for one another (Jn 13:34; 15:12).
Quote: This verse “shows that to love one another as Christ loved us may lead us not to some heroic, spectacular deed of self-sacrifice, but to the much more mundane and unspectacular ministry of burden-bearing (Stott).
Conclusion: It is time for the church to stop wishing things were better and to begin to follow the Holy Spirit’s plan for change. This is one clear way that we keep in step with the Spirit! This requires us to be gentle, cautious, burdened restorers of our fallen brothers and sisters. Life in the gospel community gets messy, but the Lord Jesus Christ has already secured our ongoing cleansing by his blood. So then, let’s be helpers and let the Lord be our Helper.