In recent messages we have discussed the need for church discipline and the proper way to correct those in the church who may have sin in their lives. In our study of 2nd Thessalonians, we see this theme and must consider how true believers should respond when others try to help correct their errors. As I was looking over this topic again, I was reminded of an article I wrote eleven years ago when we studied the Sermon on the Mount. The comments I made then are still true today. I want to revisit these comments beginning with Paul’s instructions in Galatians 6. I hope this is insightful for both those who are helping and those who are being helped.
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. (Galatians 6:1)
The extraordinary depth of Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount is exemplified in no greater way than to observe the numbers of times the apostles give further exposition of the principles He taught. In Matthew 7, Jesus taught against hypocritical judgment by saying “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” The background for Jesus’ statement was the hateful, self-righteous attitude of the scribes and Pharisees who could easily see the minor faults of others but could never see the glaring inconsistencies in their own lives. It may be true that another person has faults, but hypocritical judgment will never help them. Does this mean there is no allowance to approach another person to help them when they have entered sin? This is where the apostles’ expansion of Sermon on the Mount themes is so important. It is possible and indeed necessary to speak to others about their sins to help them, but not before some very strict guidelines have been observed. Jesus touches on this when he says. “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Paul states the same principle in another way, “Ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” The guideline for approaching others is meekness and humility understanding that if not for the grace of God you could be guilty of the same sin.
Another important aspect to consider is the proper purpose for your approach. There is a key word in Galatians 6:1 that should not be overlooked. Paul says, “restore such an one.” The word restore originally meant to “set a broken bone.” The object of our approach should never be to heap condemnation on the offender, but to gently and lovingly nurture the person back to spiritual health. When a bone is broken in the arm, the first option is not to cut off the arm. As carefully and precisely as possible, the doctor will set the bone, so it heals properly. This should always be the attitude when we approach someone about their sin. Our purpose is not to be harsh and sever them from fellowship, but to mend them spiritually so they return to the place of God’s blessing. With this approach, criticism is constructive rather than destructive.
Far from teaching there are no circumstances under which we are permitted to confront sin in the church, the combination of Jesus’ statements in the Sermon on the Mount and those of Paul to the Galatians, are encouragement for all of us to weigh the quality of our devotion to the Lord before we are qualified to address the sins of others. If you are careful to do this and you approach others in the spirit of meekness, the help is more likely to be appreciatively received.
Pastor V. Mark Smith