Be On Guard!-For Others and Yourself

Further Thoughts on Galatians 6:1

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1, ESV)

(Galatians 6:1, ESV)

Having explained what the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit look like in Galatians 5, the Apostle Paul continued his letter in the direction of the practical outworking of Christians who are overtaken by the works of the flesh and those spiritually mature Christians who should help carry their burdens and restore them in love.

This idea of a Christian being “caught in any transgression” speaks of the danger of “falling into sin.” In other words, it is not a premeditated act of open rebellion against the Lord, but may have come about by a carelessness and lack of watching ones own life carefully. This word “caught” is used of a Roman military legion being overrun by a Jewish military force.

There are times when we know we are walking into trouble, and then there are those times when we get swept up into it, never intending to do so. The Bible describes the open and brash sinner as a scoffer and a mocker, while the person caught up in sin as foolish and sometimes naive. While there is danger in both, the Christian who find himself or herself in sin would hopefully be the one who slowly wandered into it because they were careless.

So, what is the responsibility of those who are walking in the Spirit? The “spiritual” person in Galatians 6:1 is not a reference to “the mature in Christ” only. Going back to the previous chapter, a spiritual Christian is one who is walking in step with the Holy Spirit (5:25), made manifest in the fruit of the Spirit (5:22-23). Since every Christian has the Holy Spirit living in him or her (Rom 8:9; 2Tim 1:14), we are all “spiritual” and are not to submit to the fleshly desires that can still present a problem to the Christian. But the reality is that we may all act in a fleshly way at times.

The goal of all of this care is for restoring our brother or sister to a right relationship with Christ. Yesterday’s post addressed the truth that for far too many Christians, the attitude is one of self-preservation and personal faith that has no room for confrontation or personal accountability. Bearing one another’s burdens is itself a burden. So many avoid it.

In comments regarding the parable of the Lost Sheep (Matt. 18:12-14), James Montgomery Boice shows how to seek after the lost, wandering sheep is to be like Christ:

“What were the disciples thinking about when Jesus told them about the lost sheep? They had been arguing about which of them should be greatest in the kingdom of heaven. With that in the immediate background, presumably they were thinking of themselves as among the ninety-nine who were still on the hillside and were wondering which of the ninety-nine would be the “top sheep.” As long as they were thinking of such things, they would never be concerned for the one who was lost, and they would never do anything to help find him or her. Who will be greatest? We should be beginning to understand the answer to that question by now. The greatest believer is the one who is most like the Shepherd, who gave himself for us. Like little children? Yes. But like the Shepherd too. We are never more like God than when we exert ourselves to help others, and if God rejoices over the one we help to bring home, he is probably rejoicing over what we are doing too.”[1]

James Montgomery Boice

But, unlike Jesus, there are dangers for us. We are still sheep. We all struggle with temptation and a desire to wander ourselves. And so, Paul added the warning to “keep watch for yourself, lest you too be tempted.” The temptation might be the same sin that caused the other brother or sister to fall, but that is not necessary. It might be another sin altogether. And even more possible, is the temptation to think of yourself as being more godly than the one who was taken by sin. We must remember our Lord’s words in Matt 7:1-5.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  

(Matthew 7:1–5, ESV)

So how can we put all of this together? Bear one another’s burdens, seek after those who have gone astray, don’t be too proud and watch out for yourself so that you don’t get taken down by sin yourself? It all seems so complicated! Perhaps a simple scenario will help illustrate the idea.

Imagine the Christian life like a tribal people who need to use the river for bathing. Lining the banks of the river are man-eating crocodiles. Each person takes his turn watching out for the others, and sounds a warning when the crocodiles come close. When they attack, everyone is called to pull the victim away from the killer reptile. But we need to watch out! It will soon enough be our turn to bathe in the waters and the gator may get us just as easily. Would you want the others to watch out, or would you be foolish enough to think that you are smart enough and fast enough and alert enough to avoid the danger without any other to help you?

We need each other. That is why we were given the Church. Tomorrow is the Lord’s Day. May we have this mindset as we enter into the House of Prayer and worship our great God.

[1] James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2001), 389.

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