Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Galatians 6:1

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Brethren, if a man be overtaken - Εαν προληφθη· If he be surprised, seized on without warning, suddenly invaded, taken before he is aware: all these meanings the word has in connections similar to this. Strabo, lib. xvi., page 1120, applies it to the rhinoceros, in its contests with the elephant: he suddenly rips up the belly of the elephant, αν μη προληφθη τῃ προβοσκιδι, that he may not be surprised with his trunk. For, should the elephant seize him with his trunk first, all resistance would be afterwards in vain; therefore he endeavors to rip up the elephant's belly with the horn which is on his nose, in order to prevent this. It is used also by Arrian, in Peripl. Mar. Eryth., page 164, and page 168, to signify a vessel being suddenly agitated and whirled by the waves, and then dashed on the rocks. See Kypke.

Ye which are spiritual - Ye who still retain the grace of the Gospel, and have wisdom and experience in Divine things;

Restore such a one - Καταρτιζετε τον τοιουτον· Bring the man back into his place. It is a metaphor taken from a dislocated limb, brought back by the hand of a skillful and tender surgeon into its place.

In the spirit of meekness - Use no severity nor haughty carriage towards him; as the man was suddenly overtaken, he is already deeply humbled and distressed, and needs much encouragement and lenient usage. There is a great difference between a man who being suddenly assailed falls into sin, and the man who transgressed in consequence of having Walked in the counsel of the Ungodly, or Stood in the way of Sinners.

Considering thyself - Σκοπων σεαυτον· Looking to thyself; as he fell through a moment of unwatchfulness, look about, that thou be not surprised; As he fell, so mayest thou: thou art now warned at his expense; therefore keep a good look out.

Lest thou also be tempted - And having had this warning, thou wilt have less to plead in extenuation of thy offense. It is no wonder if a harsh and cruel censurer of a weak, backsliding brother, should be taught moderation and mercy by an awful proof of his own frailty. Such a one may justly dread the most violent attacks from the arch enemy; he will disgrace him if he can, and if he can overtake him he will have no small triumph. Consider the possibility of such a case, and show the mercy and feeling which thou wouldst then wish to receive from another. From the consideration of what we are, what we have been, or what we may be, we should learn to be compassionate. The poet Mantuanus has set this in a fine light in his Eclogue, De honesto Amore: -

Id commune malum; semel insanivimus omnes:

Aut sumus, aut fuimus, aut possemus omne quod hic est.

"This is a common evil; at one time or other we have all done wrong.

Either we are, or have been, or may be, as bad as he whom we condemn."

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Brethren, if a man be overtaken - Margin, “Although.” It is a case which the apostle supposes might happen. Christians were not perfect; and it was possible that they who were true Christians might be surprised by temptation, and fall into sin. The word rendered “be overtaken” ( προλημφθῃ prolēmphthēfrom προλαμβάνω prolambanō), means properly “to take before another, to anticipate” 1 Corinthians 11:21; then “to be before taken or caught”; and may here mean either that one had been formerly guilty of sin or had been recently hurried on by his passions or by temptations to commit a fault. It is probable that the latter here is the true sense, and that it means, if a man is found to be overtaken by any sin; if his passions, or if temptation get the better of him. Tyndale renders it: “If any man be fallen by chance into any fault.” It refers to cases of surprise, or of sudden temptation. Christians do not commit sin deliberately, and as a part of the plan of life; but they may be surprised by sudden temptation, or urged on by impetuous or headstrong passion, as David and Peter were. Paul does not speak of the possibility of restoring one who deliberately forms the plan of sinning; he does not suppose that such a man could be a Christian, and that it would be proper to speak of restoring such a man.

Ye which are spiritual - Who are under the influences of the Holy Spirit; see the note at Galatians 5:22-23. The apostle, in this verse, refers evidently to those who have fallen into some sensual indulgence Galatians 5:19-21, and says that they who have escaped these temptations, and who are under the influences of the Spirit, should recover such persons. It is a very important qualification for those who would recover others from sin, that they should not be guilty of the same sin themselves. Reformers should be holy persons; people who exercise discipline in the church should be “spiritual” men - people in whom implicit confidence may be properly reposed.

Restore such an one - On the meaning of the word used here, see the note at 2 Corinthians 13:11. Here it means, not to restore him to the church after he has been excluded, but set him right, bring him back, recover him from his errors and his faults. The apostle does not say in what manner this is to be done; but it is usually to be done doubtless by affectionate admonition, by faithful instruction, and by prayer. Discipline or punishment should not be resorted to until the other methods are tried in vain; Matthew 18:15-17.

In the spirit of meekness - With a kind, forbearing, and forgiving spirit; see the note at Matthew 5:5. Not with anger; not with a lordly and overbearing mind; not with a love of finding others in fault, and with a desire for inflicting the discipline of the church; not with a harsh and unforgiving temper, but with love, and gentleness, and humility, and patience, and with a readiness to forgive when wrong has been done. This is an essential qualification for restoring and recovering an offending brother. No one should attempt to rebuke or admonish another who cannot do it in the spirit of meekness; no man should engage in any way in the work of reform who has not such a temper of mind.

Considering thyself … - Remembering how liable you are yourself to err; and how much kindness and indulgence should therefore be shown to others. You are to act as if you felt it possible that you might also be overtaken with a fault; and you should act as you would wish that others should do toward you. Pliny (Epis. viii. 22) has expressed a similar sentiment in the following beautiful language. “Atque ego optimum et emendatissimum existimo, qui caeteris ita ignoscit, tanquam ipse quotidie peccet; ita peccatis abstinet, tanquam nemini ignoscat. Prolade hoc domi, hoc foris, hoc in omni vitae genere teneamus, ut nobis implacabiles simus, exorabiles istis etiam, qui dare veniam nisi sibi nesciunt.” The doctrine taught by Paul is, that such is human infirmity, and such the strength of human depravity, that no one knows into what sins he may himself fall. He may be tempted to commit; the same sins which he endeavors to amend in others; he may be left to commit even worse sins. If this is the case, we should be tender while we are firm; forgiving while we set our faces against evil; prayerful while we rebuke; and compassionate when we are compelled to inflict on others the discipline of the church. Everyone who has any proper feelings, when he attempts to recover an erring brother should pray for him and for himself also; and will regard his duty as only half done, and that very imperfectly, if he does not “consider also that he himself may be tempted.”

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
We are to bear one another's burdens. So we shall fulfil the law of Christ. This obliges to mutual forbearance and compassion towards each other, agreeably to his example. It becomes us to bear one another's burdens, as fellow-travellers. It is very common for a man to look upon himself as wiser and better than other men, and as fit to dictate to them. Such a one deceives himself; by pretending to what he has not, he puts a cheat upon himself, and sooner or later will find the sad effects. This will never gain esteem, either with God or men. Every one is advised to prove his own work. The better we know our own hearts and ways, the less shall we despise others, and the more be disposed to help them under infirmities and afflictions. How light soever men's sins seem to them when committed, yet they will be found a heavy burden, when they come to reckon with God about them. No man can pay a ransom for his brother; and sin is a burden to the soul. It is a spiritual burden; and the less a man feels it to be such, the more cause has he to suspect himself. Most men are dead in their sins, and therefore have no sight or sense of the spiritual burden of sin. Feeling the weight and burden of our sins, we must seek to be eased thereof by the Saviour, and be warned against every sin.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 166

I saw that many have taken advantage of what God has shown in regard to the sins and wrongs of others. They have taken the extreme meaning of what has been shown in vision, and then have pressed it until it has had a tendency to weaken the faith of many in what God has shown, and also to discourage and dishearten the church. With tender compassion should brother deal with brother. Delicately should he deal with feelings. It is the nicest and most important work that ever yet was done to touch the wrongs of another. With the deepest humility should a brother do this, considering his own weakness, lest he also should be tempted. 1T 166.1

I have seen the great sacrifice which Jesus made to redeem man. He did not consider His own life too dear to sacrifice. Said Jesus: “Love one another, as I have loved you.” Do you feel, when a brother errs, that you could give your life to save him? If you feel thus, you can approach him and affect his heart; you are just the one to visit that brother. But it is a lamentable fact that many who profess to be brethren, are not willing to sacrifice any of their opinions or their judgment to save a brother. There is but little love for one another. A selfish spirit is manifested. 1T 166.2

Discouragement has come upon the church. They have been loving the world, loving their farms, their cattle, etc. Now Jesus calls them to cut loose, to lay up treasure in heaven, to buy gold, white raiment, and eyesalve. Precious treasures are these. They will obtain for the possessor an entrance into the kingdom of God. 1T 166.3

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Ellen G. White
Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 128

If Christ is in you “the hope of glory,” you will have no disposition to watch others, to expose their errors. Instead of seeking to accuse and condemn, it will be your object to help, to bless, and to save. In dealing with those who are in error, you will heed the injunction, Consider “thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Galatians 6:1. You will call to mind the many times you have erred and how hard it was to find the right way when you had once left it. You will not push your brother into greater darkness, but with a heart full of pity will tell him of his danger. MB 128.1

He who looks often upon the cross of Calvary, remembering that his sins placed the Saviour there, will never try to estimate the degree of his guilt in comparison with that of others. He will not climb upon the judgment seat to bring accusation against another. There can be no spirit of criticism or self-exaltation on the part of those who walk in the shadow of Calvary's cross. MB 128.2

Not until you feel that you could sacrifice your own self-dignity, and even lay down your life in order to save an erring brother, have you cast the beam out of your own eye so that you are prepared to help your brother. Then you can approach him and touch his heart. No one has ever been reclaimed from a wrong position by censure and reproach; but many have thus been driven from Christ and led to seal their hearts against conviction. A tender spirit, a gentle, winning deportment, may save the erring and hide a multitude of sins. The revelation of Christ in your own character will have a transforming power upon all with whom you come in contact. Let Christ be daily made manifest in you, and He will reveal through you the creative energy of His word—a gentle, persuasive, yet mighty influence to re-create other souls in the beauty of the Lord our God. MB 128.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, 222

God wants us to help one another by a manifestation of sympathy and unselfish love. There are those who have inherited peculiar tempers and dispositions. They may be hard to deal with; but are we faultless? They are not to be discouraged. Their errors are not to be made common property. Christ pities and helps those who err in judgment. He has suffered death for every man, and because of this He has a touching and profound interest in every man. 9T 222.1

A man may be trying to serve God, but temptations from within and from without assail him. Satan and his angels urge and coax him to transgress. Perhaps he falls a prey to their temptings. How then do his brethren treat him? Do they speak harsh, cutting words, driving him further from the Saviour? What a sad sight for Christ and the angels to behold! 9T 222.2

Let us remember that we are struggling and falling, failing in speech and action to represent Christ, falling and rising again, despairing and hoping. Let us beware of dealing unkindly with those who, like ourselves, are subjects of temptation and who, like ourselves also, are the objects of Christ's unfailing love. 9T 222.3

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Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 440

“We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Romans 15:1. No soul who believes in Christ, though his faith may be weak, and his steps wavering as those of a little child, is to be lightly esteemed. By all that has given us advantage over another,—be it education and refinement, nobility of character, Christian training, religious experience,—we are in debt to those less favored; and, so far as lies in our power, we are to minister unto them. If we are strong, we are to stay up the hands of the weak. Angels of glory, that do always behold the face of the Father in heaven, joy in ministering to His little ones. Trembling souls, who have many objectionable traits of character, are their special charge. Angels are ever present where they are most needed, with those who have the hardest battle with self to fight, and whose surroundings are the most discouraging. And in this ministry Christ's true followers will co-operate. DA 440.1

If one of these little ones shall be overcome, and commit a wrong against you, then it is your work to seek his restoration. Do not wait for him to make the first effort for reconciliation. “How think ye?” said Jesus; “if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” DA 440.2

In the spirit of meekness, “considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted,” (Galatians 6:1), go to the erring one, and “tell him his fault between thee and him alone.” Do not put him to shame by exposing his fault to others, nor bring dishonor upon Christ by making public the sin or error of one who bears His name. Often the truth must be plainly spoken to the erring; he must be led to see his error, that he may reform. But you are not to judge or to condemn. Make no attempt at self-justification. Let all your effort be for his recovery. In treating the wounds of the soul, there is need of the most delicate touch, the finest sensibility. Only the love that flows from the Suffering One of Calvary can avail here. With pitying tenderness, let brother deal with brother, knowing that if you succeed, you will “save a soul from death,” and “hide a multitude of sins.” James 5:20. DA 440.3

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