If A Man Be Overtaken In A Fault
October 14th, 1956 @ 7:30 PM
IF A MAN BE OVERTAKEN IN A FAULT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-14-56 7:30 p.m.
This morning we concluded with the fifth chapter of Galatians. Tonight we begin with the last chapter, and we’ll read together the text, the first five verses: the sixth, the last chapter of Galatians, the first five verses. Right in the middle of your New Testament, maybe a little toward the end, the Book of Galatians, and the last chapter, the sixth chapter, and the first five verses. The title of the sermon is If a Man Be Overtaken in a Fault.
And that’s the first verse. Now do you have it? Let’s read it together, Galatians 6:1-5:
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.
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
For every man shall bear his own burden.
Now the text is the first verse: "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 tried" [Galatians 6:1].
"If a man be overtaken in a fault" [Galatians 6:1]. Surely, surely, in those churches in Galatia, there’s not a man who is overtaken in a fault for these are the saints of the New Testament. They’ve been born again [Galatians 1:6]. They’ve been saved [Galatians 3:3]. The incorruptible Word of God has been implanted in their hearts [1 Peter 1:23]. They’ve been born of the Spirit [John 3:7-8; Galatians 3:2]. Their hearts are the tabernacles of the Holy Ghost [1 Corinthians 6:19]. They are new men [2 Corinthians 5:17], regenerated men [Titus 3:5]. They’re saved [Galatians 3:1-5]. Surely not among the churches of Galatia is there a man who is overtaken in a fault!
But you will find that the most characteristic thing about the saints of God – you’ll find it in the Bible, you’ll find it in your own life’s experience, and you’ll find it in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Look around you and look inside of you. These children who are born again and who are saved and whom I have baptized and they’re members of the church, how much – how very, very much – do they have yet to learn and to do!
These young people – these teenagers, our youth, our young men, and our young women – they’ve been saved. They’ve been born again, they’ve been baptized, and they belong to the church; but how much – how very, very much – is there lacking in their dedication and in their lives. And the men and the women who are in manhood and in womanhood among all of us, how very many faults is there in each one?
"Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault" [Galatians 6:1] – a Christian man, a saved man, a baptized man, a member of the church – overtaken in a fault. The disciples are most interesting to us because they’re so much like us. They were saved. Each one of them had been baptized. They were committed to a full discipleship in Christ [Matthew 26:20-22; John 6:66-69], but how full of fault and weakness all of them were!
The mother egging on James and John, putting in their heads ideas, dreaming dreams for them [Matthew 20:20-21]. Finally those boys, consumed with ambition, requested of the Lord that in the great triumphal day, one of them would sit on His right hand and the other on His left hand [Mark 10:35-40]: first in the kingdom, proud and ambitious and vainglorious, overtaken in a fault.
When the disciples came to Thomas and said, "He’s risen from the dead! He’s alive! He’s not in Joseph’s tomb. He lives," Thomas said, "That may be for children to believe and those who are credulous and listen to old wives’ tales; but as for me, I’m a man of investigation, and I don’t believe that dead men rise. I don’t believe Jesus is alive. And I wouldn’t believe it until I put my finger in the prints of the nails in His hand and thrust my hand in His side. I wouldn’t believe that" [John 20:25]. "If a man be overtaken in a fault" [Galatians 6:1].
When the Lord Jesus announced, "All of you will deny Me, forsake Me" [Matthew 26:31; Mark 14:27], Simon Peter stood up and said, "Lord, these may deny Thee. John there may. Didymus there may. James the Less may; and Nathanael and Bartholomew, they all may, but I won’t. Why, Lord, I’d lay down my life for Thee! I’d never deny Thee" [Mark 14:29-31; Luke 22:33-34; John 13:37].
And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon, before the cock shall crow twice" – that is, the cockcrow at midnight, that’s once; the cockcrow at dawn, that’s a second time – "before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny thrice that you ever knew Me" [Matthew 26:34; Luke 22:34; John 13:38]. "If a man be overtaken in a fault" [Galatians 6:1].
Now, what is the reaction – human – to fault in people? Well, it’s the most volatile thing in the world, and it goes to both extremes. It’s a marvelous thing the reaction of humanity to fault, to mistake, to sin. For one thing, sometimes a church – which is God’s organization in this earth – sometimes the church will go to very opposite extremes. I’ve seen it in my own life. I see it in the history of the church.
There was a time in the church age, in the age of the Donatists, when they refused restoration, when they refused repentance. If a man broke any of the commandments of the church, he was out forever. They would never receive him back. That’s one extreme.
Then there came an age in the church when they had periodic absolutions, when plenary indulgences were granted and sold on every side. I’ve seen that in my generation of the age – the vast extremes.
In the little church in which I grew up, the man who was the leader in the church was the president of the only little bank that we had in our town. He was a very fine man; the only one that had any means at all. And I went to a church conference one time, and they got in such a dogfight as you never saw, and they turned the banker out of the church because he had danced.
Well, I – that made an impression upon me. I’ve turned that over in my mind a great deal, and the thing that bothered me about it as a boy was this: that they turned the banker out of the church because he was dancing. But my soul, the people who met there and turned him out of the church! I listened to some of them and I heard some of them, and I never heard such vicious, long-tongued, gossipin’ women in my life as I grew up with as a boy, and they were the ones that turned him out of the church!
Well, as a boy, that bothered me. "There’s old sister so-and-so; there’s old sister so-and-so, and there’s old sister so-and-so." My soul, they had tongues tied in the middle and waggin’ at both ends all the time! Yet they turn him out of the church.
Well, today, today, I wonder what’d happen if somebody around here got turned out of the church for dancing. I wonder what’d happen. Just how many of you would still be in the church? Just how many of you would? Now, I don’t know about those things. It’s always bothered me – discipline in the church. And you know I don’t look with favor upon dancing of any kind, but that shows human reaction: volatile, shifty, changing. One day it’s this, and another day it’s that; something altogether different.
That’s true in our social order: society organized as such. All of you children that have been taught English history, you remember the age of the cavalier. Charles I, the cavalier: all he thought about was hunting a bear or a boar or havin’ a good time. "The age of the cavalier: singing a song and drinking wine, going to a banquet, havin’ a big time." Remember that?
All right. Do you remember the reaction that came to it? Clear to the other extreme. Then you had the age of Oliver Cromwell and the Puritan, and they were very stern and sober and conservative and stiff and starchy. Then you had another reaction. Then you had Charles II, and the cavalier came back again. That’s the social order. That’s government, and it changes and it’s shifting.
And that’s the way with our own response to people. There’ll be a man in great fault, but he’s a talented fellow, and he’s much gifted or he’s very wealthy, and we look upon him and we say, "Well, that’s an eccentricity." But on the other hand, there’ll be a poor, defenseless devil somewhere that’ll fall into the mire, and the wrath of society’ll rise against him, and they want to electrocute him, and lynch him, and hang him, and burn him, and all the same time. That’s humanity. "If a man be overtaken in a fault" [Galatians 6:1].
Now, that’s one reason why I have found in God’s Book here a wonderful and a vast evidence of the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. However the world may shift and may change in its attitude toward human weakness and human failure, the Word of God and the Book of the Lord is always the same. It has two attitudes.
First, in its demand, it never relents and it never retracts and it never abates. The Word of the Lord is righteous altogether, and the law is weighty and stern. Didn’t – there’s never an exception. It is always the same. Human failure, human sin and human weakness is always met in the Word of God with those unabated and relentless judgments. Listen to them:
"The wages of sin is death" [Romans 6:23].
"The soul that sins shall die" [Ezekiel 18:4].
The law is stern and relentless, and it demands an impersonal and inexorable penalty! We play against them with our lives. That’s the Word of God. It never abates. It never shifts. It never changes [Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 13:8]. The law is inexorable, and "the soul that sins shall die" [Ezekiel 18:4]. That’s the Word.
Then there’s a second: But, but! "If the law came by Moses, grace, truth came by Jesus Christ" [John 1:17]. If there’s an Israelite who has been bitten by the serpent and he’s dying, let him look and live [Numbers 21:5-9]. Let him look and live [Numbers 21:8-9]. And Jesus said to the woman in sin, "Neither do I condemn thee; arise, go, and sin no more" [John 8:11]. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ" [Romans 6:23]. However the world may shift and change, the inspiration of the Bible is always and ever the same. Sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.
"If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself . . ." [Galatians 6:1]
"If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual" – the pneumatikoi in the church. "O Lord, O Lord." Your first reaction is, "Dear God, when I fall into fault and mistake and to failure, O Lord, don’t let me fall into the hands of these in the church, these self-appointed superior ones. O Lord, I would look for sympathy from the saloon keeper, and I would look for understanding from the streetwalker, and I would look for help from the sinner; but, dear God, don’t let me fall into the hands of the Pharisees that are in the church."
Let me tell you something. They’re not the pneumatikoi, the spiritual ones. They’re the caricatures. These who sit in self-righteous judgment, they’re not the spiritual ones of God. They’re the Pharisees. They’re the self-appointed righteous ones. They’re the ones who sit in condemnation and in judgment for the pneumatikoi.
The spiritual ones in the church have it in their hearts and have it in their lives and have it in their intercessions: "O Lord, we are made out of dust. We are weak and poor. We are subject to all of the trials and vanities of life; and our Lord, make us in sympathy and in understanding a friend to the friendless, a helper to the helpless, and a guide to those who are enmeshed in the ways of the world."
"Ye which are spiritual, restore such an one" [Galatians 6:1]. That’s the great ministry of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ: restoration. "Restore such an one" [Galatians 6:1].
You know, I got a new idea this week of a passage of Scripture that always troubled me. But this week, preparing the sermon, I got a new insight. In the twentieth chapter of the Book of John, Jesus, appearing to the disciples after He was raised from the dead, said, "Peace be unto you! As My Father sent Me, even so send I you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive ye the Holy Spirit. Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained" [John 20:21-23].
God hath given into our hands, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, God hath given into our hands this great ministry of forgiveness and restoration. "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance," [Luke 5:32] and "I came not to be a Physician for the well but for the sick" [Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17]. And the tremendous ministries of our church are not in condemnation, but our ministries are in restoration, in the mediation of the forgiveness and love and mercy and grace of God.
If there’s any man here who has never sinned, let him stand up and cast stones at the whole world around him [John 8:7], but if there’s any man here who knows what it is to be overtaken in a fault [Galatians 6:1], let him stand up and look in sympathy and in mercy and in grace and in prayer and in intercession upon the whole world all around him. Our ministries are ministries of forgiveness and restoration – the mediation of the love and mercy of God [2 Corinthians 5:19-20]. "If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual" – not the caricatures, ye who know God and have been forgiven of the Lord – "restore such an one in the spirit of meekness," [Galatians 6:1], in the spirit of meekness.
You know, Aristotle said meekness is a meanness that borders on a vice [Nicomachean Ethics, Chapter V, by Aristotle, 350 BCE]. Nietzsche said of his suffering men that the meek were the groveling slaves of the earth. How different is the message of the Lord Christ, our Savior: "Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden . . . Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls" [Matthew 11:28-29].
A proud man in the church of Christ is a misfit, and a contumacious man in the kingdom of heaven is in the wrong place. God’s spiritual children are meek and lowly in heart [Romans 12:3; Philippians 2:5-8]. "Considering thyself – Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye who are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, considering thyself . . . " [Galatians 6:1].
Look inside of your own heart: "Considering thyself lest thou also be tempted" [Galatians 6:1] and tried and put in the furnace. After we look at ourselves, it becomes rather difficult to criticize other people, doesn’t it? After we look at ourselves, it becomes very, very obnoxious to us to condemn other people. All of us are so much alike: some of us sinners outside of the grace and mercy of God, others of us sinners on the inside of the forgiveness and mercies of the Lord. "Considering thyself" [Galatians 6:1].
I do not think there is any story of the Lord Jesus that was ever more appropriate for His children than this one here in the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew. Simon Peter asked Him a question, and I’m glad that he did because it gave rise to this wonderful story from the Lord Jesus. It says here that Simon Peter came to the Lord and said, "Lord, how often ought I to forgive a brother the sin? How often shall I forgive him? One time, two, five? I’ll be generous. Should we forgive a man seven times, Lord? Seven times?" [Matthew 18:21]
And Jesus said to him, "I say not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven" [Matthew 18:22]. Four hundred [and ninety]. Infinite! Infinite.
Therefore is the kingdom of heaven like unto a king, and he had two servants. And one of those servants came up to him and said, "Your lordship, I owe you, and it’s ten thousand talents here." You’d say a million dollars. "I owe you a million dollars, but I can’t pay. I have nothing whereof to pay, and I owe you a million dollars" [Matthew 18:23-24]. And the lord – according to those days and customs – the lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife sold, and his children sold, and all that he had sold; turn them into slavery and confiscate all that he had in order that payment might be made on that great debt [Matthew 18:25].
And the servant fell down and pleaded with the king and said, "Lord, lord, have pity. Have mercy on me. Lord, have patience please, please!" [Matthew 18:26] And the lord, looking on that servant, had compassion on him and loosed him and forgave him the great debt [Matthew 18:27]. "Don’t owe me anything. Your wife, your children, your home, your property – everything: I give it back to you. The debt’s paid. Forgive it all."
Now, that servant went and he found a man who was working for him who owed him an hundred pence: owed him a dollar, owed him a dollar, owed him a dollar [Matthew 18:28]. That’s the point of the parable: that enormous difference between what that man owed – he owed a million dollars, owed a million dollars – and because he couldn’t pay, about to be thrown into slavery, the king forgave him everything [Matthew 18:24-27].
And now this man who’s been forgiven finds a man who’s working for him that owes him a dollar – owes him a hundred pennies. And he lay hands on him and took him by the throat and said, "Pay me that dollar! Choke it up. Pay me that dollar!" [Matthew 18:28] And his fellow servant fell down at his feet and besought him, saying, "I cannot. I work hard and I’ve toiled, but I have no reward of my labor. I cannot. Please, have patience with me" [Matthew 18:29]. But he would not, and he cast the man in prison ’til he should pay that little debt [Matthew 18:30]. And when his fellow servants saw what it done, what had been done, they were very heartbroken [Matthew 18:31]. They were very sorry, and they came and told the king what that man had done [Matthew 18:31]. And this king, after he called him, said unto him, "You wicked man. You wicked man! You bad, bad man. I forgave thee all the debt of a million dollars because you pled and asked. Shouldest not thou have had compassion on thy fellow servant even as I had pity on thee?" [from Matthew 18:32-33]
All of us are alike. We are lost and sinners and owe debts to God greater than we could ever pay [Romans 3:23; Colossians 2:14], and it’s the love and mercy and forgiveness of God upon us all whereby we’re saved [Romans 3:24, 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9].
My brother, have you cast yourself at the feet of Jesus? Have you asked His mercy and pardon and forgiveness? Have you? My sister, have you turned your face in faith, in love, in prayer, in repentance, in intercession to Christ? Have you asked Him to forgive you? Have you? Are you saved? Are you saved?
We are not in this task and in this ministry to judge and to condemn [Luke 9:51-56; John 3:17]. All we’re called to do is to stand among our fellow sinners and point to the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world [John 1:29]. We are a dying people with you – all of us alike. We’ve just been called of God to stand in the midst of the camp of Israel and point toward the brazen serpent uplifted in the midst of the camp and to cry:
Look, my brother, look and live,
Look to Jesus now, and live;
‘Tis recorded in His Word, hallelujah!
It is only that you "look and live."
[From "Look and Live," by William Ogden, 1887]
That’s all. That’s all.
Over there we stand, and there we stand, and yonder we stand, and there we stand, and that’s all God has called us to do – not to condemn but to point to the Savior of the world. And to those who will look, to those who will bow, to those who will kneel, to those who will ask, God has for them an eternal forgiveness: a salvation now [John 4:13-14, 10:10] and in the world that is to come [1 Thessalonians 4:14-16].
That’s why we preach, and that’s why we sing, and that’s why we make this appeal tonight. Somebody you, give your heart to Christ. Somebody you, put your life with us in this church. Into that aisle, down here to the front and by my side: "Here I come, Preacher. Here I am. God helping me, God granting me pardon, God being merciful to me, I give my heart and soul and life in trust to Jesus. Here I am. Here I come." One somebody you, a family you, two of you – as God shall open the door, lead the way, as the Spirit shall speak to your heart, would you come? On the first note of this first stanza, would you come? Out of this balcony around, down those stairwells, would you come? As the Lord shall make appeal, as we sing the song, will you make it now, while we stand and while we sing?