Falling in a Fault
January 21st, 1973 @ 10:50 AM
FALLING IN A FAULT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-21-73 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Falling in a Fault. It is a message, an exposition, of the first verse of the sixth chapter of Galatians [Galatians 6:1].
In these services on the Lord’s Day mornings, we are preaching through the Book of Galatians, and we have come to the last chapter. And this is this first verse, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a paraptōma, a paraptōma, if a man be overtaken in a falling away, in a falling aside, in a fault, ye who are spiritual, hoi pneumatikoi, the spiritual people of the Lord, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be peirasmos, tempted, tried” [Galatians 6:1]. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a paraptōma,” a falling away, a turning aside, a fault [Galatians 6:1].
How unusual that he should address that to the Christians of Galatia. Had they not been born again? Yes. Had they not been regenerated? Yes. Had they not become partakers of the divine nature? Yes. Was there not implanted in their heart the incorruptible Word of God? Yes. Did not the Holy Spirit dwell in their souls? Yes. Then how is it that he speaks of a man here as being overtaken in a fault? Surely, a regenerated, saved Christian man would not fall into a paraptōma. Yes?
For I find in my own self, and I find in my own experience, and I find in the churches I have pastored, and I find in the Scriptures, that one of the things that characterizes God’s people is paraptōma, fault. It’s universal. It’s not unique or separate or peculiar. It characterizes all of us. “If a man be overtaken in a fault…” [Galatians 6:1].
When these children are saved, they are converted. They are born again. They are young Christians. But, oh, how much do they have yet to learn, and how many mistakes will they yet make, and in how many faults and mistakes and failures and shortcomings will they fall. These young people, they are saved. They’ve been regenerated. They have been baptized. Many of them have consecrated their lives in full commitment to the Lord. But, oh the days of trial that they face and in how many instances will they find failure in their Christian life? Ah, of us who are grown and mature, we’ve been saved, regenerated, baptized, belong to the household of faith, and we have been down this pilgrimage road for years and years! And yet, how many of us find ourselves in fault, in mistake, in error, in sin, in shortcoming?
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, along with Simon Peter, were at the very heart of the ministry of our Lord. They belonged to the inner circle. At the Last Supper, John leaned his head against the bosom of the Savior. And Simon Peter, next to him, asked him to ask Jesus, “Who is it that betrays Thee?” [John 13:21-25].
James and John were so close to Jesus. Yet it was that pair of brothers who came to the Lord encouraged, directed by their own mother, and they said to the Lord Jesus, “Now we don’t know about these other disciples. They can find their places as they may. But as for us, put one of us on Your right hand and put the other one of us on Your left hand [Mark 10:35-37]. Make one of us prime minister in the kingdom and the other chancellor of the exchequer in the kingdom. And as for the rest of them, they may find their rightful place down at the foot of the ladder.” That’s James and John.
Or Simon Peter, the chief of the apostles, the one that God chose to bring to the Jews and to the Samaritans and to the Gentiles the open door of faith and the receiving of the Holy Spirit [Acts 10:34-48]. Simon Peter, when the Lord said, “All of you will forsake Me this night,” Simon Peter stood up and said, “Lord, all of these other disciples may forsake Thee, but I, I would never forsake Thee. I would die for Thee.” And the Lord says, “Simon, would you die for Me? Verily, verily, amen, amen, truly, truly, I say unto thee, before the cock crows twice—that is, at midnight and at the dawn-before the morning comes, thou shalt thrice deny that ye even know Me” [Mark 14:27-31].
And it is the same Simon Peter after Pentecost [Acts 2:14-42], after Samaria [Acts 8:14-25], after Caesarea [Acts 10:1-48], and after the glorious years of his early ministry, it’s the same Simon Peter that in this Book of Galatians to which I’m preaching, in the second chapter, came to Antioch and there dissembled; that is, played the hypocrite. And the apostle Paul accosted him and told him to his face that he was to be condemned because of his dissimulation [Galatians 2:11-14]. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault…” [Galatians 6:1]. If I know of anything that characterizes us, it’s paraptōma—all of us.
Now the attitude toward fault and failure and human weakness oscillates in the world, and usually at extremities. For example, the organized church in the earth; sometimes it is very severe, very puritanical, in a straitjacket; and then sometimes it is very permissive, very much so. Let’s take the church as I’ve seen it in my own lifetime, not what I’ve read in history, which goes from one extreme to the other in its attitude toward human failure and fault and weakness. Let’s take it in my own experience.
When I was a boy, I grew up in a little town, little bitty town, in a little bitty church. And there was one somewhat, little bit, kind of, sort of affluent man in the congregation. All of us were as poor as Job’s turkeys, but he was just one notch above the poverty of the rest of us, so he shined. He was the president of our little state bank in the town that later went bankrupt and defunct.
Well, he was a nattily dressed man. Not as much as I am, but sort of, kind of. And he spoke like a cultured man. He looked kind of like a city slicker. Upon a day, they haled him before the church, and they accused him of dancing. And the church was called in council and in session. And you never saw, you never witnessed, such a dogfight in your life. He went up to the preacher and slapped him in the face. And there I was, a little boy, a sitting there in the church, a-looking at all that going on, all that acrimonious castigation. And they turned him out of church for dancing, and it tore that little church to shreds.
Now I’m not saying here whether they should have turned him out or not. I have nothing that I’m saying today about dancing one way or the other. I just never did do it, so it would be kind of hard to say how that is, that wiggle-wiggle, you know, all that. But I surely can tell you how I felt about it as a little boy; I mean, the impression that it made upon my heart and an indelible one. As I sat there in the church and listened to the people in the church bring charges against the banker, the president of the little bank, for dancing, and all the things that they said to him and about him, and all that went on in that session, and finally voted to turn him out, and I saw the repercussion of that in the church, in the hearts of the people, it made an indelible impression upon me. I could not conceive of that today. It would be unthinkable to me that this church could be called in business session, and we gave ourselves to slapping the pastor and to acrimonious castigation and turn one another out. When I looked at it, I thought those that turned him out were not quite as good as the one that they turned out. Maybe he should have turned them out. Ah, “brethren, if a man be overtaken in a paraptōma, a fault…” [Galatians 6:1].
Now if that’s true in the church, think how the world oscillates. It goes from one extremity to the other. In the days of the cavaliers under Charles I, there was a permissive society in England, and they took Charles I and cut off his head. And Oliver Cromwell, the Puritan, came to head the commonwealth. And in those days, pleasure of any kind was looked upon with disdain.
I read in history where a historical wag said that the commonwealth was against bear hunting. “Bear baiting,” they call it. Bear hunting. Not because they were particularly compassionate for the bears, but they didn’t like the pleasure that it brought to the bear hunters. And after the commonwealth, why, they brought Charles II and the cavaliers back again; oscillating from one extremity to the other. And if that’s true in society and government, think how true it is in our individual lives. Now you look at how we are. Here is an affluent man, a rich man, a successful man, a famous man, and he has faults and derelictions and sins and failures. And because of his position and his wealth, why, we have a tendency to overlook them and to look upon them as eccentricities, idiosyncrasies. But if the fellow was ragged and poor, when he falls into faults and failures, he brings down the wrath of society and all of us on his defenseless head. I’m just telling you, describing to you, how we in the world react toward fault and failure and sin and shortcoming.
Now in the next breath, may I point out to you that there is no finer evidence of the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures than to be found in its attitude toward human weakness. The ground from which the Holy Scriptures looks upon sin, and fault, and failure never changes. It is always the same. The Bible never retreats. It never retracts. It never withdraws, but it is stern and impersonal. There’s no respect of persons with God [Acts 10:34] or in the Holy Scriptures, and the law is applied impersonally and inexorably. “The soul that sins shall die” [Ezekiel 18:4]. Die! “The wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23]. Death!
And the pastor of the church at Jerusalem in James 2:10 wrote, “If a man keep the whole law, all of it, and fail in one point, he is guilty of all of it.” It’s as though he had broken all of the commandments. He’s a sinner, and the wages of sin is death! [Romans 6:23]. That is the law. And the law never changes, and it never retreats, and it never retracts. And on that level on which it stands, it looks upon mankind in stern reality and in heavenly judgment, and it never changes. Now that is what Galatians is all about, and that is what the gospel is all about. The law condemns us [Romans 3:20]. Our faults and our failures, our sins and our shortcomings, against the white light of God’s pure holiness, they’re black. And the law condemns us.
But this is the gospel, the good news, the evangel. This is what the message of Christ is about. What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh [Romans 8:3] and what we could not do because we are born under condemnation and in sin and conceived in iniquity [Psalm 51:5], what the law could not do, what keeping commandments was not able to save us. The gospel of Christ, the mercy of God, the goodness of God, the forbearance and compassion and forgiveness of God, reached down through Jesus Christ [Romans 8:3-4]. And the apostle John wrote it so beautifully, “For if the law came by Moses [John 1:17], and death and judgment and condemnation came by the Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:1-17], if the law came by Moses, then grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” [John 1:17].
If a man bitten by a snake would look, he would live [Numbers 21:8-9; John 3:14-15]. And John wrote it again in the third chapter, “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved” [John 3:17].
He did not come to condemn the world.
He did not come to blame;
He did not only come to seek,
It was to save that He came.
And when we call Him Iesous, Savior, Jesus, we call Him by His name. Or as Paul wrote it in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death. . . .” Yes. ‘But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
And that’s what Paul writes for us who have looked in faith to Jesus, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a paraptōma, a falling away, a turning aside, a fault, if a man be overtaken in a fault, pneumatikos, these who love Jesus, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be peirasmos, tempted, tried, yourself” [Galatians 6:1].
What a difference in spirit and attitude ought to be found in the household of faith. Listen, I’ve often thought, I’ve often thought, if I ever fell into a fault, into a paraptōma, O God, don’t let me fall into the hands of those censorious, critical judges in the church. Let me fall into the hands of the barkeepers and the streetwalkers and the dope peddlers and the pushers, but don’t let me fall into the hands of those censorious judges in the church. Why? Because they’d tear me apart! The long, wagging, gossipy tongues would cut me to shreds. They’d stand as self-appointed censors and judges and crush the spirit and the life out of me.
Is that true? Is that true? Listen, those censorious hypocrites in the church are caricatures of the real thing. They are the Pharisees of this generation, who lift themselves up as being superior to these who have fallen around them. And they say, “Lord, I thank Thee that I am not like other men, and especially not like that publican over there” [Luke 18:11]. Is that the Spirit of God? Is that the spirit that should characterize the people of Christ? “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a paraptōma, hoi pneumatikoi, you who love Jesus, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; looking at yourself, lest thou also be tried” [Galatians 6:1].
My brother, there’s not a sin in a category, not one, but that every man in this house is capable of. And I mean murder! I’m including murder. There’s not a man in this house that is not capable of murder. Practically every murderer that you find in the penitentiary did so in a moment of wrath, a violent reaction. And you’re capable of that, too. “Lest you yourself peirasmos, be tried [Galatians 6:1].”
What then is the spirit of the Christian, of the born-again believer, toward human weakness and fault and failure? It’s to be one that reflects the mind and heart of Christ. My brother, we are not in the judging business. That’s God’s business. We are not in the condemning business. That’s God’s business. “Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will repay, saith the Lord” [Romans 12:19]. And again, “The Lord shall judge His people” [Hebrews 10:30]. That is God’s business. Our business is the healing business, the helping business, the forgiving business, the loving business, the encouraging business. That’s our business. That’s our mandate and assignment from heaven.
Why I remember one time that same James and John came to the Lord Jesus and said, “Lord Jesus, that Samaritan village over there, we announced Ye were coming, and they rejected the announcement. They won’t let You in the city gate. You are unwelcome” [Luke 9:52-53]. And then James and John said, “Now Lord, bid us, bid us to call fire down from God, from heaven, and burn them up. Burn them up, as Elijah did. Burn them up, Lord. Burn them up with fire from heaven.” And the Lord replied, “You know not the spirit that ye are of. For the Son of Man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And He went to another village” [Luke 9:54-56].
We’re not in the judging business. We’re not in the condemning business. We’re not in the censorious business. We’re not in the castigating business. We’re not in the judging business. That’s God’s business! Our business is to help, to pray, to love, to encourage, to be merciful, to be compassionate. “Brother, if a man be overtaken in a fault, restore him” [Galatians 6:1]. Pray. Love. Help. Lift him up. That’s our business. That’s our call. That’s the church. That’s we.
I remember in Kentucky, from the seminary in Louisville, driving down to my little rural church, my little village church. And on the way down the Dixie highway, a big, brand-new Buick car passed me, just like that. That means he was going some, because I don’t creep along. I’m no turtle. And when he passed me like that, he was flying low. He was a-going. When I got down to the little community where I turned off to go to my little church at Smith’s Grove, I turned down from the Dixie highway and followed the road for, oh, a mile or so. And there it made a right turn, direct, a right-angle turn, and there was a dirt embankment there. And a farmer’s house sat up there on top of the embankment.
By the time I drove down the Dixie road and turned and then got to that corner, to my sorrow, I saw that big, beautiful Buick. It had plowed into the embankment, going so fast he couldn’t negotiate that right turn—plowed into the embankment. It was a shambles of a car. It really hit it. And by the time I got there, the sweet farmer and his dear wife had helped the driver out of the car. He was covered with blood. I suppose the steering wheel and the windshield—that was then glass, and not made as they are today—had just cut him to pieces. And he was covered in blood. And the farmer was on one side of him, and his sweet wife was on the other side of him, and they were helping him to the farm home to care for him and administer to him.
Now I presume it would have been in order for me to stand before the man and say, “Don’t you know you shouldn’t drive so fast? And don’t you know that you can’t negotiate these turns at such a terrific speed? And don’t you know better than to break the law and the speed limits?” And just go on and on and on. How much better for us to be like that dear, compassionate farmer who took him out from behind the wheel; he’s on one side of that hurt man, and his sweet wife is on the other side of that hurt man, and all bloody from the accident, helping him up to the house to care for him. That is our business. That’s our assignment, to help. And if I can’t help, then I can just pray. But my business is not condemning and critical and censorious and judgmental. That belongs to God! My business is to love, and to help, and to pray and forgive, and to encourage, and to respond in compassion.
We must hasten to the close. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye who are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be peirasmos, lest thou also be tried, tempted, fall into a fault” [Galatians 6:1]. There’s not any one of us who’s above it. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” [1 Corinthians 10:12]. And what you point out in somebody else is doubtless the weakness in your own life. That’s why you notice it. That’s why you talk about it. That’s why you gossip about it. “Lest thou also be tried, peirasmos, tempted” [Galatians 6:1].
In the days gone by, in Great Britain, where Lawrence Brooks comes from, there was a great, flaming preacher by the name of John Bradford. He lived in the days of Cranmer and Ridley and Latimer. And he was a flaming, fiery preacher of the gospel of Christ. And he preached out on the commons, and outside where the people were, just proclaiming the good news of the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
So upon a day, John Bradford—and by the way, when Mary Tudor—”Bloody Mary,” they called her—came to the throne, she burned John Bradford at Smithfield. She burned him at the stake. She burned Latimer. She burned Ridley. She burned Cranmer. She burned three hundred other of the great ministers of Christ, Bloody Mary did. And she burned John Bradford, the fiery preacher of God’s gospel.
Well, anyway, upon a day, John Bradford was out on the commons, preaching to a throng the goodness of God and the mercy of God and the saving knowledge of Jesus. And he was standing on something, standing on a box or a stone or whatever, and was up there just preaching his heart out in a flaming fire to those commoners. And while he was preaching, right in the middle of his sermon, at the edge of the crowd, at the edge, why, the sheriff passed by and the bailiff and his henchmen, and they were escorting a man who had a rope around his neck to the gallows to hang him. And in the middle of his sermon, John Bradford stopped preaching; and with his eye, he followed the sheriff and the bailiff and the henchmen, leading that man with a rope around his neck to be hanged. Then John Bradford, the preacher of Jesus, lifted up his right hand and pointed to him and said, “My brethren, there, but for the grace of God, go I.”
Why is it that we have not fallen into some of the unspeakable sorrows and heartaches that we find afflicting others? I’ll tell you exactly why. It’s not because we’re any better, though we think we are. And it’s not because we are superior, though we suppose we are. And it’s not because they are the dregs of the earth and we are the angelic elect of heaven. It’s not because we’re any better; it’s just because God had grace and mercy upon us. He just somehow elected in His sovereign grace to be good to us.
Why was I not born a heathen Hottentot, living in ignorance and dark and superstition? Just because somehow God was good to me. That’s why it behooves us, who name the name of Jesus, always to be humble in His presence and compassionate, understanding, and sympathetic in our attitude toward others. If I can help, I want to try. If I can’t help, then I’ll just pray. But God seal my lips from censorious judgment and hurtful criticism.
Ah, don’t you wish the whole church was just like that? The very spire is a symbol of our faith, pointing men to God. Up, look up, my brother, look up! You’re not a sinner and—you’re not a sinner and I’m not a sinner. No spirit of judgment. Look up, brother. For in Christ, in our Lord and His compassion, there is grace and to spare; grace for grace, John wrote it [John 1:16]. That is, grace on top of grace. “For where sin did abound, there did grace much more abound” [Romans 5:20].
There is no limit to the height and depth and the breadth of the love and grace and mercy of God in Christ Jesus [Ephesians 3:17-19], and it reaches even to me. Oh, bless His name! That’s why we love God and thank God and praise His name. God in heaven, O Lord, how wonderful, merciful, kind, compassionate, forgiving, You are towards Your people.
Our time is spent. While we sing our song of appeal, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, while we sing our hymn of invitation, come, “Today, I give my heart and life to the Lord and I’m coming” [Romans 10:8-13]. “Today we’re putting our lives in the fellowship of this dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25]. We’re all coming.” A family, a couple, just you, in the balcony round, if you’re in the last row in the topmost seat, there’s time and to spare, come. In the press on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I am, pastor. I’m coming.” Do it now. Make it now. On the first note of the first stanza, come. Before this orchestra could move their chair and instrument, be down that aisle in the middle of them. “Here I am, pastor. Here, I’m coming today, right now. I’ve decided for God [Ephesians 2:8]. And look at me; I’m standing right before you.” Do it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.
IN A FAULT
A. Paraptoma –
“a falling away, a fault”
B. How unusual that
Paul should address this to Galatia
1. They had been
C. Fault is universal
1. James, John(Mark 10:37)
2. Simon Peter(Luke 22:33-34, Galatians 2:11)
II. Human response and attitude toward
fault and failure inclined to extremes
A. The church
1. Sometimes severe,
puritanical; sometimes very permissive
2. In church as a
child, witnessed the voting out of man who danced
B. The social order
1. One age Puritan,
governed by Cromwell
cavalier, governed by Charles I, Charles II
easily overlook a gifted, affluent, privileged man
2. Rise up in
wrath against a ragged, poor, defenseless man
III. The attitude of the Holy Scriptures
relents, retracts; but is stern and impersonal(Acts
10:34, Ezekiel 18:4, Romans 6:23, James 2:10)
this is the good news, the gospel of Christ(John
1:17, Romans 6:23)
III. The attitude of the Holy Scriptures
relents, retracts; but is stern and impersonal(Acts
10:34, Ezekiel 18:4, Romans 6:23, James 2:10)
this is the good news, the gospel of Christ(John
1:17, Romans 6:23)
IV. The appeal to the Christians
A. Difference in spirit
and attitude ought to be found in household of faith
1. Many times
I’ve prayed God not let me fall into hands of the church
2. Pharisees of
are not in the judging business(Romans 12:9,
We are in the healing, helping, loving business(Luke
spirit of meekness (1 Corinthians 10:12)