Falling in a Fault
January 21st, 1973 @ 8:15 AM
FALLING IN A FAULT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-21-73 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Falling in a Fault. In our preaching through the Book of Galatians, we have come to chapter 6. And 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 tempted" [Galatians 6:1]. "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a paraptoma, paraptoma, a falling aside, a turning aside, translated here ‘fault,’ ye which are spiritual, the pneumatikos, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be apeirastos, tried."
Now that’s an unusual thing to address to the churches of Galatia; "If a man be overtaken in a fault." Surely the Christians in Galatia would not be overtaken in a paraptoma, a turning aside, a falling away, a fault. Surely not. They had been saved. They had been regenerated. Implanted in them was the incorruptible Word of God. They had been made partakers of the divine nature. The Holy Spirit lived in their hearts. Surely a Christian in one of the churches of Galatia would not be overtaken by a fault.
All I need to do is just to look at myself, and look at our church, and look at the whole community of Christian people, and read the Scriptures to understand how a man who is saved and regenerated and born again, and the Holy Spirit lives in his heart, and he is a partaker of the divine nature, and the incorruptible Word of God is in his soul; all that it is to be a Christian. Having been saved, having been generated and yet looking at me and you and us all, I have but to see, just to look, to understand how a Christian can fall into a fault.
A child, the child is saved, the child is born again. The little fellow is baptized into the church, but oh dear, how much he has to learn and how many mistakes he is going to make learning it – how many faults he is going to fall into as he walks down the Christian pilgrim way.
Here are these young people. They have been saved, regenerated; the Word of God and its love is in their hearts; they’ve been baptized; they belong to the church – but oh dear, the trials they have in life, and the mistakes they make in it, and the faults into which they fall.
Here are grown men and women. They are adults. They’ve been saved. They’ve been regenerated. The Holy Spirit of God is in their hearts. They love the Word. And they have been along the pilgrim way for years and years. And yet how much fault, falling short, mistakes, sin, error, shortcoming will you find in the lives of God’s adult Christian men and women?
If a man be overtaken in a fault, it is a description of all of us, all of our lives. Why, after James and John, who along with Peter, were of the very three in the heart of our Savior, after James and John had been with the Lord for a long time, a long time, they came up to Jesus, guided and encouraged by their own mother, and in pride and false ambition said, "Now whatever You do about these others, that matters not to us, but for us put one of us on Your right hand and the other on Your left hand in the kingdom [Mark 10:35-37]. Make one of us prime minister and the other chancellor of the exchequer and all the rest of these, why, they can find their place below us."
Or, Simon Peter, the chief of the apostles, Simon Peter said to the Lord, "Lord, all of these other disciples may deny Thee, but I would never deny Thee." On that occasion the Lord said to him, "And verily, verily, I say unto thee, Simon, before the cock crows twice," that is at midnight and at the dawn, "before the morning comes you will deny thrice that you ever knew Me" [Mark 14:27-31].
If a man be overtaken in a fault, and in Simon Peter, who is typical of all of us, after he had been baptized of the Holy Spirit and his heart filled with the presence of God, and he preached the great sermon at Pentecost [Acts 2:14-40], and at Caesarea he opened the door to the Gentiles [Acts 10:34-48], and in Samaria, laying on of hands, he was used of God to mediate the presence of the Spirit of God to the Samaritans [Acts 8:14-17]; after the years of his ministry when he went to Galatia, Paul says when he went to Antioch, Paul says, in this Book of Galatians out of which I am preaching, that he dissimilated, played the hypocrite, and Paul accosted him and condemned him to his face [Galatians 2:11-14].
"Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault"; now the reaction to a man’s mistake, and sin, and error, and shortcoming, and fault is very volatile on the part of the world – most so. For example, the church, the organized church, it is astonishing to read in church history how the church will vacillate in its attitude toward worldliness and secularism and downright sin. There are times in the history of the church when it is very permissive, and then there are times when it is very condemnatory. And what I have found in the history of the church, I have found in my own experience as a church member.
You look at this. When I was a little boy in a little town, in a little tiny church, we had one sort of affluent member, kind of affluent. All of us were as poor as Job’s turkeys, and everybody just barely existed. But he was kind of affluent. He was the president of the little bank that later went broke. He was the president of the little bank. He was a suave looking fellow, kind of a city looking fellow. He dressed nice. He wore a nice tie and collar and spoke in genteel and cultured language. He made an impression upon me.
Well, you know what? Upon a day he went to a dance, and I cannot describe to you the fight, I mean fight, the battle, the war that precipitated in that little church. And I was a little boy seated there in the little congregation, listening to it and watching it and hearing it. And they turned him out of the church for dancing. And it tore the little church into shreds. That made an impression upon me.
I cannot imagine something like that today. I just can’t imagine it. However it may have been a fault, and I am not saying anything about it, however it may have been a fault, a paraptoma, a falling away, that the number one affluent member of our church went to a dance, however that was, I tell you to tear up the church over it, and a little old boy sit there and listen to all those things that were said, and then the banker slapped the preacher, hit him with his hand, just slapped him, ah, those things, how severe.
Take the same thing in society and in social order. In that country where Launce Burkes comes from, there was the age of the Cavaliers under Charles I. And they cut off his head, as you know. And Oliver Cromwell, the great Puritan leader, came to rule the Commonwealth. And one of those wags, writing in church history, said that they were against bear hunting. Just using that as an example; bear hunting. Not because they had any sympathy for the bear but because they didn’t like the enjoyment that the hunters got out of it. They were very severe! Then the pendulum came back again, and after Cromwell, the Cavaliers took over and Charles II was called back to be the king of England – the vacillating attitude of the world toward fault.
Or look at us with regard to a man. Now you watch this. Here is an affluent man. He’s a rich man. He is a very talented man. He’s a gifted man, and he is a most successful man. And the faults that he has, why, we are inclined to look upon them as being intricacies. And we sort of overlook them and forgive them. But here is a ragged man and a poor man, and he’s defenseless against the wrath that falls down on his head. That’s society. That’s the organized, temporal worldly world at church. And that is we – if a man be overtaken in a fault.
If there is any one instance whereby you can see the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, you will find it in this; the ground, the level, unchanging from which Scriptures look at human weakness. There is never any vacillation. There is never any changing. There is never any turning. It is always the same. And the Scriptures will avow and announce the attitude of the holy God toward human sin, human weakness, human fault; mainly, "The soul that sins shall die" [Ezekiel 18:4]. "The wages of sin is death" [Romans 6:23]. Or as the pastor of the church at Jerusalem in James 2:10 wrote, "If a man keep all of the law, yet offend in one point, one point, just one, he is guilty of all. He has broken the whole thing." He is a condemned sinner!
And the presentation of the Scriptures in its attitude towards human sin is ever that. It takes its toll, and when we play against it, we play with our lives, for the penalty and the judgment of the law is inextricable and impersonal, and it always is applied equally without respecter of persons. Now, that is what the Book of Galatians is about. The law is inextricable. The law is impersonal. And the law treats us all alike. We are condemned sinners, and the Bible never retreats from that judgment. It never retracts that judgment. It never wanes in its attitude of condemnation in that judgment. In our sins we are lost and are condemned. That is the law!
But in the heart of God, in the love of our Lord, there came to us the mercy of God, the forgiveness of God. As John wrote it, "If the law came by Moses" – and the soul that sins shall die, and if a man break any part of it, he is guilty of all of it – he is a sinner. He’s lost – "If the law came by Moses, then grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" [John 1:17]. If a man is bitten with a serpent, let him look and live [Numbers 21:8-9]; John 3:14-15], let him believe and be saved. Or as Paul wrote it in Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death" – death – "but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Never any retraction from the judgment of the law, but as he writes in Galatians, our sins and our faults, our failures and our shortcomings, but lead us to the mercy and the forgiveness and the love of God in Christ Jesus [Galatians 3:22]. And that is why this text, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a paraptoma, a fault" – a falling away, a turning aside – "the pneumatikos, the spiritual one restores such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be apeirastos, tried" [Galatians 6:1].
Well, isn’t that a wonderful assignment? We who are saved in the church, what is to be our spirit and our attitude toward one who has fallen into a fault? I’ve often thought as I look at some of the members of the church, "O dear God, if I ever fall in a fault, O God let me fall in the hands of the barkeepers, and let me fall in the hands of the streetwalkers, and let me fall into the hands of the bootleggers and the dope pushers, but don’t let me fall into the hands of the sanctified and the pious in the church – because they would tear you apart.
What their gossipy tongues would say and what their condemnatory spirit would reveal, would crush a man’s soul and destroy his spirit. I see that. But, but that just means that there are a whole lot of members in the church that are caricatures of what it is to be a Christian. They are not the real thing. They are like the Pharisee who said, "Lord, I thank Thee that I am not like other men," and then pointed out that publican and said, "I thank Thee I am not low down like him" [Luke 18:11].
Ah, that’s not the Christian faith, and these are not the real Christian people. The real Christian people are those, when somebody falls into a fault, there they stand in sympathy, and in love, and in mercy, and in forgiveness, and in understanding, ready to help and to encourage. For you see, the Christian is in the healing business. He’s in the helping business. He’s not in the condemning business! God says, "That belongs to Me. Vengeance, judgment belongs unto Me; I will repay, saith the Lord" [Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30]. And the Lord shall judge His people, but we are in the helping business, and the healing business, and the encouraging business, and the loving business, and the forgiving business. That’s our business.
Why, the Lord illustrated that with James and John. Here they are again. When they Lord wanted to go into a village of Samaria, and the Samaritans wouldn’t have Him, they wouldn’t accept Him, they wouldn’t let Him come into the town [Luke 9:52-53], and James and John came back to the Lord and said, "They will not receive You. Now bid us, call fire from God out of heaven and burn them up, like Elijah did!" [Luke 9:54].
What did the Lord say? "You do not know what spirit you are of. For the Son of Man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them" [Luke 9:55-56]. Calling fire down from God out of heaven to burn them up? No. No! And He went, and the following verse says, and He went to another village [Luke 9:56]. If He couldn’t help, if He couldn’t bless, then just commend them to the mercy of God and go to somebody else.
Like the passage in the third chapter of John. "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]. That is the Christian faith. We are in the helping business. We are in the healing business. We are in the loving business. We are in the compassionate business. We are in the forgiveness business. That’s our business. That’s God’s business.
Let me show you. One time down the highway in Kentucky, coming from my seminary home to my little rural church, driving down the highway there was a man who had a big new Buick, and he passed me just like that. Now I don’t drive slowly, and when he passes me like that, it means he’s really going.
He passed me in that big Buick just like that – just like that! So, when I came, I was going down the Dixie highway, when I came to the turn in the road that leads off to my little rural church, following that road, it’s a rural road, country road, following that road it goes straight down and then makes a right-angle turn. And at that turn there is a big dirt bank there where the road was built, a big bank, the ditch over there.
So when I came to my little community and turned off and went down the rural road, when I got to that abrupt right-hand turn, there was that man’s big new Buick. It had plowed into that embankment. He was going so fast he couldn’t negotiate the turn, and he had plowed into that bank. And by the time I had got there, just beyond on the other side of the road, there was a farmhouse. One of the sweet members of my church, there was a farmhouse there. And when I got there, by the time I got to the turn in the road, I saw that man, blood all over him. Evidently the steering wheel and the glass and the impact had really hurt him. He was simply covered in blood. But what moved my heart was, just as I got there, that farmer and his wife had taken the man out of the car, and the farmer was on one side of him, and his sweet wife was on the other side of him, and they were holding the man up and taking him into the house.
Now, my lesson; it would have been easy for me to come and to say, "Look at you, you’ve destroyed your car. And look at you, you are deeply injured. Don’t you know you shouldn’t drive so fast, and don’t you know you shouldn’t try to negotiate turns at such a high speed? Don’t you know these things?"
It would have been easy to do that. That’s not the point. We are in the helping business. We are in the healing business. We are in the encouraging business. And when I saw my farmer and his sweet wife, one on one side of the man and one on the other side, helping him to the house, all covered in blood, I say that is the Christian church. That is the Christian faith. That is the Christian message.
We are in that kind of a business. And the rest of it we will leave in the hands of the judgments of Almighty God. I don’t have to – that’s not my responsibility. Mine is to say words of encouragement, and to try to get them to Jesus, and to try to heal them in the faith.
My brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you who love the Lord, in whose heart the Spirit of God lives, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be (peirasthes, lest you also be) tried one of these days [Galatians 6:1].
John Bradford was a great English preacher. He lived in the days of Cranmer, and Latimer, and Ridley. John Bradford, John Bradford was a fiery preacher. And he preached outside. He’d preach on the commons. He’d preach on the street. He’d preach wherever men were. He was a marvelous preacher of the gospel of Christ.
When Mary Tudor, called Bloody Mary, became queen of England, they burned him at the stake in 1555. She belonged to a Vatican communion, and she burned Latimer, and she burned Ridley, and she burned Cranmer, and she burned John Bradford at Smithfield. And three hundred others of those men of God she burned at the stake.
Well, I am just telling you who John Bradford is. I want you to look at the spirit of the man. Upon a time, John Bradford was out preaching the gospel of the grace of the Son of God on the commons. And as the people listened to the fiery eloquence of that glorious preacher of Jesus, while he was up there standing on a stump or a box or whatever, preaching the gospel to the people, the sheriff came by and his henchmen. And they walked by with a man who had a rope around his neck, and they were taking him to the gallows to be hanged.
And John Bradford stopped in his preaching and his eye watched the procession go by the edge of the crowd, as the sheriff and the bailiff and his henchmen led that condemned man with the rope around his neck to be hanged. And John Bradford pointed to him with his right hand and said, "My brethren, there go I but for the grace of God!"
Why man, there is not a sin in the category that we are not capable of committing, including violent murder – all of us, all of us, all of us.
"Considering thyself, lest thou also be peirasthes, tried" [Galatians 6:1]; Paul is just saying to us that it is in the mercy of God that any of us ever get to heaven. It is just in the goodness of the Lord that any of us is ever accepted in the Beloved. And what Christ has done for us – He has forgiven us – let us also as His children exhibit, portray, extend the same spirit of love and understanding toward all of those around us.
Ah, the goodness and the mercy and the help and the forgiveness of God! Lord, may it be exhibited in me, not condemning, not censorious, not full of judgment, but praying, trying to understand, trying to help, trying to save, trying to win to Jesus, trying to present trophies of grace at His dear and precious feet.
Now in this moment we are going to stand and sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, if you are on the topmost balcony and the last row and the last seat, there is time and to spare, come. Down a stairway, into the aisle, here to the front, make the decision now in your heart, a family, a couple, or just you, and while we sing the appeal, come now. Make it now. God bid you now. Answer with your life. On the first note of this first stanza, come, come. Come, while we stand and while we sing.