Bearing One Another’s Burdens

Galatians 6:1

Faith in LovePaul addressed his advice to “those who are spiritual,” the pneumatikoi. Again, there has been much scholarly debate about who these “spirituals” were. It seems best, however, to understand the “spirituals” in the same kind of positive sense Paul used it in 1 Cor 2:15–3:4. There the apostle contrasted the “spiritual” believers at Corinth with those who were sarkikoi, “fleshly,” worldly minded, that is, those who had to be fed on milk instead of meat because they were spiritually immature. They were, so to say, baby Christians more concerned with status and self-gratification than with the mind of Christ or service toward others. In Gal 6:1, then, “those who are spiritual” are identical with those Christians who walk in the Spirit, are led by the Spirit, and keep in step with the Spirit. Some early Methodist church registers contained three columns for listing those persons who attended services of worship: the seekers, the saved, and the sanctified. Paul was not here dividing the body of Christ into a two- or three-tiered society. However, he was acknowledging the fact that believers can and do sin and fall. While all sin is detestable before God and should be resisted as the plague, certain transgressions are especially hurtful to the fellowship of the church and must be dealt with according to the canons of Christian discipline. Those who are spiritually minded, that is, those whose lives give evidence of the fruit of the Spirit, have a special responsibility to take the initiative in seeking restoration and reconciliation with those who have been caught in such an error.

But how is this to be done? The lapsed brother or sister should be “restored gently.” The word for “restore” is katartizō, literally “to put in order,” “to restore to its former condition.” Elsewhere in the New Testament (cf. Matt 4:21; Mark 1:19) this same word is used for the mending or overhauling of fishnets. It was also a part of the medical vocabulary of ancient Greece, where it meant “to set a fractured or dislocated bone.” In 1 Cor 1:10 Paul used the same word in an ethical sense exhorting the strife-torn Corinthian believers to put aside their dissensions so that they may be “restored” to unity in thought and purpose.

George, T. (1994). Galatians (Vol. 30, pp. 409–411). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.