|From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase|
Does the restoration of sinning saints mean the unconditional acceptance of sin that we find in much of today's Evangelical church? A word in the Greek New Testament tells us the answer.
In Galatians 6:1, Paul writes to the church, "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted." The word translated "restore" in this verse is a form of the Greek verb katarizo.
This word can have rich and varied meanings, depending on the context. Let me give just three examples. In Hebrews 11:3, the writer declares that "through faith we understand that the worlds were framed (katarizo) by the word of God." In other words, the worlds were fitted out for their unique purposes, put in order, and arranged in their places, by the word of God when He spoke all things into being at the Creation.
In 1 Peter 5:10, the apostle prays, "May the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered awhile, perfect (katarizo), establish, strengthen, and settle you." In this context, katarizo has to do with the bringing of the saints to completion and maturity in Christ.
In Matthew 4:21, we are told that James and John were in their fishing boat with their father Zebedee, "mending (katarizo) their nets." They were repairing the gaps so that their nets would once again be useful for their intended purpose.
The Galatians Context: Flesh and Spirit
In Galatians 6:1, katarizo has a very rich meaning regarding the dealings of other Christians with a fellow believer who has been overtaken by sin. In the preceding verses, at the end of chapter five, Paul has exhorted believers to "walk in in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh" (5:16). He has listed various examples of "the works of the flesh" (5:19-21), and has delineated "the fruit of the Spirit" (5:22-26). He then turns to the matter of the believer who has been "overtaken in any trespass."
The sense of the word "overtaken" is that there has been some public sin. Paul says that those who are spiritual (i.e., those who are walking in the Spirit, exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit in the preceding verses) are to "restore" (katarizo) such a person. The word in this context has the idea of setting someone to rights, of bringing a person back into line. This is the great need of the sinning saint.
Restoration in Not Unconditional
One of the sad characteristics of much of the 21st-century Evangelical church is its broad tolerance of sin. Sometimes it is open and rampant. Just the other day I learned of an Evangelical church in my own area where a man is permitted to serve on the board of trustees, even though he makes his living in the pornography trade. The church puts up with it because he is a significant financial contributor. Throughout postmodern Evangelicalism, people are permitted to participate in the church as though nothing were wrong, even though they are living with someone outside of marriage, are involved in adulterous relationships, are known to deal dishonestly in business, or are engaged in other known and habitual sins.
The very concept of the need for restoration of a sinning saint is foreign to such churches. And of course, many of the people who are engaged in such things - and many of the church leaders who tolerate their evil deeds - are not blood-bought saints of God at all.
However, Paul emphasizes the fact that the church must recognize sin in the Body of Christ as a most basic and serious problem, and must deal with it in a decisive manner. God's flock must be protected from the cancer of sin, especially when it appears openly. Always, the goal of such action is the restoration of the sinning saint. But the restoration of which Scripture speaks in Galatians 6:1 and elsewhere is not the kind of unconditional, psychologically feel-good "restoration" that is typical of the postmodern church. The restoration which Scripture commands involves recognition of sin, repentance from sin, abhorrence of the works of the flesh, and a renewed walk in the Spirit.
The "Dislocated Saint"
One of the recurring themes in Paul's epistles is the fact that believers are all members of the Body of Christ (Romans 12:12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 1:22-23, 2:16, 3:6, 4:4-16, 5:25-32; Colossians 1:18, 1:24, 3:15). In Ephesians 4, Paul speaks of the church as the body of which Christ is the Head, "from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love."
No doubt Paul has these thoughts in mind as he uses katarizo in Galatians 6:1 - "if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one." One of the uses of the verb katarizo was "to put a dislocated limb back in joint."
Each believer is a member of the Body, the Church, of which Christ is the Head. Just as a dislocated arm is still a member of the human body, so the sinning saint is still a member of the Body of Christ. He is still in Christ. Just as the life-blood that flows through the head of the human body is still flowing through that arm, so the life of the Head, Jesus Christ, is still the possession of the saint.
However, although the fundamental relationship has not changed - salvation cannot be lost - the practical relationship of the sinner to Christ and to other Christians has changed. Katarizo speaks of this. Just as a dislocated arm is most painful, so a sinning saint is most miserable. Just as a dislocated arm is less than fully useful to the head, perhaps even altogether useless, so a sinning saint is less than useful or perhaps altogether useless to the Lord Jesus. Just as a dislocated arm does not properly carry out the commands of the head, so a sinning saint refuses to obey his Head, the Lord Jesus. Just as a dislocated arm will not work in cooperation with the other members of the body, so a sinning saint will not work in cooperation with other Christians.
Just as a dislocated arm is harder to put back in joint the longer it is out of joint, so it is harder to get a Christian back in fellowship with his Lord, the longer he is out of fellowship. Just as it is easier for an arm to slip out of joint the more often it is dislocated, so it is easier for a Christian to sin, the more often he sins.
Just as a person cannot put his dislocated arm back in joint himself, but needs a physician to do that for him, so a child of God cannot put himself back into fellowship with the Lord Jesus. He must go to the great Physician of souls, confess his sin, be cleansed from its defilement by the precious blood of Christ, and be restored by his Lord.
What About You?
Are you a "dislocated saint"? Has sin in your life broken your fellowship with the Lord, and with other believers? Don't remain in the painful state of denial. "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not practice the truth...If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:6, 8). "But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin...If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:7, 9).
Do you need to deal with "dislocated saints" within the Body of Christ? Galatians 6:1 tells you what to do. "You who are spiritual restore such a one." This is not the unconditional acceptance of sin in the Body of Christ that is the tragic mark of much of today's Evangelical church. It is the process of katarizo - by the Word, by prayer, by exhortation, by example, and in reliance on the Holy Spirit, bringing such a person "back into line" through repentance. But do so, Paul says, "in a spirit of gentleness" or meekness; exhibit that fruit of the Spirit (5:28). And seek to restore the sinning saint in that spirit, "considering yourself lest you also be tempted" - taking heed of the fact that you, too, can fall into the snare of Satan and become a "dislocated saint" yourself.
Some of the material in this article is adapted from Kenneth S. Wuest, The Practical Use of the Greek New Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1946), pages 92-94.