“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.”
Note that when a man is overtaken in a fault, the only thing that the Scripture commands the Christians to do is to “restore such an one.” There is no commandment to condemn him, to set him at naught, to ostracize him, to talk about either him or his fault; but only to “restore” him.
This is the only spirit that there is in Christianity; for “God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Condemnation is not what anybody needs in this world; for everybody is already condemned over and over, by his own sins, and by his own knowledge of his own faults. And, surely, it could be nothing but an essentially vindictive spirit that would crowd more condemnation upon a person who is, already, and many times, doubly condemned. And Christianity is not of such spirit: Christianity is the spirit of love, of the very love of God; and God’s love is manifest in his sending of Christ, not to condemn the world, but to save it. Such alone is the spirit of Christianity, everywhere, and forever.
This is shown also in the text, in directing that “ye that are spiritual, restore such a one.” There is no direction to anyone who is not spiritual to make any attempt to restore such a one: and this for the simple reason that any such one could do it. The first consideration, therefore, when the Christian receives the knowledge that one is overtaken in a fault, is that that one is to be restored. The next is, Am I spiritual, so that I can hope to restore him? This brings the one who is to attempt the restoring, face to face with himself and God, in an examination of his own standing before God, as to whether he is truly spiritual.
And when this is found to be so, when one has found himself truly spiritual, then, in the spirit of meekness, which is only the spirit of Christ, and which can be only in him who is truly spiritual, seek to restore the one overtaken in the fault: at the same time “considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted;” putting yourself in his place, asking yourself how you would like to be approached, how you would like to be treated, if you were in the fault in which the brother has been overtaken.
Bear in mind also that it is the man who is “overtaken” in the fault who is to be restored—not one whom you imagine to have committed a fault; not one whom you think has done what you think to be a fault. This word gives no countenance whatever to any spirit of faultfinding, or of searching for faults in a brother. It is counsel to be followed and applied only when one is “overtaken in a fault;” when it has become apparent that there is actually a fault. Then, and only then, is the matter to be touched; and then only “ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest you also be tempted.”
Jesus has also given specific directions as to how Christians shall go about to “restore” the one overtaken in a fault. He says: “Go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone.” Matt. 18:15. In all the word of God there is no counsel plainer than this of the Lord Jesus; yet what counsel of his is more, and more positively, disregarded by those who profess to be his?
It is the truth well known to all, that the majority of professed Christians do go and tell anybody, and almost everybody, else than the one who has committed the fault. But how can they do so and be a Christian? Such a course is natural to the natural man, because it is natural to each man in the world to think every other man his enemy, and, consequently, to have no confidence in him; and then he concludes that it would do no possible good for him to go and tell the man his fault, because it would only make the man still more his enemy.
But it is not so with Christians. The believer in Jesus is sure that all other believers in Jesus are not his enemies, but are his brethren; he counts them as such; he has confidence in them as such. Therefore, he who is really a Christian has confidence in his brother, that his brother will listen to him and will hear him in what he has to say, even though it be to tell him his fault “between thee and him alone.”
Therefore, it is lack of confidence in a brother’s sincerity in the fear of the Lord, which is the cause that any professed Christian will not go and tell his brother his fault “between thee and him alone.” But lack of Christian confidence is only the mark of the lack of brotherly love, which in itself, is a lack of Christianity. So the true analysis of such a course shows that it is simply the lack of Christianity that causes any professed Christian to tell it to anybody else than the one in fault, and not to “go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone.” But go as a Christian, as a brother, and “tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” To “gain” him, to “restore” him, is all the purpose of your going to him at all.
And when one is not a Christian, there is indeed no need for him to go and tell a man his fault, because he is not in a condition to be able to tell it in a way that will do the man any good; for even when one is a Christian, and is spiritual, and “in the spirit of meekness” goes and tells a man his fault, between the two alone, it is possible that even then the man will not hear him. And “if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” Matt. 18:16. Not that you are to go and tell one or two more, but you are to take one or two more, and go and tell him, in their presence as witnesses.
“And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” Verse 17.
He who, against all this attempts to restore him, holds on his own way, rejecting all attempts of his brethren to help him, has demonstrated that he has not the spirit of Christian brotherhood, and has separated himself from the company of the brethren. And then all that the church can do is to recognize the truth of the situation thus developed, and “let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” As it is written in another place: “A man that is an heretic [one who chooses for himself, against the word of God, against all considerations of brotherhood] after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” Titus 3:10, 11.
[Advent Review and Sabbath Herald | October 16, 1900]