Monday, August 27, 2012

What Does It Mean? Galatians 6:1

Recently, as I mentioned the other day, I noticed someone using sloppy exegesis to determine the meaning of some scriptures.  That got me to thinking that it might be a good exercise to post not some exposition but rather analysis that I would use to determine the meaning of the text so that I could exposit it. 

As an example, look at this verse from Galatians.   

Galatians 6:1-2 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

Again, I regret that I don’t remember exactly what the person said about what this verse meant, but it was something along the lines of that the verse is not about the confronting, but about when confronting, to do so with a spirit of gentleness so that one is not tempted to sin himself.

Ummmm, I believe we might need to look at this verse and see if that’s in fact what it’s saying, cause I’m thinking “Not so much”.

I think the first question we have to ask is what the subject of this sentence is.  The subject is “you”.  Of course, the “you” is the “Brothers” but the word “brothers “is being used to identify the people Paul is addressing.

Next, let’s ask “Ok, well what is the verb” because, remember, the assertion we’re testing here is that “the verse is not about confronting”.  So, in Greek, the subject and verb of a sentence have the same person (1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person) and the same number (singular or plural).  So, we’ve got “is caught”, “restore”, and “keep watch” as our suspects in this mystery. 

The verb translated “keep watch” (skopeo-4648) is a participle so it can’t be the verb (a participle is a verbal noun—thanks Granny Dawkins).  The verb translated “is caught” (prolambano-4301) is 3rd person singular.  The verb “restore” is 2nd person plural.  The subject of our sentence (“you”) is also 2nd person plural.  Therefore, the subject of the sentence is “you” and the verb is “restore”.  Also, the verb “restore’ is a present imperative.  What that means is that it’s a command.  If it’s a command, that means you’re being told to do it.  If you’re being told do it, then to not do it is sin.  So, in direct contradiction to what was asserted above that the verse is “not about the confronting”, very obviously the verse is certainly about the confronting because Paul is here commanding that they do it.  In fact, since the verb is in the present tense, it doesn’t mean just go do it once and say “Hey, I tried”.  It means to continue to go doing it, presumably until the person is restored from whatever sin they are involved in.

Someone might counter though “Wait, I’m not called to point out other people’s sins.  That’s not my job.  That’s not what I’ve been called to do.  In fact, look, it says ‘you who are spiritual should restore’.  That means this is a job for the leaders in the church, not me.” 

Well, let’s just see about that, shall we.

The word translated “spiritual” is pnuematikos (4152).  it is used in the New Testament in 20 verses in addition to the passage here in Galatians (in the NASB—sorry, Angie J ). 

Romans 1:11, Romans 7:14, Romans 15:27, 1 Cor 2:13, 1 Cor 2:15, 1 Cor 3:1, 1 Cor 9:11, 1 Cor 10:3, 1 Cor 10:4, 1 Cor 12:1, 1 Cor 14:1, 1 Cor 14:37, 1 Cor 15:44, 1 Cor 15:46, Eph 1:3, Eph 5:19, Eph 6:12, Col 1:9, Col 3:16, 1 Peter 2:5

None of these verses indicate that the term applies only to leaders of the church.  So therefore, there is no reason to restrict the meaning of this word here in this verse in Galatians. 

Therefore, what this verse means is that if we see someone caught up in or overtaken by sin, we are to go to them, since that is a commandment, and gently attempt to help restore them while being careful to avoid temptation ourselves.

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