v. 1. 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.
v. 2. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
v. 3. For if a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
v. 4. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
v. 5. For every man shall bear his own burden.
The apostle here carries out in greater detail the admonition at the end of the preceding chapter, not to provoke and envy one another. With appealing kindliness he addresses the Galatian Christians as "brethren," thus conveying the conviction which he has voiced, chap. 5:10, that they are still, at least at heart, true to the message which he brought to them. He writes in a very general way: If a man, a person, be overtaken in any fault, you that are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of meekness. With wise tact Paul says: A man, and not: A brother, for they should remember that the person that has fallen is a weak, sinful human being. "What fact is so obvious in the case of a human being as that he may fall, be seduced, and err?" Before a person is aware of it, before he realizes the danger of his position, he is detected and caught, as one that suddenly stumbles. The fault is there, without a doubt, but the apostle purposely brings out the idea: To err is human. For his admonition to those that are spiritual, to those that live and walk in the Spirit and bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, is that they should not become angry with the brother whom the cunning malice of the devil and the weakness of his own flesh have led into sin, but help to restore him to the normal Christian state, bring him back into order as a member of the body of Christ, see to it that he reenters into the right relation with God. This is done by reminding the brother (or sister) of the great danger which is threatening his soul, that he may become terrified, cease from sinning, and be saved from eternal death. All this should be done, not in the spirit of supercilious superiority, but in the spirit of meekness, with cordial kindness. There is nothing more disgusting and repulsive than the patronizing airs assumed by people that consider themselves pillars in the Christian Church, when dealing with a fallen brother. The reproof must be so administered, with such kindly seriousness, that the brother at once feels that the only interest we have in the matter is to save his soul.
The necessity of performing this task in the spirit of meekness is emphasized by the apostle: And look to thyself lest thou also be tempted. The example of Peter and of David ought to be sufficient to serve as a warning for all times. The very people that indulge in overestimation of self, in self-exaltation, are most likely to be overtaken in a fault and to yield to a temptation. The proper relation that should obtain between Christians is therefore described by the apostle: One another's burdens bear, and thus you shall properly fulfill the law of Christ. The believers have burdens to bear, manifold temptations to sin, moral faults and frailties especially coming into consideration here. These the Christians should bear mutually; they should beware of acting uncharitably in case a brother has offended them, for the brother is also obliged to be patient with many of their own faults and peculiarities. Thus the Christians help one another in the miseries of this present sinful world; thus they help one another to overcome the specific transgressions with which they are battling; thus they fulfill the law of Christ properly. "The law of Christ is the law of love. Christ having redeemed us, renewed us, and made us His Church, has given us no law but that we should love one another, Joh_13:34. " True, cordial brotherly love will not look down upon the stumbling brother and boast of its own holiness, but will come to his aid, shrinking back neither on account of inconvenience nor because of misconstruction of motives.
This lesson Paul proceeds to impress upon his readers: For if a man is of the opinion that he is something, when he is nothing, he is deceiving himself. The apostle's first reason for opposing self-exaltation was that it is contrary to the law of love. He here adds the thought that it is also very foolish. For he that gets the idea concerning himself that he is something great and extraordinary thereby exalts himself above his neighbors. But in doing so such people are acting under a rain delusion, since in the eyes of God's holiness and wisdom they are neither perfect nor wise. "They have the opinion that they are something, that is, inflated by their foolish illusion and their vain dreams, they have a wonderfully high opinion of their wisdom and sanctification, whereas in truth they are nothing and merely deceive themselves. For it is a manifest deception if someone is convinced that he is something and yet is nothing. Such people are described in the Revelation of John, chap. 3:17, in these words: "Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked"
Instead of being found engaged in such a foolish undertaking, therefore, Paul advises every Christian: But his own work let every man test; then shall he have reason for boasting only in what concerns himself, and not in what concerns the other. For each man shall bear his own pack, or load, his daily burden. Instead of indulging in vain imaginations and opinions, Christians will take care to test their own case, inquiring very earnestly how matters stand with them. The result will be that they will find so many things in need of improvement in their own heart and life that they will not find time to criticize their brother or sister. And all self-congratulation will not be the result of invidious comparison, but of actual merit, without any reference to the neighbor; and any improvement in his own case the Christian will ascribe all the more readily to the sanctifying power of the Spirit of God. At the same time, each man will find that he has his own burden, his own load, to carry, just as every soldier bears his own kit. His own self-examination will reveal as much, and the judgment of God on the last day will emphasize this still more strongly, 1Co_3:8 Luther writes of this testing of self which every Christian should practice: "'Let him test his own work,' that means, let him not concern himself about the work of another, let him not attempt to find out how bad the other is, but how good he himself is, and strive to be found approved in good works for his own person, lest he by reason of the work of another become secure and drowsy, as though he must be considered good by God, since he is better than that evil person, as a result of which he, on account of malice toward the other, ascribes more to himself than his own work justifies without malice toward the other. Your works will not become better through malice toward another. Therefore live so, act so, that you test your work, how much you may boast of yourself in your own conscience, as it is said 2Co_1:12 : For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience. But he tests his work when he marks how diligent he is in love to bear the frailty of others; and surely he that would pay attention to this would easily beware of malicious judgments and evil reports."