Hope for the Hopeless

Isn’t this portion of Scripture the true crux of our spiritual journey as a church family? We have seen, in Galatians 5:16-25, a list of the “acts of a sinful nature” and there are certainly some major league issues listed there. I’m feeling pretty good as we get started into the list. But then we get to “sins” that impact our relationships. Paul seems to be saying to me that “moral failure” is more than adultery or acts of public depravity. He gives even more space to acts and attitudes that make me stop and take inventory. Sandwiched between “sexual immorality” and “drunkenness, orgies, and the like” we find “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy.” In short, I think Paul is setting us up for the realization that what follows is applicable to all of us.

Now, in Galatians 6:1, we are instructed to be ambassadors of Christ. I am drawn back to one of my favorite portions of Paul’s writing found in 2 Corinthians 5:17-20. In Christ we are a new creation and all of our past is washed away. Seeing that we, ourselves, have been reconciled (restored) we are called to be ambassadors of His grace and have been given the ministry of reconciliation. Christ put it this way, in John 8:7, as He was confronted with the woman who had been “caught” in adultery, when He said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then, after assuring her that He offered forgiveness rather than condemnation, He bade her, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” Some point out that the Greek infers that this sin is not blatant, deliberate, willful sin, but rather more of an “oops” or “excuse me” sin. But haven’t we learned in the context of God’s reaching out to us that sin is sin. A little sin is as damaging to my righteousness as a big sin, is it not? So, if we are saying here that gentle restoration is for those who have simply been caught up in habits, or circumstances that catch us off guard rather than intentional depravity, I think we are missing the bigger part of what Paul’s gospel message is all about. “We who are spiritual should restore him gently.” Well, will the ‘real’ spiritual person please stand up!” Which one of us is qualified to begin an act of restoration for someone who is “caught in a sin”?

Let me make this personal in order to illustrate what Paul’s intent is here according to my simple mind. I am indebted to an organization that has small groups meeting around the world. When I attend one of these meetings my introduction to participation begins with; “My name is Marvin, and I am an alcoholic.” Now you know I’m talking about AA. At one point in my life I was drunk every night for two years. I couldn’t hold a job for more than a few months. My marriage fell apart. I hated myself and my life had truly become unmanageable and I was powerless to do anything about it.

God has taken that time in my life and not only forgiven it (yes, I have stopped drinking), but He has used me to mentor and minister to so many who struggle with alcohol and any number of other addictions. I am an alcoholic…with forty years of sobriety. Praise God!

I am working with addicts who are struggling with their “sin”. The way some would interpret this week’s passage seems to be that I can seek to gently restore someone who has “slipped” into old ways and needs a helping hand to get back on the wagon. But, what about the brother or sister who has messed up big time? What about the person who has just let go of their ropes and fallen deeper into the hole than they have ever been before? Can they ever have hope of restoration? Isn’t my ministry as much to the hopeless outside of the church as it is to the struggling who are still in the church? Is there really any difference between us?

I will accept the fact that in Galatians 6:7 & 8, we are reminded that there are consequences for sin that will remain. We will indeed reap what we sow. I can testify to the fact that some of the results of my former life have left scars that will be a part of my life as long as I live. But, I will also testify that those same scars have been a powerful part of my ministry.

In my ministry of reconciliation I can only truly help those who have come to the place where they admit that their lives are unmanageable and that they are powerless. There does have to be a spirit of confession, repentance, and brokenness. But, there is no addict (read as sinner) that cannot be changed and restored and who better to mentor them than one who has been changed and restored?

We who are spiritual (forgiven and restored) should be in the business of gently restoring those who are caught in sin! And we should be careful that we don’t ourselves get drawn into sin either by being sucked back into our own past addictions, or by seeing ourselves as “better” or as “something.” We should not be “comparing” ourselves with anybody else.

I have had numerous privileges of seeing individuals who were caught (both by their own addiction and then by public knowledge) in sin, but who were in an environment where God used people to lead them through the process of admission, conviction, repentance, acceptance of forgiveness, renewal of surrender, and finally, restoration. I have been privileged to work with pastors who have been removed from ministry, but then have been allowed to work through a process of restoration and return to be far greater tools in the hand of our merciful God than they were before. Yes, praise God!

Should not our church be in the full time business of restoration? Are we not all daily in the process of restoration? The same author, in Romans, chapter 7, says that he continues to struggle with the fact that he neglects the things that he knows he should do and gives in to the things he knows he should not do. His only hope of restoration from his “body of death” is in Jesus Christ, the One who came to save sinners!

Please, let’s do away with “degrees” of sin and recognize that even our “righteousness” is an abomination to God if we see it as something of merit. We are all hopelessly lost were it not for the grace and mercy of our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, and soon coming King! Let us then, who have been reconciled, be Christ’s ambassadors, as He makes His appeal through us, and be ministers of reconciliation to each and every person that He places in our path on this journey.

This commentary was originally published to Spectrum on November 24, 2011.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8250

Such beautiful and practical insights! Addiction is being surprised into sin, because you’ve lived with the illusion of control… until that illusion is shattered, and you’re left to pick up the pieces of an out of control existence. But, whatever our issues, we all need help with picking up the pieces at different times of our lives. While Christ has already done this on a cosmic and spiritual level for all of us, he calls us to make this real on a practical level for one another. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so bring to completion the law of Christ.”




Most of us who have been in the church for a long time, have probably been ‘hurt’ by the church (read ‘members’) at one time or another. Misunderstandings, jealousy, self-centeredness, judgmental attitudes, as just a few examples, have damaged relationships and created barriers…and quite frankly, have detracted from ‘mission’. That is perhaps part of the explanation for why we consistently lose nearly 50% of our new members over time. If only everyone could adopt the writer’s approach…it so exemplifies the humility Paul describes. Thank you for sharing your personal experience, which once again proves that “All things work together for good…”.


Back in1935, dad was. Building the James White Library at EMC. The vast acreage contained gravel left over from the ice age. but it contained. Sand stone. The plant manager tried to get Dad to use his sandstone gravel. dad refused for two reasons1. It would weaken the foundation and footings, 2. It would cause pitting in the walkways. dad pointed out pits in existing walks.

The Sabbath came for footwashing. The manager asked if he could serve Dad. dad agreed. After completion, the manager said, now will you buy my gravel? dad said absolutely as soon as you power wash all the sandstone out. No deal, power washing would cost more than Good crushed stone. Fellowship does not demand foolish business deals.


[quote=“spectrumbot, post:1, topic:14312”]
Should not our church be in the full time business of restoration? Are we not all daily in the process of restoration? [/quote]

“business of restoration”?

Who can run any business if they don’t know what they’re doing?

“Restoration” has taken on the ambiguous, obscure meaning like other theological words that end in "ation"

The Greek word for restore is katartizo
it means to mend, fix, set in order

How does one help people to get fixed rather than give them a fix?
The article author has missed the main point that Paul is driving at in this section, and even the whole letter of Galatians. Even the lesson author has missed the key point of how one is fixed.

Until one truly understands Rom 5:9 & 10 and Titus 3:5, they will be victims of warped soteriology that prevails in Christianity and Adventism

(Read about the character of the SDA person who washed the feet of Tom Zwemer’s father.)

The lesson title =The Gospel and the church

“The essence of the gospel is restoration” SOP

Read Gal 3:14 and escape deception.

Notice the command to the “spiritual” in Gal 6:1…
How is Paul doing this with his 149 verses of Galatians?


Hope is the result of experiencing character transformation.
See Roman 5:4

Those who realize this transformation have hope and purify themselves
1 JN 3:3