“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” (Matthew 18:15)
When confronted with the fact of their wrong-doing, many professing Christians will become defensive. This attitude usually leads them to try and justify their wrongs rather than confess them as faults and seek to correct their error.
Notice, of course, that these errors may not be actual sins. For this reason it is very easy to try and negate the seriousness of the matter by assuming that “It doesn’t hurt.”
Specifically, a fault is a mistake or error that indicates a weakness in character. It is not an “accidental” mistake, but rather one that results from a negligence or a propensity (tendency) on our part. For this reason, a fault is a product of our inward nature of sin. Because of this origination, a fault has the potential of developing into a sin. In short, faults are deceptive.
The Bible is clear as to the danger of faults:
“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.” (Galatians 6:1)
Here is a most-vital verse in understanding the deception of faults. The verse is expressly addressed to “brethren,” but calls on those who “are spiritual.” Being spiritual means to be spiritually-minded, or to walk in the Spirit. It is clear then that not all “brethren” “are spiritual.” But those that are have the responsibility to restore their brethren “in the spirit of meekness.” This meekness is necessary because of the previously mentioned defensiveness of the overtaken brother. We cannot restore a brother if they feel like we are attacking them.
Secondly, the fact that a brother has been “overtaken in a fault” shows that it has gained the mastery over him; it has prevailed upon him and has him in its control. This is strong language to apply to something that is not in itself a sin. This is nonetheless a correct assessment of the deceptiveness of a fault; it has the appearance of a simple mistake and the nature of full-blown sin. Little wonder then that a fault has the potential to enslave a brother.
Next, the spiritual brother is admonished with the words, “considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” If we are not operating “in the spirit of meekness,” the overtaken brother will recoil as a caged animal and defend the same fault that has enslaved him. This is evidence of the control he has surrendered to the fault.
“Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” (Romans 7:20)
The Apostle Paul addressed the control that sin could have over a person’s actions. As we have seen, faults are products of this very same sin nature. The deception of a fault lies in its appearance of benignity; that is, in its false appearance that it causes no harm. However, it has all the power of sin to overtake and control the actions of a Christian. For this reason, we should consider our own selves, so that we are not also overtaken in a fault of our own by not operating “in the spirit of meekness,” and so driving our brother away.
The danger of being overtaken by faults of others is of equal importance. What a brother does may have a negative influence on another Christian who perhaps does not realize the nature of their actions. Take, for instance, a brother who does not guard his tongue. The content of his words may not be offensive, but his manner of expression derails his intention to encourage others. His fault is not in what he says, but in how he says it. His problem could be voice inflection, body language, etc. He is trying to restore another brother overtaken by an attitude of jealousy.
The jealous brother becomes defensive because he perceives an attitude of smugness in the “encouragement.” He then suspects the smug brother of conspiring against him. Jealous lashes out at Smug, whose tongue gets the better of him. Before their encounter has ended, the two brothers are now at odds with one another, and pride will not allow them to come to terms with their faults. Notice that their faults were springboards to the sin of variance. These two brothers are now divided.
The Bible warns us of the danger of being “overtaken in a fault,” telling us that we are to consider ourselves so as not to be ensnared thereby. Through prayer and Bible study, God will show us our faults so that we can be mindful of them and seek to be rid of them. The Bible tells us to: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (James 5:16a).
Faults carry the power to enslave us to themselves and the potential to cause us to sin. Confessing faults to one another acts as therapeutic counseling as “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). This is because confession causes us to admit our mistakes to ourselves as we admit them to others. The confessor then has the benefit of receiving godly counsel that will help him to be “healed.” He is built up and strengthened as he puts away the weakness of his fault. To do this, we must be in humble subjection.
Ultimately, getting past our faults requires us to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2); “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). We have to be mindfully on guard against our faults, always searching our own selves for any attitude or thought pattern that may be a cause of offense for another. The test is whether or not we are honoring Christ in ourselves – not if we are only seeking to honor Him. We have to match the desire with a conscious effort to bring our faults into subjection, having “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
We all have our faults. But that does neither justify them, nor lessen their serious nature. We are powerless against the sin nature and must bring the same to our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. He will make atonement for us, as He has “his own self bare our sins [and faults] in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). We do not have to be overtaken in our faults. Jesus Christ our Lord “is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1:24).
Child of God, be not ensnared by the deceptiveness of faults, look to your Redeemer today. Ask Him to search your heart and mind, revealing any sin or fault within you. He will wash you and polish you, making you a vessel of honor for His use, and thereby present you to Himself “holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27), stain or fault.