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Accountability in the Church: Insights from Galatians 6:1

by Scot Chadwick

Accountability in the church should be a normal practice as we help one another fight against sin and pursue holiness. This battle against temptation affects every person, since temptations are “common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13) and “it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come” (Matthew 18:7).

We All Need to Guard Against Temptation

The stakes are high as we deal with these enticements to sin:

[E]ach one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (James 1:14–16)

We need to help one another “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 12:1). Being accountable and being held accountable by others can help us grow to be more like our Lord Jesus Christ.

At Accountable2You, we look to God’s Word to understand accountability. Galatians 6:1 provides insight into this important practice:

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. (Galatians 6:1 ESV)

Temptation can catch us off guard at any moment. Whether we are caught in a sin or trying to avoid a sin, we must stand with one another and help each other do what God has called us to do. Accountability is a practice we all should desire.

Commentary on Galatians 6:1

Let’s look carefully at what Galatians 6:1 teaches us about accountability in the church.


Our Lord Jesus wants His church to love one another as a community of saved sinners who help one another become more like Him in daily practice. Christians are united as brothers in Christ and must serve “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2–3).

While each sinner is saved individually, God places believers in local churches to provide spiritual fellowship, to invite vulnerability with each other, and to promote godliness.

“If anyone is caught in any transgression”

Sin is pervasive and inevitable (Matthew 18:7). Anyone and everyone in the community of faith is susceptible to transgression. So, Christians must be on guard to avoid temptation and entangling sins (Hebrews 12:1). When we transgress God’s commands, we can receive help from others in the church.

Anyone and everyone in the community of faith is susceptible to transgression.

A transgression is any act that goes against God’s clear commands. It is a false step, a journey in the wrong direction that leads to error. A transgression is not a violation of personal opinion but of God’s standards. You violate God’s holy will when you “carry out the desire of the flesh” and not the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16–24).

Any transgression—small or large, unexpected or deliberate, by action or failure to act—can lead to a condition of entrapment. Being “caught in any transgression” can refer to three related situations:

  1. You have been overtaken by transgression unexpectedly. You were not planning to sin but were caught off guard and responded to temptation from a sudden impulse. Maybe it was a moment of weakness or a lack of concern, but sin came upon you more rapidly than you could recognize. (See Genesis 4:6–7 and Proverbs 7:6–10.)
  2. You have become trapped in habitual sin. What might have started as an error of judgment has become a life-dominating sin. You consistently and deliberately engage in this wrong behavior. Perhaps you see no way out and have lost hope of ever changing. You know things are bad but you don’t know how to get out of the pit you have made for yourself. (See Romans 13:11–14 and James 1:13–15.)
  3. You have been discovered in sin by others. Whether unexpectedly or deliberately transgressing God’s commands, someone caught you in the act (see John 8:4). You have been found out. You might have been trying to hide your behavior, but now it has become known to others. Of course, God has known about this all along and He disciplines those whom He loves so they would become righteous in practice. (See Hebrews 12:4–11.)

“You who are spiritual”

God has provided a way out of transgression through the agency of others. In one sense, those who are spiritual include all believers. In his letter to the churches in Galatia, Paul has emphasized that all believers have received the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:2–3, 5, 14; 4:6, 29; 5:5). In another letter, Paul said, “I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another” (Romans 15:14). So, all believers have a responsibility to help erring brothers in Christ.

Spiritual change only occurs through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In another sense, those who are spiritual refer specifically to those more mature believers who “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16), are “led by the Spirit” (verse 18), and who “keep in step with the Spirit” (verse 25). They are not perfect and do not have it all together, but they demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit in consistent and increasing ways (verses 22–23). They realize that spiritual change only occurs through the power of the Holy Spirit (3:3).

“Should restore him”

When a brother in Christ “is caught in any transgression,” Christians must take the initiative to restore that one to righteous and useful living. Sin leads to further sin, weakness, hindered growth and service, and brokenness. We must jealously guard the honor of the Lord, the purity of the church, and our erring brother’s best interests by seeking to restore him.

While Christians are declared righteous before God, we all need to change and grow to become more like Christ. Because all Christians are tempted in various ways, we all need the regular help of one another to avoid “the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12–13).

The process of restoration can include elements of teaching, reproving, and correcting the erring brother according to God’s Word (see Matthew 18:15–17; 2 Timothy 3:16–17). The goal is to help the brother regard sin as a violation of God’s commands and choose to turn away from that sin. Confession, cleansing, and reconciliation follow a genuine repentance leading to a changed life. (See James 5:19–20.)

“In a spirit of gentleness”

As long as the erring brother is listening to reproof, we must be patient, tender, and mild.

As we approach one another in the context of dealing with sin, we must maintain a “spirit” or mindset of “gentleness.” It was said of Jesus, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Matthew 12:20).

As long as the erring brother is listening to reproof and responding to the Lord’s appeals through His people, we must be patient, tender, and mild (1 Corinthians 4:21; 2 Timothy 2:24–25). No one has reason for pride or boasting in themselves: we all need a Savior every day. We must show respect to one another, listening to one another and speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15; James 3:13).

“Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

All Christians should look out for one another to promote holiness in the congregation. But here Paul reminds us that each one must be vigilant for their own purity (Matthew 7:1–5).

Everyone is vulnerable to sin, so everyone must be on guard against any temptation to sin (Proverbs 4:23–27 and Luke 21:34). God wants His people to grow in holy living—“the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Conclusion: We All Need Accountability

Accountability in the church is essential for healthy growth as we minister to each other through heart-level relationships. While each of us must watch ourselves, we should also seek to be transparent and answerable to others. We need all the help we can get in our fight against temptation and sin.

Every Christians has faults and weaknesses, so we should not think any believer is better than another (Romans 12:3). We must resist the temptation to fall into the same sin we are trying to help our brother out of, and we must guard against pride and self-righteousness as we bear with the infirmities of others. Each one of us should desire to be like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

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