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Wednesday Evening Home Bible Study
May 24, 2006
In 5:1-6, Paul's main focus is on the Galatian believers. He warned them to "stand fast" in the liberty by which Christ has made them free; and urged them not to be entangled again in "yoke of bondage" that the false teachers--the Judaizers-- were trying to place on them. But now, in verses 7-13a, Paul's main focus is on the false teachers themselves that were afflicting the Galatians.
Paul uses some descriptive words in talking about the impact the Galatian believers. The first word is "hindered" (egkopto; to cut or strike at; that is, to interrupt, impede or hinder). These false teachers had made a significant interruption to the progress the Galatians had made in their liberty in Christ. The second is "troubled". And in the original language, he uses two different words. In verse 10, he uses the word tarassw; which means "to trouble" in the sense of disturbing and throwing into confusion in an internal way (Matthew 2:3; 14:26). In verse 12, he uses the word anastatow; which means "to stir-up" in an external way (Acts 17:6; 21:38).
Here, Paul speaks of their situation in a way that is applicable to all false teachers who "hinder" the progress of Christians, and who "trouble" the church.
I. PAUL'S ANALYSIS OF THE SITUATION OF THE GALATIANS (vv. 7-9).
A. They had once ran well (v. 7a). Paul recognizes that, at one time, they were making progress in their faith within the context of God's grace (see 1:6). Paul considered this a matter of "obeying the truth".
B. But they had been hindered from obeying the truth (v. 7b). Someone (perhaps only one person, as suggested by verse 10) had stood in the way of their progress; and now, they were no longer "running". Paul's metaphor of an athlete running a race is instructive. It teaches us that progress in the Christian life requires discipline; and warns us that we can easily be thrown off the track--even if we had been running well.
C. They had followed a persuasion that was not of God (v. 8). Paul's way of putting it is that it was not a "persuasion" or "assent" that came from the one who had called them. The one who had called them, of course, was God the Father in Christ (1:6). What he is saying is that this "persuasion" is not from God and is "a different gospel" which is not a gospel at all (v. 7).
D. The introduction of this persuasion is very dangerous (v. 9). Paul uses the analogy of 'leaven'--the introduction of a small amount of which into a lump of dough soon permeates and ferments the whole lump. In 1 Corinthians 5:6, Paul uses the same figure with respect to evil behavior. Evil behavior and doctrinal error have this in common: introduce a small amount--even a very small amount--and it will soon corrupt the whole. This is a warning not to tolerate even the tiniest bit of doctrinal error in the church. It spreads like wildfire, and will increase into more ungodliness and the overthrow of the faith of some (see 2 Timothy 2:16-18).
II. PAUL'S CONFIDENCE WITH RESPECT TO ULTIMATE FAITHFULNESS (v. 10):
A. His confidence is not primarily in the Galatians but in the Lord's power to keep them. He says that he has confidence in them "in the Lord". Though they are being impacted negatively by false teachers, Paul's confidence is in the power of the Lord Jesus to keep them (1 John 2:24-27). This of course doesn't mean that he stands by idly and allows the falsehood to go on! He deals with it very aggressively (see Acts 20:28). But he does so, knowing that they are the Lord's people; and that He is able to protect them and bring them to victory in the truth.
B. But though he points to the Lord first of all, Paul also assumes the best of the Galatians; that is, that they will keep to no other opinion than that which they had been taught (note that he twice speaks of the Galatian believers as "brethren"). They had wandered away; but he issues a call to them through this letter--confident in the Lord that they will heed the call and return.
C. What's more, he's assured that whoever it is that is troubling them will bear his judgment. These are strong words. Paul assumes that judgment will fall upon them. Just as he is assured of the final preservation of God's elect, he is also assured of the final judgment of those who seek to afflict them (2 Thess. 1:6).
III. PAUL'S DEFENSE TOWARD HIS ACCUSERS (v. 11).
A. Paul was, apparently, being accused of preaching the very same doctrine as the Judaizers (that is, a doctrine of 'circumcision'). This may have been because of what he once preached (Philippians 3:4-6); or it may have been because, after he had come to Christ, he circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:1-3). Whatever the reason, it was being said that he "still" or "yet" preached circumcision.
B. But Paul makes it clear that the fact that he is persecuted by the Jews shows that this is not the case. He asks if this was so, why it is that he still suffered persecution for his preaching. The message of the cross is an offense (1 Corinthians 1:18). It insists that "a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ" (Gal. 2:16). This is an offensive message to the self-righteous. If he had preached 'salvation by circumcision' (see 5:2), then the offense of the cross would have been removed and the persecution would have ceased (see 6:12).
C. Paul uses himself as an example in this to show his own steadfastness in the truth of the gospel. There must, in no case, be any compromise with respect to the message of God's grace through the sacrifice of Christ alone--even if that message costs us.
IV. PAUL'S WISH FOR THE FALSE TEACHERS (v. 12).
A. He describes the Judaizers as those who "trouble" the Galatian believers. They disturb them by 'zealously courting' them (4:16), compelling them to be circumcised in order to make 'a show of the flesh' (6:12), and ultimately "hinder" them (5:7) with a "different gospel" (1:6).
B. He expresses the wish that they would even "cut off" or "sever" themselves. This may be taken as a play on words--because they emphasized "circumcision"; but it's clear meaning is as a wish that these false teachers who pervert the gospel would "cut themselves off" from the community of believers and suffer the ultimate judgment from God (1:8-9). These seem like strong words; but if a shepherd sees a wolf attacking the sheep, he isn't exactly going to seek to protect the wolf and wish him well!
IIV. PAUL'S AFFIRMATION OF GOD'S CALL (v. 13a).
A. The Galatians have a calling from God. This points us back to Paul's initial words in Galatians 1:6. They belong to Him; and are not for any one else.
B. And this call is a call to "liberty" (see 5:1). It is "to liberty" that they have been "called"-- and God will accept no other condition for them. We must "stand fast" in the liberty to which we have been called in Christ.