5:7-15–Problems with the False Teachers


VERSE 7:  They Try to Hinder You
“Ye do run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?”

“Ye do run well”
Literally:  “You were running well”

         That is, in the gospel race of faith.  Paul now shifts to using a figure from the Grecian games (of which every Greek was acquainted) to illustrate his point. The Greek word rendered as “do run” is in the imperfect tense, denoting a continuous action going on in a past time.  It is interesting that Paul, as he did in 4:12, breaks off his argument to make an appeal to the Galatians on their past experience.   In his writings Paul often compares the Christian life to running a race or being in the games (see I Cor. 5:24-26).  He uses as an illustration the figure of a runner in the Greek games, and in effect says, “You were running well.”
          What Paul means that they had begun with so much zeal and enthusiasm.  You set out so well, and received the gospel in its simplicity, without any mixture of Jewish ceremonies. . Paul is attempting to impress upon these Galatians that they had begun their Christian race, but they had not yet finished it.
         It is a fact that ordinarily a Christian's first ways are his best ways, his first fruits his fairest fruits. Commonly young converts are carried out with a greater measure of affection and zeal, and make a swifter progress in religion, than others doYes, these Galatians did run well at first in their race of Christianity.

         “who did hinder you”
         Literally:  “who held you back”

         Paul is asking them, ”What hindered you? Who stopped you?  Who drove you back from your belief of, and obedience to, the truth of the gospel, which you then received from me?”  Simply stated in our vernacular:  “What in the world happened to you?”  The Greek word rendered as “hindered,” literally means, “to beat or drive back.”   Hence it means “to hinder, check, or retard.”  Someone had  “cut in” on the Galatians as they were running the Christian race and tried to trip them or to turn them away from the course they were on.
         As Paul is using the figure of a race, this implies one runner a breaking into a race course, or is cutting into another runner and slowing up his progress.  These Galatian Christians had been running the Christian race well, but the Judaizers had cut into them and now were slowing up their progress of growth in their Christian “race.”  They had deprived the Galatians believers of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and as a result, these believers had been thrown back upon their own self effort in an attempt to obey some sort of legal restrictions.  This has resulted in their losing their “first love” of the Lord Jesus His enabling power for service.

         A note about this word “who:”  Paul really means one whom you ought not to have listened to, alluding to the Judaizers (compare 3:1)–“O foolish Galatians, you, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth…?  Another interesting note regarding this Greek word rendered as “who.”  In the original the word is in the singular tense, denoting that there was some ringleader in the business. Someone “cut in” on the them as they were running the Christian race and tried to trip them up.  Paul seems to be drawing attention to the leader of the false teachers rather than on the Judaizers in general.  This individual had led them away from subjection to the truth of the gospel, which involved Justification by Faith and a life of Christian liberty.

            “that ye should not obey the truth?”
            Literally:  {that} you do not obey the truth”

That you do not submit yourselves to the true Gospel way of justification.  Paul is really asking, with emphasis, who could have retarded them in their Christian course, implying that it could have only been done with their own consent.  He means that there was really no reason that they should not have continued on with the same zeal that they had at the beginning, unless there had been an outside influence against them.

VERSE 8:  They Try to Persuade You
“This persuasion {cometh}not of Him that calleth you.”

            “This persuasion”
            Literally:  “The persuasion”

           The word rendered as “persuasion” is from a Greek root word that literally means, “to induce one by words to believe,” and it here refers to the Judaizers who were influencing the Galatians to believe their teachings.  Paul is here doing another of his “play on words” in the Greek, for the Greek word that he uses here has the same root as does the word that he uses in v. 7 for “obey;” that, “this persuasion which you have obeyed.”

{cometh}not of that Him that calleth you.”
Literally:  {is} not from the One that called you.”

          Paul is telling them that such teachings do not come from He who called them to their salvation; namely Christ Himself.  Rather, he tells these Galatian believers,  it is a message sent from Satan, working through these Judaizers, and giving them (the Galatians) a mind to listen to such false teachings (see II Cor. 11:13-15).  To put it in our vernacular, Paul is saying, “Whatever voice you have been listening to, it certainly was not the voice of God.”
         Christ had called them into His grace, and now they were being moved by a false gospel (1:6).  God does not call men to Himself by two different systems of salvation.  He only has one way of saving people–by FAITH. 
         I remember one time I was talking to woman who was one of these “baptismal regeneration” people (those who believe that baptism is necessary for salvation).  I asked her, “If baptism is necessary for salvation, then what are you going to do with the thief on the cross.  He was never baptized, but yet Jesus said, ‘Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.’’”  She replied, “Oh, that was a special case, just for him because Jesus was talking directly to him.”  I told her that there were NO “special cases” where salvation was concerned; that God has NEVER saved anyone except by FAITH.  Even as far back as Abraham, he was saved by faith, by BELIEVING-“…Abraham believe God, and it (his BELIEF) was accounted unto him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:3).  She said she had never heard such a thing before.  I then showed her Ephesians 2:8-9.  She was totally dumfounded.  See what happens when preachers do not get into the Pauline epistles?

VERSE 9:   They Try to Infiltrate You
“A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump”

“A little leaven”
Literally:  “A little leaven”

Leaven is simply yeast, but in the Bible it is always used as a symbol of evil, or corruption.  Leaven became a type of moral and spiritual corruption because of its fermentation properties.  In His “Parable of the Leaven” (Matt. 13:33), Jesus referred to at least three different types of leavening, all of which were bad.
1.      Leaven of the Pharisees (Matt. 16:6; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1)

This leavening of the Pharisees was their legalism, or laws they had added to the Word of God.  Unfortunately, there are still those today who practice this type of leavening by taking the simple grace message of the Word of God and adding to it their own rules and regulations which they say people must keep in order to attain salvation, or to keep it.

2.      Leaven of the Sadducees (Matt. 16:6).

This leavening of the Sadducees was their skepticism, particularly of spiritual matters.  They denied the existence of angels, or life after death.

3.      Leaven of the Herodians (Mark 8:15)

This leavening of the Herodians, or Leaven of Herod, was their materialism.  They loved things better than God.      

Paul also uses this same phrase in I Cor. 5:6 where Paul warns them against their toleration of immorality within their midst.  There an evil man was among them and they seemed powerless to deal with it, like so many churches today who have never had a case of discipline for years and tolerate all kinds of wickedness within their midst.  Thy do not dare to come out and deal wit it.

         “leaveneth the whole lump”
         Literally:  “leavens all the lump”

         It is the nature of leaven to spread until all has been affected.  It is not content with just part of the lump.  All local churches need to understand that moral and doctrinal error, is like a cancerous cell within a human body; it will spread like yeast until it effects all the church.  The only remedy is vigilance, and if necessary, purging (i.e., church discipline).  Any local church that will not use Scripturally based discipline is asking for real problems. 
         It is unfortunate that this insidious infiltration of heretical doctrines and practices are too often not realized until it is too late to avoid them corrupting the entire church or Christian community.  One big problem regarding the rooting out of such “leavens” has been made more difficult because of the idea that anything savoring heresy-hunting is nothing more that “witch-hunting” and must be avoided at all costs.  After all, in this day and age of PC (political correctness) we are not to offend anything or upset anyone’s “self-esteem.”  But understand this one most important point:  NO amount of heresy must be allowed to exist within a local church for it only takes a “little leaven” to begin to work its way until it affects the “whole lump”–the entire church.

VERSE 10:  The Trouble You
“I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded:  but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.”

         “I have confidence in you”
         Literally:  “I trust as to you”

Even though they had been led astray, and had embraced many false opinions, yet, on the whole, Paul had confidence in their salvation, and believed they would yet return and embrace the truth; at least that some of them might after they had read his letter to them.  This shows Paul’s great wisdom in how to deal with errant churches and people.  First, he has dealt quite bluntly with them, now he knows it is time to soften his tone with them and to be warm and confident with them and to encourage them.

         “through the Lord,”
         Literally:  “in {the} Lord”

Paul is really reminding these Galatians that he has not written them off and that his confidence in their allegiance and reception of his message really comes from the Lord, the One Who is able to give power and persuasion to his arguments.  He is stating his conviction that they will come to recognize the doctrinal danger they are really in and that they will reject the legalism of the Judaizers for a life of faith. 

         “that ye will be none otherwise minded:”
         Literally:  “that you will think nothing else”

         Than I have taught you.  Now Paul is telling the Galatians that he hopes they will get their thinking straightened out.  Just as Satan had confused the mind of Eve, their minds were being “corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (II Cor. 11:3).  This trend needed to be stopped and reversed. 
         The Greek word rendered as “be minded”  is from a root word that denotes a general disposition of the mind, rather than a specific act of thought aimed at a given subject. 
         The words, “none otherwise” shows that Paul expected the Galatians to take no other view of the source of the Judaizer’s message, (the he that troubleth you”), than he took; namely, that it did not come from God but rather that it came from Satan, and that the “leaven” of the Judaizers was false doctrine, or simply heresy.

         “but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.”
         Literally:  “the {one} troubling you shall bear the judgment, whoever he may be”

         Paul is again referring to the “ring-leader” of the Judaizers”–see the comment on the word “who” (v. 7). Paul did not know the identity of this person, nor did he really care, because the problem was really one of principle, and not one of personality. Although the “he” did refer to the principal heretical teacher, the entire group of Judaizers was causing the actual damage. 
         The word “bear” is from a word which speaks of a grievous burden. The judgment of God would be a grievous burden for anyone to bear who would disturb the faith of the Galatian believers.    However, regardless of this “ring-leader’s” reputation or influence, he deserved to be judged; and he would be–by God.

VERSE 11:  They Even Persecuted Paul
“And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution?  Then is the offence of the cross ceased?

         “And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision,
         Literally:  “But I, brothers, if I proclaim circumcision still”

         Paul is saying, “If I am still preaching circumcision as I used to do (As that troubler seems to have been saying).”  This accusation might possibly be taking place because of Paul having circumcised Timothy.  The Judaizing troubler of the Galatians was saying “Paul himself preaches circumcision,” as is shown by his having circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:3; compare also Acts 20:6; 21:24). Paul is hoping to head off this accusation.
         It is evident that the false teachers in Galatia alleged that Paul was some sort of “religious chameleon”–that he still insisted on the necessity of circumcision when he was preaching to Jews but he forgot about this requirement when he was speaking to a Gentile congregation.  They insisted they were really teaching no more than he taught.  On what they founded this is really not known.  It may have been merely slander; or it may have come from the fact that he had circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:3), and, possibly, that he may have encouraged circumcision in some other similar cases. Or it may even have been inferred from the fact (which was undoubtedly true) that Paul in general complied with the customs of the Jews when he was with them. But his conduct and example had been greatly perverted by these Judaizers.
         He had never preached that circumcision as necessary to salvation; and had never complied with Jewish customs where there was any danger that it would be understood that he regarded them as at all indispensable, or as furnishing a ground of acceptance with God.  For the sake of argument Paul puts forth two results if he had really been preaching circumcision.

Result #1

         “why do I yet suffer persecution?”
         Literally:  “why am I still persecuted?”

            In so many words  Paul is say, “Sure, it’s true, I did circumcise Timothy, but it was only to avoid offending the weak Jews, not out of any opinion which I had touching the necessity of circumcision.”  And he goes on to show them the falsehood of the suggestion of the Judaizers,, he goes on to say that if he had preached circumcision, he might have escaped persecution. The Jews were his persecutors, looking upon him as an apostate from their holy religion, and accused him of preaching the abolishment of the Mosaic Law.
            Throughout his travels, Paul’s persecutors had largely been Jews, not Gentiles.  He was constantly being kicked out of synagogues.  This would not have been happening if the Judaizers had been right.

Result #2

         “Then is the offence of the cross ceased?”
         Literally:  “Then the offence of the cross has passed away.”

         It would have been rendered inoperative if Paul had been preaching of the circumcision.  The “offence,” (literally “scandal”–Greek:  skandalon) of the cross includes the total helplessness of man to contribute to his salvation.  It destroys the wisdom and power of men (I Cor. 1:18-25). The Judaizers were afraid to accept this “offence of the cross” because they disliked persecution themselves (6:12).
         The Cross was offensive to the Jew because it set aside the entire Mosaic economy and because it offered salvation by grace through faith ALONE without the added works of the sinner in an effort to merit that salvation that is offered freely.  All this served to show the First Century Jew that he had an erroneous concept of the Law of Moses, for it never taught that a sinner could be accepted by God on the basis of good works.

“I would they were even cut off which trouble you.”

         “I would they were even cut off”
         Literally:  “I would that the {ones} causing you to doubt were cut off"

         It is rather amusing watching the various commentators “dance around” this phrase “cut off” and its true meaning, when in fact it is a Hebraism for being killed.  They have no problem with the phrase having this meaning when Daniel uses it in describing the Messiah (Dan. 9:26)–“After threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off…” but when it comes to Paul wishing  these Judaizers to be “cut off,” (wishing they were dead) these commentators have a problem.  They seem to have some sort of mental block when it comes to that.
         The Greek word tendered as “trouble” means ‘to unsettle,” or “to drive someone from his house.”  In a sense Paul is saying that these false teachers were evicting the Galatians from the “house of grace” that was built upon the rock of Christ and were attempting to move them into the house of self-righteous works (see Matt. 7:24-27).

“For brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only {use} not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

         “ye have been called unto liberty;”
         Literally:  “you have been called to freedom”

That is, liberty from the demands of the Law.  Paul begins the second part of his exhortation, namely, the life of the Christian.  He cautions the Galatian believers against abusing their Christian liberty; against allowing their Christian liberty to degenerate into license, but that they should govern that love and by consideration for others.  They are to by no means suppose they were freed from all obligation to serve God or man.  He wants them to understand that they were free from the servitude of sin, and free from subjection to the expensive and burdensome rites and customs of the Mosaic Law, but they were not free from their service to God. They were to remember this as a great and settled principle and a vital truth; but as important as it was that this knowledge should be kept, they must also realize there was also a great evil if they forgot it.

Warning of Liberty Without Godly Love

         “only {use} not liberty for an occasion to the flesh,”
         Literally:  “Only do not {use} the freedom for {an} opening to the flesh”

         This is giving a recognition that the flesh (the “old man”) is still in the believer, even though its power over him has been broken.  Therefore, the believer still needs a restraint put upon him.  The mistake comes when people attempt to substitute legalistic rules for the restraint of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit will continue to restrain evil throughout the church until He is taken out of the world with the church at the “Rapture” (translation; the harpazo,  the taking out) of the church (II Thess. 2:7).  No preacher ever enables the believers in his local church members to be better Christians by putting them under the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai and by letting them smell the brimstone of the Lake of Fire.  A policeman on the street corner is a better deterrent to law-breaking than any raft of laws posted for public notice.
         It must be understood that liberty and license are not the same thing.  The “flesh” refers to the old sin nature which will always be present in the believer.  Paul is here saying that believers are not to use their freedom from the Mosaic Law to be morally lawless.  The word here rendered as “occasion” literally means, “a starting point.” It was a Roman military term for a base of operations.  We might use it to mean, don’t use it as a “base of operations” or “as a springboard for action.” 

         The idea is, “You are called to liberty, but it is not liberty for an occasion to the flesh. It is not freedom from virtuous restraints, and from the laws of God. It is liberty from the servitude of sin, and religious rites and ceremonies, not freedom from the necessary restraints of virtue.” It was necessary to give this caution, because
1.      There was a strong tendency in all converts from paganism to relapse again into their former habits. Licentiousness abounded; and where they had been addicted to it before their conversion, and where they were surrounded by it on every hand.
2.       It is needful to guard the doctrine from abuse at all times. There has been a strong tendency, as the history of the church has shown, to abuse the doctrines of grace.

The doctrine that Christians are “free,” that there is liberty to them from restraint, has been perverted always by Antinomians, and been made the occasion of their indulging freely in sin. And the result has shown that nothing was more important than to guard the Doctrine of Christian Liberty, and to show exactly what Christians are freed from, and what rules are still binding on them.

Wherewithall for Liberty to Serve in Love

         “but by love serve one another.”
          Literally:  “but through love serve one another”

         By the proper display of love one to another, and striving to promote each other’s welfare.  In that harsh Greco-Roman culture, the one thing that really stood out was the love that Christians had for each other.  When there is love, there is no real servitude.  Basically, Paul is saying, “if you insist on being in servitude” (literally, “being in slavery”), “then be in loving servitude to each other.” 
         Service without love becomes a punishment, but service through love becomes a blessing to all. Such an one is now free to love God and others without sinful restrictions.  Unfortunately, sometimes our love for the brethren can deteriorate into selfish contention and debate; even to factionalism.  All the rules and standards in the world will not make people like each other or get along with each other.  Such unrest can only lead to the ruin of a local church.

“For all the Law is fulfilled in one word, {even} in this, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’”

         “For all the Law”
         Literally:  “For the whole Law”

Paul is here referring to the unity of the Mosaic Law with regard to our fellow men.  The real problem that the Judaizers had was that they could only see the precepts of the Law, and not its principle:  love. 

         “is fulfilled in one word,”
         Literally:  “is fulfilled in one word”

Paul is saying that this is the substance of the entire Law; that the essence of the Law can be summed up in one word. 

         “in this, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’”
         Literally:  “in this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself”

Just imagine, such a concentration of Law into the concept of love must have sounded quite strange to the ears of these legalists.   If a person really loves God he would not be violating the commandments of the Law, and if he loves God, he would naturally love his fellow believers.  John also expressed this same idea:

       “No man hath seen God at any time.  If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us.
       “If a man say, ‘I love God’ and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

       “And this commandment have we of Him, ‘That he who loves God loves his brother also.’” (I John 4:12, 20-21).

         The Greek word used here for “love” is agape, which refers to that love which is divine love and not human affection; that kind of love is produced in the heart of the believer by the Holy Spirit.  This is the sort of love that the believer is to have toward his fellow believers.  This is the sort of love that is not self-serving, but rather displays itself in self-sacrifice for the benefit of the one loved.  Such love always means the death of ego, self and self-gratification. 
         If a person really did love his neighbor as himself, he would honor his parents, he would not murder his neighbor, he would not steal his neighbor’s wife, property or reputation (Exo. 20:12-17.   In another place Paul wrote, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law” (Rom. 13:10).  To put it simply:  When God controls the heart, a person will love his fellow brethren and neighbors.

“But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.”

         “But if ye bite and devour one another”
         Literally:  “But if you bite and devour one another”

The Greek word here rendered as “bite” literally means, “to bite, to sting;” and here seems to be used in the sense of contending and striving.  It was a Greek metaphor taken from dogs and wild beasts.  Paul is using it in the sense of “backbiting.”  Likewise, he is using the metaphor of “devouring” as wild beasts devour one another. The sense is, “if you backbite and contend with each other;” and the reference is, probably, to the strife which had arisen between the two parties in the churches–the Jewish and the Gentile converts.
         By biting one another, says he, you will destroy and consume one another; where it deserves a serious remark, that  Paul compares the enmities and animosities which were among them, upon the score of their differences in religion, to the biting, rending, and devouring of wild beasts.  He warns them of their efforts to bite and devour one another; and warns them of the consequences that will follow their actions; namely, a total devastation and inevitable dissolution of the whole church.
         These Churches seem to have been in a state of great disruption; there were continual altercations among their members.  They had fallen from the grace of the Gospel; and, as Christ no longer dwelt in their hearts by faith, such things as pride, anger, ill-will, and all unkind and uncharitable tempers, had taken possession of their souls, and they were as a consequence destroying each other.  Nothing is so destructive to the peace of man, and to the peace of the soul, as religious disputes; where such prevails, religion in general has little place.
         Understand this one point:  reciprocal criticism will always lead to reciprocal destruction.  Paul says, “take heed.”  In our vernacular we would put it as, Watch out.”  No one willing desires to be devoured, but yet the actions of these Galatians were headed in that direction.  They were on the road to devouring themselves; i.e., the devourers themselves being devoured.  The policy begun by the Judaizers could only lead to dissension of the bitterest kind because it arouses passions that are unrestrained by the influence of love.


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