Sunday Evening Bible Study
March 31, 1996
Paul is writing to a group of churches which he had helped to establish.
After having established these churches, there were a group of teachers called "Judaizers" who came in and began spreading their own doctrines.
The Judaizers felt that a Gentile couldn't really be saved apart from first becoming a Jew, and that started by being circumcised.
:7-12 What happened?
hinder - egkopto - to cut into, to impede one's course by cutting off his way; hinder
It's like cutting into someone's conversation on the telephone.
Or like driving on the freeway when someone zooms in front of you and cuts you off.
Paul often describes the Christian life as a race.
The Galatians were running well, but now these bad teachers have cut in on their race, and caused them to trip and fall.
The writer to Hebrews (some say it's Paul) wrote:
Hebrews 12:1-3 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
weight - ogkos - whatever is prominent, protuberance, bulk, mass; hence a burden, weight, encumbrance
We read this and think about how easily sin can come in and trip us up in our race with the Lord.
But we don't often think about how a bad teaching, or a bad doctrine can trip us up as well.
Bad Doctrine can stumble your walk!
People who have come from the "Name it and claim it" churches have been deeply hurt and disillusioned, wondering why God doesn't answer all their prayers like these wealthy pastors. How come I am going broke? Do I lack faith? Is there sin in my life?
Other churches teach such a strict doctrine of submission to your elders, that the pastors and elders are literal tyrants over the people in the church.
People in the churches like the Jehovah's Witnesses, where they teach you can't have a blood transfusion, and then their children die of a disease that could have simply treated with a blood transfusion.
Good doctrine, on the other hand, is healthy for you!
Joh 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have [it] more abundantly.
That's not to say you won't go through trials, but for the most part, your walk will get closer and closer to Jesus when you're understanding the Scriptures correctly.
Paul uses a singular "who" here.
Apparently there was some kind of head teacher that was bringing in this false doctrine.
These people were so caught up in the bad doctrine, that they weren't being obedient to what the truth says.
Get in the truth, and obey it!
There's plenty of truth in God's Word.
It's up to you to get into it, meditate on it, study it, and then obey it!
The teaching of these Judaizers did not come from Jesus.
Let me say this again.
The teaching of these Judaizers did not come from Jesus.
Jesus doesn't give you bad doctrine!
If someone comes into the church and receives a revelation that goes contrary to God's word, that person did not receive it from God!
Test the spirits!
Judge the prophets!
Don't let your head get spinning just because someone says something with the tone of voice of somebody important!
Paul uses this in 1Corinthians 5 to talk about how sin spreads in a church.
If you don't deal with open, blatant, sin, then it will start to spread from one person to another.
I see you sinning, and not getting spanked by the Lord, and so I think, "Gee, maybe I can get away with it too!" or, "I guess it's not that important for me to deal with sin!"
But now he's using it in talking about doctrine.
Deal with the bad doctrine before it spreads.
If you let it go, then it will begin to spread.
What happens is that you begin to fudge a little on the truth.
And when you fudge a little here on the truth, what's to keep you from fudging a little there as well?
If I come and announce to you all that God has told me there is no longer such a thing as "gray hair".
And I tell you that God no longer allows gray hair to exist, therefore there is no more gray hair.
Yet as I look in the mirror in the morning, what are those things I'm looking at?
Well, it must not be gray hairs, since I've been told there are no more gray hairs.
And a little something inside me breaks a little, that thing called reality.
And it won't be long before I start making up my own little reality, rather than just seeing things as they are.
NIV - I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be.
This is neat of Paul to say this.
As tough as he's been on them, he has this confidence that they'll do the right thing in the Lord.
Try to have a positive hope for people you minister to!
It makes me sick when I hear a pastor talk about his congregation and how lazy they are, or how carnal they are, or how unappreciative they are.
When I hear that, I think to myself, "With a pastor that has such a bad attitude, these people don't have much of a chance to change".
You need to give people a break, and hope in the Lord that they will grow, maybe even more than you!
Personally, I am awed at how God is working through all of you.
I get so thrilled when I hear stories from you about how you felt prompted to talk to this person or that person, and how God was able to use you ...
At one time Andrew Carnegie was the wealthiest man in America. He came to America from his native Scotland when he was a small boy, did a variety of odd jobs, and eventually ended up as the largest steel manufacturer in the United States. At one time he had forty-three millionaires working for him. In those days a millionaire was a rare person; conservatively speaking, a million dollars in his day would be equivalent to at least twenty million dollars today.
A reporter asked Carnegie how he had hired forty-three millionaires. Carnegie responded that those men had not been millionaires when they started working for him but had become millionaires as a result.
The reporter's next question was, "How did you develop these men to become so valuable to you that you have paid them this much money?" Carnegie replied that men are developed the same way gold is mined. When gold is mined, several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold; but one doesn't go into the mine looking for dirt -- one goes in looking for the gold.
Once someone came on Michelangelo chipping away with his chisel at a huge shapeless piece of rock. He asked the sculptor what he was doing. "I am releasing the angel imprisoned in this marble," he answered.
Do you look for the potential in the people you minister to?
Do you look for the potential in your own children?
Do you see their incredible value?
Apparently, some of the Judaizers were even saying the Paul himself was teaching people to be circumcised.
Yet Paul says that if that were the case, then why were so many others persecuting him?
To the Jews, the preaching of the cross of Jesus was a stumbling block, an offensive thing.
1Corinthians 1:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
The Cross offends people, because when Christ sacrificed Himself for the sins of every person He became the only real way to God.
People are bothered by the narrowness of one way; they prefer to think that man can somehow earn it by his own merits, such as keeping the Law.
If Paul were to preach circumcision instead of the cross of Christ for salvation, then this stumbling block would be taken away from these Judaizers.
cut off - apokopto - to cut off, amputate
Paul may be using this word in the Jewish sense of "cutting off" a person from fellowship, such as excommunication.
But it's a little ironic the way that he uses it here.
He's been talking about circumcision, the very ritual that the Judaizers were so proud of.
Circumcision is a "cutting around" of the foreskin.
And so Paul here, rather than wishing them to be circumcised, wishes these false teachers to be "cut off".
I don't think Paul is exactly wishing that these guys were castrated, but that they would be cut off from the church.
God is serious about false teachers.
He doesn't see a place for tolerating them.
2Peter 2:1-8 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.3 ¶ And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;7 ¶ And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:
:13-15 Don't abuse the liberty
Paul has spent much of the last few chapters showing how we are free from the Law when we come to the Lord.
He's been showing us that trying to please God by keeping the Law was a form of slavery, and that we have been bought from that slavery and set free.
flesh - sarx - flesh (the soft substance of the living body, which covers the bones and is permeated with blood) of both man and beasts... ;
But here it means - denotes mere human nature, the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God
Paul is warning the Galatians not to abuse this liberty in Jesus.
Some would say, "Gee, I don't have to obey the law anymore? Whoopee!!"
And then they would go out and make it a point to break every law that was ever written.
Freedom from the law doesn't mean it's okay to sin.
Paul is concerned that the Galatians don't go from one form of bondage to another.
He doesn't want them to go from being enslaved to the Law, to becoming enslaved to their own sin nature.
Romans 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
This becomes the overall guiding influence in our lives, love.
Jesus said that this was His commandment:
Joh 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
Joh 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
1Jo 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
2Jo 1:5 And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. (AV)
The one word is "love".
Matthew 22:36-40 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
If you love your neighbor, you aren't going to kill him.
If you love your neighbor, you aren't going to steal his VCR.
If you love your neighbor, you aren't going to commit adultery with his wife.
If you can just get down this "love" thing, you've got it made!
Isn't it interesting that Paul has made such a big deal about not being in bondage to the Law, and not trying to please God by trying to keep the Law, and now he turns around and tells us how we can fulfill the Law?
The issue has never been getting rid of the Law, as if the Law were a bad thing.
The issue is only that we understand that we can't make God's standards by trying to keep the Law on our own.
There is a famous story of two snakes that grabbed each other by the tail and each swallowed the other.
Apparently, due to the influence of the false teachers, the Galatians had started developing factions and bitter strife in the church.
Paul warns them that if they keep up this petty stuff, they're going to ruin the church, especially it's testimony.
The enemy isn't in the church.
There are churches where different groups and factions develop.
Rivalries start, and one group competes against the other for attendance, or "spirituality".
It can happen within church staffs, and then people start following their own particular staff person, rather than being a whole, unified church.
The enemy isn't some other person in the church that you disagree with!
The enemy is Satan!
Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places].
There may be people in the church that you disagree with, but you need to grow up and put the differences behind you, or else you end up bringing destruction to the church.
Divisions and factions in the church is an evidence of carnality.
I think this is one of those "occasions" for the flesh to manifest itself in the church (verse 13).
When there are divisions in the church, it's not any kind of measure of any of the groups' spirituality, it's a clear indication that the groups within the church are CARNAL!
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, they had divisions in their church as well:
1Co 3:3-4 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas [there is] among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? 4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I [am] of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
Next time you find yourself taking sides in an argument in church, or feeling like some other group isn't quite as spiritual as you, WATCH OUT!
Most likely, you yourself are the carnal one.