December 14, 2013

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians

Tom Lowe

             

Chapter IV.A.4: The Law Hinders Growth (5:7-10)

Galatians 5:7-10 (KJV)

 

7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?

8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.

9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

10 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.

 


Commentary

 

7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?

 

Ye did run well

The Christian life is often represented as a race. For example, in 1 Corinthians 9:24-26, Paul pictures life as if he was describing an Olympic competition: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means , when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

The first Olympic Games were the sole property of the Greeks, and they featured competitions in leaping, running, throwing the quoit (a flattened ring of iron or circle of rope), darting (this may have been the Javelin throw), and wrestling. Sometimes other exercises were included, such as chariots races, and horse races, etc.

Running was one of the principal contests at the games. Speediness or swiftness was regarded as an extraordinary virtue, and great pains were taken in order to excel in this. History records that they regarded it so highly that those who prepared themselves for this race would actually burn their spleen, because it was believed to be an impediment to them, and to hinder them in the race. Homer tells us that swiftness was one of the most excellent endowments with which a man can be blessed—"No greater honor e'er has been attain'd, Than what strong hands or nimble feet have gain'd."The competitors prepared themselves for these races through a long period of self-discipline and exercise; and nothing was left undone that might contribute to securing the victory.

"One reason" why this was believed to be so valuable an achievement among the Greeks, was, that it prepared people both physically and mentally for war as it was conducted at that time in history. It enabled them to make a sudden and unexpected attack, or a rapid retreat. Hence, the attribute which Homer constantly gives of Achilles is that he was swift of foot. And David, in his poetical lamentations over Saul and Jonathan as they prepare for war, points out in 2 Samuel 1:23 that "They were swifter than eagles, Stronger than lions." 

Paul uses the example of the athlete because it was something his readers were familiar with, and the idea he wants to convey to them here is that they began the Christian life with dedication and enthusiasm. That is the kind of zeal he speaks of in Galatians 4:15: “Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.”The life of a Christian is a race, in which he must run and not hold back or lose his focus, if he is to obtain the prize. It is not enough that we profess Christianity, but we must run well, by living up to that profession.

Who did hinder you

 The Greek word used here (ἀνακόπτω anakoptō) means to beat or drive back. Hence, it means to hinder, curb, impede, delay, or retard. Dr. Doddridge remarks that this is "an Olympic expression, and properly signifies ‘coming across the course’ while a person is running in it, in such a manner as to jostle, and throw him out of the way." Paul asks, with emphasis, who it could have been that retarded them in their Christian course (development, progress, growth), implying that it could not have been done with their own knowledge and consent, and that there was really no good reason why they could not have continued as they began. In this question the apostle does not ask who the person was that had put a stop to them; but he expresses his surprise and grief at their being stopped.

Paul knows that the false teaching comes from a person (who hindered you); but it didn’t come from Jesus. At the root of it all, the Galatians were leaving Jesus to pursue the false and empty teachings of man, in this case legalism. Lightfoot described hinder similar to Doddridge, but uses a “metaphor” derived from military operations.  To him the word signifies ‘to break up a road’ . . . so as to render it impassable, and is therefore the opposite of . . . ‘to clear a way.’”  The Galatians were doing well until someone broke up the road they ran on!

That ye should not obey the truth

Paul had taught them the true system of justification by faith in the Redeemer. Since they knew the truth, what was it that caused them to turn aside, and embrace the dangerous errors connected to the necessity of obeying the laws of Moses? Faith in Christ liberates the believer from Jewish rites and ceremonies, called the yoke of bondage by the apostle; and also provides liberty from the power and guilt of sin, which nothing but the grace of Christ can take away.

"Some of the Galatians had stopped obeying the truth, as taught by Paul and the other apostles, perhaps neglecting to observe the Lord's Supper and failing to do other things which have been characteristics of the Christian life in all ages. The clause here shows that this disobedience was a prime concern of the apostle's. Note, particularly, that it is not said that they had stopped "believing in Christ," and there is no evidence that such was the case. Salvation by "faith only" was as important for them as it is for us today. By their participating in Jewish observances, they were neglecting and had stopped obeying the teachings of Christ.

 

8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.

Simply stated, the meaning is that "their disobedience of Christ's teachings, due to fooling around with Judaism, did not come from anything that Christ, who had called them through the gospel, had taught them." They had been making rapid progress in the right direction, but they had suddenly and mysteriously gone off course. Legalism and internal dissensions—“But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Galatians 5:15)—had got in among them. You were running well, and the hope was that you could reach the goal and win the prize.

Paul explains how those who had been deceived by false teachers may be restored to spiritual health. The false apostles were probably likeable men. They may even exceeded Paul in learning and godliness. The Galatians were easily deceived by outward appearances. They may even supposed they were being taught by Christ Himself. Paul proved to them that their new doctrine was not of Christ, but of the devil. In this way he succeeded in recovering many of them. Friend, we also, if it is God’s will, may win back many from the errors into which they were seduced by showing them that their beliefs are imaginary, wicked, and contrary to the Word of God.

The devil is a cunning persuader. He knows how to enlarge the smallest sin into a mountain until we think we have committed the worst crime ever committed on earth. Satan will circumvent the Gospel and talk about Christ in this his own diabolical way: "Certainly Christ is meek, gentle, and merciful, but only to those who are holy and righteous. If you are a sinner you don’t stand a chance. Didn’t Christ say that unbelievers are already damned? And didn’t Christ perform many good deeds, and suffer many evils patiently while asking us to follow His example? Surely, you do not mean to say that your life is in accord with Christ's teachings or example? You are a sinner. You are no good at all."

When Satan sees we are weak, discouraged, or disengaged from Christ he will come to us and confront us with his diabolical reasoning; he is to be answered in this way: The Scriptures present Christ in two ways. FIRST, as a gift—" . . . Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption." (I Cor. 1:30.) Hence, my many and grievous sins are abolished if I believe in Him. SECONDLY, the Scriptures present Christ for our example. As an example He is to be placed before me only at certain times; in times of joy and gladness, so that l may have Him as a mirror to reflect upon my shortcomings. But, when I am in trouble I will have Christ only as a gift. I will not listen to anything else, except that Christ died for my sins.

To those that are despondent on account of their sins Christ must be introduced as a Savior and Gift, and not as an example. But to sinners who live with a false assurance, Christ must be introduced as an example. The hard sayings of Scripture and the awful judgments of God upon sin must be impressed upon them. Defy Satan during times of despair, and say: "Satan, you choose a nice time to talk to me about doing and working when you know very well that I am in distress over my sins. I will not listen to you. I will listen to Christ, who says that He came into the world to save sinners. This is the true Christ and there is none other. I can find plenty of examples for a holy life in Abraham, Isaiah, John the Baptist, Paul, and other saints. But they cannot forgive my sins. They cannot save me. They cannot procure for me everlasting life. Therefore I will not accept you for my teacher."

Speak to him out loud, shout if you want to, and tell him what you really think of him. Remind him of the pit and the fires of hell, and that God will send him there. Brag about Jesus resurrection and ascension and soon return. And he will flee from you!

 

9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

Some of the Galatians perhaps saw no harm in deviating a little from the doctrine of justification by faith. When they noticed that Paul made a “big deal” about a matter that seemed of no particular importance to them they raised their eyebrows and thought within themselves: "What if we did deviate a little from the doctrine of Paul? What if we are a little to blame? He ought to overlook the whole matter, and not make such an issue out of it, so as not to disturb the unity of the churches." To this Paul replies: "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."

“Leaven” is a portion of old dough in a high state of fermentation, which, added to a new mass of dough, spreads the fermentation through the whole lump, and makes the bread, upon baking, porous and light. Since this fermentation is a sort of disintegration, and proves so invasive, the ancients saw in it an image of moral corruption. A Jewish author was quoted as saying: “Our rabbins call lust a leaven in the lump; for as a little of the yeast impregnates the whole mass and corrupts it, so lust corrupts the whole man.”

Small faults grow into big faults. To tolerate a trivial error inevitably leads to gross irreverence. The doctrine of the Bible is not ours to take or leave, to pick and choose, to obey or do what we want to do. We have no right to change even a comma, period or word of it. The Apostle James says, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."

This verse is a proverb that is cited again in precisely the same words in 1 Corinthians 5:6, with the words, "know ye not that," prefixed. In both passages the leaven is an element of EVIL, as it is in Matthew 16:11—“How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?”—but our Lord applied it also to an element of GOOD, which was to penetrate (apparently) the whole mass of humanity—“Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened” (Matthew 13:33). We may say with certainty, from the context of this verse, that what the apostle has in view as leaven is the Galatians’ "readiness to receive another gospel," which was promising comfort and a sense of acceptance, more or less, in the practice of at least some of the outward ordinances of Judaism. This leaven had already begun to work, embodying itself in the observance of the days and feasts of the Jewish calendar—“Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years” (Galatians 4:10). Now, a movement which manifests itself in some form of external expression of religion, once it begins to show itself in a Christian community, has a great tendency to spread. Because always, in every Church, there are unstable folks, who are Christians in name only, having made a false profession, who are only toying with spiritual things, and are ready to adopt almost any novelty of religious behavior. The particular form in which the external religionism of seekers after another gospel clothes itself varies according to fluctuating tastes or circumstances. Among the Galatian Christians such persons were now beginning to feel attracted by that kind of outward piety exhibited by devout or professedly devout Jews. The true antidote for this "leaven" is the same in every age; namely, that which the apostle in this Epistle strives to administer - the gospel of the righteousness and Spirit of Christ crucified.

Paul seems to give us a hint from what quarter this Judaistic persuasion is coming from. It seems to have been the leaven of a SINGLE PERSON—in Galatians 5:7, he asks, “WHO did hinder you”; and in Galatians 5:10, he says, “HE that troubleth you shall bear HIS judgment.”  This false teacher (Judaizer), aided by a small group at first—“I would THEY were even cut off which trouble you” (Galatians 5:12)—they were the source of trouble in the church, as they attempted to persuade the others to observe certain Jewish ceremonies. Though the party originating the Judaistic schism in the Galatian Church was small in numbers, it was in danger of converting the whole body (the whole lump), since leaven impregnates the whole loaf.

 

10 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”

Though they had been led astray by false teaching, and had embraced many false beliefs, yet, on the whole, Paul had confidence in their piety, and believed they would eventually return and embrace the truth.

“That ye will be none otherwise minded”

This is the confidence that he has in them: that they retain in their mind that which he has taught them on the subject. Paul almost certainly means to say, that he had full confidence that they would embrace the views which he was teaching on the subject of justification, and he hopes by this remark to mollify the severity of the tone of his disapproval, and to show that, in spite of all he had said, he still had confidence in their piety. He believed that they would agree with him on the general subject of justification, and in regard to the cause of their alienation from the truth. Therefore, he gently insinuates that he does not hold them responsible for departing from the truth, but he places the blame on the “little leaven” that had leavened the mass; and he adds, that whoever had done this, should be held responsible for it.

But he that troubleth you - By leading you into error.

Shall bear his judgment - Shall be responsible for it, and will receive proper treatment from you. He gently states this general principle, which is so obvious; states that he does not believe that the defection is to be traced to themselves; and designs to prepare their minds for a proposition which he intends to submit Galatians 5:12, that the offending person or persons should be disowned and cut off.

Whosoever he be - “I do not know who he is. I mention no names; accuse no one by name; and advise no severe measures against any particular individual. I state only the obvious principle that every man should bear his own burden, and be held responsible for what he has done - no matter who he is.”

 

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