7 You were running well, who hindered you from obeying the truth?
8 This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you.
9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.
10 I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is.
11 But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.
12 I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.
In verses 7-9, we see clearly that the hypocrisy in the Galatian church didn’t just happen – something spurred it. What? In this case, it seems to have been false teachers, Jews who wanted to put the Galatian Christians back under slavery to the Law (see Galatians 2:4). This – false teachers planting seeds of false doctrine – is the same danger we are warned of in 2 John 1:7-11; verses 7-9 says, “There are a lot of smooth-talking charlatans loose in the world who refuse to believe that Jesus Christ was truly human, a flesh-and-blood human being. Give them their true title: Deceiver! Antichrist! And be very careful around them so you don’t lose out on what we’ve worked so diligently in together; I want you to get every reward you have coming to you. Anyone who gets so progressive in his thinking that he walks out on the teaching of Christ, walks out on God. But whoever stays with the teaching, stays faithful to both the Father and the Son” (MSG). Another thing that I suspect caused the Galatians to stumble (based on the mention of persecution in verse 11) is what Jesus mentioned in the parable of the sower in Mark 4:5-6 and 4:16-17: “Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away […] In a similar way these are the ones one whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when afflictions or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.”
Whenever we are exposed to new teaching, we need to check it against what the Bible says. Anything and everything we encounter in the world, we need to check against the Word to see how it matches up so it does not influence us. This includes values represented on television and in the media, things we learn at school, and yes, even things we are taught at church. They may seem like minor issues at the time, but as Paul states in verse 9, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.” This concept of leaven is mentioned repeatedly throughout the New Testament (Matthew 13:33, 16:6, 11-12, Mark 8:15, Luke 12:1, 13:18, 21, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, Galatians 5:9), each time referring to sin. The fact of the matter is, there is no such thing as “a little bit of sin” – meaning we must be all the more diligent to purge it from our lives, and to prevent it from sneaking in in the first place.
Likewise, the concept of “running well” (verse 7) is repeated in scripture. 1 Corinthians 9:24 states, “Do you not know that those who fun in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” And Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The objective is not to beat other Christians in terms of holiness, but to act as if it were a competition – we need to race toward our objective (Christ-like holiness) as fast as possible, not having an attitude of “I’ll deal with that sin later, when it’s convenient,” and we need to do our absolute best!
Finally, I’d like to address verse 11, in which it is clear that the Galatian church is facing persecution. Why? Because the cross of Christ is offensive to the unsaved – humans are offended by the implication that they need a Savior, that they’re not good enough on their own – it pricks at their pride (see previous post). The fact of the matter is, Christ’s offer of forgiveness has always been viewed as offensive, throughout history and still today. Check out Voice of the Martyrs’ website at www.persecution.com for a look at modern-day persecution against the global church. And don’t think that it only happens in third-world countries – I am convinced that one day very soon, this same persecution will come full-force to America. Why? Because the Scriptures say that Christians will be persecuted! Not might be, but will be! I encourage you to do a word study on “persecution” and “persecute” sometime, but here I’d like to share a few of what I consider to be the most poignant verses establishing that we will face persecution: Luke 21:12 “But before all these things [End Times events], they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake.” John 15:20a “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” 2 Timothy 3:12 “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” How then should we prepare for this persecution? By cleaving – clinging – to God, the source of our strength in times of trouble.
Today’s discussion starters:
1 – What other examples, both in Scripture and in your own experience, can you think of that hinder us and keep us from running well (verse 7)?
2 – Have you experienced persecution? I believe all of us have on a very minor scale – getting made fun of for our faith or maybe being denied a job on account of it. On the other side of the spectrum, some Christians in other countries and missionaries face imprisonment, execution, and torture. Please share your experiences with persecution, both big and small.