15 Mar 2019
A Commentary by John Stott
Galatians 5:7-12. 2). Teachers false and true.
In verses 1-6 the contrast has been between the pronouns ‘you’ and ‘we’ – you the false believers who want to add circumcision to faith, and we the true believers who are content with Christ alone and with faith alone. Now the contrast is between ‘he’, the false teacher ‘you is troubling you’ (verse 10b), and ‘I’, the apostle Paul who am teaching you the truth of God.
Verse 7: *You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?* Paul loved to liken the Christian life to a race in the arena. Notice that to ‘run well’ in the Christian race is not just to believe the truth (as if Christianity were nothing but orthodoxy), nor just to behave well (as if it were just moral uprightness), but to ‘obey the truth’, applying belief to behaviour. Only he who obeys the truth is an integrated Christian. What he believes and how he behaves are all of a piece. His creed is expressed in his conduct; his conduct is derived from his creed.
Now the Galatians had begun the Christian race, and at first they ran well. They believed the truth that Christ had set them free, and they obeyed it, enjoying the liberty which Christ had given them. But someone had hindered them; an obstacle had been thrown on the track to deviate them from the path. False teachers had contradicted the truth they had first believed. As a result they had forsaken Christ and fallen from grace.
Paul traces the full course of the false teaching, its origin, its effect and its end.
a). Its origin.
Verse 8: *This persuasion is not from him who called you*. The false teachers had persuaded the Galatians to abandon the truth of the gospel, but this work of persuasion was not from God who had called them. For God had called them in grace (Gal. 1:6). whereas the false teachers were propagating a doctrine of merit. This is Paul’s first argument: the false teachers’ message was inconsistent with the Galatians’ call.
b). Its effect.
We have already seen that the heresy ‘hindered’ the Galatians (verse 7), as later Paul is to say that it ‘troubled’ (verse 10) and ‘unsettled’ them (verse 12). But now (verse 9) he uses the common proverb, *A little yeast leavens the whole lump*, that is, the error of the false teachers was spreading in the Christian community until the whole church was becoming contaminated. Paul uses the same proverb in 1 Corinthians 5:6. There he applies it to sin in the Christian community, here to false teaching. One of the most serious things about evil and error is that they both spread.
So because of the cause and effect of the false teaching, because it was not from God and because its influence was spreading, Paul was determined to resist it.
Tomorrow: c). Its end.