The Deadly Danger of False Teaching (Galatians Sermon 16 of 26)
April 13, 2014 | Andrew Davis
Ministry, False Teaching & False Teachers
Well, I think it was May of 2002. I just asked my wife about this. It was our anniversary and I wanted to do something special. So I drove home and surprised her, I'd gotten Chick-Fil-A, I think. I don't think it was anything that spectacular but it was a surprise and I wanted for us to just have a surprise little meal together. Our home is at place called Little River Lake and it's a pretty place. We'd walk around it a lot and enjoyed being there. We just sat there in some chairs that we had brought and we started to eat when suddenly, some authority figure, I don't know if he was a ranger or a policeman, but somebody came up and started questioning us very closely about what we were doing. Keep in mind, that was May of 2002, just a few months after the 9/11 attacks. And that Little River Lake is a reservoir of drinking water for the City of Durham. I guess my wife and I looked like, maybe bio-terrorists, I'm not sure. But he sensed that there was some danger as we were eating our Chick-Fil-A. I was thinking probable cause might have helped there or something… But I was thinking about that in light of the sermon and the text that I'm about to preach. There was a tremendous zeal on the part of the governing authorities to protect the purity of the drinking water of the city. And there was a concern, a danger that that water would be poisoned and they were concerned to protect the water so that people could be healthy.
I'm about to preach a sermon about the danger of false doctrine. And if there is a danger to drinking water at that time, there's a far greater danger to your souls of false doctrine. And I want you to know that it is part of my ministry, part of my life, to protect this church from false doctrine. That's part of our calling as elders. It's a privilege and a joy. And as we look at this text today, as we see Paul passionate (really passionate!) and I would have to say angry at the false teachers who have come to trouble the churches that he planted. We can learn a very important lesson. All of us can learn an important lesson of the importance of pure doctrine in our souls, not just for the initial moment of justification, but for the race that we have to run after that. We see that in this text. We see Paul displaying his passion for the glory of God in the spiritual health of his church. And we see his hatred for false teaching. My desire, my prayer is that, as you listen to this text and as you try to understand its challenging verses, that there'll be something rising up inside of you that mirrors what Paul was feeling, that you would have a yearning for the health of this church, a desire that our church be healthy spiritually, doctrinally healthy. And that we would be vigilant, ever vigilant, over the mental, the doctrinal life of this church and that we would fight for it.
We're going to walk through this text. We're going to try to understand it, but you have the central idea and application already, and that is that we must be constantly vigilant and on guard against false doctrine. Now, Paul begins in verse 6 with an interesting expression, "Faith working through love." Faith working through love. This is a great transformation, a great change that has happened in redemptive history. I just thanked God in my pastoral prayer for that new covenant. By the new covenant we have access into the presence of God and with that new covenant, comes an end to spiritual, ceremonial laws and regulations that are no longer binding on us. A great change has happened now, and you see that reflected in verse 6, it says, "For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but only faith working through love." Paul's continuing to unfold the themes of this letter.
We understand from context that Paul had planted some churches in Galatia, modern day Turkey. He had been there as a church planner and apostle. He had preached the pure gospel of faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, lived a sinless life in fulfillment of prophecy died on the cross in the place of sinners. He shed His blood so that we would be free from the wrath and judgment and curse of God. He became a curse for us so that we might stand blameless and unafraid and unashamed on judgment day, freed from condemnation. Jesus died for us. If you repent and believe in Him, you can be free from condemnation too. You can be free from your sins. You can be forgiven of all of your sins.
If you're not a Christian, if you've been invited here today, what I just said is the most important thing you'll hear in your entire life and the most important thing you'll hear in a sermon, that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the power of God for your salvation. I plead with you, don't leave this place unconverted. Trust in Christ. See with new eyes. See with the eyes of faith, Almighty God, holy, pure, sitting on His throne to judge heaven and earth. And see with new eyes yourself as defiled and sinful and corrupt under the law of God, covetous and lustful and selfish and irritable and lazy, and all of those sins we struggle with. That they are defilements and they are ultimately sins against the holy God, and that you could not save yourself, but God yearned to save you and sent His son. He yearns to give you the kingdom as He said, "Fear not little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." And he yearns to make you eternally joyful with pleasures at God's right hand forever more. If you will just repent and believe in Him, you'll have all of this as a free gift. Trust in Christ.
Those of you that have already been justified, maybe even long ago, take that message out into the workplace this week. Alright. Take that message to your acquaintances and your neighbors and people out of college campus and people that you know. Let them know, they need to hear it. Paul planted these Galatian churches with the pure gospel but sometime after he left, some false teachers came in, Jewish people who claimed to be Christians who are honoring Jesus, and said they believed in Jesus and all that. But they were preaching a poisonous gospel, they were poisoning the spiritual water system of the Galatian churches. They were dumping poison in it and the poison was this: it was a combination gospel of faith in Jesus Christ plus the works of the law. Faith in Christ plus obedience of the law of Moses saved your soul. That's how you are justified, how you are made right in the sight of God, and that is a poisonous false teaching.
I. Faith Working Through Love
Now in Galatians chapter 5, Paul trying to finish up and protect the freedom that Christ bought for them with his precious blood shed on the cross. And there in 5:1, it was for freedom that Christ set you free. So stand firm. We need to protect that freedom. It's going to be assaulted by false doctrine. He's talking about that, Christ died to set them free. Free from the law's meticulous commands. Free from the law's power to condemn. But that freedom is fragile and we have to stand firm and defend it against Satan and against Satan's world, but specifically, here against the Judaizers. These Judaizers are false teachers who are trying to mix Jesus and Moses and made a poisonous gospel. You need to stand firm against that. And he had reminded them that submitting to the ritual of circumcision (a spiritual Jewish ritual done on boy babies eight days old, demonstrating a stepping into the Jewish covenant, the old covenant, the mosaic law) made Christ of no value to them. But these Judaizers are saying that the Gentiles had to be circumcised and required them to obey the law of Moses to be saved. They were under obligation to keep the whole law.
Even worse, to accept such a redefinition of the gospel, which is no gospel at all, would mean that Christ was of no value at all. What would happen is, Moses would get bigger and bigger and bigger all the time and Jesus would get smaller and smaller and smaller all the time. Because daily, you'd have to obey that law and you can't keep it. And so Christ would be of no value at all. And they were trying to finish in the flesh and their own effort by law keeping what God had begun by sovereign grace. He's picking right up there. And at the end, he gives them the blessings of the true gospel. Look at verse 5. This is the verse that we finished up with last time. "But by faith, we eagerly await through the spirit the righteousness for which we hope." Wow, that's one of those dense apostle Paul's statements that you can just take a long time to unpack. But the implications of this is that having been justified, there's still a journey to travel. And there's still a righteousness yet to come for us. And that's a practical real righteousness affecting how we think and live all the time. And that journey of sanctification is culminating in glorification in which God will instantaneously finish it, and you'll be as holy and pure as Jesus in every way. And we're hoping for that. Aren't you hoping for that? And I'm yearning for it. That is my hope, that someday I'll be done with sin. Amen! Hallelujah! And I won't be tempted anymore. I will be free last from all of it.
And I have this righteousness, my own righteousness, for which I hope to be just like Jesus. And I hunger and I thirst for that righteousness. But now, it says in verse five, by faith we're eagerly awaiting and I'm confident I'm going to have it. By faith, I know He's going to give it to me as a gift. And through the spirit, I am working my way toward it but I know I'll never perfectly attain it. But I'm yearning to keep the law, the moral law by the spirit. I want to love God with all my heart, love my neighbors as myself. I want to walk and be more and more like Jesus. I know I'll never be perfect in this life, but I know someday I will, by the grace of God. That's a whole different way of living, isn't it? Rather than that legalism that the Judaizers were giving? This brings us to the passage we're looking at today. In verse 6, he says, "for in Christ Jesus…" Now that you're Christian, that's language for now that you've been adopted in Christ, you have come to faith in Christ, now that you're in this whole new realm of existence in the new covenant in Christ Jesus, "neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything but only faith working through love. "
Now that they are Christians, circumcision is spiritually irrelevant. There may be physical reasons to be circumcised but there are no spiritual reasons. This verse is clearly teaching that. Do you see that? There is no advantage whatsoever to being circumcised and frankly, there's no advantage whatsoever to being uncircumcised. It doesn't matter at all. It's irrelevant. Circumcision as a significant issue with God has become obsolete. That's the word that book of Hebrews uses, obsolete. The time for that has passed. It's over. What does matter? Well, what does matter is a genuine new creation by the spirit of God. That's what matters. Has your heart been circumcised of wickedness and sin? Have you had the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit? Have you been given a new nature? Has the heart of stone been taken out and the heart of flesh been put inside you? You have a new nature. You now love what God loves and hate what God hates and more and more so as you grow. Do you have a new nature? That's what matters. If you look ahead, he says about the same thing in 6:15. Just look ahead. Maybe you don't have to turn the page or maybe you do, but Galatians 6:15, it says "Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything. What counts is a new creation." You see that? It's the same teaching.
What counts is a new creation. Now, if you go back to 5:6, the way I put it together is "A new creation resulting in a life of the works of love" that's what's going to happen. The new creation person lives a life of good works, they do. They live lots of good works, they do lots of good works, their works of love done by faith. Now, we come to this issue of faith working through love. Faith working through love and this is a very challenging thing to try to understand, the relationship between faith and works. And many theologians have written many books about it. The NIV and its translation here I think rather unhelpfully tries to smooth things out of a bit by giving us this, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." But I think just leave it simply faith working through love. This sits side by side, faith working.
Alright. And the reason that's so strong is because up to this point, in Galatians, it's been faith or works. They've been actually set at odds against each other. They're somewhat like enemies, and it's easy to misunderstand then how it all works. If you look back at Galatians 2:16 for example, talking about justification, says, "We know that a person is not justified…" Now, that word means forgiven of sins. It means made right in the sight of God, justified. How is a sinner like us made right in God's sight? How can I be made right? How can I be forgiven? Justification is the theological word for that. "Now, we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Christ." You see works and faith are set at odds there in the verse. There are alternate ways of being justified, and one of them actually you can't be justified by. "We also have believed in Christ Jesus in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law, no one will be justified." Faith and works are pitted almost against each other. There's two different ways of being trying to be justified, by works or by faith. And then he says the same thing in Galatians 3:2 "Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?" Again, works or faith. They're enemies. He does the same thing in many other writings. In Romans 4 he talks about Abraham. What did Abraham discover about this whole justification issue? He said "If in fact Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about but not before God. What does the scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Now, when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trust God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited to him as righteousness." There couldn't be a clearer pitting of works versus faith ever than right there in Romans 4. Up to this point, it's been they've been somewhat like enemies. Romans 9:32, it says "The Jews did not pursue righteousness by faith but as if it were based on works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone." Here's the thing. When it comes to the issue of justification, when it comes to the issue of forgiveness of sins, faith and works are opposites. They're just two different ways to live, two different ways to try to be justified before God. I had a witnessing opportunity in the plane yesterday and basically, I heard that same kind of marketplace approach to guilt. I asked a question I like to ask in witnessing, "Do you ever feel guilty?" I think, Carl, you really taught me this. I love this. "Do you ever feel guilty and what do you do with your guilt?" And he said "Well, what I try to do is I understand what I did and I ask forgiveness and I try to do better."
Have you ever heard that? That's what people try to do. That's what it means to be justified by works. Now, those that are really religious learn a lot of laws and try to be justified that way. The opposite is being justified by simple faith in Christ, whom we look as to a savior, and we don't trust in ourselves anymore. And we say “I can't save myself and Jesus is the Savior.” They (faith and works) have been at odds when it comes to justification but once you're justified, everything changes. And once you're justified, now you are commanded to do a whole ream of good works that are commanded in the new testament and in the old. All kinds of laws and rules and regulations that we now need to follow, but not for justification, not for the forgiveness of sins.
Friends, what can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Not your righteousness, not your works, only trusting in Him. I think Ephesians 2:8-10 puts it together better than any other passage that I can find, there's so many good passage that we could look at. You know how it says in the Ephesians 2:8 and following says "For by grace are you saved through faith; and this not from yourselves: It's the gift of God. Not by works, so that no one can boast." There the word saved means justified, I believe, in that context. "By grace we have been justified, forgiven of all of our sins, saved from the wrath of God, by grace through faith and it's just a gift, not by works". Verse 10, "We are his workmanship." Now, he's working on you. "We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus." We're newly created, we've been made new creations to do good works which God set out in advance that we should walk in them. I think that puts it together beautifully, don't you?
We've been justified not by works but by faith. But now, having being justified by faith, we now have a whole lifetime of good works to do. And I feel probably the number one thing I want to do every day is, "Oh God! Help me to do as many of those good works as you have laid out in front of me to walk in them." I want to get them all. I don't want to miss any of them. That's the way we put it together. Justification is by faith alone, by grace alone, not by works. But it inevitably, 100% of the time leads to sanctification, in which the rules change and we are commanded to work hard, work really hard, on growing in grace and the knowledge of Christ and doing good works. Martin Luther put it this way, "we're justified by faith alone but the faith that justifies is never alone." Okay? It's the fruit on the tree. It's not the cause for the tree of forgiveness, but it's the fruit of it. And when you are forgiven, you are adopted, you received the gift of Holy Spirit, you received a new nature, you're going to start doing good works and God's going to love them and they're beautiful things and He wants as many of those good works as you can do but not for the forgiveness of your sins.
That's what he's talking about. Faith working through love. In his introduction to Romans, Luther said that, "Saving faith is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith." It's alive. It's powerful, this faith is. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn't stop to ask if good works ought to be done. "Should good works be done?" Faith doesn't do that. It just has already done them. It just acts. It just does the good works and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. Did you hear that? No works, there wasn't any faith. It's the very thing that James says in James 2:26 says, "The body without the spirit is dead. So faith without works is dead." It's dead faith. Alright. In justification, it's faith or works, but in sanctification, it's definitely faith and works. They go together, or faith that produces works. It works out just like Jesus said, "I am the vine and you are the branches. If someone remains in me and I in him will bear be much fruit, apart from me, you can do nothing." We have that life giving sap flowing through us and we produce fruit, produce good works, or Philippians 2:12 and 13, it says, "Therefore my dear friends, as you've always obeyed, not only in my presence but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling."
There is works, alright but he is definitely talking about sanctification there. "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose." God makes you willing and then he gives you energy and then you do those good works and that's what he's talking about. Faith working through love, and so it's working through love. That's so beautiful, isn't it? Our minds have been transformed. The carnal mind, the mind of the flesh hated God, hated God's laws, but now we love God and we love God's laws and we yearn to obey them. And that brings us again to the law of God. First and greatest Commandment, "Love the lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength." We are now, through the spirit, able to love God and the second Commandment is like it, "Love your neighbor as yourself." You're going to be obeying the law now. You're law abiding citizens in the kingdom of God but not for justification. That's been settled. It's because that is the sweetest best way to live your life. You can't do better than loving God with all your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself. It's the best life you can live and God wants you to live it and therefore, it says in Romans 8:4 very plainly, "In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the flesh but according to the spirit."
By the spirit, we keep the law and we live it and so therefore love keeps the law. Love does no harm to its neighbor, love doesn't commit adultery or murder or any of those things. Romans 13, "Love fulfills the law." And that's what Paul's saying here. Now he says you are running a good race. It's a metaphor for the Christian life, that race of sanctification. You are making progress, you are running that race, you're making effort. You were going, it was going well. You're doing good works. He likens then the good Christian life to a distance race, making progress towards the goal. I think tomorrow is the Boston marathon. Right, it's been a year. It's amazing how fast time flies. Isn't that amazing? It's been a year since all of that mayhem and all of that. I used to go down when I was a kid. I lived in Franzheim, it was at the 6 mile mark and I used to go down there and watch these guys. It was pretty disappointing. These are the world class marathoners coming to Boston, this is what I got to see. There is hundreds and hundreds of people there. I am like there, I got a field of vision like this. That was it. It's like watching the Bobsled or the Luge at the Olympics.
What do you see? What was that? There goes Alberto Salazar, that was the big name when I was younger. "There they go. Alright, see you later" I don't know you are supposed to there for the next 25,000 runners that I don't know any of these people. I didn't think so. So I would leave. I was down there for two hours for about two seconds of sports watching. It was free though so that was good. But the marathon is a grueling 26.2 mile race and that Boston Marathon particularly diabolical because they tell you that in the marathon, the race feels half over at the 20 mile mark. You got half the race to go. Those last 6 miles are as hard as the first 20. And right there is this hill system on the Boston Marathon called Heartbreak Hill with the first one big, second one bigger, the third biggest, and there's all these masochistic people standing by the road watching 'em drop like flies. Say, "That's okay, you can get it next year," things like that, giving cups of Gatorade and all that. It's a tough race. And I think it's too far, 26 miles, but they're not going to change it. It's crazy. But, again and again, the New Testament likens the Christian life to a marathon, to a distance race. It's not a sprint. And we are to "run this race with endurance," it says in Hebrews. We're to "lay aside everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles," and we're to run this race with endurance. And Paul says, "You were doing that."
II. False Doctrine: A Persuasive, Spreading Hindrance
But now he gets to this false doctrine, these false teachers, a persuasive, spreading hindrance, he calls it. Look at verse 7, "You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?" This is a powerful image. "You were running well. It was going well. Who did this to you? Who cut in and stopped you?" False teachers said, in effect, jumped into their beautiful race and were tackling them or tying them with shackles, and they couldn't run anymore.
Another sports illustration, you Alabama fans are going to hate me for this one, but I'm going to go ahead. 1954 Cotton Bowl, Rice was leading Alabama 7-6, when Rice running back, Dicky Maegle, broke into the clear and was running down the sidelines, in front of the Alabama bench. When suddenly, out of nowhere, came an Alabama player, Tommy Lewis, without his helmet on, jumped in and laid the guy down with a perfect open field tackle, and then ran back and sat on the bench like nothing had happened. I don't know if that incident replayed back in 1954, but the officials saw it and they awarded this guy a touchdown.
I picture that. The Galatians were running in the clear, and somebody jumped in and tackled them and stopped them, with this legalistic false gospel that's no gospel at all. And he said the false doctrine promoted disobedience. "You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?" The gospel is something we obey. This is a command from the king of the universe. The time is at hand. The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel. He's commanding us to believe. To believe the true gospel is a command that these people, the false teachers, were causing them to disobey the true gospel. They were keeping them from obeying the truth.
And he says it's a kind of persuasion. "That kind of persuasion," he says, "does not come from the one who called you." The way I picture it is that they came to town, nobody knew them, they introduced themselves. They were Jewish Christians, and they were so excited, and they wanted to be part of the church... And then they worm their way in and started preaching their legalistic doctrines. And they started laying out the law of Moses and started talking about circumcision, proving by chapter and verse how everyone had to be circumcised. Probably showing the story about Moses and how his sons weren't circumcised, and how God wanted those boys to be circumcised, and all these. And they're doing all this, and it's very, very persuasive.
Legalists can be intimidating, persuasive people. And you're looking at chapter and verse, and you start to crumble. And they were persuading them to disobey the truth, and it wasn't coming from the one who called them. Now, who's that? That's God. Almighty God had called them into fellowship with Jesus Christ. Almighty God didn't send these people. They were false teachers, like the old false prophets. God didn't send them. God said, "I didn't tell them to come say this. Who gave them the right to come and do this, and trouble my people? They have no right to do this." That didn't come from God. God called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. He didn't send these people. That kind of persuasion didn't come from the one who called you.
Now, false doctrine always seems reasonable. It's got a kind of a reasonableness to it. That's why Satan masquerades as an angel of light. He masquerades as a truth teller. And some of what he says seems so plausible. And our job in the ministry, in 2 Corinthians 10, is to wage war on the battlefield of words and ideas. We're blowing up false doctrines, blowing up bad words, bad ideas, not people. But we take every thought captive, and we destroy concepts and arguments and pretensions, not people. We blow up the doctrines, and got to fight because this false doctrine spreads poison. Look at verse 9, "A little leaven leavens the whole lump." A little leaven leavens the whole lump. It's going to spread. It's already spreading. The idea has caught on little by little. First, you didn't know these people at all. Now, more and more, they worm their way in and they're talking this false poisonous doctrine, and it's spreading in.
And not only that, so it is with circumcision. Don't think it's going to end there. If you allow yourself to be circumcised, oh Galatians, that's just the start. You feel a little guilty. You feel like you're not quite right with God. You need to do a little bit extra, a little bit more, so just go ahead and do the circumcision. It's really hard to imagine doing that, but do it and that'll settle it, right? No, it won't. Circumcision is just a doorway into a whole legalistic lifestyle, a mentality of needing to earn God's smile, needing to earn His favor and His forgiveness by your good works, and it never ends. It's slavery, not sonship. Paul says very plainly, Galatians 2:5, "We did not give in to them for a moment so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you." We were trying to protect the truth of the gospel, so we didn't yield even a little bit. A little leaven leavens a whole lump. We can't let a little bit of false doctrine into this church, not even a little. And he says in Galatians 5:2, "Mark my words, I, Paul, tell you that if you allow yourselves to be circumcised, then Christ will be of no value to you at all." You won't even be thinking about Jesus anymore.
III. False Teachers Will Pay the Penalty
Then He says "These false teachers will pay the penalty." Who are these people? Who are they? Do you get the sense of that? Look again at Verse 7. You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? Who did this? I want their names. Tell me who it is, tell me who's saying it. I want names. It's interesting, I am frequently led to decision on names, name dropping, negative name dropping. I usually don't do it but you know how you name people from the pulpit that are teaching false doctrine. And you just have to be careful, have to be careful. There's a good friend of a brother of ours that did a rap song in which he name names. Shai Linne wrote False Teachers, he just goes through on all the prosperity gospel people and then just listen. So and so is a false teacher, so and so is false teacher, so and so is false teacher. In case you didn't know what he's is talking about. There's a time and a place for that, but here Paul is just zeroing in, he says, "I want to know who's doing this, I want to know who's teaching you. Who's giving you this false doctrine. Who," verse 10, "The one who's throwing you at the confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be." He's going to pay the price, he's going to pay the penalty.
These people are throwing them into confusion, they're trying to sever... Picture Jesus says "I am the vine you are the branch." Right? And we are these healthy green branches growing and maybe there's some little buds of some grapes that are going to grow and all that. And along comes these false teachers, like shiny steel sheers and they are just sheering you off from Jesus. Sheering them off.
Look at verse 4 of Galatians 5 "You who are trying to be justified by law had been alienated from Christ, you have fallen away from grace." And these false teachers who're trying to avoid the cross, look at verse 11 "Brothers if I'm still preaching circumcision then why am I still being persecuted? In that case, the offense of the cross has been abolished." They hate the cross, these false teachers. They are trying to avoid the stumbling stone of the cross. And why is that? Well, the offense of the cross is the simple teaching that you can't save yourself. Judaizers went into that. They're saying you can save yourself if you get serious enough. You get serious enough about the law of Moses, you can save yourself. But the message of the cross is you can't save yourself, it's hopeless without Jesus. So you must humble yourself, you must enter through that low narrow gate and stripped of all pride, you must humble yourself on your knees and come to Christ as the Pharisee and the tax collector. The tax collector beat his breast, wouldn't even look up to Heaven but said "Be merciful to me, oh God, the sinner." I have nothing to offer.
But they're trying to avoid the offense of the cross and Paul says they're persecuting, persecuting him. There was a time that this very same man that wrote this epistle to the Galatians preached circumcision. He preached the laws of Moses, the supremacy of the Jewish religion. He preached all of that, he preached that you could save yourself by Phariseeism. He preached all of these things. Yeah, that is until He saw the glorified resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus and that ended forever. He would never preach circumcision again. He knew that his salvation had nothing to do with the circumcision. But his commitment to preach the cross and not self-salvation had resulted in a life of massive persecution. He was being persecuted for the cross by both so called believing and unbelieving Jews, both of them zealous for Moses and for a Jewish nationalism.
And they were persecuting Paul. But it already settled that in Galatians 1:10. "Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I was still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." I'm going to preach Christ crucified. Now in this paragraph, I don't know if you sense it, but Paul is angry. Do you sense it? He is very angry. And as a matter of fact, those that are really good at Greek, experts at Greek, say that there's a different style in this paragraph than almost anywhere else that Paul writes. He leaves out connectors, he leaves out transitional statements. He's almost breathless, he's almost panting. You can see him almost red faced, like breathing through his mouth. Because he's so angry at these false teachers and what they've done to his beloved churches.
He speaks of this curse and this warning. In verse 10 He says "The one who is throwing into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he maybe." Wow, think about what he wrote in another place. 1 Corinthians 3:17 "If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is sacred and you are that temple." This is a very serious issue, this issue of false doctrine. Peter talks about their future in second Peter 2:17, he says "Blackest darkness is reserved for them." Blackest darkness. Not all punishment's equal. I think there are gradations of punishment. All of it's horrible. But some get worse punishment than others and false teachers get blackest darkness reserved for them. Interestingly, 2 Peter 3, Peter's talking about license, libertine preachers, who say that now that Jesus has come you can live however you want, sexual freedom, whatever you want to do. Doesn't matter. Grace, grace, grace. Doesn't matter how you live, you go to Heaven when you die. Doesn't matter. And He says blackest darkness is reserved for them. But now Paul's doing the exact same think against the legalists. The ones that say you have to earn your way with God and you have to earn your forgiveness and all that. The opposite ends both get severely judged by God for destroying the church.
Paul's final word on them is in verse 12. "As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves." Extremely harsh, think about it, it's extremely harsh. Calls them agitators, they're like rebels or insurrectionists. They're stirring up people's freedom. They're rebelling against Christ the King. They're agitators and he says a shocking thing, "If they're arguing for circumcision, I wish they would just emasculate themselves." Some commentators speak in terms of their ability to reproduce spiritually. Might like kind of metaphorically that they would stop being spiritually reproductive. It's clever. I don't know that that's what Paul had in mind. I'm not one to talk about this much, but anyway, I promised the elders I would, and here it is. But the fact is, Paul is very very angry. In any case, I'll tell you what he really wants. What he really wants is them, these false teachers, cut off from any access to the Galatians from now on. He wants them cut off and gone so that they will never trouble his beloved churches again. That's what he wants.
I get the picture like Jesus cleansing the temple. Don't you get that? I mean Jesus was angry at these thieves and robbers who are destroying the glory and the purity of the temple and Paul has that same zeal. Well, beautifully, false doctrine will ultimately fail. Isn't that good news? Isn't it good news to know that the false teachers will not in the end succeed? Praise God for that.
This past week, I was at Together for the Gospel and one of my favorite friends and teacher/preachers is Kevin DeYoung. Now, you have got to listen to Kevin DeYoung's Together for the Gospel message. One of the best I've ever heard on Christ's view of the scripture. But he's also very funny and does a great job communicating. And at one point he just... It resonated with me as a preacher. He said "Do you ever feel when you're going up to the pulpit like you're going up with this tiny little peashooter and you're going against reinforced steel concrete bunkers?" And I do feel that this is it. This is what I'd do to protect the minds and hearts of these flock against all that Satan's doing on legalism or license in your hearts all the time? Just this. Well, isn't it awesome that this enough? The word of God is sufficient. Think about it. The word of God, the 66 books of the bible, is enough to combat every spiritual virus Satan will ever concoct in his hellish laboratory and hurl at the church. This is sufficient to heal us from all of it. All you need is this word of God faithfully clearly taught and you will be protected. You will not fall in for this. You will be able to stand firm in the day of testing.
IV. False Doctrine Will Ultimately Fail
Verse 10, "I am confident in the Lord you will take no other view." You're not going to follow them. Jesus says in John 10, "I am the good shepherd, my sheep hear my voice. I know them, they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never follow another. No one can snatch them out of my hand. No one can snatch them out of the Father's hand." You will not be lost through false doctrine, but you need to listen to the true doctrine in order to be protected. That's the remedy. You must listen and if you're elect, you will. Sovereign grace is given to the elect to warn them of actual threats to your soul. Jesus in Matthew 24:24-25 said "False Christ and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive even the elect if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time." Yet you see the combination? You know why the elect aren't going to be deceived? Because Jesus has told us ahead of time. And all you have to do is drink in God's word, feed on it and you will be protected from false doctrine.
I think it also points to the role of elders in the church, don't you think? Titus 1:9 says "An elder must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine [and listen] refute those who oppose it." It's our job to be vigilant on the walls of this church doctrinally and keep out the congregation the viruses of false doctrines.
So application. First and foremost, come to Christ. I already preached that at the beginning of this sermon and I preach it again. Trust in Him, the true gospel saves souls. Trust in Him and believe in Him and have eternal life.
Secondly, understand and delight in the true relationship between faith and works. Your works will never stand to forgive you for your sins. You're never going to, and I mean, and we're always tempted in that direction. Even years into the Christian life, the genuine Christian life. We're still tempted to think when you sinned, I now need to do some good things to make up for it. You know you are. It's tempting in that direction. No no no, go to the cross. Go and receive again the forgiveness and mercy and grace through the blood of Christ. Then resolve to live a new life. Resolve to live an obedient life by the power of the spirit. That's the transformation. Resolve to bring your sinful heart to God and ask Him, say "God, would you please take this heart, cold heart of mine, and help me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Change my heart and God would you please empower me to love my neighbor as myself. And God, would you please grant me sexual purity. Please help me to stand firm in the day of testing with the internet. Help me to stand firm and be pure and not give in to temptation. Help me oh Lord, by your spirit to evangelize. Help me to speak the good news of the... I'm so weak but you're strong. God would you please through the spirit enable me to obey your commands to evangelize." That's how we live out this righteous life.
Thirdly, understand Paul's passionate hatred for false doctrine. You should hate it too. Prepare yourself by having a daily quiet time. Saturate your mind with the word of God. Have a daily quiet time. Be thankful for the elders of this church. These are good men, they love the Lord, they love God's word, be thankful for them and pray for their successors. Pray for my successor. If the Lord tarries, if we're still here 25, 30 years from now, pray that whoever's preaching here regularly will be preaching true doctrine. There's no guarantees, friends. Let's be vigilant, and you be zealous for doctrine, as zealous as any of the elders are here, and pray for your own hearts, too, that you be protected, and, finally, run your race with endurance. Amen. Amen. We all get to run our own version of the Boston Marathon and, frankly, it's longer, it's harder, but there's better spectators cheering us on and there is a better crown at the finish line. Jesus himself will award it to you on that final day when you are done with the race of holiness. He will welcome you with his open arms and he will embrace you and take you into heaven. Run this race with endurance, run to the end.
Let's close in prayer. Lord, thank you for the time we've had to look again at the Gospel, to look again at faith, and works, and justification, sanctification, and in this case, Paul so very angry at these false teachers. Help us to be zealous as he was for the holiness of the church and for the growth of the church and for the protection of the church. In Jesus's name, amen.