Studies in Galatians – Wayne Barber/Part 24
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|Well, we jump into verse 7 today, and in verse 7 he starts talking about how easy it is to be deceived.|
Don’t Be Deceived
Galatians 5, we’re going to start today in verse 7. But let me just catch you up a little bit with where we’re going and what we’ve looked at, and we’re building week by week. The apostle Paul—I love this man! I can’t wait to get to heaven. After I spend a million years with Jesus I want to spend some time with the apostle Paul—if it hasn’t dawned on you yet, I love his epistles. And one of the things I like about him, he was a sports fan. He loved the Olympic sport of running. Did you know that? He loved it. And it’s so apparent in his writings. And it’s no wonder. The Greek games, I mean, it was originated in his culture. They would come from city to city, specific cities, and they would run and they would practice and it was just sort of a contagious atmosphere.
In fact, Paul went to Corinth to make tents. That’s where he met Aquila and Priscilla. And probably he went there to make those tents for the people who were coming in for the Isthmian games. Now, Athens had the Olympic games, and we know of those today. But Corinth sat on a little isthmus that connected northern and southern Greece and they would have the Isthmian games, and it was very similar. The athletes would come in from all around. But it’s kind of an enigma as to how Paul was so infatuated with this sport of running.
First of all, he was a strict Jewish boy, which meant he grew up under certain rules and, buddy, you did this, you don’t do that. You look left, you don’t look right. But the Greek games, they were Greek. And to spare you a little bit of what I could tell you, they were not the most moral things in the world. And probably as a strict Jewish boy he was not allowed to go those Greek games when they would come into town. And so it kind of makes you wonder, how did he develop this love for the sport of running? And the only way I could figure is, it’s the atmosphere that was created when those games would come to town. It’s kind of like today when two football teams are playing. There’s an atmosphere that’s created, and a lot of people are caught up in it. They may never go to the game; they may not even like that kind of thing’ but somehow the atmosphere catches you into it. It pulls you in, sucks you into it.
I remember when I was growing up in Virginia, was Blacksburg. That’s where Virginia Tech is. On the other side was Lexington, Virginia, which is where VMI, Virginia Military Institute is. And every Thanksgiving Day Virginia Tech (VPI) would play Virginia Military Institute (VMI), the two military schools. They’d bring their military bands. And growing up as a child that captured our whole city. It was right in the time of the fall when the leaves had changed color and there was that cool Christmas, crispness in the air, you know of that fall weather, football time in Virginia. And VPI playing VMI; it just doesn’t get any better than that. I didn’t get to go, but I certainly was in the atmosphere of it. They’d have parades with the military bands. It was just awesome. And I’ll never forget it; I was so excited I could hardly talk. And getting to that game, just being drawn into the atmosphere of what was going on. That’s the only way I can figure that Paul developed such a love for that Olympic sport of running.
In fact, he uses that term “run” or “running” and “race” in so many of his epistles. In fact, he says in Philippians 2:16, “Holding fast the word of life so that in the day of Christ I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain, nor toil in vain.” And he uses that term of “run” to look at the task that he had before him and what he done with the Philippians. He uses the term of a runner and describes the whole race and the price that a runner pays when he gets into a race in 1 Corinthians 9:24. He says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you might win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way as not without aim. I box in such a way as not beating the air; but I buffet my body.” Now, he doesn’t say “I buffet my body,” he says, “I buffet my body and make it my slave lest possibly after I have preached to others I myself should be disqualified.” He beautifully brings out the price that a runner pays and he talks about that race and the prize at the end.
And then, we don’t know if he wrote Hebrews or not. Somebody with a lot of Pauline theology did write it. The writer says in Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which does so easily entangle us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” And he’s used it in Galatians and you possibly missed it. It’s in Galatians 2:2. And he says, “And it was because of a revelation that I went up and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation for fear that I might be running or had run in vain.” So he pictures it as the Christian life, step after step after step after step, focused as a runner would be focused, looking forward to the reward that’s at the end of that race.
Well, he’s going to use that term again in our text today, except this time he’s going to talk about the lanes that you run in and the track that you’re on and how easily sometimes it can be that you get off of that track, that you somehow miss the point of why you’re running the race. We’ve just come out of 5:1-6. He talked about our freedom. He talked about how to keep our freedom. And he basically says in verse 1 it’s Christ who set you free. You didn’t set yourself free, therefore, you stand on the fact that the One who set you free is the only One who can keep you free. In other words, when I choose to do things my way I put myself into bondage and no longer am I free. Freedom is never the right to do as you please; freedom is the power to do as you should. It’s Christ living in our life.
And then in verses 2-4 he talked about the peril of losing our freedom, and he says some pretty tough things. He talks about the fact in verse 2, “Behold, I Paul say to you that if you received circumcision” which was the initiation into the Mosaic system, and once you received circumcision as a male that also affected your family. And from that point on you went to the Mosaic system and that was the road and the route to righteousness. And he says if you do that, if you go that route, “Christ is of no benefit to you.” And then he says, “And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision that he under obligation to keep the whole law.” If you’re going to take that law then you’re going to have to be accountable for the whole law, and no man has ever been able to do that, except the Lord Jesus the God man. He says in verse 4, “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law.” He says, “You have fallen from grace,” and he’s not talking about a believer losing his salvation. That kind of theology is the worst hermeneutic I’ve ever heard. What he’s saying is you have stumbled out of the sphere of the life-changing enabling grace of God when you choose to live life your way. The Galatians had done that. They had chosen religion over relationship with Jesus Christ.
And then in verses 5-6 we hurriedly looked at this, “For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.” I hope you got that. The idea is, we are expectantly waiting on something if we’re walking by faith. And Paul delineates the fact that there are two different kinds of believers. There’s one believer that would rather be religious; there’s another believer who’d rather walk by faith, and he puts this category over here. He says if we walk by faith we are expecting something to happen. You know what that is? It’s the hope of righteousness. And I don’t know how else to say it any better than what he says, but I tell you what, what he’s saying, when we say yes to Jesus we expect the fact that righteousness just took place even though most of the time we don’t see the results we wanted to see. That’s the freedom that grace gives to us.
We’ll stand before Jesus one day, which is the ultimate hope of righteousness, and when we stand there all that we have done by faith will last and we’ll see it. But down here on this earth my main responsibility is not to produce anything. My main responsibility and yours is to say yes to Jesus. And when we say yes to Jesus we’re free from having to measure everything that we do. Only the world measures things. We can’t measure what God does. We say yes to Him and we trust the fact that righteousness is produced.
And then he documents that in the next verse. He says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything.” External works mean nothing to God. Any religious pagan can produce works that appear to be right. But he says what does mean something to God, and what makes it visible that we’re truly walking by faith, is “faith working through love.” And just to summarize that real quickly, you know what that means? What he’s saying is that God sees relationships as more important than ministry. I want to make sure we heard that. God sees relationships more important than ministry—what we call ministry. True ministry starts with relationships that love one another. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you’re My disciples,” not by the fact that you gave a $100,000 last year, oh no; not by the fact that you came to church 17 times out of 19 times, opportunities; no! no! He said, “By this shall they know that you’re My disciples, by the fact that you do,” what? “That you love one another.” And that’s where he’s headed in Galatians 5 and 6. He’s going to show us what it looks like when you love one another. See, religion produces external works. God says that doesn’t impress Me. What impresses Me is the internal love you have for one another, the oneness of the body of Christ.
Well, we jump into verse 7 today, and in verse 7 he starts talking about how easy it is to be deceived. Galatians 5:7 says, “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?” Now the first thing that he talks about deception—and there are three things we need to learn about deception—first of all, it happens when you least expect it. It happens when you least expect it. “You were running well.” Nobody expects to be deceived when they’re running well. He says, “Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” Now there are two things that you have to observe immediately. And that first one is, runners who run well are runners who run on the right track. I mean, you can’t be someplace else in a race and count on the race that’s going on over here. You’ve got to be on the right track and you’ve got to be in the right lane. And so runners who run well are on the right track. And, you see, the Galatians had once been running well. That’s why he has to ask them where’s that sense of blessing that you once had?
Secondly, they were obeying the rules of running. I’ve never been in any athletic contest that didn’t have rules, and if you broke the rules you paid the price. You’re out of the contest. Well, what are the rules of this runner, on this race that Paul uses as an analogy of the Christian life? It’s to walk by faith. You were running by faith. You were living by faith. You were doing well. You were obeying the rules. And so what he pictures is a church that’s living like it ought to live. The love was there, the relationships were there. Everything was working right. They were in a pace. I love that, when you watch a runner and he gets into that zone, and, son, it’s just like clockwork. It’s beautiful. I mean, his legs moving, his arms moving, his focus is dead ahead. It’s beautiful to watch. And Paul says suddenly something happened. What happened? He says, “Who hindered you, who hindered you from obeying the truth?”
The word “hindered” there is the word anakopto. It means who cut in on you? Who cut in on you? The first thing that comes to my mind is a telephone conversation and somebody cuts in on what you’re doing. That’s really not where he’s headed. When I ran track, we went over and ran against VMI. And VMI had a field house shaped like a football. And on each end of it they had a turn, of course, they had a tunnel. And when you ran in that track you could be in first place right in your lane. You’re just moving, you’re moving, you’re moving and you go into that tunnel. Conveniently every time that we would run against them, conveniently for them, the lights were out in that tunnel. I guess the light bulbs just lasted until we ran them, because every time we’d run there the lights were out. And you’d go into that tunnel pitch black and you’d just be running in your lane. The next thing you know you’re banging up against the wall. Who hindered you? Who cut in on you? Who cut in on your race and kept you from doing as God would have you to do? Who hindered you, hindered you? That’s the word “hindered.”
The word “who” there is singular and very important. Paul knows that somebody’s initiating this whole thing. And Paul wants to know who it is. Do you realize any time you have a church this size and you have people going one direction and people going another direction, if the people that are going the wrong direction, living after the flesh, living religious lives, mechanical and judgmental, somebody started that? Somebody started that and Paul is interested in who it is. Who is it? Who is it? Who started this whole thing? If you’ll track it back it usually goes back to one person. It’s amazing. Well, he wants to know who it is. He doesn’t evidently know. He says, “You were running well; who hindered you?” And what did they stop them from doing? He said, “From obeying the truth.” See, that’s your walk, that’s your walk, obeying the truth. The word “obeying” is the word peitho. Peitho means to be persuaded. Who hindered you from being persuaded by every word and every verse in God’s Word? Who hindered you from doing that? Who ever told you that there was anything other than God’s Word and God’s will in your life? Who hindered you from surrendering to Him?
Well, Paul tells who it wasn’t. He says in verse 8, “This persuasion did not come from Him who called you.” In other words, don’t blame God for it. God didn’t have anything to do with it. The flesh is what’s rampant here now. There’s been a choice that’s been made. And it’s interesting he uses that term “persuasion” again. In other words, on this, when you’re running well and you’re in the right lane and you’re on the right track you’re being persuaded by God’s word, which is changing your behavior. But now he uses it again in a negative sense. Now they’ve been persuaded by something else which has now changed their behavior and their behavior over here doesn’t match their behavior that used to be over here. Who has cut in on your life? “This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you.” Of course, what was deceiving the Galatians was that old religious mindset. “Jesus is fine for saving grace. Yes sir, He’ll save you, but living grace, oh no, no, no. You’ve got to go back to the law now and there’s rules and regulations and you have to do what you do to measure up.” Who told you that? Who came across that way? What can we do that Christ has not already done? He’s already fulfilled the law. There’s nothing we can do.
So deception happens when you least expect it. Maybe it happens in the mundane boring things of life. Maybe it happens when you go through a car wash and you don’t handle it right. And some of those times happen in our lives and we don’t handle them right. And because of that somebody comes along and fuels our flesh and we buy into it and we go the other route and now we’ve been hindered from walking our race. So deception happens when you least expect it. I wonder this morning how many, how many of us in here are already deceived and don’t even know it. We don’t even know it.
Secondly, deception spreads like wildfire. The moment that the deception gets into the body of Christ, whether it’s a Sunday School class, a family, or even a church, when it happens that way it’s like a virus, a fast working virus. My wife and I had the opportunity to be with Cadence International which works with the military. And we were over in Switzerland. Well, while we were there we ministered to the military. And I want to tell you, God came down in that place. But there was a group coming from Ital,y and on the bus some kid caught a virus, and it spread to the next one, to the next one, to the next one, to the next one, and by the time they got there the whole bus, it was very uncomfortable trip because it was a stomach virus. And they got there—we were staying on the second floor—and they put all those sick people on the second floor. And every day I was worried to death, I’m going to get sick. I’m going to get sick. And I was sitting there that next morning talking to one of the adults and all of a sudden I just noticed he didn’t say anything. And I looked up at him and his lips were pale. You know what happens when somebody’s nauseous and they’re sick? And that virus moved like you wouldn’t believe, fast moving.
That’s exactly the way it is when somebody takes a religious mindset and brings it into the church. It’s like a virus. It’s like a cancer in the body of Christ and it spreads like wildfire. He says in verse 9, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” That word for “leaven” is the word zumi. Zumi means yeast. You know what yeast is. You put it in things to cause it to ferment, rot. But you see that yeast causes something to ferment. It changes; as a matter of fact, I looked it up. It says it’s a living organism that causes fermentation. It says it changes chemically whatever it’s put into. Something had changed the chemistry of the body of Christ in southern Galatia. And what had happened was grace was no longer taught. Religion and law and works of the flesh became the predominate thing and it was like a cancer eating up the body of Christ in southern Galatia. “A little leaven” he says “leavens the whole lump.”
Now Paul’s used that other places. He used it in 1 Corinthians 5:6, “Your boasting is not good, you do not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.” Leaven here in 1 Corinthians 5 is a picture of sin that I just read. It’s usually used in a negative sense. It’s used the same way in Galatians. However, it’s used in a very positive way in Matthew 13:33. Jesus used it. It says, “He spoke another parable to them, the kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of meal until it was all leavened.” So the emphasis of leaven is the context. But the emphasis is the persuasive power that leaven has once you interject it into any substance. You take anybody that comes out of a religious background—and many people in this area come from a religious background. All they know is works. All they know is that, and they come into receive Jesus as saving grace, they come to know Christ as their Savior—but then they have a deprogramming that has to go on in the mind. Because that old religious mindset, if you’re not careful, will drag right into your Christianity and it’s like a leaven.
It’s like a virus and it sickens the whole body of Christ because there is no joy, there is no blessing with law. Law can never produce what it demands. That’s why Jesus had to come and produce it by His life, and now He lives in us to live through us what the law requires. Remember back in 1:6 when Paul said, “I am amazed at how quickly you deserted Him who called you.” You know, it’s just amazing how a virus, it’s a quick taking, quick infecting virus. I wonder how strong the virus is in our own church. I wonder how strong it is. It’s very subtle because it comes across sincere. It may have God’s name all over it, but God hasn’t got a thing to do with it. I wonder how strong it is right here.
Let me ask you a question. How are you affecting others? Are you affecting them toward the message of God’s grace, or are you affecting them towards the message of law and all of its legalism that goes with it? There was a mainline denomination several years ago that a group of ladies decided that they didn’t like the fact that the gender for God is male or masculine. So they decided to change the name of God and put it in the feminine. And they changed His name to Sophia. And in this mainline denomination they just laughed at that. Oh, good grief, it’s just some ladies that are upset again. And they didn’t pay attention to it. But then last year in the headlines of our countries papers there almost became such a divisive thing it almost split a denomination. Why? Because it started off as a little tiny virus, and nobody paid any attention to it, and it spread like wildfire and then it became a major denominational thing that they had to deal with. That’s what deception will do. That’s how quickly it spreads. That’s how quickly it spreads.
Well, finally, judgment awaits those who deceive. I tell you what, that comforts me. The people that are willfully deceptive are going to pay, and God says their judgment is on its way. And I just want to say this real quickly, because we’re kind of running short, but I want to ask you this. Do you understand that there are two kinds of deception? There’s a deceiver by a person who simply deceives by error, and then there’s a deceptive teacher who knows exactly what he’s doing, and that’s in Galatians. This is a man that says Jesus is never going to be enough; it’s law or it’s nothing. And this is the one he’s talking about in verse 10: “I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you shall bear his judgment.”
And if you’re here today and you’re willfully deceiving anybody in the body of Christ, it ought to put the fear of God in your heart; because he says “you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.” Paul did not know who this guy was that had started this whole mess in the churches in southern Galatia. And I love what he says in the first part of the verse, “I have confidence in you.” No, he doesn’t have confidence in them. Well, that’s what it says! No, it doesn’t. Keep reading it. “In the” who? “In the Lord.” His confidence is not in people. His confidence is in Christ who lives in people. And he says if you have once tasted of what it means to run the race the right way, and if you’ve become deceived, I have confidence of that in the Lord He’s going to bring you back to truth. But then he shifts gears. And he says that man who deception, who’s full of deception and willfully is deceiving the body, he will bear his judgment.
I’ll tell you what, as a young pastor I had all kinds of wrong doctrine. I just loved the Lord. You’re the most vulnerable when you’re the most hungry. You’re the most vulnerable when you’re the most hungry. But God sent someone to come along side me and straighten me out. You see, God knew my heart. I didn’t want to be deceived, and God takes care of people who want to walk by faith that love Him. But those people who are willfully deceptive, I’m telling you folks, they’re coming if they’re not already here. But God said don’t you worry about them, keep preaching the truth. I’ll take care of them. They will bear their judgment. Just like the false teachers in 2 Peter 2 when he says they bring swift destruction upon themselves. That ought to be a warning to anybody who’s willing deceptive in the body of Christ.
The rest of us, if we’re teaching wrong doctrine I’ll guarantee you, Priscilla and Aquila will come along side you. They got a hold of Apollos and straightened him out. Spiros got a hold of me and straightened me out. We’re going to have elders, and I guarantee you when we see doctrine that’s wrong, it will be confronted because we can do that. That’s what the body’s all about. But a willfully deceptive teacher doesn’t know Christ, and they’re coming into churches. It used to be they would meet and go out and be persecuted. Not anymore. The devil’s joined the church and there’s a lot of people who come in with one purpose in mind, to deceive the body of Christ.
Well, I was over in Texas a few years ago. And I was in a group of teachers. This one guy asked me a question, “What would you do if you had a teacher that was teaching the Word, but losing members and the members in his class said, well, if you’d be more topical and we could have some more fun, you could grow the class. And he gives up teaching the Word to do that, what would you say about that?” Well, he shouldn’t have asked me. I said, “He’ll stand before a holy God and answer for it. We’re not responsible for how many people like to have their felt needs met. They don’t even know what their real needs are. We’re responsible to God to teach His Word inerrant, inspired and infallible.” We left the meeting; I didn’t know that he was talking about himself. Several weeks later I got an email. He said, “I was ashamed to tell you it was me that I was talking about.” And he said, “Yes, my class doubled, but it’s total fluff.” And he said, “I’ve been miserable ever since I compromised my conviction.” He said, “I’ve gone back to what God’s taught me.” And he said, “I’ll tell you what, we don’t have as many. But we’ve got the sweetness of the Spirit of God like I have never seen before. Thank you, because I know one day you helped me when I stand before a holy God.”
You see, we’re living in the day of “make me feel better or I’ll go to another church.” That’s bologna! God’s culling the body, folks. It’s in the last days. And He’s pulling His remnant forward. And those people that love God will walk and run the race will be the people that you will want to run to when the hard times come. They’re the ones that’ll hold you up. They stand solid.