Gal 1:6-7 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– (7) not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
Gal 3:1-3 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. (2) Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? (3) Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
As I preached a sermon series through the epistle to the Galatians, each week I became more impressed with its relevance to the roots causes of abuse. Not only domestic abuse, but the abuse of power in general. Consider, for example, these statements Paul makes about the motives of the false teachers who infiltrated these churches:
Gal 1:10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Gal 2:4-5 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in–who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery– (5) to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.
Gal 4:17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them.
Gal 6:12-13 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. (13) For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.
Do you see the common denominator? People who sneak into our midst — into our churches and into our lives — (these “creeps” creep in, sheep’s clothing; hidden reefs), they sneak in with the firm purpose of robbing us of the freedom we have in Christ and bringing us back into bondage. How? They lay their brand of law on us (after flattering us to gain our trust) and deceive us into wanting to please THEM. They shut us out of Christ’s freedom by telling us that we must do this, not do that, and keep working to gain God’s approval, which is really THEIR approval. It puts us into slavery to them. How many people in your life have paraded as fine, eminent Christians but in your relationship with them you ultimately found yourself constantly thinking “Oh man, I wonder what Jack would say? What does Jack think about this? Will Jack approve or disapprove of me if I…?” Slavery and bondage you see.
Now the interesting thing Paul mentions is that these false teachers (yes, we could call them abusers), always teach a system that parades as the gospel, BUT which has been morphed (usually ever so slightly) into a non-gospel. Faith plus works with emphasis on the works. And this so-called good news they lay on us also brings these phonies the accolades of the world or of some sub-set of the world. In addition, the wolves do not keep the very laws that they lay on US! Sound familiar? The old abuser double-standard routine. YOU must not do it, but HE can. It’s just what Jesus said about how the Pharisees tie up heavy burdens on people but won’t even pick up a stick to help out. This of course also prevents them from being hated for the sake of Christ. Add a dash of works righteousness and the world will have no real problem with you.
It is no wonder then that Paul commands every Christian to fight against anyone or anything that would try to slap that slave yoke on our necks again:
Gal 5:1-4 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (2) Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. (3) I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. (4) You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
I do not believe that a genuine Christian can ever be lost. John 10 and John 17 in themselves pretty well sums that up in my opinion. So I don’t believe that Paul is teaching here in Galatians 5 that a Christian who gets duped into bondage by a false teacher has been “severed from Christ” in the sense of losing their salvation, becoming un-regenerate again, and so on. What I do think that Paul is saying is that when we let false teachers/abusers put the yoke of their oppressive teaching on us, we are brought into a realm of relating to God on a performance basis. And we will never be good enough in such a system. God will never approve of us because we know that we don’t perform well enough, as these wicked taskmasters will be quite happy to remind us of. That is not Christ. That is not the grace of the gospel. That is not freedom.
False teachers, false Christians, false preachers…who come along with their false gospel are abusers. They lust for power and control. That is what makes them tick. They crave the worship and adoration of their targets. And thus, a false gospel always, always, always introduces abuse into the church and into our lives.
Along with Paul, we must shout to these varmints, “Anathema!” “What did you say?” “I said, Anathema! I am free in Jesus and there is no way you are putting that chain around my neck!” [my rather loose translation of Galatians 1]. Does that sound too harsh to you? Then you may want to go back through Scripture and take a look at how the Lord’s prophets and apostles, and His own Son, dealt with these wolves. Perhaps, just maybe, possibly, WE need to step up the level of our rebuke to these kinds? Here are a few samples:
Gal 5:12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!
Mat 23:13-35 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
Zech 11:17 “Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!”
2Ti 4:14-15 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. (15) Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message.
Jer 14:14 And the LORD said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. (15) Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come upon this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed.
Jude 1:11-13 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. (12) These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; (13) wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.