We enter the scene amidst the backdrop of the first century. It is a turbulent time for Christians who face persecution from Rome, the Jews, and the general populace over this period. The truth of the Gospel is spreading by Christ’s work in the early church and the Apostles. Yet, issues pertaining to false doctrine are dotting the landscape. Heretical sects of individuals seeking to pervert the truth leading others astray are seeking to lead the sheep to poisonous waters. It was a turbulent period. In essence, I would dare to say it was one of the most costly times to be a Christian in the world.
The fiercely passionate man takes up his pen to write to the churches of an entire region who are seeing wreckage from false teachers. His audience is the congregations within the region of Galatia, an area once known for the pillaging barbaric Gauls prior to Rome’s powerful rise making them a province. He is astonished at the reality that those professing to be of the truth have succumbed to falsehoods concocted by men. So, he writes. He moves the pen up and down, to the left and to the right, launching an all-out assault against the heretical doctrine. His goal is the defense of the truth so that souls may be saved and Christ might be glorified.
When writing to the Galatians Paul not only refutes the errors facing the churches, but also demonstrates the motivation of the false teachers. In Galatians 6:12 he says:
“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.”
Pay special attention, these men were promoting the idea that you had to be circumcised to be saved in order to save their own skin! They did not want to endure persecution for the sake of the cross so they sought to make a good showing by proclaiming doctrine which would get them out of suffering for Christ’s sake. Let this reality sink in dear reader. There are some men who profess false doctrine so that they might not endure the hardship that comes from following the teaching of Christ. Zeroing in closer, Paul understood there are men who will lead others eternally astray being driven by the motivation of their personal safety and security while walking this earth. Truly, this is a perversion of the absolute highest degree. It is treason against the truth of our Lord so plainly revealed in His Word. Even more so, it is blasphemy against the Most High. However, the saints needed to have this reality placed before them plainly.
The Jews had a protected status amongst the Roman Empire as Paul is writing. That meant by holding more closely to their interpretation of the Mosaic law, the Judaizer heretics would seek to maintain their status being protected alongside the Jews. It was an unholy desire to curb doctrine seeking the protection of the state. They were not merely preaching their views because of simple misguided interpretations with a well-meaning desire to do good to others. No, they were absolutely seeking self-preservation at all costs.
Oftentimes it seems like Christians in our era are willing to simply give a pass to false teachers today. Many cannot imagine an individual might sacrifice truth driven by a desire for power, safety, or finances to name a few. Several in our era very well might just be led in their profession of error for the sake of getting in close to the governmental authorities. Friends, we must not be so naïve. If Paul dealt with men who perverted the truth to save their own skin, then we can be assured such men are alive today as well. They did not just magically drop off the planet with the dawning of the 21st century. It is true there are men out there who are true believers and simply need some doctrinal guidance to know the way of God more accurately (i.e. Appolos). However, we must not take off the table that many of the enemies facing the church in our era are just like the men Paul faced in that they pervert the truth for selfish desires.
Instead of this reality, Paul defended his Apostleship as being from God (Gal 1:1), the aim of his ministry being God’s approval not man’s (Gal 1:9-10), the true gospel he declared being God’s gospel (Gal 1:11), and the calling of grace being directly from God (Gal 1:15). Because he was God’s servant preaching God’s message for God’s glory he was obligated to not change the message. Paul would not tamper with it, tweak it, or even subtly move it in the slightest manner. 2 Corinthians 4:2 is where Paul states the matter succinctly:
“But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” -2 Corinthians 4:2
This is the calling of the true ministers of Christ. Furthermore, it is the labor placed upon every believer to maintain fidelity to the Lord and the pure accuracy of His Holy Word. There are false teachers acting as ravenous wolves seeking to devour the sheep for their own selfish agendas. What we need in our era is for men to stand up like the Apostle Paul with a firm commitment to the truth declaring it openly with unflinching courage. Let us serve with clean consciences before the sight of our holy God. It is before His throne and eternal kingdom we seek our commendation. Beware of teachers who simply seek to promote their own welfare through their false doctrine. Praise God for those who have a burning passion in their soul to herald the spotless truth of Christ for His glory!