As Long as We All Love Each Other and Try to Make the World a Better Place, Does It Matter What the Church Believes about Christ?
Sunday, February 8, 2010 -
Galatians 5:7-12 - “For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.  You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?  This persuasion is not from him who calls you.  A little leaven leavens the whole lump.  I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is.  But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.  I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!”
1) THE CHRISTIAN LIFE MUST NOT ONLY BE INITIATED WELL, BUT SUSTAINED WELL
Galatians 5:7 - “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”
The running of a race is one of Paul’s favorite images for the Christian life. The race isn’t won at the starting gate, but at the finish line. Leading a race for a certain length of time isn’t the same as winning a race at the finish line. This is Paul’s way of stressing the importance of the continuing effort required in sustaining the Christian life in an unhindered manner.
Paul viewed these Christians as being “hindered” in their race. They were hindered by their openness to, and tolerance of, error. They didn’t see their unwillingness to judge error as a problem, but Paul did. He saw it as more than a theological problem or an intellectual problem - Galatians 5:2 - “Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.”
2) UNDERSTANDING THE OBSTETRICS OF FALSE DOCTRINE
Galatians 5:8-9 - “This persuasion is not from him who calls you.  A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”
In these verses Paul identifies two important traits of false doctrine as it arises in the church. First, he says it is persuasive (“This persuasion....”). Then, second, he says it works imperceptibly (like leaven in bread).
a) False doctrine is always persuasive (8) - By this I mean it doesn’t initially reveal itself as anything other than a benefit to those who receive it. Usually it comes along side the rest of the Christian body of doctrine as a supplement, as something added to the rest.
b) False doctrine always begins in an imperceptible fashion - Galatians 5:9 - “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” Once again, notice also how this picture favors what has already been mentioned about false doctrine being added into the other elements of the faith - like leaven (or yeast) is added to the rest of the dough.
Also, notice how only a small amount of leaven is needed to change the rest of the loaf of bread. This is what makes false teaching very difficult to deal with. Most churches don’t want to deal with the presence of false doctrine until they see the damage of false doctrine. Usually, in our tolerant culture, it is an uncomfortable thing to deal with false teaching because we have been conditioned by our culture to believe it is almost arrogant for anyone to claim certainty in areas of divine, revealed truth. This is why any leader who confronts false doctrine will always look divisive and picky and narrow-minded. False teachers won’t be persecuted. Those who confront them will be - Galatians 5:11 - “But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.”
c) False teaching spreads until it is stopped. Again, this is the way yeast works. There is not a single verse in the New Testament about praying against false teaching. False teaching must be stopped or it spreads.
We have seen an example of this principle in this very letter. Do you remember how Paul confronted Peter in Antioch? This proves that even sincere, Spirit-filled Christians can be misled and mislead others. This is why Paul firmly but lovingly confronted Peter immediately to his face.
So remember, Scriptural truth always does more than free and save the soul. It also tests our loyalties. Jesus isn’t just the Way and the Life. He is always and forever the Truth.