Thursday, December 19, 2019

2019.12.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 5:7-12

Questions from the Scripture text: How does the apostle describe their former Christian walk in Galatians 5:7? What question does he now ask? From whom does the apostle say that their new ideas have not come (Galatians 5:8)? What does Galatians 5:9 call additions to the Christian religion that do not come from God? What do such additions do to the rest of one’s Christianity? What does the apostle have confidence will be their response to his letter (Galatians 5:10a)? But what does the apostle say will happen to the one who holds to these additions? What have some, apparently, been saying that Paul still teaches (Galatians 5:11a)? But what is he suffering for preaching as sufficient without circumcision? To what does the apostle equate the idea that circumcision has spiritual value (Galatians 5:12)? 
Paul had heard that the Galatian church had begun observing days and months and seasons and years (Galatians 4:10) and hoping that circumcision would grow them in their Christianity (5:6). So he puts the question to them: who hindered you from obeying the truth (Galatians 5:7)? That is to say, “from whom did these ideas come?”

That’s a question that we should ask ourselves about everything that we think belongs to the Christian religion. And there’s only one good answer. In fact, Galatians 5:8 suggests another way that we could ask this question, “Does this idea come from Him who called me?” For us even to make a beginning in Christianity, God had to effectually call us; He had to give us life by His Word. So, as we go forward in our Christian walk, only that which God has commanded can have spiritual value to grow us. You can’t have a religion that is wholly dependent upon God’s grace and also includes manmade ideas of how to get grace—“a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). That is to say: a little manmade religion turns the whole thing into manmade religion.

As in other places (Hebrews 6:4-9; Hebrews 10:26-39) where believers had fallen into something potentially spiritually fatal, the apostle expresses confidence (not in them but in the Lord!) that the Galatians will end up rejecting the manmade teaching (Galatians 5:10a)—noting that those who brought it to Galatia are coming under a judgment in which they do not want to share (verse 10b)! So, we do see that it is possible for true believers to stumble into manmade additions to Christianity. Let us, therefore, be all the more watchful of ourselves, knowing that we are susceptible to it. But, let this watchfulness be with a clinging to Christ, and asking Him that if we stumble, He would turn us back to His mind in the Scripture.

Of course, there was a proper understanding of circumcision—that it had been something that looked forward to Christ. So, Paul’s opponents claimed that he too was preaching circumcision as they were. But the apostle points to the fact that he was being persecuted for refusing to add anything to Christ and His cross. When he preached that their manmade ideas would diminish the cross of Christ, they were offended (Galatians 5:11).

The apostle then uses a vivid comparison to show the folly of their misuse of circumcision: it was as bad as making themselves eunuchs (a part of pagan religions, but never commanded by God, and would have disqualified them from the assembly of God’s people in the time of circumcision, cf. Deuteronomy 23:1). Manmade additions to Christianity can seem innocent, but this is not the Holy Spirit’s view of it!
What are some things about which you might need to ask about from whom they came?
Suggested songs: ARP135 “Your Name, Lord, Endures Forever” or TPH16A “Preserve Me, O My God”

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