#179 “TACTICS OF A BONDAGE LEADER” (GALATIANS 5:7-15)

Legalism Hinders Spiritual Progress (5:7-10)

    1. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? The use of the phrase you were running well is indication that the Galatians were truly walking in the Spirit and growing in their faith. Paul frequently used athletic imagery when describing the Christian life (see 2:2; Rom. 9:16; 1 Cor. 9:24; Phil. 3:13-14; 2 Tim. 4:7). Who hindered you—The first marker of a bondage leader is they hinder people’s walk with God. The word hinder in GK. is enekopsen and portrays the Judaizers as ringleaders who “cut in” or “interfered” into the Galatians’ running the Christian race and filled their minds with deceptive teachings about circumcision. IVP New Testament Commentary, “The picture is of a runner who distracts another runner, blocks his way, cuts in on him and trips him. Everyone would have been very angry with a runner who did such a thing. He would have broken the clear rules against cutting in or tripping in the foot races of the Greek festivals. He would be immediately disqualified and excluded from the festival.” Obeying the truth—The second marker of a bondage leader is they turn people away from the truth of God. The Judaizers were not leading the Galatians according to the truth of the gospel. They were leading them astray.
    2. This persuasion (peismonē, contrived persuasiveness) is not from him who calls you. The third marker of a bondage leader is their use of manipulation to get people to do what they want. Persuasion is not from him—Paul distinguishes himself from the deception and manipulation of the Judaizers. He’s referring to the despicable tactics the Judaizers used on the Galatians to seduce them into legalism.
      • 2 Cor. 11:13-14: For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
    3. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. The fourth marker of a bondage leader is they seek to influence and gain control of everyone. Little leaven—During Passover, the Jews were told not to eat leaven for it represented evil and sin (see Ex. 12:15, 17-20; Deut. 16:3-8). Paul uses leaven as an example of the spreading and corruption of false doctrine. The more the community (the dough) buys into its lies (the yeast/leaven)—the more it will spread and eventually affect the whole community. The sinister influence of the Judaizers was causing the Galatians to question whether Paul’s teachings about the gospel of Jesus Christ were consistent to the Scriptures.
      • 16:6: Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
      • 16:12: Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
      • 1 Cor. 5:6-8: Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
    4. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. The fifth marker of a bondage leader is they spread confusion and create havoc among people. I have confidence—Paul’s hope in the Galatians gives us a glimpse into his relationship with them. It also reiterates that the Galatians were in the “stage of contemplation” over whether to give into the Judaizers or heed their apostle’s rebuke not to fall back under legalism. Who is troubling you—It seems Paul was aware that there were a few ringleaders causing the Galatians problems but had no knowledge as to who they were in the movement.


True Spiritual Progress in Christ (5:11-15)

  1. 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. The sixth marker of a bondage leader is they spread lies about godly people. Still preach circumcision—The Judaizers were spreading lies about Paul holding to the belief that circumcision was necessary for salvation. The accusation could have originated from the time Paul had Timothy circumcised (Ac. 16:3). Still being persecuted—It’s clear that the Judaizers are not following the gospel. For if they were, they wouldn’t be persecuting Paul and falsifying his teachings about salvation. The offense of the cross—The GK. for offenseis skandalon, “arouses opposition; a stumbling block.” The cross of Christ reveals the pride of man and the need of a Savior. 1 Cor. 1:23, “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.”
  2. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate (apokoptō, to cut off) themselves! The seventh marker of a bondage leader is their adherence to worldly rituals. Paul now turns to the Judaizers and wishes they would go so far as to castrate themselves. Paul was not speaking in derogatory terms. More than likely, he was referencing sacral castration, a practice known in the ancient pagan world but not performed by Jews. In pagan temples, priests of Cybele (mother goddess of the earth) would castrate themselves and place their testicles in a box as an offering and sign of obedience. In essence, Paul was stressing to the Galatians that if the ritual of circumcision was so important to be a follower of Christ—then why doesn’t the Judaizers go all the way and castrate themselves like the pagan priests did?
  3. 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Once again, Paul reiterates the foundational truth that the Galatians are free in Christ (5:1). However, this time, Paul follows up with a warning about the indulgence of the flesh. Opportunity for the flesh—Paul uses a base of operations to capture the warfare between the flesh and spirit. The GK phrase is eis aphormēn tēi sarki, which describes the whole person and their intents and desires to sin. Christian liberty isn’t license to sin but a free life to love others. Instead of being a slave to the flesh, Paul encourages the Galatians to become “slaves” of one another.
    • 6:13: Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
  4. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Up to this point Paul has been refuting the Law, but now—he returns to the Law in positive light. Why is that? First, Paul is “summing up” the Law. Second, Paul is showing that through freedom in Christ and by the power of love in the Holy Spirit—the Law finds its fulfillment because love is the ultimate accomplishment of it. This has nothing to do with fulfilling rules and regulations or obligating Christians to balance their salvation by checking of their good deeds. NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible, “The law was imposed on rebellious human beings; its practical effect was to exacerbate their rebelliousness (Rom 7:7–13). Paradoxically, it is those who are “not under the law” but “led by the Spirit” (Gal 5:18) who are enabled to show the love that was the goal of all the law’s commandments.” Here are several passages in the Bible that summarize the Law:
    • 19:18: You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
    • 22:34-40: But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
    • 13:8: Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
  5. 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. No doubt many Galatians were having their fair share of arguments with the legalizers. But apparently, things were getting so out of hand in the Galatian church that Paul compared their biting and devouring to wild animals killing one another. It’s not clear of the specifics of such arguments, but the important thing is not to give into the flesh and pour out hatred on others and cause division.