Summary: You can never spot a counterfeit dollar if you don’t know what a real one looks like. And you will never be able to spot the false teachers if you do not know the real Teacher.
Yogi Berra, the great legend of baseball was known for his confusing sayings. Things like; “This is deja-vu, all over again!”, or “You can observe a lot just by watching.” My favorite was, “Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical.”
Mr. Berra should have been known as Mr. Confusion. He once said that he knew he was going to take the wrong train, so he left early. He once looked right into the TV camera and as serious as he could be, he said, “A nickel isn’t worth a dime, these days.” Of course, we all know his most famous saying; “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
He wasn’t the only person to ever get mixed up, though. It seems that this world is filled with confused folks. And that isn’t confined to just today, either. The reason Paul was writing to the Galatians is to clear up the confusion that had been introduced to their churches by some who were false teachers.
‘You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the One who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be.
Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case, the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.’
Quite a mouthful, isn’t it? In just eight verses, Paul gives us many words, all dealing with deception and confusion within the church. Let’s see if we can break this down a bit and understand it more.
In Paul’s words, we have a ‘What’, a ‘Who’, and a ‘Which’. The first thing we need to know is ….
1. WHAT REALLY MATTERS
In VERSE 6, we are told what really matters. It says, ‘the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.’
In their church, the Galatians had leaders who were teaching that many things counted, especially the outward requirements of the Old Testament Law that showed Jewish identity. Paul cuts through this confusion and tells them that the only thing that counts is the genuine and pure faith that shows itself outwardly, not in symbolic ways, but in practical ways; in loving ways.
Paul is telling them that a surgical procedure doesn’t matter; a dress code does not matter; and specific diets do not, in themselves matter. These things are legalistic, shallow, and false. They are not genuine. He tells them that the only thing that matters is faith in Christ Jesus.
Specifically, what matters is trusting that the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross was sufficient – in itself - to pay for all of our sins. It is trusting that we do not have to add anything to what He has already done: It is knowing that there is nothing we can do by ourselves that merits God’s favor. And, finally, what matters is being able to humble our hearts in faith so we can accept the offer of salvation that has been given us.
Every time we reach out in faith, something changes. It might be in the situation we are in, and it might be within ourselves, but every time we reach out in faith – something changes.
So, we need to know what really matters, but we also need to know …
2. WHO IS DOING THE TEACHING
Jesus said that His sheep know His voice and they follow Him. A very important way to avoid the confusion of this world is to know the voice of Jesus so you can discern who is doing the teaching. Paul is telling the Galatians that they are being confused by wrong teachings, and he is telling them that does not come from Jesus.
In VERSE 8, Paul says
‘That kind of persuasion does not come from the One who calls you.’
There have always been, and there will always be false teachers within the church. They will come shouting Scripture to support their claims, they will come with followers, and they will seem to be doing the work for Jesus. It will be up to each of you to recognize them when they come. But how do you do that?