“A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”…
…If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. – Galatians 5:9;15 NIV
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The brethren in Galatia, which is in the geographical area where today’s Turkey is located, must have frustrated the Apostle Paul so much with their sudden turn around from total acceptance of the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ, that was preached to them by him, to their willingness to practice Judaism which includes the performance of several human activities, including circumcision, that is expected to make its practitioners righteous and so justify them before the Almighty God. Only fools, in his own opinion would have willingly swapped a doctrine that provided all that they wanted, in this realm and in the world to come, without stress, for one that places so much pain and discomfort on them, and more so, had been declared ineffective by the one that made the laws in the first place. He reminded them that the main intention of Jesus Christ was to offer them freedom, not only from the burden of sin, but also to set them free from all those burdensome ordinances in the first Covenant, that was to be implemented before such freedom could be attained. Therefore, any decision to add any act or doctrine to his teaching will be considered by him as a rejection of his expressed love and will consequently lead to loss of the accompanying Grace, that is available to only those who remain exclusively in his gospel. The Apostle Paul thus advised them to remain firm and not allow themselves to be burdened by getting involved in such activities, that the one who prescribed it in the first place, has already declared as ineffective – Heb. 8:6-13. This is because, in this new covenant as represented by Jesus Christ, circumcision and similar personal activities, aimed at achieving righteousness and justification before the Almighty God mean nothing, as the only action required was to reciprocate his love, which he first demonstrated when He sacrificed His son for us when while still in our sinful state, by remaining faithful to his gospel – Gal. 5:1-6; Rom. 5:6-11.
However, beyond being firm in order to resist these advocates of Judaism, he identified some other reasons that may have opened them up to the entry of such negative doctrines, two of which are in the foundation scripture guiding today’s Devotional.
- They were not alert sufficiently to notice the entry of negatively minded people into their midst, an action which he compared to yeasts leavening their batch of dough. He acknowledged that they were running a good race until some group of people with a strange doctrine must have come into their midst to derail them. It had to be someone else as he was sure that such persuasion could not have originated from the one who called them – Gal. 5:7-8. Such may not have been significant whilst entering, but not being alert to the potential danger such person represented had allowed for negative acts of such an individual to eventually spread among them. He was however sure that such a person or persons will pay the penalty soonest.
That such a person will pay the penalty is not in doubt but what is also clear is that a damage has already been done through the negative actions of such a person or persons, an effect that may have actually been the foundation of the weak showing of Christianity in that part of the world where Turkey is today located. For a place that experienced immense Christian activity during the life time of the Apostle Paul, that the performance of Christianity in that region today poor, is not one to be contested but more important is the similar destabilisation role that is played by the surreptitious entry of similar discordant individuals today, into hitherto, quiet congregations.
- Second point he identified is in the advice that he offered the Galatians. There continual act of biting and devouring one another will ultimately lead to their destruction. This must be due to the division that this negative minded people had caused. The attempt of the Apostle Paul to defend himself as not preaching Circumcision can only be the result of his being so accused. It seemed part of the argument, with which those derailing them used to convince them, was that Paul himself was preaching Circumcision. This can only be a lie from the pit of hell as he had already informed them of how he confronted Peter when he was being ambivalent about his stand with regards to the gentiles and the act of circumcision, but in order to prevent such lies from being used in the future, either against him or against any other brother, he advised them to further entrench love rather than allow carnality to prevail. Possibly to let them know that he was going to teach them only what he practiced, he reminded them of the foundation of the gospel he was preaching, which was love. Allowing anyone to make them act of think in a suspicious manner about one another will only lead to their destruction, which cannot be blamed on anyone but themselves.
Christians as individuals and groups need to be constantly on the look out for the entry, into their midst, of individuals who are like the proverbial wolf in sheep clothing. They slip into the system and quietly work their strange and negative doctrine through the hitherto peaceful life of the group. Unknown to the victims of these negative people, they quietly work on the foundation of peace and prosperity of the individual or the group, and where they meet resistance to their evil plans, they take the option of creating distrust in the group, especially between the leaders and followers. They are the same people that Jude, the brother of Jesus, in the Biblical book named after him, described as blemishes at love feasts, clouds without rain and wild waves of the sea foaming up their shame – Jude 12-13. Jude says they are dreamers who pollute their own bodies, reject authorities and slander Celestial beings. Such people are never in shot supply and they need to be watched closely and prevented from penetrating into hitherto peaceful groups, before they produce their divisive effect. Once they are allowed to penetrate, it is usually difficult retaining the growth and development of the group in the positive direction.
Many lives today have been destroyed just as many Christian groups have been de-stabilised by these negative people who present as positive and introduce doctrines that are strange to the individual or the group. The only way to restore growth and development back to those lives or group will be
- To fish out these negative elements and put them in their rightful position – Jonah 1:7-15; Rom. 16:17-20.
- To re-trace steps already taken, in order to identify the points where strange policies quietly replaced the one that was operating successfully before the disruptive elements sneaked in with their negative doctrines – Jer. 6:16.
That may just be all that will be needed to restore progress to that life or that group, and unless that is done, every other effort may just end up being comparable to attempts at filling a basket with water. May God grant us all the grace to identify that destructive element or policy, that introduce disruption into our lives, and the Will to effect appropriate changes that will restore positive growth into our lives in Jesus name. Amen.