In Galatians 5:6-7, after reminding the Galatians that believers walk by faith that works through love, Paul remarks, “and you did run well.” In Galatians 4:15, Paul had articulated the evidence of God’s grace in their lives by the Christian love that he had seen in them, now, he was affirming that faith-driven love. But Paul continues in verse 7 with a rhetorical question, “And who are those that would seek to make you disobey God’s truth?” This “who do they think they are?” statement is directed at the heart of the Galatians and rephrased so that they will be forced to think about the type of false teaching many of them have succumbed to, “who do you think they are?”
As Paul furthers his letter, he says, “this persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.” In essence, Paul is arguing that it should be clear to the Galatians that the message that the false teachers is teaching has caused them to depart from what God has called them to and what they used to follow faithfully in love. Now, because of the false teachers, the Galatians had been led away and persuaded into a lifestyle that was antithetical to the love-filled life God had called them to.
With this in mind, Paul wrote a common parable that made the point clearly, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Leaven is yeast, and when it comes to making bread, it doesn’t take a cup of yeast to make the bread rise, it takes a tiny little pinch, and before long all the other ingredients have been transformed. Paul’s use here of this parable was that the Judaizers had come in with a pinch of false doctrine, but now the entire church of Galatia was swollen with turmoil and confusion. It didn’t take much to pollute the whole church, and the indictment that Paul levels against the false teachers is one that you find throughout all of the New Testament, “he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment.” God counts it very serious for a teacher to come and pollute the people of God. False teaching will be judged, and the false teacher will receive the judgment.
Paul’s final sentiment towards the false teachers is one of exacerbation. Those arguing that the believers needed to be circumcised, Paul presses on and using the same imagery as circumcision says, “I would they were even cut off which trouble you.” Paul had labored so hard to teach the Galatians the truth. He had seen the gospel of God do a mighty work in their hearts and in their lives. Now, the false teachers were coming in and confusing the young believers and devastating the church. Paul’s zeal for the strength and the growth of the church led him to say that he wished the false teachers were surgically removed from the church. He counted them as pagan, anti-God, and absolutely useless to the growth and health of the Galatians. It would be best that they were cut off.
Perhaps we can be challenged by Paul’s zeal for the other believers. We can see his fight and struggle and love for them, and respond by inspecting our own care of those around us. Do we struggle and strive for the spiritual growth and health of others, or do we move on complacently ignoring the misguided deception that creeps into their lives?
Food For Thought: How does “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” refer to the situation in Galatia?