Paul argued against the false doctrine and the false teaching of the Judaizers for the majority of the book of Galatians, but as we come to the end of the book, he changes gears to address their wicked motivations for imposing the strict structure of false religion on others. Diagnosing the root issues in the Judaizers, Paul came away with a three-fold prognosis.
1) Those who were overly zealous to enforce Judaism on the young Galatian believers were often only doing so to “make a fair shew in the flesh.” They wanted others around them to see how spiritual they were, and then either externally or even internally worship their “spirituality.” In their estimation, being seen as the most holy was of utmost importance, and if they could convince others around them of their assumed holiness, then they had accomplished their mission.
2) In the first century, being a Christian was a dangerous thing. If the Romans weren’t after you to kill you, then the Jews were out trying to annihilate you. Paul explained that a motivation for following the law of Moses so strictly was so that the persecution from the Jews would be lessened. In the minds of the Judaizers, being Christian would have less of an ostracizing effect if as Christians they still maintained a Jewish lifestyle. This self-serving, persecution-avoiding, gospel-diluting motivation was simply unacceptable.
3) Finally, Paul argued that “neither they themselves… keep the law.” Not only were they trying to put on a show, and not only were they trying to hide their Christianity behind a Judaistic lifestyle to avoid persecution, these false teachers were only doing so because they themselves were secretly breaking the law of God. In convincing everyone else of their obedience and faux-holiness, they were able to cover up the fact that they were truly despicable sinners.
These men who had come to peddle a “new gospel” did not have the authority or the character necessary to teach the believers at Galatia. Rather, they were imposters who sought to spoil the Galatians for their own benefit and praise. The believers had no business following such underhanded distorters of Christianity.
At times, we too can fall prey to the erroneous methods and motivations of the Judaizing false teachers. We can live in such a way that we want everyone to see how holy we are so that they will either externally and internally praise us for our holiness. At other times, we may join the Judaizers in our tempering our lifestyle to match those around us who are not believers with the hope that we will not be mocked or ridiculed for taking biblically divisive positions. The greatest danger for us however exists in the reality that when doing either of these deceptive things, we might all the while have unrepentant sin that we are harboring and secretly holding out of view of others, constantly promising to take care of at a later date, but almost certainly never truly getting resolved. May we see the example of these false teachers and be warned against it. May we instead be constantly humble, always separate, and desire true holiness within.
Food For Thought: What were the three things that the false teachers were doing in Galatians 6:11-13?