March 31, 2012
Back to Basics
Spy Out Our Liberty
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In chapter 2 of Galatians, Paul recalled a visit to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus. Apparently, a faction of false brethren in Jerusalem, calling themselves Christians in the church, tried to impose the Old Testament Law of Moses upon Christians. As we have seen in Chapter 1 of Galatians, Paul refuted every attempt to impose the Law of Moses upon any believer, whether Jew or Gentile. In our study today, we will look at the methods and motives of men who sought to impose the Law of Moses upon Christians.
Titus the Greek. In Galatians 2:3, we read that Titus was a Greek. In 2 Corinthians 8:23, we read that Paul considered Titus his partner (“κοινωνὸς”) and fellow worker (“συνεργός”) among the Corinthians. Paul addressed Titus as his true child in a common faith (“γνησίῳ τέκνῳ κατὰ κοινὴν πίστιν”). Paul sent Titus on missions, and Titus had an earnestness (“σπουδὴν”) for God (2 Corinthians 8:16), and whose coming to Paul produced comfort (2 Corinthians 7:6) and joy (2 Corinthians 7:13). Titus served Christ on the ministry team with Paul. As a Greek, Titus had not been circumcised.
Compelled To Be Circumcised. In Galatians 2:3, Paul explained that no one in Jerusalem compelled (“ἠναγκάσθη”) Titus to be circumcised. In the Old Testament, way back in the Book of Genesis, God gave Abraham the sign of circumcision, the cutting of the foreskin of the man’s penis. Although the mere cutting of foreskin produced no spiritual result by itself, God intended this physical mark to be a spiritual reminder of God’s covenant relationship with man, particularly the descendants of Abraham by promise (Genesis 17:9-14; compare Romans 4:9-13). The physical cutting of skin only made an outward statement of the inner faith of the man in the Covenant God of Israel. As a Jew, Paul himself had been circumcised the eighth day (Philippians 3:5). Notice that God commanded in Genesis 17:13, that circumcision would be an everlasting covenant (“לִבְרִית עוֹלָם”). According to the Law of Moses, anyone who did not receive this circumcision must be cut off from his people for breaking the covenant with God (Genesis 17:14; compare Romans 2:25-29). Therefore, you can see how the false brethren in Paul’s time seeking to impose circumcision upon Christians had a powerful argument from the Old Testament to require Christians to be circumcised, whether Greek, Gentile, or Jew. Yet, Paul noted that no one of reputation required Titus, the Greek, to be circumcised while they visited Jerusalem. At this point, we ought to stop and think about the great changes that have taken place with the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Through His redemptive death, Jesus Christ freed us from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13), and brought the full righteous of God into our lives for eternity. As we see in Galatians Chapter 3, God completely fulfilled His plan to take care of the sins committed before the death of Christ, and with the appearing of Christ, a new era began in the program of God upon earth.
False Brethren Secretly Brought In. In Galatians 2:4, Paul identified certain false brethren (“ψευδαδέλφους”). Paul used this same term “false brethren” in 2 Corinthians 11:26, to describe people putting him in danger. In the context of Galatians, Paul identifies these false brethren as accursed, for preaching a doctrine different from the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:6-9). Notice too that a group, apparently distinct from the apostles, brought in (“παρεισῆλθον”) these false brethren. Yet, the initiative for the destructive action of the false brethren lies within the false brethren themselves and their false teaching. These false teachers themselves came to “spy out” (“κατασκοπῆσαι”) the liberty of the believers with Paul. As we read in 2 Peter 2:1, false teachers (“ψευδοδιδάσκαλοι”) will secretly introduce (“παρεισάξουσιν”) destructive heresies into the church. The false teachers, like the false brethren, ply their trade of sin and destruction in the church secretly, and not openly. We must remain ever vigilant to oppose them from the Bible, by the power of Christ working through the Holy Spirit to resist them and remove them from the fellowship. Part of basic Christianity means that not every doctrine must be accepted in the church. Some false brethren teach heresy that must be stopped and expelled, along with the false teachers themselves who must be identified as false brethren.
Liberty Which We Have in Christ Jesus. In Galatians 2:4, Paul explained that the false brethren have a particular target of their spying. They look directly at the liberty (“ἐλευθερίαν”) Christ Jesus gives to His true children. In this case, Paul and Titus had liberty from the requirements of the Law of Moses, because Christ had come and freed them from the bondage of the Law of Moses. False brethren will always spy out your freedom in Christ Jesus. They are walking around your local assembly today, seeking to quash any freedom you have in Christ. They hate freedom and love bondage. In Jerusalem, the false brethren sought to persuade true believers that they must all keep the Law of Moses, and keep its commandments like circumcision. Paul, as we will see, firmly opposed all such efforts to impose bondage. The motives of all false brethren and false teachers is simple: they want you to live in bondage to sin and forsake your freedom in Christ.
Bondage. In Galatians 2:4, Paul penetrated the secrecy of the false brethren and highlighted their intent to “bring us into bondage.” This term “bring into bondage” (“καταδουλώσουσιν”) indicates that the false brethren tried to move Paul and his companions away from the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The false brethren secretly and deliberately sought to impose bondage. In 2 Corinthians 11:20, Paul identified the Corinthians as people who had become enslaved (“καταδουλοῖ”), referring to the fact that they had tolerated the foolish gladly, and been hit in the face, taken advantage of, and devoured by ungodly men. Whenever we allow anyone to enslave us, we act like slaves, instead of believers living in the freedom of Christ Jesus. Are you living in bondage today, having been chained in the bondage by false brethren in your local assembly? Check out the Word of God and see if the false teaching in your local assembly actually squares with what Jesus said and taught in the Bible. We avoid bondage by rejecting and removing false brethren and false teachers in the church. Otherwise, we end up enslaved, devoured, hit in the face, and living in sin. We thank God, however, that He gives freedom to all who ask, and restores believers to freedom in Christ every day.
So we learn more about avoiding bondage today.
● False believers love to spy out our freedom in Christ Jesus, and secretly introduce false teaching in local assemblies.
● False believers come in secretly, and try to bring you into bondage.
● Christ Jesus will always oppose false brethren, and seek to expose them and expel them from the local assembly, so that every believer will live in His freedom for eternity, starting right here on earth, right now.
Application for Today
As I walk through life today, I will be on my guard against false brethren spying out liberty and trying to enslave believers. In Christ, we will expose them and expel them, so that all of us will not live in bondage to sinful practices, but to live in the freedom of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.