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Section IID

Danger 3 – Legalism
Answer: Christ the reality


Study D4

Those that trouble you

Study D4 Legalism (3)

Those that trouble

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.


D4.1 Characteristics

We have already on this site done an extensive series on Galatians. We do not intend to repeat that series here but will highlight  one particular aspect. Namely that of the false teachers. Paul warns us: let no one judge you. We will now see  what happens when believers allow such people to judge them. The consequences are dire.

In the Galatian letter we see five scriptures that directly mention the false brethren that troubled that church. We shall consider them and the characteristics of these false brethren.

In the NT days it was circumcision that was the issue of contention. Circumcision is not contentious these days, but the points show us  what happens when we allow anyone impose a legalistic way of life on us.

D4.1a Removed from Christ

….ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. ….For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
Gal. 1:6 – 10

These false teachers troubled the Galatians, that is the believers were  subverted by false doctrine. They preached a gospel, which was perverted, that is it was  of a completely different character. It was not the message of the NT.

Instead it was a message of a DIY Christianity, a works based gospel. By self-effort and works of the Law. A message that tried to find favour with God by the works of the flesh.

The word ‘removed’ means to replace one thing with another object. And this is just what happened: the Galatians had allowed these false teachers to replace the grace of God in their lives with the works of the flesh and law.

For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
II Cor. 11:4

Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
Acts 20:30

When speaking for the last time to the Ephesian saints the apostle warned that the false teachers will come from their own company! He then gives the remedy of watching and remembering what they had received from himself.

We have the complete canon of Scripture, and so if anyone comes from without, or arises from within we are to watch and remember what has been written for our benefit, and check the teaching against the Bible, Acts 17:10-12.

The true Gospel is by grace through faith. It has all been accomplished at Calvary. We live, stand and walk by faith, and not by anything we can do or achieve.

D4.1b bring into bondage

……because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you….

The purpose of these false brethren was to bring the people into bondage, namely a bondage to themselves and their system of living. This is  so they could have control of their lives, and thus it is ever with legalistics.

The Gospel brings liberty to the individual. Liberty from sin, the law and that of the lordship of men and women controlling one’s spiritual life. These legalistics don’t like people being free. Instead they want to put them under their control. Such is the way with manmade systems.

Paul’s answer was not to give them any room to do so. We need to be aware when such things come in and not allow those  people any ground into  our lives. Christ alone is our head and we are directly connected to Him and Him alone.

D4.1c bewitched

O foolish Galatians who hath bewitched you that ye should not abbey the truth

The word bewitched here meaning fascinated. One of the means by which false teachers gain ground is by the way they present their teaching. They fascinate people, make it look really appealing, or in Paul’s words : enticing words Col.2:4.

We are reminded of the devil’s temptation of Eve, which we considered in Danger 1.

D4.1d Isolation

They zealously affect you but not well yea they would exclude you [ from us] that ye might affect them

The false teachers had significant effects on those they persuade to follow them. But it was not a good influence. They were jealous that they might follow the Apostle more than they. What they were doing was to draw the Galatians away from Paul, to isolate them from the truth so that they would only hear them.

Thus it is with false teachers, using phrases such as : “ we’ve got the true word of God”, “ you are either for us or against us” and other similar slogans. Usually such Gaslighting is an indication that the group in question is a either cult or are in grave danger of heading in that direction.

These false teachers wanted the Galatians to be wholly bound to the Law, or rather to their influence and so isolated them from Paul and the true gospel

D4.1e Their disciples

Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand. As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.

One last mention of the false teachers. They were  those who were teaching that adhering to the Jewish law was a necessity for salvation. However we must emphasise that the responsibility of their falling away was the Galatians’ believers themselves, for they walked after the flesh, and so reaped what they sowed.

Paul is saying that they were glorying in the Galatian believers. It is almost as if they were more concerned with a following than with following God themselves. Here is a dire warning then, we are not to make disciples of ourselves or a cause, nor are we to be disciples of any man or cause; rather we are follow Christ, and encourage others to follow Christ alone. The Holy Spirit is given to point men and women to Christ (Jn.16:8-14) so if we are walking in the Spirit we should be doing the same.

In constraining others, their concern was not for the followers but for themselves. They were doing all that was possible to save themselves from the persecution of being identified with Christ and His cause.

The cross divides: to those who believe it is the power of God, for the Jews, a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, I Cor. 1:22-24.

D4.2 Our response

When false teaching comes across our paths we always have a choice: to go along with it or resist. Chapter two of Galatians shows what choices some of the apostles made, and how the situation was rectified. But a choice we do have. The question is which way will we take?

The work of God is in the inward heart of men and women. No amount of outward ceremony and religious workings can save a person. Yet false teachers want an outward show. This was purely to show off, to have the eyes of others on them,

But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments……. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

We see the Lord’s judgment on the religious leaders of the day, they were only interested in being seen of men, to receive the praises of men rather than God

These false teachers were taking the rightful place of Christ in peoples’ lives. Let us remember that the Christian life is : Christ in us the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). We are to be conformed to the image of Jesus (Rom.8:29-30). This being God’s purpose for us we should resist attempts by anyone to make us conform to their image of how they think the Christian life should be. We should definitely not make people follow us and become an image of us. Instead we should be pointing men and women to Jesus.


D4.3 Summary

The false religious teachers, preached an outward form of religion. They did not want to be identified with Christ and the narrow way of which He spoke whilst on the earth. The cross indeed had become a stumbling block to them. For the Cross of Christ is the only way which God has appointed. The cross destroys all efforts of the flesh. It is therefore clear that anything that reverts back to the flesh is contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So these false teachers, not willing to submit to the cross of Christ, revert to the only other thing they can have, the outwards trappings of a religion; in doing so they require others do the same. They constrain others to follow their teachings and in doing so trouble the Saints. Any one who does follow them removes themselves from the true path of the Gospel, and replaces it with a message that is diametrically opposite to that of Christ.

Men and women often fall because of the fascinating/ enticing words that are peddled. They find themselves, in time, disciples of these teachers, isolated from true believers and in a system that involves compulsion of some sort. The false teachers are more concerned about having a following

All this speaks of cult like behaviour and if not dealt with can lead to disastrous consequences for those so trapped. But that’s what the error the Colossians were in danger of was.

Let us beware then that no man judge us and thus  become entangled once more with the yoke of bondage.