Apostasy in Galatia
[This chapter is based on the Epistle to the
While tarrying at Corinth, Paul had cause for serious apprehension
concerning some of the churches already established. Through the influence
of false teachers who had arisen among the believers in Jerusalem,
division, heresy, and sensualism were rapidly gaining ground among the
believers in Galatia. These false teachers were mingling Jewish traditions
with the truths of the gospel. Ignoring the decision of the general
council at Jerusalem, they urged upon the Gentile converts the observance
of the ceremonial law.
The situation was critical. The evils that had been introduced
threatened speedily to destroy the Galatian churches.
Paul was cut to the heart, and his soul was stirred by this open
apostasy on the part of those to whom he had faithfully taught the
principles of the gospel. He immediately wrote to the deluded believers,
exposing the false theories that they had accepted and with great severity
rebuking those who were departing from the faith. After saluting the
Galatians in the words, "Grace be to you and peace from God the
Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ," he addressed to them these
words of sharp reproof:
"I marvel that 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.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you
than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed."
Paul's teachings had been in harmony with the Scriptures, and the Holy
Spirit had witnessed to his labours; therefore he warned his brethren not
to listen to anything that contradicted the truths he had taught them.
The apostle bade the Galatian believers consider carefully their first
experience in the Christian life. "O foolish Galatians," he
exclaimed, "who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the
truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth,
crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the
Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so
foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. He
therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among
you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of
Thus Paul arraigned the believers in Galatia before the tribunal of
their own conscience and sought to arrest them in their course. Relying on
the power of God to save, and refusing to recognise the doctrines of the
apostate teachers, the apostle endeavoured to lead the converts to see
that they had been grossly deceived, but that by returning to their former
faith in the gospel they might yet defeat the purpose of Satan. He took
his position firmly on the side of truth and righteousness; and his
supreme faith and confidence in the message he bore, helped many whose
faith had failed, to return to their allegiance to the Saviour.
How different from Paul's manner of writing to the Corinthian church
was the course he pursued toward the Galatians! The former he rebuked with
caution and tenderness, the latter with words of unsparing reproof. The
Corinthians had been overcome by temptation. Deceived by the ingenious
sophistry of teachers who presented errors under the guise of truth, they
had become confused and bewildered. To teach them to distinguish the false
from the true, called for caution and patience. Harshness or injudicious
haste on Paul's part would have destroyed his influence over many of those
whom he longed to help.
In the Galatian churches, open, unmasked error was supplanting the
gospel message. Christ, the true foundation of the faith, was virtually
renounced for the obsolete ceremonies of Judaism. The apostle saw that if
the believers in Galatia were saved from the dangerous influences which
threatened them, the most decisive measures must be taken, the sharpest
An important lesson for every minister of Christ to learn is that of
adapting his labours to the condition of those whom he seeks to benefit.
Tenderness, patience, decision, and firmness are alike needful; but these
are to be exercised with proper discrimination. To deal wisely with
different classes of minds, under varied circumstances and conditions, is
a work requiring wisdom and judgement enlightened and sanctified by the
Spirit of God.
In his letter to the Galatian believers Paul briefly reviewed the
leading incidents connected with his own conversion and early Christian
experience. By this means he sought to show that it was through a special
manifestation of divine power that he had been led to see and grasp the
great truths of the gospel. It was through instruction received from God
Himself that Paul was led to warn and admonish the Galatians in so solemn
and positive a manner. He wrote, not in hesitancy and doubt, but with the
assurance of settled conviction and absolute knowledge. He clearly
outlined the difference between being taught by man and receiving
instruction direct from Christ.
The apostle urged the Galatians to leave the false guides by whom they
had been misled, and to return to the faith that had been accompanied by
unmistakable evidences of divine approval. The men who had attempted to
lead them from their belief in the gospel were hypocrites, unholy in heart
and corrupt in life. Their religion was made up of a round of ceremonies,
through the performance of which they expected to gain the favour of God.
They had no desire for a gospel that called for obedience to the word,
"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
John 3:3. They felt that a religion based on such a doctrine, required too
great a sacrifice, and they clung to their errors, deceiving themselves
To substitute external forms of religion for holiness of heart and life
is still as pleasing to the unrenewed nature as it was in the days of
these Jewish teachers. Today, as then, there are false spiritual guides,
to whose doctrines many listen eagerly. It is Satan's studied effort to
divert minds from the hope of salvation through faith in Christ and
obedience to the law of God. In every age the archenemy adapts his
temptations to the prejudices or inclinations of those whom he is seeking
to deceive. In apostolic times he led the Jews to exalt the ceremonial law
and reject Christ; at the present time he induces many professing
Christians, under pretence of honouring Christ, to cast contempt on the
moral law and to teach that its precepts may be transgressed with
impunity. It is the duty of every servant of God to withstand firmly and
decidedly these perverters of the faith and by the word of truth
fearlessly to expose their errors.
In his effort to regain the confidence of his brethren in Galatia, Paul
ably vindicated his position as an apostle of Christ. He declared himself
to be an apostle, "not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ,
and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead." Not from men, but
from the highest Authority in heaven, had he received his commission. And
his position had been acknowledged by a general council at Jerusalem, with
the decisions of which Paul had complied in all his labours among the
It was not to exalt self, but to magnify the grace of God, that Paul
thus presented to those who were denying his apostleship, proof that he
was "not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles." 2
Corinthians 11:5. Those who sought to belittle his calling and his work
were fighting against Christ, whose grace and power were manifested
through Paul. The apostle was forced, by the opposition of his enemies, to
take a decided stand in maintaining his position and authority.
Paul pleaded with those who had once known in their lives the power of
God, to return to their first love of gospel truth. With unanswerable
arguments he set before them their privilege of becoming free men and
women in Christ, through whose atoning grace all who make full surrender
are clothed with the robe of His righteousness. He took the position that
every soul who would be saved must have a genuine, personal experience in
the things of God.
The apostle's earnest words of entreaty were not fruitless. The Holy
Spirit wrought with mighty power, and many whose feet had wandered into
strange paths, returned to their former faith in the gospel. Henceforth
they were steadfast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free. In
their lives were revealed the fruits of the Spirit--"love, joy,
peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness,
temperance." The name of God was glorified, and many were added to
the number of believers throughout that region.