Read Galatians 2:3-5 (NKJV):
Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
In the prior 2 verses, we see that Paul’s purpose to go back to Jerusalem is to have his message confirmed for the sake of the Apostles, not himself – he was completely confident in his message for he had received it directly from Jesus Himself.
As has been noted many times, Paul’s message (and authority!) had been challenged by a group who were trying to convince (and it was working well) the Galatians that to actually be saved, they needed to be circumcised on top of their faith. Paul refutes this obviously and says such a teaching is another gospel and that anyone preaching such a gospel, whether it be him, and angel, or anyone else, should be accursed (Gal 1:8-9). Strong words but this was a matter of spiritual life and death. For if one believes that Christ’s work is insufficient and that there must be some work or works to complete it, cannot be a Christian. That is why Paul says they that preach such a damning lie, should be accursed. Only by confessing and trusting that Christ’s work is sufficient, can you be saved. Your trust needs to be handed to Him.
Paul labels these trouble-makers as “false brethren”. It was clear in his mind that they although others might have thought they were believers (or even these men believed they were) that he did not think so. These men were in a peculiar situation in that they were opposed to traditional Judaism because of their supposed allegiance to Christ and yet opposed to Christianity because of their insistence of additional rites to be “saved”. Yet, above all, they were dangerous.
Once you understand exactly what is going on here, you cannot but compare what is going on to the Catholic Church. They would agree with the “false brethren” that faith is the foundation of Christianity but they also add that certain things have to be done – first communion, mass, etc to be really safe. Paul, based on this letter, would most clearly and strongly disagree. That is why one must be very careful about ever equating Catholicism with a real disciple. The teachings of that apostate church cannot lead anywhere bud bondage and the consequences of that bondage is hell. That is what was happening with these people in Galatia.
These false brethren would sneak in uninvited to the congregation. The language used by Paul clearly shows that they had devious methods in mind. They did not seek to come in to exhort the believers into truth because they had believed they had strayed. No, they sought to sneak in (pretending to be real believers initially) in order to corrupt and to cause turmoil. They were tools of the devil (knowingly or unknowingly).
That is why we need to be so careful of false brethren nowadays. The modern church has lost it’s discernment and willingly accepts anyone who mentions “Jesus”. They do not examine or question. In fact, this sort of thing is avoided deliberately to avoid the perception of being judgemental or unloving. Christendom is rife with false teaching and cults now. No one opposes them and rather they are often embraced. That is what the Devil seeks and Christians are drinking this up and watering down the church and thus the message it presents. We must have discernment and any that complain need to be ignored. We need to realise who the real Lord of our heart is and not bow down to the opinions and favour of man.
Paul makes an observation about what these false brethren were doing (among other things) – spying out their liberty in Christ as a means to bring them into bondage. The truth that comes from the real gospel of God brings freedom from bondage – to sin, the world etc. It frees us from the consequence of sin so that we rather live as slaves of righteousness (Rom 6:18) who do good works as a result of the new and transforming life within us. We do not do them to earn our justification but as a result of our adoration and gratitude to Christ our Lord and what He has done in us.
Christ brings freedom and yoke has been borne by Him. His Spirit dwells in us to lead us and guide us to all truth and we freely obey – not out of compulsion and bondage but out a burning desire to please the One who rescued us from eternal, fiery hell. We need to start realising what we are saved from so we can appreciate better the work of God in our hearts. Then obedience becomes a desire which opposes sin.
Notice how in verse 5, Paul says they did not yield “even for an hour”. On its own, circumcision was no big deal. Paul probably would not mind Titus being circumcised. It would be pointless but no big deal. However, because this situation was being played out in Galatia, it was imperative that Paul and his faithful group stay true to the gospel and that is one is saved by faith alone – there are no works involved (Ephesians 2:8-9). They did not compromise for an hour. This was an issue that was so fundamental in regards to salvation, that to give any ground would move from the gospel, to “another gospel” and that is a gospel of damnation and bondage.
The Lord, our God, calls us to stand strong on His truth. We cannot afford to yield for an hour either. There are many issues which we need to stand strong today on. Never has God’s Word been so attacked from within before. The foundations have been struck time and again. Men cave in to popular teachings such as evolution. They move away from openly and honestly proclaiming the gospel of God by making it sound more palatable and “fresh”. Some movements have signs and wonders as real proof of salvation. We cannot afford to give ground for even the shortest time – even if, by worldly wisdom, it looks like the decent thing to do. The gospel goes beyond the world’s wisdom. It is priceless and we need to treat it as such!
Some churches seek to make the gospel friendly and unthreatening. Well, the gospel is a threat. It threatens men’s sinful way of life and calls them to account to a holy God. It says to them that the wrath of God is coming against sin and it dwells heavily on those who have not trusted in Christ’s saving work on the cross.
My brothers and sister, can I strongly urge you to take a strong stand against false teaching and the destroying of the gospel? Can I strongly urge you to openly and bold take a stand on God’s Word and all that is in it? Can I strongly urge the men of God to rise up and disciple their families into submission to Him and His Word? I fall greatly short. The Lord seeks out people who desire to please Him and to do His will. I want to be one of them.
May God help the true disciples of Christ rise up and preach the Word strongly. May He bless those disciples and encourage and empower them. God bless!!