In the opening chapters of Galatians Paul has received word that the church in Galatia has turned to a false gospel. He is astonished at how quickly these “Christians” have believed and are following a lie.
Galatians 1:6-11 Â “I am astonished that you areÂ so quickly desertingÂ him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning toÂ a different gospelâ€”7Â not that there is another one, butÂ there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.Â 8Â But even if we orÂ an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you,Â let him be accursed.Â 9Â As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received,Â let him be accursed.Â 10Â For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I tryingÂ to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be aÂ servantÂ of Christ. (ESV)
This false gospel is more-than-likely Jewish teachers who are requiring the new “believer” to be circumcised (Gal. 2:4). But why would these people who have heard and believed the true gospel be so easily persuaded by false teachers? Â The distortion seems to be linked to people seeking the approval of men. These early believers were swayed by an age-old principle called “political correctness.” Instead of holding to true doctrine, they allowed their foundational beliefs to be manipulated by a desire to please men and hold to men’s traditions.Â You can not please man and God. Paul could not be an apostle “servant of Christ” and please men.
Mankind was created for fellowship and relationships with other people. Most emotionally mature people desire peace and an absence of disorder and chaos. So in order to keep the peace and keep relationships intact, they blur and compromise those areas where there are disagreements. Paul understands that the church needs to be intact in order that it may accomplish its’ purposes. But how does the leader address these heresies while also trying to keep the church together? If he had led as a dictator, running “rough shod” over people’s emotions and feelings, not caring how his actions or words would be felt then it would splintered into pieces. Paul, as an apostle, is correct in his doctrine and realizes that if the Galatian church continues in this heresy then there is no salvation, and the gospel would have been corrupted and would continue to corrode into traditionalism and Pharisaical behavior (that of adding requirements to the gospel).
So knowing he needs to address this wrong behavior, even while dealing with his own emotions (astonishment) he writes a letter to address it. As a leader there will be times when we will need to deal with people who are hurting the church (either in ignorance of doctrine, or willful attack). Paul gives us several things to think about in how he dealt with the situation.
Galatians 1:11-24Â ForÂ I would have you know, brothers, thatÂ the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.Â 12Â For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received itÂ through a revelation of Jesus Christ.Â 13Â For you have heard ofÂ my former life in Judaism, howÂ I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.Â 14Â And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremelyÂ zealous was I forÂ the traditions of my fathers.Â 15Â But when heÂ who had set me apartÂ before I was born,Â and whoÂ called me by his grace,16Â was pleased to reveal his Son toÂ me, in orderÂ that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone;Â 17Â nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.Â 18Â ThenÂ after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days.Â 19Â But I saw none of the other apostles except JamesÂ the Lord’s brother.Â 20Â (In what I am writing to you,Â before God, I do not lie!)21Â Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.Â 22Â And I was still unknown in person toÂ the churches of Judea that are in Christ.Â 23Â They only were hearing it said, â€œHe who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.â€Â 24Â And they glorified God because of me. (ESV)
How Paul Deals With False Teachers and a Church Who Has Believed Them
1. Love People. He calls them “brothers.” He does not start with how they are different (me v. you), but how they are joined together (brothers.) He also begins with love, as in you love those within the church family.
2. CommonÂ Experience. He begins with a brief history of his own life, as in “my former life in Judaism” and how he was also “zealous for the traditions of my father.” They are still his fathers in the faith. Â He shows that he has a thorough understanding of the Old Testament and the Jewish traditions.
3. ScripturalÂ Authority.Â He did not consult with men as he was being called to preach to the Gentiles — they things were revealed to him. He is also careful to point out that it was after three years he went to Jerusalem (and saw no one except for James.) He was unknown among the the churches that he visited. After 14 years he went back to Jerusalem just to confirm what he was doing was not in vain. He knows and understands the true gospel because it was revealed to him form God, and it was confirmed to him in various churches all preaching the same thing.
The gospel is God’s message to us revealed to certain men to be shared with us. It is the same gospel that goes to Peter and Jewish people who are already circumcised, and with Paul and the non-Jewish people who are uncircumcised. Â In order to draw these members who had been persuaded by false teaching he appealed to love, his own experience, and his authority as an apostle (Scripture). When you approach a situation like this be loving and express how you are joined together through Christ as “brothers.” Identify with them of how you have even dealt with the same questions and concerns they have. Lastly, show from Scripture (not tradition) where they have erred in their ways. It is the ultimate authority.
Just because you have correct doctrine does not mean that you have liberty to treat people rudely, or in any way that pushes them away from this correct doctrine. If the group (i.e. Galatian Church) splinters then they are easy targets for the wolves to tear them apart.
When Jesus began His public ministry one of the first things he did was to surround himself with disciples, who were given increasing levels of authority and responsibility as Jesus traveled. Eventually these disciples were released into independent leadership. For leaders, no matter how talented or energetic, there is a need to have others to help them and that they invest themselves into others.
Sometimes this investment does not give the dividends that are desired. Judas, for example, was one of Jesusâ€™ chosen disciples and had unprecedented access to Jesus. We know that things did not turn out well for Judas.Â But 11 out of 12 times the investment in others turned into the expansion of the gospel.
As a leader, investing in others and giving them genuine responsibility does many things for the expansion of the gospel, specifically:
Three Reasons To Lead Another Toward Leadership
1)Â Â It allows the ministry to expand â€“ two people (or more) can do more than one person. The gospel was able to go in twelve different directions at the same time, multiple churches were able to come into existence, and countless disciples were made in multiple places all at the same time because a leader invested in and trusted them.
2)Â Â It allows people to grow as persons â€“ with this newly given responsibility, the new leader will be stretched to learn new things, deal tactfully with â€œministry situationsâ€ that up until now was handled by the main leader.Â These new leaders will learn to lean on the wisdom and experience of others to do the ministry better.
When Joshua served as Mosesâ€™ amanuensis, it was a service of great learning for Joshua. Moses needed help, and God provided Joshua to help him. It was a symbioticÂ relationship where the work was able to be done at a greater quality than if one did not have the other.
When God was giving Moses the law on Mt. Sinai, Joshua was there and experienced the giving of the Ten Commandments, even though he was serving as Mosesâ€™ assistant. Joshua was able to learn how to deal with even greater situations by closely watching the main leader. Eventually, Joshua would have Moses lay his hands upon his head and this great weight of leadership would lay heavy upon his shoulders.
Jesus even said in Mark 9:33-37, â€œAnd they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, â€œWhat were you discussing on the way?â€ 34Â But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35Â And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, â€œIf anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.â€ 36Â And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37Â â€œWhoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.â€ (ESV)
It is serving as the least, as an amanuensis, that a person learns how to lead. It is in humility and humbleness that you seek to make another person look great and make him a better person that you learn how to lead. Sadly, many people donâ€™t want to serve years or decades as a servant of another leader â€“ they want leadership immediately. The problem is that they tear churches apart in their learning process and donâ€™t know what to do with this eternally important responsibility once they have it.
3)Â Â It allows the main leader the ability to be away from his primary responsibility in order to do other ministry tasks. When there is no leadership, ministries fall apart and decline. Someone always has to â€œstand in the gapâ€ of leadership. So with a new leader â€œholding down the fortâ€ while the main leader is away, there is an assurance that things will continue to run smoothly and progress.
Every leader needs time away for rest, spending time with family, mission trips, or learning at conferences or workshops. When these leaders are able to rest or learn they return to the ministry refreshed and better equipped to take the ministry even further and with a renewed vision.
For further reading I suggest that you click here and read about the meta narrative of the Bible. It’s a lengthly article but shows how there are different ways to share what God has done for mankind through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
â€œThe next morning I sat across from Eddieâ€™s father, Leroy Meek. He looked like a bum. His beard was long, his hair was matted, and his eyes were red. He had been fishing the bayou for his sonâ€™s body all night. Leroy began to tell me his story.
â€˜I am a foreman for a large construction company. I did not go to work yesterday due to the flooding. We have eight children. I told them not to go outside to play. But while I took a nap, three of the boys slipped out and made a raft of Styrofoam material and began to float down the bayou. The raft broke up. Two of the boys were able to get out, but Eddie could not get out. The other two raced home and awakened me. I jumped into the pickup truck and sped to the bayou. I tried to reach Eddie, but the concrete sides were steep and the water was rushing and I couldnâ€™t get to him. He was screaming, â€˜Daddy, help me! Help me, I canâ€™t hold on much longer!â€™ â€˜I ran back to the pickup truck and grabbed a rope. Eddie screamed, â€˜Somebody help me! I canâ€™t hold on much longer!â€™ I threw him the rope, but the rope was too short!â€™
As I listened to Leroy, a chill went down my spine. I chocked back tears as I visualized the scene he described. It was like God was speaking to me and showing me the multitudes of hurting people near our church. Like Eddie, they were clinging to whatever they could hold on to. They were crying, â€˜Help me! Somebody help me! I canâ€™t hold on much longer!â€™ And Christians and churches were throwing out ropes, but the ropes were too short to reach the world.
I made arrangements for the funeral and set an appointment to visit the family in their home that afternoon. Dan, our minister of music, and I were the first Christians to enter the Meek home. They had never allowed our bus ministry workers or others from the church in.Â That afternoon the Meeks were open to Christ. All of the things they were confident in had failed. What Leroy wanted and needed from me was to know his Creator. Our best ministry at this point was to respond to their spiritual need for comfort from God.
Leroy said, â€˜Pastor, I have done all kinds of things with my boys. I have taken them fishing, hunting, and camping out, but I have never sat with them in church.â€™
â€˜When the funeral is over, if it is OK, I would like to come back and visit with you about Christ,â€ I responded.â€™â€
As Christians I am assuming that we are throwing ropes to help people (to ignore the plight of a drowning society would be monstrous), so what are the ropes that we are throwing? Are these ropes too short?Â How would we know one way or the other? Do the cries of those being swept away saying, â€œI canâ€™t hold on much longer!â€ keep us awake at night? Do tears of the Father and seeing him trying to help his loved ones stir us to want to help? Are we content with just doing funerals that may have been prevented?
We can change the world around us and make a difference right where we are by throwing a rope that saves â€“ it is not too short. We have been given the â€œministry of reconciliationâ€Â where â€œAll this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.â€ Christ saved us from drowning in sin and despair, he lifted us onto a solid foundation â€“ he saved us.Â But he did not send us into the lighthouse to dry off and get warm. Instead he handed us a flotation circle, and a rope and said go and throw your rope.
As long as we throw out the gospel to people, it is the only means of salvation that will not fall short.Â If we throw programs, buildings, fellowships, come as you are, health and wealth, faith healings, your best now, etcâ€¦ we will continue to see hands slip below the surface.
 Darrell W. Robinson. Total Church Life (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman and Holman, 1997) 11,12
 2 Corinthians 5:18