Troublemakers in the church! This is not a new problem. Unfortunately this is a rather common crisis in many assemblies today. The entire Book of Galatians is taken up with this issue. Look for a moment at how the Apostle Paul identifies the problem:
“…There be some that trouble you” (Gal. 1:7).
“…He that troubleth you shall bear his judgment” (Gal. 5:10).
“…I would they were even cut off which trouble you” (Gal. 5:12).
“…Let no man trouble me” (Gal. 6:17).
These troublemakers were an offense to the Gospel of Grace, a challenge to Paul’s apostleship, were harmful to the health of the local church, and were weariness to the soul of Paul and the Grace Believers.
The trouble was caused by the Judaizing missionaries who had moved North into the regions of Galatia, which was Gentile territory (known today as Turkey). They were Jewish converts to Christianity who came “from Judea and taught the brethren, Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1,5) – hence, they were called Judaizers. This was a serious error; they insisted on the blending of Law and Grace for salvation or spirituality. This legalism is always a problem and causes trouble for individuals or churches wherever it is found. It “perverts the Gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:7) and destroys the concept of grace as revealed in the revelation of the Mystery (Gal. 1:10-2:14). Furthermore, and most importantly, it makes a mockery of the finished work of Christ (Gal. 2:21).
This conflict has its counterpart in the legalistic teachings that have crept into much of contemporary Christendom. Such ideas manifest themselves in statements which imply that you can’t be saved or spiritual unless: “You dress in black; ride in a horse and buggy; ladies hide their face, cover their head, refuse cosmetics or jewelry; you are baptized; you speak in tongues; you have received the second work of grace.” Admittedly these statements are an over simplification of the underlying flawed theology that precipitates them. Paul said that the legalists “frustrate the grace of God” and are “fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). This is a struggle between Law and Grace and the Flesh and the Spirit (3:1-12). The truth is, “If righteousness comes by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2:21).
During the Book of Acts, God allowed two parallel programs to be carried on at the same time. Herein, Paul identifies the program gospels (Gospel of Circumcision and Gospel of Uncircumcision). This agreement was made concerning their perimeters or boundaries (Gal. 2:7-9; 2 Cor. 10:8-18). We are reminded that, during a time following this agreement, “certain from James” visited the Antioch Assembly and caused a breach in their agreement. So serious was this violation that “Barnabas was carried away by their dissimulation.” Furthermore, the Apostle Paul had to rebuke the Apostle Peter and the others because, “they walked not uprightly concerning the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:11-14). These troublemakers violated both the Gospel of Grace and the dispensational boundaries.
It should be noted that legalistic, church troublemakers always want some sign as evidence of salvation or spirituality. Paul told the Galatian believers that the legalists “constrain you to be circumcised…that they may glory in your flesh” (Gal. 6:12-17). That hurts! Paul is filled with righteous indignation and declares, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth” (Gal. 3:1)? He severely warns the legalists,“A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” You will be judged (Gal. 5:9-10).
Conclusion…What are concerned believers to do?
The Book of Galatians is Paul’s inspired labor to preserve the truth of the Gospel of Grace saying, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:9). Paul would not compromise the Grace Truth! He said, “No, not for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Gal. 2:5). We should be of the same mind and conviction. Paul gives us four instructions:
1. “Cut off” the troublemakers – “Cast out the bond woman” – Get rid of the legalism and the legalist (Gal. 4:30; 5:12; 6:7-8)!
2. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty…be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1-12).
3. Serve God by Love – not Law – “Love thy neighbors as thyself” (Gal. 5:13-15).
4. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh…if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the Law” (Gal. 5:16-18).