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Calling a Spade a Spade: The Curse of False Teachers

Dec 11, 2011 12:00 AM

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Let’s turn together in God’s word once again to the book of Galatians and read together beginning in chapter 5, verse 1, and read down to verse 15.

1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5:1-15 ESV)

We have already looked at these verses and we understand the main issue which Paul addresses quite forcefully throughout this brief letter.  Jews who are zealous for the Law of Moses, and who are offended by the preaching of salvation by grace alone rather than by the works of the Law, are proselytizing the Christians of Galatia to convert them out of Christianity and into Judaism.  The Jewish way of life, their understanding of the Scriptures, their perception of the Lord Jesus as the Messiah of Israel exclusively, their relationship to the Gentile nations, the typical Jewish understanding of all these things is in upheaval because of this man Paul.

Even more than the other apostles, Paul has nearly single-handedly turned the world upside down.  The gospel message was first preached only by Jews to Jews.  But now Paul has taken the gospel of God’s grace to non-Jews, telling them they can be justified in the sight of God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by repenting of their sins and trusting in the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  This message of salvation for the nations has provoked the Jews to persecute Paul.  His gospel goes against everything the Jews have ever known, but it is all spelled out in the Old Testament and explained quite skillfully by Paul.  Which makes the Jews hate him even more.

So instead of going toe to toe in biblical debates with Paul, the Jews try to undermine his missionary work among the Gentiles throughout the region of Galatia.  This letter is written by Paul to counteract their attacks on grace, and to rescue the Galatians from a life of religious slavery the Jews are trying to impose upon them.  He says here in chapter 5, “For freedom, Christ has set us free.  For you were called to freedom, brothers!” So don’t be snookered into thinking you need to return to bondage of another kind, a Jewish kind, to the slavery of law-keeping, in order to be acceptable to God.  In Christ, and in Christ alone, God sees us as righteous and we are free from the impossible burden of trying to save ourselves by our own efforts.

Here in chapter 5 and verse 6, Paul states the entire issue in one brief sentence: For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. That is the issue.  For the person who is in Christ, the only thing that counts is faith working through love.  Jew/Gentile distinctives are a moot point.  It is not unlike the issue raised in Saudi Arabia over women driving cars.  There, it is against the law for a woman to drive a car.  Here, in America, it is not a consideration at all.  Men drive cars, women drive cars.  Women drive tractor trailers.  It’s not an issue.

The Jews of Paul’s day were stuck in a Saudi Arabian kind of mindset.  They can’t get past the idea that Jews and Gentiles aren’t alike, like the Saudis can’t get past the differences between men and women, and the obvious (in their minds) inferiority of women.  Paul says, no.  All men and women everywhere are alike spiritually.  All are sinners.  All need a Savior.  And all are saved in the same manner.  Not by their own righteous deeds, but by Christ’s righteous deeds on their behalf.  And this is the thing that drives the Jews crazy.  Freedom makes them crazy.  The free offer of the gospel, the free offer of salvation to all people, the free offer of eternal life to the morally inferior Gentiles makes them angry.

But Paul gets rather angry himself.  Look at verses 7-12.

7 You were running well.  Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted?  In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! (Galatians 5:7-12 ESV)

Paul loves the Galatians.  That is why he says what he does in verse 12.  The Judaizers are like wolves attacking Paul’s sheep.  And Paul is the shepherd who has come to their aid to defend them.  There is no love lost between himself and these false teachers who are spreading lies about Paul.  In essence he says, “I wish they would do to themselves what they desire to do to you, and worse!”  The Holman Christian Standard Bible puts it in such a way as to remove any doubt about what Paul means here:

I wish those who are disturbing you might also get themselves castrated! (Galatians 5:12, HCSB)

Paul is torqued.  And undoubtedly some would say he was wrong in speaking this way.  They would say his attitude towards the Judaizers was unloving and intolerant.  They would say Paul needed to decaffeinate and take a time out and collect his thoughts and apologize for such hateful speech towards his Jewish brethren.

Nope.  That’s not gonna happen.  There are times when you just need to call a spade a spade. 1  Paul is saying, “These guys are evil.  They are liars.  They have lied to you about me.  They want to rob you of the only hope of salvation there is.  They want you to become like them more than they want you to come to Christ.  They are slaves to Judaism and they want to force you to join them in their hopeless bondage.  I wish they would take their circumcision knives to themselves and get a little crazy with it!“

Paul is angry!  You can hear it in his voice.  Notice verse 7: You were running well.  Who hindered you from obeying the truth?  “Who is it that is causing you to stumble like this?  Tell me his name!”  And in verse 10 he says, I have confidence in the Lord that . . . the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. “I’m trusting the Lord to take care of this guy.  The Lord knows who he is.  He won’t get away with this.”

Would that God might raise up more defenders of the sheep against the wolves!  Would that God might grant His sheep more teachers of His word and fewer entertainers for the masses.  It is right for us to be angry towards those who lead God’s people astray, who hinder them from fighting the good fight and running the good race, all in the name of Christ.  We don’t need to worry about being civil and tolerant towards those who deceive God’s people and preach false gospels that don’t save.  Paul said, “Let them be anathema!”

8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:8-9 NIV)

Eternally condemned!  Anathema!  Cursed by God!  Sent to Hell!  Where are the men who would preach such a message as Paul’s and pronounce such condemnations against the Rob Bells and the Brian Maclarens and the Benny Hinns and the Joyce Meyers and the Joel Osteens of our day?  Brothers and sisters, those men who would preach against the false teachers of our day are very few and far between.  Pray for God to raise up men and women who love the Church, who love God’s people, and who are willing to do and say whatever is necessary in order to protect them from those religious liars, those wolves in sheep’s clothing who would drag us to Hell with them if they could.  Listen to what Charles Spurgeon said:

“These destroyers of our churches appear to be as content with their work as monkeys with their mischief.  The case is mournful.  Certain ministers are making infidels. …. A little plain-speaking would do a world of good just now.  These gentlemen [false teachers/false prophets] desire to be let alone.  They want no noise raised.  Of course thieves hate watch-dogs, and love darkness.  It is time that somebody should spring his rattle, and call attention to the way in which God is being robbed of his glory, and man of his hope…..” 2

Here’s a bit of plain-speaking that is doing a world of good in our day:


This is the kind of righteous anger and straight talk that Paul expressed in Galatians.  The false teachers are one thing, but our churches, and ESPECIALLY the pulpits of our so-called evangelical churches, are filled with cowards who prefer the accolades of men over the approval of God and the suffering that comes with serving God faithfully.  If you preach the truth, and if you make it a point to name the names of those who are merely masquerading as ministers of the gospel, you WILL suffer persecution.  Look at verse 11:

But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted?  In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.

Paul is being persecuted by his fellow Jews for preaching salvation by means of the sacrifice of the Messiah upon a Roman cross, and by that means alone.  That is very offensive to the Jews.  They don’t like hearing that salvation has nothing to do with being Jewish, but it has everything to do with what God has done through Christ upon the cross.  They don’t like the fact that they all completely missed the coming of their own Messiah and they were responsible for is crucifixion!  They don’t like Paul minimizing their religion for the sake of the salvation of the miserable Gentiles.  So they persecute him.

How might he avoid this?  What would he need to do to escape the abuse and the suffering that comes from his fellow Jews?  Just agree with the Judaizers and preach circumcision as necessary for salvation.  Just preach salvation by Christ AND keeping the Law of Moses!  Then the persecution will stop.  Just preach the same lies they are preaching and they will leave you alone, Paul!  And the price to pay to escape persecution by means of compromising the gospel?  The price is to be damned, to be cursed by God.  To be anathema.

These wolves amongst the sheep are so evil and so deceitful and so conniving that they even tell the Galatian believers that Paul, PAUL! preaches circumcision for salvation!  And Paul says, “If I were preaching that, I wouldn’t be in constant danger of death from my own countrymen!  If I preached circumcision, then the offensiveness of Christ alone for salvation would be removed!  Why do you think I’m STILL being persecuted?  I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.” (Galatians 5:12, Green’s Literal Translation).

But possibly the most important point to be made for us here may be what Paul says in verse 7 - “You were running well.  Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”  You WERE running well.  You WERE!  But you allowed someone to cause you to stumble and fall away from salvation by grace.

Many years ago I had a friend who claimed to be a Christian.  He and I worked together and we enjoyed each other’s company very much.  Then one day we were talking about Christianity and about the Lord and I said I knew I was going to Heaven when I died.  That struck a chord.  “Nobody KNOWS they are going to Heaven when they die!”  He thought I was being arrogant.  And the reason he thought that was because he believed in salvation by works.  Being good was what got you into Heaven and nobody could KNOW they had been good enough.  And my friend was a Lutheran.

Martin Luther must have been rolling over in his grave!  “WHAT?  Have you completely forgotten the Reformation?  Have you completely abandoned salvation by grace?  Do you not know we have already fought this battle, that we have already spilled blood over this issue, that many good men and women have died defending salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone?  You were running so well!  Who hindered you from obeying the Gospel?  If you now believe you’ll eventually be saved by your own good deeds, then don’t call yourself a Lutheran!  Don’t call yourself a Christian!!  You have abandoned the gospel.  You are cut off from Christ.  You have fallen from grace.”

How does that happen?  From listening to false teachers and bad theology.  For example, the Council of Trent was the 16th-century Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church.  It is considered to be one of the Church's most important councils.  It convened in the city of Trent, now in modern Italy, between December 13, 1545, and December 4, 1563.  The primary purpose of this church council was to address and condemn the “heresies” of the Protestant movement in Europe, and to define Church teachings in the areas of Scripture and Tradition, Original Sin, Justification, Sacraments, the Eucharist in Holy Mass and the veneration of saints. 3

The Council of Trent was a major reform council and the most impressive embodiment of the ideals of the Counter-Reformation.  It would be over 300 years until the next Ecumenical Council in 1962.  When announcing Vatican II, Pope John XXIII stated that the precepts of the Council of Trent continue to the modern day, a position that was reaffirmed by Pope Paul VI. 4  When he was asked if Vatican II changed Catholic doctrine, his response was, “What was still is.”

So what did the Council of Trent determine to be the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church which, according to Pope Paul VI “still is”?  Here are a few samples:

Sixth Session, Chapter IX - Against the Vain Confidence of Heretics (or more specifically, the Protestant Reformers): [N]o one can know with a certainty of faith . . . that he has obtained the grace of God [for salvation]. 5

Sixth Session, Chapter XVI - The Fruits of Justification, That Is, The Merit Of Good Works, And The Nature Of That Merit: . . . [T]o those who work well unto the end and trust in God, eternal life is to be offered, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Christ Jesus, and as a reward promised by God Himself, to be faithfully given to their good works and merits.  We must believe that nothing further is wanting (lacking) to those justified to prevent them from being considered to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law . . . and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained (not granted) in its due time . . . .  6

Canon 11 - If anyone says . . . that the grace by which we are justified is only the good will of God, let him be anathema. 7

Canon 24 - If anyone says that the justice (i.e. justification) received is not preserved and not also increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained (granted by grace alone), but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema. 8

Canon 30 - If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema. 9

Canon 33 - If anyone says that the Catholic doctrine of justification . . . derogates . . . from the glory of God or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, . . . let him be anathema. 10

Seventh Session, Canons on Baptism

Canon 5 - If anyone says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation, let him be anathema. 11

Canon 8 - If anyone says that those baptized are free from all the precepts of [the] holy [Roman Catholic] Church, whether written or unwritten, so that they are not bound to observe them unless they wish to submit to them of their own accord (will), let them be anathema. 12  [Or, if we say that once a person, an infant, is baptized, that baptism frees that person from all the rules and regulations of the RC Church that may violate the conscience of that person, and that such a person is no longer in bondage to obey whatever the Church says, then we’re accursed.]

Now do you see why the message of Galatians is so important?  Do you understand why Paul was so angry at those who insisted upon law keeping for salvation?  Do you understand how Martin Luther may have been the apostle Paul resurrected from the dead???  (Not really.)  These two men were facing the exact same issue, and they were both persecuted by those in authority for telling the truth: that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  The gospel is worth getting angry over when men distort it and cause God’s people to stumble and fall in order to lead them away from saving grace into the religious servitude of men and institutions like Judaism and the Roman Catholic Church.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Do not ever submit again to a yoke of religious slavery.


1. "call a spade a spade." The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Houghton Mifflin Company. 10 Dec. 2011. < a spade a spade>.



4. Ibid.

5. Schroder, H. J. The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, Tan books and Publishers, 1941/1978, p.35.

6. Ibid, p.41.

7. Ibid, p.43.

8. Ibid, p.45.

9. Ibid, p.46.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid, p.53.

12. Ibid.



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