Galatians 5:7–15 (NKJV)
7 You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.Galatians 5:7-15
11 And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased. 12 I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!
13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
Paul takes a desperate and sometimes sarcastic tone in this passage. He has fully communicated his opposition to the Judaizers who would have required all Christians in Galatia to follow the Jewish law, especially the practice of circumcision. He begins with a rhetorical question that refers to their prior good race versus the hindrance that has moved them backward rather than forward: “You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” The truth here is the gospel message of salvation by grace through faith. He taught them the right way to salvation, and these hindrances are now pulling them back into a system of bondage that cannot save. He reminds them of his teachings, and then warns them that just a little of the ideology of bondage will spread throughout the body like a little yeast in a loaf of dough. He then pronounces judgment on the false teachers. Paul then makes sarcastic statements that presume he is still preaching circumcision, and yet is still being persecuted. This sarcasm makes it seem as if they must have heard this false doctrine from him since they are believing it, yet he is still being persecuted by the Jews! Of course, he did not teach circumcision as a requirement, and his persecution is a sign of that very fact. However, they are believing the teaching on the necessity of circumcision that comes from these Judaizers anyway. Paul then speaks harshly about the false teachers, stating that he wishes that they would be cut off, much like the process of circumcision, from the body of Christ at Galatia.
Finally, Paul reiterates the need for the Galatians to live in the liberty in which they were called. This liberty will not give occasion for fulfilling fleshly desires, but instead should elicit a response of love for one another that will fulfill the purpose and will of Christ. He uses the imagery of circumcision once again by forbidding them to “bite and devour one another,” citing the damage that will occur from such practices. Paul does not want to create a culture of anarchy, citing grace as a reason to sin willfully. Paul does, though, want to encourage his disciples to live in the freedom from guilt and shame that comes from an oppressive system of laws that are impossible to uphold in our frail humanity. The balance comes through love that supersedes selfish desire and longs to bless the Lord and others. Christian love will guide the child of God into right living and holiness. Follow after Christ hard and learn from Him. Then, live in the light of that truth and be free to love like Christ loved. Don’t make God or others ask, “Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”