Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.
Galatians 2:4,5 ESV
Paul is speaking of the circumcision party in this passage. They were imposing circumcision on new converts to Christianity. They were demanding something of new Christians that was not demanded by the Lord. Their teachings were going against the gospel of Christ. They were seeking to bind the law on those that were not under the law. They were trying to force compliance to their demands, for salvation. They had a check list if you will, that had to be met before they would fellowship with others. If a particular box wasn’t checked, they would withhold fellowship. Imagine the frustration and confusion this caused in the early church.
Paul did not submit to this imposition, he refuted it. He strove to preserve the gospel just as it had been taught and handed down by the apostles. He wanted the truth to be taught, and nothing else. He would not allow anything to hinder the truth of the gospel. He sought true fellowship among believers. He understood the importance of unity within the body of believers.
Today there are still those that would impose a checklist on those that they would fellowship with. They have a list, and spy on others to see if they come into compliance with their list. If compliance isn’t found, attacks are made on those that are out of compliance. Labels are applied to the non-compliant. Labels such as apostate, heretic, and false teacher are bandied about without truly knowing the state of those they condemn. Simply because some feel free to do certain things, that the list holder deems unacceptable, they are unacceptable to the one spying on their freedom.
Paul refers to those that would spy on the freedom of others as false brothers. Why? Because while claiming to be a brother in Christ they are seeking to show that others are not true brothers in Christ because they don’t live up to the standard of those spying on the free. These false brothers create issues where there were no issues. They create division where there was no division. They negate the sacrifice of Christ, by imposing their will on others. Such false brothers are to be silenced, just as they were in the early church.
Beware those that come in among you as brothers, and then begin to find fault with the expression of the freedom you have in Christ. They seek to enslave you once again. The problem with giving into their demands of compliance is that the list will be ever changing and compliance will be unattainable.
Many congregations have been divided because of false brothers imposing their will on the body. The thing about these situations is that the false brother causing the division usually moves on after creating a rift. This is serves as a warning sign to congregations. If someone is seeking fellowship with you, and they tell you of all the faults of the “congregations” where they have fellowshipped in the past, this is a red flag. Always be wary of someone that has always left a body of believers because “they” were wrong. They will soon find fault with you as well.
© 2015 Leo J. Woodman