Galatians 2: The Pendulum Swings Both Ways

Yesterday, I briefly commented on the danger of “turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.   But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-9).   Do not “go beyond what is written,” Paul warned in 1 Corinthians 4:6.   John’s warning in his second letter is loud and clear: “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God” (2 John 9).   It is a serious transgression to distort the one gospel.

But the pendulum of unhealthy doctrine swings both ways.   In Galatians 2, Paul warns about those who would bind where God has not bound.

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me.   I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.   But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.   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.   And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.   (Galatians 2:1-6)

The inspired written word has definitive boundaries.   “Do not go beyond what is written” is a spiritual sign-post on the journey to heaven that we must be willing to acknowledge.   But there is also an unmistakable element of the truth which sets us free (John 8:32).   Where Christ had established freedom, Paul was unashamed to be unyielding in submission “even for a moment” to “false brothers.”   Why?   To avoid the same pitfall he had warned about in Galatians 1.   “So that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.”

There is only one gospel.   It contains objective truth.   Its untainted preservation is more important than any personal opinion or human tradition.   We must submit to and abide within its gracious boundaries.   But we must also be humble enough to avoid creating walls of unwarranted division.   We must be respectful enough to resist binding heavier burdens than the Lord ever intended.