In the first century, Christians that lived in the region of Galatia were being hindered from faithfully serving the Lord. Someone was “bewitching” them (Galatians 3:1), troubling them (5:12; 1:7), and having a bad leavening influence on them (5:8,9). Who were these troublers? They were Judaizers – men that were trying to bind the teaching of the Law of Moses, in particular, the necessity of being circumcised (Acts 15:1,5). How were these Judaizers disrupting the churches of Galatia. By perverting the gospel (Galatians 1:7).
What was the consequence of those false teachers’ efforts? Note the message of Galatians 5:7: “You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth.” Some among the Galatian saints had ceased obeying the truth. Thus, they were in a state of spiritual death. That is how serious the situation had become. What instruction does the message of Galatians 5:7 provide for us today?
The Christian life is compared to a race. The Christians in Galatian are portrayed as “running,” and Paul elsewhere urges saints to “run in such a way” that they can obtain the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24). We are exhorted to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). From the time of our baptism into the Christ to the time that we leave this world – this is the time of our “Christian race.” It is not a race of speed to see who can beat others to a given point. Rather, it is a race of endurance. It is a race in which all who enter it can be successful and receive the crown of life. Like other races, this race has an end or finish line. Like other races, this race has a goal. Like other races, this race has rules/regulations by which the runners must run. Unlike other races, though, in the Christian race we are not in competition with other runners.
It is not enough to have run well in the past. God cares about how we are running at the present. The Galatian saints had run well in the past (“you ran well”). But what about right now, when Paul is writing to them? They were off course. How do we know? They no longer were obeying the truth. Let us not give in to the temptation to boast about our past service to the Lord and tell of how faithful we used to be. Let us not be deceived into thinking that if we were faithful at one time, then surely God will accept us no matter what we do now or in the future. It we ran with the Lord in the past, that is wonderful. Are we still walking in the light as He is in the light? (1 John 1:7). If not, then our past faithfulness counts as nothing.
Judas Iscariot “ran well” at one time, but later betrayed the Lord. At one point, Demas “ran” as a faithful co-worker of the apostle Paul (Philemon 24), but later forsook him and the Lord’s Cause (2 Timothy 4:10). The church at Ephesus had once flourished in good works as part of its faithful service to the Christ. There came a time, though, when He rebuked it for leaving its first love and called on the saints there to remember from where they had fallen, repent, and return to their former works (Revelation 2:2-5). We must not rest on past accomplishments, but keep our eye on the goal and strive to run well today!
In our race, sometimes there are people or things that hinder us. That is precisely what happened in Galatia in the first century. Notice the question: “Who hindered you . . .?” We know that in their case it was the Judaizers. What about today? Do you know someone in the church who at one time was “so faithful,” but now is not running well? Most of us know of such people. Maybe some of us are even in the category of “did run well, but no longer doing so.”
Who in our time hinders the children of God from obeying the truth? In some cases it may be friends, the kind that apply intense pressure to conform to their worldly ways and mock those that refuse to bend. It may be a boyfriend or girlfriend that entices a servant of the Lord to be involved in immorality. It may be a false teacher that deceives a struggling disciple by promising miraculous healing for all physical ailments. It may be a husband or wife that begs and convinces a child of God to go with him/her to a denomination. Many have been snatched into that trap, never to return. Sadly, sometimes the hinderer is a loose brother or sister in the Lord that just wants to get away from being bound to the New Testament pattern.
You and I must be wise enough to recognize those people or things in our lives that might be working to hinder us from walking faithfully with our Lord. Then, we must be strong enough to deal with those hindering things or people. Our souls are at stake. We must not allow anything or anyone to pull us away from our first love. We must be prepared to echo the words of Jesus: “Get behind Me, Satan” (Luke 4:8).
When all is said and done, if I do not obey the truth, then I must take full responsibility for my actions. As God’s children, we must keep on obeying His truth. Yes, it is an ongoing process. If I ever stop obeying the truth, it will be for one reason and one reason only. Others can hinder me. Others can influence me. Yet, in the end, it all comes down to my own personal choice. Will I, or will I not, choose to continue to obey the truth? It really is a matter of choice! On judgment day, it will do me no good to point an accusing finger at others, because we all will be judged according to what we personally have done.
Brothers and sisters, let’s be honest with ourselves and with one another. Right now, at this very hour, how are you and I running the race? May the Lord help us to take and use His whole armor that we might be able to stand against all the wiles of the devil.
— Roger D. Campbell