Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 1 Study # 4
March 27, 2011
4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.
1901 ASV Translation:
4 and that because of the false brethren privily brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
5 to whom we gave place in the way of subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
6 But from those who were reputed to be somewhat (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth not man's person)-they, I say, who were of repute imparted nothing to me:
7 but contrariwise, when they saw that I had been intrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, even as Peter with the gospel of the circumcision
8 (for he that wrought for Peter unto the apostleship of the circumcision wrought for me also unto the Gentiles);
9 and when they perceived the grace that was given unto me, James and Cephas and John, they who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision;
10 only they would that we should remember the poor; which very thing I was also zealous to do.
- I. Paul's Confrontational Clarification of the Gospel in Jerusalem.
- A. The "fourteen years".
- B. The issue of "going up to Jerusalem".
- C. Barnabas and Titus.
- D. The divine mandate.
- E. Paul's action.
- F. The key result.
- G. The "false brethren".
- 1. They are identified by Paul as "false brethren", but by Luke as "Pharisees who had believed" (Acts 15:5).
- 2. Their goals.
- a. They came in to "spy out our liberty".
- 1) The word Paul used here is only found here in the New Testament (though in another, less emphatic form, it is found also in Hebrews 11:31 to refer to the spies Moses sent into the land who were protected by Rahab). It apparently means to attempt to find and exploit "defensive weaknesses".
- 2) The particular interest is "the liberty which believers have in Christ".
- a) The issue of this "liberty" is made known in several texts of the New Testament.
- i. Romans 8:21 identifies "liberty" as a freedom from "the bondage to corruption". This particular phrase refers to the gradual loss of vitality that leads to being able to do less and less. Ultimate "corruption" is the absolute inability to "execute", or use "energy" to accomplish some task. By default, then, "liberty" is the ability to continually draw "power" from Elohim (the Source of all Power) to pursue various and sundry tasks.
- ii. 1 Corinthians 10:29 identifies "liberty" as a "freedom to act without real guilt, or, even a sense of guilt".
- iii. 2 Corinthians 3:17 declares that "liberty" exists wherever the Spirit of the Lord is actively functioning. This is highly enlightening in that it reveals the Source of "liberty" (as the ability to possess and use "power" to pursue one's tasks): God's Spirit. This strongly implies that "liberty" is not to be found anywhere else. The "flesh" cannot sustain any kind of incoming "power", nor can any created thing. God is, alone, the Executor of Power in the sense of sustaining the level of power so there is no "corruption".
- iv. Both Paul (Galatians 5:13) and Peter (1 Peter 2:16) caution against using one's "liberty" to do evil. This adds another dimension to "liberty". It is not merely the sustained ability to use energy in the pursuit of one's goals, nor is it the ability to be guilt-free after such use; additionally, this text reveals that it is the ability to do evil without some form of negative consequence. Since there is an inevitable negative consequence to every evil action, we must ask what "form" of negative consequence is disallowed by God when a believer does evil? The only form which the New Testament identifies is that form which the death of Christ for sins disallows for those who have believed: divine judicial retribution. There can be no "wrath" for those whose sins are covered by the death of Christ through faith. Therefore, it is possible for a believer to use his/her "liberty" (as freedom from the wrath of God) to do evil. Believers can do evil and never face judicial retribution. That is not to say, however, that there are not things other than divine judicial retribution that will come into play when a believer does evil (divine discipline, the kick-back of a cause/effect world, spiritual bondage, emotional crises, physical deterioration, etc., etc.).
- v. 2 Peter 2:19 details another facet of "liberty": freedom from the compulsion to do self/other-destructive things.
- vi. The bottom line of "liberty" seems to be this: the ability to do what one genuinely wishes to do without the repercussions of guilt or condemnation. In other words, he/she is "free" who wishes to do good, has the power to do good, and acts upon those wishes with that power.
- b. They wished to "bring us into bondage".
- 1) How does a "false brother" profit from bringing a true brother into slavery?
- a) Galatians 4:17 gives at least a partial answer: "false brethren" are out to build a following that uses the followers for the benefit of the leader.
- b) Galatians 5:11 and 6:12-13 give another aspect of the answer: "false brethren" wish to live "the good life" on the backs of all whom they are able to lock into their "flock".
- 2) What does it really mean to be "in bondage"?
- a) From a consideration of the opposite of "liberty", we can say that "bondage" boils down to either being forced to act against one's desire, or to being subjected to guilt and condemnation because one "failed" the "leader".
- b) At root is the fact that "bondage" consists of being unable. The Ultimate Executor of Power does not give a consistent flow of power to those who seek false goals, neither does He grant peace of mind and joyful satisfaction to those who are enslaved to corruption (2 Peter 2:19).