Today’s selected reading continues in and concludes the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the churches which were in Galatia. More specifically today’s passage begins with the sixteenth verse of the fifth chapter and continues through to the eighteenth verse of the sixth chapter. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revilings, and such like: of the which I told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:16-21).
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:22-26).
“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. And we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:1-10).
“Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand. As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid that I should glory, ssave in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth aqny thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen” (Galatians 6:11-18).
When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the epistle written unto the churches in Galatia drawing to a close. It’s actually quite interesting when you take the time to read the words found in this portion of Scripture and see how this particular epistle ends. In order to truly understand the full nature of how this epistle draws to a close it is absolutely necessary and imperative to consider how the fifth chapter opens and begins. If you take the time to read the words found in the opening verses of the fifth chapter you will find the apostle Paul inviting and instructing the Galatian saints to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free. What’s more is the apostle Paul also instructed and commanded them to be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. These words are actually incredibly unique—particularly when you consider them in light of the words which our Lord Himself spoke when He declared that He whom the Son sets free is free indeed. What’s more is that it is also written in the Scripture that it is for freedom we have been set free, thus indicating that we have indeed been called to a life of complete and utter freedom in Christ. Perhaps one of the greatest truths we must needs recognize and understand is that this freedom can only be found and can only come by and through the person of the Holy Spirit and is found in the person of Jesus Christ. It was in the third chapter of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints the apostle Paul emphatically declared that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. The liberty which the apostle Paul spoke of in this particular passage was the liberty that is found in the Spirit concerning the veil which is removed when the Law is read as there is indeed a liberty that is and has been found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the final verse of the fourth chapter we find the apostle Paul emphatically declaring that we are not the children of the bondwoman but of the free. I continue to read the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the churches which were in Galatia and I am brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth that this epistle was written to invite these dear saints out of their bondage and slavery and into the glorious freedom that is found in Christ through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul recognized and understood that these saints were indeed in bondage and slavery—and not merely bondage and oppression but religious bondage and oppression. What we must needs recognize and understand is that there is a spirit—perhaps more than any other spirit within the church and among the body of Christ—that seeks to ensnare and enslave men and women in bondage and slavery. There is a spirit of religious that seeks to entangle, ensnare and enslave men and women within the body of Christ unto a yoke of slavery and bondage—such as which they were never intended on carrying among themselves. Just as the Lord Jesus—when speaking of the scribes and Pharisees—declared that they placed heavy burdens upon others which they themselves were not willing to lift a finger to help them carry. In all reality if you read the four New Testament gospel narratives you will find the scribes, Pharisees and the religious community of that day being religious taskmasters who forcefully and brutally oppressed and opposed the people during those days.
As I sit here today thinking about the words which are found in the four New Testament gospels—specifically concerning the scribes and Pharisees and the other religious leaders—I can’t help but think about the fact that just as Pharaoh had appointed taskmasters who cruelly oppressed and opposed the people during the days of John the Baptist and Jesus so also were there religious taskmasters during the days of the apostle Paul and of the early church. In all reality these religious taskmasters first surfaced in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts when we read of certain brethren which came forth from Judaea and troubled the saints and believers which were present in Antioch. These brethren which went forth from those in Judaea entered in among these saints and began troubling them in matters of circumcision and works of the Law claiming they could not experience salvation without and apart from being circumcised and performing works of the Law. The beloved physician Luke writes and records concerning these brethren how a great dissension and debate rose up in the midst of the church and how Paul and Barnabas were sent unto the elders and brethren which were present in the city of Jerusalem to uncover the heart and mind of those in the city concerning this matter. It is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand this for when we consider a vast majority of the persecution which was initially experienced in the New Testament book of Acts we must needs recognize that it came from among the Jews toward and against the Christians and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The more I think about this particular reality the more I am convinced that the enemy and adversary’s first attempt to thwart the growth of the church and the spread of the gospel was to raise up the religious leaders in Jerusalem against the apostles. In the fourth and fifth chapters you will read of the religious leaders during those days first commanding the apostles not to preach in the name of the Lord Jesus. In addition to this command not to preach in the name of the Lord Jesus they also imprisoned them not realizing that during the night an angel of the Lord would come unto them in the prison and deliver them out of the prison cell(s) they had been in. On the very next day we find the apostles continuing to preach and teach in the name of the Lord Jesus in the Temple—much to the shock and surprise of the religious leaders which were in Jerusalem. What we find after this was the religious leaders beating the apostles thinking and hoping that their beating of them would drive the message home that they were not to preach in the name of the Lord Jesus. What we find, however, is the apostles rejoicing in the Lord Jesus that they were not only counted worthy to partake in His sufferings but were able to bear witness of Him in the city of Jerusalem. Oh it is absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand the enemy and adversary first attempted to quench and stifle the growth of the early church and the preaching of the gospel by imprisoning and beating the apostles. Undoubtedly the enemy and adversary thought that if they were beaten and imprisoned they would cease preaching in the name of the Lord Jesus not realizing that it would only further embolden them—and not only embolden them but also drive them further into prayer.
When you come to the sixth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find that when it was realized that imprisonment and beating would and could not stop the preaching of the gospel of the Lord Jesus the enemy and adversary would make a martyr out of one of their own. It was in the sixth chapter where we read of Stephen who was a man full of faith and full of the Holy Ghost who would not only preach mightily among those in the city of Jerusalem but would also work great miracles in witness to the gospel. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for the sixth chapter brings us face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the Grecians being unable to stand in the midst of the wisdom and knowledge found in the person of Stephen. As a direct result of this the Grecians would raise up false witnesses against Stephen bearing false accusation against him claiming that he not only blasphemed against the Law but also the Temple. In the seventh chapter of this New Testament book we find Stephen speaking before his accusers and opponents and beginning with Abraham would present them with a history of their people throughout the generations. Eventually and ultimately Stephen would call them a stiff-necked people who were uncircumcised in heart and in their ears. As a direct result of this they would all with one accord bring Stephen forth from the midst of the city and would stone him with stones thus making him the church’s first martyr.
As you read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts you will find that when imprisonment and beating the apostles could not work in stifling the spread and growth of the church and the preaching of the gospel there would be the first martyr who would be stoned to death outside the city of Jerusalem by many of the Jews who rose up in opposition against him. What we find in the eighth chapter immediately following the stoning to death of Stephen is a great persecution breaking out in the city of Jerusalem against the early church. In the opening verses of the eighth chapter we find a great persecution breaking out in the early church against and among the saints of God in the city of Jerusalem. So severe was this persecution that all but the apostles would be scattered abroad throughout Samaria and Judaea. What makes this all the more intriguing is when you consider the fact that the persecution which would break out against the early church would not only lead to the further spread of the gospel and growth of the church but it would also lead to the Samaritans hearing the word of the Lord Jesus and receiving the same Spirit of promise which those in Jerusalem had experienced. It would be in Samaria where Philip one of the seven would preach the gospel concerning the Lord Jesus and would work great miracles and wonders among them. When it was reported among the apostles and brethren what was happening in Samaria they would send the apostles Peter and John unto Samaria to not only observe the work but also assist in the work. It would be when the apostles Peter and John arrived they would lay their hands upon them and pray for them that they would receive the person of the Holy Spirit. As a direct result of this many in Samaria would receive the Holy Spirit just as many in the city of Jerusalem had before that time.
It is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize this for when we come to the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find Saul continuing to breathe our threats and murders against the Church. Not only this but Saul would obtain letters from the chief priests in Jerusalem that he would persecute these followers of Christ as far as Damascus. If he found any followers of this way in the city of Jerusalem he had authority from the chief priests to bring them bound unto Jerusalem to either face imprisonment or even death itself. What is so interesting and unique about this is that while Saul was journeying along the road from Jerusalem unto Damascus he would encounter a brilliant light that would shine round about him. In the midst of that brilliant light would be one who would call him by name and ask why he persecuted Him. When Saul asked the one speaking unto him who he was the voice responded by declaring that He was Jesus whom Saul was persecuting. Ultimately it would be told unto Saul to enter into the city and await instruction concerning what he must do next. After this encounter with the risen and ascended Jesus Saul would be blind and would have to be led by the hand into the city where he would remain praying and fasting as he awaited that which the Lord had promised. Eventually the Lord would send a man by the name of Ananias who would not only lay his hands on Saul but would also instruct him to receive his sight, to be baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. Immediately after Saul received his sight, was baptized, was filled with the Holy Spirit and received meat he would begin preaching and declaring that Jesus was indeed both Lord and Christ.
The ninth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts would conclude with Saul mightily preaching in Damascus that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed both Christ and Lord. Eventually, however, the Jews which were present in the midst of Damascus rose up against him in persecution and even sought to put him to death. When Saul would learn of their plot and scheme against him he would be let down from the wall in a basket by the brethren that he might escape unto the city of Jerusalem. When coming unto the city of Jerusalem, however, Saul was hesitant to immediately go up unto the brethren and the apostles and confer with them. It wouldn’t be until Barnabas would come unto Saul and present him unto the apostles and brethren in Jerusalem as one who not only saw the person of the Lord Jesus but also who had mightily preached that Jesus was indeed the Christ and the Lord. After Barnabas’ coming alongside the apostle Paul and presenting him as being changed and transformed after seeing the Lord Jesus he was able to move freely among the apostles and brethren in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. We dare not and must not miss this for even in Jerusalem there would be those who would raise themselves up against him in persecution seeking to kill him—namely the Grecians who were the same ones who had persecuted Stephen, raised up false witnesses against him, and incited the mob to put him to death by stones. What we find in the ninth chapter, however, is Saul being delivered out of the hands of those who sought to put him to death bringing him forth from the city and sending him unto Tarsus.
It is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand that which is present in the New Testament book of Acts for when the enemy and adversary realized that imprisoning and persecuting the apostles would not work he would have the first Christian among them put to death and martyred for the sake of the gospel. In addition to this a great persecution would break out against the Christians in the midst of the city of Jerusalem thus causing them to be scattered throughout Samaria and Judaea. This persecution would continue even against Saul as he would not only be persecuted in the city of Damascus but would also be persecuted in the city of Jerusalem. If you continue reading in the New Testament book of Acts you will find that this persecution would continue even further when Herod would put to death James the brother of John with the sword. When he saw that putting James to death with the sword pleased the crowd and people he would proceed to imprison the apostle Peter intending to bring him forth the next day to also be put to death. Herod would order the apostle Peter to be placed in the inner cell and be guarded tightly by four quaternions of Roman soldiers. What we find in this passage of Scripture, however, is that the LORD would send one of His angels into the prison by night who would awaken Peter out of his slumber. Immediately the chains and shackles which bound the apostle Peter would fall and he would be instructed to gird himself and get up. The angel would not only open the prison door of Peter’s cell and lead him out of the prison but also the gate of the city would open of its own accord as the angel and Peter departed from the city. When the angel led him as far as he could he would depart from his presence. It would be at this particular moment the apostle Peter would recognize that it was not a vision but was actually taking place. Immediately he would go unto the house of John Mark’s mother where he would remain and abide—at least throughout the rest of the night.
There is something to be said about what we find in the New Testament book of Acts for within its pages we find persecuting breaking out against the early Church in a variety of different means and avenues. What would begin as simply the persecution of the apostles by imprisonment and beating would eventually transition into the putting to death of the church’s first martyr Stephen at the hands of the Jewish mob. This martyrdom of Stephen would ignite an even greater persecution in the midst of the city of Jerusalem—a persecution not against the apostles alone but against the church itself. As a direct result of this all but the apostles were scattered throughout Judaea and Samaria because of the persecution. This persecution would even continue in Damascus against Saul of Tarsus when he preached and proclaimed that Jesus was indeed the Christ and Lord. This persecution would even continue in Jerusalem against the apostle Paul as the Grecians could not stand in the midst of the wisdom and knowledge given him by revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ. In the twelfth chapter of this New Testament book we find Herod putting to death James the brother of Jesus with the sword and then imprisoning the apostle Peter intending on putting him to death as well. Oh we must needs recognize and understand this for perhaps one of the greatest themes found in the midst of the book of Acts is the persecution of the saints and Christians. Not only this but more often than not it was the Jews who would persecute the Christians and would even persecute the apostle Paul in certain cities which he would journey to.
If you read the seventeenth and eighteenth chapters of this New Testament book you will find that the unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica and Corinth who were moved with envy against the apostle Paul would incite the crowd and mob against him. It would be in these two cities the unbelieving Jews would raise themselves up against the apostle Paul as they would not only blaspheme themselves but would also oppose him without hesitation and reservation. As a direct result of the blasphemy and offense of the Jews in Thessalonica the brethren would send Paul forth out of the city unto Berea where he would continue teaching and preaching in the synagogue that Jesus was indeed both Christ and Lord and was raised from death to life. When, however, the Jews which were in Thessalonica heard of the apostle Paul preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in Berea they would come unto Berea and would incite the crowd there against the apostle Paul. As a direct result of this the apostle Paul would be sent forth from that place by the disciples and brethren and would eventually come unto Athens. After the apostle Paul would preach in the city of Athens he would come unto Corinth where he would align himself with Aquila and Priscila who were both Jews and had forced out of their previous place of residence by order of Claudius who ordered all the Jews to depart. It would be there in the midst of Corinth the unbelieving Jews would also blaspheme and oppose themselves after the apostle Paul would argue and contend that Jesus was indeed both Christ and Lord—perhaps one of the single greatest declarations found in the book of Acts concerning Jesus of Nazareth.
I sit here today thinking about and considering this incredible truth and I am brought face to face with the tremendous and incredible truth surrounding the assaults against the early Church and how one of the major assaults against them was indeed persecution. What we must needs recognize and understand, however, is that persecution wasn’t the only assault against the church and the early Christians during those days. While it is absolutely unmistakable that persecution was indeed one of the greatest instruments in the hands of the enemy and adversary against the early church it would not be the only instrument which was used by him. When you come to the fifteenth chapter of this New Testament book you will find another of the tools and weapons in the hands of the enemy against the church—namely, that of religion and legalism. If persecution would and could not destroy the church nor stop the spread of the gospel and growth of the body then the enemy and adversary would seek to ensnare, entangle and enslave them. Oh the enemy would indeed permit them to continue calling themselves Christians and would even permit them to continue in their worship of the living God, however, he would seek to captivate them and ensnare them in shackles of religion. The words which we find in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts serves as the foundation for what we find in the epistle written unto the saints which were in Galatia for it is in this passage of Scripture we find brethren who would come from Judaea unto Antioch teaching and preaching that men ought to be circumcised and keep the works of the Law of Moses to be saved. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the fifteenth chapter beginning with the first and opening verse:
“And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Law of Moses” (Acts 15:1-5).
“And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them” (Acts 15:6-12).
“And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: but that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day” (Acts 15:13-21).
“Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: and they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Atnioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: IT seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well” (Acts 15:22-29).
That which is present in this passage of Scripture is actually quite unique—particularly when you consider it in light of what is found in the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the churches which were in Galatia. If you take the time to read the epistle written unto the churches which were in Galatia you will find that the very same thing which those in Antioch experienced when certain brethren came from Judaea and troubled them and subverted their souls by declaring how they must needs be circumcised and keep the works of the Law was the very same thing the churches in Galatia struggled with. In the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the churches which were in Galatia we find him speaking of those who entered in among them and troubled them preaching unto them another gospel which had not been preached unto them at the first. The apostle Paul begins and opens this epistle with a powerful declaration given unto these dear saints how he marveled that they were so soon turned aside from the true and authentic gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ unto a gospel that was not a gospel at all but was false. Although the apostle Paul would not immediately describe what this false gospel was we would later find in the epistle that which those who entered in among them would trouble them with—namely a yoke of religious oppression and bondage. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for in order to understand the words which are found in this epistle we must needs recognize just how the saints of the churches in Galatia were being troubled by those who would come unto and among them.
I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this particular epistle and I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that this epistle was indeed written to deliver these dear saints from the religious bondage and oppression that was being lobbied and raised up against them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth and reality for it calls and draws our attention to what the enemy and adversary would seek to do against the early church. If the gospel was indeed going to be preached unto and among those who were not Jews then the enemy was going to raise up those who would seek to ensnare, entangle and enslave them under a yoke of bondage. What makes the epistle written by the apostle Paul so incredibly unique is when you consider that some of the very same language used in this epistle was spoken among the apostles, elders and brethren in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. Not only this but there was also the strong undercurrent of similar language found in the letter which was sent from the apostles, brethren and elders in the city of Jerusalem unto the saints which were among the churches in Antioch. It would be while the apostles, the elders and the brethren were speaking in the city of Jerusalem the apostle Peter would stand up among them in their midst concerning the yoke that was being placed upon the Gentiles—namely, that they need to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses. What’s more is the apostle Peter would also declare unto them that this yoke was such that not even they nor their fathers could bear and keep within their time and generation.
I can’t help but see a strong link and connection between that which we find in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts and the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were among the churches in Galatia. It would be in the epistle written unto the Galatian churches the apostle Paul would not only speak unto them concerning those who troubled them but also those who would seek to bring them again under a yoke of bondage and slavery. In all reality much—if not all—of this epistle centers upon the religious bondage and oppression which was present among the churches which were in Galatia. It is impossible to read the words which are found in this passage and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the churches in Galatia and how the enemy and adversary was working among them to ensnare, enslave and entrap them through false gospel and false doctrine. RELIGIOUS ENTRAPMENT! RELIGIOUS TASKMASTERS! RELIGIOUS BONDAGE! Oh we would be incredibly naïve to think and consider the religion itself is not a spirit or bondage and oppression and does not seek to enslave men and women and bring them into bondage. It would be incredibly foolish of us to not recognize and understand that religion is indeed a spirit that seeks to enslave and ensnare men and women that they might not walk in true liberty and freedom that is found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. What we find in the epistle written unto the saints which were in Galatia is an incredibly powerful picture of those whom the enemy and adversary can and will seek to ensnare and keep in bondage to something they were never meant to be enslaved to.
What helps us understand this particular truth all the more is when you consider that which is found in the fifteenth and twenty-third chapters of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew. It is in these two passages of Scripture where we find the scribes and Pharisees being religious taskmasters who were present during the days of Jesus. It is impossible to read the four New Testament gospels and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth that the scribes and Pharisees together with the other religious leaders sought to bring the disciples of Christ—and not only the disciples of Christ but also those who would walk with and follow the Lord Jesus into bondage. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that the scribes and Pharisees together with the chief priests, the elders of the people, the religious experts, the teachers of the Law, the Sadducees and the like were religious taskmasters who were themselves bound by their own religious traditions and so much so that they sought to impose that upon those during the days and generation of Jesus. Not only this but they would continually seek to impose this upon Jesus and His disciples as more often than not Jesus and His disciples were the target and object of their fury, their rage and their oppression and persecution. Oh we must needs recognize that this persecution would initially break out against the person of Jesus who apparently showed no regard for the traditions and regulations of the religious leaders of His day and even seemed to show no regard for the Law of Moses as he not only cleansed the lepers but also healed on the sabbath. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the fifteenth and twenty-third chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:
“Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by men; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:1-9).
“Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:1-12).
“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell then yourselves” (Matthew 23:13-15).
“Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon” (Matthew 23:16-22).
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:23-24).
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell” (Matthew 23:25-33).
Oh we must needs recognize and understand the words which are found in these two passages of Scripture for in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus indicting and condemning the scribes and Pharisees for placing heavy burdens upon the shoulders of those of that generation which were grievous to be borne. What’s more is Jesus would also go on to declare that not only were the burdens they placed upon their shoulders grievous to be borne but they would not lift a finger to help them carry such burdens. The scribes and Pharisees placed such heavy burdens upon those present during that generation that would cause them to buckle under the weight and pressure of them. Not only this but when you consider the fifteenth chapter you will find Jesus quoting the prophet Isaiah concerning those who teach for doctrine the commandments of men. If there is one thing we must realize concerning the scribes and Pharisees it’s that they not only taught as doctrine the commandments of men but they also proceeded to accuse, indict and condemn Jesus and His disciples when they perceived violation of those doctrines and traditions. What’s more is that this concept of doctrine must be carefully considered for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the false doctrines and teachings which would be presented during the days of the early church. What would begin with the commandments of men being taught as doctrine by the scribes and Pharisees would continue with those who would seek to trouble the early church with their own burdens which they sought to oppose and oppress others with.
There is not a doubt in my mind when reading the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were in Galatia that it was written as a manifesto to deliver them from the religious oppression and bondage which was being hurled upon and against them. The more we read the words found in this passage of Scripture the more we are brought face to face with the fact that these dear saints were removed from Him who called them unto the grace of Christ unto another gospel which was not another. The apostle Paul would speak of there being some among them who troubled them and would pervert the gospel of Christ by preaching and presenting unto them another gospel which wasn’t a gospel at all. Moreover the apostle Paul would go on to declare that if any preaches unto them any other gospel other than that which they preached unto them that individual ought to be accursed in the sight of both God and men. With this being said it’s also important to recognize a different spirit which was present among the saints of God in the churches of Galatia for in the opening verses of the third chapter the apostle Paul asked them point blank who had bewitched them that they should not obey the truth before whose eyes Jesus Christ had been evidently set forth as crucified. The apostle Paul would go on to ask them if they had received the Spirit by works of the law or by the hearing of faith for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. The apostle Paul would continue writing unto them as having begun in the Spirit and yet were now made perfect by the flesh. Oh it is imperative we pay close attention to the words which are found here in this epistle for the words presented hear bring us to the place where we recognize that these dear saints were in fact allowing themselves to turn aside to another gospel which indeed was not a gospel but was a façade and smoke and mirrors presented by those who would pervert the true gospel.
When you come to the fourteenth chapter of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul continuing his manifesto of freedom and plea for deliverance by asking them how they turned again to the weak and beggarly elements whereunto they desired to be in bondage. Please don’t miss and lose sight of the tremendous significance of what is found in the fourth chapter of this epistle for the apostle Paul clearly described the saints of God which were among the churches in Galatia as not only turning again unto the weak and beggarly elements but were doing so to their own detriment as they were allowing themselves to be taken into bondage. Oh the words which we find here in the fourth chapter remind me of the words which are found in the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were in Colossae as well as the words which were written in the sixth chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews. I am absolutely convinced that one of the greatest tactics and strategies of the enemy is to not only oppress us through religious taskmasters but also ensnare and enslave us with yokes of bondage which we were never meant to carry. It is absolutely imperative we recognize and understand this for I would argue and contend that the enemy and adversary is willing to let us call upon the name of the Lord, is willing to let us worship in our sanctuaries, is willing to let us hear and listen to preaching, and is even willing to let us tithe so long as he can keep us enslaved, entangled and ensnared. The enemy can and will permit us to continue in our “walk” and “relationship” with the Lord so long as he can keep us bound by the spirit of religion and religious oppression.
Having said all of this I invite you to now consider the following words which are found in the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Colossian saints. It is what we find here that helps us to understand even more what the apostle Paul wrote in the fourth chapter of the epistle written unto the Galatians where he spoke of their observation of days, and months, and times and years. What’s more is I would also argue and contend that there is a great need to consider also the words which are found in the sixth chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews along the same lines. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in each of these passages of Scripture:
“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any hour to the satisfying of the flesh” (Colossians 2:16-23).
“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:1-8).
In light of the words which we find within these passages we must recognize and understand how the apostle Paul sought to be an agent and vessel of deliverance and freedom for these dear saints. It is in the fifth chapter the apostle Paul invites them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free as well as to no longer be entangled again with the yoke of bondage. This yoke of bondage is precisely what the elders and apostles and brethren in Jerusalem spoke unto the saints in Antioch spoke of when they not only wrote concerning those who troubled them but also those who placed upon them a yoke of bondage. In the fifth chapter we find the apostle Paul declaring unto the Galatian saints that they through the Spirit must wait for the hope of righteousness by faith and would go on to declare how in Christ neither circumcision avails anything nor uncircumcision by faith which works by love. Ultimately that which the apostle Paul sought to remind these dear saints of was not only faith but also freedom—faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and freedom from the religious entanglements that would seek to ensnare, entrap and enslave them. Oh we have a great need to recognize and pay attention to this for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth found within this epistle concerning the call to faith and freedom—two of the single greatest needs within the hearts and lives of those who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus. There is a great need for us as the saints of God to recognize and understand that we have not only been called to faith in the Lord Jesus for the just shall live by faith but we must also recognize and understand that we have been called to walk and live in freedom. It is and it was for freedom we have been set free and we have great need to stand steadfast and firm in that liberty and freedom at all costs as we carefully guard ourselves from being entangled again with the things of this world.
As I sit here today thinking about these things I can’t help but encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth that there are essentially two types of enslavement and entrapment in the life of the believer and saint of God. In the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were in Galatia we find entrapment and enslavement coming in the form of religion and the traditions and doctrines religion would seek to impose upon us. When writing unto his spiritual son in the faith Timothy the apostle Paul would instruct him to not be entangled in the things of this world. It would be the Lord Jesus when delivering the parable of the sower that He spoke of the seed falling among thorns and how the thorns choked the seed after it had been sown. The interpretation of this is those who received the word of the kingdom with all joy and with all rejoicing, however, the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choked the life out of the word thus preventing it from growing. The parable which the Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples and followers must be carefully understood for he emphatically declares that not only do the cares of this world but also the deceitfulness of riches choke the life out of the seed and out of the word of the kingdom which is sown within our hearts. Oh we have great need to recognize and understand this for the enemy and adversary has always and will always seek to ensnare, entrap and entangle us—not only with the cares of this world but also with the doctrines and traditions of religion. It is absolutely possible the enemy can and will seek to ensnare and entrap us with both and if he is unsuccessful in ensnaring and entrapping us with both he can and will seek to bring us into bondage to one of them.
If you continue reading the words which are found in this particular portion of Scripture you will find in the thirteenth verse the apostle Paul declaring unto them how they have been called unto liberty yet how they were not to use their liberty as an occasion to the flesh. There would be those who would use the liberty they have in Christ as an occasion and means to live in the flesh and to gratify the sinful desires and pleasures of the flesh within them. In the fifth chapter the apostle Paul reminds them that the liberty they have in the Lord Jesus Christ is to serve one another by love. Not only this but the apostle Paul goes on to declare that the whole Law is fulfilled in one word—Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. This would be followed by the apostle Paul declaring unto them that if they bit and devoured one another they would eventually and ultimately be consumed one of another. This was precisely what plagued the Corinthian congregation for the Corinthian congregation was not only bitterly divided among themselves but they were also a church and congregation which was at war with each other. Oh that we would recognize this for if you continue reading this epistle you will find the apostle Paul going on to describe how we have a great need to walk in the Spirit that we might not fulfil the lust of the flesh. The flesh lusts—and not only lusts but also wars against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh for the two are contrary to each other.
The apostle Paul would go on to conclude the fifth chapter by not only describing the works of the flesh but also the fruit of the Spirit. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for not only do we find the flesh and the Spirit at odds, at war and at enmity with each other but we also find a stark contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. What’s actually interesting when you think about it is how when speaking of those matters of the flesh the apostle Paul referred to works in the plural sense thus denoting many. When, however, the apostle Paul spoke of the fruit of the Spirit he spoke of it in the singular sense. What we must needs recognize is that while it is true that the saints of God might move and operate in one of the gifts of the Spirit while not functioning in any of the other this is not the case with the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is not a basket filled with fruit which we can pick and choose which one we want to partake of. There would be those who would think of the fruit of the Spirit as a basket which they can pick and choose which one they want to partake of and yet such a notion is not only false but is entirely and altogether deceptive. We have a great need to recognize and understand that the fruit of the Spirit is something which must be cultivated within our hearts and our spirits and this can only come to the degree and measure that we abide in Christ. It was when speaking unto the disciples the Lord Jesus emphatically declared that the world would know they were His disciples by the fruit they bore. Perhaps the single greatest question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are men and women who are not only free and who not only have faith but who also bear fruit in the sight of both God and men.