Spies, Lies and Alibis, Part 1

Are you ready for some good news?

There’s a reason that Paul was so mad, so persistent and so passionate about his rejection of the “false brothers” who urged Christians to practice the Old Testament ritual circumcision. The Gospel is pure and free!

The Epistle to the Galatians is forceful on the issue of freedom:

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 uses military language to describe the “false brothers.” They were “secretly brought in,” they “slipped in,” and they did so “to spy.” Paul is literally declaring them to be double agents. It was urgent for Paul. If Al Qaeda had slipped into the Pentagon, it would be urgent to know it. That’s the force of Paul’s argument here.

The Gospel is at stake. The issue of the “spies” paints a picture of an ongoing spiritual battle. It’s a battle for the mind. It’s a battle that is intended to dilute the Gospel of its power. It’s a battle that is meant to bring division in the body of Christ. And such must be identified.

Spies must be exposed.

Years ago, a man purporting himself to have some physical ailments infiltrated our church and was soon taking advantage of some members’ naïve and merciful hearts. I was suspicious. Then, one evening at our Sunday night worship service, the man came forward for prayer. As I began to pray for him, he wanted to talk. Soon, he was asking me to come visit him at his home. When I informed him that my schedule didn’t allow me to do much in home visitation, but that other members of our pastoral staff would be happy to, he cussed me. Yep, right in the prayer line at the front of the church, he cussed me.

It didn’t take long before the man was telling lies about our leadership and duping some of our members with his tales. What do you do about a “spy” like that? Elders tried to talk with him, but he refused to be corrected. After multiple attempts for a peaceable solution, we finally sent an elder to tell him that he could no longer come to our church. He mumbled a threat about a lawsuit, but disappeared.

It’s that sort of discernment that made Paul so insistent on calling out the “spies” who were trying to destroy Christian freedom by polluting the Gospel with legalism. For Paul, and for us, one drop of legalism poisons the entire Gospel and the spies who plot to do the poisoning must be exposed. Salvation is free and powerful and pure. And that’s the Gospel!

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