Galatians 5:7-12: The Race

April 9, 2018

 When Paul first arrived in Galatia the people were enthusiastic about his arrival, they were even concerned about him, ”I am sure you would have taken out your own eyes and given them to me if it had been possible” (4:25). Where is that joyful, caring, grateful and helpful spirit they felt then? It seems that everything was going very well for them, Paul says, “You ran well.” But something changed.

Our Christian life is not just running a race, it is running an obstacle course, a challenging course with many ups and downs. When I went into the Air Force in 1951, the first daunting assignment was a grueling, difficult, muscle-testing, bone-grinding run through the woods. The challenging physical obstacles included, running, climbing, jumping, crawling, swimming, rope-climbing, and wall-scaling. I was stationed in South Texas so the heat and humidity were fierce. Needles to say, it was terrifying and horrendous, but I passed!

Now, as a believer, I’m finding the obstacles even more challenging. Perhaps that’s why Paul says, “You ran well. Who hindered you”

Verse 7a: “You ran well…”

“Running” is a favorite theme with Paul, drawn from the races in the public Games common throughout the Roman empire.

Galatians 2:2, “…lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain.”

1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize?”

Philippians 3:12-14 MSG, I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”

“A literal translation of verse 7 gives us the answer, ‘You were running well. Who cut in on you so that you stopped obeying the truth?’ In the races every runner was to stay in his assigned lane, but some runners would cut in on their competitors to try to get them off course. This is what the Judaizers had done to the Galatian believers: they cut in on them and forced them to change direction and go on a spiritual detour. It was not God who did this because, He had called them to run faithfully in the lane marked ‘Grace.’” –Wiersbe

Marlena and I were present in the Los Angeles Coliseum for the 1984 Summer Olympics when 39-year-old Gabriella Anderson, the Swiss long-distance runner was participating in the first women's Olympic marathon. The temperatures were in the high 80s that day. Twenty minutes after the winner, Joan Benoit won in 2 hours, 24 minutes, and 52 seconds. “Gabriella Anderson entered the Coliseum. The crowd gasped as she staggered onto the track, her torso twisted, her left arm limp, her right leg mostly seized. She waved away medical personnel who rushed to help her, knowing that if they touched her she would be disqualified. While the effects of her heat exhaustion were evident, trackside medics saw that she was perspiring, which meant that her body still had some disposable fluids, and let her continue. The L.A. Coliseum crowd applauded as she limped around the track in the race’s final 400 meters, occasionally stopping and holding her head. Her entrance to the Olympic stadium and the struggle over the last 400m, which took five minutes and forty four seconds to complete, would make it a memorable finish. She finished 37th out of 44, in a time of 2 hours, 4 minutes, and  42 seconds” –Wikipedia. But she finished the race!

Hebrews 12:1 NLT, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

Verse 7b: “Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”

“You were running superbly! Who cut in on you, deflecting you from the true course of obedience?” (Galatians 5:7 MSG). Here is a picture is of a runner who was doing well until someone cut in and knocked him off stride.

“In 1960 there was a famous race in Canada between two great runners. The four minute mile was about to be broken and the world expected John Landy or Roger Banister to do it. John Landy had been leading for most of the race and there was only about two hundred yards to go. They were coming out of the last corner when John Landy looked behind to see where his opponent was placed. At that very moment Roger Banister passed him on the outside while he was looking back on the inside. He lost the race and will go down in history as the runner who looked back. He  should have been concerned with running his own race. But he took his eyes off the finish line and looked at his opponent, and that cost him the race.” –Stephen Caswell

These Galatian believers were finding it difficult in their Christian lives, troubled by the false teachers who were “bewitching” them (Galatians 3:1), “troubling” them (Galatians 1:7; 5:12), and in general, “hindering” their growth (Galatians 5:7). Who were these who would pervert the truth, and hinder them from obeying the truth? The Judaizer’s, people who were teaching that they must be circumcised and keep the law of Moses before they could become Christians (Acts 15:1,5).

Verse 8: “This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you.”

In other words, don’t blame God. God didn’t have anything to do with it. Someone has changed their true concept of the gospel to a false persuasion! As Jude writes, “some people have infiltrated our ranks…who beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels” (Jude 1:4 MSG). These false teachers are very subtle as they creep into the life of a Christian or a congregation. Rarely do they declare themselves openly, and reveal their real purpose until they have thoroughly entrenched themselves and indoctrinated their victims. These Galatians had been taken in or fooled by the Judaizers and their false teaching. 

Verse 9: “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”

The Greek word for “leaven” is zumé, “a substance, as yeast or baking powder, that causes fermentation and expansion of dough or batter.” –

Throughout the New Testament, God uses leaven as a symbol of sin.

Jesus warns us in Luke 12:1, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:6,7 NLT, “Your boasting about this is terrible. Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are.”

“But you see that yeast causes something to ferment. It changes; as a matter of fact, I looked it up. It says it’s a living organism that causes fermentation. It says it changes chemically whatever it’s put into. Something had changed the chemistry of the body of Christ in southern Galatia. And what had happened was grace was no longer taught. Religion and law and works of the flesh became the predominate thing and it was like a cancer eating up the body of Christ in southern Galatia. “A little leaven” he says “leavens the whole lump.” –Dr. Wayne Barber,


There are three things you never mess with: 1) a little poison, 2) a little dynamite and 3) a little false doctrine. Each is deadly! Each effects the body. Poison permeates the body, dynamite destroys the body and false doctrine corrupts the body of Christ.

Verses 10a: “I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.”

Paul’s confidence is not human confidence, because Paul know we can “have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3), but an assurance placed in his heart by the Lord.

2 Thessalonians 3:4, “And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you.”

“Deep down, the Master has given me confidence that you will not defect. But the one who is upsetting you, whoever he is, will bear the divine judgment.” (Verse 10, The Message)

Paul did not believe that the Judaizers would succeed in Galatia, and they did not succeed. All efforts to meld Judaism with Christianity were thwarted and checkmated by this very epistle and other New Testament writings.

Verse 10b: “Shall bear his judgment…” The Judaizer (whether one or more) would bear the judgment Paul had written a earlier, that of being “severed from Christ, “fallen from grace,” etc.

Paul, here is referring, not to man’s judgment, not of a council in Jerusalem but the judgment of God.

2 Peter 2:1, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.”

Verse 10c: “Whoever he is…”

Apparently Paul did not know the identity of all of those who were troubling the churches. Many times people “have crept in unnoticed” (Jude 1:4)

1 Timothy 6:3-6, “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness,  he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions,  useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.”

As a long-time pastor I have seen countless trouble-makers come and go. Not just those who are seeking prestige or position, but those who try to introduce false doctrine. Take note young pastor, they must be dealt with quickly and severely. It is your responsibility as shepherd to keep the sheep from those who would harm them.

Verse 11:And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution?

“Among their other deceptions and lies, the Judaizers apparently claimed that Paul preached circumcision just as they did. Because Timothy was half Jewish, Paul had him circumcised in order to minimize criticism from Jews among whom they would minister together (Acts 16:1-3). But Paul never advocated circumcision as having any part in becoming or living as a Christian.” –John MacArthur

Verse 12: “Then the offense of the cross has ceased. I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!”

J. Vernon McGee writes: “The symbol of Christianity is the cross; it is the badge of the church. The ‘fraternity pin’ for believers in Christ is the cross. It is the identification tag of faith. It is the emblem for Christ today; it is the passport for tomorrow. It is identified with the cause of Christ as is nothing else in this present day…Even the church today uses the cross as if there were no odium attached to it. Many church buildings are built in the shape of a cross. A congregation of almost any persuasion sings lustily and blandly…

In the cross of Christ I glory. Tow'ring o'er the wrecks of time;

All the light of sacred story gathers 'round its head sublime.

–John Bowring–

The cross has become acceptable in our society. It is looked upon as a part of the culture of Western civilization. Most churches display a cross on their sanctuary, many wear cross pins on their dress or suit, still others wear a cross around their necks, and crosses are embossed on our bibles and hymnals. But the cross was not a pretty sight, it was not a “Kodak moment.” It was an implement of torture, an executioners tool. In fact, the English word “excruciating” is from the Latin meaning “out of the crucifixion.” It was a place to execute prisoners, a place where the very worst criminals lives ended. It was a bloody, gory, inhuman, slow and painful spectacle of torture.  The victim would be nailed to a large wooden beam and left to hang for several days.

Crucifixion was a horrifying spectacle of suffering and torture. The cross could only have been dreamed up by Satan to be the most painful, tortuous death that could ever have been imagined by men. Satan  himself concocted this form of torture for His arch-enemy, the Son of God. It comes right out of the pits of hell.

That is exactly what Christ endured at the hands of the Roman soldiers. But, “…for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

1 Corinthians 1:18 NLT, “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God…So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.”

Our message as ministers of the gospel it to preach the cross! What is the gospel? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,  by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…”

How serious was Paul in his commitment to preach the gospel? It was so important to him that he actually pronounces a curse upon himself if he does not preach the gospel.

1 Corinthians 9:16, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!”

1 Corinthians 2:1,2.  “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony[a] of God.  For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

Paul has already addressed the subject of the gospel with a stern warning for the Judaizers, and any and all who would ignore the preaching of the cross.

“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9).

The message of the bloody cross of Jesus is still a strange message to those who have never experienced its life changing power. To them it is ‘foolishness.’ This word comes from the same word from which we get our word ‘Moron.’ To the lost the idea of trusting a suffering, bleeding man for salvation is moronic! 1 Corinthians 1:21-24!)” –

A young boy once accompanied his mother to worship. During the sermon, the boy was listening very attentively to the lesson that day. The preacher's sermon on the crucifixion of Christ was so moving that the boy began to weep. Soon he began to cry aloud.  His mother became so embarrassed that she whispered to him, “Don't take it so seriously.”

My friends, how serious are you about the cross? Have you received the forgiveness that comes from the cross? Christ died for my sins, and He died for yours too!

Romans 5:8 NLT, “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

1 Corinthians 15:3, “Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.”

Galatians 1:4 NLT, “Jesus gave His life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.”

Galatians 2:20 NLT, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Ephesians 5:2 NLT, “Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”

1 Thessalonians 5:10 NLT, “Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when He returns, we can live with Him forever.”

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English  bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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