The Word of God says, “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” Galatians 5:7. Paul uses an athletic metaphor for describing their past progress as a Christian. These four words, “ye did run well” are among some of the saddest that can be said about a Christian. One of the reasons is that they speak of the past blessings but also of the present failures. Some of their former blessings are stated in the book of Galatians. “Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.” 4:13-15. Paul in these passages speaks of their first contact with the Gospel, their reception, care and love of him. Paul also speaks of their former obedience to the truth. “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” 3:1. There were hindrances that cause them to decline.
First, there were the false teachers. 1:1-9. Paul tenderly greets the members of the congregations of Galatia and confirms that he is an apostle. He reestablishes the fact that Jesus Christ “gave himself for our sins…according to the will of God and our Father: to whom be glory for ever and ever.” The false teachers had come to confuse the brethren at Galatia. These false teachers were not concerned with reaching the lost but they were preying on those who had already obeyed the Gospel. This is still true today! Paul uses strong language as he condemns the false teachers. Some were perverting the Gospel of Christ and he states, “let him be accursed.” Was Paul judging the false teachers? Yes! He judged them with “righteous judgment.” John 7:24. The nature of the false teaching was a mixture of the law of Moses with the law of Christ. In Galatians 2:15-21; 3:1-9 Paul refutes their false teaching.
Second, there were members of the congregations fighting among themselves. “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” 5:15. As Christian we are to show love, not hate toward one another. Love is the proof of being a disciple of Christ. John 13:35. We are to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” 5:14. This was the same problem with the congregation at Corinth. 1 Corinthians 3:1-4. Strife and divisions are marks of carnality that is being rooted in the flesh, people of this world. They were following men instead of Christ. Christians need to realized that bitterness and strife are from Satan. Peace among believers is from God. James 3:14-18.
Third, there were those who were given to the works of the flesh. 5:17-21. Jesus said, “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:38. Paul is contrasting the works of the flesh and the spirit. The “spirit” in the book of Galatians is that spirit with which the Christian life is begun. It is the mind-set of the Christ. It is the new disposition, which God requires of everyone. There is a battle going on inside every Christian’s mind. That is why we are to have “the mind of Christ.” Philippians 2:5. The Christian will win the victory if they have the mind-set of Christ. However, the works of the flesh surround us and some will submit to them. As Christians, we are not to be overcome by the flesh. “If we live in the spirit, let us also walk in the spirit.” 5:25. “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…” 5:22-23. Look at the headlines in our newspapers! What do we see? Do we read about the works of the flesh or the fruit of the spirit? The fruit of the spirit stems from our relationship with God, affects our relationship with man, and regulates our personal conduct.
Did you once serve God better than today? If so, “who did hinder you [prevented you, cut in on you, confused you, made you turn, stopped you, interfered, who got in your path] that ye should not obey the truth?” Who has succeeded in preventing you from continuing to obey what God has given to us in His Word? Is our devotion and worship to God based upon the flesh or the spirit [mind-set of Christ]? Influence is a great weapon whether it is good or bad. If we have the disposition that God requires of us, our influence will be for what God has commanded. We will be following book, chapter, and verse instead of man’s opinions. We will stop biting and devouring one another. Finally, we will walk in the fruit of the spirit instead of the works of the flesh.