But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.Galatians 2:4(NASB)
Although much of Paul's ministry was independent from the other apostles of Christ, there was always a fundamental unity between them, and his visit to the Holy City and attendance at the Jerusalem Council, demonstrates the importance of Christian unity through doctrinal purity.
Following his conversion and the years he spent in Arabia, Paul began to minister around Syria and Cilicia. However, he received revelation from the Lord to go up to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus, because Judaisers were increasingly infiltrating the area and insisting that all new Christian converts must be circumcised and follow certain Jewish laws. Agreement had to be reached on the means of salvation. Jews and Gentiles had to know how to be saved. They had to know if works were necessary for salvation or if they were saved by grace through faith alone in Christ alone.
We discover in this verse that "false brethren had secretly been brought into the Body of Christ." It appears that Jewish teachers had disguised themselves as born again Jewish Christians and had infiltrated the Body of Christ at Antioch. They were confusing the true doctrine of Christ by teaching that circumcision was an essential condition of salvation.
Faith, not circumcision has always been the means of salvation. Faith was the means of salvation in the pre-Cross dispensation of Law, and circumcision is clearly not required in post-Cross salvation, which is also by grace through faith in the trustworthy Word of God.
Before the Cross, people were saved by grace through faith in God's Word. Men and women were reckoned as righteous by believing what God promised, and they looked forward to God's promised Messiah Who would save them from their sins. Post-Cross believers similarly are saved by God's grace through faith in Christ.
They (pre-Cross Old Covenant saints) looked forward to the coming Saviour and the Cross, while we (post-Cross New Covenant saints) look back to the finished work of Jesus Christ – the living, risen, ascended, and glorified Word of God.
Circumcision was a sign of the first covenant between God and Israel. It was to remind them of their promises to God. But like the Law, it was not the means of salvation – which has always been by God's grace through faith. However, in the early Church false brethren had been secretly brought into Christian circles. They had sneaked into the Body of Christ to spy out the liberty we Christians have in our risen Savour.
Paul knew that the purity of the true gospel of grace was under attack from these Jewish sources and that clarity needed to be reached and implemented across the leadership of the fledgling Church, if the Christian faith was to remain untainted and flourish – but how similar to the world of Christianity today.
False teachers and doctrines of demons have been flooding into the Church since those early days in Galatia, in increasingly loathsome and satanically inspired ways. It is not surprising that every New Testament writer gives serious warnings that heretical teachings and apostate teachers will continue to pervade the Church of Christ.
We need to be increasingly aware of the dangers we are in and the invasive ways ungodly teachings are seeping into the pure gospel of grace. May we become increasingly familiar with the pure 'milk' and 'meat' of the Word and pray for discernment to identify and renounce anything that undermines the liberty we have in Christ, which will only bring us into bondage.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the many warnings, throughout Your Word, of the profusion of insidious teachings and unbiblical doctrines that are flooding the Church today. Keep me pure in heart, sound in doctrine, looking to Jesus, and anchored to the Rock of my salvation, for His name's sake. In Jesus' name, AMEN.