Gal 5:9-12 “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be. And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. I would they were even cut off which trouble you.”
I find many people today who love the doctrine of salvation by grace. I also find that many of them do not fully understand that precious doctrine. I hear them staunchly defend the truth that our salvation is in the shed blood of Jesus Christ and in Him alone. Often, in the same sentence, they will tell you that all you have to do is believe it or have faith.
On the surface that may seem like a small thing and it will certainly not prevent me from loving them and having fellowship with them. However, they do not understand the principle of “a little leaven.” If we have to do anything in order to receive God’s eternal salvation, then we have inserted ourselves into the whole of the situation. We have in effect said that we still have to play our part even though it is infinitesimal.
I once heard a preacher say that bragging about helping with our salvation was like to someone buying us a $40,000 car and us chipping in a quarter and saying we helped. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump; if we chipped in a quarter then we did help. Regardless of how small that “help” might appear, we still get to feel good about doing what we could. To attempt to take even a penny’s worth of the glory that is due to Christ alone is to fail to give Him all the glory.
Paul is telling the Galatian brethren (and us) that even the confidence he has in us to believe and obey God is not grounded in us. His confidence is in the Lord that has revealed His gospel to us. He is calling on us to recognize that even a little law service (circumcision, etc.) takes away from the liberty we have in Christ. The law says we have to obey or die (Gal 5:3). Grace says we are alive in Christ Jesus by the will of God; therefore our deeds, however small or great, are not required in order for us to live (Eph 4:1).
Do not interpret this as saying it is okay for us to fold our hands and do nothing. There is nothing that I can do to get life (it is the gift of God), but there is much that I can do if I am to enjoy that life in the kingdom of heaven here. In Genesis, after Lot and Abraham went their separate ways, God made Abraham a promise. He told him to look all around; everything he could see was his.
For Abraham to have any benefit from that promise, God also told him to walk in it and possess (actively take part in) it. The land was Abraham’s because God said it was; nothing was required of Abraham to make it so. However, ownership was not going to give Abraham the joy of the land; walking in it and possessing it would bring him that joy.
There is a great warning here to any who would trouble God’s children with a little leaven. Paul indicates that he would face God’s condemnation. Rest assured that God will always judge those that try to bring the leaven of man’s notions into His service and the work of His only begotten Son. Furthermore, it does not matter who that man is or how much good he may have otherwise done. Paul was telling the brethren that he was not exempt.
Paul was also assuring them that regardless of what others might be saying, it was not him that was troubling them. He assured them he was not in agreement that it was alright for them to yield to circumcision or any other of the law requirements. When we are willing to agree to allow that little bit of leaven, then men cease to persecute us. Paul pointed to his persecution as evidence that this teaching was not coming from him nor was he in agreement.
There is another point here we need to take heed of. When we truly preach the cross, there are some who are going to be offended. To preach the cross is not simply to acknowledge that Jesus died on one. If we preach the cross, then we must preach the sufficiency of the offering that was made on that cross. We must declare that Jesus died once for all (Heb 10:10): He died once for all the sins of all His people for all time. Not even a “little bit” of anything else is required or allowed by God.
May we, by God’s grace, reject the leaven of men and rejoice in the purity that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior!