Dealing With Error

Galatians 3:1

When was the last time someone confronted you or told you in the face you are wrong? Maybe for the children here, their parents do it often. But for us Adults, do we have people in our lives who can confront us when we go wrong? Think about that. Are there people in your life who can tell you in the face, what you did is wrong? And how do we take it when this is done? And I think for many of us, telling another person you are wrong is even difficult for us. Of course, we live in times where any form of dissension is seen as judgemental.

Now, reading the text —o foolish Galatians— you may rightly ask, What is going on here? Why is Paul, an apostle, the one who says  in Ephesians 4:15 “speak the truth in love”, Colossians 4:6 “Let your words be seasoned with salt that you may minister grace to the hearers” Why, why is he speaking this way? Blunt! Direct! Plain!  Why is he using such words many will consider unsavoury, harsh and unchristian? 

See, he doesn’t even call them foolish once. But twice. 

O Foolish Galatians (v.1)

Are you so foolish (v.3)

Why did Paul speak like that? Answer: He was Dealing With Error. And another question, how did he do it? That brings me to our title this morning, I want to title our sermon Dealing With Error and then I will look at two ways by which Paul dealt with error:  He Rebuked The Galatians and He Reminded The Galatians  of The Truth 

Rebuked The Galatians

To rebuke someone is to criticize him or her pointedly, for a particular observed sinful behavior. The Greek word most often translated as “rebuke” in the New Testament is elegchó. In its most comprehensive understanding, elegchó means “to reprimand and convict by exposing (sometimes publicly) a wrong.” There are moments when we all should be rebuked if we fall into sin, and there are times when a believer needs to rebuke another believer with love and discernment. 1

The tone of Paul in these opening verses is a tone of rebuke. He rebukes the Galatians and he does it sharply. Paul is speaking this way because he is addressing a crucial matter. And that crucial matter is how are sinners saved? How are the unrigtheous made righteous? Is it by faith or by the law? Are sinners saved by their good works or by faith? The matter of faith and how sinners are saved is a crucial gospel matter. I described it in my previous sermon that it is the heart of the Gospel. 

So Paul is speaking the way he is speaking because the Gospel is at stake. False teachers have infiltrated the church. And the Galatians have fallen and received these false teachers and their messages. And when the Gospel is at stake, everything else is at stake and it must not be taken lightly.

We noted clearly from the beginning of this series what error is at stake in the Galatians churches. The error is that the Judaisers or circumcision party as they are called elsewhere are teaching that Gentiles will have to be circumcised or keep the law of Moses to be saved. This Paul calls another Gospel and right from the beginning of this letter to the Galatians, he has expressed his disappointment over the Galatians and pronounced an anathema—that is a curse on the false teachers for teaching a false gospel.

Galatians 1

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 

7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 

8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 

9As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Now the word “foolish” in the original language is to be thoughtless. This means you don’t think things through issues well. You don’t weigh your decisions and it’s implications.  To be foolish is also to be unwise or unintelligent. You act unwisely. And that’s what we see in the Galatians. They heard the Gospel preached to them. They heeded to the Gospel. They believed the truth. But too soon they jettisoned all they have believed because of false teachers. Simply, they departed from the true gospel. 

To be foolish in this context will simply be to depart or move away from the truth . And we see this clearly shown in the Galatia churches and Paul will have none of that. He rebukes them. You will notice that, there is a three chord rebuke going on here. Firstly Paul rebukes the false teachers (1:8-9), then he rebukes the Jews including Peter (1:11-14) and then turns his attention to the Galatians themselves and rebukes them: “O foolish Galatians!

When we hear that the Son of God, with all his benefits, is rejected, that his death is esteemed as nothing, what pious mind would not break out into indignation ? He therefore declares that those who allowed themselves to be involved in so heinous a crime must have been …”disordered in mind.” (John Calvin, Commentary on Galatians)

The Bible at many places speaks about rebuke and you and I must all get involved in taking a stand for the truth by rebuking or criticising those who have embraced or believed a false teaching. We can’t be indifferent to truth. We all have a task to defend the truth by rebuking error. Let’s firstly begin here. Let’s learn to call ourselves to order, reprimand and rebuke one another for error.

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:5-6).

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound[a] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:2-4)

Reminder Of The Truth

Paul doesn’t only rebuke the Galatians of error, but he will immediately go on to remind them of the truth they know. The truth they are departing from. Paul goes on to ask a series of rhetorical questions to remind them of the truth. All these questions are of gospel significance. Indeed they have implications for the gospel. Five questions:

Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.

Who has bewitched you? That word bewitched means to be fascinated or overpowered by something beyond ones control. So Paul wants to know who is troubling them. He has already hinted in 1:7 that there are people who are troubling them and want to distort the gospel. Paul goes on to tell them that he preached the gospel to him. When he said “It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified, it is a picture of having presented Christ and his crucifixion to them in such a manner that, it was as if they were there. 

So vividly had he described Christ to them that they could almost see and handle him. As if Paul were to say “NO artist with all his colors could have pictured Christ to you as vividly as I have pictured Him to you by preaching (Martin Luther Commentary on Galatians)

Now to portray the crucifixion of Christ to the Galatians is simply another way of saying, I preached the gospel to you. That’s what Paul is really saying. I preached the gospel to you. What’s the gospel. 

Look at 1:4. It describes to us what the gospel is. Friends, this is what the gospel is: Jesus Christ died to save sinners. Do you know this truth that Jesus died for your sins? This is the glorious message of the Christian faith, that Jesus died for your sins. He died to save us from the wrath of God. He died to reconcile us to God. He died to adopt us into the family of God. Is this a reality in your life? Have you believed in Christ? This is the only way by which sinners will be saved. I call on you today to put your faith and trust in Christ to save you.

The next question Paul asked “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? When Paul asked “did you receive the Spirit”, he is reminding the Galatians that they were regenerated or when the word came to them and they believed, they became born again. The only way by which sinners will be saved is by faith through the gospel. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the preached word (Romans 10:10). 

The third question ties in line with the second one: “having begun by the Spirit, are you now now being perfected by the law? We see here the rebirth or born again or regeneration. Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3,5). Now we don’t begin the Christian life by faith or by the Spirit and then we fall off into walking the Christian life by works of the law—making your salvation dependent on what you do, how good you are, your generosity. No, no good deeds can save us. We will all have to begin by faith and walk by faith (Galatians 5:16;25)

Now also Paul reminds them that their faith brought them into suffering. The particular suffering is not stated here. But the first century church was a suffering church. And by faith, they endured the suffering. Here Paul asks them whether they suffered in vain. And this is instructive for us. 

Unfortunately, we are living in times when comfort has been presented to Christians with a total denial of suffering in the Christian life. You will hear people, so called Christians saying things like “Suffering is not by portion” Like seriously? That is not Christian at all. And if any of you has believed such nonsense, please run away from such error. Of course, nobody desires suffering in this life. But the Christian faith never promises anyone comfort. Never! It is a lie: “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29). Jesus told his disciples in this world you will suffer persecution, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 6:33).

Paul also reminds them God worked miracles among them not because they kept the law. But because of faith. Paul then points the Galatians to the one who is considered as the Father of Faith, Abraham, noting  that even Abraham was justified by faith. Do you see how important faith is? Even Abraham was counted as righteous  not by his good works.

See, all these line of questioning from Paul is to remind the Galatians that the Christian life is built on faith—trust and confidence in God. Our salvation is by faith. Any work of God in our life is by faith. Central to the Christian life is this important doctrine of faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God (hebrews 11:6). We are saved by faith. Justified by faith. Adopted into the family of GOd by faith. Faith reigns people. We are not saved by our good works or morality. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone. Amen 

We are not only to be rebuking people of their errors. But while we do that, we must point them to the truth. We must weld a double edged sword, rebuking error and speaking truth.

What things have you believed that is a departure from the truth? Today, there are so many teachings out there that has no relationship with the gospel. People are promised material prosperity that has nothing to do with the gospel. They say if you give your life to Christ, he will bless you with riches, he will bless you with health, he will bless you with a good job, good spouse and over and over they give false promises. 

People of God, the only guarantee of the gospel is the salvation of your soul, The forgiveness of your sins and reconciliation to God that you will have eternal life. Is this what you have believed? 


  1. What Is the Meaning of Rebuke? Bible Definition and How to Rebuke Others:,
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