At the conclusion of his great discourse to his brethren in Corinth concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ Paul stated, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). To his brethren in Colossae, he encouraged them to “…continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister” (Col. 1:23). Thus, for the Christian to mature, he needs to develop stability. Of course, it is easier to say this than to do this.
The book of Galatians provides a wonderful backdrop to the condition of instability. In every chapter of this book, Paul addresses their instability. Notice these examples with me.
In Galatians 1, he begins immediately after his introduction and salutation,
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, ‘If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.’ (1:6-9)
While the background of this deals with the gospel taught by Judaizing teachers, its application runs deep in the denominational world in which we live today.
In Galatians 2, he deals with the instability of Peter (2:11-21). How fascinating that while Peter was instrumental in leading a Gentile (Cornelius) and his family to Christ and even defending himself before his brethren in Acts 11, he now withdrew that fellowship he once extended and separated himself to the chastisement of the apostle Paul. Fellowship is an important and valuable spiritual commodity that we are not to treat lightly!
He immediately begins Galatians 3: “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). He asks again, “Are ye so foolish?” (3:3). Then, to set the matter straight once more, he discusses the relationship of the gospel of Jesus Christ (faith) and the Law of Moses with the promise of redemption that God made to Father Abraham.
In Galatians 4, he speaks plainly with them,
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. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you. (4:15-18)
They were steadfast when Paul was with them, but instable when he was not with them. Maturity develops when we are steadfast at all times, regardless of the crowd—even if we are alone.
In Galatians 5, he commended them at the beginning: “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” (5:7). While illustrating the Christian race, it is not a sprint, but a marathon. What matters in the end is not how we began, but how we finish (see 2 Tim. 4:7-8).
In Galatians 6, he encourages them never to quit by stating, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (6:9). Then, as he has touched upon throughout his epistle, he brings up the subject of the effect of Judaizing teachers at the conclusion of his letter:
As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. (6:12-15)
Therefore, throughout this powerful epistle, he points out their instability and encourages steadfastness. May we resolve to learn from their mistakes and mature spiritually toward stability through steadfastness.