Text: “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” (Gal. 5:7).
Paul, along with Timothy and Silas, went through the region of Galatia on Paul’s second evangelistic tour (Acts 16:6). It is likely that this is the beginning of the churches in Galatia (Gal. 4:13). He returned on his third tour and strengthened the disciples (Acts 18:23). Later, after this epistle was written, while Paul was in prison, he sent Crescens to Galatia (2 Tim. 4:10).
Paul is the penman (Gal. 1:1), and being an apostle of Jesus Christ he did not write from his own wisdom or memory but was directed by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 1 Cor. 2:13). As a result, we understand that Paul’s writings (like his words) were the words of God (1 The. 2:13; 1 Cor. 14:37) and must be obeyed (2 The. 3:14).
The purpose of the Galatian epistle is to bring the Galatian congregations back from apostasy. Judaizing teachers were leading them back into the Old Law (Gal. 6:12-13). They were in great danger of falling away from the Truth of the Gospel (3:1). In view of this, Paul warns them not to believe any man or angel who preaches any other gospel than that which had been preached to them (1:8-9). All who preach anything else are accursed.
Paul, in Galatians 4, taught the allegory of Sarah and Hagar (4:21-31). He stated that Sarah was the freewoman and Hagar was the bondwoman. Sarah was Abraham’s wife, while Hagar was Sarah’s handmaid (Gen. 16:1). Isaac, who was born of the freewoman, was the child of promise; Ishmael, who was born of the bondwoman, was born after the flesh. Paul concluded by stating that we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. Paul wrote this allegory to show that the Galatian saints were not of the Law given on mount Sinai (as represented by Hagar), which bears “children unto bondage” (Gal. 4:24— ASV). Paul points out Old Testament Law could not free anyone from sin (3:11), but being Christians, they were of the Gospel (as represented by Sarah), which is of the heavenly Jerusalem, which is free and so makes us free from sin and death (4:26; John 8:32).
Beginning in Galatians 5, Paul exhorted the Galatians to stand fast in the freedom for which Christ had made them free (Gal. 5:1). Paul then proceeded to show that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails in pleasing God under the New Testament (5:2-6).
With this background let us now examine our text.
Ye Did Run Well
The word translated, ye did run, is in the imperfect tense in the Greek, which indicates that the action is in the past, but with no assessment of the action’s completion (Heiser). The ASV translates it. “Ye were running well.” Vincent states concerning this word: “Better, as giving the force of the imperfect, ye were running. You were on the right road, and were making good progress when this interruption occurred” (158).
Well means “fitly, appropriately, in the right way, splendidly” (Heiser). The Galatian Christians had been running appropriately. To run well, it was necessary that they did so according to God’s Word. It is just as necessary that we, today, run according to the Word of God. This means that we must obey the Word of God. We cannot please God if we refuse to obey His Word. Samuel told Saul: “to obey is better than sacrifice, And to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22). Peter and the other apostles emphasized the importance of obedience in responding to the Jewish council who had commanded them 50 Who Did Hinder You That You Should Not Obey the Truth? to not teach in the name of Jesus: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). The Hebrews’ writer states that Jesus is the “author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:9).
In an age where so many preachers and elders are willing to do almost anything to attract as many people as possible and hold them on the church role, the principle of “running the race” apparently has fallen by the wayside. It is truly heartbreaking that so many once-faithful congregations are now apostate. Many who had at one time defended the Truth on TV, radio, in newspapers, and in debates have ceased doing so. We have seen once-faithful congregations accept neo-pentecostalism, children’s worship, simultaneous worship, drama, family life centers (i.e., gyms), praise teams, instrumental music, re-evaluation of elders, a multitude of errors on Divorce and Remarriage, and numerous other unauthorized doctrines and practices into congregations that were “running well,” but that no longer are. Like the Sardis congregation, many of these congregations have a name that they live, but they are dead (Rev. 3:1).
Who Did Hinder You
The word translated did hinder means to “beat back, check” (Thayer 39). They were running appropriately, but are now being beaten back by false teachers.
This is what happened to the young prophet who prophesied against the idol in Bethel (1 Kin. 13:1-24). God sent him to prophesy against the idol that Jeroboam had erected. God commanded him not to eat bread, drink water, or return by the way that he came. He was following God’s commands faithfully until he received word from an older prophet of God who claimed that an angel had spoken to him the Word of the Lord commanding him to bring back the younger prophet to his house for refreshment. The young prophet was deceived by the lie and went to the older prophet’s home where he ate bread and drank water. This young prophet was later killed by a lion as he was returning home. Even though the young prophet was running well at first, the older prophet hindered him (beat him back) from obeying the Word of the Lord.
Paul warned the Ephesian elders of grievous wolves who would enter in among the flock of God to destroy and devour it (Acts 20:29). He said that even of their own selves some would arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples of Christ after themselves (20:30). Paul commanded the elders to watch for deceivers (20:31). These false teachers that Paul warned against would, if allowed, hinder the Ephesian Christians just as the Galatian Christians were being hindered.
Faithful Christians will watch for anyone who might hinder them in their race. Sometimes we are hindered by elders who care more about pleasing the people than pleasing God (Gal. 1:10). Also, preachers who have not been taught the Truth or who have departed from it will hinder us if we are not alert and willing to search the Scriptures (Acts 17:11; cf. Mat. 7:15; 1 Tim. 4:1; 1 John 4:1). Members who have not been grounded in the Truth and who want to excuse their own sins or those of their friends and relatives will hinder us in running the race if we permit them to do so. It is tragic that in some congregations one will not hear the Truth preached concerning such things as fellowship, denominationalism, divorce and remarriage, drinking beverage alcohol, gambling, dancing, and mixed swimming. “The whole counsel of God” must be faithfully proclaimed if congregations and individuals are to be protected from those who would hinder us in our race (Acts 20:27—ASV).
That ye Should not Obey The Truth
Men have always had difficulty obeying the Truth. Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, having been deceived by Satan, while Adam followed her even though he knew better (1 Tim. 2:14). Their failure to obey the Truth brought sin and death into the world (Rom. 5:12). Eve was hindered by deception while Adam was hindered, apparently, by a desire to please his wife. A generation of Israelites wandered forty years in the wilderness and were there consumed because they did not obey the Truth (Jos. 5:6). Saul was rejected from being King because he did not obey the Truth (1 Sam. 15:23-24). The Northern Kingdom was carried away into Assyrian captivity because they obeyed not the Truth (2 Kin. 18:11-12). Jerusalem was destroyed and Judah was taken into Babylonian captivity because they refused to obey the Truth (2 Chr. 36:11-21).
Now we read that the Galatian Christians were hindered by Judaizing teachers who were teaching that Gentiles must be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses (Gal. 6:12-13, 4:21). The Galatians had to reject the false teachers and their doctrine so they could return to the Truth of God’s Word to be saved (5:4). Today, we must be watchful and willing to warn our brethren about false teachers (Rom. 16:17). We must not have any fellowship with those who pervert the Gospel (Gal. 1:7; 2 John 9-11) lest we, like the Galatians, find ourselves hindered in our obedience to the Truth.
If we allow anyone to hinder us in our spiritual race so we do not obey and faithfully continue in the Truth of God’s Word, the price is much too high, for it is our souls (Mat. 16:26; Luke 6:39; 2 The. 1:8).
All Scripture quotations are from the King James Version unless otherwise indicated
Heiser, M. S., and V. M. Setterholm. Glossary of Morpho Syntactic Database Terminology. N.p.: Lexham Press, 2013.
Thayer, J. H. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti. New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1889.
Vincent, M. R. Word Studies in the New Testament. Vol. 4. New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887
Reprinted from the 2017 Bellview Lectureship, Pensacola, Fla., Ed. Michael Hatcher