False Brethren Secretly Brought In
by Sandy Simpson, 1/15/19
Galatians 2:4 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. (NASB)
Galatians 2:4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in,
who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: (KJV)
The context of this passage is when Paul went to Jerusalem to meet with the Apostles and he was addressing the Judaizers who were bringing in legalistic heresy by adding works to salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. These men, not unlike their counterparts today, were “hypocrites. They were actors pretending to be Christian, but they were not. They, in effect, wore a mask or a religious costume, and imitated the speech of true Christians, learning all the Christian words like an actor playing a role. They gave the outward appearance of being godly, but inwardly they were ungodly.” (Mike Storti, False Brethren) We know that the apostles themselves were almost duped by these ideas and if it weren’t for Paul and Tutus we would likely have a different version of Christianity today. Jewish false brethren believed that followers of Christ must be circumcised as per the Law of Moses. They had ignored what Jesus stated at the Last Supper:
Luke 22:20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.
Hebrews 8:13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
When we were studying Galatians in our Sunday school class I noticed a part of this passage I had apparently glossed over in teaching this for many years. The part that lit up for me was where it is said that “false brethren” were “secretly brought in”. They were brought in! As to who brought them in there is only speculation today. Perhaps it was James but there is no agreement on that. I have not been able to find any commentaries that name a person who did this but John Gill gives a prescient observation:
Unawares brought in. The word rendered "unawares" pareisaktouv is derived from a verb meaning to lead in by the side of others, to introduce along with others; and then to lead or bring in by stealth, to smuggle in.—Robinson, Lex. The verb occurs nowhere in the New Testament but in 2 Pet. 2:1, where it is applied to heresies, and is rendered, "who privily shall bring in." Here it refers probably to men who had been artfully introduced into the ministry, who made pretensions to piety, but who were either strangers to it, or who were greatly ignorant of the true nature of the Christian system; and who were disposed to take every advantage, and to impose on others the observance of the peculiar rites of the Mosaic economy. Into what they were brought, the apostle does not say. It may have been that they had been introduced into the ministry in this manner —Doddridge or it may be that they were introduced into the "assembly" where the apostles were collected to deliberate on the subject.—Chandler. I think it probable that Paul refers to the occurrences in Jerusalem, and that these false brethren had been introduced from Antioch or some other place where Paul had been preaching, or that they were persons whom his adversaries had introduced to demand that Titus should be circumcised, under the plausible pretence that the laws of Moses required it, but really in order that there might be such proof as they desired that this rite was to be imposed on the Gentile converts. If Paul was compelled to submit to this, if they could carry this point, it would be just such an instance as they needed, and would settle the whole inquiry, and prove that the Mosaic laws were to be imposed on the Gentile converts. This was the reason why Paul so strenuously opposed it. (John Gill Commentary, Gal. 2:4)
The point that came to my mind is that, in many cases, false teachers have to be “brought in” by someone to the churches. This has always been the case in my experience. There is always someone or a group of people who have been misled by false teaching who then get others in their churches to read certain books, watch certain TV programs, or go to “revival” meetings to “experience” new revelation for themselves. This is because, at the least, they lack discernment or, at the most, they have fully accepted another Jesus, a different gospel and/or a different spirit (2 Cor. 11:4). Years ago, before I became aware of the heresies of Word of Faith and the Third Wave, I was almost taken in by a few people who kept giving me books by Rick Joyner and Francis Frangipane and even ordered me a subscription to Morningstar Magazine. But eventually I began to have very mixed feelings about what they were writing and fortunately sought out the counsel of the Bible through the Holy Spirit and of discerning people I respected. It was there, from the Word, that I was able to distinguish good from evil (Heb. 5:14) and right from wrong (Eph. 4:13).
As church leadership we obviously need to be aware of any false teaching coming in, but just as importantly we need to be aware of those who brought it in. Both parties share responsibility in the introduction of heresy to the local church. Sometimes Christian leaders focus on the false teaching and are able to eliminate that leaven before it takes hold, but sometimes they subsequently forget to deal with those who brought it in. In so doing they are, perhaps unwittingly, leaving the door open for leaven to remain and multiply again. I have also seen that Christian leadership is sometimes afraid to confront a “Christian” if they have been a member of a church for a long time. They don’t want to rock the boat so they say nothing, perhaps hoping that over time that person will see the error of their ways. But that is rarely the case unless the person or group has been talked to about what they did and the sin is exposed, either to their repentance or continued support of the false brethren.
By the way, false brethren need to be tested, then avoided, and named as false teachers (see my study on 2 John, http://op.50megs.com/ditc/2johnstudy.pdf). Are there really false brethren who are either invited or slip into the churches? Here are some instances from the Bible:
2 Corinthians 11:26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;
Romans 16:17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.
2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.
The goal of the true Christian leader is to be a watchman over God’s flock, and bring the strays back to the fold.
Ezekiel 33:6-7 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand. Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me.
For the Church today, you can use the above as a template for effective leadership in these matters. Why are we to go after the strays? That is our responsibility.
James 5:19-20 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
2 Corinthians 5:19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.