A Little Leaven – Subtle Perversion of the True Gospel
We have stressed that this is not another Gospel, but corruption within. People with a bad motive are using the true Gospel to bring people into bondage. How can they do that? They borrow the language of the Gospel to try to make it sound like they are talking about the same thing. They do this to catch people unaware. John Macarthur is a master at doing that. I spent two or three years at a reformed Church. They would not admit what they believed. They did not talk about Calvinism and covenant theology. They insisted that they were justified by faith protestants. They spoke the language of grace, using the words, but these were a pretext to say, “we’re one of you.” That was their point.
Any time you would try to “corner them” on what they are talking about, their argument was “hey, we are one of you, we believe the same thing, but….” The word “but” is the critical word. “Yes, we believe in justification by grace through faith in Christ alone. We will even sing the songs. But if you really believe…” I was always left scratching my head. This was before I really understood what I understand now. Why did their sermons feel so burdensome? Everything they said, and every scripture they used always ended up leaving me more tired. You always felt more tired after the message than before. You felt more burdened. You felt more lost.
It was interesting because they were using the “right” language. It was very difficult to say that they were false. You could not say clearly, “these are false believers or wolves” unless you understood the gospel and the difference. This is like Paul says. It is not “another gospel, only some would seek to trouble you by perverting the Gospel of Christ.” This “other gospel” is a perversion of the true Gospel. It hides in the language of the true. That is why it is tricky.
Again, a new believer who is born again can pretty quickly discern the differences with the cults like Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witness. That is the basic stuff about what the scriptures say about the Triune God and the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ. Even someone who is a believer for 15 years, however, can be taken off as spoil by someone who brings the “right” gospel (supposedly) with the perverse leaven.
We are dealing with leaven. Remember, Paul says, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Gal 5:9). He is talking about something subtle that seems to have all the trappings of the real thing. It mixes the real thing with the false. It does not “not” have the real thing, but it has a mix of leaven in there. Even just a little will leaven the whole lump. So, a little subtle error is too much in this regard!
Again, the issue in Galatians is not “how do we get saved” but “how do we stand before God knowing that God has blessed us, knowing we have peace with Him?” What ground do I have to stand before God with a good conscience knowing that everything is okay? A lot of people will say “I’m ultimately saved.” Most people. Most Christians who get saved struggle at least for a time knowing how to stand before God in their daily life. How am I blessed now? How do I know I am blessed? Where is my sense of blessing? At one point in the epistle, Paul says, “where was that sense of blessing you had?” Also, he says you were running well, who hindered you” (Gal 4:15; Gal 5:7)? They had been moved away from how they began.
This is not speaking to people who did not start well. It is talking to people who did start well! They are saved but they do not know how to stand before God today because the people are who are perverting the Gospel are mixing grace for justification with law for how to live the Christian life and placing burdens on them. They are bringing them back into bondage. I am just using the words that Paul uses in Galatians. They are bringing them back into the flesh to live according to the flesh and to walk according to the flesh and sow to the flesh (Gal 6:8). They are “striving” to serve God out of a sense that they are not blessed today, and they need to do something to be “blessed.” So, everything kind of centers on Galatians 3 which talks about the blessing of the Gospel, which is the promise of the Spirit (Gal 3:14).
We have already received this blessing. No law can come along after the fact and disannul what we have received or disannul our position as heirs or add any requirements necessary for the heirs to enjoy their blessing (Gal 3:17). This is the point he is making. He is speaking to heirs of the promise who should be walking in the blessing they have received. But people who have perverted the message of grace and are calling it grace are coming in and saying, “well if you want to enjoy Grace you should be circumcised, and you need to keep the law,” or “you should follow me.” It is subtle.
You know there are people right now who have made themselves “our enemies.” I am speaking of the “YouTube Community.” Yet, they use the language we use more and more because they want to sound like us. They are trying to speak to the same audience and seduce the audience, so they have to start using our language. That is in a sense a “Victory” for the word. The word is not bound. It shows that the word is leading the conversation and they are forced to “follow us.” The language that is going out has to be dealt with and even those who have made themselves our enemies have to use that language. It is very subtle because people come to me and say, “Hey this person uses the same language you do now. They didn’t use to, but they do now, yet something is wrong.” They will say, “It seems like maybe they’re coming around because they’re using the same language we are.” Then they will say, “something is not right because I still feel burdened when I’m done listening.” The problem is that they are trying to be as up-to-date as possible with the terms we use but they do not understand the terms. They undermine those terms to undermine. For example, if we talk about Christ being the word and the word being Spirit and Life, they will say, “they’re separating Christ and the word when they say we’re dead to the law because Christ is the word.” So, they try to use what we say against us and to speak our language so that people who are listening to us will not be able to determine the difference, so they can introduce leaven and pervert the meaning of the words we use.
I see people on my YouTube comment feed who seem to be going along also subscribed to these people and commenting on their walls, not realizing what they are doing. They are coming in under the cloak of this language to pervert this message. They do not have another message, they are attacking this message, but they want you to think they are one of us. It is amazing to watch. This is what was happening in Galatia. False brethren crept in unaware were seeking to spy out the liberty which we have in Christ that they may bring us back into bondage (Gal 2:4).
Their purpose is to bring you back into bondage. What does it mean to be in bondage? It just means to not be enjoying your position in Christ. It means to not be enjoying the blessing that has been given to you freely, but to think that this blessing is only available if you meet certain conditions. So, with Galatians, the issue is not “how are you saved” but what is required that I can enjoy the blessing of God? The Judaizers and the false believers and the confused believers who are legalistic who are galatianized are trying to separate justification that secures the blessing from the blessing itself. They say that justification took care of your eternal salvation but if you want the blessing, if you want the spirit, if you want the fruit, if you want to know God, it is a matter of other requirements. Paul answers that it is all by faith. “Having begun in the spirit, you’re not going to be perfected in the flesh. “ It all comes by the hearing of faith. The same way you have received the Gospel is the way you enjoy the Gospel, which is the promise of the Spirit. It is through faith, not by any other means. Just a little leaven will leaven the whole lump.
Consider the example that Paul refers to with peter in Galatians 2. All Peter did was to eat with the Gentiles, and when brothers from Jerusalem, from James, came, he shrank back from eating with the Gentiles in fear because to the Jews, the Gentiles are unclean. That is a “little leaven.” It does not seem like that big of a deal. It is not like he was imposing something or standing up and saying “okay let’s all obey Moses” or teaching a heretical doctrine. But by not eating with the Gentiles, he sent the message that the Jews are right. The Gentiles are unclean and even though you are saved you are still not clean. You have to be ceremonially cleansed to enjoy fellowship and have the blessing.
Because of the subtlety of the message that was being broadcast to everyone through fear, even though he was just getting up from the table, Paul rebuked him publically. He rebuked him publically in front of everyone, the Gentiles, and the Jews from Jerusalem. He had the point out clearly what this implied. This is where people are saying that Paul was just immature and overreacting to something that was not that big of a deal. No, it’s a “little leaven” and it’s going to “leaven the whole lump.” By Peter just getting up from the table and not eating with the Gentiles he is re-establishing the law and even calling Christ a minister of sin (Gal 2:17)! He is rebuilding what he destroyed and saying, “I’m a transgressor (Gal 2:18) for eating with the gentiles”. He was essentially repudiating the freedom we have in Christ, that to the pure all things are pure, and it’s not what enters the body that defiles it, and I’m justified by faith in the blood and can fellowship, and I’m not under any kind of yoke of bondage. He was broadcasting that this freedom is transgression and that he is sinning, and this makes Christ and the Gospel a ministry of sin. This is so heavy! Yet, we can see it is just a “little leaven.”
Again, this is something subtle with which we are dealing. Galatians deals with a subtle error that can be hard to spot because those who operate in it seem like they are speaking the same language we are. This is why I sat at the reformed church for 3 years trying to figure out, “what is wrong here?” It is because they would not admit what they really believe. There is a YouTube channel that did a whole lot of videos about how the gospel of grace is gnostic heresy. We thought he was a “Grace believer.” He used to contend for grace. Now, he is forced to reveal what he really believes about the Gospel. He says it is not just a matter of believing the message of the Gospel, you have to have a “subjective inward experience” (which ironically is a gnostic insert). He calls what we teach about “faith alone apart from works for the ungodly” (He who works not but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited to him as righteousness Rom 4:5). He refers to this as gnostic heresy. He said “actually, this is what I always believed” and now is coming out strongly against everything we thought he believed. He says he always believed this way, but now he dares to really say it. That is what this is.
This is people who believe something different but go along with the “flow” of things because they want to be received in the community. Eventually, they intend to bring people into bondage, and they will reveal what they actually believe. I kept asking questions at the reformed church until they showed me what they really believed, and I started to understand what covenant Calvinism is. I realized; this is not the protestant reformation. This is a different definition of the word faith. I started to learn things like “what is Lordship salvation” and what is “backloading works”? How can they use the language, “we are saved by grace through faith alone, but faith is never alone,” and faith is actually work? That is one kind of perversion of the truth. People who have been listening to grace teaching for years will start listening to John Macarthur because he can really expound on the Bible, and he calls his ministry “Grace to You.” I receive emails fairly regularly that surprise me from people who were clear on the truth and had not encountered John Macarthur, but then started listening to him and started to realize something was wrong after the damage had already been done to their concept of grace. The point is that these people are subtle and if you have not been warned you do not know what they are doing until you have been listening to them for a while.
This is why we need to address,not so much the people, but what is the teaching that is the problem. Grace mixed with law is no grace at all. A little Leaven leavens the whole lump. Its proponents are those who come speaking this language for quite a while. They speak our language and try to stay as up-to-date as possible with our language, changing our terminology as time goes by. This is good because it shows the word of God is leading the conversation, but the error becomes more subtle and has more of our language in it and therefore that much more difficult to detect!