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Look Out for the Dogs

When I was in college, a dog attacked a child in our neighbor. While this girl survived, her face was scarred for life. Before this incident, this dog never had any issues with aggression. Yet, something happened, triggering this violent outburst. Perhaps, similar accounts in the first century inspired the apostle Paul to warn, “look out for the dogs.” The dogs are directed at a specific religious sect known as the Judaizers.

Look out for those dogs [Judaizers, legalists], look out for those mischief-makers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we [Christians] are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit and by the Spirit of God and exult and glory and pride ourselves in Jesus Christ, and put no confidence or dependence [on what we are] in the flesh and on outward privileges and physical advantages and external appearances—Philippians 3:3-2.

This religious group infiltrated the leadership within the Church of Galatia. Unable to let go of their Jewish traditions, these zealots began to added stipulations to salvation. Forcing Gentile believers to be circumcised, the Judaizers broke Moses’ command in Deuteronomy 4:2. Therefore, when Paul compares these religious leaders to dogs, he is suggesting that they are ripping apart God’s commands.

O you poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians! Who has fascinated or bewitched or cast a spell over you, unto whom—right before your very eyes—Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified? Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing [it]? [Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?] Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly? Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh, Galatians 3:1-3.

In the passage above, Paul compares the Judaizers to practicing witches. This expression refers to the legalism and rituals that the Judaizers adhered to and practiced. While writing to the Church at Thessalonica, Paul recalls a visit to Berea, impressed by their careful consideration of new teachings. These noble leaders were a model for other churches to emulate, Acts 17:11. As you encounter similar legalism today, remember the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 so that you won’t be deceived by the next pack of dogs that comes along to invoke a power grab in your church.

by Jay Mankus

A Case Study in Religion vs. Relationships

Religion is an interest that a pursuer ascribes to as their supreme importance. This pursuit results in a particular system of faith as individuals believe in and worship a personal God or gods. Meanwhile, relationships are the way in which two or more people are connected and behave toward each other. Relationships can be traced back to a common alliance, bond, or connection based upon shared values. Religion tends to focus on teetotalism, a rigid following of a clearly defined set of rules. Depending upon your own personal desire, relationships can be kept at an arms length, drawn closer, or become intimate.

For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is complied with in the one precept, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself, Galatians 5:14.

This case study begins with a first century sect referred to as the Judaizers. These Jewish converts to Christianity did not want to abandon their Old Testament heritage. Instead of focusing on their newly formed relationship with Jesus, the Judaizers overemphasized a strict adherence to Jewish customs. The leaders of this group convinced Gentile members of the Church in Galatia to become circumcised. Instead of following the apostles teaching in Romans 10:9-10, the Judaizers claimed that if you really wanted to be saved, “you need to to adopt Jewish customs and practices found in the Torah.”

But if you bite and devour one another [in partisan strife], be careful that you [and your whole fellowship] are not consumed by one another, Galatians 5:15.

The opposite side of this study is a woman who took relationships to the extreme. Unable to find love in normal relationships, Mary turned to prostitution, selling her body to unfulfilled men. Despite the money Mary made, the void in her heart remained. Instead of developing a physical attraction toward Jesus, a spiritual hunger was conceived. Eager to discover meaning in life, Mary becomes a follower of Jesus, trying to reconcile all the poor decisions of her past. Based upon the actions taken in John 12:3, Mary was closely listening to Jesus’ teaching. Perhaps a sign of contrition, Mary takes an expensive bottle of perform and anoints Jesus’ feet.

But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God), Galatians 5:16.

The passage above offers a solution to souls wrestling with religion verses relationships. While religion provides a sense of direction, relationships offer freewill to choose your level of commitment. According to the apostle Paul, there is an internal tug of war going on within your mind daily. Instead of feeling forced to go to church or behave in a certain manner, walk and live habitually in the Holy Spirit. As Christians begin to develop a permanent meaningful lasting relationship with Jesus, you will want to go to church, pray and read the Bible. When you embrace the freedom Jesus offers, faith replaces the need for religion. Thus, choose the abundant life Jesus promises by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

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