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. 3 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? 2 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?] 3 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