The Most Dangerous Motives (Galatians 6:11-13)

The Most Dangerous Motives

The motives of those who are drifting or errant

Galatians 6:11-18–part 1, verses 11-13

There are certain moments you never forget–for soldiers on the battlefield, burned into their memory is the moment they actually come face-to-face with the enemy. And friends, spiritual warfare is no different. I was driving out of the parking lot at church, but there in the parking lot I saw a man in a suit, pamphlets in hand, approach a church member and engage them in a conversation. Maybe to others it looked like a harmless discussion–to me it was clearly an attack.

The parking lot was almost empty, so I pulled my ‘72 exploding Pinto up next to both of them, got out of my vehicle with enough urgency that I left my driver’s door open. They looked at me, but the suit kept talking. I walked up to them both with a smile, but a level of youthful Mueller intensity and I say, “Hey how is it going?” I said, “You both look really intense here–what are you two talking about?” Mr. Suit starts sharing with me and hands me his pamphlet.

After just a few direct questions, it becomes obvious this man represents a group of people who have descended upon Grace Community Church, trying to convince its members of baptismal regeneration–that you have to be baptized to be saved, and several other errant salvation doctrines. At this point, I remind Mr. Suit we do not ascribe to his errant teaching. I quickly point out to him what the Bible actually teaches and that his beliefs are errant. He didn’t change his mind, but decided to become belligerent–which led to me terminating the conversation.

I remind him he is breaking the law–that he has no legal right to be on our property spreading his vomitous, satanic poison and he must immediately leave the campus. He can be on the sidewalks surrounding the church, but he cannot be on campus, nor approach our people on campus. With defiance, he complies and leaves the parking lot for the sidewalk. I spend a few moments with the happy church member, who is already on the right page doctrinally, who expresses their thanks that I stopped by.

I get in my car and travel home, concerned because I don’t think the suit was alone. I am not yet 26, I am not an elder, and that very week at the elder meeting, comments were made by an elder about how awful, embarrassing, and how non-Christian it was for one of our pastoral staff to be seen in the parking lot confronting the visiting suits. He is talking about me without mentioning my name–but we all know it’s me he’s talking about. Some people in our church who don’t like student ministry (I am the Jr Hi pastor) observed me from a second story window overlooking the parking lot. They thought I was rude and unloving. Honestly, at that moment, it felt like someone stabbed me in the heart–and to be honest, I was conflicted and a little confused.

In that meeting, I was sitting next to Al Oliver, a 300-pound ex-lineman for the Rams, now turned pastor and friend–who knew what I’d done. He leaned over and said, “Ouch!” But later in the same meeting, John MacArthur arrived–he began to share how these false teachers had descended upon our church. He reported to the elders that the false teachers had actually convinced one of the GCC members to buy into their false teaching. When he heard about it, he stepped into immediate and very intense action.

Knowing the wayward GCC sheep personally, John grabbed his son Matt, went to where this sheep was, and physically grabbed him, took him to a safe place, and deprogrammed him with the Scriptures for about three hours. John literally rescued the saint from the jaws of false teaching and redeemed him from error–that sheep still attends GCC to this day. Then John went on to say this—“You don’t pet wolves.” Once you’ve identified them, you have to deal with them–treat them like a shepherd protecting the flock would treat a wolf. And you must protect the sheep and rescue the sheep at all costs–no matter what. Nothing must stand in your way!

It was at this point that my fellow pastor, big 300 lb Al, leaned over to me and said, “Wow, it sure is nice being vindicated, isn’t it Chris?” It was a sweet moment. But what was happening was bigger than the vindication of a 25-year-old. This group of false teachers had an insidious motive. There were about 30 to 40 of them traveling around the country and visiting all the best-known ministries and churches. They would visit famous churches around the country which were led by well-known leaders.

At each church, they would talk and teach until they would capture one victim, who would then join their false ranks. They attempted to collect just one so-called Christian from each ministry–one sheep from every famous flock under well-known leaders. Their goal was to be able to say to others, tell others, brag to people, to have people discover that their main teacher–this heretic actually had followers who came from every major ministry in the USA.

They wanted to say, “I’ve got people from MacArthur’s ministry, Swindoll’s ministry, Kennedy’s ministry, Sproul’s ministry in my own ministry. They are all following me–see how great I am? They are all here with me!” The entire motive was to boast, to gloat, to brag, to compare and to gain for himself a false authority, false superiority and false authenticity. It was sick, warped, insidious, deceptive and manipulative. It was satanic, criminal, and divisive.

But this is exactly what we face from false teachers today–they sound accurate. They appear attractive. They speak eloquently. They teach Scripture. They are sincere, but their motives are deadly. They are proud, cowardly and hypocritical. Which is exactly the same kind of men who were messing with the Galatian churches. Paul taught the Gospel, formed new believers into churches in Galatia, then returned home to Antioch. But immediately after he left, false teachers from Jerusalem arrived teaching that Paul was a lesser apostle, and his Gospel was too simple and too easy. They would teach that to be a real Christian, you needed to be circumcised, keep the Law, follow the traditions, and attend the festivals, meaning this–you needed to become Jewish in order to truly enjoy genuine salvation.

So Paul writes this Galatian letter to combat their attack on him as a true apostle and to stop their evil distortion of the Gospel of grace by faith through Christ alone. Any addition to grace–even circumcision or Law or festivals, destroys grace. When you add a work to God’s gift of grace, it is no longer grace, but salvation by works.

Now as Paul wraps up this letter, like the suits who visited Grace Church back in the 1980s, Paul exposes their motives–he tells you what is driving false followers and false teachers. Today, check your own heart for these motives which only belong to the unredeemed. Change your approach–these motives will help you share the Gospel with lost family, friends–even strangers who are under false systems of religion. This passage will cause you to confront the errant–those who teach salvation error, who need your most loving, yet strongest, exhortation. Remember, you do not pet wolves.

These verses demonstrate the omniscient character of God–He knows everything, including why you work, don’t serve, are angry, keep certain friends, and what’s behind every single decision you make. Paul doesn’t merely conclude this direct letter today–he summarizes all of it here. He has taught them, within the pages of this six-chapter letter, a true message of freedom. What does Paul say?

First the bad motives of verses 11 to 13–what are the dangerous motives of the false teacher? What are the motives of your own mind and heart that you must reject? What are the motives which are of the flesh? Which motives are proud, cowardly and hypocritical? Let’s read verses 11 to 13 now.

See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh” Galatians 6:11-13).  Before we embrace the positive motives of verses 14 to 18, today you must flee the negative motives in verses 11 to 13. Why? Because errant motives come from errant doctrine, which always results in errant living.

#1  Resist doubting the SCRIPTURE, which was written by apostles, designed to save and sanctify you, to be like Christ  Verse 11

Paul writes in verse 11, “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.” The verb “see” is a big, general command–you’d say, “Catch this, Galatians. You gotta see this!” What is it you must not miss? Paul points the Galatians to his own handwriting. Why a focus on lousy penmanship? Why point out that Paul wrote this verse–this strong letter which dismantled the Judaizer false gospel, this intense writing which counters those false teachers who came from Jerusalem, this forceful Galatian message which teaches salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone?

This extreme letter which turns the tide against those who teach a salvation requiring you to become a Jew first and get circumcised in order to be redeemed–this life-transforming, powerful epistle was officially, genuinely written by Paul. Paul is proving to the Galatians that this letter came directly from Paul the apostle. Galatians was sent by the chosen missionary, who proclaimed the true Gospel. This letter was written by the same man who shared the Gospel with them. This epistle was written by Paul, who taught them God’s Word on his first missionary journey.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul often dictated his letters through an amanuensis–that’s a secretary who takes dictation or copies manuscripts. Galatians was most likely written down via dictation by Paul, reviewed and approved by Paul–but in order to make certain they know it was Paul himself who is sending this letter, he writes this, verse 11, “with my own hand”.

Why would that be necessary? Because the false teachers have already lied about Paul. We know from chapter 5, verse 11 that the false teachers had falsely claimed that Paul taught salvation is gained by getting circumcised–they lied. So it would not be a stretch for them to claim this letter, the epistle of Galatians, was not written by Paul–that it was a fake. If they lied once, they would lie again.

So Paul makes certain in verse 11 that all the churches in the Galatia region know it was truly Paul, and Paul alone, who wrote this letter–by using his own familiar handwriting in verse 11–proving it was Paul and only the apostle Paul who writes this letter, which destroys these false teachers and their lying claims.

Then why would Paul say, “See with what large letters”? Why large letters? Answer–making certain the Galatian Christians would recognize his own handwriting. Paul might have exaggerated, expanded, over-emphasized his own unique style of writing, so that there’d be no doubt. Or, it might have been because we learned already from chapter 4, verse 15 that Paul was suffering from an eye problem or eye disease–which may have made it difficult for Paul to see. So Paul may have had to use an amanuensis to record this letter–then Paul chose to write verse 11 himself, as evidence that this letter was from him personally–writing in large letters, because he could barely see the letters himself.

Paul wants to make certain the Galatians know this letter comes from him, Paul the apostle. It was the apostles who were proxies of Christ, specially chosen to do the miracles of Christ, speak the words of Christ. And they alone write the words of Christ–not merely representing Christ, but as if it is Christ through them as a proxy. Apostolic authorship, oversight and divine preservation of their letters is the main reason we know a letter was to be included in the New Testament.

Paul knew this and so did the Galatians–that is why it is vital for them to know that this letter was genuinely written by Paul the apostle. So verse 11 is an appeal for the Galatians not to doubt this letter, this Scripture, this word from God through the apostle Paul because of the massive importance of God’s revelation. The Scripture alone was written to bring you to salvation.

Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” And God’s Word alone was written so that the Galatians and you would be sanctified. John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” So Paul appeals to the Galatians to resist doubting the Scripture, which was written by apostles–designed to save and sanctify you to become like Christ. Meaning this—watch out for any thought, any motive, any doubting of the Word of God. Also, make certain you . . .

#2  Run from all religious PRIDE, self-glorying and living by externalism  Verse 12a

Errant motives come from errant doctrine, which always results in errant living. So Paul exposes another false motive in verse 12, “Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised.” What is the hope of the false teacher? What is their motive? Pride–to appear to make a good showing in the flesh–in their own strength. Externally, they want to look good. Suits, pamphlets, slick communication, blogging, tweeting, writing books, getting on the radio, a hot worship band with lights, smoke and volume, programs for youth, and regular preaching on sex from a young, handsome, jean-wearing preacher (that ship has sailed—plus, I’m not wearing jeans, but I married a Jean). It has got to be big, showy, slick, and must appear happening.

The flesh here is what is external–the flesh is your own strength, human deeds, but not done in the Spirit. Look at verse 12, they continually want and intend to put on a good face in the flesh—literally, to wish to appear visibly attractive and desire to be externally compelling. And they will do that in their own strength–all self-effort, apart from the Holy Spirit. They are not concerned about pleasing God from the heart–they are only concerned about impressing others with showy religion, acts of piety, and a three-hour quiet time.

This is what Jesus condemned in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:1 and 5, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. . . . 5When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” External religion without internal heart motivation of pleasing Christ is deadly to you–it is in the air, being practiced by some of you right now.

Living externally is a calloused veneer covering your heart. Living in your own strength is the coolant for a hot engine, turning you lukewarm. Living outside without inside heart is what quenches the Spirit. Living to please others over pleasing God is merely going through the motions. Do you remember that time you drove home, but you don’t know how you got there? You pulled in and then thought, “I was on autopilot.” Christians not filled with the Spirit are going through the motions on autopilot. And, you are proud, thinking you can actually live the Christian life in your own strength.

The false teachers were trying to be impressive, super-dedicated, super-committed, in order to convince the Galatians that they should embrace their errant teaching, which called for all genuine Christ-followers to get circumcised in order to become Christians. Verse 12 says they want to compel you–forcing you to get circumcised. They wanted to look really good, win their case, and prove salvation is by works. They wanted notches in their belt. They wanted to prove something to the leaders back in Jerusalem. They wanted to justify themselves, proving they were somehow right. But their motives were self-glory and living by externalism. The next motive of the false teachers was cowardice.

#3  Reject COWARDICE, self-comforting and living by avoidance  Verse 12b

Errant motives come from errant doctrine, which always results in errant living. Verse 12, “Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised,” simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Why are the false teachers putting on a good show to make you get circumcised? Paul tells us, they are afraid of being persecuted over the cross of Christ. To persecute is to pursue someone or to pressure someone over their beliefs with verbal attack and physical abuse, sometimes leading to death. Persecution is forced upon you–and they are so afraid, they are doing everything they can to avoid it.

These false teachers love their Jewish roots–but they also think Christ is a prophet, maybe even their Messiah. But they want to marry their Judaism to Christ. They want followers of Christ to obey the Law, get circumcised, and follow Jewish traditions. But Christ did away with the slavery of religion by providing salvation by grace–a gift. You no longer work for your salvation–you trust in Christ’s work on your behalf. Well, where the false teachers come from, salvation by grace is an offense. Why? Verse 12–why do they want to avoid persecution for the cross of Christ?

1)  Because no matter how amazingly religious and committed you are to keeping God’s laws, you are a massively sinful person by your nature and by your choices. Your religion cannot save you. Your moral lifestyle cannot save you. You are a horrific sinner.

2)  Even though you are super-dedicated to your faith, maybe even a Pharisee—yet no matter how committed you are to living righteously, the cross says you cannot save yourself.

3)  In spite of all your efforts in God-exalting and self-renunciation, the only way anyone, anywhere, at any time, in any place can be saved, is by the work of Christ on the cross.

Those three truths make religious people really mad. The cross of Christ means no matter how godly you seem on the outside—1) you are still the worst sinner, 2) you are the one who made yourself sinful by nature and choice, and 3) your only hope to be right with God now and avoid Hell later is to depend on Christ alone. You can’t save yourself. Religious people, self-righteous people, and people with good self-images hate that–and sometimes so much, they’ll try to shut you up or make you change your mind.

That’s why 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Now God is not offering you a life of comfort. And you and I are not to be peacemakers to the point of compromise. That’s why the false teachers tried to change the message of grace through faith. They wanted to make Christianity, which is a faith where God does all the work to save you and you do nothing, into a faith like every religion in the world, where you work your way to Heaven. Why? They are cowards. If they embrace the cross of Christ alone for salvation, with no circumcision, no Law, no festivals–then the false teachers will be persecuted by their own Jewish people.

The Jews at this time were still looking for a savior to deliver them from political oppression, and not one who would deliver them from their sins. They were afraid of what the other Jews might say or do if they found out they were worshipping with Gentiles–so they had to turn them into proselytes. But the problem is this–the doctrine of substitionary atonement–the cross–allows no room for human pride, religious status or personal achievement.

The false teachers were professing Christians–but they continued to trust in themselves and proved they had a heart of fear by not embracing the cross of Christ. Second Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” The false teachers finally manifested the most common motive of the false believer.

#4  Refuse the HYPOCRISY of self-salvation, boasting in your own strength  Verse 13

Verse 13, “For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh.” Errant motives expose errant doctrine, which always results in errant living. Those false teachers, who are all circumcised (and sadly, those make-believers who bought into the requirement to be circumcised lie, and even some real believers who were deceived)—none of them obey the rest of the Law in order to somehow be saved by doing so. They are hypocrites.

No one can keep the whole Law, and if you try to get saved through circumcision, you have to keep the rest of the Law. Again, no one—then, nor today, can keep the whole Law. No one is perfect. But in claiming circumcision as the way to be saved, but not keeping the rest of the 613 Old Testament laws, is hypocrisy, as Paul says, “For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves.”

Another reason the false teachers urged the Galatians to get circumcised was they wanted to put those Gentile proselytes, those Gentiles turned into Jews, as a notch in their belts. The more circumcised Gentiles they could collect meant more bragging rights back in Jerusalem–verse 13, “so that they may boast in your flesh”.

You can see them writing their support letter–right? “Mission to Galatia”–and you read the title of the main article, “200 circumcisions!” Listen, showing off is one of the differences between true faith and false religion. False religion gets caught up in externals–like numbers, routines and appearance. Churches that entertain rather than edify are deadly. Or pulpits that base salvation on what you do for God rather than what God has done for you are external. True faith is inward, though it always works its way out. It starts within, where the Spirit regenerates a sinner’s heart–transforming that heart, giving every true Christian a desire to obey and please Christ.

No wonder Paul opposed the Judaizers at every point. Their motives were evil–they undermined God’s Word, they didn’t serve for the glory of God, but the glory of themselves, putting all their confidence in self, not God. They were cowards, unwilling to be persecuted for the cross. And they lived contrary to their own teaching–external hypocrites, teaching the Law, but unwilling to obey it. Errant motives come from errant doctrine, which always results in errant living.


There are many truths already applied in this text, but allow me to focus on three more

A  Check your own heart, for these motives belong only to the redeemed

As a Christian, you have lived for yourself, and have even sought glory for yourself. You have lived in your own power, in your own strength, and lived with selfish motives. You definitely have been a hypocrite more than once. But if you are a genuine, born again Christian, then you’ll admit this is all true, and that you have a heart right now that does not want to live that way, or do that again.

Second Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” Romans 6:17, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.” Check your heart to make certain you have an ongoing desire to obey Christ, please Christ, and love Christ though you fail often. If not—turn to Christ in repentance and faith.

B  Change your approach

Understanding these motives will help you share the Gospel with those who are under false systems of religion. Remembering the motives that drive every lost heart, even a religious heart, can help you direct them to Christ and His bearing our sin upon the cross. Knowing that the cross is an attack on human pride, that the cross requires an admission of great sinfulness–that Christ alone can save, attacks their love for self-salvation and a massive effort to hide their hypocrisy motivates the lives of those who are lost.

Change your approach and talk openly of your willingness to admit sin, and your recognition that only Christ can save and satisfy.

C  Confront the errant

Those who teach salvation error need your most loving, along with your strongest, exhortation. Remember, you are not supposed to pet wolves. If they claim to be a Christian, yet teach a false gospel, pointedly warn them of their error—Jesus did. Matthew 23:13 and 15, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. . . . 15Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”

D  Cling to God’s Character

The Lord knows everything–every thought you think, every motive which drives you to work, serve, be distant, be angry, keep certain friends, compromise certain truths, and make every decision. Psalm 139:2 to 4, “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. 3You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. 4Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it all.” Cling to the God who knows every secret you have today. Talk to Him.

About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.

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