"You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is." (Galatians 5:7-11)The Greek word that most translators translate as "obey" can also mean to agree, to be persuaded, or to be conciliated by something. Those who seek to draw us into error need not to try and get us to stop obeying the truth, they merely need to try and change our perception of the truth. Once we loose our persuasion and acceptance of the truth then there is little reason for us to continue in obeying the truth. If we come to believe that the truth is no longer a worthy goal and that it, or its preachers, are suspect and to be called into question, then we are prime for another truth to take its place. Our perception of the truth is key to securing our obedience to the truth.
In writing these words, Paul is not writing primarily to the individual but to the church. Not only had the people changed, but the church had changed as well. The church had stared out well but now they were stumbling. They were running freely but now were being hindered by the bondage of law. They were running with aim and purpose but now were running aimlessly and amiss, What changed? Why the departure from the good course of the race they had began to run?
Paul asks them this question, "Who?" Most often, when an uncharacteristic change takes place in a church, it can be traced back to a person. When a church goes from running well to wallowing in the mire we must stop and ask, "Who?" Who was it who brought about this deviation in path and diversion from the truth? Paul makes it clear that such change does not come from the Lord. The Lord does not call us down one path and then change His mind later on; He does not lead us into truth and then change the meaning of "truth" over time. If, as a church, we are no longer running well, then we must ask "Who?"
In any given church, there will be various opinions and differing ideas surrounding certain doctrinal issues. Such differences are normal and, at times, can even be healthy. However, when someone steps forward to teach or assert doctrinal error, especially when done in a schismatic spirit, such error must be swiftly and decisively addressed. Error may start out small and even seem insignificant but if left to fester it will spread until the entire church is affected. Easier to remove a spot of level early then to try and remove the leaven later from an entire loaf of bread.
Some churches today try and avoid all forms of judgment and discipline, but those who seek to divide the body of Christ and to lead the church astray need to be addressed and, if needed, removed from the church for the health of the church. An early Christian writer once said, "For no reformation of so great importance can be effected by them, as will compensate for the mischief arising from their schism." (Irenaeus, Against Heresy, Book 5 33:7) Unity in the body and obedience to the truth ought to be sought and defended from all attempts to destroy it. Let those who seek to persist in and spread their error bear their rightful judgement, but let the church continue unhindered in the persuasion of and obedience to the truth,