Beware of Dogs

“I just wish that those troublemakers who want to mutilate you by circumcision would mutilate themselves. For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”—Galatians 5:12–13 (NLT)
Have you ever known someone who just gets under your skin? The kind of person who loves to irritate people, who knows precisely the right buttons to push to send you into a fit of rage. 
For Paul, the people who just irritated and infuriated him to no end were the Judaizers—a group from Judea that sought to spread a Jewish mentality and approach to Christianity. They were trying to “Judaize” the world, going town to town telling people that faith in Jesus was not enough; that there were deeper things beyond the gospel you needed to be saved. It was something called legalism, which takes the grace of God and adds elements of the law to it. 
So here, these Judaizers—whom Paul refers to as “dogs,” “evildoers,” and  “mutilators” (Philippians 3:2 NIV)—were trying to get the Galatians to cling to the law as a way of perfecting what grace had begun in them, specifically in the area of circumcision. And Paul was so furious about it that he actually says, “I just wish that those troublemakers . . . would mutilate themselves.” Translation: “I wish they would castrate themselves.” If circumcision is necessary in order to receive God’s grace, why stop there? Take it a step further and see if you can get even more of God’s love that way! 
Paul’s point was that Christ has made us free, He’s freed us from the law. Does that mean we are free to do whatever we want? To run rampant and indulge in whatever worldly desires we so choose? As Paul would say, “Certainly not!” We’ve been made free to live life connected to God, in His arms, experiencing beautiful fellowship with His Spirit. We’ve been called to use our freedom to love one another and to show His love that set us free. But we must “Beware of the dogs,” because legalism is still alive and well. 
Today, it may not be circumcision, but it may be how much you tithe, how often you serve, how many prayer events you attend, or how many Jesus bumper stickers or Facebook posts you share. But remember, none of that saves you. Only the grace of God through Christ does!
DIG: Read Galatians 3–5.
DISCOVER: During your time as a believer, in what areas have you seen legalism creep into your life?

DISPLAY: Pray and ask the Lord to weed out any legalism you may be carrying around and show you how to experience the fullness of the freedom He’s given us through Jesus.

About the Author

Danny Saavedra

Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.