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Particulars of Christianity:
312 The Church Ethic


Unity and Excommunication

Introduction: Unity, Excommunication, and Essentials Only
Excommunication: Historical Context, the Gospels (Part 1)
Excommunication: the Gospels (Part 2)
Excommunication: Acts and Romans
Excommunication: Corinthians
Excommunication: Galatians
Excommun.: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians
Excommunication: Paul’s Letters to Timothy
Excommunication: Titus, Hebrews, James, Peter’s Epistles
Excommunication: John’s Epistles, Jude, and Revelation
Excommunication: Biblical Assessment
Excommunication: Historical, Logical Assessments, Conclusions


Part Two: Biblical Study
Galatians: Requirements for Doctrinal Unity and Excommunication
 
Paul’s epistle to the Galatians contains several passages that are relevant to our study of doctrinal unity and excommunication. The first passage is Galatians 1:6-9.
 
Galatians 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another (2087) gospel: 7 Which is not another (243); but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert (3344) the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
 
In this passage, Paul warns the Galatians about those who would pervert the gospel or preach a different form of the gospel than the one that he had preached to them. We can see that Paul’s comments here are very similar to his remarks in Romans 16:17 where he required excommunicating those who caused sectarian divisions by teaching things contrary to what the Romans had learned from the apostles. Similarly, Galatians 1 states that those who taught any other form of the gospel were accursed.
 
By looking at the Greek words used in these verses we can understand what Paul has in mind when he speaks of “another gospel.” The Greek word translated as “another” in verse 6 is “heteros” (Strong’s number 2087.) This Greek word is used to refer to things that are distinctly different, “not of the same class, form, or kind.”
 
2087 heteros
of uncertain affinity; TDNT-2:702,265; adj
AV-another 43, other 42, other thing 3, some 2, next day 2, misc 7; 99
1) the other, another, other
1a) to number
1a1) to number as opposed to some former person or thing
1a2) the other of two
1b) to quality
1b1) another: i.e. one not of the same nature, form, class, kind, different
For Synonyms see entry 5806
 
The word translated as “another” in verse 7 is “allos” (243.)
 
243 allos
a primary word; TDNT-1:264,43; adj
AV-other(s) 81, another 62, some 11, one 4, misc 2; 160
1) another, other
For Synonyms see entry 5806
 
Here Paul states that, in reality, there aren’t any “other” legitimate versions of the gospel. Instead, other versions of the gospel are just perversions of the true gospel of Christ. The verb translated as “pervert” in verse 7 is “metastrepho” (3344.)
 
3344 metastrepho
from 3326 and 4762; TDNT-7:729,1093; v
AV-turn 2, pervert 1; 3
1) to turn around, turn around
 
We have already seen Paul use a similar Greek word in Acts 20:30 to warn the elders in Ephesus about false teachers who would speak “perverse” things to draw away disciples after themselves.
 
Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things (1294), to draw away (645) disciples (3100) after them.
 
The Greek word Paul uses in Acts 20:30 is “diastrepho” (1294.)
 
1294 diastrepho
from 1223 and 4762; TDNT-7:717,1093; v
AV-perverse 4, pervert 2, turn away 1; 7
1) to distort, turn aside
1a) to oppose, plot against the saving purposes and plans of God
2) to turn aside from the right path, to pervert, corrupt
 
Both Greek words (“diastrepho” and “metastrepho”) come from the Greek verb “strepho” (4762.)
 
4762 strepho
strengthened from the base of 5157; TDNT-7:714,1093; v
AV-turn 11, turn (one’s) self 2, turn (one) 1, turn again 1, turn back again 1, turn (one) about 1, be converted 1, vr turn 1; 19
1) to turn, turn around
2) to turn one’s self (i.e. to turn the back to one
2a) of one who no longer cares for another)
2b) metaph. to turn one’s self from one’s course of conduct, i.e. to change one’s mind
 
We can see that in Galatians 1:7 and Acts 20:30, Paul is discussing those who would offer a distorted version of the gospel and turn people away from the true teachings of Christ.
 
In verse 8 of Galatians 1, Paul firmly states that anyone who preached a gospel that was different than what Paul had preached to them was accursed. The word preached here is translated from the Greek verb “euaggelizo” (2097) which is the common Greek word for “preaching the gospel” or “preaching the good news.” In verse 9, Paul reiterates that if anyone preached any other gospel than that which the church received from the apostles they were accursed.
 
The Greek word translated as “accursed” in verses 8 and 9 is “anathema” (331.) In this context, “anathema” refers to someone who is without hope of being redeemed, doomed to destruction, and accursed.
 
331 anathema
from 394; TDNT-1:354,57; n n
AV-accursed 4, anathema 1, bind under a great curse + 332 1; 6
1) a thing set up or laid by in order to be kept
1a) specifically, an offering resulting from a vow, which after being consecrated to a god was hung upon the walls or columns of the temple, or put in some other conspicuous place
2) a thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed, and if an animal, to be slain; therefore a person or thing doomed to destruction
2a) a curse
2b) a man accursed, devoted to the direst of woes
 
In other passages Paul uses this word “accursed” (“anathema”) to refer to being separated from Christ. In 1 Corinthians 16:22 Paul says that anyone who didn’t love the Lord should be anathema. This implies that Christians should separate from such a person. In other words, Paul is saying that if any man doesn’t love the Lord, Christians should avoid them as “accursed.”
 

1 Corinthians 16:22 If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema (331) Maranatha.
 
In Romans 9:3, Paul uses the word “anathema” to express his desire to see his Jewish kinsman come to Christ. He states that he would even wish to be accursed from Christ himself if it would bring his fellow Jews to Christ.
 
Romans 9:3 For I could wish that myself were accursed (331) from (575) Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
 
In Romans 9:3 the Greek word “anathema” (331) is followed by the Greek preposition “apo” (575) which refers to separation from something. In this case, Paul is referring to separation from Christ.
 
We can see that “anathema” is used to refer to the idea of being avoided and separated from. The English word “anathema” shows the connection between being “anathema” and being excommunicated.
 
Anathema – 1a: one that is cursed by ecclesiastical authority 1b: someone or something intensely disliked or loathed 2a: a ban or curse solemnly pronounced by ecclesiastical authority and accompanied by excommunication 2b: the denunciation of something as accursed 2c: a vigorous denunciation : curse – Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anathema
 
In fact, in a quote we have already seen, the Jewish Encyclopedia references “anathema” as part of the religious tradition of excommunication among ancient Jews.
 
ExcommunicationThe highest ecclesiastical censure, the exclusion of a person from the religious community, which among the Jews meant a practical prohibition of all intercourse with society. For the etymology of the Hebrew terms used in this connection and for a clear exposition of the historical development and of the ethical significance of this institution see Anathema and Ban. – Jewish Encyclopedia
 
Paul’s use of “anathema” to speak of excommunication (in Galatians 1 and most likely in 1 Corinthians 16) fits perfectly with Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18. In Matthew 18, Jesus establishes that a Christian brother who refused to repent of sin must be brought before the entire church and then treated like a tax collector and a heathen. Undoubtedly, such a person was “anathema.” By the authority Jesus gave to his followers, such a person was officially denounced and was treated as someone who was to be avoided and “loathed” (just like a tax collector.)
 
AnathemaIn the New Testament – In the New Testament the word anathema often implies denouncement and banishment.…"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8–9); that is, let his conduct in so doing be accounted banished…The word "anathema" in 1 Corinthians 16:22 might suggest that they who love not the Lord are objects of loathing and execration to all holy beings; they are unrepentant of a crime that merits the severest condemnation; they are exposed to the sentence of "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord" for they do not embrace saving beliefs…According to the former view, an Anathema would be a charge laid against a person to be delivered up for the immediate but temporary judgment of God in order to prevent the spread of false doctrine, with the ultimate goal of restoring a person to fellowship, to halt his or her error, and to end false teaching and bad doctrine. Thus, within this line of thinking both the Church's process of excommunication and the appearance of tragedy into the offender's life (understood as divine retribution) can be interpreted that as "correctives" which unfold with the hope of bringing the offender back into a particular understanding of the scripture and into an according relationship with the community from which they were estranged. – wikipedia.org
 
According to Paul in Galatians 1, anyone teaching any other form of the gospel was to be treated as accursed, separated from Christ, without hope of being redeemed, doomed to destruction, and most importantly avoided by Christians. It is important to note that Paul makes these dire statements in the opening of his letter before he begins to address and identify the particular problems that were occurring in Galatia.
 
As we continue in Galatians we will discover what issues the Galatian church was facing, which Paul felt constituted another gospel. For now we will note Paul speaks broadly and generally in Galatians 1 about the gospel and distorted versions of the gospel. Here in chapter 1, he does not specify any special or particular aspects of the gospel that couldn’t be perverted. Instead, he simply speaks broadly about perverting the gospel. This fits very well with Jesus’ instructions to the apostles in the gospels.
 
Jesus told the apostles to teach new converts all things whatsoever that he had instructed them. Those who believed their teachings would be saved. As we saw, alternate accounts of the same events in Matthew 24, Mark 16, and Acts 1 show that the apostles understood the term “teaching all things whatsoever Christ had taught” to “preach the gospel” and “things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Likewise, we have seen that the Greek term “the good news” and its verbal equivalent “preaching the good news” both came from the same Greek word we see Paul using in Galatians 1:6-9. The Greek words are the noun “euaggelion” (2097) and the related verb “euaggelizo” (2098.) In the gospels and Acts we saw that the gospel which was preached was, in fact, the gospel of the kingdom of God.
 
In Galatians 1:6-9, Paul is speaking of his apostolic work in obedience to Christ’s instructions in Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1. He preached the gospel to the Galatians. In other words, he taught them everything whatsoever that Christ had taught including things that pertained to the kingdom of God. By understanding Paul’s comments in their New Testament context, we can conclude that Paul was warning against perverting any of Christ’s teaching (including the components that dealt with the kingdom.)
 
As we continue with Galatians, Paul will explain the particular concerns he had about the Galatians. In chapter 2, Paul first recounts that he had confirmed with the apostles James, Cephas (Peter), and John regarding the message that he had preached to the Gentiles (verses 1-10.) Paul mentions this in order to establish that the gospel he had preached to the Galatians was agreed upon and approved by all of the apostles. In other words, Paul wasn’t preaching a perverted form of the gospel. The gospel Paul was preaching was the same gospel that was being preached everywhere by the apostles.
 
Galatians 2:1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. 2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. 3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled (315) to be circumcised: 4 And that because of false brethren (5569) unawares brought in (3920), who came in privily (3922) to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage (2615): 5 To whom we gave place (1502) by subjection (5292), no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. 6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: 7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; 8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) 9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. 10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.
 
Having already studied Acts 10-11 and Acts 15, we know that the apostles and elders all agreed that what Paul taught to the Gentiles was in accordance with Christ’s teaching. In those passages, we saw that the issue was whether Christ required keeping the ordinances of the Law of Moses. The apostles and elders all testified and agreed that Christ did not require his disciples to continue to keep the Mosaic ordinances.
 
In verse 11 of Galatians 2, Paul discusses an instance in which Jewish believers from Jerusalem came to visit the Gentile Christians in Antioch. Paul, Barnabas, and Peter were already in Antioch before these men arrived.
 
Galatians 2:11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed (2607). 12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat (4906) with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew (5288) and separated (873) himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 13 And the other Jews dissembled (4942) likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation (5272).
 
Before the Jewish believers arrived, Peter and Barnabas rightly ate with and fellowshipped with the Gentile believers. The Greek word translated as “eat” in verse 12 is “sunesthio” (Strong’s number 4906.) It is formed with the Greek preposition “sun” (4862) meaning “with” and refers to “eating together with” or “taking food together with.” The idea of communion fellowship is at least implied by this term.
 
4906 sunesthio
from 4862 and 2068 (including its alternate); ; v
AV-eat with 5; 5
1) to eat with, take food together with
 
However, after the Jewish believers arrived, both Peter and Barnabas withdrew and separated from the Gentile Christians. The Greek words for “withdraw” and “separated” are “hupostello” (5288) and “aphorizo” (873).
 
5288 hupostello
from 5259 and 4724; TDNT-7:597,1074; v
AV-keep back 1, shun 1, withdraw 1, draw back 1; 4
1) to draw back, let down, lower
1a) to withdraw: of a timid person
2) to withdraw one’s self, i.e. to be timid, to cover, shrink
2a) of those who from timidity hesitate to avow what they believe
2b) to be unwilling to utter from fear
2c) to shrink from declaring, to conceal, dissemble
 
873 aphorizo
from 575 and 3724; TDNT-5:454,728; v
AV-separate 8, divide 1, sever 1; 10
1) to mark off from others by boundaries, to limit, to separate
1a) in a bad sense: to exclude as disreputable
1b) in a good sense: to appoint, set apart for some purpose
 
So, here in Galatians we have a situation in which fellowship is being broken and other Christian brothers are being separated from. Paul’s response is seen in verse 11 and verses 14-19.
 
Galatians 2:11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed (2607).
 
In verse 11, Paul states that he had to “withstand” Peter to his face because Peter was to be blamed. The Greek word translated “withstood” is “anthistemi” (436) which refers to “setting one’s self against” or “opposing.” The Greek word translated as “blamed” is “kataginosko” (2096) which simply means “at fault.” Here we see that Peter is breaking fellowship with the Gentile believers and Paul is opposing Peter and finding him to be at fault for this action. As Paul explains in verse 14, Peter and Barnabas’ withdrawal from Gentile Christians constituted not walking in accordance with the truth of the gospel.
 
Galatians 2:14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest (315) thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. 17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. 18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
 
Galatians 2 is an example of how it is right to oppose those who violate Christ’s teaching. It is important to note that Paul’s objection was based on the idea that Peter himself was violating the understanding of Christ’s teaching that the apostles all testified to and approved of. Paul is not simply against the idea of separating from other Christians. Instead, he is against separating from other Christians when there is no proper justification for the separation. In this case, the fact that Gentile believers did not keep the Law of Moses was not proper grounds for Peter and Barnabas to break fellowship with them.
 
According to Paul, to act contrary to the teachings of Christ was “hypocritical.” The Greek words translated as “dissembled” and “dissimulation” in verse 13 are “sunupokrinomai” (Strong’s number 4942) and ”hupokrisis” (5272.) Both words come from the same Greek word “hupokrinomai” (5271.)
 
4942 sunupokrinomai
from 4862 and 5271; TDNT-8:559,1235; v
AV-dissemble with 1; 1
1) to dissemble with
2) to act hypocritically with
 
5272 hupokrisis
from 5271; TDNT-8:559,1235; n f
AV-hypocrisy 5, dissimulation 1, condemnation 1; 7
1) an answering
2) an answer
3) the acting of a stage player
4) dissimulation, hypocrisy
 
The Greek word “hupokrisis” is the same word used by Jesus in Luke 12:1 where he condemns the Pharisees for their “hypocrisy” (5272) and forbids his followers from following in their footsteps. As we studied the gospels we saw that Christ’s condemnation of the Pharisees and Sadducees was that they had set aside the original intent of God’s word in order to honor their sectarian divergences and traditions. He calls this hypocrisy. And here in Galatians 2, Paul objects to Peter and Barnabas on the same grounds. This implies in part that, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, Peter and Barnabas were setting aside the original intent of Jesus’ teaching for an alternative teaching.
 
Like Acts 15 and 1 Corinthians 11:18-19, Galatians 2 demonstrates that it is right for Christians to oppose other Christians for violating biblical teaching. Likewise, Galatians 2 shows that it is right for Christians to object when Christians inappropriately break fellowship with those who are not violating Christian teaching. Paul opposed Peter for just this reason. In fact, this is the exact same thing that Paul and Barnabas disputed with Pharisaic believers in Acts 15.
 
It is worth noting that this is the only issue we have seen so far that the New Testament prohibits Christians from breaking fellowship with other Christians. We saw this same basic issue earlier in Romans 14-15. In Romans 14-15, Paul similarly told the Roman believers that they could not judge other Christians when both options were allowed by Jesus’ teaching. Jesus’ teaching permitted a person to voluntarily continue Jewish feasts and dietary laws but it also permitted a person to cease Jewish feasts and dietary laws. In fact, as we will see below, both Galatians and Romans pertain to the extent to which keeping various aspects of the Jewish law was a requirement for Christians. And not only are the specifics related, but the general principle is the same as well. Since Jesus’ teaching was not being violated, the Romans were not to judge one another over these issues. They were required to receive on another unless Jesus’ teaching was violated. That is the same principle expressed here in Galatians 2. Jesus’ teaching did not require keeping the whole of Moses’ law, so Jewish Christians could not separate from Gentile Christians for a failure to do so. 
 
To emphasize the point, Paul is not prohibiting Christians from separating over minor divergences from the original teaching of Christ. Instead, Paul is prohibiting Christians from separating unless an actual divergence from Jesus’ teaching occurs. Paul’s instruction here does not place any restriction whatsoever on how small or how large the divergence has to be or on what kind of topic. Paul only insists that there must be an actual divergence or violation of Christ’s teaching.
 
The reason this is worth pointing out is that the Essentials Only View holds that there are many issues for which Christians are not permitted to break fellowship. Contrarily, the only instance in which the New Testament has prohibited Christians from breaking fellowship is when they break fellowship with those who aren’t violating the approved, apostolic understanding of Christ’s teaching. A New Testament that teaches and requires agreement on many doctrines, but only prohibits separation on one issue contradicts an Essentials Only View since the Essentials Only View requires agreement on only a few doctrines and prohibits separation on a great number of issues.
 
As Paul continues his discussion in chapter 2, he addresses the perverted version of the gospel that was being introduced to the Galatians. There were some in Galatia who were teaching that Christians have to keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved. Paul’s inclusion of this account with Peter and Barnabas was merely a means of introducing the issue. Peter and Barnabas’ separating from Gentile believers signified that the Gentile Christians were not qualified for fellowship. This reflected the false teaching that salvation in Christ required Gentiles to keep the Mosaic ordinances. Therefore, according to this false doctrine, salvation did not come by faith in Christ, his atoning work, and the New Covenant, but through the observance of the Old Mosaic Covenant.
 

Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain (1500). 3:1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? 2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain (1500)? if it be yet in vain (1500).
 
The Greek word translated as “in vain” in Galatians 2:21 is “dorean” (Strong’s number 1432.) Here it means “useless.” The Greek word translated as “in vain” in Galatians 3:4 is “eike” (Strong’s number 1500.) Here it means “without success.”
 
1432 dorean
accusative case of 1431 as adverb; TDNT-2:167,166; adj
AV-freely 6, without a cause 1, in vain 1, for nought 1; 9
1) freely, as a gift {#Mt 10:8 Ro 3:24 2Co 11:7 2Th 3:8 Re 21:6 22:17}
2) in vain, uselessly {#Joh 15:25 Ga 2:21}
 
1500 eike
probably from 1502 (through the idea of failure); TDNT-2:380,203; adv
AV-in vain 5, without a cause 1, vainly 1; 7
1) inconsiderably, without purpose, without just cause
2) in vain
2a) without success or effort
 
According to Galatians 2:21 and 3:4, requiring Christians to keep the Law of Moses makes Christ’s atoning work useless and the apostolic commission (Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Acts 1) unsuccessful.
 
In Galatians 5, Paul continues his discussion of those who taught a distorted version of the gospel.
 

Galatians 5:6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. 7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? 8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. 9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none (3762) otherwise (243) minded (5426): but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be. 11 And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. 12 I would they were even cut off which trouble you.
 

While he is warning about the dangers of false teachings, Paul refers to Jesus’ metaphor of leaven spreading through bread (Galatians 5:6-9.) Jesus used this metaphor to refer to the Pharisees and Sadducees. These two groups epitomized sectarian divisions created by divergent understandings of God’s word. Christ prohibited his followers from being like these groups in this regard.

 

Here Paul uses Christ’s metaphor regarding sectarian groups and instructs the Galatians to “be none otherwise minded.” The Greek word translated as “none” is “oudeis” (Strong’s number 3762) which is most commonly translated in the New Testament as “no man.” It is followed by the Greek word “allos” (243) meaning “another” and the Greek word “phroneo” (5426) which we have already seen in 1 Corinthians. It means “to understand, feel, or think.” Therefore, Paul is instructing the Corinthians that none of them can have a different understanding of this issue. In other words, they cannot be like the Pharisees and Sadducees whose understandings of God’s word diverged from one another.

 

We can see that in both Galatians 5 and 1 Corinthians 5, Paul refers to the spread of false teaching as leaven in bread. In 1 Corinthians 5, he instructs the Corinthians to purge the leaven from them as he instructs them to excommunicate a Christian who was violating Christ’s teaching on fornication. Here in Galatians 5:13, Paul states that he would have those who promoted false doctrine be “cut off.”

 
The Greek word translated as “cut off” in Galatians 5:12 is “apokopto” (Strong’s number 609.) It refers to “cutting off” or “amputating.”
 
609 apokopto
from 575 and 2875; TDNT-3:852,453; v
AV-cut off 6; 6
1) to cut off, amputate

 
It is the same word used in Mark’s account of Jesus’ teachings on “cutting off” a body part that is in sin. Mark 9:43-45 parallels Matthew 18:8-9 which uses a similar Greek word “ekkopto” (1541) to refer to “cutting off.” These words are formed using the Greek word “kopto” (2875) meaning to “cut off, strike, or smite” coupled with the prepositional prefixes “apo” (575) denoting “separation” and “ek” (1537) meaning “from, away from.” In both Mark 9 and Matthew 18, Jesus states that it is better to “cut off” a body part that entices the rest of the body to sin rather than the entire body being cast into hell.

 

Here Paul uses this same language to refer to cutting off these teachers. Paul also notes that their divergent doctrine made faith in Christ useless, unsuccessful, and in vain. There is little reason to doubt that Paul would have the Galatian church withdraw from and excommunicate these false teachers.

 

As Paul warned in Romans 16 and Acts 20, these men were teaching corrupted doctrines contrary to what the apostles had taught. Their distorted understanding of the gospel subverted the faith and undermined the effectiveness of Christ’s atoning work and the gospel message itself. Paul’s language from these passages indicates that such men should be “cut off” and “avoided” (as “anathema”.) Certainly, requiring Christians to keep the Old Covenant Law was an excommunicable offense.

 

To be clear, the Essentials Only View does include this doctrinal requirement by listing “faith in Christ” (rather than obligation to the Law of Moses) as “the only way to be saved.” So, although we have identified requiring of the Law of Moses as an excommunicable doctrine, this particular doctrine does not constitute anything contrary to Essentials Only View. We have simply confirmed the inclusion of one particular doctrinal issue as excommunicable, which is also included by an Essentials Only View.

 

However, later in Galatians 5, Paul provides a larger list of sins and states that those who engage in such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 
Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions (1370), heresies (139), 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

 
It is worth noting that Paul’s concern is that people will not inherit the kingdom of God. This again shows the inherent connection and significance of the kingdom of God in relation to the gospel message and salvation. Likewise, not only does Galatians 5 provide a list of behaviors which will prevent a person from entering the kingdom of God, but the Galatians 5 list contains the all of the items which Paul said were excommunicable offenses in 1 Corinthians 5.
 
1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company (4874), if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. 12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? 13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away (1808) from among yourselves that wicked person.
 
Likewise, we have seen that in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul relists these same excommunicable behaviors and concludes that those who do them will not inherit the kingdom of God.
 
1 Corinthians 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
 
We can see then that, like 1 Corinthians, Galatians does indicate that excommunication is required for issues that an Essentials Only View says prohibits Christians from breaking fellowship over. These things include teaching Christians that it is acceptable to commit adultery, fornication, murder, idolatry, drunkenness, etc. We should also note Paul’s list in Galatians 5 includes both “seditions” and “heresies.”
 
The Greek word translated as “seditions” in verse 20 is “dichostasia” (Strong’s number 1370.) This Greek noun is a compound word formed from the Greek word for “twice” (“dis,” Strong’s number 1364) and the Greek word “stasis” (4714.) Earlier we saw that Acts 23:7 and 10 used “stasis” to describe the differences of opinion held by the Pharisees and Sadducees. More importantly, Romans 16:17 used the same Greek word “dichostasia” (1370) to refer to those who taught things contrary to what the church learned from the apostles. Likewise, 1 Corinthians 2:13-3:4 used this same word (“dichostasia”) to condemn sectarian divisions caused by those who were immature regarding the understanding taught by Christ. In addition, we already know that the Greek word for “heresy” (139) is used to describe sectarian differences of opinion on doctrinal matters that result in divisions among God’s people.
 
In Galatians (and Corinthians), Paul condemns and prohibits these types of sectarian divisions and doctrinal divergences among Christians. And, like Romans 16:17, Galatians even indicates that those who caused sectarian divisions by teaching divergent views should be avoided (“anathema”) and cut off. This fits perfectly with Christ’s own prohibition against his followers repeating the practices of the Pharisees and Sadducees whose divergent understanding of God’s word divided them from each other. In his letters Paul continues to articulate his understanding that Christ prohibited his followers from likewise developing divergent opinions of the proper understanding of his teaching. And yet this is the very concept that an Essentials Only View seeks to allow for: sectarian and denominational divisions created and maintained by divergent opinions concerning the correct understanding of Jesus’ teaching. 
 
We also continue to see Paul’s familiarity with Christ’s teaching of excommunication exhibited in his letters. As Paul concludes his epistle to the Galatians, he makes additional remarks that reference this important Christian practice.
 
In Galatians 6:1, Paul speaks of restoring a Christian brother who is overtaken by a fault. This parallels Christ’s instruction (in Matthew 18) to go to a brother who has trespassed and tell them their fault in the hope of gaining them back.  
 
Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken (4301) in a fault (3900), ye which are spiritual, restore (2675) such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering (4648) (5723) thyself (4572), lest (3361) thou also be tempted.
 
Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
 
But we must pay attention to Paul’s warning for Christians to be careful when attempting to restore a fallen Christian brother. In Galatians 6:1, Paul tells us to “consider ourselves lest we also be tempted.” The Greek word translated as “consider” is “skopeo” (Strong’s number 4648) which we have already seen Paul use in Romans 16:17. There, Paul was telling Christians to “watch, mark, contemplate, be attentive” and “take heed” of those who taught things contrary to the doctrine the apostles had taught. Here, Paul tells Christians to “be attentive” to ourselves as we attempt to restore Christians who are in sin so that we too don’t become tempted, entangled, and led away in their sin.
 
This is always the danger of sin, especially among believers. Christ and Paul have both articulated that being in contact with those in sin risks the spread of sin to other parts of the body including ourselves. 
 
In the closing verses of Galatians 6, Paul again reiterates that requiring Christians to be circumcised according to the Law of Moses is not an approved teaching. In verse 16, he states that those who walk according to this rule should have peace and mercy.
 
Galatians 6:12 As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. 13 For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. 14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. 15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. 16 And as many as walk (4748) according (2583) to this rule (2583), peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. 17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. 18 Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
 
Paul indicates that requiring circumcision and keeping of the Law of Moses are outside the rule of Christian teaching. The Greek word translated as “rule” is “kanon” (Strong’s number 2583.) We can see then that Paul used the idea of the “kanon” or “standard of measure” for determining what things were not acceptable for Christians and which therefore required excommunication. This rule of the faith was the approved understanding of Christ’s teaching that was universally established and taught in all churches by the apostles.
 
Before we leave Galatians, we should briefly take note of Paul’s teaching on the gospel. We want to continually show that the biblical definition of “the gospel” includes doctrines that an Essentials Only View does not hold to be a part of the gospel message or essential for fellowship or subject to excommunication.
 
We have seen that, in an Essentials Only View such as that expressed by Dr. Geisler (on equip.org), “the gospel” is defined as “Christ’s deity, death, and resurrection” and entails 14 specific essentials doctrines which are the only doctrines that we can rightly divide (break fellowship over.)
 
The question is, What are the essentials?…the essential doctrines are the only truths over which we rightly can divide (i.e., break fellowship)…it is a great error for those who hold the truth to be divided where nonessentials are concerned (e.g., Eph. 4:3). – Norman L. Geisler, The Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith (Part One), A Historical Approach, JAE100-1, http://equip.org/articles/the-essential-doctrines-of-the-christian-faith-part-one-
 
What are the essential doctrines of the Christian faith?...What are the essential doctrines on salvation without which salvation would not be possible?...Salvation as described in the Bible, based in the deity, death, and resurrection of Christ—which is the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1–6)—entails all these essential doctrines, including: (1) human depravity, (2) Christ’s virgin birth, (3) Christ’s sinlessness, (4) Christ’s deity, (5) Christ’s humanity, (6) God’s unity, (7) God’s triunity, (8) the necessity of God’s grace, (9) the necessity of faith, (10) Christ’s atoning death, (11) Christ’s bodily resurrection, (12) Christ’s bodily ascension, (13) Christ’s present high priestly service, (14) Christ’s second coming, final judgment, and reign. – Norman L. Geisler, The Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith (Part Two), The Logical Approach, JAE100-2, http://equip.org/articles/the-essential-doctrines-of-the-christian-faith-part-two-
 
Earlier we listed all the doctrinal issues that are not included in Geisler and CRI’s list of doctrines which can rightly be divided over. We saw that doctrines related to the nature of our inheritance in the kingdom of God are not included by Geisler in his understanding of “the gospel” or essential doctrines. This is where Paul’s comments in Galatians 3 become significant.
 
Throughout Galatians 3, Paul refers to Abraham as the model of our faith. This begins in verse 6. In verse 7, Paul explains that those who have faith in Christ are the children of Abraham. In verse 8, Paul states that God preached the gospel unto Abraham saying that in him would all the nations be blessed. In verse 9, Paul states those who are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
 
Galatians 3:6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. 7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
 
The Greek word translated as “preached the gospel beforehand” is “proeuaggelizomai” (Strong’s number 4283.) It is simply a compound word formed from the Greek prefix “pro” (4253) meaning “before” and the Greek verb “euaggelizomai” (2097) which, as we have seen, is used in the New Testament to refer to preaching the gospel. It is interesting to consider what Paul means by saying that the gospel was preached unto Abraham.
 
In verse 14, Paul continues to explain. He states that through Jesus Christ, the blessing of Abraham has come on the Gentiles through faith. In verses 16-17, Paul reminds us that promises were made to Abraham and his seed and that the promise made to Abraham was not disannulled or set aside by the Law of Moses. In verse 18, Paul explains that this promise pertains to an inheritance that God gave to Abraham and his seed.
 
Galatians 3:14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. 15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. 16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. 18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
 
In verses 25-29, Paul explains that by faith in Christ we have become Abraham’s seed and heirs according of the promise that was given to Abraham and his seed.
 
Galatians 3:25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
 
This lengthy teaching by Paul explains his concept of the gospel. According to Paul, the gospel involved receiving an inheritance that was promised to Abraham and his seed by faith. Furthermore, Paul specifically states that, in regard to this promised inheritance, there is no difference between Jew and Gentiles. A critical question then is what exactly was it that God promised as an inheritance to Abraham and his seed. It is important to note that Paul was not making this all up. He was a Jew thoroughly trained in the Old Testament. He knew very well what blessing and inheritance Abraham was promised by God because of his faith. It was something specific.
 
Besides Galatians 3:24, Genesis 28:4 contains the only other biblical use of the phrase “the blessing of Abraham.”
 
Genesis 28:1 And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. 2 Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother. 3 And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; 4 And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.
 
In this passage, Abraham’s son Isaac is instructing his son Jacob (who would later be called Israel.) He explains that God would give him and his seed the blessing of Abraham which was that they would inherit the land that God had given to Abraham.
 
God’s original promise to Abraham (which Paul is quoting in Galatians 3) is recorded in Genesis 12:1-7.
 
Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. 4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. 6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. 7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.
 
It is relevant to Paul’s point that this promised inheritance was given to Abraham by God before God instituted circumcision as a sign of the covenant between himself and Abraham. The institution of circumcision is recorded in Genesis 17 after God again reiterates the promised inheritance he had given unto Abraham and his seed.
 
Genesis 17:5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. 6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. 8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. 9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
 
So, circumcision came after God had previously promised the inheritance to Abraham. Likewise, the Law of Moses didn’t come into existence until hundreds of years later. Therefore, Paul could argue that neither circumcision nor keeping the Law of Moses were required in order to receive the promised inheritance through faith in Christ.
 
From Genesis 12, 17, and 28, we can see exactly what it was that Paul was saying God promised to give to Abraham and his seed as an inheritance. It was the earthly land of Israel. Therefore, according to Paul, through faith in Christ, we (whether Jew or Gentile) will receive this promised inheritance of earthly land. This, again according to Paul, was the manner in which the gospel was preached beforehand to Abraham. Through Abraham many nations would be blessed since through faith they (like him) would receive this same promised earthly inheritance in Christ. The gospels record that Jesus similarly made references Abraham and taught that Old and New Testament saints together will receive the same inheritance in the kingdom of God.
 
Matthew 8:11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
 
Luke 13:28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. 29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.
 
Moreover, Galatians is not the only time when Paul defines Christian faith, even saving faith, as belief in receiving the land promises given to Abraham. Like Galatians, the following passage from Romans 4 explicitly refers to the promise that Abraham would be heir of the world, that Abraham is the father of all those who share his faith in that promise, and the fact that neither circumcision nor the law are requirements for receiving those promises.
 
Romans 4:8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. 9 Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: 12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. 13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: 15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. 16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, 17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
 
While Romans 4 does not use the term “gospel” with regard to the promise of inheriting the land, it is clear that Romans 4 is a perfect parallel of Galatians in this regard and Galatians does identify this promise as the Gospel. Paul’s direct and integral association of this promise with the gospel and the fact that we see Paul teaching this to two separate churches, strongly suggests that Paul defined the gospel in these same terms in all the churches where he preached. And lastly, it is implicit from Romans 4 that one is not qualified to be a seed or fellow-heir with Abraham unless one believes in the same land promises that Abraham believed. This leaves absolutely no room for alternative views about the kingdom which diverge from this earthly inheritance or which do not accept that Jews and Gentiles alike share in this same earthly inheritance. Consequently, Galatians and Romans both demonstrate that how we define the kingdom of God is not only at the core of the gospel message but that it is an essential doctrine apart from which we are believing in false promises and alternate versions of the gospel, which do not maintain Paul’s explicit inclusion of God’s land promises to Abraham.
 
These issues of the gospel and the inheritance promised us by faith in Christ deserve more study. For those who are interested, we have an outline examining this subject available online entitled “Covenant and Dispensational Theologies.”
 
For our purposes here it is only necessary to point out that Paul’s conception of the gospel and what we receive by faith in Christ Jesus includes things that Dr. Geisler and CRI do not include as essential doctrines. In contrast to Dr. Geisler and CRI, Paul taught that exactly what we receive through faith in Christ is an essential and critical component of the gospel message.
 
Today many churches and denominations disagree with one another and have different understandings of these issues that are related our inheritance in the kingdom of God. Is it an earthly inheritance like Abraham believed in? Or is it something else? In addition, do Jews and Gentiles receive the same thing or different things? An Essentials Only View accepts these types of differences on these doctrinal topics and prohibits Christians from breaking fellowship over them. Again, Paul contradicts an Essentials Only View by teaching that it is absolutely critical and necessary for our faith to be modeled after Abraham’s faith. We must believe what Abraham believed. What God has asked us to believe is the same promise that he gave to Abraham. Paul is equally clear, Abraham’s faith was a faith which believed in very particular promises. According to Paul, Abraham had the gospel preached unto him when he was promised an earthly inheritance, which now through faith in Christ both Old and New Testament Jews and Gentiles can likewise receive. Once again, scriptural teaching does not fit with the conceptions of an Essentials Only View. To the contrary, the gospel seems inherently tied to the kingdom of God and to particular earthly promises made to Abraham. Such things are not considered required in an Essentials Only View of essential Christian teaching, yet Paul defines the gospel itself in terms of these land promises to Abraham.
 
As we close our section on Galatians we will now recap our findings in relation to the main questions of our study.
 
Galatians identifies requiring Christians to keep the Law of Moses as an excommunicable doctrine. In accordance with this Galatians identifies what is so far the only doctrinal issue Christians are prohibited from excommunicating over. In particular, Galatians indicates that we cannot withdraw from someone because they do not keep Mosaic ordinances. However, this specific prohibition merely expresses the general rule that we have no authority to excommunicate Christians whose beliefs and practices are in accordance with New Testament teaching. In addition, Galatians contains a list of issues which overlaps and is similar to the list of excommunicable offenses in 1 Corinthians 5. Therefore, Paul continues to express his familiarity with Christ’s teaching on excommunication through his language, practice, and outline of excommunicable issues. By comparing Galatians with 1 Corinthians, it is clear that Galatians required excommunication for adultery, fornication, idolatry, witchcraft, murder, drunkenness, sectarian differences of opinion, demanding that Christians keep the Law of Moses, and in general for advocating a distorted version of the gospel (which includes all things whatsoever that apostles taught to all the churches everywhere.)