Galatians 2:4-5 says, “And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” The false brethren spoken of here are those who had questioned the “liberty” of the believers at Antioch. In other words, Paul didn’t give these guys the time of day.
In Paul’s ministry, he had met a lot of these guys. He spoke of them in 2 Corinthians 11:26 when he said, “in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;”
Make no mistake about it. They are still around today. Peter spoke of them in 2 Peter 2:1-3 when he said, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”
What is our liberty? No more bondage to the Law (3:25, 5:1, 4:9)! In contrast to the two commands of Christ, (love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind and your neighbor as yourself), the Pharisees had developed a system of 613 laws, 365 negative commands and 248 positive laws...By the time Christ came it had produced a heartless, cold, and arrogant brand of righteousness. As such, it contained at least ten tragic flaws. (1) New laws continually need to be invented for new situations. (2) Accountability to God is replaced by accountability to men. (3) It reduces a person's ability to personally discern. (4) It creates a judgmental spirit. (5) The Pharisees confused personal preferences with divine law. (6) It produces inconsistencies. (7) It created a false standard of righteousness. (8) It became a burden to the Jews. (9) It was strictly external. (10) It was rejected by Christ.
They try to put us back under the Law even today. Jesus told the Pharisees in Matt 23:25 you are “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” This illustration reminded me of what it is like trying to live under bondage. “Professional golfer Tommy Bolt was playing in Los Angeles and had a caddy with a reputation of constant chatter. Before they teed off, Bolt told him, "Don't say a word to me. And if I ask you something, just answer yes or no." During the round, Bolt found the ball next to a tree, where he had to hit under a branch, over a lake and onto the green. He got down on his knees and looked through the trees and sized up the shot. What do you think?" he asked the caddy. "Five-iron?" "No, Mr. Bolt," the caddy said. "What do you mean, not a five-iron?" Bolt snorted. "Watch this shot." The caddy rolled his eyes. "No-o-o, Mr. Bolt." But Bolt hit it and the ball stopped about two feet from the hole. He turned to his caddy, handed him the five-iron and said, "Now what do you think about that? You can talk now." "Mr. Bolt," the caddy said, "that wasn't your ball." Legalism takes all of the fun out of being a child of the King.