You don’t always want to jump right into action. Sometimes it’s best to wait and see if time clears up a problem. For example, when you wake up with a headache, you don’t race to the emergency room, you take a couple of Tylenol and see what happens next.
However, there are times when the “wait and see” approach is deadly. Some-times you need to act immediately. If you develop an unexplained rapidly growing spot on your skin, don’t wait to see what it will do next, it might be cancer.
Such is the reaction required when false doctrine rears its ugly head. Paul said that false doctrine “eats like a cancer” (2 Timothy 2:17). Paul also compared sin to yeast in dough, which grows rapidly; and if you don’t keep tabs on it, it grows out of control (1 Corinthians 5:6). Paul also described false doctrine this way in the Galatian letter (Galatians 5:9).
There’s a case in the book of Acts which proves this philosophy of quick action true. A group of men once traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch of Syria, and taught the disciples that it was necessary for them to be circumcised in order to be saved (Acts 15:1). What happens next is vital. Paul and Barnabas quickly confronted these men and vigorously disputed with them (v. 2), and it was decided “on the spot” that Paul and Barnabas should go to Jerusalem with a company of brethren from Antioch in order to settle this matter promptly (vv. 2b-3).
Why the urgency? Why was Paul so concerned about this intrusion from men from the South? The answer is simple: the false teachers had been effective. The text tells us that “some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up saying it is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses” (v. 5). Who is the “them”? That would be Gentile converts. You see, Paul wanted to “nip this matter in the bud” quickly, because the Jewish men who had become believers were so easily swayed by the false teachers. The church was in its infancy. It wasn’t universally populated with seasoned Christians who could withstand error.
The Pharisee believers are a case in point. Their faith was saddled with the new convert’s uncertainty which made them easy targets for the circumcision argument. Surely, they had had to endure the taunts of their brethren for being turncoats from the Law of Moses. That sting plus the error of the Judaizers easily toppled these men’s commitment to Christ.
For this reason, Paul acted with haste to settle the matter in Jerusalem where the false teachers claimed to originate (implying apostolic approval). There was no time to waste and to see how the error would shake out among the saints. When it was decided, a letter was sent to state the truth to which all Christians should comply (vv. 23-29).
So it is today. False teaching is insidious. It appeals to people, and we cannot give it any breathing room, or it will spread like cancer and kill the weak among us. That’s why Paul said, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).
Adapted from David Weaks