“You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you” (Galatians 5:7-8).
Judging from the number of athletic references that appear within his Biblical letters, it seems that Paul the Apostle had a strong interest in the sporting events of his day. For instance, Paul employed the imagery of a boxer in 1 Corinthians chapter nine to communicate the important qualities of focus, purpose, and determination in pursuing a life that honors Christ.
In that portion of Scripture, Paul wrote, “So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27 NLT).
Later in his second letter to a pastoral leader named Timothy, Paul said this: “…if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5). Perhaps the best known use of this type of illustration is found in some of Paul’s final recorded words: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
In a similar manner, Paul made use of a racing analogy here in Galatians 5:7 when he wrote, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7 NIV). This illustration recalls an old saying with many applications: “It’s not how you start the race but how you finish that counts.”
With this in mind, we can paraphrase this portion of Paul’s letter to the Galatians in the following manner: “You started off well on the road to Christian maturity- who cut you off and made you stumble? Who interfered with your race to the finish line? Whoever it was, that person was not sent by God.” One commentator provides us with some additional insight on this passage…
“The original meaning of the word translated hinder is to break up a road, as an army before the advance of hostile forces. A paraphrase of this metaphor is ‘Who tore up the race track in front of you?'” (1)
So in keeping with his desire to warn the Galatians regarding the true nature of the false teachers they encountered, Paul made certain to explain that those who were responsible for getting them off-track were not sent from God. We’ll consider some applications of this passage in our 21st century information age next.
(1) Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on Galatians 5:7”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament“. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/galatians-5.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.