For in Christ Jesus neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. As many as walk by this rule, peace and mercy be on them, and on God’s Israel. From now on, let no one cause me any trouble, for I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus branded on my body. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
Paul doesn’t end this book on a positive note. He clearly declares that anything else but true Christianity isn’t anything at all, and then warns those who would oppose him.
We live in a day that’s quite similar Paul’s. When I talk about this, I have noticed that I appear to lose some of my audience. It is very clear that Christianity not only claims to be the only way to God, it claims that everything else is nothing. Paul’s life was affected because he said things like this.
As I mentioned a few posts back, Paul was physically beaten many times. He had been given 39 ashes three times and had been stoned and left for dead yet survived. This man actually wore scars because of his faith. I am told that, in those days, when a servant was marked or branded, it was to show who he belonged to. It is possible that Paul was talking about his scars and that he wore these scars as reminders of who he belonged to. If you have suffered for Jesus, you wear scars of belonging too. The marks of your suffering can provide you comfort because your faith was proven to be genuine by making it through persecution.
This concludes the letter to the Galatians. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.”
But far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
When you see the world like Paul did, there isn’t any room for boasting. Seeing the world this way is important for Christians because it shows that we really understand the basics of the Gospel. For some reason, even though this concept is basic to Christianity, it has been left behind in many discussions about salvation.
To properly believe in Jesus, you need to also believe that you died with Him. All that the world is, is no longer your concern because you no longer belong to this world. Obviously, if you are dead, you can’t really boast about anything. If the only reason you live is because of the life of another, then you can boast but it won’t be about yourself!
We also read here that the world was crucified to us. Paul says in Romans that Jesus was “the Last Adam.” Basically, the whole world died to God when Jesus died. This one verse is very deep and extremely important in helping us live a good Christian life.
When Paul talks about “the world” here, he is talking about “the system” or this world’s way of being. He isn’t saying that we need to leave the world, but He is saying that the world has no power over us anymore and that there is nothing we owe to the world’s system anymore either.
The message of the Gospel is a freedom message. We are free from our sin, we are free from the law, and we are free from the world’s system. It’s no wonder that those who wish to control and oppress don’t want to see it continue without being changed to suit them somehow.
For even they who receive circumcision don’t keep the law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may boast in your flesh.
One thing that I’ve noticed about those who make a big deal about following rules at church is that they are very external. These rules are usually not in the Bible either, but they are able to use parts of the Bible that seem to support their actions when taken out of context. They are careful to select things to focus on that are highly visible but will not expose them as rule breakers.
If they were making some kind of a social club, it would be a little different, but these people call their rules “Christianity.” Christianity is about Christ and He said for us to love each other as He loved us. That’s a pretty big assignment as I have mentioned before. The kind of teachers that Paul is talking about here are aware of the true laws of God, but they insist on focusing on the external rules instead.
Paul says that these legalists were seeking to take pride in this external behavior that they helped produce in others. They were proud of their own false accomplishments as they controlled others instead of loving them.
We should never let a religious man control us. He should teach us the true word of God and let us submit to the Holy Spirit’s control. Guilt over external rules is a major distraction and will not help us obey the Law of Christ.
The best thing to do is to leave these false teachers behind and seek good teachers that will teach you the Bible. It may be difficult to find a good Bible teacher, but it will be worth it.
As many as desire to look good in the flesh, they compel you to be circumcised; only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.
Those who preach a rule-following “gospel” are looking out for themselves. They do want fame and fortune, but they don’t want to get in any trouble. Truth has little value to these preachers. In Paul’s day it was the a sect of the Jews, who would go around and make sure that the Christians made converts to Judaism before Christianity. In reality, they were living as neither Christian nor Jew should.
Today, we have those who believe that certain things should be considered in an un-biblical way like abortion, homosexuality, evolution, global warming and many others. The biblical world-view does not permit Christians to have the common, acceptable view of these things. Because we don’t accept the common view, we are persecuted. Sometimes these persecutions are severe and even result in going to jail. Other times, it only results in bad feelings or lower church attendance.
Many preachers today are avoiding discussions about things like hell, blood, Satan and end-times prophesy. They may get popular, but their church is sure to be full of those that never get saved or live in a state of powerlessness as Christians. It would appear that some are only trying to look good and avoid persecution. They may avoid persecution now, but they will face God’s wrath in the future if they don’t change their ways.
The desire for wealth can be deceiving. Some of these leaders may think they are aiming for salvation. That’s where that objective measure of yourself comes in like we discussed earlier. Belief in the “cross of Christ” will bring persecution in this world. We shouldn’t expect it not to happen and we will need the Holy Spirit to help us stand as we make it through.
See with what large letters I write to you with my own hand.
Today we are going to look at the historical evidence that this verse provides.
Here we read that the fact that Paul wrote with large letters. This, apparently, was evidence that it was really Paul doing the physical writing of this part of the letter. I presume based on the way this verse was written that the Galatians would have expected that Paul would write with large letters.
I now have to wear glasses. It is frustrating when I have to fill out a form with small boxes without my glasses. I really like to be able to see what I am writing. If I am allowed to, I will write larger letters without my glasses because I feel more comfortable.
This is one of those evidences that seem to indicate that Paul had trouble seeing. Since he uses such a familiar tone with the Galatians, it is natural for us to hypothesize that Paul was experiencing severe problems with his eyes when he first visited as indicated in chapter 4 verse 15.
I’ve mentioned this before, but it is important to remember that physical hardship is not evidence that God doesn’t like you. Paul had more trouble in his life than many of us will ever have. Listen to what he said here:
2 Corinthians 11:23-30 :
Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as one beside himself) I am more so; in labors more abundantly, in prisons more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths often. Five times from the Jews I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I suffered shipwreck. I have been a night and a day in the deep. I have been in travels often, perils of rivers, perils of robbers, perils from my countrymen, perils from the Gentiles, perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea, perils among false brothers; in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, and in cold and nakedness. Besides those things that are outside, there is that which presses on me daily, anxiety for all the church groups. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is caused to stumble, and I don’t burn with indignation? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that concern my weakness.
Now, I wouldn’t be surprised that someone who went through such severe trials, such as being stoned and left for dead and then getting up and walking off, might have a bit of trouble with certain damaged body functions. The problem that we deal with today, however, is the idea that somehow those who are Christians will be “blessed” by God so that they won’t have problems. Wasn’t Paul a Christian?
This man, who probably couldn’t see very well, was used by God in his weakness to help you and I today. God is glorified in this way. I am not saying that we shouldn’t pray to be healed or that we should try to get beat up. What I am saying is that if you find yourself in pain here on earth for doing what is right, don’t think that it is because you are not blessed. The Bible indicates that if you do suffer in this way, you will be rewarded in the future. This fact was so well understood by some in the early days of Christianity that they gladly gave their lives for Jesus.
You are loved if you are a Christian and no one can take that away. Don’t let the lies of smooth talking money-grabbers rob you of your joy in Christ.
So then, as we have opportunity, let’s do what is good toward all men, and especially toward those who are of the household of the faith.
The Bible tells us here to do good to everyone. The message of Christianity is not only that we shouldn’t do evil, it’s that we should do good. We don’t get to choose who we do good to either. We do good to everyone, even our enemies.
I want to take a minute to clarify that doing good isn’t always “being nice.” There is quite a difference. Sometimes doing good doesn’t seem very nice at all. Paul was being good in this letter even though he was obviously upset and telling others that they would be facing judgment.
I like how C. S. Lewis puts it in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” when he says that Aslan isn’t a tame lion, but that he is good one. Somehow, in my culture, we’ve inappropriately fused tameness with goodness. That’s not what we are talking about here. Now we should be gentle but there is a time when the only good thing to do is to come down hard against evil. There certainly has been a lot to do in this area recently.
Another important thing to recognize about this verse is that it does apply a priority to who get’s first place when we give out goodness. God doesn’t tell us to not be good to sinners, but He does tell us to give “those who are of the household of the faith” priority by using the word “especially” here.
Remember that Jesus told the disciples when Judas had left that they were to obey His commandment to love each other. Jesus didn’t tell them to “love the world.” It isn’t that He didn’t want us to love the world too, but that was not the focus.
This is one of the reasons why we “go to church” or go to meet together as Christians. It’s difficult to fulfill Jesus command to do good to each other if you don’t ever see each other! Too much focus is given to feeling comfortable at church. Really, we should all be going to meet in order to do good to each other. If everyone has that focus, it would be a nice place to go. As soon as we start thinking about our own comfort, things really break down.
Also, with our priorities firmly in place in regard to goodness, we attract people from the outside. If we just distribute good without priority, it doesn’t express the proper way to God. The only way to God is through Jesus by becoming one who is “of the household of faith.” This is an appropriate attraction unbelievers should feel. They need to witness the love we have for each other and want to be inside. We do a great disservice to Christianity to not express a clear distinction for the sake of those who need salvation. This is why an attempt to equalize religions, whether intended or not, is an attack against the purpose of God in the Church of Jesus Christ in this world.
Let us not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we don’t give up.
One of the most difficult things to deal with as a Christian is when a fellow Christian falls into a lifestyle of sin. When Jesus asked us to love our brothers and sisters, he included the idea that we love them when they aren’t very lovely. This definitely doesn’t mean that we accept their sin! It means that we are to make an effort to restore them and to patiently deal with their faults until they come back. It is assumed that this is done in God’s power.
When a brother falls into a lifestyle of sin, it is easy to get discouraged just because it happened. Rather than following them, or ignoring them, God is asking us to gently rebuke them and work to can get them back. We are to keep sowing the seeds that encourage the sinning ones to return to faith.
This is a big problem for Christians today and it isn’t a surprise that God repeats this topic in the Bible.
In the “western world,” many Christians have fallen into the sin of naturalism, and attempt to describe Christianity in non-supernatural terms. They often exclude miracles from the Bible and include man’s naturalistic ideas, instead. This is not a option in Christianity. The Bible clearly says that Jesus is God and that he was born of a virgin and resurrected from the dead. These problems are not confined to the western world either.
In China, under a great deal of pressure, many Christians there have accepted abortion. Some have even paid for abortions for their members. This is clearly against God’s will. God refers to children in the womb as people and the Bible tells us that murder is wrong.
One of the biggest problems we have now is the sin of compromise. Some actually believe that we can accept all religions and still be a Christian ourselves. Jesus clearly said that we are either with Him or against Him. A person cannot agree with all religions and be a Christian. Jesus said that He is the only way.
God’s word is the final authority for all Christians. If we find someone who claims to be a Christian and is choosing to oppose God’s word, it is our responsibility to show them they are wrong and help them come back to faith in God’s word. This may take a lot of time and effort. Even if we cannot speak to them, God wants us to stay in prayer for them.
We must keep sharing their load and help them come back to where they belong. God wants to use us to bring these people back. Can you imagine how it could change our world? Let’s keep doing good and not give up.