Galatians 6:11-18

11See with what large letters I write to you with my own hand! 12It is those who wish to make a good showing in the flesh who would have you be circumcised, only so that they would not be persecuted for Christ. 13For those who are circumcised do not observe the law but want you to be circumcised, in order that they may boast in your flesh. 14Far be it from me to boast in anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world. 15For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything, but a new creation. 16And as for those who walk by this rule, peace and mercy on them and on the Israel of God. 17From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear in my body the marks of Jesus. 18The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

 

Paul now closes his letter, and his abrupt ending, though anticlimactic, drives home his point. Those who teach the legalism stuff have a vested interest in being the Galatians’ religious progenitors. They are taking some sort of perverse pride in having the Galatians in their “conversion tree.” They see the Galatians as being their spiritual children and a legitimate source of pride. Paul, by contrast, has no dog in this hunt; he argues that the only thing he cares about is the cross, and he doesn’t attempt to use the Galatians as a source of spiritual pride or boasting. The law’s code is meaningless, he argues, and the real point of the Christian religion is the fact of a new creation. Those who wish to walk in this newness are wished peace by Paul—and he is even careful to include the nation of Israel, which the Judaizers would no doubt have claimed to love more. He calls out the Judaizers for their moral cowardice; after all, their commitment to legalism doesn’t make them a threat to anyone, and they can thus avoid persecution. Paul, however, bears the marks of one who is standing for the true gospel. The contrast couldn’t be clearer: on one side, a group of legalists who are trying to avoid persecution and want to see the Galatians as extensions of themselves. On the other, a man whose devotion to the true gospel has almost cost him his life, and who has real apostolic authority to teach truth. It should be clear to the Galatians which source has true authority. He closes with a wish of Jesus’ grace.

 

That contrast is clear to us today, as well. Those who seek to make us “clones” of themselves are seeking a glory that is not biblical. Those who wish to make us obey codes of righteousness are avoiding the troublesome mess of real religion. Those who believe righteousness is a function of obedience are slave merchants—making Christians to wear chains. Meanwhile, those committed to the true gospel are not in “discipleship” for themselves, but for the good of those they disciple. They celebrate the freedom which Christ’s sacrifice provided, and they walk in it. They teach a true discipleship, which is predicated on a mutual pressure toward maturity that emanates from a two-way love for one another. Over time, they are new creations, not modern Pharisees.

 

Which do you trust as models? The best way to answer this question is to imagine yourself as one of the two models. Which would you prefer to be? Walk in that path.

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2 thoughts on “Galatians 6:11-18

  1. Nicholas Brincefield

    so what I am understanding is that we are to be separate from others, not in the sense of being by ourselves, but we need to have the cross in our eyesight at all times and not look at the actions that we have done as a sense of pride and purpose. we are still in community, but our mindsets should be to do as Christ would have us do, not what the world or even the others in the church would have us do?

    Reply
    1. apologistmike Post author

      I’m not sure where that particular reading comes from…perhaps because there is a little vagueness here. I don’t see a command in this passage to be “separate from others,” for one thing. Overall, the apostle has made an argument through Galatians that one’s justification comes from Christ alone, and that because of Christ there is no need for the extra codes of conduct that some try to put on Christians.

      But while legalists typically infect the church in some sense, they are not to be confused with the “church” herself. The true Christian walk is to be “predicated on a mutual pressure toward maturity that emanates from a two-way love for one another.” There would be no other way to hear “what Christ would have us to do” other than community, or the church. Without her, all you are really hearing is probably yourself. It is in the church that we learn to distinguish between spiritual voices, and learn the discipline of the walk of faith, and learn to bear one another’s burdens. It is in the church where we gently push one another to grow, rather than stand still and stagnate. These actions aren’t legalism–they are discipleship.

      Legalism would be coming up with a code of conduct to which you should adhere in order for you to be considered Christian.

      Reply

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