B.C.P. Trinity 15 : Galatians 6:11-18
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the Judaizers were Jewish Christians who believed, among other things, that a number of the ceremonial practices of the OT were still binding on the NT church. They insisted that Gentile converts to Christianity abide by certain OT rites, especially circumcision. The Judaizers argued that Paul was not an authentic apostle and that out of a desire to make the message more appealing to Gentiles he had removed from the gospel certain legal requirements.
Paul responded by clearly establishing it is by grace through faith alone that man is justified, and it is by faith alone that he is to live out his new life in the freedom of the Spirit. By introducing additional requirements for being put right with God (e.g., works of the law) his adversaries had perverted the gospel of grace and, unless prevented, would bring Paul's converts into the bondage of legalism.
The owner of a small foreign car had begun to irritate his friends by boasting incessantly about his meagre fuel consumption. So they decided on a way to get some humour out of his tireless boasting, as well as bring it to an end. Every day one of them would sneak into the parking lot where the man kept his car and pour a few gallons of petrol into the tank. Soon the braggart was recording absolutely phenomenal mileage. He was boasting of getting as much as 100 miles per gallon, and the pranksters took secret delight in his exasperation as he tried to convince people of the truthfulness of his claims. It was even more fun to watch his reaction when they stopped refilling the tank. The poor fellow couldn't figure out what had happened to his car and his boasting soon stopped.
The Judaizers boasted that they were put right with God because they were circumcised and kept the OT law. Many people are like that today. They think that if they try and live a good life according to some perceived moral code and have a belief in the existence of God then they are a Christian. The Judaizers began with a human work, circumcision, and continued with more human work, obedience of the law. They boasted in themselves. However, Paul points out that 12, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. 13: For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law;
Their motive was a desire to avoid persecution. This could be by Zealot Jews who objected to their fraternizing with Gentiles, or Romans who did not give Christianity the same respect as Judaism (see 6:12).
The reason why Christians are persecuted is that the cross of Jesus confronts them with the truth about themselves. That, without Jesus, they are sinners deserving the wrath of God and with no hope of saving themselves through their own effort. The cross was necessary because mankind could not save itself through religious observance or living life by a moral code.
The cross faces people with a choice. People can admit that they are sinners needing God's forgiveness through Jesus. Or they can continue deluding themselves that they are good enough for God.
In contrast Paul boasts of the cross...
14: But God forbid that I should glory ( or boast ), save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. 15: For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
Boasting is false. The man could not truly boast about his fuel economy because he had not designed and built the car himself. Even if he had, he would not have been able to do this without the gifts given to him by God.
To boast of the cross is really no boast at all. A drowning man who was saved by a lifeguard could not boast of this because it would mean admitting that he wasn't a good enough swimmer and he could not save himself !
Through the work of God the Holy Spirit Christians have turned their backs on the world, the society of unbelievers. Each Christian has become a 'new creature', dying to the old way of life and living a new, resurrection life in the power of the Holy Spirit (see 2 Cor. 5:17). Living for Jesus instead of for themselves. Not being proud of boastful of what they have done, but grateful that God, in Christ, has saved them.
This is what makes someone an Israelite, one of God's people. Not an accident of birth, by being born into a certain nation or religion. Not strength of character that enables someone to live their life to a code.
The Judaizers wanted to escape persecution, but Paul had suffered in the name of Jesus. A slave or an animal would bear a mark, such a brand, to show who their master was. Paul wrote, 'for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. 2 Cor. 11:4 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. Paul, if anyone, had the credentials of suffering for Jesus, but relied upon his weakness and the undeserved favour of God. Let us ensure that we follow his example and come to foot of the cross, aware of our own sinfulness and need, and of God's great love and mercy to us in Jesus.