May 22, 2020 – Friday
Galatians 6:12 NIV
12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.
As Paul comes to the end of his letter to the Galatians, he again brings up the subject of circumcision and persecution. He considered his final remarks so important he prefaced them with the following: 11See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! Paul, like many used scribes when writing (dictating) his letters, to take the time and effort put the closing verses in his own hand indicates something truly important to him.
A cursory reading of verse twelve above tells us some in Galatia were being compelled to be circumcised. They were doing their best to have Gentile Christians convinced of the need to be circumcised. Why? Paul clearly states it was to impress other people. What other people? Ellicott’s Commentary makes it plain:
The object of the Judaisers was by this means to keep in with their countrymen, the Jews, and even to gain favour amongst them by seeming to win over proselytes to the Mosaic law. Of course they were not doing so, but it was the appearance of such they were seeking and as such they were hypocrites much as Jesus described them in Matthew 6:5: And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
But what was the persecuted for the cross of Christ they were working to avoid? Ellicott’s Commentary posits: What aroused the antagonism of the Jews against the Christians was evidently not so much the confession of the Messiahship of Jesus as the declared abolition of the Law of Moses. By suppressing this side of Christian teaching, the Judaisers could easily obtain toleration for their other tenets. While I see some truth in what Ellicott has to say in that some believing Jews sought to avoid persecution by assuaging such antagonism I do not believe it really obtained any tolerance of the primary tenets of Christianity, especially Grace, that Jesus died on the cross paying the price for everyone’s sins. Nonetheless, many of the Judaisers, persuaded as many of the Galatians as they could to accept circumcision, and made the most of this propagandist zeal to their Jewish neighbours according to Ellicott again and I find this very reasonable.
Paul deals directly with this in the very next verse in describing the Judaisers and those they sought to impresss: 13Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. Paul’s use of the phrase circumcision in the flesh brings to mind what he wrote in Romans 2:29: No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. In other words seeking the praise of others was one to ensure one does not obtain praise from God. They would have done well to remember what Moses in Deuteronomy 10:16 said: Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer, stiff-necked being another term for being prideful and stubborn.
However it is Paul who puts the final nail in the coffin of the argument about getting circumcised when he writes: 14May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Accepting the grace of God through His Son on the cross and taking Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we become new creatures. Paul states this even more explicitly in 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation: The old has gone, the new is here!
We are indeed new creations in Christ and as such we need not fear persecution or take on any pretenses to look as if we are anything other than what we are. Christians, followers of Jesus Christ. Something to consider as we return to our churches this weekend.
Riley D. Driver-Pastor
Calvary Chapel of Dayton