V1212Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.. I have already mentioned that Paul in verse 1111See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. seemed to have finished his letter. But it is as if he has reread his letter before he writes down verse 1111See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.. And because of the importance of his writing he wants to stress once again its purpose. People who only sought their own interests had infiltrated the Galatians. These people ‘sowed to the flesh’. They emphasized external things, religious statutes and customs.
To impose circumcision on the Galatian believers had no other purpose than to avoid the persecution which was associated with the cross of Christ. This is what the Galatians had to hear again right at the end. Even today you see that where a religion is preached or defended where the flesh and therefore human efforts are being respected, it is an escape from total rejection. Complying with external conditions gives man a nice appearance. In general this is a great danger, but in religion this is the greatest danger.
Whosoever preaches the cross and defends it as the only way to salvation and the only means to live as a Christian, must not expect acclamation. The cross puts an end to the wisdom of the world and the pride of the Jewish religion.
V1313For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh.. The preachers of circumcision and the law did so only for their own honor and glory. They could show off with that. The same is done in our day when people boast in the number of persons they have baptized or in those who are convinced by their clever arguments about how to serve God in the best way, while in the meantime the cross is passed by. But, Paul says, do not be fooled. These people, who so strongly insist on the importance of the ordinances, don’t keep them themselves. They are hypocrites.
V1414But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.. Paul contrasts this with his own attitude and he does so in the light of the meaning of the cross. To him the cross is the place where all became clear. There he sees the true character of the world and there he sees all the perfections of the Lord Jesus; there he sees Who God is and there he sees what man is. Whoever keeps the law glories in the nature of man and what he is able to do. Whoever glories in the cross doesn’t glory in anything of himself. Isn’t the cross indeed the place where the full judgment of God is executed on the evil, sinful nature of man?
It is “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Here Paul is using the full name of his and their (“our”) Savior. This makes the cross, the place of shame, rejection and condemnation, at the same time the place where all the glory of God has become visible through faith.
The cross is the radical separation between the world and the believer. There I am judged in Christ, and so to the world I am finished, just as Christ is finished to the world. The world, and especially the religious world, nailed Christ on the cross. Away with him! That's the way the world is looking at me.
It is also true vice-versa. The world also is judged for me. By the cross the full malice and wickedness of the world is made visible. As a believer I don’t want to deal with the world anymore. The world has nothing desirable for the heart of someone who looks at the cross and accepts it as Paul presents it here. Any compromise with the world is like a slap in the face of God and Christ, and makes the cross a ridiculous thing.
I sincerely hope that you share with me the desire to see more of the meaning of the cross of Christ and also the desire to live consistently in accordance with that meaning.
V1515For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.. All outward ordinances have no value to God at all. What matters is whether someone is “a new creation”. As a new creation, you will be able to see things as God sees them.
V1616And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy [be] upon them, and upon the Israel of God.. Do you want a rule to live by? You can find it here. This rule is: Live the new life you have received at your conversion. In that new life Christ is the Object on Whom you focus and the Holy Spirit is the power therein. In that way you'll find “peace and mercy”. You will not find those things if you want to keep the law. If you want to keep the law you'll only receive condemnation, damnation and death.
Paul mentions “the Israel of God” separately. These are the believers in Israel who during this time, the time of grace, have accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior. So they belong to the church. In Romans 11 Paul says of this same group of believers: “In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to [God’s] gracious choice” (Rom 11:55In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to [God’s] gracious choice.).
Since the rejection of the Lord Jesus, Israel as a nation is not recognized by God as His people. When the church is caught up to be with the Lord, God will then continue His purpose with His people here on earth and fulfill all the promises he has made to this nation. All this you can learn from Romans 9-11. The few of His earthly people who have become believers in this time, the time of grace, are recognized by God as His Israel without making them a people separated from the church.
V1717From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.. Paul hopes that the Galatians will no longer bother him. They had troubled him by their wandering away from the gospel he had preached to them. In this letter he fervently defended this gospel accompanied by a great inner struggle. That should be sufficient.
The scars he bore due to scourges and by being stoned (see 2Cor 11:23-2523Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.24Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine [lashes].25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. for this and more hardships), he calls “the brand-marks of Jesus”. He calls his Master as an exception ‘Jesus’ without further addition. This points to the life of the Lord Jesus on earth: a life of humiliation, shame and pain which He suffered (Isa 52:1414Just as many were astonished at you, [My people],
So His appearance was marred more than any man
And His form more than the sons of men.
). Paul desired to be as much as possible like his Master (Phil 3:1010that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;). That was his honor!
V1818The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.. Then Paul ends his letter as he had begun: short and cool. There are no greetings as in other letters, although many brothers were with him (Gal 1:22and all the brethren who are with me,). His own greeting is missing. He only wishes that the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” would be with their “spirit”, as only grace and nothing else can be the counterbalance to the influence of legalistic thinking. That's what I need; that's what you need. That grace must thoroughly affect the heart, the thinking and the spirit of the Christian.
Here Paul again writes “Lord Jesus Christ”, preceded by “our”. This ‘our’ indicates the bond that existed between Paul and the Galatians. That bond is also beautifully expressed in the word “brothers”, which also shows how deeply he loved them. He thus expresses that he had written to them out of the deep consciousness of the relationship he had with his children in faith. Should there be, after all he had written, still some doubt about how he saw them, then that doubt was now suppressed.
The last word of the letter is “amen”. Of all the letters Paul wrote, only the letter to the Romans ends in the same way. That is another indication of how the two letters are connected; they both have the same significant issues, namely the presentation and the defense of the gospel. With this ‘amen’, which means ‘so it is’, Paul as it were seals the letter. What it says remains so!
I would like to conclude this commentary with the words of another believer (GC Willis) and I add this with the prayer that this letter will affect your life and mine with the purpose that God the Holy Spirit had led him to write:
‘It is impossible to say how hard it must have been for Paul to write this letter, but what a treasure we have in it for today. At that time it certainly was the work of the devil to send those teachers of the law to Galatia. But there was a higher hand and a heart of love which led everything.
Because of the attack of the enemy, God forged for us a sword of the finest steel by which all the attacks of the enemy in the past twenty centuries were resisted. And it's still as fresh and powerful as it has been all these centuries. May God Himself exercise our hands to battle with it, and our fingers to fight with it (Psa 144:11[A Psalm] of David.
Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
Who trains my hands for war,
[And] my fingers for battle;
) to His glory. Amen.’
Now read Galatians 6:12-18 again.
Reflection: Read the letter again and write down how many times you read the words ‘cross’ or ‘crucified’. Consider in what context those words occur and what that means for the practice of your life of faith.