This couldn’t have been a very happy letter for Paul to write to this church…hence the opening that does not include a “I thank my God for you…” He still desires grace & peace for them, but the next usual thanksgiving chunk was not there. The way the Voice opened the spot where that would normally be was, “Frankly, I am stunned…” Because the Galatians have been deceived/deceived themselves. They have begun believing that this gospel is even slightly about them and their works. They have been led astray by those (called the Judaizers) who maintain the ritual keeping of the law (like circumcision) along with believing in Jesus.
In chapter 3, which I see as the climax of Paul’s rebuke, the Voice gave me a whole new mindset on what the Galatians were thinking–in verse 3, it says, “Are you so foolish? Do you think you can perfect something God’s Spirit started with any human effort?” If our works are any good, they empty the cross of its power, because that was the one work [of God] to end all works.
But we SO often have the mindset that we can do this or do that to prove ourselves worthy servants, right? I know I do. And when we feel like we’ve failed or we “haven’t done ____ right,” we beat ourselves up. We essentially make ourselves suffer because we haven’t done enough. And we have the gall to think that feeling guilty is how we are supposed to know that we are truly following Jesus. Now, notice, I said guilt not conviction. They are completely different. One is from ourselves/the enemy, the other is from the Spirit (see John 16:8-9), respectively. Hello, Romans 8:1–There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION [declaration of guilty] for those who are in Christ Jesus! Ok. I’ll stop ranting about that….for now anyway.
Ok, so one of the biggest hangups that the early Church faced was this issue of circumcision. Some people thought maybe you needed it to become a Jesus-followers, others thought you didn’t. Well, the bottom line, especially to Paul, is that salvation is by grace, through faith in Christ. Period. No more, no less. So to preach circumcision goes against that. So he often repeats in Galatians that circumcision counts for nothing. I love how he repeats it at the end of his letter (6:14-16).
“May I never put anything above the cross of our Lord Jesus the Anointed. Through Him, the world has been crucified to me and I to this world. Let me be clear: circumcision won’t save you–uncircumcision won’t either for that matter–for both amount to nothing. God’s new creation is what counts, and it counts for everything. May peace and mercy come to all of you who live by this rule and to the Israel of God.”
SO good, right?! I especially got hung up last night on the whole phrase on the world being crucified to me & I to this world. I, for the first time ever in my life, watched the Grammy’s last night, mostly because I wanted to see Adele sing, but I just kept it on in the background and listened. It’s amazing what is classified as music/art these days, and how we as a culture worship it all/them all so easily. I love music as much as the next person, but something inside of me just reeled at how we are so obsessive about it all. And as I read these closing verses again last night afterward, I asked myself, Is the world being crucified to me and I to it? Notice the tense…passive progressive, which means a) it is NOT MY WORK, and b) it is not a one-step and done thing, it is a process that takes time. So, is the world progressively becoming less & less appealing and alluring to me? And am I becoming less & less appealing to it?
Once that starts, the new creation is becoming beautiful again. The wear & tear of the world & its deception begins to fade, and God’s infinite mercy & peace takes over my heart and my mind. I want that. I want to live by this rule: that it’s not about me, it’s about Him and His work, and I can add nothing to the Spirit’s work, but aim only to daily die to myself (2:20) so that Christ may live through me, His new creation.