See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
- Paul wrote, at least this section of the letter, himself.
- Paul wrote with large letters.
- Those who wanted to have the Galatians circumcised wanted to make a good showing in the flesh
- They wanted to make a good showing in the flesh so they would not be persecuted for Christ
- Even those who were circumcised do not keep the law.
- Those who wanted to have the Galatians circumcised want to boast in what the Galatians had done.
- Paul only wanted to boast in the cross of Christ.
- Paul has been crucified to the world
- The world has been crucified to Paul.
- Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision have any meaning.
- The only thing that has meaning is being made new.
- Paul wished peace and mercy on all who recognized and lived the truth.
- Paul wished peace and mercy on the Israel of God.
- Paul bore the marks of Jesus on his body
- No one was to cause Paul trouble because of the marks Paul bore.
- Paul concluded the letter by asking for the grace of Christ, our Lord, be with the Galatians’ spirit
- Paul called the Galatians brothers.
It was common in the ancient world to have a scribe write letters the author dictated. It may be that the rest of the letter was written by a scribe and this last part was written by the Apostle himself. Or it could be that Paul wrote the whole letter, which was unusual. In either case, the reference to the large letter is evidence that Paul himself was writing. He would have needed to write large letters because of his poor eye sight.
Paul’s conclusion to the letter is a call back to the original purpose of his letter. That is, the law cannot save. False teachers were telling the Galatians that they must be circumcised in order to fulfill the law of God. But Paul’s point was no one needs to fulfill, nor can they fulfill, the law of God. Paul states once again that it does not matter to anyone’s salvation rather or not they are circumcised. The only thing that counts is being made a new creature in Christ.
Paul strikes one last time at the false teachers. He makes the point that they do not have the Galatians best interest in mind. They are trying to avoid the persecution of the cross. They do not keep the law themselves. The Galatians were being used as a trophy by these false teachers.
Paul’s only interest is the cross of Christ. Paul glories in it. Because of the cross Paul suffered many things. But Paul is committed to only one thing, Christ. The world is crucified to Paul and Paul to the world. The world detests the doctrine of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Paul concludes the letter with word of finality. That he was not to be troubled with this anymore. He defended his position as an Apostle. He defended the case for salvation by grace without works of the law. He was done. He bore the marks of Jesus in his body. He did not need to continue to defend the gospel or himself any more. It was now up to the Galatians to decide.
Paul ends his epistle as he began, by wishing the Galatians the grace of God. You can almost hear the pleading of his heart. “I have presented Christ to you. I have pleaded with you. I have not overlooked anything that might benefit you. I have done all I can do. I will continue to pray for you. May Christ guide you by the Holy Spirit.”
Rather or not we need to actually perform the physical act of circumcision is not an issue in the church today. But nonetheless, we are faced with the same issue of legalism. Legalism is simply trying to earn our salvation or to justify ourselves. This is most often seen in moralism. This is the belief that in order to be a Christian we must do or behave in a specified manner. Today we commonly expressed this in negative terms; “don’t go to drink, smoke or crew or go with those who do.” So rather than what we must do it is what we must not do. Many today preach, if you do not have certain behaviors you will lose your salvation. This is in direct opposition to the scripture, as we have seen throughout this book of Galatians.
We seek righteousness in externals. This is our natural bent. And our natural bent is toward evil. Paul is clear. What we do or don’t do neither saves us nor preserves us. It is what Christ has done for us and to us that both saves us and preserves us.
We, then, respond to His love. Our response is the effect not the cause of our salvation. False teachers today outline what we would call many moral and good teachings. They are what we would commonly refer to as good moral people. But our morality will not save us. And those who would have us be good so God will bless us are not truly good. They are evil because they preach a false Christ and a false salvation that will send us to hell. Yes, they are evil even though they are what the world would call good moral people.
Christ makes us a new creation. Paul has argued forcefully that is what is important, not the law. A new creature is one in whom the image of God has been restored. Such a creature cannot be brought generated by good works, but by Christ alone. Good works may improve our outward appearance, but they cannot generate a new creature.