#184 “BOASTING IN THE CROSS OF CHRIST” (GALATIANS 6:11-18)
- 11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. Paul’s closing leaves out common features. He ends by reiterating his warning to them if they turn to the Law. I am writing—Mostly, Paul had a secretary write down what the Holy Spirit inspired him to say to the various churches in his expansive apostolic ministry (see Rom 16:22). However, there were a few times Paul dictated the last words of a letter (see 1 Cor. 16:21; Col. 4:18; 2 Thess. 3:17). It is likely Paul’s reference to writing with large letters meant he had poor eyesight. Earlier he wrote, “You would have gouges out your eyes and given them to me” (4:15). The main point is Paul demonstrated his affection for the Galatians by personally handwriting the closing portion of the letter.
- 12 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. It seems Paul is alluding to a group of circumcised people pressured by Jewish zealots to convert the Galatians. A good showing—The Judaizers were driven by pride and did everything they could to impress people with their external piety (see Matt. 6:1-7). A clear sign they were only thinking about themselves. Persecuted—The Judaizers were more likely to tolerate the gospel if it was accompanied by circumcision. To avoid persecution, many new converts would be circumcised.
- 13 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. The Judaizers bragged about the effectiveness of their conversion rates and tried to make Christianity a sect of Judaism. Keep the law—Paul calls out the hypocrisy of the Judaizers. Despite their rigorous teaching to the observance of the Law, they ultimately failed in fulfilling it.
- 14 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. In contrast to the Judaizers, Paul reaffirms his devotion to Christ. For Paul, the world offered no real joy and had no pull on him to leave his faith in Christ. Crucified to me—Paul makes a shocking statement by comparing his life in Christ to crucifixion. In 2:20, Paul stated, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” In 1 Jn. 2:15-17, John verbalizes the perils of loving the world: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
- 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. In 2 Cor. 5:17, Paul writes, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Furthermore, Paul is also alluding to the “new creation” mentioned by Isaiah of the new heavens and new earth (ch. 65).
- 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. It’s not following the Law but abiding in the grace of Jesus Christ. Israel of God—Paul extends a blessing to future Israel—that they will one day—turn their hearts to God’s salvation. Rom. 11:26, it reads, “And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; 27 “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”
- 17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks (stigma) of Jesus. The word marks denotes the branding placed or burned on a slave to signify they belonged to a certain master. In 2 Cor. 11:23-25, Paul details his various trials and persecutions for the sake of Christ: “Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” Paul’s markings run deeper than taking off the foreskin of a man’s genitals.
- 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen. Paul’s final words speak to the absolute and superior truth of the gospel. He ends with a liturgical “Amen” as indication Paul wanted his letter to be read aloud in a public worship setting.