Summary: Paul concludes his Epistle by summarizing his arguments and by glorying in the Cross, which makes us free.
Free at last! Galatians is all about freedom…but if we’re not careful we can abuse it. Freedom is not a license to sin. Nor is it a lack of responsibility. New Hampshire’s motto is “Live free or die.” Our motto as Christians should be “Live holy or die.”
Paul’s conclusion, verse 11: “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!”
Normally Paul used a scribe to write his letters (scholars believe he had bad eyesight), but here in verse 11 he makes a point of writing in his own hand, in large letters, to emphasize the importance of his message.
Paul closes his letter with a summary of his two main themes:
-We do not need to convert to Judaism in order to be Christians; and
-We are free to live for Christ.
Paul glories in the cross, which makes all this possible.
No pressure, verse 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.”
Gentile converts were being coerced to undergo circumcision to complete their conversion. Paul exposes the motive. Rome mostly tolerated Judaism but persecuted the followers of Jesus. By becoming Jews, gentiles could avoid being singled out for mistreatment. But to protect themselves by this means meant changing the terms of salvation, making circumcision a prerequisite.
A barren boast, verse 13: “Not 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.”
No one can keep the Law of God perfectly, yet false teachers were forcing Gentiles to submit to the Law--not as a means of growth--but as a rite of passage to become part of the church, as if circumcision saved. They were glorying in a ritual as a condition of God’s acceptance. “Outward forms are valueless if inward reality is lacking” (Stott). New life is found in Christ alone. It’s been said: “Jesus plus nothing equals everything!”
But Paul had an additional argument, namely that what we regard as God’s people is larger than the Jewish nation. Being Jew or Gentile is immaterial in God’s eyes; what matters is trusting in Him. All who embrace Christ are included with Israel, and are members of God’s family. Paul was not excluding Jews from the covenant; He was including gentiles within it. The church does not replace Israel. As He did with Abraham, God accepts all who embrace His promises. Outsiders are now insiders, with no distinction of race, culture, or gender.
A reason to boast, verse 14: “May 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.”
The word “boast” in the original language means “to rejoice in, to celebrate.” Paul opposed performance-based Christianity. He refused to brag about human talent or achievement, and he rejected ritual as a means of salvation. The object of Paul’s delight was the most ugly, ignoble, offensive object of the day—the cross. We wear crosses as jewelry, but to the Romans, the “cross” was a crude, profane object. They wouldn’t even say the word, but used a euphemism: “the unlucky tree.” “The symbol which had spoken of Caesar’s naked might now spoke of God’s naked love” (N.T. Wright). But Paul did not hesitate to speak of the cross; he promoted it. Paul offered only two options: we glory in ourselves, or in the cross. When we picture Jesus upon the cross, we need to remember: He was there because of us.
And in turn, the world has been crucified to us. We have put to death the twisted values and empty promises of this world. We no longer care what the world thinks of us. As Paul says in 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ.” We are walking in His light and in the freedom which He has purchased for us, as new creations. This changes everything.
A new worldview, verse 15: “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.”
To Paul, the godless values and hopeless pleasures of this fallen world have been put to death by trust in Christ. When we embrace the new life offered, we no longer think as the world thinks; our priorities are transformed, our behavior changes, and we no longer take comfort in what the world has to offer (Ryken). Circumcision has nothing to do with our spiritual standing. I’m not suggesting that it is wrong to have the procedure; it’s perfectly acceptable for health reasons, but not to be made right with God.
We make the same error with regard to baptism. There is nothing salvific in the water. If I believed baptism saved, I’d go over to the mall with a bucket!