Summary: There are many things in life that are undependable, but the salvation God gives is dependable and everlasting.
It is nothing quite like an item or person that is dependable. The young girl is impressed by the young man who shows up on time and shows up period to take her to the movies. The employer is impressed by the employee who shows up for work on a regular basis and who comes in on time. It is nice to have trustworthy employees to do their jobs whether the boss is around or not. The parent enjoys the child who comes home on time, who is as good as their word and who is obedient. Banks depend on those who borrow money from them to pay it back. Otherwise, the health of the bank is at stake. We would much rather have a vehicle that starts on a regular basis rather than one that starts intermittantly. The principal wants teachers who show up in the classroom. The pastor is impressed with church members who show up on most Sundays to worship. Churches depend on the people to give so that they might pay their bills. We depend on our paychecks to meet our financial obligations. Being dependable says a lot.
So it is with salvation. We want a dependable way so that we might be sure of our salvation. We do not want to trust in something that might not bring forgiveness or guarantee a place in heaven. We do not want to live our life in some vain pursuit that does not reward us. If the Bible says this is the way of salvation, we want to be able to depend on that being the truth.
Paul addresses this matter in these verses. In this chapter, he begins to apply previously taught doctrine to practical Christian living. He emphasizes that right doctrine must result in right living, otherwise it is of no value. The life of faith is more than just believing some truth stated in God's Word. The life of faith involves bearing divine fruit. It is the Spirit of God that makes the spiritual life work. Through his working in our lives, he molds us into the people he wants us to be. These final two chapters will deal with the Spirit-filled life.
I. DEPEND ON THE ESSENTIALS FOR SALVATION
The basic tenet of Judaism was that a person must add their good works to the process of salvation. Paul preached that we must experience God's grace by accepting the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. At that point, salvation took place. One could add nothing to this. The Judaizers were trying to change this message, and in the process attempting to get the Galatians to trust a nonessential for salvation.
Circumcision was a distinctive outward mark that Jews took pride in. In fact, sometime they were known as the “circumcision.” Not only did they have great pride in this mark but they also placed great confidence in it. Many Jews looked at it as having some special spiritual value. It was a part of their convenant relationship with God and a reminder to them that God wanted to cut away evil from their hearts.
Paul's warning was not against circumcision itself. It was against trusting in that practice to gain one favor with God. One should not trust in the practice for spiritual benefit or merit. Paul himself was circumcised as an infant just as all Jewish boys were. He did not even object to Christians being circumcised if it would open doors for ministry. He had Timothy circumcised for this very reason.
Again, Paul confronted the Judaizers in this teaching. They proclaimed that faith in Jesus was not sufficient for salvation. What Moses began in the Old Covenant and what Jesus added in the New Covenant had to be finished by one's own effort. The centerpiece of this effort was circumcision.
Paul said that receiving circumcision to gain merit with God was to make Christ of no benefit. We can trust in nothing else other than the atoning sacrifice of Jesus made on Calvary's cross. We can add nothing. We cannot add circumcision, as the Galatians tried to do, or anything else. No human act or effort can come between us and Christ. To those not saved, Paul was saying that they could not attain it by trusting in this practice. To those truly saved but who were still trusting in circumcision for some merit, he warned of inconsistency. Circumcision would bring no benefit to them.
Paul says the person who received circumcision thinking it will bring some merit from God places himself under obligation to keep the whole law of God. He has previously said that this places one under a curse: having to obey the whole law completely and perfectly for God's acceptance. James writes; “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” (2:10) God's standard is perfect obedience and nothing else. This perfect obedience must be as long as we live. We might imagine the person who somehow would keep God's law all their life but disobey at their last minute on earth. All would be forfeited.