Summary: Motive is what is dealt with, & the church today needs to examine the motive for our ministries. We know what we are doing, but do we know why we are doing it? Many a good work is ruined before God because of a bad motive.
GALATIANS 6: 11-18
MARKED BY FREEDOM
The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to add these closing words to give one more contrast between the legalists & the Spirit-led Christians. The Spirit-led live for the glory of Christ, not the praise of man. Motive is what is dealt with, and the church today needs to examine the motive for our ministries. We know what we are doing, but do we know why we are doing it? Many a good work is ruined before God because of a bad motive.
Paul approaches this subject in an interesting way. The legalists want to initiate people into their way of ritual through the rite of circumcision. Paul says people will do anything in the flesh so that they do not have to die to the flesh by the power of the cross. Paul understood the reasons for avoidance because of the suffering this crucified life led him to endure. But he also knew the peace and mercy of God that came from living in the Spirit.
I. RELIGION IN THE FLESH, 11-14.
II. THE NEW CREATION OF THE CROSS, 15-16.
III. THE MARKS OF CHRIST, 17-18.
Wanting to give added emphases to His conclusion Paul calls the epistle’s readers to see the boldness of His letters. See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand
It was probably Paul’s custom to dictate his letters and then to take the pen and write his own farewell. Paul did this to validate that the letter was genuine. Here he writes in large letters for emphasis so as to say don’t miss this, this is important.
In verse 12 the motivation for legalists [Judaizers] is pointed out. Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.
A way to escape persecution is to preach legalism or external standards and work that can be done by the power of the flesh instead of dying to self by the power of the cross of Christ. Paul was persecuted because he preached the way of the cross and the grace of God as the means of salvation. Paul identified himself with this instrument of death to life in the power of the flesh and was persecuted.
WHEN DO GOODS DEEDS WORK AGAINST the GOOD THAT GOD WANTS US TO DO? When we are more concerned about pleasing ourselves than pleasing God. The Judaizers, for example, wanted to avoid persecution. By downplaying the cross of Christ and what He accomplished through His death and resurrection, and by emphasizing Jewish tradition and ceremony, these Judaizers tried to avoid persecution from the Jews, but at the expense of the truth about the cross. Instead of teaching how Christ fulfilled the Mosaic covenant and established a new covenant, they compromised the truth and took away much of the "newness" of Christianity. They were only trying to save their own necks.
We do the same thing today when we refuse to confront legalistic ideas because we would rather preserve our own sense of well-being. Instead of promoting truth, we become more concerned about preserving our way, or we become more concerned about our temporary security or position, than the eternal condition of others.
When do good deeds become showy? They become displays of egotism when they are done to call-attention to ourselves. Jesus warned about self-serving, phony goodness that was done for show. If you read through the gospel of Matthew, you will find these examples of what Jesus thought about being self-serving:
Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven (6:1).
And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men (6:5).
Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward" (6:16).
But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, "Rabbi, Rabbi" (23:5-7).
Obviously Jesus did not think too highly of religious people whose life was lived for show instead of for the glory of God.
The legalists wanted to boast about these new converts becoming part of their legalistic subgroup as verse 13 indicates. For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh.