Summary: The legalists wanted to subject the Galatian Christians to circumcision (as a means of earning favor with God), so Paul addresses the issue one last time by relating it to the work of Christ on the cross and his own ministry.
It was Paul’s custom, after dictating a letter to an amanuensis, which is a secretary, to take a pen and write his own farewell. His standard signature was, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:17-18).
But Paul is so concerned that the Galatians get the message of this letter that he takes the pen and writes an entire concluding paragraph with his own hand. “See what large letters I use,” says Paul in verse 1, “as I write to you with my own hand!”
Why did Paul write this paragraph? And why did he use such large letters?
The Holy Spirit inspired him to add these closing words to give one more contrast between legalists and Christians, to show that Christians live for the glory of God, not for the praise of men.
And he wrote in large letters, perhaps because of an eye defect, but more likely, for emphasis. In other words, he is saying: “DON’T MISS THIS!” Let us read Galatians 6:11-18:
"11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!
"12 Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. 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. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.
"17 Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
"18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen." (Galatians 6:11-18)
Today, we come to our concluding study in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. He wrote this letter because the Galatians were drifting away from a proper understanding of the gospel. After the apostle Paul had planted a number of churches in the region of Galatia, some false teachers—known as Judaizers, or legalists—came after him and began teaching another gospel (Galatians 1:6-9).
The legalists wanted to subject the Galatian Christians to circumcision (as a means of earning favor with God), so Paul addresses this issue one last time by relating it to the work of Christ on the cross and his own ministry.
In this section, Paul presents three “marked men”—the legalist (6:12-13), the Lord Jesus Christ (6:14-16), and the apostle Paul himself (6:17-18).
I. The Legalist (6:12-13)
First, notice the legalist.
Paul does not have anything good to say about the legalist. He describes him and his kind in four ways.
A. They Are Braggarts (6:12a, 13b)
First, legalists are braggarts.
Their main purpose was not to win people to Christ, or even to help believers grow in grace. Their main purpose was to win more converts so that they could brag about them. Paul says in verse 12a, “Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised.” And he continues in verse 13b, “Yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh.” Their work was not done for the glory of God or for the good of the church; it was done for their own glory.
While it is not wrong to want to win people to Christ, or to see the work of the Lord increase, it is definitely wrong to want these blessings for our own glory. As Warren Wiersbe says, “We want to see more people sharing in our ministries, not so that we can count people, but because people count.”
B. They Are Compromisers (6:12b)
Second, legalists are compromisers.
Why did legalists preach and practice circumcision and all that went with it? Paul says in verse 12b, “The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.” In other words, they compromised the message of the gospel.
Paul preached the grace of God and salvation apart from works. And for that he was persecuted (cf. Galatians 5:11). When Paul trusted in Christ as Lord and Savior, he identified himself with the cross and took the consequences.
Today we look at the cross in a sentimental way. We wear crosses as lapel pins and on chains around our necks. But to the people in Paul’s day, the cross was not a beautiful piece of jewelry. It was the lowest form of death and humiliation. The cross stood for shame and rejection.