Summary: Sermon 16 in Galatians series. Main theme is security of salvation.
“The Only Thing That Counts” (Gal 5:2-6)
Have you ever said something in a conversation, or in a meeting, or in some group setting, then have someone come along later and blindside you by taking what you said out of context, or they put words in your mouth you never said and they use that against you? That can be a painful experience when it happens. People think you said something you didn’t, or you said it, but they put a totally different spin on it and make it look like you meant something that you never meant and never intended people to infer?
That happened to me once while I was teaching a Sunday School class. I used the word mystery in reference to God. I was saying that no one can completely understand God with our finite minds because He is an infinite being. There are facets of God that we simply cannot comprehend. I wanted people to understand that they should not feel alone or uncomfortable if they could not completely grasp in their mind for instance the trinity. It is impossible for us as human beings to get our mind wrapped around the concept that there is one God, and that God the Father is God, God the Son is God, and God the Holy Spirit is God. I had scripture to back me up. His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways, Isaiah 55.
But someone took one sentence, something like “God is a God of mystery” without any of the explanation I just gave you, and accused me of teaching a gospel of mystery. They went on about how salvation is so simple a child can understand it, basically labeled me a heretic. I was devastated by what happened, I felt violated. We got it all straightened out, but the point is that context is incredibly important.
2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
“Mark my words!”
Paul want’s us to pay attention as he makes his final summary argument against the false teaching that was putting the Galatians in danger.
The first four verses of the passage are Paul’s final warning to the Galatians regarding reliance on the law for justification. This is review for us, we have explored this topic in depth beginning in February of this year.
He begins by saying “if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.”
Now here is one of those verses in scripture that MUST be read in context.
Beware of anyone who uses a single verse or statement in the Bible as justification for something if they do not put the verse in context.
There are several principles for interpreting scripture that are always valid, and any interpretation must be able to stand up under these principles in order to be valid.
The first principle is the continuity of scripture. Scripture interprets scripture. The Bible does not contradict itself, so any interpretation of a scripture passage must agree with the rest of scripture.
Another principle is that the interpretation must take into account the context of the passage. Does it make sense in relation to the surrounding passages and in the overall context of the chapter or book. Are there any clues in the surrounding text to prove or disprove the interpretation.
Is Paul saying that the physical act of circumcision will make Christ useless to a person?
We see in verse six very plainly that “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value” The act of circumcision in itself is totally meaningless.
And in context we see that in verses 2, 3, and 4 Paul is addressing himself to the same group of people.
In vs 2 and 3 he calls them people who let themselves be circumcised.
In verse 4, still speaking to the same people, he says “You who are trying to be justified by law”
Circumcision is merely the symptom being displayed by the particular people Paul is addressing in his letter.
The disease is relying on something other than Faith in Christ (in this case the law) for Justification, relying on anything other than the work of Christ to save your eternal soul.