Summary: A message from an expository series from the Book of Galatians.
Think for a moment about how Paul must have felt as he dictated this letter. Perhaps he picked up the manuscript and reread the arguments he presented and the instructions he gave. Probably some time had passed since the original dictation. He thought the letter was complete and as probably was his custom he prepared to sign his name at the bottom. But for some reason now he felt compelled to pick up the pen himself and write some final thoughts, praying that God would use this letter to get the Galatian Christians back on the right track. His writing was in large letters, was it to highlight the final point he was trying to make or was it because his illness was some type of eye disorder? In these few brief words he summarizes his argument, once more contrasting the positions of the Judaizing Christians or what we might call “just plain Christians” or as CS Lewis would put it, “mere Christians”. The conclusion Paul writes is quite effective. Nothing gives us away more completely than the things we take pride in. The truth is, by nature we all want to be the best at something, even in religion. The question we are left with is the fruit we bear really something to brag about? Let’s look at these concluding lessons from Paul and see the lessons that we can learn from them.
I. The Judaizers took pride in making a good showing according to human standards.
A. Paul clearly presents evidence that the Judaizers main concern was to put up a good front for the world.
1. Their concern for physical things had shoved aside any concern for spiritual things.
2. “Paul’s point was that the Jews wanted ‘numbers’ to prove their success; so many circumcisions in a given year was certainly something to boast about.”
3. The false teachers of Galatia were trying to compel the Gentile believers to be circumcised. But why should it matter to them?
a. Was it fear that failure to be circumcised might prevent the Galatian believers to miss heaven?
b. Was it egotism that needed to prove that the teachers were right and the uncircumcised believers were wrong?
c. Was it for the thrill of victory which has fueled many a partisan debate?
4. Once again remember, the impression they desired to make was both before men and in external matters.
B. The only reason the Judaizers persist in this false teaching is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.
1. How could the circumcision of Gentile believers in Galatia result in the nonpersecution of these itinerant missionaries?
2. By insisting on the circumcision of Gentile believers, the Judaizers could cast themselves in a favorable light with the local synagogue authorities.
3. By circumcising the converts of the renegade missionary Paul, they could thus show to the fanatical Zealots back home that belief in Jesus as Messiah involved no breach of the Mosaic Law or the sacred ceremonies of the Jewish people.
4. The legalizers persevered in their error because of their desire to boast that they had been able to win over the Galatians for Judaism. There were two things wrong with this.
a. It was an attempt to win others to that which was itself bankrupt; for not even those who were circumcised (that is, Jews) were able to keep the law.
b. It was based on pride.
5. The promoters of heresy were curiously selective about their demands for lawkeeping. It was not that they refuted or denied the law, just that they did not “guard” its requirements carefully.
6. A man’s worth cannot be measured by the inches around his biceps any more than by his tattoos or his scars or any other extension of his ego.
7. What matters is the essence of the man, his relationship with God and others.
II. The Christian has a great deal to brag about, but they cannot take credit for any of it.
A. In sharp contrast to the crass boasting over circumcisions, Paul’s sole ground of boasting was the cross of Jesus Christ.
1. But what a grisly thing to boast about! The cross was a shameful symbol of pain and humiliation throughout the ancient world. Reserved for slaves and the lowest of criminals, the cross was forbidden as a punishment for Roman citizens.
2. The Greeks also found the cross disgusting. While they revered the human body as a thing of utmost beauty, the cross mangled and shamed it.
3. The Jews, as noted in Galatians 3:13, considered the cross a curse. How divinely absurd that this loathsome form of killing should become the symbol for a triumphant boast!
4. The reason is that everything we hope for is dependent upon what Christ did on the cross.