This is the 30th and final message on the book of Galatians. Our journey through this book has led us down many paths, but in general that path always leads to the truth that the Law of Moses is no longer in effect. Paul was concerned about the churches of Southern Galatia They have been misled, troubled, and confused by the Judaizers, who claimed to be believers, but taught salvation by works. here many of his converts had been led astray by the Judaizers, who were teaching that in order to be believer in Christ, they first must become Jew through circumcision. He hammered home the fact that we are in the age of grace and salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ, not in keeping the Law. Christ fulfilled the Law! Never surrender the liberty of your new life in Christ to the bondage of religious legalism. Paul answers for every believer the question of Law or grace, faith or works. He assures us that keeping the Law, even the Ten Commandments, cannot bring forgiveness of sin and salvation. Paul also assures us of freedom and salvation through placing our faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Verse 11: “See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!”
There at least 5 explanations from my research, about this verse:
1. Paul had such bad eyesight that he had to write in large letters. Some New Testament scholars believe that he had suffered with eye problems ever since his blinding vision of the Lord Jesus at the time of his conversion on the road to Damascus. He wrote in Galatians 4:15, “For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.”
2. From this it would seem that the apostle had departed from his usual practice of dictating his epistles to a secretary or a scribe (amanuensis) and had written this entire letter with his own hand. He couldn’t write very well and therefore his handwriting was large and messy.
3. He wrote in large letters to catch their attention. Those of us who use a computer put words in bold or caps to emphasize a point. Paul wants to make sure they are paying attention to what he is writing.
4. Paul added the closing words of his letter in his own handwriting to give an even more personal touch to the message.
5. Paul was certifying his writing to prevent forgeries.
John MacArthur makes this point: “And at the end of every letter, mark this, Paul would take the pen from the hand of secretary and he would write the conclusion. Paul would write with his own hand the conclusion to the letter and sign his own name… Do you realize that in the early church there were all kinds of forgeries floating around, all over every where. One of the ways that Paul validated the true letters that he really wrote was by writing out the conclusion himself and signing his own name.”
This seems the most plausible reason for the “large letters.”
Verse 12: “As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.”
Warren Weirsbe outlines this passage about the Judaizers
1. They were braggarts (6:12a,13b). Their main purpose in life was to win more converts so they could brag about them.
2. They were compromisers (12b). They preached circumcision and works because to escape persecution. Paul was persecuted because he preached grace, salvation without works (Galatians 5:11).
3. They were persuaders. “They compel you to be circumcised” (6:12a). “Compel” means “to force against one’s will.” Paul’s presentation of the gospel was without manipulation or oratorical tricks, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1,2). “We have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2).
4. They were hypocrites. “And even those who advocate circumcision don’t keep the whole law themselves” (6:13 NLT). These legalists belong to the same ilk as the Pharisees, about whom Jesus said, “So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach” (Matthew 23:3 NLT).
Verse 14: “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
“But God forbid.” “May it never be.” May it not happen to me.” This is the strongest way to express a negative in Greek and is a predominantly Pauline phrase.
“With that ‘God forbid,’ ("May it never be") Paul makes a clean sweep of every other ground of boasting, and casts himself upon the one only chosen object of his soul’s glorying. And yet, if you will think of it, Paul had, after the fashion of other men, many things in which he might have gloried.” –Spurgeon
“That I should boast.” Literally, “That I should glory in.” “That I should rely on anything else.” His opponents gloried in their conformity to the Law of Moses.
The unsaved have no grounds for boasting in the presence of God! “…so that no man may boast before God” (1 Corinthians 1:29 NASB). “But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil” (James 4:16 NASB).
“If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31 NLT, 2 Corinthians 10:17).
If you must boast, brag about what Jesus has done for you! What do we have to glory in the Lord about:
•We are justified before God (Romans 3:24).
•We will receive no condemnation/Judgment (Romans 8:1).
•There will never be any separation between the Lord and me (Romans 8:38,39).
•We are of one body, the family of God (Romans 12:5).
•We are sanctified/set apart, called saints (1 Corinthians 1:2).
•We have been declared righteous (1 Corinthians 1:30; 4:10).
•We are alive in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:22).
•We are established in Him (2 Corinthians 1:21).
•We are and shall be triumphant (2 Corinthians 2:14).
•We have been enlightened (2 Corinthians 3:14).
•We are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
•We are reconciled with God (2 Corinthians 5:19).
•We have liberty (Galatians 2:4).
•We are children of God (Galatians 3:26).
•We are one in Christ (Galatians 3:28).
•We are blessed with all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3).
•We are seated in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6, That’s talking about now, In Christ, you can live in heaven on the way to heaven.
•We come near to God (Ephesians 2:13).
•Made perfect (Colossians 1:28).
•We are recipients of faith and love (1 Timothy 1:14).
•We have been called to a holy calling and purpose (1 timothy 1:9).
•We have an inheritance, laid un in heaven (1Peter 1:3,4).
In the Beloved accepted am I,
Risen, ascended, and seated on high;
Saved from all sin thro' His infinite grace,
With the redeemed ones accorded a place!
In the Beloved, how safe a retreat,
In the Beloved, accounted complete.
Who can condemn me? In Him I am free!
Savior and Keeper forever is He!
In the Beloved, God’s marvelous grace,
Calls me to dwell in this wonderful place!
God sees my Savior, and then He sees me,
In the Beloved, accepted and free.
These blessings of grace come down from Heaven. They are ours “In Christ.” All that Heaven can give us is already ours in Christ. We believer’s are a very wealthy people. James 1:16-18 MSG, “So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all His creatures.”
Our world is filled with unhappy, dissatisfied people searching for answers to the emptiness they feel. This explains why there is alcoholism, drug abuse, criminal behavior, immorality, divorce, depression, and psychological disorders. Seemingly, people will do anything just to try to bring some semblance of happiness into their empty lives. We are a messed up society, and we know it’s not going to get any better! If and when the world learns how to solve all of these problems through Christ, Dr. Phil, Dr, Oz, Jerry Springer, and Maury would be out of business, along with the astrologers, spiritualists, palm-readers, most psychiatrists and worldly counselors.
Oh, how we need to brag about Jesus!
Verse 15: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.”
15a: Circumcision is irrelevant. The Galatians were uncircumcised Gentiles but that in itself was not important, No work of the flesh is impressive to God. God is in the business not of building great standards, God is in the business of making new creations. This is what Paul has been trying to get across throughout the whole book. What really matters is not that a man has been circumcised or baptized, but whether he has been born again and a new creation in Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
15b “…a new creation.” The Greek word for “new” is kainos meaning, fresh, new, or unused, unprecedented, novel, uncommon, unheard of, and never seen before. It means “new as to form or quality, of different nature from what is contrasted as old” (Vine).
In Christ we are “brand new!” “New” means we never existed before, we have no past. “We didn’t inherit this new nature, nor did we decide to re-create ourselves anew, nor did God simply clean up our old nature; He created something entirely fresh and unique. The new creation is completely new, brought about from nothing…” –gotquestions.org.
Our past, with its sin and failures is forgotten by God, "I--yes, I alone--will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again” (Isaiah 43:25 NLT). “I will never again remember their sins” (Hebrews 8:12 NLT). “As far as God is concerned, our past is buried in the deepest sea, “You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean! (Micah 7:19 NLT).
God has changed us from children of Satan into children of God, (Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 1:12). “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13). In one incredible moment God “…took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). “He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in “heavenly places in Christ, our Messiah” (Ephesians 2:6 MSG). I have never received an inheritance, nor do I ever expect to in this life. But, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:16,17).
Verse 16: “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”
16a: “And as many as walk according to this rule…”
“This rule” is what Paul has written in the preceding verses, that redemption is through the sacrifice of Christ; that circumcision and uncircumcision are equally unnecessary; and that none can be saved without trusting in Jesus Christ. “This rule” is Glorying only in the cross of Christ. Being crucified to the world.
16b: “The Israel of God.”
This is the spiritual seed of Abraham by faith.
“Most commentators understand “the Israel of God” is another term for the Christian church. To Paul the church is the new Israel, related to God, not through physical descent, but by faith…I am NOT saying that the above commentators espouse a belief that the Church as the Israel of God has now replaced Israel and that God is finished with Israel in His prophetic plan. But on the other hand one can see how a cursory reading of these commentaries might be twisted to support the false doctrine of "replacement theology.” –preceptaustin.org
“The Israel of God…” is one of many names for the church found in the New Testament…”This does not mean that the church has permanently replaced the nation of Israel in the program of God, but only that the church is 'the people of God' on earth today just as Israel was in centuries past.” –Weirsbe
However, John MacArthur has written that “The Israel of God refers to Jewish believers in Jesus Christ, to those who are spiritual as well as physical descendants of Abraham (Galatians 3:7) and are heirs of promise rather than of law (Ga 3:18). They are the real Jews, the true Israel of faith, like those referred to in Romans 2:28,29; 9:6,7.”
And Dr. Charles Ryrie writes that the “Israel of God” represents…”Christian Jews, those who are both the physical and spiritual seed of Abraham. The church is not equated with the new Israel of God; rather two groups are mentioned here--all believing Galatians and especially believing Jews in that group.”
We Gentiles will never become Jews, bur we are spiritual Israel, spiritual sons of Abraham by faith. There is no division of Messianic Jews and born-again Gentiles in the church. “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” (Galatians 3:28-30). I would conclude that believing Jews and believing Gentiles form the family of God, the body of Christ, the church,
Verse 17: “From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”
“Quite frankly, I don’t want to be bothered anymore by these disputes. I have far more important things to do—the serious living of this faith. I bear in my body scars from my service to Jesus” (MSG.
“The Apostle speaks these words with a certain amount of indignation. ‘I have preached the Gospel to you in conformity with the revelation which I received from Jesus Christ. If you do not care for it, very well. Trouble me no more.’” –Martin Luther
17a: The Greek word for “trouble” is kopos. It refers to laborious toil. It is mostly used in a bad sense. It’s something that causes one to be extremely bothered.
17b: This reference to in these words is probably to the cruel custom of branding slaves as we do cattle, with initials or signs, to show their ownership.
God’s mark is upon Paul. Let men beware how they meddle with God’s child. The Scripture says, “Anyone who harms you harms my most precious possession” (Zechariah 2:80 NLT). “Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm!” (Psalm 105:15 ESV).
What were the marks? The Greek word is stigmata. We get our English words stigma, and stigmatism from this Greek word. A better translation is, “I bear branded on my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Brands are flesh markings, tattoos. These were well-known to his Galatian readers.
There were five classes of persons who were branded:
1. Slaves, as a mark of ownership. Exodus 21:5,5: “But if the servant plainly says. 'I love my master, my wife and children; I will not go out free,' then his master shall bring him…to the door or to the doorpost, and the master shall pierce his ear with an awl, and he shall serve him forever.”
2. Soldiers, as a mark of allegiance. Soldiers would tattoo their arm or hand with the name of their favorite general. The soldiers of Alexander the Great wore his alpha on their flesh. Vegetius, writing 300 years after Paul's time, tells us that in the Roman army, recruits had to be proved for service by trial before they were allowed to be tattooed.
3. Religious devotees, as a mark of consecration. Herodius writes that if a slave ran to a certain temple for sanctuary, he would be sealed with a secret stigmata, indicating he was given to a god, no one could touch him. There may be an illusion to this practice in Isaiah 44:5: “Another shall inscribe on his hand, I am Jehovah's.”
4. Dangerous criminals were branded as a mark of exposure. Their identity was immediately obvious. The word, "stigma" came to us from this practice.
5. Brands were a mark of reproach. Brands were inflicted on people to show distain or extreme hatred. During the time of the Maccabees the hated Jews were branded to inflict a public stigma on them. During the Holocaust Jews had numbers tattooed on their arms.
The Apostle Paul's brands fit all five classes:
1. Slave. Paul addressed his letters, Paul was a bondslave of Jesus Christ.
2. A mark of ownership, Jesus was his Lord.
3. Soldier. 2 Timothy 2:3: “Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
4. A religious devotee. A mark of his allegiance to his General Jesus Christ. His marks declared his devotion to his Lord.
5. The hated. He was hunted and persecuted as a follower of Jesus. He bore the marks of reproach for the Lord. He was named as a criminal. He had hunted Christians to persecute them, stoning them as criminals, now he is one of them.
What were the actual marks? 2 Corinthians 11:23-28: “In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in death often. I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a day and a night I have been the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, In perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles. In perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren, in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness––besides all the other things, what comes on me daily: My deep concern for the churches.”
Paul was battered and bruised in ways that left him with permanent scars on his body. Could he have possibly withstood the stoning at Lystra, where they dragged him outside the city and left him for dead, without bearing terrible scars from his stoning? The Jews whipped him five times––That's one hundred ninety five lashes with a cat-of-nine-tails. It had to have left furrows down his back. He was flogged three times by the Romans, leaving scars that would endure for life.
Verse 18: “Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”
Let me close with a song that illustrates Paul’s theme in Galatians:
Free from the law, O happy condition!
Jesus has bled, and there is remission;
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Grace has redeemed us once for all.
Now we are free, there's no condemnation!
Jesus provides a perfect salvation;
"Come unto Me", O hear His sweet call!
Come and He saves us once for all.
Children of God, O glorious calling!
Surely His grace will keep us from falling;
Passing from death to life at His call,
Blessed salvation once for all.
Once for all, O sinner, receive it!
Once for all, O brother, believe it!
Cling to the cross, the burden will fall
Christ has redeemed us once for all.
–Philip P. Bliss–
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).
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