Tuesday, 24 May 2016
I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off! Galatians 5:12
The words of Paul here are as strong and direct as any which he writes anywhere else. They are also overflowing with irony. The words, “I could wish that those who trouble you” are written about the Judaizers who he has been speaking about all along. They are those who have insisted that the Galatians insert deeds of the law into their theology. As the benchmark for this corrupt teaching, Paul has used the rite of circumcision. It is the physically identifying factor of those who were under the law. Without it, then that person wasn’t even considered as Israel, much less an obedient Israelite.
The word “trouble” (Greek: anastatoó) is an especially strong word which comes from a root meaning “driven from one’s home.” They were turning the Galatians doctrine upside down and driving them from the sure foundation of Christ. For this, Paul says that he wishes they would “even cut themselves off.” The word is apokoptó and is found just six times in the New Testament. All six involve the actual cutting away of something, including body parts.
His reference here turns on the idea of the circumcision of which he has been speaking. In essence, he is saying that they shouldn’t just stop at their foreskin, but that they should go ahead and emasculate themselves. The intent here is to show the utterly ludicrous nature of being circumcised in order to please God over and above what Christ had already done. “Gee, if you can make God happy by being circumcised, then keep on cutting. Maybe he will be more pleased with additional mutilation of the flesh.” It is both ironic and sarcastic.
Versions such as the KJV, which apply this to the person as a whole, entirely miss what Paul is saying. They use “cut off” in the sense of the false teachers being “cut off from the Galatians.” This is not the intent of the passage at all. Other scholars see the intent as “being cut off from God.” Again, this is incorrect. Paul’s words hinge on the surrounding context, all of which is dealing with the rite of circumcision. A similar thought is found in his words of Philippians 3:2 –
“Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!”
In that verse, he uses a term for “mutilation” which refers to the false circumcision of such depraved people.
Life application: Circumcision is of the heart. It doesn’t matter how much of your body you cut away, only reliance on Christ can bring us to a right standing with God. Put away your reliance on deeds of the flesh! Be reconciled to God through the work of Christ alone.
I have a victory in Jesus which is complete! I have a hope of eternal life so sweet. Every deed of the law, for me Christ did meet. And the work of the devil, Christ did defeat. Thank You, O God, for what my Lord did for me! There is no fear here. Nothing can ever separate me from Your goodness because I am in Christ – forgiven and free. Hallelujah to Christ my Lord! Amen.