Sunday, 19 June 2016
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. Galatians 6:12
Paul lays bare the very heart of the matter in this verse. He clearly and openly displays the intent of the Judaizers and one of the main reasons behind their aberrant teachings. “As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh” speaks of externals. In essence, “If I do these external things, people will see and will nod in satisfaction.” Or even more, “If I have this outward appearance, I will seem more holy and righteous than those around me.” It is the same attitude as the hypocrites whose attitude Jesus rebuked –
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” Matthew 6:5
The external prayers of these people was to draw attention to themselves. The same is true with the Judaizers. In turn, they compelled those in Galatia “to be circumcised.” Paul has shown that circumcision in the flesh means nothing. Christ fulfilled that type and picture and thus it no longer applies to the people of God. And yet, because they were circumcised, they tried to make it a point of personal righteousness to the Galatians.
It was, as the scholar Ellicott notes, “To wear a specious exterior in the earthly, unspiritual element in which they move.”
Paul is using circumcision as representative of any deeds of the law. Therefore, the same thought follows through with a Sabbath observance, observing the Feasts of the Lord, wearing certain garments, conducting a service in Hebrew, not eating certain foods banned under the law, and on and on and on. All of these are externals; all are fulfilled in Christ. They are set aside and no longer are required.
In demanding this of the Gentiles, it then allowed them control over the Gentiles. They became the standard, not Christ. This sad, twisted thinking is still realized today in the Hebrew Roots Movement and in many independent messianic synagogues. And unfortunately, so many are brought under this aberrant teaching, to their own detriment.
But Paul explains why theses Judaizers still follow the customs, traditions, and precepts of the law. He says it is so “that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.” This is the heart of the matter. They can claim to be law-observant Jews while claiming to be follows of Christ. The two are contradictory and mutually exclusive. If one is a follower of Christ, he is not an observer of the law which Christ fulfilled. Instead, he follows Christ who embodies that law.
Life application: Follow Christ; nothing else.
Lord, if I am going to suffer, may it be for Your name. Amen.