Sunday, 15 May 2016
And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. Galatians 5:3
Paul now gives a second proclamation as an avowed testimony to the precept he just stated. Taken together, they read –
“Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.”
Some scholars see the word “again” as referring to a time when he preached this word to them, recalling it to mind now. Others see this as a second form of solemn witness. The second seems the most likely:
1) Indeed I, Paul, say to you…
2) And I testify again…
The Pulpit commentary further defines the thought –
“The word ‘again’ points, not to the substance of the subsequent affirmation, as if it were a repetition of that mode in the preceding verse, which in fact it does not appear to be, but to the solemnity with which he makes this fresh affirmation.”
In other words, he is making two distinct affirmations:
1) If you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.
2) Every man who becomes circumcised is a debtor to keep the whole law.
The two thoughts complement one another. In the act of being circumcised according to the Law of Moses, Christ and the work He accomplished is set aside. In setting aside His work, one then becomes a debtor to the entire law. It is a self condemning act. First, man is born with a sin debt (Psalm 51:5). This is something the law could never remove. But even more, James 2:10 says –
“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”
The fact is that no-one can keep the whole law. The need for a Day of Atonement within the law itself proved this. Paul has already shown that no one can be justified by the law in Galatians 3:10. Therefore, Paul’s repeated statements are given to emphatically show that falling back on the law, demonstrated by the outward act of allowing oneself to be circumcised, is a self condemning act. Christ is of no value to such a soul. They will be judged accordingly.
Bible scholar Bengel notes that, “The use of the present tense intimates that the warning is not aimed at isolated acts, but at the introduction of a systematic practice involving a virtual transfer of allegiance from Christ to the Law.” In other words, Paul’s note about circumcision, as was seen in the commentary on verse 2, is speaking about being circumcised for the specific purpose of attempting to be justified by deeds of the law. This then would be an external sign, like baptism is for the follower in Christ. Being so circumcised then would have the intent of showing allegiance to the system of the law.
Life application: Align yourself with the law, and you are bound to the entire law (the stupid choice). Align yourself with Christ, and you are granted the fullness of His grace (the smart choice). Which choice interests you?
Lord God, I am overwhelmed by Christ in me, the hope of glory. Amen.