Monday, August 03, 2009

Galatians 5:7-12

V7-12 – 7You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? 8That kind of persuasion does not come from the One who calls you. 9‘A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.’ 10I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. 11Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

Paul acknowledges that the Galatians were progressing in their growth “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18), but he asks them rhetorically to consider who has “cut in on” them, or literally, “blocked the way,” and caused them to keep “from obeying the truth.” The Judaizers false gospel was not from God (v8), and, as Vincent Cheung says, “It will spread like a contagious disease if left unchecked” (v9). Jesus also warned His disciples about the “yeast of the Pharisees.” In v10, Paul notes his confidence not in the Galatians but in the Lord that they would agree with him. And it seems that he calls out certain judgment, paying the penalty, on the particular leader of these Judaizers, “the one who is throwing you into confusion,” perhaps even Satan himself.

In v11, Paul is likely referring to a Judaizer charge against him, that he preaches the necessity of circumcision when speaking to Jews but not to Gentiles, in order to gain more followers. If that were true, then the cross would not be offensive (1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5). But he notes his own persecution as evidence that his gospel of the crucified Christ is offensive; therefore, he is consistently preaching that circumcision is not essential, but that faith is what matters, “expressing itself through love” (v6). And his angrily harsh words in v12 are likely due to his understanding that young Gentiles were being led astray. He cared about them with intense passion, like a father (Galatians 4:19) and a brother (v11,13). Vincent Cheung concludes, “It is true that ritual castration was practiced by some pagan religions, and Paul seems to again classify the Jews’ misuse of the law with paganism. To the ancient Jews, this does not decrease the offense, but greatly increases it. Those professing Christians who protest in heated indignation when this type of rhetoric is used against false teachers betray their own enslavement to the worldly ethic and etiquette of their culture. Scripture thinks that such talk is entirely appropriate, so that their attitude demonstrates nothing of the holiness of God or the love of Christ.” In other words, to say, “I wish the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons would – for the sake of God’s glory and His elect – go ahead and be burned up!” would not be a poor choice of words in the context of what Paul has to say about these legalistic, sham-Christian, Judaizers. See also Deuteronomy 23:1.

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