Friday, August 07, 2009

Galatians 6:11-18

We wrap up our commentary on Galatians today. Next week, we'll begin looking at 1 John.

V11-18 – 11See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! 12Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. 14May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which [or whom] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. 16Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. 17Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. 18The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

Paul often wrote his own conclusions (1 Corinthians 16:21; Colossians 4:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:17). Here he wrote with large letters – literally, all capitals – and this may show that he struggled with his eyesight (see also Galatians 4:15; scales from Acts 9), but more than likely, Paul wants to show that he is taking what is written very seriously and with great urgency. Regarding v12-15 (see Galatians 2:3; 4:17), non-Christian Jews were likely persecuting the Judaizers for failing to uphold traditional Jewish beliefs even as they acknowledged Christ as Messiah. Thus they felt pressure to uphold traditional Judaism, especially circumcision, even while embracing Christ.

Kim Riddlebarger says, “Paul once again deals with these hypocritical false teachers who were trying to make a good impression outwardly – v12 – but who themselves do not obey the very same law they tell their own converts that they must obey – v13. Warns Paul, they are trying to compel you to be circumcised – deceiving you into taking back upon yourselves the yoke of the law – when the Judaizers not only don’t keep the Law themselves, but that their motivation in deceiving you has to do with escaping persecution because of the stigma attached to the cross. …To remove the offense was to destroy the gospel.”

Once again, just as it was declared by Paul’s amanuensis in Galatians 5:6, Paul declares that his battle is not over circumcision but over the motive for it. “What counts is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 21:1), Paul says in v15. The Judaizers want to boast in the flesh of their converts; Paul wants to boast in the cross of Christ. Riddlebarger says, “Thus, unlike the Judaizers who were ashamed of the cross, and who denied its saving efficacy, Paul makes clear that it is his desire to boast only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though it is very easy to overlook this point, this is really an amazing assertion. Why would Paul boast about something that many of those Jews and Greeks living in Galatia would have regarded as utterly offensive and outside the bounds of polite conversation? Add to this, the fact of the apostle’s own life-experience and his very impressive background, Paul certainly could have found something to boast about other than a cruel instrument of torture had he so desired. If there was anyone who had reason for boasting about himself, or his own accomplishments it was the apostle Paul. While the Judaizers were boasting about the number of converts that they had made in Galatia, and claiming that their gospel is the antidote to Paul’s supposed antinomianism, Paul’s response is to boast about an instrument of shame. Riddlebarger goes on to say:

While the cross may be foolishness to the Greek, and a stumbling block to the Jew, Paul says that the cross ‘is the power of God for those whoare being saved’ (1 Corinthians 1:17-18). Here in Galatians, Paul has already said that ‘Jesus loved us and gave himself for us,’ becoming a curse for us, and in doing so, bore the guilt of our sins in his own body. In doing this, the cross of Christ both reconciles God to us, and us to God. As Paul will later state in Romans 5:10, ‘when we were God's enemies we were reconciled to Him through the death of His son.’ The cross is, therefore, the only means by which God seeks to reconcile sinners unto himself. But this also means that cross will always remain an offence to all those who seek to stand before God and boast about their accomplishments and righteousness, and conformity to external ritual such as circumcision. …The cross turns aside God’s anger towards his people. In Romans 3:25, Paul declares that ‘God, presented Him [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement,’ or better, as a ‘propitiation,’ or a ‘turning aside of God’s anger,’ in regard to our sins. …Christ’s death is also said to be a subsistutionary payment for our sins. For Paul, Christ has ‘died for our sins’ (1 Corinthians 15:3), was ‘delivered over to death for our sins’ (Romans 4:25) and ‘died for us’ (Romans 5:8). Here, then, is the heart of Christ’s work on the cross. …Therefore, Paul desires to boast only in the Cross of Christ, because to boast in anything else, is to imply that men and women can be restored to a right relationship to God by some other means than through the sacrificial death and perfect righteousness of Christ. …Paul also chooses to boast in the cross because the cross of our Lord Jesus is also the pattern for the Christian life, the pattern for those who walk in the Spirit, and who sow to the Spirit, not the flesh.
Some commentators suggest that it’s as if Paul is saying, “If the world looks upon me as abhorred and excommunicated, I consider the world to be condemned and accursed.” That’s the attitude of shaking your feet as you leave a city that refuses to humble itself in repentance.

Paul ends his epistle to the Galatians with a benediction of peace and mercy. He wants peace and mercy to be for “all who follow this rule.” The rule is that “faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6), that “what counts is a new creation” (v15), is all that matters. And then he adds “even to the Israel of God.” Paul’s intent with this phrase was an additional rebuke of the Judaizers, who considered themselves to be just that. But Paul thinks otherwise, for “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children” (Romans 9:6-7). The Israel of God could be one of two groups. First, it could be the conglomeration of Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ who by grace through faith have the Holy Spirit and make up the singular body of Christ known as the Church; and this is the view I take. Vincent Cheung says, “Those who disregard circumcision or uncircumcision, but rather emphasize faith and a new creation are, of course, those who affirm justification by faith in Christ, or the Christians. In other words, the Church alone is the true Israel of God. The rest, whether Jew or non-Jew, are excluded and assigned to the outer darkness.” Second, those desiring for a distinction to remain between the Church and Israel – namely dispensationalists – suggest that it could mean the fullness of the Jews – the elect of God for whom Paul was so deeply concerned, especially as seen in Romans 9:1-5; 11:12,26,31.

Kim Riddlebarger adds, “For Paul, the true ‘Israel of God,’ refers to those very people who participate in the new creation, namely those who walk in the Spirit, and for whom Christ has died to remove the curse. Thus, it is clear from a statement such as this, that all those who trust in Jesus Christ – whether they be Jew or Gentile – are indeed part of the new creation, which is the true ‘Israel of God.’ This, of course, is a final shot at the Judaizers, who are now regarded as apostates who have fallen from grace, for the true Israel of God is comprised of those who have been crucified with Christ and indwelt by the Spirit of God. And while he is at it, Paul puts them on notice in v17 – ‘let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.’ For the man who is scarred from being nearly stoned to death for preaching the gospel, has seen the strong hand of God deliver him many times before. Paul is afraid of no man, because he fears God!”

Referring to “the marks of Jesus” is most certainly a direct and final attack on the Judaizers, who cherish certain bodily marks – namely circumcision – seemingly proving their union with Christ. On the contrary, the marks Paul bore, as a result of enduring persecution for the sake of Christ, were the genuine proof not only of his union with Christ but also to his slavery to Christ for the sake of the gospel (Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1), especially given the fact that the Greek word might better be translated as “brand,” such as in the slave trade or cattle business. Finally, in v18, Paul desires that the grace of Jesus befall the spirits of the Galatians, for that is truly what they need to triumph in their battle with legalism. Calvin concludes, “His prayer is not only that God may bestow upon them His grace in large measure, but that they may have a proper feeling of it in their hearts. Then only is it truly enjoyed by us, when it comes to our spirit. We ought therefore to entreat that God would prepare in our souls a habitation for His grace. Amen.”

Galatians 6:6-10

V6-10 – 6Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. 7Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature [or flesh] will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

V6 marks a transition to the second practical way in which Christians keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). We considered personal relationships, and move now to financial generosity. We “who receive instruction in the word must share all good things with” our teachers (Luke 10:7; 1 Corinthians 9:14). And we mustn’t mock God in this regard, for we reap what we sow. If we prioritize the physical, secular, temporal, and present over the spiritual, eternal, and future, then we effectively mock God and reap destruction. Thus the command from Jesus: “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). Vincent Cheung notes, “Of course, the principle could – and surely does – refer to our moral habits, as to whether we would walk in the Spirit rather than indulge the desires of the flesh (5:16-26). But here the immediate context concerns whether the Christians extend financial support to those who give them ‘instruction in the word.’ Paul indicates that to withhold such financial support is to mock God. To neglect or abuse his ministers is to hold in contempt the one who has sent them.”

In v10, the emphasis is on the church caring for its ministers, which in turn oftentimes reaps physical and spiritual benefits for believers, with the harvest being spread even to all peoples (1 Thessalonians 3:12). These physical blessings include, as we are encouraged rightly from God’s Word, helping and being helped by fellow believers with the burdens, or troubles, that each of us bears in season. And the spiritual blessings, also as we are taught from God’s Word, include eternal life through sound doctrine and the preaching of the gospel. Failing to care for ministers ultimately shows that we sow to please the flesh and will reap destruction as sound doctrine goes in one ear and out the other. Fellow believers won’t benefit from that, and neither will the world be influenced for Christ, thanks to our hypocrisy.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Galatians 6:1-5

V1-5 – 1Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5for each one should carry his own load.

Paul expounds on keeping in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25), saying that we need to be involved in personal relationships (v1-5) and be financially generous (v6-10). First, walking in the Spirit involves reaching out cautiously to fellow believers who are caught in obvious sin. In v1, we could translate the instruction that “you who are spiritual should restore him gently” in several ways. One alternative would be to say, “If you are spiritual, then you will restore him gently.” Another possibility would be, “This gentle restoration should be done by those who are spiritual.” Any of these translations would be true and consistent with Paul’s context.

However, the emphasis seems to be threefold. First, it falls on the agent of restoration being spiritual, since knowledge, skill, and maturity are required for the gentle restoration of a repentant brother, especially since temptation of the restoring agent may occur. Second, it falls on the act of restoration, since this important task involves confrontation, correction, instruction, and continual encouragement in directing the erring brother back to
the right path. And third, it falls on the gentleness, or meekness, of the effort. Calvin says, “We are here taught to correct the faults of brethren in a mild manner, and to consider no rebukes as partaking a religious and Christian character which do not breathe the spirit of meekness... for no man is prepared for chastising a brother till he has succeeded in acquiring a gentle spirit.”

In v2, Paul speaks of carry each other’s burdens (Romans 15:1); Calvin says, “We must not indulge or overlook the sins by which our brethren are pressed down, but relieve them, which can only be done by mild and friendly correction.” And this, nothing more than loving friends and enemies as God’s love models, is to be done in order to “fulfill the law of Christ.” John Piper says, “Some of you wonder what you are supposed to do with your life. Here is a vocation that will bring you more satisfaction than if you became a millionaire ten times over: Develop the extraordinary skill for detecting the burdens of others and devote yourself daily to making them lighter. In this way you fulfill the law of Christ (v2).”

But Paul notes, as Vincent Cheung says, “At least two things would hinder someone from becoming involved with other believers in this manner. First, perhaps ‘he thinks he is something when he is nothing’ (v3), but here ‘he deceives himself.’ No one should think so highly of himself as to think that he is above caring for his brothers in the Lord. A second destructive tendency is constant comparison with others, and to draw illegitimate conclusions from his supposed inferiority or superiority to his brothers. No, Paul says he should examine himself against the law of Christ, and not to compare himself to others, but rather to carry their burdens as they have need.”

In v4, keeping in step with the Spirit includes testing yourself by God’s standards, rather than against others. If you think you pass the test, then you have reason to boast – but Paul notes that boasting in Christ and the cross is all he has (v14). The Judaizers were guilty of boasting in themselves, thinking they met God’s standards and helped others to meet God’s standards (v13), but they fell far short (Romans 3:23). In v5, Paul uses the word “load” (phortion), which is a different word than “burden” (baros), used in v2. “Burden” literally means “troubles,” and we are to help each other with our troubles. But “load” implies, as indicates, “The obligations Christ lays upon His followers, and styles a ‘burden’ by way of the contrast to the precepts of the Pharisees, the observance of which was most oppressive.” There is also an implication with this word of “faults of the conscience which oppress the soul.” It is in carrying one’s own load that we must not take pride in, for God is our “instructor” and our success in this endeavor comes by His grace and for His glory. So we help with others’ troubles, even in gentle restoration from sin, but we follow our own obligations to the Lord, remembering that everyone has a unique role to fill in the Body of Christ and the Kingdom of God.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Galatians 5:19-26

V19-26 – 19The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Paul lists a number of gross and obvious sins that follow the sin nature and that would be deemed horrific by the Judaizers. But he also includes a number of sins that the Judaizers would have been guilty of, such as “selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy.” He effectively lumps the Judaizers in the same group as those who engage in “sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, and witchcraft.” Paul goes on, saying, “Those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (v21; cf Isaiah 58:1). Vincent Cheung notes, “Under the works of the flesh he lists sexual, religious, mental, emotional, and relational sins. Some of the items appear to overlap. Since he concludes the list with ‘and the like,’ these items are meant to illustrate, and not intended as a perfectly proportioned representative list of the works of the flesh.” Essentially, those who do not exhibit the fruit of saving grace, the fruit of the Spirit (v22-23), will not be saved (because they never had saving grace to begin with). Paul uses this phrase about not inheriting the kingdom four times in Scripture, and the warning is clear (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 15:50; Ephesians 5:5), though as Calvin points out, “Paul does not threaten that all who have sinned, but that all who remain impenitent, shall be excluded from the kingdom of God. The saints themselves often fall into grievous sins, but they return to the path of righteousness.” While legalism is not the straight and narrow path, falling off the other side into antinomianism is not good either. The balance comes by the Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is a loving behavior that comes from within and is genuine, where the outside behavior results from and conforms to inside transformation by the Spirit. The fruit is singular, stemming from love, that single quality that fulfills the law. This purely righteous behavior is contrasted to legalistic self-righteousness, which generally includes a vast distinction between outward behavior and internal attitude (Luke 10:25-37). And our focus ought not solely be in fighting the negatives; rather, in living focused on the positives, we automatically avoid the negatives and naturally avoid a legalistic mindset. When Paul says, “Against such things there is no law,” Calvin notes that Paul’s real meaning is “deeper and less obvious; namely, that, where the Spirit reigns, the law has no longer any dominion.”

Kim Riddlebarger details each of the fruit’s characteristics, saying, “Love is described by Paul as the atmosphere in which we relate to one another (Ephesians 5:2); it is a garment that we are to put on (1 Corinthians 16:14); it is the secret of unity (Colossians 2:2), it is characteristic of Christian maturity (Ephesians 4:15); and provides the proper restraint of Christian liberty (Galatians 5:13; Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 13). For Paul…love is demonstrated in serving one another. …The joy of which Paul speaks is in a real sense being aware of God’s favor towards us because the work of Christ has been applied to us through the Spirit. Paul exhorts us to ‘rejoice in the Lord’ (Philippians 3:1). We are to have joy in the faith (Philippians 1:25). …Peace is drawn from the Hebrew shalom, and denotes more than the merely negative notion of absence of war and trouble; it denotes a positive state of ‘wholeness’ – ‘soundness’ and ‘prosperity’. …Patience derives from God who is patient with us (Exodus 34:6). Indeed, according to Paul’s letter to Timothy, the supreme example of patience is seen in Jesus Christ, ‘who displays his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life’ (1:16). Thus we are to be patient with others (Ephesians 4:1-2) and to keep the unity of the Spirit. Kindness refers to God’s gracious attitude toward sinners, primarily the kindness by which God leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). …Goodness is a term closely related to kindness, and refers to ‘an attitude of generous kindness to others, which is happy to do far more than is required my mere justice.’ Faithfulness is understood here in the sense of being trustworthy. Gentleness is a term which means ‘an ethical grace in the believer’s’ life, ‘gentleness’ may be described as a humble, patience, and forbearance towards others, regarding even insult or injury as God’s means of chastisement (cf. 2 Sam. 16:11) or training (cf. Num. 12:3). It implies but is not identical with, self-control.’ Self-control is the ability to keep one’s lust or passions under control.”

Finally, Paul notes that union with Christ in His death and resurrection makes His people new creations in the Spirit. The sin nature is dead and defeated, though it battles until our glorification. Therefore, "since we live by the Spirit," we need to "keep in step with the Spirit' (v25). Keeping in step with the Spirit involves several things, but v26 points out that it means avoiding conceitedness (arrogant ambition, or the desire of honor), which is the mother of provocation (generally through biting and stinging words, such as slander, even as rumored through gossip), and envy (v26). So legalism is out-of-bounds, but so is antinomianism. Finding the narrow path to salvation is done by walking in the Spirit.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Galatians 5:13-18

13You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature [or flesh]; rather, serve one another in love. 14The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ [Leviticus 19:18]. 15If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

V13 continues the theme from v1, adding that freedom in Christ is to be used not selfishly “to indulge the flesh,” but selflessly to “serve one another in love.” Calvin says, “Liberty is not granted to the flesh, which ought rather to be held captive under the yoke, but is a spiritual benefit, which none but pious minds are capable of enjoying.” While legalism, amounting to salvation by faith plus works, is a gross, right-leaning error, we must also guard against the left-sided error, antinomianism, which may claim that grace is magnified through sin, so sin is no longer a problem over which to struggle. Paul briefly notes that truth throughout this letter (see Galatians 1:6-7; 2:17-20), and he does so in more detail in other letters (Romans 6 for example), but he now elaborates that “faith expressing itself through love” (v6) is actually the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10). Kim Riddlebarger adds, “As Paul sets this out, there is both a negative and positive element to the imperative – the negative is that we are not to use our freedom in Christ as a pretense for sinning, and the positive command is that we are to ‘serve one another in love.’ This certainly is a further elaboration of the Apostle’s previous comments about true faith being a faith which leads to works done in love (Galatians 5:6b). Christians, now free from the guilt and power of sin, are free to serve one another as Christ has served us (cf. John 13:2-12).”

Calvin intercedes, “Piety to God, I acknowledge, ranks higher than love of the brethren; and therefore the observance of the first table is more valuable in the sight of God than the observance of the second. But as God himself is invisible, so piety is a thing hidden from the eyes of men; and, though the manifestation of it was the purpose for which ceremonies were appointed, they are not certain proofs of its existence. It frequently happens, that none are more zealous and regular in observing ceremonies than hypocrites. God therefore chooses to make trial of our love to Himself by that love of our brother, which He enjoins us to cultivate. This is the reason why, not here only, but in the Epistle to the Romans, (Romans 8:8, 13:10,) love is called ‘the fulfilling of the law;’ not that it excels, but that it proves the worship of God to be real. God, I have said, is invisible; but He represents Himself to us in the brethren, and in their persons demands what is due to Himself.”

Paul quotes Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which “sums up or fulfills all the other commands that pertain to human relationships,” as Vincent Cheung says. He adds, “But if the former [love] sums up or fulfills the latter [all the other commands], then means that the latter is not ignored or abolished, but rather respected and carried out by the former.” Paul does not abolish the law in his teaching against legalism anymore than Christ, who fulfilled it perfectly (Jeremiah 31:33). Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).

Rather than living under the yoke of the law, which sin takes advantage of and which gets ugly – both corporately (v15 speaks of biting and devouring one another unto destruction, probably in doctrinal disputes) and individually – due to the failures of the internal heart attitude to be conformed to the outward behavioral aspects of obeying the law for its sake, we are to live by, or be led by, or walk in, or keep in step with, the Spirit (v16) – both corporately and individually – to fight the sin nature, enabling the inward heart attitude to drive the outward behavior and conform it to righteousness. One commentator says that we walk by the Spirit through the sacraments and studying God’s Word.

Ultimately, we have an intense conflict, a battle of desires within (which is often manifested without), as v17 declares (along with its parallel in Romans 7:14-25), between the indwelling Spirit and the old sin nature (flesh). Calvin notes that the battle is a good sign, saying, “Carnal men have no battle with depraved lusts, no proper desire to attain to the righteousness of God. Paul is addressing believers.” And Kim Riddlebarger concludes, “Nowhere in this whole argument does Paul remotely hint or imply that this will be easy. Paul does not state that by ‘walking in the Spirit,’ we will be able to subdue all manifestations of the sinful nature in our lives, and therefore attain a state of perfection in this life. The sinful nature is not eradicated at the moment of regeneration, but the sinful nature is cut off from its source of life. It will slowly but surely whither and die. But though a defeated foe, it will nevertheless fight a determined guerrilla war until we die or until Christ comes back, whichever comes first. …Therefore, according to the second use of the law, our own inability to love our neighbor as we ought actually condemns us and should drive us to the cross of Jesus Christ for forgiveness.”

Paul wraps up here by saying, “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” Riddlebarger paraphrases Calvin in commenting: “It is important to carefully qualify what Paul means when he says we are not under law. There are three ways in which those who are in the Spirit are not under law. First, Paul means that we no longer suffer the law’s curse for our infractions of God’s perfect will, Galatians 3:13 – “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” The curse has been done away through the death of Christ for us. Second, We are no longer under the slavery of the Law (Galatians 3:22; 25; 4:1-3), since Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1). Third, we are free from all of those ‘things indifferent,’ things which are not expressly forbidden in Scripture. The Spirit gives life and freedom – something the Law cannot do. Although we are not under the Law as a means of justification, this does not mean that Christians are not to strive to obey the law. …We are now free to obey the Law…out of gratitude because we are justified. Now we can serve one another in love since this fulfills the Law, as this is the Spirit’s work in our lives.”

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.

DC 301 - Week 12

This is our final week of the 301 Discipleship Curriculum. We have two more lessons to be presented, one on the ninth commandment and one on the book of Judges. Here's how the workload might break down:

Monday - Read Judges 13-21
Tuesday - Read Ruth and Psalms 55,58, and 61-62
Wednesday - Prepare a couple mini-lessons on this week's Old Testament reading
Thursday - Review memory verses, such as Galatians 5:16, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and 2 Timothy 2:15
Friday - Read chapter 12 of Ian Thomas' The Saving Life of Christ