“13 For not even they who receive circumcision keep the law themselves; but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh.”
No one is able to fully keep the law, which is why we need Jesus. We have all sinned, and we all come short of God’s glory (Ro 3:23). We all fall short of God’s perfect standard. However, these Judaizers wanted to be able to boast in the Galatian’s circumcision. It’s what they taught. So it made them look good when they submitted to their teaching. They had wrong motives. Pride was at the core of their teaching.
“14 But far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
Our motives for serving Christ is always to be for His glory, and not for personal recognition. Furthermore, we are powerless to serve and live for Christ in our own strength. A true servant of Christ will always serve in sincere humility, knowing that it’s Christ living His life through us.
In addition, the cross is always to be the focus of whatever ministry the Lord puts us in. Apart from the cross there is no salvation. The cross, what Jesus accomplished on the cross, is the foundation of Christianity. No matter what ministry we’re involved with, the salvation of others should always be a primary objective.
“through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”
Paul addressed this crucifixion earlier in the book :
“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ living in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)
As born-again believers in Christ, we have been crucified with Him. It’s as though we ourselves were nailed to that cross. This crucifixion results in being raised from the dead to new life (Ro 6:1-4), as Jesus was. Therefore, we have died to this world. The world is dead to us. We no longer belong to this world. We belong to God. This world is no longer our home, but our home is in Heaven (Phil 3:20). We’re now citizens of Christ’s kingdom (Col 1:13). We’re just passing through this life in order to prepare us for the next life.
Therefore, as servants of King Jesus, as citizens of His kingdom, we’re to have no attachments to this world. As the Apostle John said:
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:15-16)
James also says:
“You adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore would be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (Ja 4:4)
Paul also tells us that we’re not to be conformed to this world (Ro 12:2).
Those who profess Christ as Lord and Savior, but are living for the things of this world, and not truly living for Christ and for His glory, are very much deceived. To live for the gain of this world is a direct contradiction to who we are in Christ and where we actually reside. If someone professes Christ, but their focus of life is on this world, then that’s clear evidence of a false conversion. There will always be evidence of true salvation. Those who truly belong to Jesus will have a heart for Him and a sincere desire to follow Him and make their lives count for Him. Those who belong to the world will produce the fruit of the world; those who belong to the kingdom of Christ, will produce the fruit of His kingdom.
“15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”
There is no gain in circumcision. Conversely, there is no gain if one doesn’t get circumcised. In other words, it has no meaning. It’s just nothing. It only matters if one gets circumcised for the purpose of trying to gain salvation. We can’t add anything to faith. Salvation comes through Christ alone, through faith alone.
“but a new creation”
Paul goes into a little more detail about this in 2 Corinthians 5:17:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” NKJV
We are new creations in Christ. We’ve been born-again, born of God, born into the family of God as His children (John 1:12-13). The old life is gone. It’s in the past. All things have become new. We have a new nature that will live on forever. Circumcision doesn’t provide this new birth. Nor does keeping the law in general. It’s a miracle that He performs within us when we place our faith in Christ as Lord and Savior.
“16 And as many as shall walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”
There is no peace with God apart from the truth. Justification and peace with God comes through faith in Christ (Ro 5:1), apart from circumcision and the works of the law. The Galatians needed to finally come to terms with that.
“upon the Israel of God”
Paul spent a considerable amount of time explaining who Israel is. True Israel is not the nation of Israel, but is a spiritual Israel, made up of those who have been born into it spiritually through the faith of Abraham. Therefore, Paul is not talking about the nation of Israel in this verse, but about those who have placed their faith in Christ. All believers, both Jew and Gentile, together make up true Israel.
For a more detailed study on this, read my commentary on the following passages:
Also my commentary on the following:
Also read the following passages:
“17 From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear branded on my body the marks of Jesus.”
Paul has demonstrated himself to be a true Apostle of Christ. He has the marks of persecution on his body to prove it. He discusses the details of that in the following passage:
“23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one–I am talking like a madman–with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.
24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.
25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea;
26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;
27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” ESV (2 Cor 11:23-27)
Therefore, I believe Paul is saying in effect: “Trouble me no more! Forget about these Judaizers and fall in line with what I’ve taught you. I represent the Lord Jesus Christ. I’ve been sent by Him. Believe what I tell you, for I have proven myself to be a true servant and representative of Christ.”
He could have added that the Lord did mighty miracles through him, confirming his message to be the truth, but I believe they already were witnesses to that (Gal 3:5).
Paul laid his life on the line in order to fulfill the will of God for his life. He willingly suffered whatever came his way in order for others to be saved, and for believers to grow in their relationship with Christ. In the United States, we haven’t experienced that kind of persecution. In the absence of true persecution, we’re busy pursuing the things our culture has to offer. So much so, that we have a hard time just giving up our free time in order to serve the Lord. This lack of persecution makes us lackadaisical. We need must fight this tendency to pursue the “good life” of our culture, in order to pursue the things that really matter….the things that will last forever.
I need to point out that we have brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world where Christianity is outlawed, where they live with the daily threat of being beat, tortured, burned out of their homes and churches, and thrown into prison. They endure much for the name of Christ. I encourage you to make them a regular part of your prayer life. I know how much our prayers mean to them.
“18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.”
It’s only by the grace of God that the eyes of these Galatians are opened to the truth that they once embraced. But I need to repeat what I’ve said before, that there were still among them those who continued to be faithful to what they were taught, and didn’t abandon the true gospel of Jesus Christ. May we all remain faithful to Jesus and to the truth that is in Him.