How do we get through the front doors? Government officials need security clearances. Kids in tree houses need a secret handshake. Fancy restaurants may require men to wear a jacket to be allowed into the dining room. We all want to be accepted by groups of peers, but sometimes that requires an extra mark of approval. Some Galatians held the same ideas about circumcision; no man could be admitted to the Christian “club” unless he proved he carried the mark of a circumcised believer. Thankfully, Paul came along and set the record straight.
- What does it mean to you to become a “new creation” in Christ?
READ THE WORD: GALATIANS 6:11-18 (ESV)
11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
- What motivations did Paul offer for the why the Galatians should take the issue of circumcision so seriously (vss. 12-13)?
- What more is Paul referencing in verse 17? Why would “bear[ing] the marks of Jesus”—scars of suffering for Christ—on one’s body be better proof of one’s faith in Christ than circumcision? Were the false teachers who demanded circumcision willing to be persecuted for the gospel (vs. 12)?
- What does this passage ultimately teach us about the issue of circumcision, in light of the gospel (vss. 15-16)?
- Are there any religious rules or cultural expectations to which you adhere—or expect of others—as necessary components of salvation?
RESPOND TO GOD
For us, circumcision isn’t a primary issue in our church culture. But we still maintain subtle expectations or legalistic rules for how others must present themselves to be accepted. How others dress. Or speak. Or worship. When pressed on the issue of circumcision as a requirement for salvation, Paul cleverly reminded his audience that he had, indeed, been marked for Christ: with beatings, imprisonment, and near-death experiences. These experiences were the result of being a new creation in his heart. We don’t need a security clearance, a secret handshake, or a sports jacket. But we do need Christ to change our hearts.
- Thank God for his gift to you—in Christ, you are a new creation! Thank him that there is nothing you can do to earn your salvation.
- Confess any ways you have made following religious rules, or expecting others to do so, more important than his gift of salvation.