Circumcision Versus the Cross Gal 6:11-18 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
In closing his letter to the Galatians, Paul summed up his argument against circumcision and adherence to the law after a person trusts Christ. Basically, the teachers that were trying to get the Galatians to follow the law after their salvation were men who could not bear the reproach of simple faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on Calvary. To keep the law abiding Jews from troubling them like they troubled Paul [Acts 14:19; Acts 17:4-5, 13], these teachers gave in to the pressure to conform their “converts” to the law [Acts 21:20-24]. And when they were able to convince Christians to abide by the law, they considered themselves to be successful in their advancement of what they professed was the true gospel [Gal 1:7-9]. They had something about which they could boast and of which they could be proud. Paul was totally against their teaching because it minimized the true saving work of Calvary and would only lead to religious self righteousness in the end.
When comparing circumcision to the true saving work of the cross, Paul concluded the following.
Those who preach circumcision for salvation do so to:
Show off the flesh – Gal 6:12 – Rom 2:28-29, it doesn’t make any difference what you do in the flesh; if you have not trusted Christ as your Savior, you are not going to heaven and if you have trusted him, circumcision isn’t going to get you there any faster or any more assuredly. For this reason, Paul wouldn’t circumcise Titus [Gal 2:3] just to satisfy the Jews.
Shield themselves from persecution – Gal 6:12 – the Jews wouldn’t tolerate the preaching of the cross to other Jews or even to Gentiles [1 Thes 2:14-16]. Thus they persecuted those who preached the simplicity of salvation in Jesus Christ just like Paul did before he got saved [Acts 8:1-4; 22:4]. They knew that if they circumcised their converts, the Jews would leave them alone [Acts 15:1, 5].
Appear as law abiding to others – Gal 6:13 – circumcision is an outward adherence to the law – however, there’s a lot more to the law than the singular act of circumcision – and those who were requiring circumcision as part of salvation were not keeping the whole law [Gal 3:10, Jas 2:10] – like the Pharisees, they could not keep the very laws they were attempting to get their followers to keep [Matt 23:3; Rom 2:21-25].
Glory in their following – Gal 6:13 – the fact that a teacher or preacher was able to convince true believers to go back under the law was an accomplishment that boosted the reputation of the preacher.
These men preached circumcision to no avail – Gal 6:15 – considering salvation through Jesus Christ, circumcision accomplishes absolutely nothing [Gal 5:6]. Circumcision in Gen 17 was the token of a covenant God made with Abraham and we get in on the promise of that covenant when we trust Jesus as our Savior [Rom 4:11-13].
The cross of Christ, on the other hand:
Crucifies the world to you – Gal 6:14 – When Jesus Christ died on the cross, he won a victory over the world that will have its ultimate culmination at the second coming of Jesus Christ, when the kingdoms of this world will become his [Rev 11:15] and when the god of this world will be chained in the bottomless pit for a thousand years [Rev 20]. In the meantime, we enjoy victory over the world because of what Jesus Christ did at Calvary [Col 2:14-15; 1 Jn 5:4].
Crucifies you to the world – Gal 6:14 – sin in my flesh is drawn to the world and its lusts. When I trusted Jesus, the Holy Spirit essentially crucified me on Christ’s cross [Gal 2:20] and killed me so that the sin of the world [1 Jn 2:15-17] would not continue to draw me away from Christ [Rom 6:6-7, 11-12].
Makes you a new creature – Gal 6:15 – 2 Cor 5:17; Eph 4:22-24, neither circumcision nor any other outward demonstration in the flesh can make you a new creature in Christ. Frankly, being a new creature in Christ is all that matters as far as salvation and the Christian life are concerned.
Gives you peace with God – Gal 6:16 – Col 1:20-21 by Christ’s cross we have been reconciled to God and thus we are at peace with him. This is something circumcision cannot do [Judas was circumcised] and was never intended to do.
Provokes persecution – Gal 6:17, 12 – Col 1:24; 2 Cor 11:23-25; Phil 1:29-30 it only stands to reason that if a self righteous, religious hypocrite is depending upon some outward show in his flesh to convince you that he is righteous, he will try to destroy you if you preach that simple faith in Christ will save you and that his religious system will send you to hell.
Conclusion: It cost Paul dearly to preach salvation apart from the law, just like it cost Jesus Christ his life – you will not be popular with religious people who trust their religion to save them – your insistence that they simply trust the finished work of Jesus Christ on Calvary is either going to convince them to look to Jesus alone for salvation or to hate you.