11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. 17 From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen…Galatians 6:11-18 (NASB)
Teachers had Good Friday (April 2nd) off. I slept in just a bit. When I got up, I spent some extra time with our precious Benji boy. This was a special treat for me because he’s usually still asleep when I leave for work. My sweet wife had ordered some products from Wal-Mart that we picked up from their free curbside service (we may continue this practice even when the pandemic is fully over; going into the Supercenter isn’t always so Super!). We did a couple more errands at a leisurely pace and then picked up some Burger King at the drive-thru to bring home for lunch. As is my custom, after we pray and pass out the food, I turned on the television. Tragically, on this day when as a Christian I remember the utmost sacrifice of love made by our Lord, when as a dad with a day off I enjoyed time with my family, the news I turned on was reporting that a man had used his car to run into two law enforcement officers in DC and then came out brandishing a knife of some sort with intent to do more harm. Police shot and killed the young man fairly quickly, stopping him from carrying out more carnage. Sadly, one of the two officers hit with the car was soon announced to have died at the hospital. (May the Lord be with his family). As of this writing (Saturday, April 3rd—I know it may me a bit later when you’re receiving/reading this—after editing, printing, and mailing), we know the names of the criminal and the victim, but the question that everyone wants to know, that of WHY the man did such a terrible thing, remains unknown. On Sundays, we have been in a series on Galatians which we concluded on Easter Sunday (Resurrection Day!—April 4th). We looked at the concluding verses of this perhaps earliest epistle through the lens of WHY?
WHY Did Paul Write With Such Large Letters (vs. 11)?…Paul would often use an amanuensis (a secretary) to write down dictation in his letters, as was a common practice in his time and in times since. However, to make sure the recipients of the epistles knew that it was the Apostle who had authored the correspondence, Paul would write the closing in his own handwriting which was known by them; and apparently his penmanship utilized large letters. Some speculate that this was because Paul had some sort of trouble with his vision, and that vision trouble may have been the thorn in the flesh the Apostle refers to in 2 Corinthians. That having been said, the best scholarship I uncovered regarding the use of large letters and Paul’s own handwriting in the Book of Galatians implies that the Apostle Paul wrote the entire letter in his own hand and the entire letter was written in large letters. Back then, people would use cursive writing for correspondences, but public notices of great importance were written in large block letters. People in our day don’t handwrite many things anymore, text messages are most common and those who do compose letters to send through “snail-mail” typically use word processing programs. When you want to emphasize something in a text message or in a letter, or even in newsletter articles such as this, YOU USE ALL CAPS AND BOLD PRINT!!!!! Galatians, likely the first book chronologically speaking of the New Testament canon, had a most important message. The gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone needed to be proclaimed and defended against false teachers who were bringing another gospel (which was no gospel at all for there is only one true gospel and all others are lies); their false message saying that while grace, faith, and Christ are important, one has to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved (essentially, a works-based salvation). The most important public announcement that could ever be posted, the most important statement that could ever be made, the most important lesson that could ever be communicated, is the TRUE gospel of Jesus Christ. So, Paul used LARGE BLOCK LETTERS AND HIS OWN HANDWRITING TO DEFEND THE TRUE GOSPEL OF GRACE TO THE CHURCHES IN THE REGION OF GALATIA DURING HIS TIME, AND THE IMPORTANCE OF THAT MESSAGE STILL COMES TO US THOUGH TWO THOUSAND YEARS REMOVED!!!!
WHY Did The False Teachers Reject The True Gospel (vs. 12-13)?…I clicked through the “guide” of our cable (actually satellite) tv the other day. Most of you know, but for those who may be unaware, the guide is where you can check out upcoming programs on various stations and get a description of them. I turned to a “Christian” television station to see what was coming up. The program currently playing was Billy Graham preaching to a stadium full of people 40 or 50 years ago and his sermon was entitled “The Offense Of The Cross.” The show that would follow Billy Graham featured the most popular religious figure in America, the man who pastors the largest church in the USA today, and his message was entitled “Can You Handle The Blessing?” A tell-tale sign of the current state of Christianity in America! However, the proclivity of people to spurn the truth and embrace a lie is nothing new…The first reason the false teachers of Paul’s day, like the false teachers of our day, reject the true gospel is “simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of
Christ (Gal. 6:12).” To proclaim that Christ is good and great will not get you in too much trouble, lots of folks admire Him or at least their perception of Him. However, to say that He is GOD in the flesh will stir up a hornet’s nest. To believe that Jesus is a way, a truth, and a life and a way to heaven is mostly tolerated by the world. But quote John 14:6 correctly that Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life and that NO ONE comes to the Father EXCEPT through Him; and in the world’s eyes you’ve gone several steps too far. At the time of the writing of Galatians (circa 50 AD), to be a Christian could put you at odds with the leading Jewish religionists of the day, get you kicked out of the synagogue, scorned, socially cast out, and put some risk to your life. Not many years later in the First Century and believers in Jesus found themselves getting removed from trade unions, unable to make a living in many places, possibly put in jail, and soon following cast into lion’s dens with a paying audience to see you die or hung up on lamp posts and set ablaze to provide light for Nero’s parties. Today, telling people that they are sinners (as are we all) who stand in need of a Savior; that there is only one Savior and His Name is Jesus; that this Jesus is the One told to us by an ancient inerrant book known as the Bible; that this Jesus was born of a virgin, put to death on a cross, and was raised from the dead on the third day; and that failure to put trust in Him alone will leave us condemned to a just sentence of eternal, conscience torment in a place called Hell where the fire is not quenched and the worm does not die (Mark 9:42ff.) will get you funny looks, may get you removed from social media, could lose you your job and will cause you to be labeled an intolerant “-phobe” of some kind. Thankfully, we haven’t got to lion’s dens or being burned on posts yet in our country in our day and age, and I pray that we never will. But don’t think it couldn’t happen again (as it has happened over and over again throughout history). Jesus told us that if they persecuted Him (and they did), that they will also persecute us. If the gospel message and those who believe in it were of this world, the world would love the message and love believers, for the world loves its own. However, because the gospel message and those who believe in it are not of this world (the fallen world system), the world hates it and hates us (John 15:18-20)…The second reason the false teachers of Paul’s day, like the false teachers of our day, reject the true gospel is “so that they may boast in your flesh (Gal. 6:13).” Much could be said about this point and its full context, but suffice to say here that false teachers reject the true gospel because they like to boast. Scripture is clear that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). From the very first sin in the Garden of Eden, the greatest pride one could exhibit, the greatest act of arrogance that can be engaged in is to assume that your opinion or your views are higher than God’s. False teachers assume that they are right and twist God’s Words to establish their own “truth.” They glory in themselves, thinking that they are the best, or at least that they are better than others, rather than give glory to God and admit that they are sinners who are helpless apart from His grace. They focus more on a pedestal for themselves rather than elevating Christ on His Cross and then taking up their own by His grace and for His glory. They are the heroes of all their own stories, they brag about all of their acts and stats, they rise on their obedience to gain the approval of men rather than following after the Christ who bled and died for the salvation of all of those who would believe!
WHY Did Paul Want To Boast Only In The Cross (vs. 14-16)?…I get lots of emails at my school account. It is not unusual for each individual to have their credentials at the bottom of their email signature. It’s not uncommon for people to list everything from their degrees (BA, MA, PHD, etc.) to their teaching or administrative position titles to their coaching duties to their academic team lead responsibilities and the list goes on and on of things to tell the reader of the email that the person you just got the email from knows their stuff and is important. Some of you maybe don’t know much about emails, but just look at most any business card you have in your wallet or purse. The person’s name usually has letters showing degrees after it and some kind of slogan or review letting you know that they’re the best in the business. Now, I’m not necessarily saying listing credentials on emails or business cards is wrong, but you know that every human (you and me included) has an inbuilt sense of vanity and self-superiority…The Apostle Paul used to think that the fact that he was born a Jew, circumcised on the 8th day as the law required, that he was a Pharisee of Pharisees, born of the tribe of Benjamin, smarter than most of his peers, more zealous than most of his countrymen for his religion, and that he was a moral keeper of the law were things about which to boast. (He would have had a long business card and email signature!) Yet, in the passage where Paul recounts his pre-conversion resume (Philippians 3:4ff.), the Apostle declares that he counts all of those things as rubbish (literally dung) so that he may gain Christ and have a righteousness that comes through faith in Jesus rather than a self-righteousness that is based on his keeping of the law. For indeed, by works of the law shall no flesh be justified (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16)! Those who are in Christ, who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus, who have had their sins paid for by His precious blood, realize that they have nothing to boast in except for the Cross of Christ and the grace of God! This cross, which is foolishness to the world (1 Cor. 1:18), is the means by which we are saved and the basis from which we are sanctified. As Romans declares (Rom. 7:15), we all find ourselves doing what we don’t want to do, and not doing what we do want to do, but the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and the Spirit who resides inside the lives of genuine believers, crucifies us to the world and the world to us! Indeed, like Paul, neither our pedigree nor our performance could save us, but the Cross of Christ saves us, making us a new creation freeing us to walk in the ways of God for His glory!
WHY Did Paul Bear Marks Of Jesus (vs. 17)?…I’ve seen people get tattoos that later they were ashamed of and wished they had not received. Perhaps the name of someone they were interested in at one time but that time was short lived and has long since passed. Perhaps the name of a group that they thought they wanted to join but now would have no association with. Back in Paul’s day, it was not uncommon for followers of some heathen god or goddess to be branded with the mark of the false deity. Also, slaves were commonly branded with the mark of their master. Paul did not have anything tattooed on his body, but he received 39 lashes from the Jews who persecuted Christians on five separate occasions, he was beaten three times with rods for the cause of Jesus, and stoned and left for dead for preaching the gospel (2 Cor. 11:24-25). He gladly bore on his body these marks for Jesus and never questioned his allegiance to the Lord who loved him and gave His life for him.
WHY Did Paul End With Grace (vs. 18)?…When I was taught how to write in school the formula for composing essays was to tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. Look at the conclusion of the epistles God used Paul to write in the New Testament and you will see that he ends them speaking about grace. Why? Because grace is what he had experienced, grace is what he told to others, and grace is what he wanted to leave ringing in the ears of all who would give him a hearing! However, the grace that Paul proclaimed wasn’t some forgive and forget mentality, it wasn’t some easy believism, and it wasn’t some greasy grace. No, it was “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The only grace that can forgive. The only grace that is amazing. The grace that came through Jesus, the One who was fully human and yet fully God, who was born of a Virgin, who lived a perfect life, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, who was crucified for the sins of the world, who rose from the dead with life and liberty for all who believe, and who is coming back to receive believers unto Himself that where He is there we may also be!