In conclusion in his letter to the Galatians, Paul gives his last and final warning regarding false teachers there.
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. ~Galatians 6:11-15
Paul again sites the men who were trying to lead and sway the church toward their own selfish interests and ideas. He again describes them as externally focused, cowardly, hypocritical, and full of boasting. Let’s consider those ugly attributes for just a moment.
Externally focused. You’ve met leaders like this. They are the ones obsessed with counting attendance; crunching numbers; building bigger. They love talking about all the work they are doing and telling you about all the work you ought to be doing for God. (‘Cause what Jesus called you to do just ain’t good ’nuff bro.) They like publicity. They like pats on the back. They’re the ones telling everyone besides their elite carbon copies that they are likely outside of grace lest they all conform and work diligently on…you guessed it…their vision. Beware, says Paul, teachers whose emphasis is on work, duty, and things such as numerical growth from the brethren above grace, mercy, and love of the brethren.
Cowardly. These men did not want to suffer for the gospel. Let’s face it, no one likes to suffer, but, these guys were willing to compromise anything and everything necessary as far as truth goes in order to stay “safe.” They loved their reputations. They loved their positions. They loved their names, their titles, and their social statuses. Therefore, they had to compromise the truth in order to please men, look righteous, and play both sides of the fence. Anyone who would challenge the validity or veracity of their false teachings or practices became their enemy. Hence, the attitude of social and spiritual exclusion.
Hypocritical. These are the guys who point out every letter in the law for every single soul but themselves. “Do this. Don’t do that. If you do; if you don’t, you are demonic and damnable…” They not only fail to recognize humanity for who we are (Christian or not), but also fail to recognize the darkness and deceit of their very own hearts as well. There is no grace. There is no hope. There is only judgement, disgust, and self-righteous condescension towards those they claim to seek to lead. Oh, the damage done by men so blind and barbaric! Jesus saves sinners. It is the sick that he heals.
Boastful. These men used their external works and rule-keeping logs as a badge of honor and boasting in the church. They never sinned…publicly. They never admitted their own failures. They never confessed. They only kept lists of all the great things they did according to their own rule-books. The whole point of encouraging others to follow was for the sake of their own pride and boasting over more of the same works, not for the glory of Jesus Christ or the gospel.
You know what Paul says about their externally focused, cowardly, hypocritical, boastful religious works??? You know what he says about his own works?
For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
They count for NOTHING! Nothing! Paul wants his brothers and sisters to see who they are in Christ, not who someone else that clearly doesn’t even love them at all expects them to be. Funny, he doesn’t mention anything about their outward condition. No. But he calls them new. Bought and owned by a God of peace; of mercy; of grace. Instead of telling them how they ought to suffer, he encourages them with his own suffering. He offers a farewell bent on grace and love.
For a guy who was thoroughly troubled and frustrated with his church, this is a remarkable sort of love letter. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, Paul has truly given us a work of grace in this short epistle to the Galatian church. Amen.