Saved By Grace
Galatians 6:11-15 NCV
2 Corinthians 12:6-7 NKJV
Genesis 17:10-14 NKJV
The Beginning, Part 2
Galatians 6:11 says, “See what large letters I use to write this myself.”
Paul begins his concluding remarks to the Galatians by stating he writes in large letters written by himself. Some scholars believe it’s possible that Paul wrote in large letters because the impediment he wrote about in 2 Corinthians was connected to his eyesight.
While we do not know the full nature of Paul’s physical issue, this is what we do know from 2 Corinthians 12:6-7:
“For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me. And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.”
All we know for sure is that Paul had some kind of “thorn in the flesh”.
When we put the pieces together, we have to remember that Paul was the only apostle who was a Jewish Pharisee that was highly educated. Even so, he did not count himself as being more important than Peter, John and the other leaders of the early church. What Peter, John, and the other disciples had that Paul did not have was personal time with Jesus when He walked the earth. Although Jesus did appear to Paul after the ascension, Paul didn’t have the benefit of daily minute by minute contact with Jesus in the flesh before the crucifixion. Both Paul who was Hebrew born and educated, and Peter (and the other disciples) who had personal time with Jesus were needed to build the early church.
Many believe that Paul wrote about the “large letters” as a point of emphasis. It’s kind of like when we use all caps in an email. I think that Paul was screaming his message to his readers for two reasons:
-He was driving his point about circumcision home to the Jews
-He wanted the Gentiles to know that they did not have to be circumcised in order to be saved.
That’s why the remainder of this section of scripture focused back on circumcision. In Galatians 6:12-15, “Some people are trying to force you to be circumcised so the Jews will accept them. They are afraid they will be attacked if they follow only the cross of Christ. Those who are circumcised do not obey the law themselves, but they want you to be circumcised so they can brag about what they forced you to do. I hope I will never brag about things like that. The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is my only reason for bragging. Through the cross of Jesus my world was crucified, and I died to the world. It is not important if a man is circumcised or uncircumcised. The important thing is being the new people God has made.”
Notice Paul points out that there are Jews who brag that they are circumcised. Paul is correct, however we have to remember that circumcision was an ancient Jewish “event” that began with Abraham in Genesis 17:10-14: “This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”
Circumcision was deeply rooted in Hebrew tradition. Paul, himself would have been circumcised. But Paul knew that circumcision was not tied to salvation. Gentiles who were not circumcised were saved by grace in Jesus Christ. The old covenant of circumcision was not dead but it was forever changed by Jesus’ death on the cross. Paul was telling the Jews not to brag they are Jews. He wanted them to see that the Gentiles were just as “saved” as they were.
Both Jews and Gentiles now had a place in the Kingdom of God because of what Jesus did. Paul knew that he was the person God called to send the message of circumcision vs. salvation to Jews and Gentiles. He kept bringing the issue up because it was that important.
That’s why I think his opening words about ‘large letters’ in this section are akin to ALL CAPS in an email today.
Paul was saying, GET THIS PEOPLE...your circumcision doesn’t save you. Believing in Jesus Christ as your Savior does. By His GRACE we are saved.
The problem Paul faced was that circumcision was a physical act that they had done for thousands of years. Believing in Jesus was new. It was different. It’s a one time deal but it’s also a daily deal. (Theologians today still grapple with that one).
In verse 15 of this section of Galatians 6, Paul gets personal. Notice he doesn’t say, WE died. He says, “I died to the world.”
Then he added, “It is not important if a man is circumcised or uncircumcised. The important thing is being the new people God has made.”
All things new.
Every minute of every day.
That’s one of the things I love about the Gospel message, and about Paul’s message. Those of you who really know me know that I am just a silly kid who can make a mess of things in seconds (my kids especially know that is true about me). God loves me for who I am.
Every minute of every day.
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: receive God’s Grace
Take just a minute today to received the fullness of God’s Grace IN you.
In God, Deborah