When we began studying this letter of Sha’ul to the congregations in southern Galatia we talked about how there was none of the normal giving of thanks or thinking of something nice to say to the audience. Sha’ul concludes his letter in basically the same way, without passing along any greetings, without expressing any joy, and without requests for prayer. All there is a reminder of the main points and a sober warning.[i] Before we read this final passage, let’s remind ourselves of Sha’ul’s central argument from Chapter (2:16). “Yet we know that a person is set right not by deeds based on Torah, but rather through … [the faithfulness of Messiah Yeshua]. So even we have put our trust in Messiah Yeshua, in order that we might be set right based on trust in Messiah and not by deeds based on Torah—because no human will be justified by deeds based on Torah.”[ii]
[Read Gal. 6:11-18]
(Vs. 11-13) Sha’ul wants to ensure that his audience understands just how important this is by writing the last paragraph himself and not by the hand of a scribe. The next two verses form another Chiastic poem. The statement, “those wanting to look good outwardly”, and the statement about “boasting in your flesh” are in parallel. And although these people are trying to force the gentile believers to become culturally Jewish by being circumcised, they themselves do not even keep the Torah of Moses. The main point that Sha’ul is focusing on is their reasoning for demanding circumcision. Sha’ul believes that the Judaiser’s motive for forcing the gentiles to be circumcised is only so that they will not be persecuted because of the Cross of Messiah. This is the same persecution that Sha’ul had already experienced in most of the towns in the region of Galatia.
The death of Yeshua on the Cross, and the atonement that it has brought, has always caused people to stumble. Sha’ul would write later to the congregation in Corinth, [1 Cor. 1:18-25]. Yeshua never made discipleship easy. The first time that Yeshua told his own disciples that he would about to be killed, they did not believe Him. Yeshua said at that time, [Luke 9:23-26].
(Vs. 14) “But may I never boast—except in the cross of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah.” I have been in conversations where the only focus was on how Kosher each one was, or how much of the Torah each was keeping. But those discussion feel dead. Let me tell you about how my Messiah saved my life! Let me tell you about the price that He paid for me! Let me tell you about the new life that my Messiah Yeshua of Nazareth gave me! Now that is a conversation worth having!
A warning that we all should take away, when people comment on the good things in your life, do we give praise to Messiah Yeshua? We should. I know in my case, that none of the accomplishments that are of most value, would have been possible if Yeshua had not salvaged my life. If He had not rescued me, I would still be a selfish, proud, self-centered and shallow person. I owe everything to Yeshua!
Through Yeshua, we gain an eternal perspective. We realize that the temporary pleasures of this world pale in comparison to the glory that shall be revealed to us. Sha’ul will go on to write to the congregations in Rome, “For I consider the sufferings of this present time not worthy to be compared with the coming glory to be revealed to us. (Rom. 8:18) We are now dead to the world’s system, its entitlements.[iii] This does not mean that we are distancing ourselves from the physical world, or opting out of involvement with the people around us, however, the human power structures, and the identity defined by wealth are no longer a part of who we are.
(Vs. 15) “For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything—but only a new creation.” We are a new creation. Sha’ul will write later to the congregation in Corinth, “Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17)
Important Final Notes
(Vs. 16-18) Before I close, I want highlight an important issue with Verse 16. The New Living Translation says this, “May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.” And the GOD’S WORD Translation says this, “Peace and mercy will come to rest on all those who conform to this principle. They are the Israel of God.” These are horrible translations! The other 28 translations that I read had it much better. No where else does Sha’ul ever identify Gentiles believers as “Israel.” Also, if Sha’ul was now calling the gentile believers of Galatia, “Israel” then he would be conceding one of the biggest arguments of his opponents, the Judaisers. The best way to translate this passage is, “As many as shall walk by this rule, peace be upon them, and may there be mercy also upon the Israel of God.”[iv]
[i] The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Rev. Ed., Vol 11, Robert Rapa, pg. 636.
[ii] All Scripture quotations are taken from the Tree of Life (TLV) version unless otherwise noted.
[iii] Rapa, pg. 638.