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According to this Rule: Galatians 21

Notes & Transcripts

INTRODUCTION

As we seek to gather in our hearts and minds the message of this wonderful book, we can see the heart of it here in the last passage. Just as we need to summarize, so does Paul.

THE TEXT:

11Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand. 12As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. 13For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. 14But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. 15For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. 16And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. 17From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. 18Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen (Gal. 6: 11-18).

OVERVIEW

Paul’s adversaries had lied about so many things it was quite possible that they would deny Paul even wrote this letter. So, Paul says, look at my handwriting (v. 11). Those who want to parade around in the flesh insist on circumcision for others. To do otherwise would threaten their comfort, incurring persecution for the cross. Can’t have that (v. 12). They do what they do in the name of the law, but they do not keep it themselves. Their interest is the flesh, not the law of love (v. 13). But Paul glories in the cross alone, in which the world and the believer die to one another (v. 14). The point is not circumcision (in either direction), but rather a new creation (v. 15). Those who get this, peace and mercy are their benediction. The same goes for the Israel of God (v. 16). Let every man leave Paul alone, a man who has paid all his dues (v. 17). May the grace of Jesus Christ rest upon the Galatians’ spirits (v. 18).

NO MATTER WHAT YOU SAY:

If a man cares about something outside himself, it is possible to appeal to him through argument, or appeal to duty, or through the attraction of that which is lovely. But if a man cares only for himself, keeping himself warm and dry, then it is no use to appeal to him through anything that might threaten that position. Everything that is said is incorporated into an ingenious argument that shows that he does not have to alter anything at all. When Paul hadn’t written, they advanced their heresy. When he did, they advanced their heresy. When he makes sure they know he was the one writing this letter, they no doubt will move on to something else.

TWO KINDS OF COMFORT:

The flesh likes religion. It provides the industrious with a good way to get money, women, reputation and fame, or even money. In such a situation, to preach the cross is the height of folly. Consequently, the history of the church is filled with ecclesiastics whose eye was always on the main chance, shepherds who would feed only themselves. This is one sort of comfort.

Godly comfort is from the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our afflictions so that we might learn to comfort others in the same way (2 Cor. 1). In order to qualify for this comfort, a man must have been nailed to the cross of Christ (with regard to the world), and the world must have been nailed to the cross of Christ (with regard to that man). The cross of Christ reveals to us the mind of Christ, and it is in this cross that we finally learn to see the fundamental vanity of all worldly things. Note that I did not say all earthly things, or material things. But the world is described for us repeatedly in the New Testament. It is Vanity Fair, and those who start quibbling about whether this or that aspect of the fair is lawful in itself are simply showing that they are fools. But not to themselves, of course. Of course this or that is lawful.

ALWAYS THE HEART:

The issue is never circumcision, or uncircumcision. It is not baptism, or unbaptism. It is never membership in this church or that one. The issue is why. If the why is the new creation in the cross of Jesus Christ, everything else will be put to rights. But in everything you say or do, provided it is in the name of God, someone will be right there to twist the words into something more conducive to the way they want to remain.

WALK ACCORDING TO THIS RULE:

Paul says that peace and mercy are for those who walk in accordance with this rule. Such an understanding is what ought to characterize the Israel of God, which is the Christian church. So what is the rule?

The rule is the cross. But not the cross on a steeple, or a little silver chain. The rule is not the cross in the architectural pattern of the church sanctuary. Of course, we are not opposed to the cruciform in all its various physical manifestations. The cruciform heart is naturally hostile to the world, and recognizes that world in all its manifest shapes and appearances. Often that worldliness is cruciform. Sometimes it is hostile to that form. The world is a shapeshifter.

Confused? This is why Paul attacks the law, when it is in the mouths of those who would commend themselves. This is why he glories in the law when it is in the mouth of the one who loves. This is why Jeremiah attacked the Temple, and why Solomon built it. This is why God commanded sacrifices, and then told the people He actually wanted mercy instead. But the worldly Bible teacher, in love with the flesh, wants everything to stay put. But that is not how battles go.

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