"... if I proclaim circumcision, why yet am I persecuted? Then the stumbling-block of the cross has been abolished" (Gal 5:11).
Paul corrected their errors regarding the Mosaic Law and its relationship to the Abrahamic Promise and New Covenant fulfillment. He has shown that observance of the Old Covenant has no place in the believer's life and is a rejection of the eschatological realities of the Spirit in the Kingdom of God. He returns to His relationship with the Galatians and calls for them to cast out the false teachers.
III' Paul The Apostle of the Truth 4:12-31
II' False Teachers 5:1-12
"I beseech you, become as I, because I even as you, brothers. You wronged me none. 13 And you have known that through weakness of the flesh I preached to you the former; 14 and the test of you in my flesh you did not despise nor reject, but as an angel of God, you received me, as Christ Jesus. 15 Where therefore your blessing? For I bear witness to you that if possible, having gouged out your eyes, you gave to me. 16 So I have become your enemy, speaking truth to you? 17 They are zealous for you, not rightly, but they wish to shut you out in order that you might be zealous for them. 18 And good to be zealous in good at all time, and not only in my being present with you. 19 My children whom I suffer birth pangs again until Christ is formed in you; 20 and I was wishing to be with you now, and to change my voice, because I am perplexed in you" (Gal 4:12-20).
He starts by imploring them to be like him. He is an apostle who represents the Lord Jesus! He became like them when he died to the Mosaic Law and brought the Gospel to them. When he came, they did not wrong him, but when faced with his weakness and frailty, they received him as though he were an angel with a message from God! They received him as though were Christ Jesus himself! But things have changed. Where is the blessing they offered him before? Back then they would have torn their own eyes out to give them to Paul! But now, Paul is their enemy because he speaks the truth to them? Yes, the false teachers are zealous, zealous to possess the Galatians, but not for good. Paul is in labor to see Christ formed in their lives. What has taken them off the path?
Paul gives them a picture the help them see what is at stake,
"Tell me, the ones wishing to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it has been written that Abraham had two sons, one out the slave woman, and one out of the free woman. 23 But indeed the one out of the slave woman has been born according to the flesh, and the one out of the free woman, through the promise. 24 Which things are being allegorized; for these women are two covenants: indeed, one from Mount Sinai bearing children unto slavery; which is Hagar. 25 and Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is a slave with her children. 26 And the Jerusalem above is free, who is our mother. 27 For it has been written: 'Rejoice, barren woman, the one not bearing; break forth and shout, the one not suffering birth-pangs; because many are the children of the desolate woman, more than the woman having the husband!' 28 And you brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as then the one having been born according to the flesh was persecuting the one according to the Spirit, so also now! 30 But what does the Scripture say? 'Cast out the slave woman and her son; for no, the son of the slave woman will not inherit with the son of the free woman.' 31 Therefore brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman" (Gal 3:21-31)
Two women representing two covenants with two children. The Mosaic Covenant is represented by the slave woman, Hagar, who beget according to the flesh when she gave birth to Ishmael who became the persecutor! She was a slave, and her children are slaves. The law does not bring freedom, only slavery. This is the Jerusalem in Canaan. But the New Covenant is like Sarah who though being barren bore the child of promise, Isaac, not by the flesh but through faith in the power of God (Rom 4:19-20). She is the Jerusalem in heaven; her children are free. She shouts in joy. God did what the flesh could not do. The Mosaic Law could never beget free children, only slaves. But in the New Covenant, the city of God in heaven is filled with free children! The Spirit of the Lord Jesus has begotten the citizens of heaven! The Galatian believers are the children of heaven. What do they do? Cast out the slave woman and her son; cast out the Mosaic Covenant and her children. They will not inherit the kingdom inheritance!
Paul then turns to the children of the slave woman, the false teachers (II'). He continues,
"To freedom Christ set us free; therefore stand firm and do not be ensnared again by the yoke of slavery. Behold, I Paul say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing! 3 And I testify again to every man being circumcised that he is a debtor to do all the law. 4 You are severed from Christ, whoever are being justified in the law; from grace you fell. 5 For we through the Spirit out of faith, we are eagerly awaiting the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any power, but only faith working through love. 7 You were running well; Why cut into you that you not obey the truth? 8 The persuasion is not out of the One who is calling you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence as to you in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; and the one who is troubling you will carry the judgment, whoever he might be. 11 And I, brothers, if I proclaim circumcision, why yet am I persecuted? Then the stumbling-block of the cross has been abolished. 12 Also, would that those who are unsettling you will emasculate themselves!"
For the Galatians to keep the Mosaic requirements puts them again in slavery! The Gospel will be of no use to them if they go back to the covenant of works. They will not merely be observing some days and being circumcised. They will be obligated to keep the whole law. Being righteous in the law takes them away from the righteousness in Christ. But believers are not seeking to become righteous; they are righteous, justified, in Christ and are eager for the fulfillment of the hope based on that righteousness. The believer looks for Glory, the New Jerusalem, to be seated with Christ as the bride of the Lord Jesus. The believer, already righteous in Christ, lives in eager hope for that day when the Groom will come! Circumcision doesn't have that power. Genuine faith which evidences itself in love is the eschatological presence of the coming kingdom. But the false teachers seek to persuade them. It is not from God. These teachers are like leaven. It is not a mild additive they offer; if destroys the whole Gospel. No, Paul doesn't preach circumcision; that would certainly remove the stumbling block -- justification through faith alone based on the finished work of Christ alone, apart from the works of the law! These false teachers are under God's judgment. Let them cut themselves off!
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Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are from NASB. Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org
trans. indicates my translation
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