Friday, October 23, 2009

Galatians Journal: Chapter 5, verse 11

Galatians 5:11 Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished

“Brothers” Again, we have the “intimacy” factor carrying over from the previous verse. Paul believes the readers of this letter are truly born-again Christians, truly brothers in the Lord in every way that the term applies, and expresses the inherent family-like relationship of the kingdom. Paul truly loves these people.

“If I am still preaching circumcision” A rhetorical question – the usual way a Gentile converted to Judaism was circumcision for males, and baptism for males and females, but the concept of a relationship with Christ is so much more. The implication is that Paul has been accused of preaching circumcision as necessary for salvation, along with the Judiazers. Or perhaps Paul was being slandered as being sympathetic to the Judiazers because he himself was ethnically Jewish. The confusion caused by this heresy and the ethnic intimidation among the Galatians was great.

“why am I still being persecuted?” If Paul were simply converting Gentiles to Judaism, the Jews, in particular the Judiazers, would not be against him, or object to what he’s doing. The Judiazers were more sensitive to their own cultural expectations than to those of the Galatians. Aw, that was too polite – to be blunt, they were bigots. The Jews of Paul’s day looked down on Gentiles as inferior, and objected to the concept of such inferiors being accepted into the faith simply by believing in Jesus. This is also the great sin of modern American Christianity – the cultural segregation of the church. Looking ahead to Galatians 6: 12-13, we see the real reason for the Judiazers insisting on circumcision is cultural conformity, pride, and to blend in, in order to "stay out of trouble" with the bellicose faction of Jewish believers who insisted on outward adherence to the minutiae of the law. Believing in Jesus proves to be risky in worldly culture. The “persecution” here comes from the Judiazers themselves, reacting to this very concept. Examples of this kind of thing in the cities of Galatia are found in Acts 13 & 14, where the reaction to Paul’s preaching and the conversion of the Gentile population was for the Jews in the region to stir up persecution. A comparable situation would be the civil rights advocates who tried to “preach” freedom and equality in the South in the mid-20th century – the white establishment often reacted the same way the Jewish elites did in Acts 13 &14.

“In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.” Romans 9: 32-22 and I Corinthians 1:23 both reference the cross as a “stumbling block” for Jews, and ‘foolishness” for Greeks. The Jews cling to (and even today, they still do) the need to obey the law to prove their worthiness. If you need a physical act to be saved, if any part of being right before God depends on what we do, then the cross (and Christ’s sacrificial death) is meaningless. That's the simple truth, though even many ardently evangelical Christians fail to understand this concept.

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