Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Galatians Journal: Chapter 6, verse 14

Galatians 6:14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

In the previous verse, Paul closed with a comment about the Judiazers boasting in their own achievements in convincing the Galatians, as Gentiles, to submit to the Jewish Law and Jewish cultural norms. To submit to the circumcision procedure – which amounted to surgery – would have certainly been a painful sacrifice. But even as a cultural concept, circumcision would have been a sacrifice for the Galatians as well. Greek and Roman society was horrified at the concept of circumcision, viewing it as the mutilation of the body. They would have seen it as sensible as removing your lower lip or nose, and because it involved the male reproductive organ, it was particularly distasteful – even shameful. But here, Paul takes the metaphor for cutting and wounding to what would be for both Jews and Greeks a new cultural low point. The Jews viewed circumcision as badge of honor, and ethnic identification. The Greeks viewed it as horribly barbaric and shameful. The Judiazers believed and argued that bearing the wounds of circumcision in their own bodies was pleasing to God, something to boast about. In this verse, Paul calls attention to a very different type of wound. Throughout the letter, he has emphasized the concept of the law as expressed in the act of circumcision versus the concept of faith as expressed in the promise to Abraham, fulfilled in Jesus. Here he connects the physical concept which expresses the fulfillment of the latter concept in our lives. The argument is transformed from law versus promise, or circumcision versus promise, to circumcision versus crucifixion. Paul advocates boasting in and relying upon a wounding that is much more severe than the minor surgical procedure of circumcision. And while Greek and Roman society viewed circumcision with disdain, as something shameful, the most shameful and painful form of death in the Roman world was crucifixion. The Judiazers were coercing the Gentile believers to undergo circumcision out of their own sense of fear of persecution and rejection by Jewish religious leaders – sort of like being afraid of bringing your boyfriend/girlfriend home to meet Mom and Dad because they are not from the same race or culture as your family. Paul doesn’t care about that – he will boast in the concept that is most shameful, because it is actually the greatest treasure.

The concept of “boasting” in God is found throughout Paul’s writings – e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:31 – as well as the concept of focusing on the cross. In 1 Corinthians 2:2, Paul states that “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” The word translated as “never” here in Galatians 6:14 is about as powerful a negative as once can use in the original Greek – the King James Version translates it as “God forbid.” Coupled with the word “boast,” the implication is to not boast in anything or anyone except in the crucifixion of Jesus. The word “world” here means everything that exists that is against God. See James 4:4 and 1 John 2:15.

Earlier in the book, Paul has already discussed how we experience Christ’s crucifixion in our lives – in Galatians 2:19-20, and 5:24. It is a process in our lives that has nothing to do with our performance, or what we do, that puts to death the sin nature in us and produces a “new creation” and spiritual fruit that comes only from an intimate relationship with Jesus. As Paul said in Galatians 5:25, there is no law against that, or that even can STOP that. It is not only the only thing we should boast or brag about, it is all we can rely upon.

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