Galatians 5:2-12: Practical Results of Faith and Law

Galatians 5:2‑12  •  24 min. read  •  grade level: 6
“See! I Paul, I say to you, that if you should be receiving circumcision, Christ shall do you no good at all. Yes, I protest again to every man receiving circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. You have lost the benefit of Christ [or, you are invalidated from Christ], you whoever in virtue of law are being justified, you have fallen away from grace. For, as for us, by (the) Spirit we are eagerly looking forward to (the) hope of righteousness on the principle of faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision has any power, nor uncircumcision; but faith working through love. You were running well [or, nobly]! Who has interfered with you [literally, cut you off] (for you) not to be persuaded by (the) truth? This persuasion (is) not from the One calling you. A little leaven is leavening the whole lump. As for me, I am fully persuaded about you in (the) Lord, that you will be none otherwise minded. But the one troubling you shall bear his guilt, whoever he may be. But as for me, brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? Then the scandal [or, stumblingblock] of the cross has been made without effect [or, invalidated]. Would that the ones upsetting you would even cut themselves off!” ch. 5:2-12.
With ch. 4 we closed the portion of our epistle that speaks of the DOCTRINE of law and grace; and with ch. 5 we begin to see the practical results of each. In the eleven verses now before us we will see how terrible are these results of law. Words could hardly be stronger than in the next few verses. Paul does not say that the Galatians had received circumcision, but he knew well that the Jewish teachers were trying to compel them to receive it. In Acts 15:11And certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. (Acts 15:1) JND we read: “Certain persons, having come down from Judea, taught the brethren, If ye shall not have been circumcised according to the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved.” These teachers were now saying these same words to the Galatians. The one said, “If you shall not have been circumcised, you cannot be saved.” Paul replies by the Holy Spirit, “If you should be circumcised, Christ shall do you no good whatever.” We must clearly understand that “circumcision” was the mark which separated those who trusted in the law from all other people. This was the outward sign that a man was trusting to law. In 1 Cor. 7:1818Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. (1 Corinthians 7:18) we read: “Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.” No man can trust to Christ and to circumcision, or the law, at the same time. He who trusts to Christ does not, and cannot, trust to law. He who trusts to law does not trust to Christ. So Christ does no good to any man who trusts law. The cross of Christ is useless to such a man. The death of Christ is not for this man. In life or in death, in the present time or in eternity, Christ does this man no good. Some people say, “I try and keep the law, and trust to it; and where I fail I trust to Christ!” No, this is not possible. You must choose either Christ or the law. You cannot have part of each. Paul makes his words still stronger by saying first: “See, look, consider! I Paul, I the apostle of the Gentiles, I Paul, with the authority that Christ has given to me, I Paul, for whom you would once have dug out your eyes; it is I who say this to you: If you should be circumcised, Christ shall do you no good whatever.”
“Yes, I testify again to every man receiving circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.” Paul speaks with all the earnestness and energy that he possibly can. This matter is of the highest importance. This question undermines all the foundation of Christianity. “Yes,” says the Apostle, “I testify....” The meaning is that he solemnly gives evidence, as though before witnesses, of what the result is to the man who receives circumcision. He has taken the mark of being under law, and now he is debtor to do the whole law. He cannot say, as many do today, I do my part and Christ does His part. I do the best I can, and Christ takes care of my failures. No, indeed! Christ does it all, or He does nothing. If you trust the law, you are a debtor to keep it all. The law says, You may not covet. One covetous thought, and you are lost. You must love your neighbor as yourself. If you do not, you are lost. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deut. 6:55And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)). If you fail to do this, for even one moment, you are lost. Christ will not help you. He profits you nothing. He will do you no good at all. You must keep the whole law, or you are lost. James 2:1010For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:10) says plainly, “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:1010For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:10)). The law is like a sheet of glass; if you break it at all, then it is all broken. The law is like an anchor chain; if you break one link, the whole chain is broken, and the ship is lost. O, my reader, if you have been trusting to your own good works, if you have been trusting to the law, hear God’s solemn words. Give up your hopes in works and law, and turn to Christ alone: cast yourself on Him, and on Him only. In Him you have a perfect and complete salvation. Christ must be everything, or nothing.
“You are invalidated from Christ, you whoever in virtue of law are being justified.” “Invalidated from,” the Greek word which this tries to translate, appears also in Rom. 7:66But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. (Romans 7:6), which tells us that we are set free from the law. This has been translated “delivered from the law,” (Rom. 7:66But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. (Romans 7:6)) or “clear from the law.” It is not that we are separated from the law, or separated from Christ, but that we are separated from, or deprived of, the benefit or the effect that Christ would bring to us. If the man who tries now to be justified by law shall plead the name of Christ in a coming day to make him just, the answer will be: “The name of Christ for you is not valid.” Such a man has no right to His name. It tells us again that Christ and the law cannot both give us righteousness. You may trust Christ for righteousness and He will give you a perfect righteousness: or, you may trust the law for righteousness, and it will curse you and condemn you. You yourself must choose whether you will have Christ or the law. Let me repeat it once more, You cannot trust to both.
A man may be the most moral, upright, honest, good, kind man, but if he trusts to the law he is lost; and he will spend eternity in hell. Reader, be clear: there is salvation only in the name of Jesus; and you may add not one single thing to that name. Jesus can and will save the worst sinner who trusts in Him, but the best man in the world is lost if he trust in the law.
To the one who gives up Christ for the law Paul writes: “You have fallen away from grace.” Many persons think that if they sin after they have trusted in Christ, then they have fallen from grace. No, the Bible says no such thing. To turn to the law is to fall from grace. A man may be the most righteous man in the eyes of his friends. He may strive earnestly in his own strength to please God. He may give away much to the poor, and do everything he thinks he ought to do. But if this man is trusting to the law, or partly to the law and partly to Christ, then this good man has fallen from grace. Rom. 5:22By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2) tells us we have access by faith into grace— not by law. In 2 Peter 3:1717Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. (2 Peter 3:17) Peter warns the saints: “Beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall away from your own steadfastness.” This word “fall away” is the same Greek word as “fallen away from grace” in Galatians. In 2 Peter 3:1414Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. (2 Peter 3:14) we read: “Be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” In Peter, the danger seems to be that we fall away from the proper behavior of a Christian. In Galatians the danger is that we fall away from the truth, the grace that makes us Christians. You will remember that in 2 Peter 1 we noticed that Peter wrote his second epistle to the same persons to whom he had written the first, and that letter was addressed to the Galatians (as well as to others). So we find that the Galatian Christians are warned not to fall away either in their doctrine or in their walk. It is very possible that Peter was thinking of this verse in Paul’s epistle to the Galatians when he wrote these words, for in the following verses he is speaking of Paul’s epistles, and he specially commends them, and calls them “the Scriptures.” 2 Peter 3:15, 1615And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:15‑16). If this is so, we see the great grace that is shown forth in Peter’s heart to specially commend to the Galatian Christians the very epistle that shows so clearly his own failure.
Be clear then, dear reader, that the Apostle Paul, by the Holy Spirit, plainly teaches that there is no salvation to the one who insists on receiving circumcision. Such a man shows plainly he is trusting to the law to be justified. Only by the grace of our Lord Jesus can any man obtain salvation. (See Acts 15:1111But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. (Acts 15:11).) How then can any man be saved when Christ does him no good whatever, when he is invalidated from Christ, when he has fallen away from grace?
The Christian is not to:
But on the contrary, the Christian is to:
We have been gazing, with solemnized hearts I hope, at the result of law. Now the Apostle turns to those who continue in the grace of God. “For, as for us, by the Spirit we are eagerly looking forward to the hope of righteousness on the principle of faith.” In Gal. 3:22This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:2) we saw that we received the Spirit by the hearing of faith. Now we see that by the Spirit we “look forward to the hope of righteousness.” The law was a thing of the flesh; and the Spirit is “contrary” to the flesh. (Gal. 5:1717For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (Galatians 5:17).) So we read in Gal. 3:33Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3), “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” In this short epistle, where the law, the work of flesh, is so prominent, we find the Spirit also prominent. For the law is the false way, the Spirit the true way, of justification and holiness. In this short epistle we read of the Spirit sixteen times.
So the Apostle says, “For, as for us, by the Spirit we are eagerly looking forward to the hope of righteousness.” The word translated “eagerly looking forward” is used in several other places in the New Testament, but always of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, or of some blessing we receive from His coming. See, for example, 1 Cor. 1:77So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: (1 Corinthians 1:7), Phil. 3:2020For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: (Philippians 3:20), and Heb. 9:2828So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. (Hebrews 9:28). Or, for the blessings, see Rom. 8:19, 2319For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19)
23And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23)
. So in this verse in Galatians we may expect that the “hope” is “that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:1313Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; (Titus 2:13). Hope, in the language of men, is always an uncertain thing. Perhaps they will receive it, perhaps not. But in God’s language, hope is a certain thing because there is no uncertainty with God. When God promises us something, there is no uncertainty; we know we will receive it, though we must “with patience wait for it” (Rom. 8:2525But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. (Romans 8:25)). We hope for it (not uncertainly) while we wait for it. So we eagerly look forward to the hope of righteousness.
In the New Testament the Holy Spirit presents to us “righteousness” in various ways. The Spirit uses, I think, five different words to describe righteousness in Romans. We do have righteousness before God now. We are even now reckoned righteous freely by His grace. (Rom. 3:2424Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: (Romans 3:24).) But the whole work of being made righteous, as looked at completely in the New Testament, is not entirely fulfilled until the Lord’s coming. God knows the end from the beginning, so He need not wait until the end of man’s life to pronounce His verdict; but as soon as a man trusts in Christ, then God counts him righteous. But then all his walk and ways must be made to conform in righteousness, to the righteousness we already possess in God’s sight. This will only be fully complete when the Lord comes.
“All of us, with unveiled faces, reflecting like bright mirrors the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same likeness, from one degree of radiant holiness to another, even as derived from the Lord the Spirit.” 2 Cor. 3:1818But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18).
So we eagerly look forward to that day when Christ shall come, when all our hopes and expectations, that which is contained in the word “righteousness” in all its fullness, shall be completely fulfilled. Surely we may cry, “Make haste, my Beloved!” (Song of Sol. 8:1414Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices. (Song of Solomon 8:14)).
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision has any power, nor uncircumcision; but faith working through love.” (Compare 1 Cor. 7:1919Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. (1 Corinthians 7:19) and Gal. 6:1515For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. (Galatians 6:15).) Circumcision was merely an outward cutting off of the flesh, merely an outward ceremony, and as we have so often seen in this epistle, the Holy Spirit insists that outward forms and ceremonies have no power whatever. Both circumcision and uncircumcision alike can never produce any results for God. So the man who is circumcised is just as helpless to please God as the man who is uncircumcised. There is no difference; neither the one nor the other has the least power to do anything for God. The spiritual meaning of circumcision was “a heart affair.” In Jer. 6:1010To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it. (Jeremiah 6:10) the Lord complains of Israel that “their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken” (Jer. 6:1010To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it. (Jeremiah 6:10)); and in Jer. 9:2626Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart. (Jeremiah 9:26) He adds: “All the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.” So Paul says: “Circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.... For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Rom. 2:25, 28, 2925For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. (Romans 2:25)
28For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. (Romans 2:28‑29)
. But, although outward forms and ceremonies have no power, yet there is a power: “Faith working through love” (vs. 6). But this is an inward power, this is “a heart affair.” Faith and love go together, they walk hand in hand. As we learn to know our Lord better we trust Him more entirely, and as we trust Him more we love Him more fully and more wholeheartedly; and faith working through love has mighty power: “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it” (Song of Sol. 8:77Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned. (Song of Solomon 8:7)).
“Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance... and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy: they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith....” Heb. 11:33-3933Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: (Hebrews 11:33‑39).
Yes, how true is the word that, although neither circumcision nor uncircumcision have any power whatever, yet in Christ Jesus faith working by love has power untold. We must notice how Paul, in vv. 5, 6 of our chapter, links together “faith, hope, and love,” as he does in 1 Cor. 13:1313And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13:13). “And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three.”
“You were running well!” Paul loves the picture of the race. In 1 Cor. 9:2424Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. (1 Corinthians 9:24)-27 he exhorts the Corinthian believers from the same picture: “So run, that ye may obtain!” (1 Cor. 9:2424Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. (1 Corinthians 9:24)). In Gal. 2:22And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. (Galatians 2:2) and Phil. 2:1616Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain. (Philippians 2:16), Paul speaks of himself in his own race, that he had not run in vain, or to no purpose. In Phil. 3:12-1412Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12‑14), Paul sees himself still as the runner, but drawing nearer the end of the race. The goal is in sight, and that is not the time to relax; on the contrary, now is the time to put forth all his strength, so “down to the goal I press!” As he parted from his dear Ephesian brethren he thinks of the time when, the race finished, the goal passed, the prize won, only the joy remains: “Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy” (Acts 20:2424But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)). It is the Greek word for the racecourse that Paul uses here once again. And in 2 Tim. 4:7, 87I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7‑8), using the same word, he sees the race is over: “I have finished my course [again, the word means the ‘racecourse’]... henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” This was not the kingly crown of royalty, but it was the victor’s wreath that the winner of the race received at the Olympic Games. That wreath was made of leaves, “a corruptible crown”. But the crown that we receive is “an incorruptible” one. (See 1 Cor. 9:2525And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. (1 Corinthians 9:25).)
The Galatian believers were running in this race. They had been running nobly, but someone had come in and interfered with them. The word means “cut into.” It generally has the idea of interfering with a person’s road, trying to hinder them by breaking down the bridges and spoiling the road. We often see it in these days in war. So someone had been hindering the Galatian runners, someone had been interfering with them. They had grown weary of the race, and were not running at all well now.
We come now to the word “persuade” used three times over in the Greek. It is generally translated “obey” on the first occasion: “Who has interfered with you, for you not to obey the truth?” But the literal meaning is “to be persuaded.” A man does not obey until he is persuaded of the truth that is being presented to him. So we may translate: “Who has interfered with you, for you not to be persuaded by the truth?” Paul is not asking for the sake of information. He probably knew well who the enemy was that was “cutting in” and interfering with those he loved so dearly. It is rather an exclamation to make the Galatian believers themselves see how they have failed. In the next chapter of Galatians we will see that he exhorts them not to lose heart, not to relax. The enemy has persuaded them to give up the truth they had learned from Paul; so Paul adds, “This persuasion is not from the One calling you.” It was not the Lord, it was not the Holy Spirit that had persuaded them to give up. It was the enemy’s work. “An enemy hath done this” (Matt. 13:2828He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? (Matthew 13:28)). Just as the enemy sowed tares among the wheat, bringing in evil among the good, so also the woman in Matt. 13:3333Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. (Matthew 13:33) put a little leaven into much meal till all was leavened. Perhaps Paul was thinking of our Lord’s parable, and so he writes: “A little leaven is leavening the whole lump.” Paul had preached the truth and had given them the good meal; but the false teachers had mixed the leaven of law-keeping with it, and soon all would be spoiled. We must remember that in the Bible leaven always speaks of what is evil. Evil spreads surely and rapidly, just as the leaven in the meal soon affects the whole lump of dough. It may be there was only one evil teacher in Galatia (see ch. 5:10), but one evil teacher may do untold harm. One person who has smallpox may bring this terrible disease to many persons. Paul uses these same words about leaven again in 1 Cor. 5:66Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? (1 Corinthians 5:6). In that case it was moral evil; here in Galatians it is doctrinal evil.
“As for me, I am fully persuaded about you in the Lord, that you will be none otherwise minded.” Here we find the same word, “persuade,” used again. Paul had said, “I stand in doubt of you” (vs. 20), but now, as he turns his eyes from the Galatians and the false teachers and “looks off unto Jesus,” he can exclaim, “I am fully persuaded about you in the Lord.” There is no word in the Greek for “fully,” but the tense of the Greek verb tells of completeness and finality; so we have added the word “fully” to try and give that sense. When we are perplexed and in doubt and in trouble, what comfort it is to turn our eyes to the Lord. It is from Him that we get encouragement and comfort and strength and confidence. So Paul, like David of old, “encouraged himself in the Lord” (1 Sam. 30:66And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. (1 Samuel 30:6)).
And as for the one making the trouble, he shall bear his guilt. No man may trouble the Lord’s sheep without bearing his guilt. Alas, there are many today who are troubling the Lord’s flock. But they shall each one bear his guilt. Achan, who took the cursed things from Jericho and so brought defeat to Israel (Josh. 7), is called “the troubler of Israel” (1 Chron. 2:77And the sons of Carmi; Achar, the troubler of Israel, who transgressed in the thing accursed. (1 Chronicles 2:7)). It would seem there was one man in particular who was doing this evil work, or who was the leader in it. This man appears to have had great influence, and was, perhaps, a man of great importance in the world, for we see Paul adds the words, “whoever he may be” (Esther 4:1111All the king's servants, and the people of the king's provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days. (Esther 4:11)). It mattered not to Paul even if it were Peter himself; he would oppose him before all. The position of the man made not the smallest difference to Paul; and he solemnly warns: “The one troubling you shall bear his guilt, whoever he may be.” (Compare Matt. 18:6, 76But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! (Matthew 18:6‑7).)
The enemies of Paul had said that when it suited Paul he also preached circumcision. He had had Timothy circumcised because he thought this would help him. Paul now asks a question that completely answers these wicked taunts: “But as for me, brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted?” Paul had already, in Gal. 1:7-107Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 10For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:7‑10), spoken of the same wicked charge they were making against him. Now he answers it more definitely. It was always the Jews who persecuted Paul. It was they who were so bitter against him because he preached to the Gentiles and set aside their ancient customs. But if Paul were truly preaching the doctrines of the Jews, why should they persecute him? Paul was still being persecuted, and this was a proof that he was still preaching that circumcision had no power and that faith in Christ alone can save. But what about the Galatians? Were they still being persecuted? When they turned from Christ to circumcision, then their persecution would cease. It may be that Paul would gently remind them of this. If Paul were preaching the doctrines of the Jews, then the scandal of the cross would surely have ceased. It was such a scandalous thing to preach about a Man who had been nailed on a cross. This death was worse than being hanged on a gallows. This death was kept for slaves and for criminals of the worst kind. A Roman citizen could not be crucified. But Paul gloried in the cross. He loved to tell the story of the cross. He was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, nor of the cross of Christ. To him it was the power of God unto salvation. But to men of the world, it was a scandal. “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock [or scandal], and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” 1 Cor. 1:23, 2423But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:23‑24).
The Greek word translated “scandal” literally means the stick in a trap to which the bait is fastened, and so it came to mean the trap or snare itself. It is generally translated “stumblingblock,” which has something of the same meaning. It is the word from which we get the English word “scandal.” A scandal is something men stumble over, and they do not wish to have anything to do with it. The first time this word is used is in Matt. 13:4141The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; (Matthew 13:41), but the verb from it is used in Matt. 5:2929And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:29). These words are used many times in the gospel of Matthew. This gospel was written especially for the Jews, and there were many things that scandalized, or stumbled, them. But the cross was the greatest scandal of all.
“Then is the scandal fully done away,” or “fully invalidated;” this is the same word as v.4, which we have just considered. Again, here the Greek does not have the word “fully,” but the tense of the verb expresses this meaning. For the one preaching the law, the scandal of the cross is fully done away, made without effect.
“Would that the ones upsetting you would even cut themselves off.” These troublers of the Christians were continually talking about circumcision, cutting off the flesh. Paul replies: “Would that they would cut themselves off!” (vs. 12). Paul probably meant that he wished they would excommunicate themselves, and openly cut themselves off from the assemblies of the Christians. That is the “cutting off” that he wished to see as regards these wicked men.
Christ the Savior of sinners came
Into the world to save!
Sing His glory, His worth, His fame,
Jesus alone can save!
No name else is given,
Search through earth and heaven—
Jesus alone, Jesus alone,
Jesus alone can save!
“Works of righteousness” all in vain,
Jesus alone can save,
His blood cleanses from every stain,
Jesus alone can save.
Now His work’s completed,
Now in glory seated—
Jesus alone, Jesus alone,
Jesus alone can save.