Galatians Conclusion: 6:11-18 (Sermon)

 

WELCOME : WEDDING

Recently, I have been officiating several weddings. Some stand out to me. Twenty years ago, my wife’s cousin got married. I can’t forget it. They had a Yiddish band and cakes from the best bakery in town. They rented out the swanky Landmark Center for the ceremony and reception. Hundreds of people were invited.

TEMPLE

Another remarkable thing was the traditional practice of standing under a tent and the couple taking a wine glass, wrapping it in a cloth, and stomping on it. What did that mean? Well, I looked it up this week. It symbolized the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and tempers a time of celebration with the sobriety of brutal history. It was a reminder. I had never seen such a thing. 

MOST MEMORABLE TO YOU? 

What is the most memorable thing you have seen at a wedding? Perhaps it was another cultural wedding, rain in an outdoor ceremony, an off-color toast, an outfit that didn’t quite match? Or a pet in the service? Or was it an overly long message? (Sorry about that.) Weddings mark the beginning of something. 

FUNERALS CAN BE MEMORABLE TOO

Funerals mark an ending and can be just as memorable. And some points can stick out like something frozen in ice. They are footholds of the past. They bring closure, help, and healing. 

GALATIANS 

When it comes to Galatians, we have arrived at the end of the series and letter. We began nearly seven months ago. We have read and heard some memorable things. What do you recall? What stands out to you? Was it Paul’s tone, language, or message? As we wrap up, we hear his conclusion. He summarizes what God wanted the church to remember, receive, and respond to. So let’s remember, receive, and respond to ourselves. 

TEXT

I have asked M.G. to read for us this morning. Please stand with me, if you are able, for the reading of God’s Word. 


See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen. (Galatians 6:11–18)


PRAYER 

Thank you. Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word. It is light and life to us. We love you and need you moment by moment. Emphasize what you want in our lives through this time. In Jesus’s name, we pray, amen. You may be seated. 


RECAP

Paul used eight verses to close off his letter in a typical fashion. He had shared the gospel and imperatives with a group of churches and left them. False teachers came in and distorted the message. These heretics said that a person needed to follow the Mosaic Law, specifically circumcision, to be right with God. Was that true? No. That was not; God justified people by what? Faith.

Consequently, people are free from the tyranny of obeying every Old Testament law to be at peace with God. When it comes down to it, we cannot perfectly obey every law of God. We start life guilty before the heavenly court of justice. Yet, because of Jesus’s death on the cross, we are forgiven for law-breaking, redeemed, and free in the Spirit to walk out God’s commands. Those commands are summarized with one law. The law of Christ chapter 6 verse 2. What was that? The law of love. This love was and is not a warm fuzzy feeling, but an action lived out in a community of faith counter to the desires of the flesh. This love was and is supernatural. It is a fruit of the Spirit. Loving others like this is “walking in the Spirit,” “being led by the Spirit,” “living in the Spirit,” and “staying in step with the Spirit.” Loving others includes helping restore those who have strayed; carrying the load of those weighed down; sharing good things with spiritual teachers, and doing good to those in the church and out. This kind of love is the rule by which we live and should mark our local church, not the desires of the flesh or law-keeping.  

OVERVIEW OF OUR VERSES 

In our verses today, I have three sections breaking down into three points. 

  • Verse 11 - Paul’s passion, 

  • Verses 12 through 15 - Paul’s perspective versus the false teachers, 

  • And verses 16 through 18 - Paul’s instruction and prayer. 

If we are to summarize these thoughts, we could say, 

Remember, Receive, and Respond to the Grace of the Cross of Christ. 

This fits with the book’s theme: Return to the gospel of grace so you can walk in freedom with the Spirit. In these eight verses, Paul more or less stated 

  • That grace came through Christ’s crucifixion, making the law of Christ possible to obey, 

  • The false teachers didn’t obey God’s law but sought to use God’s people, which was not Paul’s aim.

  • And Paul exhorted the church to stop entertaining this bothersome teaching and receive God’s grace. 

Let’s look at this passage verse by verse. 

VERSE 11 - WRITING 

Look at verse 11 with me. 

“See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand” (Galatians 6:11). 

Paul was writing this letter by hand. Why? This was before phones, computers, and typewriters. He told his readers that he wrote this letter by hand because letters in the New Testament were often dictated. For example, Romans 16, verse 22 states,  

“I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord” (Romans 16:22).

Paul dictated to a man named Tertius. Yet, Paul was the author. The technical term for the scribe was an amanuensis. They functioned like a dictaphone or voice text. It doesn’t take away from the authorship. Just because you have Siri translate your voice to text when you drive, it still is you. Hey Siri, set an alarm for four AM. If Siri obeys, who will you be bad at tomorrow? Me or Siri? It is me. (You might want to make sure that you are not waking up when I do). If Siri is good at getting things right, Tertius was way better. Paul would have the chance to verify what he wrote before it was sent. 

WHY TELL US YOU WROTE IT? 

That being said, why would Paul write it out by hand? Paul answered that question another time when he wrote by hand. In 2 Thessalonians chapter 3 verse 17, he wrote, 

“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write” (2 Thessalonians 3:17).

Paul’s handwriting demonstrated the authenticity of his letter. Was that why Paul used his hand in Galatians? Was that the only reason he wrote by hand? We don’t know for sure. Yet, we have a clue. Paul commented on his font size. He wrote, “See with what large letters I am writing to you” (Galatians 6:11). What was he getting at? Some scholars have posited that it was because of his bad eyesight. He had mentioned his health earlier in the letter. That could have been the reason. What might be another reason? The ancient Greeks didn’t have punctuation. They didn’t have exclamation marks. Using large letters could have functioned like using all caps in a text. It can accent the importance of a point. Paul was emphatic in his message in Galatians’ beginning, middle, and end. That would be my guess why he wrote with large letters. His script communicated like broken glass during a ceremony. Paul wanted the church to take seriously what he conveyed. What he had to say was critical for salvation. That begs the question: what was he saying? What was his message? We will see it rephrased in the following seven verses. Remember, Receive, and Respond to the Grace of the Cross of Christ. 

VERSE 12 - REMEMBER 

Remember. Look at verse 12. It was a comparison between the false teachers and Paul. This was the occasion for writing. Hear what Paul wrote, 

“It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ” (Galatians 6:12). 

The false teachers came into the church and wanted to impose the law of circumcision on believers. Why? The false teachers did not want to be persecuted. If they melded Judaism with Christianity and worldly thinking. The errant teachers thought they could avoid harm. If teachers made their teaching look like the world around them, they wouldn’t stand out, be made fun of, or be persecuted. 

CROSS

Why? Remember, the cross of Christ symbolized the message that Jesus died for sin. It wasn’t the tool of torture, crucifixion, or a specific piece of wood that the wayward teachers were worried about; it was the message that Jesus died for sinners freeing people from the guilt of being imperfect before God. It was counter-cultural and a lightning rod for those who had another religion. The false teachers wanted to avoid persecution.  

VERSE 13   

That was not the only reason. It was also to get something. Look at verse 13.  

“For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh” (Galatians 6:13). 

The false teachers were trying to boast of followership. These false teachers wanted to brag about the people that followed them. They were teaching for profit, not for others’ benefit.

IN OUR DAY

Followership is an enormous value in our day. How many friends do you have on Facebook? How many likes have you gotten? How many views? There is some power over followership. In the same way, the false teachers didn’t care about the people they were using. 

CHAPTER 4

In chapter 4, it tells us, 

“They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them” (Galatians 4:17). 

They wanted the people of God to leave the true gospel to get kudos from them. 

VERSE 14 

Paul reminded his readers that he was not like that. He told his motivation in verse 14. 

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14). 

Paul was seeking to boast not in the church but on the cross. Paul was proud of what Jesus did, not his followers nor himself. So Paul explained in the rest of the verse. 

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). 

He was dead to the world’s way of thinking. He was dead to the dog-eat-dog status quo. He was dead to sin. He was dead to manipulation and mass-marketing. He was dead to the fleshly desires and selfish gain. Again, this echoes what he wrote in Galatians chapter 2, verse 20: 

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Similarly, by faith in Christ, we all die to sin. God buries our guilt and shame with Christ at the cross and in the tomb. This is an image of baptism. That is what I love about it. We die to our old identity of a slave to sin and are free in Christ. Why does that matter?

VERSE 15

Verse 15 answers. 

“For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15). 

This verse mirrors what Paul wrote in chapter 5. 

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).

Faith expressed in love is all that matters. Being a new creation is all that matters. So is faith or the new creation what matters? Yes. Both are all that matter. They are two sides of the same coin. Faith and becoming a new creation happen virtually simultaneously. When we believe we are born again. Out of that new identity by the Spirit, we begin to love in a new way. We are in Christ, the old has gone, and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). This was not normal. It was expected that following a set of rules to earn one’s way with God makes sense because it is how the world works. You scratch my back; I scratch yours. To say that circumcision doesn’t matter was radical. Uncircumcision was offensive to the Jewish identity and story.

MOSES

One example is in the life of Moses. His failure to circumcise his son nearly killed him. It was an identity marker, setting the people of God apart from the world. Circumcision meant life and death for Moses. God commanded it. Circumcision expressed faith. God sent an angel of death to take his life. But Zipporah, Moses’s wife, interceded and took care of business (Exodus 4). Circumcision was a sign setting apart God’s people from the world. (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/moses-zipporah-strangest-circumcision-story-exodus/) However, nowadays, it doesn’t matter. Paul reminded the reader what did matter: being a new creation. God is the one who gives new life. And we all desperately need this fresh start. We must remember this fact. 

RESTART

Last week, we talked about sowing and planting. Over the years, I have noticed that orchards will sometimes rip out a line of trees and replant new ones. They probably do this because the old trees are no good. I will likely have to do this with my peach trees one day. They have a disease. It molds the whole fruit and kills the branches. Reading up on it, I am supposed to cut off those branches and burn all the fruit. If that rot takes hold of the whole tree, I need to. That happened to our pine trees, and I hired someone to cut two down this week.

In the same way, God describes us as dead in our sin before we come to faith. We are like skeletons or zombies. God became one of us and died for us. Through faith, we are made new. We have a fresh start. He is our antidote. He is our help. He is our life. That is the good news and the message Paul wanted the church to hear. This is what we must remember and receive. 

VERSE 16

In verse 16, we come to the third section of these eight verses: Paul’s desire for the church to receive peace and mercy. Here it is, 

“And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). 

Paul prayed for those who walk by the rule. What was that? The law of Christ. The law of love. How? By the Spirit. It is the first in the list of the fruit of the Spirit. We love because God first loved us. We know love by abiding in Christ’s love. His love compels us to love. Paul prayed that those who walk by this rule receive peace and mercy. But not only those who walk this way, but those who were the “Israel of God.” Who were those people? I think Paul was referring to the very same people walking in love, the household of believers, children of Abraham by faith. (Some scholars have noticed that we technically can’t have peace with God without his mercy first. That is true. Why did Paul reverse the order? We don’t know. We don’t want to speculate too much.)

VERSE 17

Look at verse 17 and hear how Paul wants the church to respond to this grace.  

“From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17). 

Paul had been plagued by these false teachers who distorted his teaching. People persecuted and attacked him. He was beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and ultimately killed for his faith. Those were the marks of Jesus on his life. How could the church help him? How are they to respond to the gospel of grace? Let’s reflect on how Paul has already asked the church to respond. 

  • Silence the voices who were teaching a false gospel. 

  • Don’t listen to them. 

  • Confront them. 

  • Fulfill the law of love.

  • Don’t give into the desires of the flesh. 

  • Walk in the Spirit.

  • Gently restore the one caught in sin.

  • Carry the load of the afflicted. 

  • Do good to those who teach the Word. 

  • Do good to everyone by the Spirit. 

US

What would it be for us to respond to Paul? Have we drifted from the gospel? Do we listen to the Spirit? Perhaps we need to throw off an attitude of legalism or license? Do we need to do good to someone or love a person with God’s help? Let us remember God’s grace and rely on it. 

VERSE 18

Paul finished with a prayer, echoing his letters.  

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen” (Galatians 6:18).

This prayer is unique to Christianity. We are saved by grace alone, in Christ alone, by faith alone. Salvation is a gift. Unlike all manufactured religions, Christianity is about what God has done, not what we do. We are lost because of what we have done. But we are found because of what God has done. Thus, we end back where we began, with grace. We have God’s undeserved grace. It is remarkable. Remember it, receive it, and respond to it. Remember, Receive, and Respond to the Grace of the Cross of Christ. 

UNBELIEVER

For those who have not experienced God’s grace, may God open your eyes. He came to save us from the curse of sin. Trust in Jesus and him alone. He died for sin. May today be the day of your salvation. 

TRUE TEMPLE

Jesus said he was “the Temple”. It would be destroyed, and in three days, he would raise it (John 2). Jesus conquered death. The Bible says that he is the groom, one day, he will come back for his bride, the church. Let us remember the grace of God that loves us to death, forgives our sins, and has redeemed us through the cross and made us alive with him Spiritually. Join me in prayer.


PRAY

Let’s pray. 


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