Going to Extrem(iti)es

June 30, 2014 at 12:56 pm | Posted in Galatians | 5 Comments
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I would they were even cut off which trouble you.

Galatians 5:12

This is extreme language (about as extreme as it gets, at least in the New Testament). It shows how serious the Lord is about this circumcision issue. It’s as if the Apostle Paul told the Judaizers, “If you are so fixated on circumcision – if you enjoy circumcision so much – you should just go all the way. Stop “cutting around,” and, well, just “cut off.” The King James translation preserves the pun – the play on words. Paul is indicating that if the Judaizers would just go ahead and completely mutilate themselves, they wouldn’t be in any condition to bother him and preachers of the true Gospel any more.

There is a deeper issue here, though. People who are so zealous for rule-keeping are often trying to divert attention from their own fixation. They are not only teaching falsely – that keeping rules means greater spirituality – but they know their own lack of spirituality and their own perversion, and they believe that, by pointing at everyone else, the guilt and suspicion they feel will be deflected away from them. The wicked flee when no man pursueth, and the hypocritical accuse others even when no one suspects them.

Now, we go into a section of Galatians where it’s as if Paul knows that the Judaizers are going to argue (and surely they had been already) that, if people walk in liberty, if they are set free from God’s law, then what’s going to stop them from sinning freely?

In a sense, it’s the same old argument: “Grace? Grace? What’s going to keep us in line after we’ve been forgiven for all our sins?” The proponents of this argument act as though they have forgotten that we are called by God unto salvation. They sound like they think that God was just annoyed that there were some people who had to be judged, so He waved His hand, and said, “Fine, I’ll let you off the hook. I’ll stop being God for a minute. There, you’re free. Now go do whatever you want and leave Me alone.” Such a doctrine would be heresy.

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

Galatians 5:13

Liberty frees us from the bondage of the flesh – not the existence of the flesh. The “calling” of salvation is a calling to liberty. It’s a “setting-free” from the unconquerable power that sin has over an unbeliever. Christians are set free from the position of sinners: those that must answer for their own guilt.

Christians are also set free from the eternal pain of sin, as well as the judicial guilt of sin. They are set free from the penalty of sin, which is the punishment for sin: the specific retribution of God against sinners for sinning against Him!

Here is freedom: Jesus came and fulfilled (not destroyed in the natural sense) the Law for us. Now He, in the person of the Holy Spirit, comes to live in us, and He causes, us, too, to obey the Law. This is not the bondage of the Law, not the letter of the Law, but the spirit of the Law – the Truth of the Law.

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Galatians 5:14

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  1. […] Chapter 6 deals with the troubles that the legalists were causing. Obviously, they were trying to corrupt the Gospel, but they also interfered with, and […]

  2. […] Is 5. Our Part with God 6. The Doctor Who Never Fails 7. From Cursing to Blessing 8. The Freestyle 9. Going to Extrem(iti)es 10. Don’t Love Yourself 11. Dependent Freedom 12. Is it Animal, Mineral, or Tomato? 13. How […]

  3. Oh kindred spirit. It is so refreshing to read your words.

    For one thing, I regularly preach the essence of this paragraph: “Christians are also set free from the eternal pain of sin…” Reading that brought me much joy.

    Secondly, as you know I’m going to get in depth with Gal 5:22-23 still, but I feel I must take a week or two to remind people why the book of Gal was written. In my study I have decided to start at verse 12(ish), and your blog was very helpful to me.

  4. That’s gratifying. Thank you. I taught these lessons on Galatians to an adult Sunday School class of mostly new converts wayyyyy back in the summer of 2009, and it’s a little embarrassing to go back and see how shallow my insight was (not that it’s much better now). I look forward to your lessons on the fruit of the Spirit.

  5. […] His presence right now – by faith. You are not a slave to sin – and you are not a slave to any laws or rules – if you are in Christ Jesus. You are a child of the […]


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