The Autograph: See the Large Letters
I Am Writing with My Own Hand
DIG: Why did Paul write in inch high letters? What was the false motivation of the Judaizers? Why were the Judaizers trying to force the Galatian Gentiles to be circumcised? What were the Judaizers doing to prevent their own persecution from the Sanhedrin and the Jews in Jerusalem? Were they Torah observant themselves? Why did they want the Galatian Gentiles to undergo circumcision and try to observe the 613 commandments of Moshe?
REFLECT: Who do you need to address in capital letters so they can get the point about Yeshua Messiah? Can you present the difference between the way of divine accomplishment and the way of human achievement clearly to an unbeliever? When was the last time you did so? Is there someone in your life trying to force some form of legalism on you? How can this book of Galatians help you answer them? What and Who are you boasting in?
Paul closes his letter with a subscription in his own hand, in which he addresses the underlying motivations of the Judaizers in chiastic form.
Paul was in the habit of dictating his letters to others, but writing the concluding words in his own handwriting and his signature provided the evidence that he was indeed the author (Second Thessalonians 3:17; Second Thessalonians 3:17-18; First Corinthians 16:21; Colossians 4:18). Tertius, for instance, was the secretary who wrote the letter to the Romans as Paul dictated to him (Romans 16:22). But Paul was so concerned that the Galatians understand the danger they were in that he took the pen away from his secretary and wrote: Notice the large letters – I am writing to you with my own hand (6:11).171
A word about the large letters in which Paul wrote. There were two styles of Greek writing, the literary uncial which consisted of inch-high letters formed singly and with no connection with other letters, and the cursive, using smaller letters in what could be called a running hand (without lifting the pen from the paper), joined together. In addition, there were four classes of penmanship in the style of the manuscripts in the First Century. First, there was the work of a good professional scribe. Second, there was the work of a good ordinary scribe. Third, there was the work of an educated man, but not a professional scribe, writing a careful copy of a running hand. And fourth, there was the running hand of common everyday writing. Paul had dictated his letters to Tertius, Sosthenes, Timothy and Silvanus. These were educated men, but not professional scribes. Therefore, their writing would be that of an educated amateur, written in cursive, that is, small letters joined together by a running hand. That means that Paul’s original manuscripts were in the cursive style of writing, and the part that he wrote in his own handwriting would be in inch-high letters.172
The next question is why he wrote in such large inch-high letters. Paul had contracted an oriental eye disease called ophthalmia, which not only gave him a repulsive appearance, but rendered him almost totally blind (to see link click Bp – Until Messiah is Formed in You). This was Paul’s thorn in the flesh (Second Corinthians 12:7). It was therefore necessary for him to write in letters large enough so that with his darkened vision he could see what he was writing. The Ruach ha-Kodesh inspired him to add these closing words to give one more contrast between the Judaizers and the Ruach-filled believers. HE HAD SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO SAY AND HE DID NOT WANT THE GALATIANS TO MISS THE POINT, SO HE WROTE IN ALL CAPS. His willingness to write this entire closing paragraph (6:11-18) with his own hand would certainly appeal to the hearts of his readers.173
Having signaled the beginning of the letter’s end, Paul continued to condemn the Judaizers (see Ag – Who Were the Judaizers?) who were confusing his disciples by attempting to turn them away from Paul’s gospel of grace, to a man-made gospel, which is no gospel at all (1:7 NIV). These two approaches to salvation are the only two that mankind has ever known. ADONAI’s way is the way of grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). All others, no matter how seemingly different, are the futile attempt at salvation through sinful human deeds. It is as if, on the shelf of world religions, there were hundreds of attractive packages, with a great range of shapes, sizes, claims, and prices. But inside all of them is the same tasteless, nutritionless sawdust of deeds of righteousness. Standing alone, unattractive and repulsive to the unsaved, is the life-saving gospel, which alone contains real food.
God’s way is the way of divine accomplishment; all other ways rely on human achievement. Those who follow the religion of divine accomplishment say, “I cannot accomplish anything in my own power or goodness, and I throw myself on the mercy of YHVH, trusting in the sufficient sacrifice of His Son on my behalf.” Those who follow the way of human achievement, no matter what its packaging might be, say, “On my own merit and in my own power I can make myself acceptable to Ha’Shem and worthy of a place in heaven.”174
Verses 12-13 are in chiastic form (A–B–C–C–B–A):
A Those wanting to look good outwardly [in the flesh] (6:12a). First, he points out the false motivation of the Judaizers. They were not concerned about pleasing God by inward righteousness, but about impressing other men by outward legalism. It was in regard to such demonstrations of religious pride that Yeshua gave repeated warnings. On one occasion He told a parable designed especially for some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, while holding others in contempt. He told of a Pharisee who stood up proudly in the Temple and thanked God for his own goodness and of a tax-collector who stood some distance away and was too ashamed of his sin to even look toward heaven, as in the customary praying posture for Jews at the time. Instead, he beat his chest and pleaded for mercy. The despised tax collector went down to his home declared righteous, Yeshua declared, whereas the highly respected Pharisee did not (Luke 18:9-14).175
B Are trying to force you to be circumcised (6:12b). To reinforce their own brand of legalism, the Judaizers also tried to force others in the Galatian churches to be circumcised as necessary for salvation. But, like the Pharisees, they would travel over land and sea to make one convert. And when they succeeded, they would make him twice as much a son of Gehenna as themselves (Matthew 23:15). No matter who says they are a believer, no one relies on the flesh and promotes any benefit apart from Yeshua. Messiah accomplished the perfect and complete work of salvation on the cross, and deeds of the flesh, no matter what they are, can add to what our Lord has done for us. Instead, every such flesh-motivated and flesh-oriented activity is an offense to Ha’Shem and brings His condemnation rather than His approval.176
C Only so they will not be persecuted for the cross of Messiah (6:12c). The Judaizers claimed to be believers and follow Messiah. But the Great Sanhedrin (see the commentary on The Life of Christ Lg – The Great Sanhedrin), and the Jews in Jerusalem viewed them as part of the Church that preached salvation equals faith-plus-nothing. As such, the Judaizers would have been persecuted by their fellow Jews who had rejected Yeshua as the Messiah. In reality, the Judizers did not believe in grace, but instead, in deeds of the flesh as a means of salvation. Now, to keep from being persecuted by the Jews on the charge that they had embraced salvation in faith in the cross of Messiah, they were attempting to force circumcision, and finally all of the 613 commandments of Moshe upon the Gentiles in the churches in Galatia.
The Judaizers wanted to please their Jewish brothers who still clung to legalism and refused to have anything to do with the visible Church. To do this, they would have to show the anti-missionaries in Jerusalem that they were still obedient to the 613 commandments of Moshe and circumcision, which was the main issue at that time. The Galatian Gentiles had already succumbed to the Jewish festivals of days and months and seasons and years (4:10), neither out of joy in sharing what God has given the Jewish people, nor out of spiritual identification with them, but out of fear induced by Judaizers who had convinced them that unless they did so, Ha’Shem would not accept them. More legalism would be added as the opportunity presented itself.177
C For not even the circumcised perfectly keep the 613 commandments of Torah themselves (6:13a). The Judaizers not only attempted to impose circumcision on the Gentiles in order to placate their Jewish brothers outside the Church and win their confidence in spite of the fact that they were identified with a body of people who taught grace, but also to cover up their own failure to fulfill obedience to the 613 commandments of Moshe.
B Yet they want to have you circumcised (6:13b). The Judaizers were nothing more than legalistic Jews who claimed to follow Messiah. But they were in the churches in Galatia like wolves in sheep’s clothing (see the commentary on Jude Ar – These People are Hidden Rocks at Your Love Feasts, Shepherds only Feeding Themselves, Clouds Without Rain). In Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian leaders, he predicted what would happen when he left churches that he had started: I know that after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Even from among yourselves will arise men speaking perversions, to draw the disciples away after themselves (Acts 20:29-30). Therefore, those apostate Judaizers were not coming out of the closet and admitting that they were not really believers. They were deceitful. They were not taking off their sheep’s clothing, so to speak, and revealing that they were really savage wolves. No. Their plan was more sinister. They were “only” asking the Gentile Galatians to undergo full conversion: circumcision and to pledge obedience to the 613 commandments of Moshe to achieve a right standing before ADONAI. In other words, legalism. Their goal was ultimately the rejection of the gospel itself. In their act of forcing, if possible, circumcision upon the Gentiles, they could boast to their Jewish brothers in Jerusalem, and demonstrate how supposedly zealous they were for the Torah after all.178
A So that they may boast about your flesh (6:13c). Since the time when Cain offered his unacceptable offering to YHVH (see the commentary on Genesis Bi – Cain and Abel), mankind has used religion as a cover for sin. As the Judaizers demonstrate, it is possible to be extremely active in a Messianic synagogue or church and yet be morally and spiritually corrupt. Nowhere is hypocrisy easier or more dangerous than in God’s work. And nowhere does it arouse His wrath more than where it is practiced in His name. Of the Torah-teachers and Pharisees who sat on the seat of Moses. Yeshua said: So whatever they tell you, do and observe. But don’t do what they do; for what they say, they do not do. They tie up heavy loads, hard to carry, and lay them on people’s shoulders; but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them (Matthew 23:2-3). The greatest burden the Torah-teachers and Pharisees put on people’s shoulders was the unbearable burden of salvation by human effort. Because of their hypocrisy, it was no great burden to them, but to the conscientious Jew it was unimaginably frustrating and hopeless. Every person is faced with the choice between boasting in what they have done in the flesh and boasting in what Yeshua Messiah has done for them on the cross (see Ci – May I Never Boast, Except in the Cross of our Lord Yeshua).179
Dear Heavenly Father, How much we love You! How wonderful that You are our joy and we can boast in you! You are holy, One [six-winged Seraphim] called out to another, and said, “Holy, holy, holy, is ADONAI-Tzva’ot [Lord of heaven’s angelic armies]! The whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3). You are the One I can run to when I have a problem. ADONAI is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer. My God is my rock, in Him I take refuge, my shield, my horn of salvation, my stronghold (Psalm 18:3). You are always with me to help me. For God Himself has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5c). You are Awesome and I love to worship and follow You with all my heart. In the holy name of Your son and the power of His resurrection. Amen