May I Never Boast,
Except in the Cross of our Lord Yeshua
DIG: How did the Judaizers and Paul view the cross differently? How had the world been crucified to Paul? Why did neither circumcision nor uncircumcision mean nothing? What matters? What principle did Paul want the churches that he had planted to follow? Who, in Paul’s mind, is the “true Isra’el of God?” How has that phrase been misrepresented today? How did Paul bear the mark of Yeshua on his body?
REFLECT: How does verse 14 thrill you? How does it challenge you? In which areas of your life are you knowing the shalom of living by the gospel? In which areas of your life are you forfeiting this peace by living for the world’s approval? If you had to sum up the message of the whole book of Galatians in a few words, what would you say?
Paul closes his letter with a subscription in his own hand and establishes a halachic ruling for his disciples by explaining the difference between the true Jewish believers, the true Isra’el of God, opposed to the false Jewish teachers, the Judaizers.
In contrast to the Judaizers who glorified in human achievement and self-effort as a means to salvation, Paul boasted in solely the cross of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. To the Judaizers the cross was an object of shame; for Paul it was the object of glory. They gloried in the flesh; he gloried in the Savior.
Through Him the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (6:14). The world of which Paul speaks here is the world he knew before he was saved, the world of Philippians 3:4-6, his Jewish ancestry, his Pharisaic traditions, his zeal to keep the 613 commandments of Moshe, in short, the world in which he had lived. To all this now he was dead. Crucified. He had been separated from it by the cross of the Lord Yeshua. It had no more appeal to him nor influence upon him.180
Then Paul gave the reason for glorying in the cross of Messiah. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything – but only accepting Yeshua Messiah as our Lord and Savior by faith alone, thus becoming a new creation (6:15). He was not dismissing being Jewish, nor was he saying that there is no such thing as being Jewish, nor did he mean that distinctions between Jews and Gentiles do not matter, nor did he imply that Isra’el is irrelevant now. But ADONAI does not show favorites when it comes to judging our souls. The only thing that matters is being a new creation. Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (Second Corinthians 5:17).
To be in Messiah is to be a new creation. This new creation is brought about by the Ruach ha-Kodesh, the Agent of rebirth (Titus 3:5) and the Giver of divine birth (John 3:3, 6-8). God’s new creation began at the moment of salvation (see the commentary on The Life of Christ, to see link click Bw – What God Does for Us at the Moment of Faith), and will one day be carried out on a universal scale (Revelation 21:4-5). The old life of slavery to sin and self have passed away (Second Corinthians 5:16; Romans 6:6-14; Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9). The new life of devotion to Messiah means that one has new attitudes and new actions (Second Corinthians 5:14-15; Romans 6:4; Ephesians 4:23 to 5:2).181
This ruling was supposed to be halachah for Paul’s congregations: Now as many as live by this rule (Greek: kanon, meaning principle) of faith in Messiah – shalom and mercy on the Gentile believers who understand the simple gospel of faith-plus-nothing and on the Jewish believers who believe likewise, even the true Isra’el of God (6:16). The principle here is the cross of Messiah and all that goes with it in the B’rit Chadashah, including, of course, the ministry of the Ruach ha-Kodesh which is so much in evidence in this last section of Galatians. Therefore, those who order their lives by the Ruach’s control, constitute the true Isra’el of God, those who are the spiritual as well as the physical descendants of Abraham (3:7), and are heirs of promise rather than legalism (Galatians 3:18). They are the real Jews, the true Isra’el of faith, like those referred to in Romans 2:28-29 and 9:6-7.182
Unfortunately, the phrase the Isra’el of God has been misrepresented by Replacement theology that the Church is the new Isra’el, which has replaced the Jews, the so-called “Old Isra’el,” and are therefore now no longer God’s people. But neither this verse nor any other part of the B’rit Chadashah teaches this false and antisemitic doctrine (see Ak – The Hebrew Roots Movement: A Different Gospel).
In a final warning, Paul says: From now on let no one make trouble for me, for I bear on my body the permanent mark of Yeshua (6:17). The word mark is from the Greek word stigmata, which has many uses. Slaves in the Phrygian temples, which the Galatians were familiar, were attached for life to the service of the temple, were branded with the name of the deity. The name was the stigmata or mark. In Paul’s day there were four different groups that God put marks on their bodies: soldiers put the name of their generals as a mark of allegiance; slaves had marks of ownership; criminals had their crime stamped upon their skin; and worshipers had the mark of the deity they followed branded on their skin. Paul qualified in all four categories because we are told he was a soldier for the Lord, a slave of Messiah, for his gospel of faith-plus-nothing he was treated as a criminal, and he worshiped the Son of God, Yeshua Messiah.183
How and where did he get those marks? Whatever anyone else dares to boast about . . . I dare also. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Messiah? I am more so – I speak like I’m out of my mind – in labors much more, in prisons much more, in beatings more brutal, near death often. Five times from the Jewish leaders I received forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned (Second Corinthians 11:21b-25a). Paul was an old man before his time, partly because of the sufferings he endured at the hands of his enemies, the Judaizers. He asks that the situation in the Galatian churches not be repeated. The sufferings which he endured for the sake of the Lord Yeshua and the gospel of grace, should deter the Galatians from adding more sufferings to the ones he had already suffered. That is why he sought to save his beloved Galatians, and the Church of Messiah for that matter, from a spiritual catastrophe, the evil effects of works righteousness would bring on the cause of Messiah.184
In his closing benediction, Paul makes a final declaration of grace over legalism, faith over deeds, the internal over the external: The grace of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen (6:18).
In The Holy War, the English writer John Bunyan (1628-1688) provides a dramatic closing scene between Emmanuel (Messiah) and residents of the town of Mansoul (you and me). Emmanuel has helped beat the Diabolonians (Satan’s army), and now he stands in the town square telling them how to stay free from Satan’s clutches.
Emmanuel says, “I have loved you, Mansoul. I bought you for a price; a price not of corruptible things, as of silver and gold, but a price of blood, my own blood, which I spilled freely to make you mine, and to reconcile you to my father.
“And I stood by you in your backsliding, when you were unfaithful, though you did not know I was there. It was I who made your way dark and bitter. It was I who put Mr. Godly-Fear to work. It was I who stirred up Conscience and Understand and Will. It was I who made you seek me, and in finding me, find your own health and happiness.”
“Nothing can hurt you but sin; nothing can grieve me but sin; nothing can make you fall before your foes but sin; beware of sin, my Mansoul.”
“I have taught you to watch, to fight, to pay, and to make war against your foes; so not I command you to believe that my love is constant to you.”
“I have taught you to watch, to fight, to pray, and to make war against your foes; so now I command you to believe that my love is constant to you.”
“O my Mansoul, how I have set my heart, my love upon you!”
“Show me you love – and hold fast – until I take you to my father’s kingdom where there is no more sorrow, no grief, no pain . . . where you shall never be afraid again . . .”
As Emmanuel rides away in his chariot, Conscience, Understanding and Will discuss the future and how they will have to be alert to keep the Diabolonians at bay. Unless they depend completely on King Shaddai (the Father), Emmanuel (the Son), and the Lord High Secretary (the Ruach ha-Kodesh) they will fail and fall into enemy hands.
“Is this way better than the freedom you had before?” asks Understanding, referring back to the days before Emmanuel had come into their lives.
“The freedom we had before was like . . .” Will struggled for words, “like birds flying through broken windows in-and-out of a deserted house . . . flying aimlessly going nowhere.”
“Do you love him because you have to?” Understanding probing was gentle; their talk was to reiterate their faith, and in their talking they strengthened each other.
“I do not have to love him,” said Will. “I am free. He has always left me free to do as I please.”
“I love him because I want to.” Will said simply. “And I can never love him enough.”
This is essentially the message of Paul’s letter to the Galatian believers and to the believers of every age . . . the message that, because we have trusted in Him, Messiah has set us free. 185