See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 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. 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. 14 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. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen. – Galatians 6:11-18
Legalistic Christians are hypocrites according to Paul’s description. He says, “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.” When I was much younger and didn’t have a broad grasp of the gospel, I too had rules that I inherited from some Christians around me. I was quick to impose those rules on others and found myself becoming a judgmental person.
It is appropriate for us to want our fellow Christians to live lives that exemplify what it is to live as a Christian. The problem was for me that I had a warped idea of what it meant to live as a Christian. It had become faith in Jesus plus a set of behavioral rules, things I should and things I shouldn’t do. And of course, I imposed these expectations on others. If they didn’t live up to those expectations, I began to question the validity of their Christianity.
Fortunately, I began to do my own serious study of the Scriptures, especially Galatians and Romans. Those times of study cured me of most of my legalism. I finally came to realize what Paul says here in his concluding section of Galatians, “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”
Being a disciple of Jesus isn’t about following some set of external rules, it is about the reality of being made new in Christ, a new creation. This state is described in many different ways in the Scriptures; born again, a new creation, the new man, having a circumcised heart, converted, made alive together with him, born of the Spirit, saved, the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, newness of life, raised up together with Jesus. None of these descriptors describes human behavior or obedience to a set of rules or laws.
The implications of this understanding are really good news. First, my standing with God is not dependant on my obedience to the law of God or man, second, it frees me up from being a judgmental person looking to hold others accountable to my standard of holiness. For all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God (those who trust God and his promises).
I hope that as we have made this quick trek through Galatians, you have found greater liberty in Jesus. Remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free!