Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 1 Study # 2
Thesis: The extreme danger of "merit" theology: No benefit from Christ.
Introduction: In our look into Paul's insistence that we remain absolutely "free" from any ties to the Justice of God, we saw that it was this freedom from Justice that Christ came to provide. It is from this vantage point that we must read the next verse. In it we read one of the most shocking claims that could possibly be made in the first century of Judaism: circumcision will doom any who submit to it. And, given the fact that it is almost standard medical practice in our cultural setting to circumcise male infants, and the fact that Paul himself had Timothy circumcised in Acts 16:3, we simply must understand what he meant when he put all who receive circumcision beyond the reach of the work of the Christ.
February 10, 2013
- I. Some Helpful Facts.
- A. Though Paul circumcised Timothy in Acts 16:3, he was adamantly opposed to Titus being circumcised in Galatians 3:2.
- 1. There was a huge difference in the "issues" between the Acts 16 text and the Galatians 2 text.
- a. The Acts 16 text is all about "stumbling blocks".
- b. The Galatians 2 text is all about "requirements for justification".
- 2. This means that the critical issue is not whether a person is circumcised, but why.
- a. This trails along the path of the most basic of facts about God: He makes His decisions on the basis of the motives and not the actions, or their impact.
- b. Even when the act, itself, is irredeemably evil, it is the motivation that consumes the focus of God.
- 1) It is impossible to do evil out of a good motive.
- 2) It is a regular fact that people do "good" with evil motives.
- 3) The only thing that God accepts is "love-produced", genuine good.
- B. Paul's meaning in Galatians 5:2 is focused upon uncircumcised Gentiles who are facing the demand that they submit to circumcision, not Jewish, male, babies who have nothing to say about it.
- 1. What a parent does to a child is not finally determinative.
- 2. What an adult does to himself is determinative, but only finally so if there is no later turn.
- C. Circumcision was a rite given to Abraham after his justification that had to do with the members of his own household (Genesis 17:10-14).
- 1. Paul makes this a critical distinction in Romans 4:9-13.
- 2. His conclusion is that justification is by faith and that circumcision is for Jews.
- II. The Heart of Paul's Argument.
- A. The issue behind the impetus for circumcision is "becoming an heir of Abraham" (3:29).
- 1. At issue is methodology: how do I become such an heir?
- 2. Paul's final declaration is that one becomes an heir by belonging to Christ (3:26-27).
- 3. Paul's recurring claim is that every other methodology is "legal" and will result in the extreme necessity of "keeping the whole law" (5:3).
- B. Thus, the only reason an uncircumcised, adult, Gentile would seek circumcision within its "Abrahamic" context would be for that Gentile to think that his "obedience" is important to God for the objective of becoming one of Abraham's "heirs".
- C. The bottom line is, and always will be, the distinction between motives.
- 1. Legal motives are all about what happens to me.
- 2. Loving motives are all about what happens to those impacted by me.