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Topic: The Gospel

Doing the Law

by Darrel Cline

In this article I want to address a statement by the apostle Paul that many people are ignoring today at great eternal risk. The statement is found in Galatians 5:2, and the translators of the King James Bible rendered it thus: "Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing."

The great eternal risk of which I wrote is noted in the words, "...Christ shall profit you nothing." The seriousness of this is found in the biblical fact that Jesus Christ claimed to be the One whom the Father has made the final Judge of mankind (John 5:22--"the Father hath committed all judgment unto the Son"). If He is the final Judge, and if He profits you nothing, you are in eternal trouble. The Bible further says that Jesus Christ died for the sins of men (1 Peter 3:18). Therefore, if Christ profits you nothing, that means your sins are not covered and you will face the eternal wrath of God. So, the verse addresses something that is of great eternal cruciality.

Interestingly, though, the apostle told us of whom he wrote when he said "Christ will profit you nothing". He said that Christ will not profit anyone who is circumcised. That could be quite a shocker! Most male babies born in most medically modern societies are routinely circumcised at birth these days. All devout male Jews and Muslims are circumcised as a matter of religious practice. Did Paul mean that all men that do not have their foreskin when they stand before the judgment of God would eternally perish? And what about the women? Does Christ only profit uncircumcised men and all women?

Obviously not, because Paul was himself a circumcised Jew with a past of extraordinary Pharisaic Judaism, and he believed and taught that he was going to heaven when he died (2 Timothy 4:8). Apparently Paul had a meaning for the word circumcised that went beyond (it actually completely by-passed) the physical medical procedure.

What was Paul's definition for circumcision? He gave it only two verses further in his letter to the Galatians. In that later verse He made circumcision the equivalent of the desire to be "justified by the law". And what did he mean by that? Well, justified means to be declared righteous by God, and by the law means by the performance of divine demands for righteous behavior. This means that Paul used circumcision as a single-word figure of speech to refer to the activity of rendering obedience to the demands of God for righteous behavior.

Therefore, the apostle Paul clearly said that anyone who is staking his hopes of eternal life on his performance of God's demands for righteous behavior will find that Christ will profit him nothing. Why is this? Because such a stake is based upon a belief in one's ability to satisfy the righteousness of God and the Gospel calls for a belief in Christ alone for that satisfaction. We have to choose to permit Christ to save us, or to try to save ourselves by rendering obedience to God. Which is it?

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This is article #230.
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