Isaiah 37:30-38:22; Galatians 6:11-18; Psalms 66:1-7; Proverbs 17:2-3
NT: “But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world. For both circumcision and uncircumcision mean nothing; what matters instead is a new creation. May peace come to all those who follow this standard, and mercy even to the Israel of God! From now on, let no one cause me trouble, because I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. Brothers and sisters, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.” (Galatians 6:14-18 CSB)
The Judaizers that had infiltrated the churches of Galatia were trying to convince the gentile believers to become circumcised – not because it would do anything good for the gentile believers in Galatia, but because it would be a feather in the cap of the Judaizers. The Judaizers wanted to boast about the number of conversions to Judaism they had amassed, and the evidence of conversion was the mark of circumcision. One of the ways they compelled the Galatians was by telling them that by being circumcised, they would escape the persecution other Christians were experiencing through their association with the cross of Christ. The Judaizers wanted to replace what Christ had accomplished on the cross with circumcision – not for the good of the Galatian believers, not for the glory of God, but for their own glory.
In our time, the cross has become nothing more than a sentimental religious symbol. In Paul’s day, the cross was the lowest form of death and the ultimate symbol of humiliation and defeat. Yet Paul wrote that he would not boast in the numbers of conversions he had made, he would not boast in the numbers of churches he had planted, he would not boast in the number of followers he had – he would boast about nothing except the cross of Christ. It was the cross of Christ that made all the difference. When Christ allowed Himself to be crucified on the cross, the requirements of the law were fulfilled, the debt of sin was paid and the shackles of oppression were broken once and for all. It was through faith in what was accomplished on the cross of Christ that brought Paul true liberation from his bondage to sin and the burdensome requirements of the law. By identifying with the cross of Christ, Paul became dead to the world, and the ways and pressures of the world became dead to him. Whether you are circumcised in the flesh or not makes no difference – it does nothing spiritually… it does nothing to solve the issue of sin. The only thing that matters is if you have been made a new creation in Christ through faith in His life, death and resurrection.
As a Jewish man, Paul had received the mark of circumcision as a newborn child. For years, Paul’s identity – his pride – was in that mark… until he encountered Jesus. Paul then became a marked man in a new way. Because of his undying faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ, Paul had suffered beating after beating, and had even been stoned. His body was bruised, broken and scarred for the sake of Christ. His circumcision no longer marked his identity. He had a new identity in Christ, and that identity was evidenced through the scars across his body. Unlike the Judaizers, Paul was willing to suffer and be marked for his faith and the freedom he had in Christ. But more important than the scars on his body was the fact that Christ Himself had stamped Paul with His signet and marked Paul as His. Though the way that Paul had taken was challenging, it had brought him true freedom and everlasting peace. So Paul wrote, may peace and mercy come upon all who choose to lay aside all to receive on them the marks of Christ by faith in Him.
Psalms: “Let the whole earth shout joyfully to God! Sing about the glory of his name; make his praise glorious. Say to God, “How awe-inspiring are your works! Your enemies will cringe before you because of your great strength. The whole earth will worship you and sing praise to you. They will sing praise to your name.”Selah Come and see the wonders of God; his acts for humanity are awe-inspiring.” (Psalms 66:1-5 CSB)
Over the course of Jewish history, God has done marvelous, miraculous and awe-inspiring works to save, deliver and preserve His covenant people. In response to all of God’s amazing acts, the psalmist who wrote this psalm called all the earth – not just the Jewish people – to sing about the glory of God. While the acts that God performed were for the sake of the children of Israel, they were performed before all the earth for every eye to see. The word translated here as ‘awe-inspiring’ has to do with inducing fear, dread, honor and respect. The enemies of God can’t help but experience a knee-knocking terror in the face of such power and might.
Of all the works that God has done, nothing compares to the perfect salvation that Jesus Christ accomplished at the cross. “For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11). So, like the psalmist wrote, come and see the wonders of God and His Christ ,for His acts for humanity are awe-inspiring. I will boast in Him and Him alone.
Prayer: Lord, there are many things that I can accomplish and boast in. There are many things that I can do and take credit for. There are many ways that I can make myself impressive to others. In the end, none of that matters. What matters is that I belong to You and that You have saved me from oppression and destruction and given me a new life and identity in You. Lord, I choose to humble myself and bear Your marks that I may be forever free from sin and that You may be forever glorified through my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.