v. 1. We are told by the apostle to 'stand fast in' (highly esteem, maintain, defend) the liberty of Christ, of grace, of the gospel. Christ has freed us from:
1. Sin - not from the indwelling of it nor the temptation to it, but from the guilt of it, the dominion of it and the damning power of it.
2. The ceremonial law - from circumcision, sacrifices, feast days, sabbath days and all of its burdensome rites and ceremonies.
3. The moral law as a covenant of works - from its curse and condemnation, but not from obedience to it as held forth by our Lord Jesus.
Christ has given us a free use of the gospel ordinances, free access to the throne of grace and a freedom from fear of death and judgement. 'Don't allow anyone to entangle you again with a system of works and deeds in order to obtain God's favour.'We are complete in Christ.
v.2 If a man submits to circumcision in order to gain acceptance with God, Christ profits him nothing. Christ must be received as our only and sufficient Redeemer. If we add anything (even if performed in a religious way) to the person and work of Christ to gain God's favour, whether it be circumcision, baptism, feasting, praying at certain times, or doing good for others, we are not fully trusting and resting in Christ. Tberefore, he profits us nothing' for we are attempting to add our righteousness to his. This is to show contempt for him.
v.3. If we are going to seek any measure of righteousness by works and obedience to laws, we are not depending fully on Christ and are, therefore, under obligation to obey perfectly the complete law, both ceremonial and moral.
v.4. Keep this verse in its context! Remember to whom it is spoken and for what reason. 'You, who seek to be justified before God by your own righteousness and obedience to certain laws, such as circumcision, sabbath days, washings and abstaining from certain food, have turned away from the gospel of free grace and righteousness in Christ. You have departed from salvation by grace alone and have turned to a mixture of grace and works; therefore, Christ is become of no effect to you at all!' Christ is our whole Saviour or not our Saviour at all. He will not share his glory (Rom. 4:3-5; 11:5,6).
v.5. By the Holy Spirit's regeneration, revelation and help (not relying on our works, deeds, nor obedience to the law), we anticipate and wait for the fulfflment of that blessed hope of eternal glory which our right standing before God and our righteousness in Christ promise us. Our hope is in Christ, not in any deeds or works of the law.
v. 6. If we are in Christ by grace and faith, it does not profit us one thing to be circumcised or uncircumcised! To observe or not, to observe these things commanded in the Levitical law does not commend us to God. The service which God requires is a true heart of faith, which is evidenced and expressed by our love to Christ and to one another.
v. 7,8. 'You started well in the beginning. You came as helpless sinners to Christ; you found in him all you need; you were zealous for the gospel of grace. Who turned you back to the law? Who hindered you in your faith? Who turned you to another gospel? It was not God (who called you by grace) nor Christ (who fulfilled all things for you) nor the Holy Spirit (who revealed the gospel) nor an apostle of Christ (who preached the gospel to you). It was Satan and his messengers of human righteousness' (2 Cor. 11:2,3, 13-15).
v. 9. Someone may say, 'There's no need for Paul to become so upset. We do not embrace the whole Jewish economy, only circumcision and a ceremony here and a sabbath day there.' Paul reminds them that a little leaven (error, evil, especially in regard to the work of Christ) will pervert and mislead the whole church. It must be stamped out immediately!
v.10. The apostle has dealt roughly and plainly with them, yet he expresses confidence in them that they will see what he is teaching and deal with these false teachers. They shall hear their judgement from the church and from the Lord.
v.11. Some of these false teachers contended that Paul taught that circumcision was necessary to salvation, since he had had Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:3). We know why Paul did this - to prevent the stumbling of weak Jews and to enable Timothy (a Gentile) to preach to them. It was not for his spiritual good.
1. 'If I am an advocate of circumcision and other laws, why do these men persecute and constantly oppose me?'
2. 'If I preach circumcision or any other work added to the person and work of Christ, the doctrine of the cross as an offence and as a stumbling-block would cease.' Men do not object to Christ's being a part Saviour. It is Christ the total and complete Saviour that they deny.
v. 12. Paul is speaking here of the false teachers (Gal. 1: 8,9).
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