Paul shares with his readers how he himself brought the very issue they are dealing with before the brothers. He checked his teachings with those in authority and backed up his stand.
The issue of circumcision was not new to Paul and he addressed it completely. Paul had been preaching the word to the Gentiles for fourteen years already without requiring ANY of them to become circumcised. The Holy Spirit never instructed him to put that on them. Paul’s message was always that observing the law never saved anyone, Jew or Gentile, so why would one be required to adhere to the law now. His message was Jesus’ fulfillment of the law and salvation through grace.
Paul received his message straight through the Holy Spirit yet when this conflict initially arose he went to the apostles to check his teaching, just in case he was mistaken. He met with the leaders of the church and they delved into the subject thoroughly, including all the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in Paul’s ministry. Peter’s own ministry to a group of Gentiles also lent credence to Paul’s position. The Holy Spirit DID NOT require circumcision for entrance into the body of Christ.
So those imposing this condition on the Galatian believers were NOT operating under the leading of the Holy Spirit. More than that, they were laying conditions on the Galatian believers that took the gospel from a gift of grace to a gospel of works. “If you want to be saved you have to do a, b, c, d, e…. and z. Otherwise you are doomed to hell.”
The only conditions Jesus put on salvation were these:
- Recognize your need for a savior
- Accept that Jesus is the Son of God
- Believe that He died on the cross AND rose again on your behalf
- Ask Him forgive you for your sins and to be Lord of your life
AFTER that your life will begin to change BECAUSE of His work in you, NOT because you have to complete some process to become acceptable. You are acceptable the moment you surrender to Him. The Galatian believers quickly believed those who were making this process backwards for them.
I can understand their confusion. When you stop and think about all Jesus did, doesn’t it seem only fair that we pay some price to receive that benefit? Apparently the Galatian believers thought so.
They probably didn’t understand the implications of this “new” doctrine they were listening to. But in accepting this belief they discounted Jesus’ work. If salvation required the believer to adhere to the law first then none of us would have a chance. That is the whole reason Jesus had to take our place to begin with. We COULDN’T do it! He did instead. All His work would have been in vain. Who needs a Savior if you can save yourself?
There is a time for works but it is NOT tied to your salvation. As James notes, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). Not that works did the work of faith but that because of your faith you want to do the works Jesus would do. Because you received His grace by faith you want to pass on gifts of love to others through your own hands. That is what true faith does.
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your free gift of salvation. Thank You that I don’t have to be good enough to earn it. I would FOREVER come up short! Thank You for allowing me to show my gratitude to You for Your gif of salvation by loving on others. Thank You for helping me love others. Thank You for letting me be Your hands and feet. Help me share only Your love and not my own judgements, including judging others who don’t recognize this truth. Help me show them through Your word, and through loving them right where they are, how much You really love them. Let Your Spirit speak this truth to their hearts loud and clear.