Paul closes this letter by basically summarizing all that he has said in it. And here he discounts all that doesn’t really count for anything in this world.
- What others think of us doesn’t matter, particularly their approval (12).
- Our own efforts to keep the law don’t matter. None of us can keep it perfectly anyway, and that’s the standard if you’re trying to gain God’s approval through the law (13a).
- Our pride in what we have “accomplished” for God doesn’t matter. Particularly if we are mistaken about what he approves of (13b).
- Circumcision or uncircumcision, rituals, and mere outward religious practices that don’t have any effect on the heart mean nothing (15a).
We have died to all these things. And these things are dead to us. At least they should be (14).
Instead, there is only one thing that really counts. The new creation that we become because of what Christ did on the cross (14-15).
Our lives are not a matter of reformation through our own efforts, but of retransformation through the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s what counts.
Paul told the Galatians,
Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. (16)
The Judaizers told the Galatians, “You become part of the Israel of God by getting circumcised and following the law of God.”
Paul told them, “No. It is only by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit as you put your faith in Christ that you become God’s people.”
The result when we truly understand this? You find peace, in contrast to the strain of trying to keep the law of God in your own strength. And you start to truly understand God’s mercy in your life, realizing you are no longer under any condemnation.
How about you? Are you trying to live the Christian life in your own efforts? Is it your focus on being the “good Christian” by trying to keep the rules? Or are you resting in the grace you have received, walking with the Spirit each day, and following his leading?
My prayer for you is the same as Paul’s.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers (and sisters). Amen. (18)