7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8 If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. 11 See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. 14 May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! 16 As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
Today is our second in the series of the New Creation. New everything we are looking at today. Just as Garry read the words of Paul: A New Creation is everything! These words written in Paul’s own handwriting he says. Must be important if Paul took the quill or stick from his scribe to write verse 11-18 himself. This is a very unusual thing for a person in Paul’s position to do. Why don’t we talk a little about the background of this letter and see why Paul picked up the pen so to speak.
Galatia was a Roman Provence located in what is now central Turkey. I found it interesting, in fact i had never seen this before, the the Galatians were actually Celts. yes Celts. The Celts originated in the Danube River Valley. They migrated in different directions. By the 9th century BC they showed up in the British Isles, by the 5th Century some were in Asia Minor or modern Turkey. Though they probably inter married, much of their culture prevailed. Julius Caesar who battled them in Western Europe called them “fierce and hearty, impetuous and fickle” The area of Galatia had been given to them by a King in Asia Minor before the Romans came. When the Romans conquered Asia Minor Galatia remained a province although the Galatians no longer ruled themselves. Paul established a number of churches in Galatia, in fact this letter is addressed:
Galatia was a roman Provence located in what is now central Turkey. I found it interesting, in fact i had never seen this before, the the Galatians were actually Celts. yes Celts. The Celts originated in the Danube River Valley. They migrated in different directions. By the 9th century BC they showed up in the British Isles, by the 5th Century some were in Asia Minor or modern Turkey. Though the portably inter married, much of their culture prevailed. Julius Caesar who battled them in Western Europe called them “fierce and hearty, impetuous and fickle” The area of Galatia had been given to them by a King in Asia Minor before the Romans came. When the Romans conquered Asia Minor Galatia remained a province although the Galatians no longer ruled themselves. Paul established a number of churches in Galatis, in fact this letter is addressed:
1 Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the members of God’s family who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:
As you can see to the churches in Galatia. We have no idea how many there were, but obviously there was more than one and this letter was a circular intended to be circulated among all of them.
Now, you need to know this as well to understand what Paul is talking about here. I have mentioned before that Paul was double crossed by the institutional church in Jerusalem led by Jesus brother James. In Paul and Barnabas travel to Jerusalem to meet with the leaders of the church. Paul wanted them to set doctrine of how the gentile converts should be handled. There were a group of missionaries from Jerusalem telling the gentile men that they must be circumcised and that the communities must follow the dietary and ritual laws. Paul and Barnabas found it unnecessary for the gentile converts to follow Jewish laws. James and the council agreed with them. James said:
19 Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood.
Paul actually refers to this visit in Chapter 2 of this letter. Well they didn’t live up to the promise. The missionaries still came preaching a gospel different than Paul’s. Plus they worked hard to convince the people that Paul was not a true apostle. In fact this is how mad Paul is about all of this:
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; 12 for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. 13 And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
You can see how mad Paul is here. He worked hard establishing these churches, preaching salvation by faith and these folks come in and say well no, you have to perform these acts too. Men get circumcised, follow the dietary laws, and celebrate all the Jewish feast days! Caesar called the Galatians folks fickle and impetuous and we can see that here as fast as the ran away from Paul’s teaching to the missionaries.
But I think we need to say that the Galatians and the missionaries wanted to please God. They thought that what they were doing would be pleasing to God. But what they have really done is supplanted the Cross with circumcision, or the cross with legalism and the verses we are looking at today is a summation of Paul’s argument of why what the Galatians are proposing to do is a “mockery of God.” lets unpack the scripture and then see what it say to us in the 21st century.
As I mentioned in the introduction Paul has picked up the pen here, probably because what he is writing is important. It wasn't unusual for a man of Paul’s status to sign a letter, but it was highly unusual for him to write even a part of a letter.
He first makes the claim that the missionaries are not looking after the best interest of the Galatians. Paul claims they are trying to escape persecution. Judaism was an approved religion in the empire, Christianity was not at this time. if a Roman official was going to arrest you or try you for practicing an unapproved religion, and you were male, all you had to do was show that you were circumcised! Secondly, he says all they want to do is go back to the church in Jerusalem and brag about how many men they were able to get circumcised. Paul claims they didn't really care about your relationship with God they were just keeping score so they could brag!
Now, here is the central part of Paul’s argument. “May I never brag about anything except the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is what Paul is talking about in verse 7 “God is not mocked.” In other words if you go with this “fleshy crowd” instead of the Cross of Christ you are mocking what God did for you in Jesus Christ! In other word you are saying no to Christ and yes to the flesh! Yes to circumcision and no to the Cross. You will reap what you sow, because it is the cross that saves not circumcision! if you sew to the flesh you will reap corruption, if you sow to the cross eternal life is yours!
Now verse 15
15 For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!
A new creation is everything. it is the cross (remember I said last week whenever you hear the NT writes talking about the cross, or resurrection or ascension, they are really saying all three. That is they understood the cross, resurrection and ascension as one event.) By the cross God has made us a new creation and that is everything! The missionaries are concerned with what’s on the outside, the cross transforms you from the inside out! In the New creation brought about by the cross, there is neither circumcised or uncircumsised, greek or jew male or female!
Today we see some Christians that say you must be a republican or democrat, that you must come to Christ by saying the sinners prayer, or you have to have a time or date stamp on your justification, or you can only use the King James Version, or you must only watch Fox News, or NPR or CNN. These missionaries still abound and they are still making a mockery of God. I like the way NT Wright puts this:
"“"The world itself has been crucified along with Christ. Calvary was the turning point of history. God’s new creation can be born out of the old. (The New Creation is Everything.)
The whole creation will be set free from its own slavery and will share the freedom of God’s children.
How then can anyone who has glimpsed Jesus as the crucified Messiah want to cling to the values, the identity-markers, the way of life of the world that has already been pronounced dead on the cross?What matters is neither circumcision nor uncircumcision—neither the marks in the flesh of the Jew nor the absence of such marks in the Gentile. What matters is that God has unleashed upon the world his own new creation, and through the gospel of Jesus invites all to share equally in its blessings, its new life, its promises for the future. “
The things that divide us no longer exist in the new creation. Thus everything is new. A new creation is everything.
When Caril Fugate was fourteen, she accompanied Charles Starkweather on a murder rampage that left ten Nebraskans dead. She was apprehended, convicted of complicity in the crimes, and imprisoned.When she became eligible for parole at thirty-two, Caril had spent more than half her life in prison. It was not lost time. There she gave her life to Christ, affiliating with the Nazarene Church. She worked in the church nursery on Sunday mornings, taught Vacation Bible School, and even preached some sermons to the congregation. She underwent training as a geriatric aid and became involved in the work-release program in a nursing home on Sundays. She calls herself a new creation. She couldn’t have done this herself, but in the depths of her disgrace in prison, she was recreated by Jesus.
You and i we are Caril Fugate. It is the cross and our acceptance of it that have made us new creations. Nothing on the outside can do this. When you here others tell you you must do this or that, pray this way or that, hold to this or that doctrine. You are not encountering the gospel, its the circumcision crowd. The crowd that keeps score. The crowd that wants to notch its salvation gun so they may boast 25 saved today. Don’t believe it. You can’t save yourself. You can’t make yourself a new creation. Only God can do that. May we never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to us, and us to the world. The rules of humans are nothing, but a new creation is everything. Just ask Caril Fugate.