It’s about Freedom
1For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. 7You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! 13For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Paul now circles around the heart of his letter. Up to this point, he has not even mentioned circumcision. He has only pointed to the serious problem of making the keeping of the Law your hope for salvation. If that is the case, we are all in deep trouble. Circumcision is only the focus of the lesson, not the lesson in whole. As soon as we add actions we can take in order to supplement the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross in order to purchase our salvation, we are throwing away the gift of grace Jesus won for us through His blood.
Paul continues this appeal through the stark differences between freedom and slavery. Those who insist on “helping God” with His plan of salvation through their own works are now bound to those works. They have enslaved themselves. These are powerful words for us and would have been even more so for a people intimately associated with the realities of slavery in their everyday lives. If you are adding something of your own doing to the sacrifice of Jesus for your salvation, you are treading the path of slavery. Whatever you add to the work of Christ has you by the throat. Our choices here have implication in the personal and public arenas. The power of the Spirit is irreplaceable and only available in Christ. Those who choose the path of the Law will be forming a very different sort of community, the community of the “flesh.” The sacrifice of Jesus Christ instead calls us to a community built upon love – a word ripe with action.