The Closing

See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!

Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.

 From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

Galatians 6:11-18

The end of the letter, and Paul takes up the pen himself. Up to this point, he has been dictating to a scribe, but now, Paul seeks to remove all doubt about the authorship of this letter.  I’m guessing that it has occurred to him that when the letter is read in the Galatian churches, considering the subject matter of the letter, some smart alack is likely to jump up and say that it’s a forgery!  Paul is having none of that and takes the pen himself, and in his own handwriting finishes off the closing here.

He points out the large letters he uses. Paul can’t see very well, as we know.  He writes in large letter so he can see his own writing.  I can empathize with him−  If I am writing a note to myself, I too use big letters.  If I write a note to someone else, I don’t, and I can’t read what I’ve written, which is really irritating if I’m distracted while writing because I can’t tell where to start again.

Notice what Paul has written in his own hand: He has restated the entire argument that he has made in this letter so that nobody can say that he was fooled by a scribe who wrote his own letter and not Paul’s dictation:  No dummy old Paul! In this section he actually implies that those who were teaching circumcision were cowards, fearing persecution.  They think they can avoid persecution by telling other Jews that they are making Jews out the Gentiles, and they don’t even keep the Law themselves.  After that charge, Paul gets right in their faces with: May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. No sir, Paul isn’t fooling around on this issue…

It might seem that Paul has been about as strident as he can be, and then he cranks it up another few notches.  Circumcision means nothing.  The only thing that counts for anything in this life is “the new creation” which of course is what we are in Christ. Now he moves to the final greeting… oh wait, there’s another shot: Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.

Did you catch that last part?  “The Israel of God.”  To whom was he referring?  This underscores the message Paul has been trying to teach the Galatians: The Law is over. The old ways are over. Everything is New.  The “Israel of God” is the body of believers that comprise the Church.

This letter began without the usual greetings and prayer of thanksgiving, and ends without the usual final greetings. Now, in the second to last line, Paul again fires a shot across the bow of the false teachers. Having insinuated that they are afraid of persecution he reminds then that he has been persecuted many times:  From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. Only after that one last remark does he close this energetic little epistle.

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About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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