A teaching by Rev. Barbara Williams, President of the Ministry of the Watchman International
Week of August 10-14, 2020
As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.
The Apostle Paul had a pretty serious task: that of convincing the Jew, who was steeped in religious tradition that mere obedience to the old law of Moses was not the way to salvation. In fact, this “religious legalism” is a mindset that has always hindered the liberty of the Christian experience.
William DeArtega in his book, Quenching the Spirit, states that this legalism comes in during every move of God or revival that has come to the earth and quenches the moving of the Spirit of God. The Apostle Paul saw religious legalism as an enemy of the Christian work. He should know. He referred to himself as the “Pharisee of Pharisees” persecuting the church. When he was converted, he really saw the light. So great was this revelation of “Christ in you the hope of Glory,” that the Apostle Paul attacked religious legalism and the curse of the law in most of his writings. It was the particular theme of the book of Galatians.
Paul speaks to the people in Galatia who are desiring to glory in the flesh as requiring others to be circumcised. Circumcision was a sign of a man’s commitment to God under the Old covenant. What was old was replaced by something new, the new being better. We all understand when something has outlived its usefulness. It was good in its’ day, but it has been replaced with something better.
For instance, I used to count on my fingers, then in my head, now I use a calculator. I still have my fingers and my head, but I’ve just replaced them with something better for that function. The something better that the physical circumcision was replaced by was a spiritual circumcision. Paul is attempting to teach the church of Galatia the difference.
If you are in need of healing, there is good news! Proverbs 4:20-22 SAYS:
My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
So there is life and health in God’s word. Since God’s word is medicine, we must take it like we would a prescription. I suggest three times a day, like you would your food. Remember, healing is the children’s bread. Consider this your “dose” for today. Remember, read, and meditate three times a day the following:
Rx: Jeremiah 30:17a ~ “For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds,” says the Lord.
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 2:15
If you’ve never studied the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, we invite you to join us as we read through the Bible in a year. Read and meditate on these chapters this week:
August 10: Ruth 3-4, Acts 28, Jeremiah 38, Psalms 11-12
August 11: 1 Samuel 1, Romans 1, Jeremiah 39, Psalms 13-14
August 12: 1 Samuel 2, Romans 2, Jeremiah 40, Psalms 15-16
August 13: 1 Samuel 3, Romans 3, Jeremiah 41, Psalms 17
August 14: 1 Samuel 4, Romans 4, Jeremiah 42, Psalms 18
August 15: 1 Samuel 5-6, Romans 5, Jeremiah 43, Psalms 19
August 16: 1 Samuel 7-8, Romans 6, Jeremiah 44, Psalms 20-21
As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.
Paul states that the persons requiring that these men be circumcised don’t even keep the law themselves. Any person who was truly honest would admit that they couldn’t keep the Old Testament law. Laws are written to establish transgression and set limits. This is true of all laws. Some laws you are not even aware of until someone breaks them. This was true in the Old Testament.
This is why God commanded that people not let these laws depart out of their mouths and to keep them in the midst of their hearts. God gave the law and it was good, but He was yearning for the day when he could make His covenant more than just a bunch of laws that nobody could follow. He wanted to hasten the day when He could dwell in our hearts and carry out His laws through us. That day had finally come. Jesus gave His Spirit to us to live in us. That was the great mystery that Paul was so excited about. Imagine his dismay when he saw others who were not so excited.
In fact, they began to fight against him and persecute him, just as he had done to the church before his conversion. These legalists troubled the church and condemned men who were not circumcised to be so. They even began to require this of Gentiles who were born again. But Paul had discovered the reason that people liked the law better than grace. Grace opens one up to persecution. Legalism does not.
Grace causes the power of God to manifest. The god of this world always fights this power. Jesus got into His most trouble for healing people and casting out devils. The compassion ministry of Jesus is most hated by the devil. Grace comes when compassion is present. So these men preferred to hound Paul and others, preaching the benefits of circumcision rather than preaching the gospel and demonstrating the power of God.
But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.
Paul describes here the basic flaw in legalism: it causes a person to take credit for all he does. After all, when we do everything under our own power, we can take the credit for it. It does nothing to glorify God. Paul found that the men who were insisting that men be circumcised were actually circumventing the persecution of the cross of Christ. This is true of all who rely on their own abilities to carry out the duties of the Christian life.
The person who insists on doing everything in his own strength is glorying in his abilities. When we witness for Christ, are we cognizant of that person and how he feels and what his needs are, or are we focusing on adding another trophy to our showcase? Are we focused on our mansion in heaven and how big it will be? Are we motivated by guilt when we minister? Do we think to ourselves, “I need to tell somebody about Jesus … I haven’t done that in a long time.”
While it’s true that we should witness and lead people to the Lord, we can never do it based on our desire to produce big numbers for God. Remember when David numbered the people without God’s permission? He caused a plague to break out among the people.
Then how should we be motivated to tell others about Jesus? How should we witness? We have to take on the cross of Christ in all that we do for Him. The cross is a place of public exposure and humiliation. Have you risked your reputation, how you look to others, or your personal comfort to see that a person’s needs are met supernaturally by God?
Or are you into legalism? You know, that haughty, down your nose look that we sometimes give, even while telling someone that we will pray for them? Do you ask the person’s permission to pray for him, risking being turned down or told off? How do you respond when people say, “no…I’m all right,” and that big wall of rejection comes up? How do you feel when your friends who call themselves Christians, but don’t want to “look stupid” like you do, go about their merry way while you pray and seek God for the power to change the lives of others?
These are important questions. The answer will determine where your glory resides. Is it in your flesh, or in the cross of Christ?
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
Paul knows that the keeping of your own rules and regulations will only hinder you in your work for God. He knows that the only person God can use is the person who is a new creature in Christ. In other words, whether these men are circumcised or uncircumcised, what God is looking for is a new creature totally yielded to Him.
The men who depended upon circumcision to make them right with God were saying, “Hey, look at me … look at what I did.” Those who depend upon the Spirit of God suffer persecution and affliction in order to allow the Lord to be glorified. God can only glory where He has total control.
We cannot both be glorified at the same time. For example, I will hear people testify about a healing that occurred in their ministry. Often they will give the details of what man did (e.g., “I prayed,” “I said this, I did that,” or “we did this, we did that,” ) and conclude by saying, “and they were healed.” Yet in another setting they always say they want to give God the glory. Why don’t they say God healed the person while they’re giving the testimony? They will even go as far as to credit the “power of God” that touched them, instead of declaring that Jesus healed them because He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
The act of glorying in one’s self is very subtle. We see hints of it all the time. Our preoccupation with fitness, wealth and appearance are gross examples of glorying in our flesh. Taking credit for what God does is a subtler example. Yet Paul wished the legalists no harm. He wished peace and mercy upon them. He, however, had made a decision to go in the other direction.
From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
Paul decided to bring to an end this endless questioning that the early Christians went through regarding their circumcision. He said, “from now on, don’t anybody ask me about this again. I have evidence in my body that Jesus is my Lord.” Paul said that he bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ, which were more important than the mark of circumcision.
When Paul was beaten for preaching the gospel, these were the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ. When he was dragged through the streets, these were the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ. When Christians who could not believe he was truly converted whispered about him, he bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ. His chains while in prison, and the resultant marks they left on his body were the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When he went from sitting at the feet of Gamaliel and being a judge over the Christians to almost losing his life because his own sect, the Pharisees, wanted to kill him, he bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ. Circumcision would be a picnic compared to what Paul endured as a result of simply obeying the Lord.
There are still marks of the true circumcision of the heart to be borne. In each generation, the body of Christ must bear in its mortal bodies the sufferings of our Lord. In this generation, it appears to be emotional pain … rejection, separation and divorce are challenging many Christians to bear the cross of public humiliation while trying to keep a marriage and family intact. Drug abuse and homelessness attack the Christian family as well as the non-Christian.
Rejection causes great pain, but Jesus would have us to endure that cross while despising the shame, just as He did in order that He be glorified in the restoration of that family. Will we have to endure persecution? Of course, we will. Sometimes emotional pain is longer in duration and harder to bear than the physical.
Remember that Jesus had to carry his cross before he was crucified. We will identify with Him in all these areas before we are glorified with Him. These are the true marks of circumcision. Nobody sees these except Jesus. He knows and He cares what we go through. But He always comes to vindicate His own, and He brings His reward with Him.