See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! Those who want to make a good impression outwardly 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 obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your 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 a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. Finally, 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. Amen. (NIV)
1. In verse 12 Paul says that the Judaizers are trying to compel the Galatians to keep the Jewish law because they want to "make a good impression outwardly." Whom do you think they were trying to impress? How would circumcision and the law make them "look good?" (See Matthew 23:25-26)
2. Paul says, "The only reason they do this [compel people to be circumcised] is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ." Who was doing the persecuting? Why would circumcision forestall persecution? Why would the cross of Christ trigger persecution for Christ-followers? What did the cross of Christ threaten in he Jewish community? (see Galatians 5:11)
3. Paul points out that "not even those who are circumcised obey the law." If they didn't obey the law, why do you think they wanted the Galatians circumcised? What is wrong with this dichotomy? (see Romans 2:25) What do you think Paul meant when he said the Judaizers only wanted to "boast about your flesh"? What did circumcision represent? What did the Judaizers have to gain by seeing the Galatians circumcised?
4. What do you think Paul meant when he said, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ"? (see I Cor. 2:2) Contrast this claim to "boasting" with Paul's statement that the Judaizers wanted to "boast about your flesh." What difference between Paul and the Judaizers is Paul pointing out? What was the essential difference between him and the Judaizers?
5. What does Paul mean when he says in verse 15, "what counts is a new creation." (compare 2 Cor 25:17) Why does Paul call "being in Christ" a "new creation"? Why does he not just call it a changed heart or mind? What is the new entity that's created when we accept Jesus and the truth he reveals? Describe your own experience of being a new creation. Can you recognize a new creation in another person? How?
6. To what "rule" is Paul referring in verse 16 when he says, "Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even the Israel of God"? Who is "the Israel of God"?
7. Paul says he bore "the marks of Jesus" on his body. The Greek word for "marks" referred to the brand that identified a man or slave as belonging to its particular master. What marks of Jesus do you bear? How do they identify your relationship with Jesus?
8. About what works (accomplishments or efforts) are you tempted to boast? What works or projects, no matter how successful, do you need to release to Jesus, acknowledging that only he can cause them to succeed in ways that honor him? What personal feelings about your projects do you need to release to Jesus, acknowledging him as sovereign and trusting him to use you according to his plan, not yours?
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