posted on Mar, 4 2016 @ 05:02 PM
The epistle to the Galatians is the text which Browning’s monk “in a Spanish cloister” was hoping to use to tempt his enemy into heretical
Certainly this letter stands out among the letters of Paul as presenting the contrast between Faith and legalism.
In the fourth chapter, he used the allegory of Isaac and Ishmael to show that the choice lies between freedom under the gospel and bondage under the
Now in the fifth chapter he sets out to complete the task by overthrowing the hopeful defence “But we’re not adopting the Law. We’re only
adopting the single practice of circumcision”.
vv2-3 He warns them solemnly that Christ and circumcision cannot be combined.
If they receive circumcision ( as a new act) then Christ will no longer have any benefit for them.
The reason is that there is no half-way point between faith in Christ and submission under the Law.
The act of circumcision has the effect of binding them to the Law as a whole.
This is true in a formal sense, because circumcision is the act which identifies the man as a Jew and part of the covenant of Moses.
There is also a psychological truth in it. A man who accepts any one of the demands of the Law has put himself into the mind-set of believing there
are “things which must be done” before he can be right with God.
Once he’s adopted that mind-set, he’s placed himself at the top of a slippery slope. He won’t be able to stop himself until he’s taken upon
himself a whole range of demanded activities.
Therefore circumcision cannot be taken in isolation.
Formally and psychologically, once they have accepted circumcision they are “under the Law”.
v4 But in placing themselves under the Law they will have separated themselves from Christ, because the two are mutually exclusive.
Anyone who seeks righteousness on the basis of “works of the Law” is no longer satisfied with righteousness based upon Faith.
I would compare it with the difference between resting and movement.
The state of trusting in Christ crucified is a condition of rest.
The state of trusting in “works of the Law” is a condition of movement.
There is no possibility of combining the two, because anyone who begins to move has already ceased to rest.
So if they look to be justified by the Law, they will have “fallen away from grace”; that is, they will have fallen away from the state of putting
their trust entirely in God’s grace.
v5 Whereas “we”, the children of promise, look to be justified through Christ alone.
We are waiting for the “hope of righteousness”; that is, the state of completed righteousness which is confidently expected (there is nothing
uncertain about “hope” in the New Testament sense).
It is an expectation sustained by Faith, through the Spirit.
This promise is what the Galatians will be throwing away if they allow themselves to be drawn back into “the works of the Law”.