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. (verses 14-18)
In the end, it’s all about Jesus. Of course.
Paul started this letter by claiming a direct allegiance to Jesus Christ (Gal 1:1), rather than any earthly source. He immediately rebuked the Galatians for “so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ” (Gal 1:6), turning themselves to a different gospel, one that focused on human effort rather than Christ’s all-sufficient sacrifice. They had succumbed to a teaching that reintroduced the need for circumcision in order to be saved. Paul vehemently condemned such teaching.
It's absolutely right, then, that he ends this letter with an ongoing pledge to “never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Of course. The cross of Jesus provides all we need. It is enough. “I have been crucified with Christ,” Paul had said earlier (Gal 2:20). He reiterates the same, here at the end – he is dead to the things of the world, embraced in the cross of Christ, bearing in his body “the marks of Jesus.” His passionate pledge beckons us to live likewise.
The Galatians, instead, had fallen for the idea that they themselves needed to do something extra, something beyond the work of Christ, latching onto the issue of circumcision, seeing it as essential for salvation. Paul has already violently disagreed. Now he simply brushes it aside. It’s meaningless, he says – circumcision counts for nothing.
Instead, what’s essential is a “new creation.” Of course. It’s all about Jesus. Through him alone this new creation comes about – indeed he himself is the new-ness. “I no longer live but Christ lives in me,” Paul said, going on to conclude, “I live by faith in the Son of God” (Gal 2:20). That’s it. Faith is the key. Not circumcision. Not any other act of human effort. Simply faith in the sacrificial work of Jesus. “It is finished!” he cried. Indeed.
No wonder, then, Paul pledges to “never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
To all those (us included) who choose to follow this same “rule” (focused on the cross, embracing new creation, all by faith), Paul now pronounces three powerful closing words:
“Peace,” which brings complete reconciliation with God and the fullness of life flowing from it.
“Mercy,” which means we will never receive the judgement we had so amply earned in our own right.
“Grace,” which embraces us in the wonder of the Lord’s endless, unmerited favour, poured out so richly through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Yes. The cross has done it. We receive. May it be.
Yes, Lord Jesus, like Paul, I rejoice in your cross! Thank you for peace, mercy and grace, all poured out so abundantly by your sacrifice. You have brought about your new creation in me. By your Spirit, further your work – bring it to completion. I submit to your lordship. I choose to bear its marks gladly. May I never seek justification by my own efforts, but only ever lean on the simplicity and power of your cross. To your glory. Amen.
Reflect: Sit in the Lord’s presence. Focus on the cross. Consider the depth of his sacrifice. Reflect on the magnitude of its impact – for you, for others. Give thanks.