11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. 17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
As a pastor, I constantly get requests to support people for mission work whether it’s for a short-term mission project lasting for a couple of weeks or for much longer periods of time. Usually, I get some sort of form letter in the mail outlining the project, what the person hopes to accomplish during that time, and their request for financial support. For the most part, I support people as best I can, but I find that I’m much more motivated to support a person if they include a little handwritten note somewhere on their letter. Just a little handwritten acknowledgment of my relationship with the person usually catches my attention and inclines me to support them more than I might do so otherwise.
At the close of this letter, Paul notes that he is now writing his final thoughts in his own hand and his words catch our attention. Up until this point Paul has been dictating to a scribe, but now Paul is going to tie everything together to one central point; the cross of Jesus.
For Paul, the only thing that matters is faith in Christ alone, and the point which he is making is that through the cross, God has unleashed His new creation upon the world and upon all who will entrust their lives to Christ Jesus.
Speaking of this action on the part of the Lord, N.T. Wright noted in his commentary on this passage, “Grace reaches out and embraces the whole world.”
Paul doesn’t want the Galatian believers to be distracted by anything else or be taken in by any false teaching that seeks to add additional requirements to faith in Christ (remember the argument of the circumcision group; that believers must become fully Jewish before becoming a true Christian).
Being found in Christ alone, as Paul has relentlessly argued throughout the letter, is all that matters.
And then in verse 16, Paul gives a great title to all who entrust their lives to Jesus calling them the Israel of God. It’s a high honor to receive for those who entrust their lives Jesus. But the honor doesn’t come from any human effort or achievement. The honor comes through Christ, through being adopted into God’s family as His sons and daughters, true children of the promise in the line of Abraham and Isaac, called to witness to God’s love and grace in their love for one another and called to share His peace and mercy to the whole world.
Our old sinful selves are crucified and now our identity is found in Christ and in the new life we have through Him as we walk in step with the Spirit.
The thought that I’m struck with this morning is that there are many things that push and pull at us, clamoring to be the place, the thing, the way in which we define our identity. These things are loud and constantly demanding our devotion, and at the end of the day, they produce no lasting harvest in our lives and benefit us nothing.
But, if we find our identity in Christ alone, we will be blessed, and we will be a blessing as the harvest produced in our lives will last for lifetimes.
God bless you and know that I am praying for you constantly,