Galatians 6:12-18

Sunday Evening Bible Study

October 20, 1996


Paul is writing to a group of churches which have been infected with a doctrine of legalism.

The Galatians were predominantly Gentiles who had been led to the Lord through Paul and his ministry.

After they had begun to trust in the Lord, a group of false teachers, Judaizers, came through to do "follow up" on Paul's ministry.

They started teaching these ignorant Gentiles that if they really, truly wanted to be saved, it wasn't just a matter of trusting Jesus to pay for your sins, you had to become a Jew as well, to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses.

:11 Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.

We talked last week about how Paul dictated most of his letters to a scribe, who did the actual pen work of the letters.

Yet, as his custom, Paul would usually insert some little bit at the end, in his own handwriting, to show that the letter was actually from him.

Even in his day, Paul had people who were sending bogus letters in his name, and so he typically put his tag in at the end to authenticate that it was from him.

We talked about the large letters ...

They could just be because of Paul's eye disease, that he had to write big.

It could be that he really meant "see how long a letter I have written ..." (though this is by no means his longest letter)

It probably meant that what follows is VERY IMPORTANT, important enough for Paul to write in a little larger print for emphasis.

:12-13  The Real reason for circumcision

Paul now moves on to deal with the real reason why these poor Gentile Galatians have been hounded into thinking that they must become Jews and live under the Law in order to be pleasing to God.

:12  As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised;

fair show - euprosopeo - compound of "good" + "face"; to make a fair show; to please (this is the only occurance in NT)

flesh - Here, I don't think Paul is using the term "flesh" in the sense of the evil sin nature, but is merely using it to describe outward appearances.

These people that are trying to get the Gentile Galatians to all get circumcised and following the Law of Moses are only doing it to make a good impression with their peers.

Living - "Those teachers of yours who are trying to convince you to be circumcised are doing it for just one reason:  so that they can be popular and avoid the persecution they would get if they admitted that the cross of Christ alone can save."

:12  only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.

Why would these teachers be persecuted for the cross of Christ?

Because salvation through the cross of Jesus caused big problems to the Jewish mind.

Paul said:

1Co 1:23  But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; (AV)

To the Jewish mind, salvation is something you achieve through your own good works, through your own keeping of the cross.

If these teachers taught what they should, that salvation is only through Jesus paying for our sins on the cross, then they would become offensive to their Jewish brothers who weren't believers.

And they in turn, like Paul, would be persecuted for the cross of Christ.

So, rather than being offensive to their unbelieving Jewish brothers, they taught that the Gentiles had to become circumcised, that they in effect had to become Jews in order to be pleasing to God.

:13  For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law;

These teachers who were demanding to have all the Gentiles be circumcised were unable themselves to keep the law.

Paul has already made the point that if you try to keep the Law, you'll only fail, and come under the curse of the Law:

Gal 3:10-11  For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. 11  But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

When the early church met (possibly only a year or two before this letter was written) to discuss the issue of whether the Gentiles should be circumcised ...

Acts 15:6-11  And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7  And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8  And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9  And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10  Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11  But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

These teachers were trying to get the Gentiles to sign up for the Law, but they themselves weren't even keeping the Law.

Don't you just hate it when somebody tells you, "Do as I say, but not as I do"?

:13  but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.

Here's the bottom line as to why these people were being forced to become circumcised.

These Judaizers were out for numbers.

They want to "glory in your flesh".

It's kind of like the old WWII flying aces, who would paint little pictures of the planes they'd shot down in battle.

Only instead of pictures of enemy aircraft, it was the circumcised flesh of the Galatians they were glorying in.

They didn't care for the Galatians, they only cared for a few more notches on their Bibles.

Have you ever been in a ministry where you get the impression that all the leaders care about are large numbers of people coming, and large amounts of money going into the offering?

That's what was behind these Judaizers.


Bad shepherds.

God is concerned that those who take care of His flock do it in the right way.

He gave this message to Ezekiel:

Eze 34:1-6  And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2  Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?

Just like these Judaizers, the bad shepherds in Israel were only concerned about themselves and what they received, not about the sheep.

Who might we be talking about?

Pastors, those in any kind of ministry over people, Sunday School teachers, even parents and their children!

3  Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. 4  The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.

We see a kind of prescription for being a bad shepherd:

1) Eating the fat

The fat was the "best", it was the part of the offering that always was to go to God.

It's kind of like a person who wants praise and glory for their ministering.

Praise and glory belong to God, and He won't share His glory with anybody.

1Co 1:29  That no flesh should glory in his presence. (AV)

2) Clothe you with wool

That's what the sheep produce, and the bad shepherd is only concerned about what he gets from others, not what he gives.

A bad shepherd

3)  ye kill them that are fed

When a person has been walking properly in the Lord, a bad shepherd's ministry will wipe them out.

4) ye feed not the flock

The people aren't being fed with the Word of God, at least not by the bad shepherd.

They may be given lots of ideas and gimmicks, but nothing solid from God's Word.

5) The diseased have ye not strengthened

The next five things are all kind of in one category, the caring ministries.

A bad shepherd isn't going to take time to care for the sick and the hurting, or the ones who've wandered astray.

After all, these are non-productive members of the church!  Better to lose them and make room for people who tithe!

6)  with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them

A last trademark of a bad shepherd is that he has to exercise his authority to keep the flock in line.

He doesn't lead the flock, he has to beat them to keep them in line.

The results of a bad shepherd -

5  And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. 6  My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.

That's what happens with a bad shepherd, the sheep are scattered.

Peter teaches us how to be the opposite of a bad shepherd:

(1 Pet 5:2-4 KJV)  Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; {3} Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. {4} And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

We are to feed the flock.

We are to do it willingly.

We are not to do it for the sake of money or profit.

We are not to lord it over people.

We are to be examples for others to follow.

:14  But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,

God forbid - lit, "may it never be"

glory - or, "boast"

Paul wasn't boasting about the number of people he saw converted, or the number of churches he helped to start.


True values.

What is really important in your life?

Is it getting a new car?

Is it getting a promotion at work?

Is it being "successful" in your work or ministry?

All that Paul could boast about was the cross of Christ.

The bottom line is that the things WE do aren't really all that important in the light of eternity.

The only thing that really matters is that Jesus died on the cross for us.

And in doing that He paid for our sins, and made us right with God.

That's all that matters.

We need to learn to get our eyes off of what we're doing, and back onto what God's doing.

Success isn't about getting people to follow you.

Success is all about getting people to follow Jesus.

Success isn't all about how many people you helped.

Success is seeing others learn to go to Jesus and trust Him for themselves.

All that's important is keeping our eyes on the cross.

That's our only real source of hope.


In World Aflame Billy Graham told of a hill overlooking the harbor of Macao on the south coast of China. Portuguese settlers once built a massive cathedral on the hill. But a typhoon proved stronger than the work of human hands, and the building fell some centuries ago. The building fell in ruins except for the front wall. High on the top of that jutting wall, challenging the elements down through the years, is a great bronze cross. In 1825 Sir John Bowring was shipwrecked near there. Clinging to the wreckage of his ship, at long last he caught sight of that great cross, which showed him where he could find safety. This dramatic rescue moved him to write those words familiar to millions:

 In the cross of Christ I glory,

 Towering o'er the wrecks of time;

 All the light of sacred story,

 Gathers round its head sublime.

:14  by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

It's at the cross that we experience deliverance from the "world".

We talked this morning about what the term "the world" means.

It describes an invisible, evil system, directed by Satan, and aimed at leading you into sin and away from God.

John talks about it in his epistle:

(1 John 2:16 KJV)  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

1)  The lust of the flesh

The "lust of the flesh" refers to how our own, internal sin nature has a desire to go out and do what's wrong.

2)  The lust of the eyes

The desires to do sinful things that come about when we get input from outside ourselves.

3)  The pride of life

The "pride of life" is that attitude that says that it doesn't need God.


Victory comes through death.

Part of the answer to gaining victory over the world and it's lusts is learning to be crucified with Christ.

We can't "cast out" the lusts of our flesh, but we can learn to die to them.

And that's where the cross comes in.

Somehow, mystically, when Jesus died on the cross, I need to realize that I was there, a part of it, and I died to. (Rom.6)

(Rom 6:7 KJV)  For he that is dead is freed from sin.

:15  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

The bottom line, is that all that matters is whether or not you are a new creation through Jesus Christ.

Because it's only what Jesus has done for us that matters to God.

(2 Cor 5:17 KJV)  Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

:16  And as many as walk according to this rule,

As many as learn that all that's important is whether or not you've been made new in Jesus Christ ...

:16  peace be on them, and mercy,


Peace and mercy come from trusting Jesus.

It's when you learn to lay aside the burden of the Law, and feeling like you have to measure up to God's standards in order to please Him, that you finally experience peace and mercy.

When you finally give up trying to please God on your own, and realize that you can only please God by trusting in Jesus' payment for you on the cross, then the peace comes.

Otherwise, you're a nervous wreck, always worrying whether or not you're going to be pleasing to God or not.the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

The truth is, without Jesus you can NEVER be pleasing to God.

It's only what Jesus has done FOR YOU that can please God.


Lifeguards can only help a drowning person when they stop fighting, and allow the lifeguard to rescue them.

When you stop trying to save yourself, and learn to depend upon God's help, then you find peace and mercy.

:16  upon the Israel of God.

He's talking about those who by birth are Jews, but have learned that their salvation isn't based upon works, but upon faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul says:

(Rom 2:28-29 KJV)  For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: {29} But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

These too have peace and mercy.

:17  for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.

Paul's bodily marks that counted to him weren't those of his circumcision, but those that came from persecution.

:18  the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Paul ends the letter with the appropriate word - grace.

Grace is what God has done for us, what God has given to us, even though we didn't deserve it.

The Galatians had been duped into thinking that God was pleased if they became circumcised, and tried to do good works.

But in the end, all that really counts is grace.

All that really counts is what God has done for us, not what we can do for him.

When we learn to trust in that, we have peace and mercy.