Monday: Boasting in the Flesh

Read Galatians 6:12-13. What is Paul saying in these verses?

Although Paul has hinted previously about the agenda and motivation of his opponents (see Gal. 1:7Gal. 4:17), his remarks in Galatians 6:12-13 are the first explicit comments he makes about his opponents.

Suffering for Christ

Image © Lars Justinen

He describes them as wanting “to make a good showing in the flesh” (ESV). The phrase “a good showing” in Greek literally means to put on “a good face.” In fact, the word for “face” is the same in Greek as the word for an actor’s mask, and this word was even used figuratively to refer to the role played by an actor. In other words, Paul is saying that these people were like actors seeking the approval of an audience. In a culture based on honor and shame, conformity is essential, and those teaching the errors appear to have been seeking to improve their honor rating before their fellow Jews in Galatia and other Jewish Christians back in Jerusalem.

Paul makes an important point about one of their motives — the desire to avoid persecution. Though persecution can certainly be understood in its more dramatic forms involving physical abuse, it can be just as damaging even in its more “mild” forms of harassment and exclusion. Paul and other fanatical zealots in Judea had once carried out the former type (Gal. 1:13), but the latter also had its effect on Christians.

The Jewish religious leaders still had significant political influence in many areas. They had the official sanction of Rome; hence, many Jewish believers were eager to maintain good relations with them. By circumcising Gentiles and teaching them to observe the Torah, the troublemakers in Galatia could find a point of common ground with the local Jews. Not only would this allow them to maintain friendly contact with the synagogues, but they could even strengthen their ties with the Jewish believers in Jerusalem, who had a growing suspicion about the work being done with the Gentiles (Acts 21:20-21). No doubt, too, in one sense their actions could have made their witness to the Jews more effective.

Whatever situation Paul has in mind, his meaning is clear: “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12, NKJV).

Think through the reason these people had for teaching their errors. It sounds pretty reasonable, all things considered. What should this tell us about how even the “best” of motives can lead us astray if we aren’t careful? When was the last time you ended up doing wrong things for the right motives?

5 comment(s) for this post:

  1. Jim Sibert:

    24 Sep 2017
    Yeah, the sunday-keeping churches-saying that the “Jewish” Sabbath is done-away with.
    While it is NOT about the Sabbath, but a relationship with The Christ, that of–Our Salvation, it still begs the point that, If we are trying to get to know someone, and besides doing our due- diligence to get to know that person very well, we ought to most certainly try to “meet that person halfway”, if they make a point of stating their expectations towards their values. Also thus-not only saying, but doing so!
    We ought to try to at least understand those personal values and way of life practices, if not doing them right off! And we should try to understand them at their core.
  2. JohnHerscher:

    25 Sep 2017
    God forbid that I boast in anything but the Cross of Jesus Christ. To me that means, Jesus keep me near the Cross, there’s precious fountian. Free to all, a healing stream, flows from Calvary’s mountain. I am so thankful my father and mother made hymns a major part of my life at an early age.
  3. JC Zielak:

    25 Sep 2017
    We are full of discrepancies! No matter what we think of ourselves, we have nothing that can save us, anyways. Thus, a life of struggle with Christ may be more intelligent than alone! He can help us to carry our own loads! And still give us peace among all the crazy events surrounding us right now… We are at the border to go home. Earth is sick… Men are destroying it. That’s why Jesus is coming soon!
  4. Fred Roberts:

    25 Sep 2017
    The Judaizers in Galatia were adamant for the rite of circumcision, so much so that they were compelling the Gentile Christians to be circumcised. The rite of circumcision was an everlasting ordinance Gen 17:13,14, the disregarding of which could render the member to be “cut off” from the covenant people.

    In John 7:22, 23 at the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles (a required ordinance for the covenant people) Jesus said in effect that the people had placed circumcision as greater in importance than even the Sabbath.

    Both the Judaizers in Christ’s time and the those at the time of Paul’s writing were pushing a specific aspect of the covenant, while disregarding the law. Paul said that not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. Gal 6:12,13.

    This same attitude exists in many today. They denigrate Sunday-keepers, and insist that these people keep the seventh-day Sabbath, so that they can add numbers to their cause, and boast in the flesh. Yet, these do not keep the law, and show the absence of the Spirit of Christ and the attitude of “self-renouncing love.”

    We who have come to know the grace of God should not look at ourselves as better than others who many not hold our persuasion. We should not push “circumcision” or “Sabbath-keeping” or “commandment-keeping” or any other rite until we have presented the gospel in its fullness. Our lives, our deportment, and our attitude should demonstrate the power of the indwelling Christ and the effect of a changed life. People should be able to see that we have been, and are, with Jesus. Acts 4:13. They would come to us asking, what must I do to be saved? Acts 16:30,31; John 6:28,29. Having presented the full gospel and the message of the power of the Holy Spirit, who is the one who changes hearts and minds, the relevant aspects of Christian living will naturally follow.

  5. Margret Mayibeki:

    25 Sep 2017
    God dd not promise us a smooth and easy life here on earth ,our lives maybe very tough but we must knw DAT der is a home for those who persever until the end we may suffer persecution ,but we must knw that God is always on our side its better to walk in the dark with Jesus than alone in day light

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Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons