As we have seen in the earlier verses, the Jewish leaders have been trying to convince the new converts to return to the old Jewish traditions. Paul is making the point here that they need to consider the hardships and severity of the law before they turn back to it. He is using the birth of Issac and Ishmael to demonstrate the difference in natural and spiritual things. Those that return to worldly things (the natural Jerusalem) are still in slavery to those things. But since Issac was born to fulfill a divine promise, there is now a choice that we can make. We can follow the fleshly lineage and remain slaves or we can follow the divine lineage, accept Jesus and become citizens of the Jerusalem which is above. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.–Phil. 3:20 (NIV) But one day, the New Jerusalem will come down to earth and all those that have chosen the divine lineage (Jesus) will be citizens of the New Jerusalem. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband—Rev.21:2 (NIV)
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous
11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!
12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 14 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. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to 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 and sisters. Amen.—Gal. 6:11-18 (NIV)
Paul is still troubled by the religious leaders trying to get the new converts circumcised. They are only trying to impress others by an outward physical manifestation of their obedience to the law. If the people know they have been circumcised then they will assume that they still adhere to the tenets of the Old Testament law. This will keep the leaders and other non-believers from persecuting them. Since they didn’t keep the other points of the law, it really wasn’t about keeping the law at all. It was just something for the flesh to boast about.
Under the new covenant of grace, circumcision has no meaning. The only thing that matters is that now we are new creations. We must die daily and be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Our outward appearance is temporary and decaying daily. Once we shed this old tent, we will be like Jesus! 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.—1 John 3:2,3 (NIV)
1. And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.–Romans 12:1,2 (NLT)
We were created in God’s image and then sin entered into the equation. Sin has taken us from what God created us to be into a fallen state. This was no surprise to God, He had a plan in place before the foundations of the world were laid. When we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we become a new creation. It is not an instant change, it is a process that takes the rest of our lives to complete. I am reminded of a kids’ song that says it very well in a way that is easy to remember: He’s still working on me to make me what I really ought to be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars,
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be, He’s still working on me.
If you are planning to wait until you are perfect before witnessing to those around you, you will never be of any use to the Kingdom. So when satan shoots his fiery darts at you and tries to discourage you, just sing this chorus to him. It will remind satan (and you) that you are God’s child and he has no authority in your life. God knows we aren’t perfect, but He will bless our persistence.
1. I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual[b] worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.[d] 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.-Romans 12:1-3 (NRSV)
Yesterday, I mentioned being obedient unto death because of our love for Jesus. God only requires obedience to that point for a few of His children. But all of us should want to be living sacrifices for Jesus. That requires us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. In other words, allowing God’s Holy Spirit to change our thought patterns and habits. This can only happen through the grace of God. We should never think of ourselves as worthless, after all, Christ died for us. But, at the same time, we should never think of ourselves as better than others. Jesus considered them worthy of His death as well. We all say, “O, I don’t think of myself as better than……”. But our thoughts lead to our actions and our actions often betray us and show the world what we are really thinking.