*This is part 2 of 3 on Galatians 5:1-6*
John Piper points out in Galatians 5 that there is a clue for how to live in freedom and obey verse one. Piper says, "The key to freedom is whether we have to do the work ourselves to escape punishment, or whether our Father comes down to be with us and help us", which will be seen in Gal. 5:2-5. In verses 2-4 we see Paul giving a stern warning to the Galatians, pointing out that if you are committed to one part of the law then you better plan on keeping all of the law, and that through the use of the law you have "cut" yourself off from the grace of Christ.
In verses 2 and 3 Paul shows the Galatians that circumcision will not benefit them at all. The only thing that it will do for them is bound them to obey the entire law. Most peoples natural reaction here is that circumcision is what displeases God so in order to please God I will just avoid circumcision and be obedient in the eyes of God. But in reality what often times happens is you end up turning non-circumcision into the same thing as circumcision. Namely, that it becomes a work that you think you can do in order to earn God's favor.
You see the point of these two verses is not that the act of circumcision is wrong, but that any act that is used as a means to receive justification from God is wrong. In this story the Judaizers had sneaked their way into the church and saw something good, but started teaching the people that they had only received part of it and that they needed something else, circumcision, to receive the full blessing of God.
This really boils down to the basic doctrine of salvation. It is not possible to acknowledge that by Christ alone you are saved and then turn to something else as a supplement to your salvation. The two cannot go together. Paul here is constantly pointing away from circumcision and to Jesus because it is by him alone that you are saved.
I love in verse four how Paul tells them if they are going to require getting a little skin cut off that they mine as well cut off the whole thing, this is hilarious! I keep imagining a church in a modern setting having a time of response and you get in a room with a counselor who is walking you through the gospel and you are ready to respond and the counselor says, "Praise God, now drop your pants so we can cut part of your manhood off!" I don't believe that there would be many men professing Christ if that was part of the requirements.
Now this brings me back to the question in my post yesterday, what might you be adding as means to your salvation? The reason I ask this is because I believe at some point we have all done this in some way. For example there are many traditions that will tell you that you cannot truly be saved apart from receiving baptism, particularly by immersion. Others will require you to speak in tongues as evidence of salvation. Yet others will tell you that if you did not come to Christ by saying these certain words or in their tradition or denomination that you truly have not been saved.
Do you see my point? We attempt to add so much to salvation when the truth of the matter is that in Christ alone we can have it, but we treat it as it is too good to be true so we try to add all sorts of things. None of it is necessary for salvation and all it is really silly!