Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America

Thursday after the Tenth Sunday after Trinity Sunday

Posted on August 9, 2018 by Pastor Dulas under Devotions
2 Comments

Scripture: Galatians 5:1-15 (NKJV)

5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.

7 You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is. 11 And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased. 12 I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!

13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!

Devotion

The Law tells us what we are to do. The Gospel tells us what God does for us. The Law requires perfect obedience to every command, and threatens transgressors with condemnation and wrath. The Gospel reveals Christ to us, who became an accursed one in our place, dying upon the cross for our transgressions against the Law. The Law tells us what we are to do. The Gospel shows us what Christ does for us. The Law and the Gospel are two separate doctrines and cannot be mixed together.

By consenting to be circumcised, the Galatians were mixing Law and Gospel. Paul has stern words for those who would confuse these two chief doctrines of Scripture. “If you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.” Why? Because every man who becomes circumcised is a debtor to keep the whole Law. Circumcision is the gateway into the entire Law. If you are circumcised you must perform all of it.

God does not declare sinners righteous by works of the Law, but by faith in God’s grace and Christ’s merits. Faith alone justifies sinners so that no work of the Law is required, just as Abraham was counted righteous by faith in God’s promise. The faith that justifies then works through love and begins to obey the Law by works of love done for our neighbor. Our good works are not to gain righteousness apart from faith, but done from a willing, grateful, and loving spirit.

We pray: O God, who declarest Thine almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity, mercifully grant unto us such a measure of Thy grace that we, running the way of Thy commandments, may obtain Thy gracious promises and be made partakers of Thy heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Joseph Knopick on August 9, 2018

Are there not times that Law still holds when dealing with Sin, or is this not the case in this commentary?

Rev. Stefanski on August 10, 2018

A quick note, first: for purposes of our print edition, there is a hard maximum of 300 words per devotion—including the prayer. This often necessitates saying less than our writers would wish!

Nonetheless, this sentence speaks to your question: "The faith that justifies then works through love and begins to obey the Law by works of love done for our neighbor." In this way, the Law is still spoken against sin; sinning is the opposite of what justifying faith works, so that breaking of the Law must be taken very seriously and the Christian who sins must be directed back to the Throne of Grace.

The point in this devotion, though, and the text upon which it is based, is that Circumcision was to point to the coming of Christ from Abraham's line, but now that it was fulfilled, receiving circumcision for a religious purpose would just be a keeping of the already-fulfilled Law as if it had not been fulfilled, which is to say, as if the whole Law had not been fulfilled and we, by our doing of the Law, would thereby find salvation. These Galatians need to confess that their salvation is purely through Christ's fulfillment of the Law and His atoning for their sin, so that while their reborn hearts are now set to keep the Moral Law to the glory of God and to the good of their neighbor, that part of the Law that was simply prophetic and/or sacramental is not to be practiced as it had been once it is fulfilled, as doing so would be denying its fulfillment. (Thus, Paul has Timothy circumcised specifically and only for the purpose of allowing him to work among those of Jewish heritage without being a stumbling block, but has no need for this to be done to Titus.) Circumcision being done on the first day of a boy's second week (the eighth day) finds parallels in Jesus' rising on the first day of a new week and Baptism's power being reckoned as connected to His resurrection (1 Peter 3, Romans 6:1–14), which Baptism replaces Circumcision as the sacrament of initiation into the Kingdom (Colossians 2:1–12), as was recognized in the early New Testament era and confessed in the making of 8-sided baptismal fonts, etc.

So, the distinction made by St. Paul is two-fold: first, that the works of the Law never saved, none but Jesus ever doing them completely and perfectly in thought and word, as well as deed, but were to be the attributes of those saved by grace through faith in the Christ; second, that there is to be recognized in the Law in what way it was to apply prior to Christ's first coming and after. (On this second part, cf. Luther's treatment of, especially, the Third Commandment and the Ninth and Tenth commandments in the Large Catechism.)

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