TODAY’S New Testament Epistle reading in the Prayer Book braces Christian people for the reality that they will suffer persecution if they are faithful to Christ.
The reading is from the conclusion of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Christians in the Roman province of Galatia (now part of central Turkey):
‘Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand. As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
‘For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen’ (Galatians 6v11-18 – King James Version).
Paul wrote to the Galatians in around AD 48, probably from his base in Syrian Antioch. His letter followed his first missionary journey in which he preached the gospel in four Galatian cities; Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. But soon after he returned to Syria the new converts became the target for a deviant version of the Christian message which insisted that circumcision was essential for salvation. Paul wrote his letter to counter that serious theological error.
Paul argued that Christ’s death on the cross had abolished the need for circumcision as the mark of belonging to the chosen people of God. Faith in the crucified Jesus Christ was the new requirement for membership of God’s people in a world where humanity was generally living in sinful rebellion against him, hence Paul’s magnificent declaration: ‘But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.’
Read it all in The Conservative Woman