What does Galatians 5:2 mean?
ESV: Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.
NIV: Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.
NASB: Look! I, Paul, tell you that if you have yourselves circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you.
CSB: Take note! I, Paul, am telling you that if you get yourselves circumcised, Christ will not benefit you at all.
NLT: Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you.
KJV: Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
Verse Commentary:
The Christians in Galatia were listening to false teachers. These Judaizers were telling them that they must add the works of the law to faith in Jesus in order to be truly right with God (Galatians 2:4). Paul has rejected that teaching. Christ has set us free, Paul insists, by buying our way out of slavery to sin. That deal is done. We are justified before God (Galatians 3:25–29). To begin to follow the law of Moses in order to be justified by God is to miss the point of Christianity entirely. Paul has said repeatedly that it amounts to asking God to judge us by our works and not by Jesus' sinless life and death in our place. It makes us a slave to our inescapable sin.

Now Paul reveals that it's even worse than that. To seek God's approval by following the law of Moses makes Christ's death for our sins worthless. More specifically, Paul says that to "accept circumcision" makes Christ of no help to us. This is a dire remark, and one that needs to be carefully understood.

Paul is not saying nobody should ever be circumcised, or that circumcised people cannot be Christians. This comment is specifically given in the context of a group of false teachers, the Judaizers, who pressured new non-Jewish Christians to be circumcised in order to be welcomed into God's family. These Galatian men likely did not know what to do. After all, every Hebrew in the Old Testament got circumcised. Even Jesus was circumcised under the law!

Paul's point is that either salvation is through faith in Christ alone, or it is through circumcision and the law. It cannot be both. Any addition of works, of any kind, is not the same as a gospel of salvation by grace through faith (Romans 11:6). To choose one is to reject the other. To choose circumcision, for the purpose of "making sure" you are saved is to reject faith in Christ as the only sufficient payment for sin.
Verse Context:
Galatians 5:1–15 focuses on what those in Christ should do with our freedom in Christ. First, we must guard it, especially from those who would pressure us to follow the law. Paul was confident the Galatians would resist the one leading them in the wrong direction. Paul also warns us not to waste our freedom in Christ to selfishly serve ourselves instead of serving each other in love. The entire law is fulfilled in that one word: love. Those who serve themselves, though, will always end up in conflict with each other.
Chapter Summary:
Those who trust in Christ have been set free. Paul's readers were in danger of wasting that freedom, by veering off in one of two directions. On the one hand, false teachers were pressuring them into circumcision in order to be sure of being right with God. On the other hand, freedom can also be squandered on serving only our sinful desires instead of investing it through serving others in love. God's Spirit gives us the power to do that when we let Him lead us. Life in the Spirit bears powerful and positive fruit in a Christian's life.
Chapter Context:
Galatians 3—4 focused on theology. Galatians 5—6 focus on how Christians should live in response to those truths. In short, we must resist being dragged away from the freedom we have in Christ to follow the law. We must also resist wasting our freedom on serving our sinful desires instead of serving others in love. We can do this by the power of God's Spirit with us. When we give Him the lead, powerful, positive characteristics show up in us. Galatians 6 will show how to use those characteristics to serve each other.
Book Summary:
Galatians is sometimes called “a short Romans” for its similar themes of justification and sanctification through faith. A group of Christians known as “Judaizers” were preaching a gospel of legalism, rather than grace. Paul’s main purpose in writing the letter to the Galatians was to reiterate the true nature of the gospel: we are justified (made righteous) and sanctified (made more Christlike) through our faith in Jesus Christ alone. This letter was probably written shortly before the church elders in Jerusalem issued their official refutation of the Judaizers, commonly called the Jerusalem Council.
Accessed 4/22/2024 3:26:18 PM
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