|Series Theme: Meditations in Galatians|
Meditation No. 35
Meditation Title: A New Creation
Gal 6:15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.
We considered in the previous meditation Paul coming to the point where he declares, “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.” (v.14) and we looked at a number of other verses where Paul essentially says, “Everything else is a load of irrelevant rubbish. All that is important is that I know I am saved by the finished work of my Saviour, Jesus Christ, on the Cross at Calvary.” Now he adds, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” (v.15) Look, he says, circumcision is irrelevant, whether you are or not has no influence in respect of you receiving Christ's salvation. The important thing, he says, is whether or not you are a new creation.
Perhaps this is so obvious for some of us that we have lost the significance of this. Perhaps for others we've never really seen it. The point of this letter to the Galatians is that just being good doesn't do it! You can work as hard as you like at being a nice person or even a religious person, but that doesn't cut any ice with God! God isn't looking for self-centred goodness from you. The goodness He wants is goodness that flows out of your living relationship with Jesus Christ through the Spirit. Now that may be devastating news to some really nice, respectable people, but your respectability is NOT what God is looking for. He looks for your simple belief in the fact that Jesus died for you on the Cross at Calvary, and then that you let Him lead you.
WHEN you come to that place of belief, you will surrender all your self-efforts and acknowledge and confess that you cannot be perfect, and in reality you fail and therefore need God's forgiveness. When you do that, God reaches out, declares you forgiven and places His own Holy Spirit within you. It is at that point you become this ‘new creation' that Paul talks about. As he said to the Corinthians, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17)
This conforms to John's teaching as he records in his Gospel, “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.” (Jn 1:12,13) and then later he recorded Jesus saying, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again…. I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” (Jn 3:3). Water referred to natural birth and Spirit referred to the new birth or new life imparted by God when we surrender to Him on the basis of what Jesus has achieved on the Cross for us.
The apostle James knew the same thing when he wrote: “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.” (Jas 1:18). Similarly the apostle Peter when he wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope.” (1 Pet 1:3). This same truth, we have just seen, was conveyed by all four of these apostles. It is a crucial truth at the heart of the Christian Faith. It confirms the truth of this letter, that we are saved not by being good, but we are saved by the power of God and the work of Christ on the Cross – to become good!
As he starts to bring this letter to an end, Paul writes, “Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.” (v.16). The rule? The rule is what he has just declared, that salvation is about being born again, about being made a new creation by God, on the basis of the work of Christ on the Cross. So, he says, as you receive and experience this truth, may you know the peace of God that He brings and realise His mercy that is granted to you. Mercy is God's compassionate giving up His legal right to punish you for no other reason than He is compassionate, and He does it because Jesus has died to take your sin and guilt and punishment. God didn't have to do this. He could have left us to die, separated from Him for eternity, but in His compassion for us, the godhead planned the work of the Cross to redeem us. How wonderful. This work brings about a new people, the Israel of God, a new nation, worldwide, of Jew and Gentile.
He continues with a plea: “Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” (v.17). He's been getting trouble from the Jewish believers; that's what this letter has all been about. Can we end this, he is saying, can you now see the truth and can this upset be put in the past? The ‘marks of Jesus'? They are the things that mark him out – beatings, imprisonment, and persecution. These mark him out as Christ's servant. He concludes: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen”. i.e. may you all know the good provision of blessing and ability to live for Christ.
Thus we come to end of this letter. The message has been clear and has come through many times: salvation is through Christ alone, not through our trying to be good, not by trying to keep the rules. It is a gift of God. Receive it and rejoice in it!