Galatians 6:15-16 15For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
This is the application for the Galatians of the principle and personal example Paul just gave in v. 14. The Galatians had gotten caught up in trivial matters, particularly circumcision and the struggle to be self-righteous by obeying the law. Circumcision has no value for spiritual matters. It does not make a person righteous. Plus, it leaves out half the population (females). Paul has already stated that the gospel is inclusive of all people (Galatians 3:28). The Galatians were on a meaningless and futile path. Legalism in all of its forms only creates problems, like a sense of self-righteousness, and barriers with “outsiders” who are not circumcised. Circumcision was representative of the wall between Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:11-16).
What matters is a new creation. Jesus brings a new life to those who trust in him (2 Corinthians 5:17). The old ways of the flesh and pride are removed and replaced by love. Love that is empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit transforms all of life. The way of the cross is the way of self-sacrificial love. This is where God’s power is made real in a person’s life. The key to new creation is obedient faith. This obedience is not a matter of works or effort to look good before God but done out of love to God and love to others, both friends and enemies. New creation in the context of the letter to the Galatians results in the fruit of the Spirit as a person walks in obedience to the leading of the Spirit. It is more than a suppression of the flesh but a full replacement of the distorted desires and a sanctification of the flesh. No longer are the members of our bodies held as slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness which leads to holiness, resulting in eternal life (Romans 6:22).
Paul offers a final blessing in v. 16. Peace and mercy rests upon those who understand the truth of the creative power of the gospel. Deep, inner, emotional, and intellectual peace results when we allow God’s grace to change our worldview and values. We end the struggle and deception of trying to keep the law and allow the Holy Spirit to right God’s laws on our hearts. Our nature changes so that obedience to the law becomes our new nature. Mercy is how we experience new creation in everyday life. It is experienced as God’s gracious forgiveness and guidance to overcome temptations. We realize that we cannot experience victory without this mercy.
This blessing is for both the Gentiles of Galatia and the Israel of God. What Paul means by this last phrase is not clear. It could refer to ethnic Jews, but the letter to the Romans 9-11, which has many similar themes to Galatians, suggests that “Israel” is a richer term than simply ethnic Jews but all who have true faith in God’s Messiah. Since Paul has been referring to circumcision, “Israel” here may be someplace in the middle of these two ideas. The Israel of God are the people of the promise made to Abraham who have received the law and the prophets. The blessing of peace and mercy is for those who believe in Jesus. Paul is hoping here that the Israel of God will come to participate in this blessing, that the barrier between Jews and Gentiles will be removed and there will be unity as people put their faith in Christ.
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