Paul now closes his letter by returning to his main theme, namely, the problem of the false teachers among the Galatian churches. He reminds the Galatians of the false teacher’s moral and ethical bankruptcy. He reminds them that he is not conforming to the worldly, rule-keeping religious standards, but to the truth of the work of Jesus and His crucifixion. He reminds them that he is not beholden to popular opinion. And finally, he reminds the churches that it is not about compliance with rules or practices but a genuine, spiritual life. This is basically a summary of his entire argument in this letter.
See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. (Gal 6:11-16)
Paul wants the Galatians to be crystal clear in understanding the motives of these false teachers that are trying to convince the Galatians to follow the Jewish law. He says that they had two motives for pushing circumcision. First, just to look good in front of the people by exerting their influence and getting people to do what they said. And second, to avoid being persecuted, presumably by the Jewish leaders, for preaching the Cross. Paul says that they are interested in the popularity and influence they can attain by convincing the Galatians to be circumcised. Their “faith” is shallow and for show only. And they are being hypocritical because they don’t even follow their own teaching. They don’t follow all the Jewish law. They only want to be popular, known, influential.
But there’s a problem with wanting to be popular, which is just as true now as it was in Paul’s time, in order to maintain that popularity you have to keep the people happy and so you twist the gospel instead of proclaiming the gospel of truth. We make our own popularity or comfort or fame contingent on preaching a watered down, easy-to-swallow gospel that makes people feel good about themselves or that has some “secret” principle that guarantees God’s blessing.
Today it might even be worse given our access to all the various media. Modern “false teachers” use media to give people what they want to hear in exchange for a multi-media empire, fame and fortune. They peddle their influence on TV, radio and internet to get vulnerable people to follow them blindly. They, like the ancient false teachers, do it to exert influence, avoid the truth of the gospel and be able to boast in the number of their disciples or size of their building.
Paul says that his focus is on what Christ has done and not on what we do. The false teachers focused on how important, superior or influential they were. Paul would have none of that. His only motivation was to see Jesus front and center, glorified, and not himself. He understood that public opinion is fickle. Public opinion is irrelevant. The gospel is too important to pervert in order to appeal to public opinion. The gospel is the only means by which people can be saved. It is not subject to public opinion. So he declares that the world is dead to him and he dead to the world. He is not subject to its values, priorities, goals, ethics or beliefs. The world has nothing to offer him and, likewise, it has nothing to offer us. Being dead to the world has to do with our mindset. Are we getting our values, priorities, status or worth from the world? Then we are captive to the world. If we care for none of the world’s siren song calling to us and only take our direction from the Spirit then we are dead to the world and the world dead to us.
Paul finishes by making a promise: we can experience peace and mercy if we consistently walk “by this rule;” if we consistently focus on true faith, the new birth, not on external behavior or conformance to certain rules. In other words, Paul alludes to what he said earlier – “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” It’s always about living our lives in step with the Spirit.