Do you really think God needs your foreskin?
How’s that for an opening line. Do you really think God needs your foreskin? Paul doesn’t say it right out of the gate, but, critically, that really is what he’s after in Galatians. In fact, he’ll get so worked up later in this letter that he’ll cry in frustration, I wish those who unsettle you would go all the way and emasculate themselves! (Gal. 5:12). So what was going on here? Why is Paul so worked up?
Galatia was a region, not a city. Paul knew the congregations there well. Galatians is one of the earliest epistles, or letters. It shows something, then, that already in this, one of the earliest epistles, Paul begins with a furious defense of the Gospel. This is how quickly things can go wrong, how prone we are to turn back to the Law for what it can’t give, not because it isn’t good and salutary, but because we aren’t.
Soon after Paul left Galatia, men called Judaizers had disturbed the congregation. Who were Judaizers? Judaizers came and preached that Jesus was great, the Gospel was great, but it wasn’t enough. The Gentiles coming into the church needed to do something. The Gospel did a lot, but it wasn’t enough. There was something more for the Gentiles to add and the Jews to maintain. They needed to be circumcised. They needed to keep at least some of the old, Mosaic Law—the Law fulfilled and abrogated in Christ. The Gentiles needed to be like the Jews in certain ways, from circumcision to their diet, and the Jews needed to stay that way, even after Christ. This was the message of the Judaizers: Jesus +, the Gospel and. I tell you, this is why, if hell didn’t already exist, we would create it. We are determined to insert ourselves into redemption and, thus, undo it.
“This was the message of the Judaizers: Jesus +, the Gospel and.”
Do you really think God needs your foreskin? Well, do you? Maybe it’s not your foreskin. Maybe it’s something else. What do you think God needs that you have or can give Him? Your heart? What is He supposed to do with that? No, He gives you a new one. Do you really think God needs your foreskin, or whatever else it might be? If you think that, you would be better off cutting the whole thing off, whatever it might be. Paul has no time for Jesus +, for Gospel and.
Paul is resolute. Everything is at stake. Jesus is enough or nothing is enough. Salvation is a gift or no one will have it. Anything more is death in the pot, it ruins the whole thing, turns the crucifix into mere decoration, an empty gesture. Enough is enough.
Paul wasn’t one to brag. He was quicker to confess his faults and weaknesses. But he does pull his credentials here. He is Paul, an apostle, not from man, nor through a man, but through Jesus Christ. To what end? Grace and peace he says, from God our Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, who rescues us from this present evil age, indeed, from ourselves.
What is grace? It’s gift. It’s how God sees you, favor. When we say in the benediction, “The LORD make His face shine on you,” grace is what we mean. Grace is how God looks on you in love—undeserved love, and even more amazing for that reason. It’s how He sees you, in mercy, through Jesus, robed in His righteousness. Luther closed the theological theses of his Heidelberg Disputation like this: “The love God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it,” and you are God’s new creation.
“When we say in the benediction, “The LORD make His face shine on you,” grace is what we mean.”
What is peace? Peace is the forgiveness of sins. It restores a broken relationship. It unites us to God in Christ. It makes us whole, enough.
These were God’s great gifts to Paul. These were Paul’s gifts to the Galatians, from God. Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, indeed, even from ourselves (1:3).
And then it all went wrong. The Galatians were bewitched, easily distracted, confused, misled. Some came with another Gospel, which is no Gospel at all because there is only one Gospel. Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach any Gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be damned! (1:8). Paul means business. He’s serious. Do you really think God needs your foreskin, or anything else, anything more than His Son? Do you really think Jesus isn’t enough, the crucifixion mere decoration or an empty gesture?
“There is no Jesus +, no gospel and. Adding anything is subtracting from enough, something less than forgiveness and salvation. ”
We just had the church’s annual celebration of the Reformation. This is not a celebration of Luther. Luther would be abhorred. No, it’s a celebration of Christ, Christ for us. This is what the Reformation was about. Jesus is enough or nothing is. There is no Jesus +, no gospel and. Adding anything is subtracting from enough, something less than forgiveness and salvation.
Why is Paul so upset? Because he loves the Galatians. And I love you, as Christ loves us all. Nothing you have, nothing you do, is enough. God doesn’t need it. He wants you, and He has bought you at the prices of His own love, because He loves you, because He does, and that is enough. Jesus is enough. The Gospel is enough. Indeed, it’s everything. So rejoice, because He is yours, and it is yours, and all is yours in Him.
Do you really think God needs your foreskin? Of course, He doesn’t. Whatever has clouded the Gospel in your thinking and life, whatever has confused this one-way relationship of grace, whatever has distracted you, cut it off. It’s not about what God needs. It’s about what you need, so receive it. As a called servant of Christ, and by His authority, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. And that is enough.