Notice what large letters I am using while writing these closing words myself.
The normal practice was for teachers to dictate letters to a scribe. With Paul’s eye trouble, that may have been especially necessary for him. What this signifies is that what follows is a personal postscript to the letter—Paul’s personal note to his friends.
Those who are trying to force you to be circumcised are concerned about the opinion of others. They’re seeking to avoid persecution for teaching that only the cross of Jesus our Messiah can save. Plus, those who advocate circumcision don’t keep the whole law themselves. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast about it and claim you as their disciples.
You can hear the friendly tone of a father to his beloved children—of a teachers to his cherished students. He has explained the concepts already. This is personal advice on the order of Jesus’ explanations of the parables to his disciples. Paul reveals some of himself here.
Only the Cross…can save
First Paul mentions the disease rampant in the US today: avoiding persecution for teaching Jesus is the only way. That is clearly not politically correct at this time.
Second we see his core point, our salvation comes from the blood shed on the cross. The fact that Jesus is the King of kings would be meaningless to us if He hadn’t purchased our salvation on the cross.
I will never brag about anything except the cross of our Lord & Messiah, Jesus. Because of his cross, the world been killed to me, and as far as the world is concerned I am dead. It doesn’t matter if you are circumcised or not. All that matters is that you are reborn.
We can never forget the centrality of the cross. This is the source of power to the church. This is the act of obedience performed by our Lord. This is the legal device God used to set us free.
More than that the cross is the device the Lord used to break the power of sin in our lives and to set us free from the control of the world.
We access this by being born of God. Our rebirth is made possible by the cross, and this is where the possibility of our life in Him comes from. Nothing else matters.
All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them! [The Message]
Paul makes a radical shift here by stating that reborn believers are the true Israel. I do not believe this releases us from our support of the Jews. Historically, those who quit supporting the Jews are soon in trouble. But it certainly puts the Jews in a bad position with the Lord. Jews are His chosen people, but they will go to Hell if they do not accept Jesus and the reality of His Cross. Rejecting the Messiah is a serious matter. But that is between them and the Lord.
From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
No one knows for sure what this means. I can see how some would believe that Jesus showed stigmata [the marks of the cross: scars of the nails and lance]. I don’t believe that. The assumption by some translators is that he is referring to the scars from his beatings, imprisonments, and so on. That might be it, but there is no way to be sure as the witnesses are all long gone. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the record the Lord has saved for us of Paul’s writings and teachings. And that only matters because the Holy Spirit commonly uses them to show us how the Kingdom of God works while we are still here in the flesh.
The grace of our Lord Jesus the Messiah be with your spirit, brothers & sisters. Amen.
A formalized blessing of goodbye. The interesting turn of phrase is that the grace be with our spirit. I’m not sure, but this seems to hint that the modern American obsession with physical, material blessing was not part of Paul’s paradigm. What do you think?