After explaining that believers were made free from the bondage of the law by Christ, Paul pressed on to argue that as free children of God, we should not allow ourselves to be enslaved again by what he calls “the yoke of bondage.” With that claim on the table, Paul continues with a few more reasons why law following is inadequate when compared to Divine grace receiving.
After Abraham had made a covenant with God, a while later, God told Abraham that there was a physical sign that he and his descendants must take upon themselves, circumcision. Now, it is important to remember that God declared Abraham as righteous, in Genesis 15, before God told Abraham to circumcise his whole family and his descendants, in Genesis 17. This chronology is vitally important.
Centuries later, as Moses went to lead the Jews out of slavery in Egypt, he reminded them that as descendants of Abraham, they were to be circumcised. A few months later as Moses received the law, it was reiterated that those who were God’s people must follow this physical sign of relationship with him. Those, like the Judaizers in the Galatian church, who sought to follow the law perfectly to receive the favor of God used this staple sign of the law, circumcision, as the baseline for obedience to the law.
What the Judaizers were saying to the Galatian believers was that they not only had to put their faith in Jesus, but they also had to take upon themselves this physical sign before God would accept them. In Romans 4, Paul answers this argument by pointing out what we have already seen, Abraham was accepted by God before he ever took the physical sign of circumcision. To say that God extended His grace for the merit of any work (like circumcision) was inconsistent with the biblical, historical account of God’s relationship with Abraham. Abraham had found acceptance, apart from circumcision.
The Judaizers who came into the church arguing for law-following, and even for the believers to be circumcised, were not following the truth of the Bible. Paul’s leading argument against them was that if they were counting on anything in addition to Christ, they were not truly trusting in Christ. To supplement Christ was to subvert the work of Christ. Paul says it very plainly with the statement, “if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.” In essence, Paul was saying that to rely on anything in addition to Jesus was to not truly rely on Jesus. Without faith in Christ, then the death of Christ was for no purpose, and the righteousness offered through Christ is not able to be received. Paul’s conclusion then is that “Christ is become of no effect unto you,” and furthermore, you have lost sight of what grace really means.
Food For Thought: What does Paul mean by the phrase, “If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing”?