Galatians 6:11-18 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. According to the apostle Paul, why did the heretical teachers shun the doctrine of the cross? See verse 12 (printed below)

Those who desire to make a good impression in the flesh, they are the ones who are compelling you to be circumcised—they do so only to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. (Galatians 6:12)

The heretical teachers shunned the doctrine of the cross because they sought to avoid being persecuted on account of the cross of Christ (verse 12b). They would not imitate the apostle Paul as he describes his preaching in Galatians 3:1, “Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was publicly proclaimed to be crucified.” In chapter five verse eleven Paul described himself as being persecuted because of the offense of the cross. The heretical teachers avoided the doctrine of the cross because they wanted to avoid the persecution that it invited.

2. Why do you suppose the preaching of the cross invites persecution? Why is it, do you think, that the cross of Christ is offensive to men?

The cross was the first century equivalent to the electric chair or the gallows: the instrument and the symbol of death, execution, and judgment. To identify the Christ, the Messiah, the Holy One of God, as being the Crucified One was incomprehensible and utterly repulsive to the Jews. How could the Messiah, the Holy One of God, possibly be executed as the vilest of criminals? The only solution to this dilemma was even more unacceptable to the self-righteous man: Christ was not crucified for any crime that He Himself had committed; He was crucified in the place of His people to make atonement for our crimes against God (note Isaiah 53:5-6). This is the solution; but it is a solution that strips us of all self-righteousness, of all reason for confidence in our own goodness and ability to personally meet God’s standard of holiness. It is a solution that forces us to humble ourselves before God and trust in Him alone for our salvation.

3. How does Paul describe his position, and that of every Christian, in verse 14 (printed below?)

But far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by means of which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world (Galatians 6:14)

Paul refuses to boast in anything other than the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is to say, he refuses to place his confidence in himself, his religious heritage, or his own moral endeavors—he places his confidence in the cross of Christ alone. The reason for this lies in the fact that by means of the cross of Christ “the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” When a person believes in Jesus he becomes spiritually united with Christ, participating in His crucifixion. As a result, his soul is delivered from alliance with this present world that is hostile to God and under God’s righteous judgment. Having participated in Christ’s crucifixion, the person also shares in Christ’s resurrection, entering into a new relationship of fellowship with God.

4. What is the one thing that is necessary if we are to have a relationship with God? See verse 15 (printed below)

…neither circumcision means anything nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (Galatians 6:15)

As has been noted, a delegation of heretical teachers made their way to the province of Galatia and were disrupting the churches with their doctrine. They taught that the way to God, the way of salvation, was by means of submitting to the sacrament of circumcision followed by one’s own personal efforts to conform to the law of God (note Acts 15:1,5). The apostle Paul boldly refuted them, firmly asserting, “neither circumcision means anything nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” (Galatians 6:15) That is to say, what is required of a man if he is to be reconciled to God is nothing less than his being made into a new creation. The natural man thinks that all that he needs to make himself acceptable to God is the religious ceremonies of the church and superficial conformity to the law of God; but the Word of God declares that we must be born again (note John 3:3,7). What is required for our salvation is not circumcision (or any other religious ceremony or religious work), but that we be made a new creation. The only way for this to be accomplished is by the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:20).

5. What does Paul say about himself in verse 17 (printed below?) What do you think he means?

Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body. (Galatians 6:17)

In verse 17 the apostle Paul testifies that he bears branded on his body “the marks of Jesus.” In the New Testament era a slave owner would brand his personal mark upon his slave, thus identifying that slave as the personal possession of the master. What are “the marks of Jesus” that Paul bore—and that we as Christians may expect to bear? Most prominently, “the marks of Jesus” would include the ridicule, the scorn, and in some cases the persecution of the world. As Christians, we are to glory in the cross of Christ, even when it means bearing its reproach, remembering all that the cross means for our salvation.