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The Scandal of the Cross

July 18, 2006

Here’s a verse I read this morning:

Galatians 5:11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense [skandalon] of the cross has been removed.

What is the scandal of the cross?  It is something that Paul could have avoided if he had just preached circumcision.  Paul was persecuted by the Jews because he was telling people to forsake the law of Moses (see Acts 21:21).  If he had just told the Jews who came to faith in Jesus to keep circumcising their kids, he could have avoided a lot of persecution.  So why didn’t he do this?  Why, for the sake of his witness to the Jewish people, didn’t he go ahead and tell them to keep the laws of circumcision.  We know from Acts 16 that he actually did circumcise Timothy for the sake of witness to the Jews.  He says that circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing.  So if it’s not that big a deal, why not compromise to keep the peace?

Because, contrary to what the New Perspective on Paul scholars are saying, this debate in Galatians was about more than just foreskin and food laws.  Consider these verses:

Galatians 5:3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.

Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”

If you start down the Moses road, you’ve got to go all the way.  And you can’t, so you’re dead if you start down the Moses road.  Christ is the end of the law.  That’s the scandal of the cross.  You are now dead to the law through the body of Christ (Rom 7:4)

You mean I don’t have to keep the Ten Commandments?  Nope.  You are not under the Law of Moses.  But you are under the Law of Christ.  He has given us a new commandment, which is not really new, says 1 John 2:7.  Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.  And if you do that, guess what, you’re going to end up keeping the Ten Commandments.  But you’re still not under the law of Moses.

Galatians 5:14, 22-23 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” …the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. egana permalink
    July 19, 2006 9:38 pm

    I can’t believe there are no comments here!

    Seems like we should be hearing alot of “Amen” or “Oh-Yeah!” or something…

    I, for one, rejoice to leave the anxious striving that grows like thorny weeds all along the Moses road. I love to skip and dance along in the new way of the spirit, trustingly and whole-heartedly depending on my Lord Jesus for everything I need for Life and godliness. I am dead to the law, after all, so fear of an eteranlly fatal mis-step can paralyze or plague me.

    Can you imagine?

    So… all you older churchy types join me in a pew-rattling “Amen!”

    …and all you youngsters can IM each other a “Yeah-Ba-by!” or two in heartfelt response to the glory and power of the Gospel of our Lord!

  2. July 20, 2006 10:43 am

    Thank you Egana. I can’t believe there aren’t more comments here either. But that’s why we need you to keep prodding us to rattle the pews!

  3. July 20, 2006 12:55 pm

    Well… usually when I heartily agree with something, and have nothing else to add, I just stay silent. When I’m not commenting on posts (as I once told Fruitart), it’s usually a compliment of the highest order, since this extrovert, for once, is out of cool things to add. Besides an Amen.

    However, since you brought up the new perspective on Paul- Carl recently has been loudly proclaiming that 88.1, for their contests, rather than having people name off ten types of fruit in 30 seconds, should instead have people give a concise explanation of the New Perspective on Paul (and then refute it). I think that would be difficult to do in 30 seconds or less :D

  4. egana permalink
    July 20, 2006 1:03 pm

    oops… that’s “cannot paralyze or plague me” darnit! *grin*

  5. July 21, 2006 9:29 am

    I read this entry and then started looking for essays (on the web) on the New Perspective, which then led to refutations of it, which led to reading N.T. Wright’s biography on wikipedia, and I think by the time I finished I’d forgotten I’d started here.

  6. July 21, 2006 9:59 am

    Here’s the best page I’ve found full of links about the New Perspective on Paul.

    I can especially recommend the MP3 of Sinclair Ferguson’s lecture, and the article by Ligon Duncan called “The Attraction of the NPP”

  7. July 21, 2006 1:34 pm

    heh.. yeah, I already visited that page. :-)

    Didn’t realize (at the time) that it was the monergism site either.

  8. July 21, 2006 3:09 pm

    Carson’s lectures on the NPP are good too. They are full of geeky anecdotes worth the price of admission above and beyond the big brain on display. :)

  9. egana permalink
    July 21, 2006 3:32 pm

    Is it a brain floating around in a vat of mysterious greenish-glowing liquid? I’d pay alot to see that…

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