I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. – Galatians 5:2
It seems unthinkable to most of us to share your spouse with another person. Choosing to marry is just that: choosing, not sharing! That’s what Paul says to the Galatians. They must choose: either they will follow Christ or they will follow the law. They cannot do both, no matter what the false teachers have told them.
We can feel the tone of Paul’s letter shift just a bit in the opening verses of chapter 5. So far, Paul has mounted a very thorough theological and reasoned argument for the content of the gospel. He has given every reason for the Galatians to reject the false teachers. He has rooted his argument in the Old Testament Scriptures, in the spiritual experience of the Galatians, and in the defense of his apostleship. He’s laid out a compelling case for why the false teachers are wrong and he’s right. But in chapters 5 and 6, he doesn’t introduce additional new evidence to defend the gospel. Instead, his tone becomes more agitated, insistent, and emphatic. The case has been made, and the Galatians must decide.
When studying the Bible we have to continue to realize the tone of the passage. We also have to realize the shift in direction the passage is going. The more we can get into the head of the author the more we can observe what is going on in the passage.
The Galatians cannot have Christ and circumcision. They cannot have grace and the law. Circumcision and the law were precursors to Christ, pointing the way to Him. Now that Christ has come and set them free from the obligations of the law, if they choose to return to the law and its demands, they will be rejecting Christ. They will ultimately be saying that the cross of Christ is worthless.
Paul pleads with them. Hear what I’ve said! Don’t turn away from Christ! He reminded them again of their experience of the Holy Spirit, who has given them faith and hope and righteousness. He points them to the ultimate expression of Christian faith, which is neither circumcision nor uncircumcision: it is love.