Monday, May 12, 2008

Galatians: Branded

If you’ve ever been around livestock, you’ve seen a branding. A branding iron, heated to cherry red, is pressed against the flank of the cattle, leaving a mark on the skin for life, identifying the owner of each calf.

Paul reminded the Galatians as he closed his letter that he, too, was branded. In Gal 6:17, he said that the stigma or brand-mark of Jesus was on his flesh.

The irony of that comment was that judaizers (Jews who were trying to lure the Galatian believers into obeying Jewish law over Paul’s teachings) were insisting that the Gentiles be circumcised. That was the mark on their body which identified them as set apart for God.

Paul’s brand allied him with Jesus’ crucifixion, not the old laws. He was marked for life, owned by Christ.

So he told the Galatians it was no longer necessary to be circumcised. What mattered, Paul said, was a new creation.[1] While the judaizers required circumcision to be set apart, Paul said believers were set apart as a new creation.

Today, we don’t see circumcision as a rite of being set apart for God. But we sometimes have other practices which may seem to make us worthy of walking with God. And we trust those practices rather than placing our trust solely on Jesus’ work of redemption.

While the new believers in Galatia were tempted to trust in Jewish law and traditions, Paul reminded them again that they were new creation, set apart by Christ. They had been set free, not to return to traditions, but to walk in the life Christ had given them.

Do you wear the brand-mark of Jesus?

Have you trusted anything besides Jesus’ death and resurrection to give you freedom?

How do you trust and celebrate your status as a new creation?

[1] Gal 6:15

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