by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 2 Study # 4 March 31, 2013 Dayton, Texas
11 And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.
12 I would they were even cut off which trouble you.
1901 ASV Translation:
11 But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? then hath the stumbling-block of the cross been done away.
12 I would that they that unsettle you would even go beyond circumcision.
I. Paul's Question.
A. This question seems to come winging in from left field.
1. It seems to assume that Paul has, somehow, been accused of "preaching circumcision" and he is denying it.
2. This assumption goes against everything in this letter: who could be saying that Paul "preaches" circumcision, and why?
B. Paul's "thought flow" through this paragraph.
1. He begins with a "statement/question" that claims the Galatians had begun well but were now being hindered.
2. He declares that the "hindering" doctrine is not from God Who calls.
3. He declares that "a little leaven" is all it takes to reduce "the whole" to a leavened reality.
4. He contrasts his own actions with those of the "trouble makers".
5. He contrasts his message with the message that eliminates the "scandal" of the cross.
6. He declares his wish that those who are "unsettling" the Galatians would "cut themselves off".
C. The place of this question in the thought flow.
1. It has the same emphatic personal pronoun ("I") that leads off in 5:10. This implies a desire to contrast himself with his opponents.
2. According to 6:12, his opponents are committed to keeping themselves from being "persecuted for the cross". This means that Paul has a clear understanding of the underlying motivations of his adversaries. Thus, his emphatic contrast has to do with the fact that his motivations do not include any "escapist" elements.
3. Since his larger context (5:11 compared with 6:12) has to do with these motivations, it simply must be that his thought flow is highlighting the issue of "reasons for a given doctrinal stance".
4. This makes perfect sense in the paragraph before us because the issue is whether, or not, his readers buy into his "persuasion" (that he claims is from the God Who calls into grace) as opposed to the "persuasion" that is not from this calling God. Whether a person can be trusted deeply involves his/her "motives".
5. Thus, this "winging in out of left field" question is actually right on target: it raises the issue of who is trustworthy. And, incidentally, it also opens the door to his expression in the next verse of his "motives" as they relate to the adversaries.
C. The meaning of the question.
1. The emphatic personal pronoun indicates a deliberate attempt to pull the readers' attention to Paul's behavior.
2. The use of "brethren" is significant: on one level he is identifying with his readers at a "family" level; and on a deeper level he is pressing his readers to agree that it is his doctrine that makes them "related" to Paul. He is yet attempting to get the readers to "be not otherwise minded" (5:10). There are real people who think real thoughts and engage in real actions and are "relatives" to those who think the same way and act the same way.
3. The "if I am yet preaching circumcision" is the particular action that "brethren" must evaluate.
a. The question for the Galatians is this: do you want to be a "brother" to those who "yet preach circumcision", or to those who do not?
b. According to Paul, those who "yet preach circumcision" are a sullied bunch whose motives are entirely selfish.
4. The actual question: why am I still being persecuted?
a. That Paul was being persecuted is accepted even by the Galatians as they witness the charges their new "teachers" are making against him.
b. That the behavior of "persecuting" is that of the opponents, one must answer a most basic moral question: is it "right" to persecute those with whom one disagrees? Violence against one's adversaries eliminates the legitimacy of the doctrine which drives the abuse. At this point we must not confuse violence against one's adversaries with violence for the protection of one's beloved associates. This can be a slippery slope because the wicked are committed to making their actions appear to be legitimate so that they might do violence in the "name" of protection. But, there is a real distinction that must be made and kept in mind. God set up "the powers that be" for the purpose of executing violence in the name of protection and strictly forbade believers to pursue retribution against evil doers. Thus, the active persecution of those with whom one disagrees is immoral.
c. In our text/context, there is only one reason for "persecution": the doctrine of grace.
d. The overwhelming point of the "persecution" question is one: ill treatment of others is a direct indicator of false doctrine.
II. Paul's Claim.
A. The Cross is a "scandal".
1. The testimony of the Cross is that men are deeply depraved and in serious need of redemption and regeneration.
2. The "scandal" is that creatures could so treat their Creator; but it does no one any good in any way to deny that reality.
B. Those who preach "law" refuse the scandal and the "persecution" that comes to those who declare it by those whose pride will not allow them to accept Truth.