Main point summary
The foundational point is that all that matters is the new creation. v. 15 could be the ground of vv. 12-14, which would make the arcing point more obviously to v. 15 as the main point. However, I think logically that's the grounds for Paul's alternative desire in ministry. I have Paul's example as an Alternative rather than -/+ because there are two possible methods and motives for ministry here. Paul has chosen the right one, when he could have chosen the other. The outermost bilateral displays Paul's sincerity and desperate commitment to the truth within.
See with what large letters I 1 am writing to you a with my own hand.
Those who desire a to make a good showing in the flesh
try to b compel you to be circumcised,
simply so that they c will not be persecuted 1 for the cross of Christ.
For those who 1 are circumcised
do not even a keep 2 the Law themselves,
but they desire to have you circumcised
so that they may b boast in your flesh.
But a may it never be that I would boast,
b except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
c through 1 which the world has been crucified to me,
and d I to the world.
For a neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision,
but a b new 1 creation.
And those who will 1 walk by this rule,
peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the a Israel of God.
From now on let no one cause trouble for me,
for I bear on my body the a brand-marks of Jesus.
a The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be b with your spirit, c brethren. Amen.
The Bilateral shows Paul's sincerity and his desperate commitment to them in regards to this argument. It's important enough to write in his own hand. And he's enduring suffering because of this message. The baseline foundation to the whole point is this: The new creation is all that matters! He's already said in the whole book that the new creation is accomplished in Christ alone, not the law or the flesh. In contrasting his example with the one of the Circumcision Party (CP), Paul seeks to lay out the reason why people would even try to compel folks to get circumcised. Hint: it's not because of love and concern. Rather: - They are concerned about their own reputations Negatively: no persecution Positively: boast in gaining converts - They can't even keep the law themselves. - Want to boast. I have vv. 14 set as an alternative to vv. 12-13 because of the possibility of the leaders to do it either or. Paul has chosen the "or." The -/+'s are in vv. 14-15 as he contrasts the righteous way with the evil. The contrast of self-seeking ministry is that which boasts in the cross, explained in what the cross does to the relationship between us and the world, which then infers that this is the way to walk to find peace and mercy (hence the bilateral). Logically and theologically, the ground of verse 15 (center of my bilateral) is the ground of the whole argument, which is worth Paul taking up the pen himself and for which he bears the brand-marks of Jesus. The only boast is in the cross, not our own law-keeping or ministry success. So therefore, Paul would not see to manipulate them for a response, because it does nothing to gain him anything (in fact. vv. 17 shows that it actually brings him suffering!). Questions for Application: - What is your motivation in ministry, specifically in evangelism and discipleship? In what ways might fear of man (either of the person to whom you minister, the church, or the world) be affecting the way you minister, the words you say, or the things you do? In other words, how might you be succumbing to the temptation to make a good showing in the flesh or avoid persecution? - In what ways might an understanding of the supremacy of "a new creation" goal change the way you minister? - What fears or idols have been revealed by your answers to the other two questions? Repent of those now, turning to Christ by faith to change your motives and actions in ministry. - Are you willing to bear the sufferings of Christ to invest in the new creation created by Christ's cross?