Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Daily Bible Reading - February 2 - The Mark That Matters

Today's reading offered an interesting juxtaposition: the curious and mysterious story about God's anger at Moses due to his failure to circumcise his son, and the final chapter of Paul's letter to the Galatians, a book that focuses on why circumcision is not what counts before God. In the case of Exodus 4, God was so angry that Gershom had not been circumcised he threatened to kill Moses, whereas in Galatians, Paul says those who insist on circumcision teach another gospel (1:8-9), nullify the cross of Christ (2:21; 5:2-4); and are motivated by the thirst for power over others (and the aversion to persecution for the truth - 6:12-13). How do we reconcile these polar opposite viewpoints about circumcision?

It is all a matter of timing. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant God made with Abraham (Gen. 17:9-14). That covenant, made in Genesis 15, and the promise, made in Genesis 12, were sealed by the act of circumcision. For Moses to have neglected this sign with his own son, when he was the one God called in fulfillment of the promise to Abraham to lead the people out of Egypt, was a blatant disregard for the covenant purposes of God, which explains why God was so angry.

But circumcision was always the means to a greater purpose, as was the entire Law. The Law was to lead us to Christ, the ultimate blessing of the promise to Abraham, and once Christ came, the Law (including circumcision) had achieved its purpose. Something great led to something infinitely greater. To continue to insist on observance of the Law and its most intimate statute as the true means of fellowship with God was to deny the sufficiency and meaning of Christ's death, which is why Paul was so appalled that the Galatians would succumb to the influence of the Judaizers.

Instead, there was only one mark that counted for Paul. "From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus" (Gal. 6:17). The true mark that designates us as one of God's people is the mark of Christ-likeness, which Paul bore in a very literal way in the scars that he gained from suffering for Christ. As he explained to the Corinthians, he was "always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor. 4:10-11).

Christ is the only mark that matters.

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