And as many as walk according to this rule, peace [be] on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with your spirit. Amen. [Gal 6:16-18]
We are now at the closing remarks of this epistle. Paul limits his bidding of peace and mercy to those that walk according to the rule of glorying only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the new creation that is made by him. The matter of circumcision or uncircumcision is irrelevant, for
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. [Gal 3:28]
In Christ, all earthly distinctions vanish. We all come to Christ on the same ground, guilty sinners with nothing of value within us. Upon believing the gospel that He died for our sins and rose again, we are justified and identified in Christ without distinction.
Paul now bids this peace and mercy upon the Israel of God. Who is this Israel of God? Some think of it to be what Paul is calling the new creation, in other words, the church which is His body. Even some who do not hold to “replacement theology” hold to this being “the church”. If that is the case, this is the only time that “the church” is called Israel. (I put “the church” in quotation marks because I prefer not to just use “the church” as the name for the church which is His body. That leads to the error of every time the term church is used throughout the scriptures, it is referring to the body. That is simply not the case. In Acts, the word church is almost always used to describe a local assembly, and not always one of believers. There are many assemblies, but only one Body of Christ.) The scriptural answer to who this Israel of God is referring to is the “remnant according to the election of grace”, i.e., believing Israel (Rom 11:5). The “little flock” (Luk 12:32) who at this time still gathered in Jerusalem as Jews were still Jews. Remember, they were saved as Jews, and they were those that came to the Lord Jesus as the hope of their nation. It seems quite silly to think that when the hope of the nation is realized, the nation ceased to exist. These were they who were “circumcised in heart and ears” (Act 7:51). Now in the epistle to the Hebrews, they are called to suffer with Christ without the camp (Heb 13:13), and we learn from Paul’s gentile epistles the glorious truth of the one body of Jews and Gentiles baptized into on body (1Cor 12:13, Eph 2:15, 4:4, etc.). Those gathering as believing Jews in Jerusalem and not attempting to impose their religion on gentile believers are the Israel of God that Paul is referring to.
Now he is not interested in hearing from anyone about their “marks in the flesh”. He had his own marks. He and those with him could say that they were
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. [2Co 4:10-11]
Not that this servant of the Lord was overcome with his sufferings. As we learned in previous studies, Paul’s ministry was to be marked by sufferings (Act 9:16). The entirety of the age in which we live is marked by sufferings of God’s people, and it is a rare time in human history that we do not suffer as God’s people. In the United States of America, we have been blessed beyond measure as Christians who do not suffer like others around the world, but we also should not expect this to be the way it will always be. The world is not the friend of God or His people. But if we do suffer, let us suffer as Christians, and not as evil-doers (1Pet 4:15-16). Then let us rejoice at the opportunity to suffer for Christ’s sake.
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, which is the church: [Col 1:24]
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for his sake; [Phl 1:29]
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. [2Ti 3:12]
We do not often imagine how the suffering servant of the Suffering Servant must have appeared, but we do know this, that he was certain that if he suffered, it would not be in vain:
If we suffer, we shall also reign with [Him]: if we deny [Him], He also will deny us: [2Ti 2:12]
From what we know of our salvation in Christ Jesus, that there is no condemnation (Rom 8:1), and no separation (Rom 8:39), we can say with confidence that this is not a threat that one saved can be lost. But we will be denied opportunity to suffer for His name if we deny Him, and we will be denied rewards at the Day of Jesus Christ that could have been ours, if only we had been faithful.
My friends, we have come to the end of our study in this wonderful epistle to the Galatians. As Paul closes with the benediction of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ being with the spirit of those that he was writing, so I end this study with you. It is not just a kind way to end this, but in all honesty, rejoice in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and do not be moved from Him.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. [Gal 5:1]