See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised — only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! As for those who will follow this rule — peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.Galatians 6:11-18
In this final closing bit of the letter, Paul kind of reiterates the main points about circumcision that he made in the previous chapters, and then sends blessings. But The most interesting part of these final few verses is the sentence that says, “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
Paul is claiming to boast in Christ’s crucifixion. That in itself reminds us of the passage in 1 Corinthians 2:2 where Paul says he wants to know nothing but “Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified.” This thought that Paul repeats is to remind us that the main thing, the most important thing, in the story of God’s salvation in this world is that God died for us to make us a part of God’s family, to bring us into communion with God.
Then the second part of that phrase makes more sense. If we accept that God died for us, then we too have taken on the crucifixion of Christ – that is, we have accepted that God suffered for us, and that we will share in that suffering as we progress in our spiritual and physical lives. And we will share in that suffering particularly when we try to share this news with others. But it is this that brings about communion in the world. The world is crucified to us, and we to the world. That is, we are to become one, and strive for unity between ourselves and the world; the crucifixion simply reminds us that it may require sacrifice, and it will not be easy. But neither was Christ’s death.
The idea that Paul carried “the arks of jesus branded on his body” has led some to suggest he had the stigmata. But others suggest that Paul is simply implying that he has suffered and retained scars and physical damage for his work in this world. In other words, Paul has suffered physically to spread the Gospel. This would be in line with the idea of the world crucified to Paul and Paul to the world.
Mike is a jack of all trades, master of none. He’s a data analyst, programmer, and loves to cook. If he doesn’t have his face buried in a book or is staring blankly at a computer screen, you can find him on a motorcycle, enjoying the ride.
Mike holds a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary, and is a postulant for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona. He will attend Sewanee School of Theology for a year of Anglican Studies in the Fall of 2022.