“But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” (Gal. 5:11-12 ESV)
The religion of the Judaizers which was really an offshoot of Pharisaism is simply a religion based on externalism. As long as the people were circumcised into Abraham they were accepted. They could hold to other views, but still be considered accepted as long as they were circumcised. Of course Paul has been continually arguing against this inconsistent position as remember it is either all or nothing. Christ is everything or Christ is nothing. The Law is everything or the law is nothing. This is a false gospel and one that Paul had some choice words for anyone who perpetrated such a false gospel of externalism, “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” (Gal. 5:12). The King James version really misses the point on this one, as it smooths over the interpretation too much. Did Paul really just say that he wishes this false teachers would castrate themselves? Yes! Paul has a way of saying really awkward things. Once we get past the initial shock of what Paul said we can then see the really genius with it. Paul is saying that if a teacher removes the offense of the gospel he wishes that they would just go ahead and castrate themselves. First, priests of a false goddess in that area would commonly castrate themselves pledging their allegiance to the goddess. Paul was saying that this religion they are teaching is no different so when cutting for circumcision just go all the way and cut a little more. Furthermore, the Old Testament says that a person that castrates themselves were not to be allowed in the assembly. In essence Paul is saying that he desires that they will be cut off from the church. Hyperbole is a powerful communication tool as it allows you to get the point. The religion of externalism is not offensive as it removes the offense of the gospel.
"Christ is everything or Christ is nothing."
Consider Islam. Why is it not offensive to our nation as a whole. I remember doing a mock election back when I was getting my associates degree at Mott Community College. The issue of Islam came up and I got tore apart by pointing out what Muslims believe. They were intolerant of my lack of tolerance for Islam. Why are efforts made to cater to it? It is focused purely on externalism: 1) The regular repetition of the creed; 2) Repetition of prescribed prayers five times daily and three described places: 3) The duty of almsgiving; 4) The absence of the Feast of Ramadan, with total fasting during daylight hours and eating and drinking after sundown; 5) Pilgrimage to Mecca.
Consider humanism. Why has it replaced Christianity as our national religion? It is focused on externalism. They do not believe that humanity is to be saved by means of Christ’s atonement, and regenerating power, but by the re-arrangement of man’s outer life and world. The right combination of laws and social observances, a foreign policy that offers better externals to the world with foreign aid and other life efforts are believed to be the way to a brave new world. The whole modern network of politics, education, arts and media, the sciences, foreign aid, free trade and protectionism alike and much more constitute a worldwide effort to accomplish the miracle of a new creation by means of externalism, the rituals of humanism.
Removes the Offense of the Cross
Here is what externalism does. It removes the offense of the Christ. That is what Paul says. The cross has a certain offense to it to the natural man. Here is what Charles Spurgeon said about the offense of the cross:
"The cross is offensive to human wisdom. The philosopher puts his glasses to his eyes, looks at the cross and then says, “I cannot see anything so very wonderful in it—even with these splendid glasses of mine—more than can be seen by that poor, humble peasant; I do not care about such a system of religion as that; any simpleton can understand the cross.” So he passes by, and merely sneers at it. The man who loves controversy comes to the gospel, and finds that there is in it pure dogmatism. Such things are said to be true, and sinners must believe them, or else be damned. “I shall not do so,” he says; “I shall not yield implicit faith to the gospel; I like disputing upon points of doctrine; I like controverting them; I shall not listen to your preacher who says, ‘This is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing else but the truth.’ I will not hear the man who speaks thus authoritatively; I like men who will give me margin enough to doubt, who let me believe what I like, and no more; I prefer to use my reason and common sense.” When you come to talk with him about the religion which says, “Believe that, or else be lost; believe that, or else be shut out of the pale of salvation;” he turns on his heel, and says, “I will not believe any such thing.” And when he asks what it is he is to believe, he professes himself to be wiser even than the Word of God! “What!” he says, “believe in the atonement? I can’t; it is contrary to my common sense. Believe the doctrine of election? Why, it shocks my humanity! Believe in the total depravity of human nature, and the impossibility of being saved without being born again? Tell someone today how much you love Jesus Christ. Why, I cannot receive such teaching for a single moment. It is contrary to all that the scholars ever taught and different from what any philosopher ever would have invented; so I shall not receive it.” And he turns away with an anathema against the cross. He cannot bear it because of its great simplicity. If he could describe it as being so wonderful that he could by no means make the common people comprehend it, and that it was only because of his gigantic intellect that he was able to understand it himself, he would not mind accepting it; but as it is so plain and simple, he turns away from it in disgust. He cannot bear the gospel of the cross; it has not worldly wisdom enough in it for him; and he either does not know or he forgets that the knowledge of Christ crucified is the most excellent of all the sciences, and that never is reason so glorified as when it humbly sits down under the shadow of the cross.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.