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Read Introduction to Galatians


“I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!”


Verse 12 offers a severe indictment against legalism. 

I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off

The words “could wish” indicate something that probably cannot be done. Paul wishes that they would castrate themselves! He does not think that there is a very high likelihood they will do this. The idea is if they want to circumcise themselves, why not go all the way and castrate themselves? This is powerful irony.

“Those who trouble” are those who unsettle or stir you up to sedition. Legalists were leading the Galatians into rebellion against the biblical teaching of grace.

Now we come to the strongest sarcasm in Galatians. The words “cut themselves off” come from a Greek word meaning to cut away, castrate, or amputate. The pagan priest of the cult of Cybele in Asia Minor practiced castration as a religious rite. With dripping sarcasm, Paul says, “Make yourselves eunuchs! Don’t stop with circumcision. Go all the way! Castrate yourselves!” This was not all that far from reality because the pagan priest of Cybele in Asia Minor did this. Galatia was in Asia Minor (Turkey). The idea may be to excommunicate legalists from the congregation.


Take radical action with false doctrine.


Many people are under the illusion that they can do something to gain God’s favor. If they believe this, then why not go all the way with religion? Why don’t they crawl on their hands and knees across the glass to gain God’s approbation? If you go with works to please God, you have to go a long way. However, it is impossible to go far enough because God is perfect.

We need to take radical action when the truth is at stake. People hang in the balance between truth and error. A trustworthy physician has no time for a quack doctor because a patient’s health is at stake. Shyster lawyers trouble credible lawyers. Why are not more Christians troubled by false doctrine? If someone loses the dynamics of their spiritual life because of false doctrine, it is worse than a quack doctor or shyster lawyer pawning off their wares. Taking radical action with falsehood flies in the face of the core doctrine of our time – tolerance.