5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
We eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. The HOPE of righteousness.
That’s not a lofty dream of one day becoming righteous. It’s an active, knowledge-based hope, knowing that is going to happen.
I can’t make it happen. As hard as I try, I can’t make myself righteous. I can’t produce righteousness. No one can. We’re sinful.
So we hope for it. We know that we can’t do anything to obtain it. Instead, we have to wait for God, who is righteous, to complete righteousness in us. It’s an act of faith on our part, not something we can do. It’s something God does.
Why is that distinction important? Because it removes any reason for us to boast, be proud, brag or be conceited. It’s God’s work in us, not our work that counts for anything.
In Galatians, a book in the Bible, the missionary who brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Galatia (Paul) is writing to the people in the church who are being led astray by false teachers who are distorting the Gospel by adding regulations to it that do not belong. Specifically, circumcision.
Jewish law said that all males needed to be circumcised. Gentiles (meaning not-Jews) were becoming Christians and believing in the Jewish Messiah (savior), Jesus Christ. They were gaining the righteousness that God freely gives through Jesus. Some men who came after Paul started to distort the message and required the Gentiles, who were not circumcised, to be circumcised in order to truly worship and be in right standing with Jesus. After all, the Jewish law says so.
Paul’s whole letter seems to return to this issue. He’s furious that some are coming to the Galatian Christians and requiring them to follow the Jewish law. Actually, Paul takes it so far as to say that he wishes these men who are wrongly teaching circumcision would emasculate themselves (verse 12).
Circumcision is such a big deal to Paul because if circumcision is required for non-Jews, than the rest of the Jewish law is required of them as well. And if that is the case, then they can only obtain righteousness by observing the whole law. And if righteousness comes through the law, then Jesus is of no value to them.
So by requiring circumcision of the Galatian gentiles, these men were removing the importance of Jesus. No wonder Paul was mad.
So here’s how this works. Here’s why Jesus is important.
Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life. He died a death he did not deserve to die. In his death, he was the sacrifice for your sin. And what he asks of you is that you put your faith (complete trust or confidence) in him and him alone. In doing so, you acknowledge that this is the only way that your sins are forgiven and you can be made right with God. You can’t do it on your own. You need his sacrifice to pay for your sins.
This is called repentance. It leads to salvation.
In the beginning of the history of the church, right after Jesus left the disciples, Peter stood up and preached a sermon about Jesus. In the end, the men listening asked him, “what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'” (Acts 2:38)
(to read more about the history of the church’s position on this issue, read Acts 15)