Galations 5: 2 - 5 ... comparison of circumcission and confession, etc

I have to admit, I feel like I’m on the wrong path everytime I read this. I just can’t help tieing circumcission to confession, or other sacraments.

Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who receives circumcision that he is bound to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.

Reading Chrysostom’s commentary hits it home for me, because I go to confession because I fear that I’m in vioation of Church/God’s law, in the same manner as a Jew would at that time.

“He that is circumcised is circumcised for fear of the Law, and he who fears the Law, distrusts the power of grace, and he who distrusts can receive no benefit from that which is distrusted. Or again thus, he that is circumcised makes the Law of force; but thus considering it to be of force and yet transgressing it in the greater part while keeping it in the lesser, he puts himself again under the curse. But how can he be saved who submits himself to the curse, and repels the liberty which is of Faith? If one may say what seems a paradox, such an one believes neither Christ nor the Law, but stands between them, desiring to benefit both by one and the other, whereas he will reap fruit from neither. Having said that Christ shall profit them nothing”

I’m sure my fear comes from my protestant upbringing, and I see a huge value in confession, but I do get a little scared everytime I read this.

Paul is specifically addressing the question of whether or not non-Jews who became believers needed to become Jews in order to be Christians. There was a group within the New Testament Church that believed this. So in this passage, being circumcised=putting themselves under the Law and so indicating that they didn’t think Jesus’ gift of grace was sufficient. Paul is very emphatic - you’ve been given the greatest gift ever - why would you kick sand on the giver by thinking that you needed to add to what He had done with your own human efforts??

Jesus gave the Apostles the authority to forgive sins on His behalf because He knew we would need that gift. We don’t suddenly, upon rising from the baptismal waters, stop having the weaknesses that lead us to sin (“concupiscence”). As Paul said, "the things I want to do, I don’t do; the things I don’t want to do, I do . . . " And so He who provided for our salvation from sin also provided a way for us to be made whole when we have fallen. Both in our initial receiving of grace and in our restoration, He is the source and the giver. We’re not trying to save ourselves, which we cannot do. Just as the Jews could not keep the Law, we cannot earn grace. We can only accept it and receive it - with gratitude.

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