The Things We Do for Love

Daily Reform, Day 75

Galatians 2:4-5 & 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

From the Reformer

To conclude, Paul refused to circumcise Titus for the reason that the false apostles wanted to compel him to circumcise Titus. Paul refused to accede to their demands. If they had asked it on the plea of brotherly love, Paul would not have denied them. But because they demanded it on the ground that it was necessary for salvation, Paul defied them, and prevailed. Titus was not circumcised.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

I know a man who is advanced in years and has been recently diagnosed with two cancers. The doctors tell him that treatment of the cancer will increase his quality of life but not the longevity. He knows better. The treatment will have him feeling beyond miserable for the next six months. Then he will live his remaining days drained of energy. He does not want to have the treatment. His wife, however, does want him to undergo the treatment. She believes it will help and she wants him to try everything, in the hopes that she will have him here a little longer. He does not want to do it, knows it will make him feel awful, and knows it will add no length to his life. Yet he is going to take the treatment because he loves his wife — not because he believes it is necessary for life.

Sometimes it is necessary for a Christian to do something he would not ordinarily do, simply because of love. One may refrain from eating or drinking or even going into in a particular establishment so that a friend with weaker faith is not hindered. There are prescriptive examples, such as what Bible to read or what mode of sacrament to use, and prohibitive examples like drinking alcoholic beverages or movie-going.

Paul’s situation with Titus is prescriptive. But what was the reason for the prescription? If it were proposed that Titus be circumcised because the weaker brethren in that community would have been strengthened by his example of fulfilling all righteousness (Mat 3:15), then it is possible he would have been baptized. However, the prescription by the false apostles was a demand. They said that Titus’ circumcision was necessary for his salvation. This prescription had nothing to do with love. It was not setting a righteous example; in fact, to be circumcised for salvation would have been setting an unrighteous example because it would have stated salvation comes from works.

The best example the Christian may offer is to “know nothing … except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1Co 2:2) When Christ is not known or seen in our actions, we must flee those activities. When Jesus is not lifted up and instead, the “righteous work” is glorified, the deed is suspect. We are free to do things out of love but not when the prescription is a demand that robs God of his due glory. (1Co 10:23)

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers

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