“And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased” (Galatians 5:11).
For well over a hundred years, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament has served as a valuable resource for those who are seeking a better understanding of Biblical words and phrases. For instance, the word “offense” (as seen in the passage quoted above) returns a definition that warrants a lengthy excerpt…
Offense: the movable stick or trigger of a trap, a trap stick.
1a) a trap, snare.
1b) any impediment placed in the way and causing one to stumble or fall, (a stumbling block, occasion of stumbling), i.e. a rock which is a cause of stumbling.
1c) fig. applied to Jesus Christ, whose person and career were so contrary to the expectations of the Jews concerning the Messiah, that they rejected him and by their obstinacy made shipwreck of their salvation.
2) any person or thing by which one is (entrapped) drawn into error or sin. (1)
These nuances greatly benefit our understanding of Galatians 5:10. You see, the message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone serves as an impediment, snare, or stumbling block for those who seek to approach God on the basis of their own efforts. Another source offers the following insight in this regard…
“The Cross was offensive to the Jew therefore because it set aside the entire Mosaic economy, and because it offered salvation by grace through faith alone without the added factor of works performed by the sinner in an effort to merit the salvation offered. All of which goes to show that the Jew of the first century had an erroneous conception of the law of Moses, for that system never taught that a sinner was accepted by God on the basis of good works.” (2)
Unfortunately, this passage alerts us to another challenge facing Paul the Apostle. First, Paul had to deal with the false teachings that had been introduced to the churches of Galatia. Next, he had to counter those who were attempting to separate him from the Galatian Christians in order to establish their own following. Now it seems that Paul had another problem: the outright misrepresentation of his message.
As Paul noted in the passage quoted above, “…if I were still advocating circumcision (as some apparently allege!), why am I still suffering persecution?” (Phillips). If Paul truly believed that Christians should continue to follow the Old Testament Law, then those who agreed with that assessment would rush to support him and not seek to persecute him.
(1) G4625 skandalon https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g4625
(2) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (Galatians 5:11) Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.