“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:15-16).
Galatians 6:15-16 contains two phrases that are worth our attention. The first refers to a “new creation” and appears in verse fifteen: “It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation” (NLT). The New Testament book of 2 Corinthians expresses a similar concept when it says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
These passages serve to communicate an important spiritual truth. They tell us that an attempt to find favor with God through an external act (like circumcision) has been superseded by the new creation initiated by Jesus’ sacrificial death. They also tell us that a person who has accepted Jesus as Savior need not be shackled to the sins of the past, for he or she is a new creation in Christ and such things have passed away through His death on the cross.
The second phrase involves this reference to “the Israel of God” in Galatians 6:16. This phrase takes on significance when we consider the origin of the name “Israel” within the Biblical book of Genesis. You see, “Israel” was the new name that God gave to Jacob, the great Old Testament patriarch (see Genesis 32:28). Although the name “Jacob” is associated with the idea of a swindler, deceiver, cheater, or thief, God gave him a new identity in the form of the name “Israel.” This act carried great significance for one meaning of the name “Israel” is “governed by God.”
Much like Jacob in the Old Testament, God has also given us a new identities as new creations in Christ. However, Paul the Apostle also made the following observation in Romans 9:6: “…not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” In other words, there are some who are ancestrally related to Israel but are not governed by God. In a similar manner, there may be others who self-identify as “Christians” but are not truly followers of Christ.
Therefore, we can say that our ancestral and cultural affiliations matter very little in a spiritual sense. The same is true of our external efforts to get right with God. The more important questions are these: are we new creations in Christ and are we governed by God?