Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. Galatians 6:12

The well-known Bible commentator, F. F. Bruce made this comment in reference to the Jewish’s desire to maintain the rite of circumcision. “It cuts the ground from under every thought of personal achievement or merit where God’s salvation is in view. To be shut up to receiving salvation from the crucified one … is an affront to all notions of proper self-pride and self-help—and for many people this remains a major stumbling-block in the gospel of Christ crucified. If I myself can make some small contribution, something even so small as the acceptance of circumcision, then my self-esteem is uninjured.”

In our day it’s not circumcision that’s the issue. However, we still want to make a contribution to our salvation, no matter how small, just so that we aren’t totally dependant on the grace of God. Some like to be involved in rituals and ceremonies as if this earns them credit with God. Others like to invest their time and money in social welfare programs for similar reasons. It’s as Bruce says, “an affront,” an insult to us, that we can do nothing to earn our salvation. For some, this is the reason why they won’t accept the gospel. It’s a death blow to their self-sufficiency and makes them feel inadequate, vulnerable and dependent.

Some maintain that they reject faith in God on purely intellectual grounds. This is unlikely as we rarely make decisions based on intellect alone. More likely it’s the thought that in order to receive salvation we have to come to God with “empty hands.” We may impress other people with our generosity and good works but God requires our surrender.