Paul’s ALL CAPS Declaration

Posted On December 9, 2019

Galatians 6:11-12, “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.”

The Apostle Paul may have been the first to use ALL CAPS. While we’re accustomed today to seeing all caps on Twitter or in social media memes to show authority, or excitement, or yelling, it’s apparently as old as the Bible.

All caps means business and Paul used them as he signed off his letter to the Galatians, “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand” (Gal 6:11). We can imagine Paul taking the writing utensil from his scribe and etching with emotion, “See how important this is? I am personally writing this now and I mean it by how large my letters are. Pay attention here!”

Over the centuries, some historians have imagined that it might have been a health condition that caused Paul to write with large letters. And that may be. But given the urgent tone of his letter to the Galatians, it’s plausible and even probable that Paul wanted to sign off with some extra oomph. The whole letter is chock full of strong language.

All caps is both fitting and warranted here.

Do Not Seek a Good Showing in the Flesh

What was so important that it needed to be stated with all caps? Paul was convinced that the false teachers who had infiltrated the Galatian church were primarily concerned about looking good. Their appearance and personal glory was their priority, not the renown and praise of Jesus Christ.

The main point in Paul’s message to the Galatians is that we Christians are “justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law” (Gal. 2:16). Nearly every movement of the letter contains Paul’s juxtaposition of the flesh and the Spirit, the law and freedom, our efforts versus the work of God on our behalf. He begs his brothers in Galatia over and over to put all of their hope and trust in Christ alone, not in the works they can produce themselves.

And so it’s with extra-large writing that he culminates his letter, exhorting the believers to reject “those who want to make a good showing in the flesh” (Gal. 6:12). The Judaizers, or false teachers who had wormed their way into Galatia, wanted the believers to get circumcised in addition to their faith in Jesus. Grace alone wasn’t enough, they said. They taught that Christians must prove their faith by works of the flesh too.

Paul, protective of the church he planted just a decade before, insists that the false teachers’ circumcision is not an act of authentic faith, it’s only “in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ” (Gal. 6:12). He says the Judaizers pursued works of the flesh so as to avoid persecution and to build themselves up.

The false teachers wanted some of the credit for their faith—they wanted to earn a portion of their salvation. Paul rejects this glory stealing with the strongest language possible.

Boast Only in Jesus

And so we must apply these ALL CAPS to ourselves today too. They are for us as much as they were for the Galatians.

Are we pursuing works of the flesh or works of the Spirit? Is our hope in what we can do or in what Jesus has already done? Do we place our trust in grace alone through faith alone or feel compelled to earn our salvation in some way, by some work? Do we seek to avoid persecution for our faith by prioritizing our own work over and above the work of our God in heaven?

It’s with fervor and power that Paul tells us we must choose one or the other. Our salvation is a complete work of Jesus or it’s nothing. Our God will not share his glory.

Therefore, let us recommit today—with hearts raised in all caps—to boast only in our Lord Jesus Christ.

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