The legalistic mindset wants rules. It wants boundaries and wants them clear-drawn.
The legalistic mindset not only want clear-cut rules, it wants them to apply in every instance… no exceptions, no grey areas, no ambiguity.
The legalist loves the words “every man” — they’re clear. Inarguable. They contain a certain power — not the power of God but the power of that which is sharply-defined; the “law of the excluded middle” which has determined that out of two contradictory propositions or ideas, one (and one only) may be true.
Concerning those who “become circumcised”, “every man” becomes a debtor to keep the whole law and those who are not circumcised do not become debtors to the law. The game of “either/or”.
But then, in Galatians, Paul writes:
Ga 5.6: “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision avails any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which works by love.”
If the act of being circumcised makes a man “a debtor to keep the whole law…”, then circumcised is pretty important. So why does Paul contradict himself and say that neither circumcision or uncircumcision is important?
Ga 6.15: “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision avails any thing, nor uncircumcision — what counts is a new creation.”
Again, Paul says this terribly important issue of being circumcised or not — isn’t important. But then we have this confusion:
Ga 2.7: “But contrariwise, when they saw that the Gospel of the Uncircumcision was committed unto me [Paul], as the Gospel of the Circumcision was unto Peter…”
Now, wait a sec! How can there be TWO “Gospels“? And ONE of them is the very thing (circumcision) that can make a man “a debtor to keep the whole law…”?
Either these passages do NOT convey the God-breathed Word, or they do. If they do, then God seems to play fast and loose with clear-cut definitions and black-and-white judgments in life. And here’s where the legalistic mindset lands into a fearful place:
if the Rules aren’t clear-cut, if the divisions aren’t black-and-white — the only way to find safety and control in life is to forsake safety and control… and confidently depend on God to supply both.
After all, the “righteous” always live by faith.