Church doctrine has taught for the past seventeen hundred years that “Jesus came to set us free from the burden of the Law”, and that “He nailed the Law to the cross”. Specific issues that are made paramount is our supposed liberty to fail to observe the Sabbath, not circumcision our sons, and to consume whatever sort of unclean food we desire to eat. These sorts of doctrines came about through the efforts of the Roman Emperor Constantine who, in an attempt to unify his “Holy Roman Empire”, merged the pagan culture of the Romans with the ever-growing people group who followed the ways of Christ and kept God’s commandments contained in the Law.
The result of this merger was the coming about of a religion based upon gnostic, pagan, and Jewish theologies and ideologies, and this pastiche of belief systems is known today as Christianity. In ancient Rome, it actually became illegal not to be a Christian, even to the point of death. Naturally, the pagans chose to “convert” to this new religion of Christianity rather than suffer the death penalty. As a result of the massive influx of pagans into the theological diversity pool, pagan concepts and holy days were now both recognized and “Christianized”, to the exclusion of anything considered remotely “Jewish”, which was to be rejected and replaced by pagan Roman principals.
The following examples show how the Scriptural principals that God laid down for His people mingled with pagan practices and beliefs and became “Christianized” for the gentile church.
|The Scriptural principals that God laid down for His people…||…mingled with pagan practices and beliefs…||…and became “Christianized” for the gentile church.|
|The seventh-day Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11, Hebrews 4:9).||Worshiping the sun god on the first day of the week (Sunday).||Based upon the assumption that Jesus came out of the tomb Sunday morning, Sunday became known as “the Lord’s Day” and by 363 CE keeping the seventh-day Sabbath was outlawed by Roman authorities.|
|Celebrating Passover (Exodus 12:1-28, 1st Corinthians 5:8) as a symbol of God’s grace, followed up by the First Fruits offering (Leviticus 23:10-14).||Worshiping the fish god (Dagon) on the sixth day of the week (Friday), and celebrating the festival to the queen of heaven named Easter (aka Ishtar, Astarte, Asherah, etc). This pagan festival involving (among other things) sacrificing newborns and dipping eggs in their blood as a fertility ritual.||“Good Friday” was instituted, using Jesus’ death as a scapegoat. Easter was affixed to always fall on a Sunday, transitioning from worshiping the queen of heaven to being centered around Jesus’ resurrection, but many of the practices and observances thereof remained the same.|
|Circumcision- a token sign of the Abrahamic covenant, made in the flesh, also representing circumcision of the heart (Genesis 17, Deuteronomy 10:16, Jeremiah 4:4, Acts 16:1-3).||Circumcision of the flesh was both foreign and repugnant to the Greco-Roman culture, and was outlawed by Antiochus Epiphanes IV in the early 2nd century BCE. Although the Maccabean revolts temporarily restored peace to the Jewish way of life, the hostile pagan attitude toward circumcision continued.||Circumcision became exclusively of the heart- and those who practiced circumcision of the flesh became legalists and Judaizers.|
|Eating clean meats- God instructed a diet that is beneficial for the human body that He Himself designed. Additionally, He only permitted clean meat to be sacrificed in His temple to Himself, and called unclean meat “an abomination” (Leviticus 11).||Unclean meats were ritually consumed by pagan cultures, who recognized no distinction between what God calls “clean” and “unclean”. In fact, sacrifices to pagan gods (as opposed to YHWH) were frequently unclean meat; Antiochus Epiphanes IV specifically sacrificed a pig upon the alter of God in an effort to desecrate the Temple of YHWH.||Jesus’ statement in Mark 7:18 that “…whatever goes into the man from outside can not defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, then into the latrine, thus purging all foods” was grossly misinterpreted to indicate that Jesus had declared all foods clean. The fact is that Jesus had just rebuked the Pharisees for placing their ritual cleanliness traditions over the actual commandments of God. The specific issue Jesus taught here was that ritual hand washing could not render oneself unclean, since the body itself purges all food, and had nothing to do whatsoever with the consumption of unclean meats.|
|Worship of YHWH as God alone- based on the oneness of God.“YHWH is our God; YHWH is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)||Many ancient pagan cultures worshiped a pantheon of deities, but frequently a pattern of three stood out. In elements of Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian mythology these generally consisted of a sort of primal self-proclaimed god (Osiris / Baal / Nimrod), with the queen of heaven by his side (Isis / Semiramis / Astarte), and their resurrected son (Horus / Tammuz).||This pattern spread also to Christianity, and came to encompass the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus.|
These elements listed above are just some of the most prevalent examples to show how “this”- something pure that God established- was replaced with “that”- something of pagan origin, and was Christianized to fit the context of the gentile church.
We need to step away from “that” line of thinking- that originated with pagan Greco-Roman culture and practices- and move into “this” way of thinking- that relies solely upon the Word of God. I say all of that to encompass and direct us to this point: as long as we continue to read the Scriptures with preconceived notions put in place by pagan authorities, we will continue to believe the lie prophesied by Paul in 2nd Thessalonians 2:7- the mystery of lawlessness.
It is said in Acts 16:1-3 that the Bereans were credited for being “noble” because they examined “the Scriptures” daily to see whether or not Paul’s message could be trusted. However, the only Scriptures the Bereans had available was the Old Testament. In other words, the Noble Bereans only accepted Paul’s message if it lined up with the Old Testament. It is therefore with these thoughts in mind that we too should enter into an examination of Paul’s writings, to understand that the message he brings can only be true if it is consistent with the Old Testament Scriptures.
1 Paul, an apostle (not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brothers who are with me, to the assemblies of Galatia: 3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
The legitimacy of Paul’s mission was established directly by the hand of God through Jesus (Acts 9). Paul has therefore rightly stated that he was a true apostle, ordained by God directly, and not made so by the hand of man.
6 I marvel that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ to a different Gospel; 7 and there is not another Gospel. Only there are some who trouble you, and want to pervert the Gospel of Christ. 8 But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you any gospel other than that which we preached to you, let him be cursed. 9 As we have said before, so I now say again: if any man preaches to you any Gospel other than that which you received, let him be cursed.
There is only one Gospel, that is the Gospel- as there is only one Savior- that is consistently being perverted by those who desire to exert their own authority over the flock of Christ. If anyone preaches a version of the Gospel of Christ that does not line up with the teachings of Jesus, then they are preaching “another Jesus”- an event which Christ prophesied would happen in John 5:43, and was later discussed by Paul in 2nd Corinthians 11:4.
Most frequently, when people want to prove that “Jesus came to set us free from the yoke of the law”, they turn to Paul’s writings- specifically, his letter to the Galatians. But why not look to the teachings of the Savior instead? Because nowhere within any of Jesus’ teachings can this doctrine be justified. Jesus clearly stated in Matthew 5:17-19, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the prophets.” He said in a parable in Luke 16:31, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.” (He said this, indicating Himself.)
Right from the start, we can tell that any interpretation of Paul’s message which does not uphold God’s Law is absolutely a false account of the Gospel that Paul himself warned us against, and must be rejected on the account that it is not the message which was first preached.
10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? For if I were still pleasing men, I would not be a servant of Christ. 11 But I make known to you, brothers, concerning the Gospel which was preached by me, that it is not according to man. 12 For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ.
Paul’s message was not preached to please men, but to please God. In other words, Paul did not seek the approval of any sect or denomination of religious leaders; rather, Paul preached because he was commanded to by God, through a visitation by Jesus.
13 For you have heard of my way of living in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the assembly of God, and ravaged it. 14 I advanced in the Jews’ religion beyond many of my own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
Paul’s previous religion was Rabbinic Judaism- one that placed an emphasis on observing the traditions of the fathers rather than the Commandments of God. This is exactly what Jesus taught against in Mark 7:1-20, and is a reoccurring theme in many of Paul’s writings.
15 But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me through His grace, 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the nations, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia. Then I returned to Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Peter, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But of the other apostles I saw no one, except James, the Lord’s brother.
Paul did not immediately go out and preach after meeting Jesus, but rather waited in Arabia for three years before even visiting the Apostles.
20 Now about the things which I write to you, behold, before God, I am not lying. 21 Then I came to the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was still unknown by face to the assemblies of Judea which were in Christ, 23 but they only heard: “He who once persecuted us now preaches the faith that he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God in me.
It was remarkable that Paul- of all people- was bringing the message of Christ, since he- above all others- had previously been a harsh persecutor of the body of believers in Christ. They recognized by the fact that he was now an avid proponent of that very message he once fought against that his faith was sincere, and his convictions were legitimate.
1 Then after a period of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus also with me. 2 I went up by revelation, and I laid before them the Gospel which I preach among the nations, but privately before those who were respected, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. 3 But not even Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.
The emphasis here is that Titus was not compelled by force to be circumcised. Whether he was (or was not) circumcised at some point in his life is completely immaterial to the point that Paul is making. Paul here is reporting that the same heresy that had plagued the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15- that believers should first be circumcised and keep God’s Law, and then they are saved- was not plaguing Titus. Works as a precondition to salvation, however, is a false doctrine that has never been correct.
4 This was because of the false brothers secretly brought in, who stole in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage; 5 to whom we gave no place in the way of subjection, not for an hour, that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you.
The term “liberty” here must be understood not as liberty from the Law, but rather as liberty from sin. Paul wrote in Romans 3:20 that “through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” In other words, the Law defines sin- so, by definition, “liberty from the Law” equates to “liberty to sin”. Some would go so far as to argue that it is God’s “limitless grace” that gives us this liberty from the Law, yet Paul wrote clearly in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? May it never be!” Mankind has never been given liberty to sin, but has always been expected to keep God’s standard of righteousness, to be holy- even as He is holy (Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:2, 20:7).
The term “bondage” here cannot refer to God’s Law itself, since God’s Law is called “not burdensome” in both the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 30:11) and the New (1st John 5:3). Rather, “bondage” here refers to man-made rules and regulations, which- according to Acts 15- were thrust upon new believers as a precondition to salvation.
This method of works-before-faith is a false doctrine which cannot be substantiated by either the Old Testament or the New, and has been false since the very beginning. It was told to Isaac in Genesis 26:3-4, “In your seed will all the nations of the earth be blessed, because Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My requirements, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” So Abraham was praised for his works, and Hebrews 11:8 clarifies this further, “By faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out to the place which he was to receive for an inheritance.” Rather than works-before-faith, Abraham upholds the faith-before-works model, which the New Testament later expounds upon in Acts 15, and is the bondage referred to by Paul in Galatians 2:4.
6 But from those who were reputed to be important (whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God does not show partiality to man)- they, I say, who were respected imparted nothing to me, 7 but to the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the Gospel for the uncircumcision, even as Peter with the Gospel for the circumcision 8 (for he who appointed Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision appointed me also to the nations);
Paul uses these terms- “the circumcision” and “the uncircumcision”- in reference to two distinct people groups, each group being part of the House of Israel. Well prior to Paul’s time, the House of Israel had been divided into two separate kingdoms. The southern kingdom was called Judah, and was comprised of three tribes: Judah, Benjamin, and a portion of Levi. The northern kingdom retained the name of Israel, and was comprised of the remaining ten tribes.
(For a full understanding on the Two Houses of Israel, see “The Lost Sheep of the House of Israel” at http://www.torahdrivenlife.com/lostsheep.htm)
This first group, the people from the southern kingdom of Judah, were known significantly prior to New Testament times as “the Jews”, but not prior to the division of the Kingdom (the term is used extensively in later Old Testament writings such as Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther). Paul himself, being born of the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5), was rightly called a Jew- belonging to the southern kingdom of Judah. Paul referred to his fellow Jews as “the circumcision” in his other writings (Ephesians 2:11).
The second group, the people from the northern kingdom of Israel, had been dispersed to other nations (gentiles) for having broken God’s Law, and became as the nations (gentiles) themselves. But just as God promised would happen, He put a plan in place to redeem them from out of the nations to which they had been scattered. This plan of salvation is all clearly laid out in Deuteronomy 28-30, and the redemptive blood of Jesus was at the center of this plan the entire time. They are called “the uncircumcision” by Paul for the simple fact that they, in their time spent amongst the nations, and became uncircumcised themselves in both flesh and spirit.
Keep these definitions in mind when reading Paul’s use of the terms.
9 And when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, they who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the nations, and they to the circumcision. 10 They only asked us to remember the poor, which very thing I was also zealous to do.
If Paul openly admits that James, Peter, and John were the pillars of the Assembly, and that they gave Paul the right hand of fellowship, then why in our modern versions of the Bible do we place Paul’s letters immediately post-Gospel? Would it surprise you to know that in many of the oldest Greek Bible codices the General Letters- those written by James, Peter, and John- were placed immediately post-Gospel, and that the same book order is followed in the Syriac Peshitta? Before reading anything Paul had to say, one should read the following passages:
- James 2:14,17; “What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him? …Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself.”
- 2nd Peter 3:15-16, “…our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote to you; as also in all of his letters, speaking in them of these things. In those, there are some things that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unsettled twist, as they also do to the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
- 1st John 3:4, “Everyone who sins also commits lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness.”
- 1st John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. His commandments are not grievous.”
The testimonies of James, Peter, and John- the pillars of the Assembly- must be kept in mind before delving into the teachings of Paul, as by his own testimony they came before him as pillars of the assemblies. Otherwise, our perspective on Paul will remain unchecked- twisted and unlearned- and will be subjectively narrow.
11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I resisted him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before some people came from James, he ate with the Gentiles. But when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews joined him in his hypocrisy; so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they did not walk uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live as the Gentiles do, and not as the Jews do, why do you compel the Gentiles to live as the Jews do?
Paul noticed a glaring inconsistency in Peter’s actions. It was extremely unfavorable within the Jewish community in those days for Jews to be caught eating with non-Jews; hence why Jesus Himself was questioned by the Pharisees for this very thing in Matthew 9:10-12. When Peter knew that James’ disciples were coming near, he again resumed this practice of separation, for fear that those who were still tradition-bound would think ill of him for associating with those outside the Pharisaic community.
Yet this practice was neither in accordance with the Law or the Gospel of Christ, both of which are messages of inclusion- not exclusion.
Peter, by his example of exclusion, was convincing those whom he was preaching to live not as the Jews truly aught to, but as those from other nations who held no moral standard. It was hypocrisy, and turned others off to hearing his message of the Truth.
15 “We, being Jews by nature, and not sinners from the nations, 16 yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law, because no flesh will be justified by the works of the law.
This term, “works of the law”, does not refer to God’s Law itself, but rather to the additional man-made rules and regulations that surround (or replace) God’s Law.
This same term, “works of the law”, was recorded in the writings of the Qumran sect, the Dead Sea Scrolls. This sect was most likely the Essenes, known for their hyper-purist approach to Law keeping. From scroll 4QMMT, “We have also written to you concerning some of the ‘works of the law’, which we think are beneficial to you and your people.”
The Pharisees, also, had this precept: “Moses received the Law from Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua; Joshua to the elders; the elders to the prophets; and the prophets handed it down to the men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples, and make a fence around the Law.” (Pirke Avot, 1.1) It is these fences around God’s Law- these “works of the law”- that Paul is writing so vehemently against, not God’s Law itself.
For example, God’s Law says to remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy- six days you may work, and on the seventh day you rest. (Exodus 20:8-11, Deuteronomy 5:13-14) This commandment, in its original form, is very simple. But man’s law added piles upon piles of regulations to God’s Law, giving confining lists of not only what was required for Sabbath observance but also what was condemned to do on the Sabbath day. The Sabbath is just one example out of many that show that God’s Law is simple, whereas man’s law is burdensome.
What Paul here is saying is that these sectarian additions to- and hedges surrounding- God’s Law are mutually exclusive with faith in Jesus Christ which brings salvation, because it places the act of salvation not upon God’s standard of righteousness (God’s Law) but upon man’s own actions and determinations (works of the law).
17 But if, while we sought to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also were found sinners, is Christ a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I build up again those things which I destroyed, I prove myself a law-breaker. 19 For I, through the law, died to the law, that I might live to God.
Paul here, by his own admission, is not fighting against God’s Law; for he has proven himself to be against God’s Law only when he builds up again the things which he destroyed. God’s Law itself requires that no additional commandments are added to it (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32), and yet this is exactly what the sectarian lifestyle is all about. We saw it in Rabbinic Judaism 2000 years ago, and we see it in modern Christian denominations all over the world today.
Breaking the so-called “bondage” of God’s Law in exchange for the so-called “freedom” of man’s law has become a problem that spans the entirety of the human condition. Here are a few examples. God’s Law contains very little in the way of attire regulations, but man insists on wearing one’s “Sunday Best” to a worship service. God’s Law makes no prohibition against consuming alcohol, but man’s law goes so far as to misinterpret the miracle Jesus performed at the wedding at Cana to make the Savior turn water not into wine, but into grape juice. In God’s Law marriage was simple- Isaac had never even met Rebecca, and the first thing he did was take her into his tent to consummate their marriage; man’s law, however, requires a lengthy engagement to test if it is “God’s will”, a state certificate, and a big flashy wedding ceremony for the marriage to even be recognized. The list goes on.
This is what Paul is expressing when he speaks of resurrecting his past which he had destroyed, for the simple fact that man’s law brings bondage, and God’s Law brings freedom.
20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me. 21 I do not make void the grace of God. For if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nothing!”
Here is a classic example of Paul vs. Paul. He says here in Galatians 2:21, “…if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nothing!” Yet in Romans 2:13 he writes, “…it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be justified…”
To dispel any notion of semantics from going on here, the words used for “righteousness” in Galatians 2:21 and “justified” in Romans 2:13 are from the same Greek root word “dikaios” (dikaiwV), meaning, according to Strongs, in the most literal sense, “observing divine laws”. So which is it- does righteousness come by the law, or not?
Ron Mosley, in his book “Yeshua, a Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church”, pointed out that “Understanding Paul’s letters is similar to the game show Jeopardy, where contestants have the answers but not the questions.” (p. 38)
What Paul is teaching that while God’s Law itself does not bring righteousness, but God Himself does. He provided the Law as a way to understand sin- what it is, what it is not, and how to avoid it. That action in and of itself is a form of grace. In other words, those who keep God’s Law will be justified- not because they did so, but because God said so.
1 Foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you not to obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth among you as crucified? 2 I just want to learn this from you. Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now completed in the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain, if it is indeed in vain? 5 He therefore who supplies the Spirit to you, and works miracles among you, does he do it by the works of the law, or by hearing of faith?
Neither the indwelling of the Holy Spirit nor the working of miracles comes by the “works of the law” (man made religious laws), but rather these things come by the hearing of faith, and this faith- being dead without some form of works to substantiate it- makes itself known by how we lead our lives. This faith is not merely a blind relief in a religious system, nor is it simply having some form of knowledge, but rather this faith is made evident by our conduct and actions.
6 Even as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.” 7 Know therefore that those who are of faith, the same are children of Abraham. 8 The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you all the nations will be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham.
God foreknew that He would, at some point, have to scatter the children of Abraham to all the nations of the world (Deuteronomy 28-30). It is because Israel had been scattered to all the nations of the world that they carried with them the blessings and promises that had been made to Abraham so many years earlier.
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse. For it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 Now that no man is justified by the law before God is evident, for, “The righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not of faith, but, “The man who does them will live by them.”
Notice Paul’s words very carefully; those who observe the “works of the law” are under a curse. Why? Because they do not do the things that are written in the book of God’s Law. Man’s law and God’s Law oppose one another, because where God’s Law is present, when lived out in faith, man’s law is simply not necessary. The righteous will live by faith, and again, this faith is substantiated by action.
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us. For it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree,” 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
By “curse of the law”, Paul is not referring to the Law as a curse- unless perhaps he intended to disagree with King David who writes in Psalm 19:7, “The law of YHWH is perfect, restoring the soul.” Also Psalm 119:96, “I have seen a limit to all perfection, but Your commands are boundless.” Rather, what Paul here is speaking of is the curse that is brought by disobedience to the Law. Instead of personally paying the punishment for our sins, Jesus bore in His flesh our punishment; He took upon Himself the “curse of the law” purely in the sense that He bore the punishment that had been rightfully intended for us.
There is no short supply of verses in the Scriptures which clearly state that God’s Law is a blessing, and not a curse. Paul himself says in Romans 7:11 that “…the Law indeed is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good.” Being obedient to God’s Law is not a curse; rather, a curse is only incurred when one is disobedient to it.
15 Brothers, speaking of human terms, though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been confirmed, no one makes it void, or adds to it.
Nothing could be clearer, for Paul sets the story straight: a covenant is a binding agreement, and their sole purpose is to be established so concretely that they are neither made void nor added to. To be consistent, this standard holds true also for God’s Law, which can neither be made void nor added to.
Consider that Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I have come to destroy the law or the prophets. I have not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished.” Judging from just a pure, literal sense of His words, it is obvious that He did not intend God’s Law to ever end, but rather upheld the covenant that His Father put in place so many years prior.
16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “To seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “To your seed,” which is Christ. 17 Now I say this. A covenant confirmed beforehand by God in Christ, the law, which came four hundred thirty years after, does not annul, so as to make the promise of no effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by promise.
The lineage of Jesus is recorded twice in the New Testament- once in Matthew 1 and the other in Luke 3- clearly illustrating that He is the seed that was promised to Abraham. Paul here points out that the Jesus did not come because of the Law; that is, God’s intention in sending a Savior had nothing to do with the Law itself, but rather simply because He had promised it to Abraham as a result of Abraham’s faith-driven obedience to His commandments.
19 What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the seed should come to whom the promise has been made. It was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator.
God’s Law serves as an absolute standard to both God’s definition of sin and God’s instruction in righteousness. It absolutely and definitively answers the following questions:
- What does God expect from me?
- What does God not expect from me?
- What is sin?
- What is not sin?
Paul’s use of the phrase “until the seed should come to whom the promise has been made” does not mean in any sense that the Law would come to an end upon Christ’s arrival. How could it, when Jesus Himself said that He had not come to do away with the Law in Matthew 5:17-18? He even went on to say that until heaven and earth pass away, and all is fulfilled, that not even a pen stroke was to pass from the Law. (Last time I checked, heaven and earth are still here, and there is a good deal yet to be fulfilled!)
When Paul said that the Law was “…until the seed should come to whom the promise has been made”, he was referring to the fact that Christ is the point of the Law- as in, the Law serves to point us toward Christ and our need for redemption. Think of it this way: if we did not have knowledge that we were sinners, we would not realize that we had need of redemption. But when we become aware of our deficiencies in holiness standards, then we are able to clearly recognize our need for atonement and redemption.
Paul wrote in Romans 10:4, “For Christ is the fulfillment of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” In the Aramaic, which was most certainly the original language of Paul’s writing, this word “fulfillment” does not mean “to end”, but rather carries with it the connotation of being “the purpose of”. In other words, Christ is the goal/purpose/aim/culmination of the Law for all righteous believers. This same thought process holds true for Galatians 3:19.
20 Now a mediator is not between one, but God is one.
A mediator is not needed in a one-sided agreement, but only when two (or more) parties are involved. In the case of the law, God is only one half of the covenant- the giving half- whereas God’s people are the other half- the receiving half. God’s Law is a covenant agreement between two parties which was mediated by Moses.
21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could make alive, most certainly righteousness would have been of the law.
God’s Law is not against His own promises. But again- Paul argues that the purpose of God’s Law is not to give salvation, for only God alone can do that. The purpose of God’s Law is to give us an absolute and definitive outline of sin; to show us our heritage; to point us to the fact that we are absolutely and hopelessly dependent upon the Living God.
Consider also that many men and women were found to be righteous- that is, justified by their observance of God’s Law- significantly prior to Jesus having come, been crucified, and been resurrected. Just few examples are: Noah (Genesis 6:9); Abraham (Genesis 15:6); Job (Job 1:8); Asa, King of Judah (1 Kings 15:14); and Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-6).
22 But the Scriptures imprisoned all things under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, confined for the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 So that the law has become our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all children of God, through faith in Christ Jesus.
There is no instance in which faith alone can replace obedience to God’s commandments. James makes his very clear when he writes that “…faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself.” (James 2:17) Paul himself even said in Romans 6:1-2, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.” So obviously, even if we have all the grace in the world, we are not given a license to sin!
Paul writes in 1st Corinthian 9:20,22; “…though I was free from all, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more… to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain those who are under the law… I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.” Paul has made himself as “under the law”, though he himself was not “under the law”. The truth of the matter is, when Paul writes that “we are no longer under a tutor”, that no one, at any given point in history, has ever been “under the law”. (Being “under the law” will be further discussed in the commentaries to Galatians 4:21 and 5:18.)
God’s Law has always been a tutor to point us toward Christ- one that we have never been “under”, but will always be guided by. Now that Christ has come, God’s Law still remains as an absolute standard to both God’s definition of sin and God’s instruction in righteousness. It is the same standard that was kept by both Jesus Himself (Matthew 7:21-23) and His Apostles (1st John 3:4, Romans 4:15).
27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to promise.
The Gospel Message to join the Kingdom of God has been spread out to all people of the world, and this invitation is not based upon racial division, gender superiority, or social status. This invitation is based purely upon personal acceptance, sealed by obedience to God’s commandments. Isaiah 56:4-7, “Thus says YHWH, ‘To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose the things that please Me, and hold fast My covenant: to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial and a name better than of sons and of daughters; I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Also the foreigners who join themselves to YHWH, to minister to Him, and to love the name of YHWH, to be His servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath from profaning it, and holds fast My covenant; even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
1 But I say that so long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a bondservant, though he is lord of all; 2 but is under guardians and stewards until the day appointed by the father. 3 So we also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental principles of the world.
Note that Christ did not set believers free from the Law, but from the base elements of this world- as in, from the pagan cultures and influence that attempt to corrupt our way of thinking.
Paul uses an analogy from every day life to illustrate an important truth for us as believers. When an important member of society was bringing up his son to be an heir to his position or estate, he would place him in the tutelage of guardians and stewards for the purpose of teaching, training, and grooming him for the position he would once hold. This same concept holds true for us as believers- before we can even comprehend the purpose of our redeemer, we must first understand our need for redemption. The Law serves as our teacher to point out our us toward Christ.
4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent out His Son, born to a woman, born under the law, 5 that He might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of children. 6 And because you are children, God sent out the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” 7 So you are no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
The word used here for law here in both Greek and Aramaic, nomos and namosa (respectively), usually refers to the God’s Law, but can- depending upon the context of its usage- refer to any generic set of man’s laws. Such is the case in Galatians 4:4-5, especially since the context given in verse 3 is presented as having been “held in bondage under the elemental principles of the world”. Common sense dictates that this is obviously referring to man’s law- not God’s law.
What is being taught here is that Christ was born to a woman (Mary). He was born “under the law” of the Romans, to redeem those who were also “under the law” of the land of their captivity.
8 However at that time, not knowing God, you were in bondage to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, why do you turn back again to the weak and miserable elemental principles, to which you desire to be in bondage all over again?
Contrary to popular belief, Paul would have never referred to God’s Law as “weak and miserable”, given that the only Scriptures he had available to him- the Old Testament- consistently referred to God’s Law as perfect (Psalm 19:7), good (Nehemiah 9:13), wonderful (Psalm 119:39), and truthful (Malachi 2:6). Rather, these “weak and miserable elemental principles” that the Galatians were turning to observe again were the pagan, false, man-made rules of religious systems, having nothing to do with God’s Law.
10 You observe days, months, seasons, and years. 11 I am afraid for you, that I might have wasted my labor for you. 12 I beg you, brothers, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong, 13 but you know that because of weakness of the flesh I preached the Gospel to you the first time. 14 That which was a temptation to you in my flesh, you did not despise nor reject; but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
Some try to teach that Paul here chided the Galatians for observing Jewish holy days (the Sabbath, Passover, etc.). This is proven false by looking closely at the contextual terminology that Paul has used in his preceding references. Paul is writing to those who were “held in bondage under the elemental principles of the world” (verse 3), being “in bondage to those who by nature are not gods” (verse 8), and observing the “weak and miserable elemental principles” (verse 9). These statements can not apply to those with a Jewish, Hebraic, or Scriptural background. Rather, as determined by the preceding context, these “days, months, seasons, and years” that Paul chided the Galatians for observing were not the feasts of God, outlined in Leviticus 23, but rather were pagan and man made festivals.
15 What was the blessing you enjoyed? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. 16 So then, have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They zealously seek you in no good way. No, they desire to alienate you, that you may seek them. 18 But it is always good to be zealous in a good cause, and not only when I am present with you. 19 My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ is formed in you- 20 but I could wish to be present with you now, and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.
Paul admonished the Galatians to reject falsehood, and to reject teachers of falsehood only wish to perpetuate their own false doctrines rather than to establish Scriptural truth. He has also reminded them to hold fast to the truth- not only when he is present, but after he has departed from them also.
21 Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, do not you listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the free woman. 23 However, the son by the handmaid was born according to the flesh, but the son by the free woman was born through promise. 24 These things contain an allegory, for these are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children to bondage, which is Hagar. 25 For this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to the Jerusalem that exists now, for she is in bondage with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written, “Rejoice, you barren who do not bear. Break forth and shout, you that do not travail. For more are the children of the desolate than of her who has a husband.”
28 Now we, brothers, as Isaac was, are children of promise. 29 But as then, he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 However what does the Scripture say? “Throw out the handmaid and her son, for the son of the handmaid will not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So then, brothers, we are not children of a handmaid, but of the free woman.
Some attempt in error to use these passages as proof-positive support that the Law was a form of bondage that Jesus has somehow liberated us from. Just as Paul points out in verse 24, there are two covenants being discussed in his allegory- but what people fail to realize is that the Law itself contains two covenants. The first was surely from Sinai- that much is true, and is recorded in Exodus 19 and the proceeding chapters. The second, that many are unaware of, was made at Moab, and is recorded in Deuteronomy 29.
It is said in Deuteronomy 29:4, “YHWH has not given you a heart to know, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, to this day.” Until the day that the covenant at Moab had been made, the people of Israel had not been given a heart to know, eyes to see, or ears to hear, since the covenant made at Sinai with their forefathers was not made with their heart. However, from that point going forward, the covenant made at Moab was to be made with the hearts of the people. This calls to mind the “New Covenant” of Jeremiah 31:31-33, in which God’s Law was prophesied to be written on the hearts of all believers.
Now that this has been established, it is easy to get back to Paul’s analogy to see what was actually being taught here. The following chart should help to clarify:
|Two Covenants (Galatians 4:21-31)|
|Exodus 19||Deuteronomy 29|
|The handmaiden (Hagar)||The free woman (Sarah)|
|Covenant at Mount Sinai||Covenant at Moab|
|Made solely with the flesh||Made with heart and flesh|
Paul then goes on to compare the offspring of these two women (covenants). Ishmael, the son of the bondwoman, is those who live exclusively of the flesh, believing that action alone (apart from faith and belief) bring eternal justification. Isaac, however, is the son of the free woman, and is those who live according to the Spirit- yet even those who are of the Spirit keep the Law of God.
The problem comes into play when one attempts to keep the Law exclusively in physicality without also examining the heart intention behind it. The bondage referred to here by Paul is not the Law itself, but is rather the attempt to keep the Law exclusively in the flesh without also having the right heart intention to back it up. Paul referred to this concept- the heart intention- as “circumcision of the heart” in Romans 2:29, and even this is part of the covenant at Moab, as shown by Deuteronomy 30:6, “YHWH your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love YHWH your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live.”
1 Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
It has been previously explained in the commentary to Galatians 2:4 that the term “liberty” here must be understood not as liberty from the Law, but rather as liberty from sin, and that the term “bondage” here cannot refer to God’s Law itself, since God’s Law is called “not burdensome” in both the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 30:11) and the New (1st John 5:3). Rather, “bondage” here refers to man-made rules and regulations, which- according to Acts 15- were being thrust upon new believers as a precondition to salvation.
2 Behold, I, Paul, tell you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 Yes, I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4 You are alienated from Christ, you who desire to be justified by the law. You have fallen away from grace. 5 For we, through the Spirit, by faith wait for the hope of righteousness.
It sounds good and well to assume that Paul here is speaking against circumcision and Law keeping- however, before jumping to conclusions, one must critically evaluate some of Paul’s prior actions.
Paul himself personally circumcised Timothy in Acts 16:3, implying it as necessity based upon the fact that he was at least partially Jewish. He then specifically mentioned in Galatians 2:23 that Titus, who was a Greek, was not compelled to be circumcised. The theological inconsistency here emerges in Galatians 3:28, in which Paul writes that that “There is neither Jew nor Greek… for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
If there is neither Jew nor Greek, but both are one in Christ Jesus, then we must assume that God does not have special rules for one group that He would not expect of the other. From that perspective, only one of three positions is possible: first, that Paul erred in circumcising Timothy; second, that Paul erred in not circumcising Titus; and third, that there is another option that has not yet been considered.
This third option- that has been presented over and over in this commentary to Galatians- is that Paul was writing against a specific heresy that had been plaguing the assemblies since the ruling of the Jerusalem council in Acts 15. This heresy taught that new believers were first required to be circumcised, then keep all of the commandments of the Law, and then they could be considered “saved”. They taught a works-before-faith method of salvation which God has never been approved of by God! Rather, the faith-before-works method of salvation absolutely and definitively reconciles Paul’s theological discrepancies seen in Acts 16:3, Galatians 2:3, 3:28, and 5:4.
Faith-before-works “fits” in the case Acts 16:3. Paul circumcised Timothy without remorse or hesitation. Because of his faith and Jewish background, circumcision was the “next step” for him in following the commandments of God.
Faith-before-works “fits” in the case of Galatians 2:3. As a Greek, Titus was a newcomer to the faith, having no prior understanding of God’s Law. Paul notes that he was not compelled to be circumcised, in the sense that this decision was left solely up to him, rather than falling to the pressure of the heretics. If Titus was to be circumcised, it would have to be done out of sincere devotion to the commandments of God- not because he was compelled by heretics.
Faith-before-works “fits” in the case of Galatians 3:28. The expectations of God do not differ from one people group to another, but are consistent across the board. Either God does expect His people to keep His Law, or He does not- but both statements cannot be true. Followers of God (Jews and non Jews alike) are held to the same standard- faith that is made evident by works.
Faith-before-works “fits” in the case of Galatians 5:4. For those seeking to be justified by their own attempts at keeping the Law, they have taken God, Jesus, and faith out of the salvation equation altogether. But those who keep the Law as an expression of their faith fall right in line with every pattern of every righteous patriarch and prophet in the Old Testament, and the Apostles and Disciples in the New Testament.
It should be evident that Paul was not making blanket statements against either circumcision or Law keeping in general, but was rather targeting a specific heresy that had been consistently plaguing the early assemblies: works-before-faith. One must keep in mind the social context in which Paul is writing before making such claims.
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision amounts to anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith working through love.
As has been mentioned before, Paul frequently uses these terms “circumcision” and “uncircumcision” in his writings not as actual indicators of whether an individual had been circumcised or not, but as terms referring to two distinct people groups- the Jews and the lost sheep of the Northern Kingdom, i.e. the gentiles, as referenced in the commentary to Galatians 2:6-8. This point is made evident in Ephesians 2:11-13, “Therefore remember that once you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “uncircumcision” by that which is called “circumcision,” in the flesh, made by hands; that you were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off are made near in the blood of Christ.”
Paul is not in the slightest way making void the Abrahamic covenant- in fact, physical circumcision has nothing to do with the actual point Paul is making here, which is to back up the message he had previously made clear in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
7 You were running well! Who interfered with you that you should not obey the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little yeast grows through the whole lump. 10 I have confidence toward you in the Lord that you will think no other way. But he who troubles you will bear his judgment, whoever he is.
Paul commends the Galatian assembly for formerly following “the truth”. Psalm 119:142 reveals that “Your Law is truth.” This perspective fits right in line with the rest of Paul’s preaching- that one should have faith in God and follow His commandments, to serve and obey Him rather than fallen man’s religious rules and regulations as an attempt at self-justification.
11 But I, brothers, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish that those who disturb you would cut themselves off. 13 For you, brothers, were called for freedom. Only do not use your freedom for gain to the flesh, but through love be servants to one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Paul reasons here that just because we have freedom within the Law does not mean we have justification to cause others to stumble. For example- and in ancient times this was especially true- God’s Law laid down the principal that certain meat was good for food (clean), whereas other meat was not to be consumed (unclean). The Rabbinically certified Jewish diet, however, takes this a step further, and requires that one not only abstains from unclean meat, but from clean meat that did not meet Rabbinic approval (kosher certification).
What Paul is saying would apply here perfectly- just because I have the freedom within God’s Law to reject this specific man-made regulation, I should not do so in a case in which doing so would be a significant stumbling block to others in the household of faith. In this specific situation, just because I have freedom within God’s Law to consume clean meat that had not been Rabbinically certified, does not mean that those who choose to eat only Rabbinically certified meat are necessarily wrong for doing so.
Paul is not saying “Keeping the Law is okay sometimes, when it’s for the benefit of Jewish believers.” Rather, Paul is saying, “Keep the Law always in love, and do not use your liberty from man-made regulations to offend others.” To make doctrinal differences a point of contention is the exact opposite of loving our neighbors as ourselves.
15 But if you bite and devour one another, be careful that you do not consume one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, that you may not do the things that you desire. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
To be “under the law” meant that one had to submit themselves to a series of prerequisites for the sake of pleasing man rather than pleasing God. It was that same false doctrine perpetuated in Acts 15, in which new believers were required to first be circumcised and keep God’s Law, and then they could be saved. But- as has already been established- God does not expect works as a prerequisite to faith, but rather faith has always consistently come prior to works.
19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious, which are: adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustfulness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, 21 envyings, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these; of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Paul is saying here to avoid things like “sexual immorality” and “uncleanliness”. This is all good and well, but by who’s standard are these terms defined? Without having concrete definitions to tell explain exactly what Paul meant by things like “sexual immorality” and “uncleanliness”, we are left with only very arbitrary, abstract definitions that can vary from one interpretation to the next. What is unclean by one person’s standards might be completely acceptable to those of another. When God’s Law is consulted, however, the definition of the “uncleanliness” we are told to avoid becomes abundantly clear (for example, see Leviticus 13). The same line of reasoning can be used for “sexual immorality” (thoroughly defined in Leviticus 18 and 20).
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Jesus said in John 12:47, “I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” He did not come to judge the world for the simple fact that the world had already been judged. The Law, however, cannot stand in judgment against anyone who has committed no crime. These elements that Paul lists (love, joy, peace, etc.), when kept as part of one’s walk with God, instruct us how to rightfully keep His Commandments.
24 Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, and envying one another.
To belong to Christ means denouncing the thoughts, wills, and desires of the flesh. In other words, being lead by the Spirit to walk in God’s commandments.
1 Brothers, even if a man is caught in some fault, you who are spiritual must restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourself so that you are not also tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Paul here refers to the “Law of Christ”- so naturally, one might expect to see a Law laid down by Christ, recorded somewhere in any one of the four Gospels. And yet we read the following statements regarding the Law that Christ Himself kept:
- Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the Law, until all things are accomplished.”
- Mark 2:28, “The Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
- Luke 16:28, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.”
- John 14:21, “One who has My commandments, and keeps them, that person is one who loves Me. One who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will reveal Myself to him.”
From the very words of Christ, this is a brief summation of what He thought of the Law: it will not pass away, His day is the Sabbath, Christ’s resurrection can profit you nothing if you have not heard it, and the way we show our love to Him is by keeping it.
3 For if a man thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each man test his own work, and then he will take pride in himself and not in his neighbor. 5 For each man will bear his own burden. 6 But let him who is taught in the word share all good things with him who teaches.
It is essential for us as individuals to focus on our own individual performance within the Body of Christ, rather than focusing on criticizing our neighbors. Paul then mentions to share with those who have taught us- a reminder to not neglect the charitable giving to worthy sources.
7 Do not be deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption. But he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 Let us not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do what is good toward all men, and especially toward those who are of the household of the faith.
Paul lays down the principal that we will reap in the manner in which what we sow- those whose sights are set only upon the things of this world will indeed only receive benefit from the things of this world. He admonishes us to be frequent in doing good toward our fellow man- both toward those who are of the household of faith, and even those who are on the outside- so that we may reap in eternity the benefits of what we sow in this life.
11 See with what large letters I write to you with my own hand. 12 As many as desire to look good in the flesh, they compel you to be circumcised; only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even they who receive circumcision do not keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may boast in your flesh.
Those who preached the works-before-faith method did not actually keep the Law themselves, but rather they cared only about pushing their own doctrines, and converting others to their own thought processes. The boasting in their flesh was all about gaining denominational popularity. It was all about pushing a religion as opposed to teaching a faith.
14 But far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For in Christ Jesus neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
Paul’s use of the phrases “circumcision” and “uncircumcision’ refers back to those two distinct people groups (the Jews and the gentiles) mentioned earlier in Galatians 2:6-8 and 5:6. The coming together of Jews and gentiles (those of the Northern Kingdom) was one of the focal points of Jesus’ death on the cross- to bring the two groups together into a new creation as one new man.
16 As many as walk by this rule, peace and mercy be on them, and on God’s Israel. 17 From now on, let no one cause me any trouble, for I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus branded on my body. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
Paul makes reference here to “God’s Israel”, or the Israel of God- which is distinguished from the man-made religious structures. It is the faith-before-works model vs. works-before-faith that is the main point of distinction between God’s layout for the Nation of Israel and these man-made religious systems that Paul fought so fervently against.
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