Thursday, February 28, 2013

Galatians 5:13 Messianic Style


Paul had just made some very strong statements about the false teachers who had come into the Galatian fellowship, trying to pervert the gospel of Messiah. Paul then continued.

Galatians 5:13 (KJV)
13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

The Galatians had been called into liberty (verse 13). Paul's readers of the day understood what he was referring to, but here in the twenty-first century it is much more difficult, because we read Paul's letters through many centuries of our own traditions and assumptions that may or may not be true. For most of these centuries it has been believed that Paul was contrasting living under grace as opposed to living under Torah, but this has not been the issue of Galatians. The foundation of Galatians, as we've seen, has been that mankind is saved by grace through faith and nothing else.The false teachers ultimately were denying that Yeshua's death and resurrection accomplished all that was needed for mankind's salvation. They believed faith was not enough, but that ritual conversion had to be added. So, what liberty was Paul talking about?

If we remember back in chapter 4, Paul had stated that when individuals come to faith in Messiah Yeshua, they are freed from the bondage of the principles of the world. The believers have gone from bondage to what the principles of the world required, to freedom now under the reign of Yeshua. It didn't matter either, really, whether the believers were Jews or Gentiles. In either case the unbelievers were subject to trying to appease the gods. The rules or methods required needed to be followed meticulously so that the gods were happy with the subjects. Man-made religion is superstitious in nature. The followers are stuck in a never ending cycle of following rules, but never knowing if what they had done was enough. This was what the false teachers were espousing. In contrast living by faith in Yeshua meant knowing that His sacrifice had saved the believers and they were free from the treadmill of constantly following rules in the attempt to appease. Rather, they could live as God wanted them to live, but without the constant superstitious striving. When they did sin, the faith relationship was not destroyed. They were not living by their own attempts at righteousness.

Paul continued in verse 13 with a caution not to use that liberty as an occasion to the flesh. In other words he didn't want the Galatians to use that liberty as an excuse to sin. Although they didn't have to be consumed with trying to be righteous in order to be saved, the Galatian believers were not to intentionally engage in sin.

This should ring true in all of our hearts, because when we know that God has saved us, there can be a tendency to feel, prior to sin, that it doesn't really matter because God will forgive us. Certainly, this is not necessarily a conscious decision to go out and sin, but instead, in the heat of emotion, take anger for example, the normal Christian response is exchanged for the fleshly sinful response. Yet, in that emotion, in the seconds that it took to process the anger, that tendency of knowing God will forgive, can come into play, and we respond in sin. This was Paul's caution.

Paul's idea of liberty was not a turning away from Torah. God's laws were not the bondage that the Galatians had been freed from. Believers are freed in order to live righteous lives as God intended.

1 John 5:3 (KJV)
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

When John and Paul were writing there was no New Testament that was viewed as Scripture (See here:). John's comments about keeping the commandments, which are not grievous, could only refer to the Torah. Obviously, Paul could not have been speaking about being freed from the Torah either.

Paul's last instruction in verse 13 was that instead of sinning, believers were to serve one another in love. In my next post we will deal with that topic.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Galatians 5:5-12 Messianic Style


Paul and the other New Testament writers refer to the Scriptures, Law, and commandments quite frequently in their writings. Since the New Testament did not formally exist at the time of their writing, their references must refer to the Old Testament.

Keeping this in mind we continue with chapter 5.

Galatians 5:5-12 (KJV)
5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.
9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
10 I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.
11 And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.
12 I would they were even cut off which trouble you.

Verse 5 continues on Paul's theme of salvation by faith. Believers through the Holy Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness, eternal life. This hope of eternal life is based on trusting in Yeshua's righteousness, but leads to an increasing sanctification and righteousness of the believer.

This occurs through faith and is not based on whether one is a Jew or a Gentile. (Paul again used circumcision and uncircumcision to identify Jews and Gentiles.) Faith is demonstrated by good deeds motivated by love.

In verse 7 Paul commended the Galatians for their "walk" that resulted from salvation by faith. He returned to the topic of why they would turn away from the truth and follow the false teachers, whose teaching was not from God (verse 8). He then reminded the Galatians that a little bit of yeast put into bread dough will leaven the entire loaf, just like a small deviation from the truth of God can cause great damage to the believers (verse 9).

Paul then encouraged the Galatians by stating his confidence in them in verse 10. Notice, that his confidence was based on the Lord's ability to keep the Galatian believers sound rather than on their own ability! The false teachers, or anyone else potentially coming along with false ideas, would be accountable to God for their teaching error to the Galatians.

In verse 11 Paul pointed out that if he went back and preached according to what the false teachers believed, that the Galatians needed to be ritually converted in order to be a part of the Kingdom of God, he would be in line with what traditional Judaism believed. He would not be persecuted any more, but then the "offense" of the cross would no longer exist either. Basically, Yeshua would have died for nothing if ritual conversion was what saved.

Lastly, Paul emphatically denounced the false teachers in verse 12. Being "cut off" in this case likely meant to "separate from" or to "expel" the false teachers. Considering that the false teachers believed that the Galatians needed to be ritually circumcised, Paul very likely was turning the tables on the false teachers and was suggesting that "cut off" was to be taken more literally. No one could ever accuse Paul of timidity!

Next time we will discuss the topic of Christian liberty.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Galatians 5 Messianic Style - Paul's Scriptures


In our study of Galatians Paul's main thrust has been the issue of how mankind receives salvation. His prime example has been Abraham, whose faith was credited to him as righteousness.

Galatians 3:6 (KJV)
6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

Then in Galatians 5 Paul discussed the bondage that the Galatian believers were desiring to enter into by being ritually converted to Judaism. Yet, salvation doesn't free mankind totally from everything. Paul stated this in Romans.

Romans 6:18 (KJV)
18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

What is righteousness? The Free Online Dictionary defines righteousness as being, "morally upright; without guilt or sin." How do we know what constitutes righteousness? Christians believe that it is God, through the written Bible, who tells us what righteousness looks like As we go further into our study of Galatians, we will find that chapters 5 and 6 relate much about righteousness. Do we find everything that we need in order to understand what righteousness is by reading the New Testament? Most Christians would say, "yes." The traditional understanding is that the Old Testament Law is no longer in force (Others believe that the "moral law" is still applicable, but not the "ritual" or "civic" law.) and that the New Testament is the only law that is applicable. While there are passages that seem to agree with this there are others that flatly contradict this idea.

Romans 7:12 (KJV)
12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

Here Paul not only states that the law is holy, but that the commandment (singular) is holy. What commandment and what law is he referring to? If Paul is talking about a singular law and commandment, he must be referring to the entire body of the Old Testament Law.

2 John 1:5-6 (KJV)
5 And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.
6 And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.

John tells us  that he had written a "new" commandment to the "lady." However, he goes on to say that the commandment to love one another, is not new, but has been around "from the beginning." John can only be referring to the commands to love one another in the Old Testament.

John 15:10 (KJV)
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.

In this verse John quotes Yeshua by saying that if we keep His commandments as He had kept His Father's commandments, we will abide in the Father's love. Which commandments did Yeshua keep? He had to faithfully keep every command in the Old Testament in order to qualify to be the sacrifice for our sin. Which commandments are we to keep? He doesn't specify, but seems to assume that the believers would understand. Most likely, the Father's commandments and Yeshua's would be the same. Notice, that it is through the keeping of the commandments that we abide in the Father's love.

Romans 2:13 (KJV)
13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

In Romans Paul clearly stands with James in that the evidence of faith in Yeshua results in doing the law. Again, which law is Paul referring to? Without specification, the whole law seems to be indicated.

1 John 3:4 (KJV)
4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

John also uses the law in an unspecified sense. When we sin we transgress the whole law of God.

Some reading these verses will still argue that "the law" and "the commandments" only apply to either the "moral" law or those "laws" delineated in the New Testament. There is no instance in the New Testament where we are directed to obey only the "moral" law. There is also no instance where the law is actually separated into moral, ritual, and civic categories. Also, it is impossible that the New Testament writers could be directing the believers into following only New Testament law since no New Testament existed for them at that time. Paul's letters were likely written before the Gospels (Hegg, Tim. The Letter Writer: Paul's Background and Torah Perspective. TorahResource, Tacoma, WA, 2008. p. 146). His writings as well as the other New Testament writings were not likely considered Scripture until after the apostolic period.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV)
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Therefore, when Paul stated the above, he could only be referring to the Old Testament. Verse 17 summarized Paul's view. The Old Testament was what God had given mankind that would equip believers for understanding what constituted good works or righteousness.

This will be important as we continue in our study of Galatians.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Galatians 5:1-4 Messianic Style


Paul finished his allegory and we are now about to move into Chapter 5.

Galatians 5:1-4 (KJV)
1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

The summary of Paul's allegory was stated in verse 31 of chapter 4. Because the Galatians had come to faith in Messiah Yeshua rather than through ritual conversion they were "sons of Sarah." Therefore, as verse 1 of chapter 5 begins, Paul instructed the believers to stand fast, or to refuse to abandon, the liberty they received from Yeshua and not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
To clarify, Paul was urging the believers to recognize that they, by coming to Yeshua in faith, were no longer under bondage to the occult, spiritual forces that were in control of the world, and not to enter into another form of bondage.

In verse 2 Paul told them that if they were ritually converted to Judaism, Yeshua would not be of benefit to them. This is the bondage that Paul was afraid that they would enter into. His statement is confusing because of how he used the word "circumcision." In chapter 2, verses 7-9, Paul used "circumcision" as a way of identifying the Jewish people. Here he was using "circumcision" as shorthand for the four steps of ritual conversion (circumcision, payment of the Temple tax, immersion, and agreeing to obey both the written and oral law).  If the Galatians ritually converted they would enter into the bondage that the Jewish system had become.

But even more importantly, if these Gentile Galatians accepted what the false teachers were saying, that they had to become Jews in order to be in the Kingdom of God and they were ritually converted, they would in essence nullify Yeshua's death and resurrection as the completed act that provided salvation. They would nullify faith as the method of how that salvation was applied. This was how Yeshua would not then be of benefit to them.

In verse 3 Paul confirmed that every man that was ritually converted would be a debtor to the whole law, meaning both the written and oral law.

Paul summarized what he was saying in verse 4. Yeshua had no effect for those who thought they were justified (saved) by ritual conversion. They would actually be fallen from grace if they were ritually converted.

Before going on, it must be remembered that Paul was primarily addressing Gentiles and the issue they were facing because of the false teachers. His comments were not directed towards Jewish believers nor was he making a statement regarding the observance of the Torah.

The Jewish believers came to faith in Yeshua just like the Gentiles. They were freed from the elements of the world, also. These elements included any bondage that resulted from the Jewish religion that contradicted God's written Law or went beyond it. This doesn't mean that all Jewish tradition was wrong, bad, or should be thrown away. Most of what was practiced in Judaism was perfectly acceptable. We see this in Yeshua's behavior while He lived on this earth. He practiced Judaism. His way was actually very similar to how the Pharisees lived. However, as we know, Yeshua did take issue with the Jewish system when it conflicted with the Torah. So, the Jewish believers were free to continue to live as Jews, but they were free, now, from any bondage outside of righteousness.

Romans 6:18 (KJV)
18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

So both Jews and Gentiles, as believers in Yeshua, were freed from sin and its bondage, whatever form it took, and were now servants of rightousness. They were free to observe Torah without extraneous bondage. There will be more on this next time.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Galatians 4:25-31 Messianic Style


In the allegory that Paul was using, Hagar represented man's attempt at accomplishing God's promise of a son for Abraham. Sarah represented God's own miraculous method of fulfilling the promise. Paul was trying to convey the difference between God's way of salvation (faith) versus the way that the false teachers were pushing (ritual conversion). Paul continued with this.

Galatians 4:25-31 (KJV)
25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

Verse 25 continues Paul's discussion about Hagar (Agar). Although she represented Mount Sinai which is located in Arabia, Mount Sinai answered to Jerusalem, as the location where God placed His name. Paul was using Hagar then as a representative also of Jerusalem, as it was at that time, and the current system of Judaism that placed the Jewish people under a form of bondage. This was what the false teachers wanted the new Galatian believers to submit to.

Paul contrasted the present Jerusalem with the Jerusalem which was above, was free, and was mother of us all (verse 26). This was Sarah in Paul's allegory and she represented the Abrahamic covenant that demonstrated that God's way of salvation was through faith. Notice that Paul claimed that the heavenly (or New) Jerusalem was the mother of us all (the believers, both Jew and Gentile). Paul was not divorcing the believers in Yeshua from Judaism per se, but rather the man-made system surrounding it.

Paul then used Isaiah 54 as the foundation of his allegory (verse 27).

Isaiah 54:1-3 (KJV)
1 Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD.
2 Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes;
3 For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.

This prophecy was about Jerusalem, which was described as being barren because her children had gone into exile. However, one day there would be an ingathering of the people, a number far exceeding what she would have expected. In this Millennial Kingdom there would be both Jews and Gentiles.

The comparison of the New Jerusalem to Sarah was in keeping with traditional Jewish interpretation of the barren woman who became the mother of a nation (Lancaster, D.Thomas. The Holy Epistle to the Galatians. First Fruits of Zion, Marshfield, MO, 2011. p. 224).

In verse 28, Paul confirmed that just like Isaac, the believers in Galatia were the children of promise.

Just as Isaac was persecuted by Ishmael, so, too, were the Galatian children of promise persecuted by the children of the flesh (the false teachers) (verse 29). This was a pretty harsh statement about the false teachers. Instead of calling them, brethren, as Paul had been calling the Galatians, he implied that the false teachers would not inherit eternal life! This was confirmed in verse 30, where just as Abraham had been told to cast out Hagar and Ishmael, so, too, the Galatians should cast out the false teachers.

In summary, Paul concluded his allegory by saying that the Galatians were the children of the free woman and not the slave woman (verse 31). There simply was no need for them to undergo ritual conversion and become Jews and be subject to the Judaic system. They were already saved and had entered the Kingdom of God.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Galatians 4:22-24 Messianic Style


Since the Galatians wanted to be under the system of Judaism, Paul asked them if they had heard what the Torah said? He then began to teach them by way of an allegory.

Galatians 4:22-24 (KJV)
22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.

The first thing to notice in verse 22 is that Paul was taking his information from the Scriptures. There it is written that Abraham had two sons. The first son, named Ishmael, was the son of a bondmaid, the slave Hagar. The second son, Isaac, was the son of Abraham's wife Sarah, a free woman.

Verse 23 states that Ishmael was born after the flesh. Isaac was born by promise. Paul was briefly explaining that God had promised a son to Abraham. When the expected heir did not come, Sarah and Abraham took matters in their own hands. Sarah gave Abraham her handmaid, Hagar, as a concubine, hoping to have children through her, which she did. That child was Ishmael. But this had not been God's plan. God intended that Abraham would have the promised son through Sarah. About thirteen years later Sarah gave birth to Isaac. It would be through Isaac that God's promises would be fulfilled. These facts must be kept in mind as Paul explained his allegory. Hagar and Ishmael were Sarah and Abraham's man-made attempt at fulfilling God's plan. Sarah and Isaac were God's miraculous fulfillment.

Verse 24 sets the stage for the allegory.  Hagar and Sarah represent two covenants. Hagar represents the covenant from Mount Sinai which leads to bondage.

Which two covenants do these women represent? Often it is assumed that they represent the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant, but this is not true. Verse 24 confirms that Hagar represents the Mosaic covenant, but to identify the covenant that Sarah represents requires a look back at what Paul had been teaching. Much time in the book of Galatians was spent in explaining that the Galatians had been saved by grace through faith. Paul's example had been Abraham, so it is understandable that Paul would use Sarah as the representative of the Abrahamic Covenant. The false teachers believed that the Galatians needed to undergo conversion to Judaism in order to be a part of the Kingdom of God. Paul's going back to the Abrahamic Covenant revealed that salvation came by faith. He made the point that a newer covenant cannot annul an older covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant was still in force and so faith continued to be the mechanism for salvation.

God has made several covenants with Israel. For example, there are the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and the New Covenants. In each case the newer only builds or expands the older, it doesn't annul. In essence then the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants were not in opposition. The Mosaic Covenant only built on the Abrahamic. Again, Paul was proving that the false teachers were wrong in their assumptions.

Verse 24 also states that the covenant that Hagar represented led to bondage. Although Hagar stood as a representative of the Mosaic Covenant, the description of that covenant leading to bondage is confusing. Paul's view of that covenant was positive.

Romans 7:12 (KJV)
12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

However, Paul did believe that coming under the system of Judaism which included an agreement to observe the oral law to the same degree as the written Law, did lead to bondage. This also violated God's plan of including both Jews and Gentiles in His kingdom, since ritual conversion made the Gentiles virtual Jews. Paul saw Hagar (and the false teachers' way) as a man-made attempt at fulfilling God's salvation plan. Sarah (and faith) was God's method of fulfillment.

The next post will continue with Paul's allegory.


Friday, February 15, 2013


Fulfillment is a good word isn't it? It speaks of contentment, happiness, and most importantly completeness. When we marry we want spouses who fulfill or complete us. No wonder God uses the example of marriage when He refers to His relationship to Israel. He is like a husband to her. He fulfills her. One day after Yeshua returns to the earth, there will be a great wedding feast for Him and His bride, the believers. Again, fulfillment speaks of contentedness and completeness. We, as believers, are completed or fulfilled in Yeshua.

Therefore, it makes perfect sense that Yeshua made the following statement:

Matthew 5:17 (KJV)
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

He came to fulfill, to make whole, to complete, not in the sense of ending anything, but of filling up, or filling to the full. He fills us up to the full, He completes us, not to make an end, but to make us whole.

Yet, Christianity has not viewed the word fulfilled in Matthew 5 in that sense. It has been said that Yeshua fulfilled the law by his death and resurrection, therefore, we don't have to do the law any more. This in effect, destroys the law, which He claimed He hadn't come to do.

But let's go with Christianity's usual understanding. Yeshua said that He fulfilled the law. He didn't specify any particular laws, just THE LAW. This must mean that Yeshua fulfilled the entire law. Based on this, then, every single law in the so-called Mosaic Law was then fulfilled and we no longer have to observe the food laws, we no longer have to observe Passover, nor do we have to keep a Saturday Sabbath. However, this also means that the law against stealing, murder, having other gods, or adultery are also fulfilled and we don't have to keep these laws any more, either. Fortunately, I don't know of any Christian who believes that when Yeshua fulfilled the law that meant the laws about murder, etc. were done away with. My dear readers, we must be consistent!

Let me give you another example.

Galatians 6:2 (KJV)
2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

If the fulfilling of a law means that we don't have to do that law any more, the Galatians verse tells us that if you bear another's burdens, then the law of Yeshua is fulfilled and you never have to do it again! But, I don't know of anyone who understands the verse in this way. We understand that by helping others with their problems we do fulfill the law of Yeshua, but we are completing, or making full, or making whole, the law, not setting it aside. We must continue to do this bearing of burdens over and over again, because it is a law that can never be set aside.

Another point about Galatians 6:2 is that the law of Yeshua is the law of love. Isn't this the same command that we find in Leviticus 19:18?

Leviticus 19:18 (KJV)
18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

It seems that the command to love your neighbor as yourself, or to bear his or her burdens has not gone away, it has not been set aside. Neither have the other laws been set aside, even though they are fulfilled.

Lastly, looking again at Matthew 5:17 we see that not only is the law fulfilled, but the prophets as well. But Yeshua's use of law and prophets is a way of referring to the entire Scriptures of God. They have all been fulfilled. Does this mean that they are all set aside? Obviously, not, since we know that there are many prophecies yet to be fulfilled in the sense of "occurring." There are also prophecies that are fulfilled multiple times. One example is Daniel's "Abomination of Desolation."

Daniel 12:11 (KJV)
11 And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.

This prophecy was fulfilled during the days of the Maccabees. Yeshua speaks of it as well in Matthew.

Matthew 24:15 (KJV)
15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

This was fulfilled during the days of the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 A.D. But many believe that this will occur during the end times as well. Yet, Yeshua fulfilled this all when He died on the cross. Obviously, the meaning is to fill up, to complete, to make whole, not to end.

Dear readers, it is time to begin reading the Bible with fresh eyes, to let go of assumptions, and false tradition that have been handed down by supposed scholars and theologians for hundreds of years. The law has been fulfilled. It has been made whole and filled to the full by Yeshua!

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Galatians 4:17-21 Messianic Style


Paul had begun speaking to the Galatians about the relationship that he had with them. Despite an infirmity he had preached to them the Gospel of Yeshua. The Galatians had accepted it and cared deeply for Paul. He continued by speaking about the false teachers and his relationship to the Galatians.

Galatians 4:17-21 (KJV)
17 They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.
18 But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.
19 My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,
20 I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.
21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

In verse 17 Paul stated that the false teachers had affected the Galatians zealously, but not in a good way. The false teachers had been trying to isolate them from the men and teachings consistent with Paul's doctrine in an attempt to make the Galatians seek only the false teachers. Paul then stated that being zealous was a good thing if it was for a good purpose and not just when Paul was present with them (verse 18).

Verse 19 expressed Paul's relationship to the Galatians in a nutshell. They were his children in faith, that he labored for them and were laboring for them until Messiah was fully formed in them. Paul meant to continue working for their salvation and sanctification until the Galatians were strong in their faith. According to verse 20 Paul wanted to be with the Galatians and able to use a gentler tone with them, but as it was, he was concerned about the direction in which they were going.

Paul then asked the Galatians another question, "Those of you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear what the law says?"

This verse can be difficult to understand because of Paul's use of "under the law." What did he mean here? He could have been referring to the Torah and he had previously used the term in this way in Galatians (4:5), but for the Jew the law also meant the encompassing system of law that included not only the written Torah, but the oral law as well. Remember, too, that even though the written Torah specified that Gentiles were to be accepted by grace through faith into Israel, the vast understanding of the Jews had been that only Jews were able to participate in the World to Come (salvation). So any Gentile desiring to be in God's kingdom must have to be converted to Judaism first. Paul had spent the majority of the first four chapters in Galatians refuting this idea. Salvation is through faith in Yeshua only and not in the law, Torah or oral. Now Paul was ready to get to the meat of his letter. The false teachers believed that the Galatians had to convert to Judaism in order to be a part of the kingdom of God. This is how Paul is obviously using "under the law." The Galatians were being swayed by the false teachers' mandate, they desired to be placed under the encompassing system of Judaism, all the oral law, and all the required customs of Judaism.

The last part of Paul's question is a play on words. If the Galatians wanted to be under the system of Judaism proscribed by the false teachers, didn't they understand what the Law (in this case the Torah) said? It is also important at this juncture to realize that the word "hear" to the Jewish mind also meant "obey." The Hebrew word "shema" although meaning "hear" is never independent of "obeying." In the next verse Paul would begin an illustration meant to clarify his arguments. This will be the topic of the next post.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Galatians 4:12-16 Messianic Style


We last left Paul taking the Galatians to task for returning to pagan practices. He ended by saying that he was afraid that he had labored among them in vain. Paul went on to speak of their relationship.

Galatians 4:12-16 (KJV)
12 Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.
13 Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.
14 And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
15 Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.
16 Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?

In spite of Paul's frustration with the Galatians, he called them brethren in verse 12. This indicated that he considered these Galatians as truly born again members of the body of Yeshua. This also reveals that they had not lost their salvation. He told them to become like him in the same way that he had become like them. This should remind us of another statement of Paul.

1 Corinthians 9:19 (KJV)
19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.

So, as Paul had embraced living among Gentiles by forgoing many of the Jewish customs that he had considered for most of his life as essential, he wanted the Gentiles to embrace a life devoted to God without their pagan customs. The last part of verse 12 indicates that Paul was assuring the Galatians that he recognized that they had not injured or offended him in any way.

Verse 13 hints at a physical or spiritual infirmity that Paul had. We read about this in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 12:7 (KJV)
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

There have been many speculations on what Paul's "thorn in the flesh" may have been. The ideas range from stuttering, epilepsy, weak vision, emotional suffering, a recurring temptation, to the presence of a demonic spirit (Stern, David, Jewish New Testament Commentary, 517-518). Whatever Paul's condition may have been, he still managed to preach the Gospel to the Galatians. They also received the message without despising or rejecting Paul on the basis of his infirmity. They accepted Paul as if he were an angel of God or Yeshua, himself (verse 14).

Paul then asked them, "Where are your blessings (verse 15)?" Paul was wondering why after they had accepted the Gospel so graciously from him that they turned back to paganism. Why weren't they living in the blessings that should have resulted from their reception of the Gospel? Paul added that when he had last seen them he would have believed that the Galatians would have plucked out their own eyes for him. (This gives further credibility to the idea that Paul's infirmity may have had something to do with his eyes.)

In verse 16 Paul asked, "Am I now your enemy because I proclaimed the truth?"

Next, we will learn more about the false teachers that have been trying to pervert the message that Paul had preached.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Is Love our Only Commandment?

Taking a slight break from Galatians, I have been thinking about the question of whether or not love is our only commandment. After all Yeshua did say the following:

Matthew 22:37-40 (KJV)
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

This passage is pretty clear. We are to love God and our neighbors. In fact, all of the Bible has this commandment as a foundation.

In many ways this makes sense since God also says this:

1 John 4:7-8 (KJV)
7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

And in some sense love is what defines God (If we, as humans, could really do that!) Yet, couldn't we also say that God is defined by His holiness, righteousness, justice, or mercy? Or are all these characteristics just different aspects of God? Some say God's overriding characteristic is His holiness and that everything else flows from that. It would seem that our human language is not able to capture God by one word.

I think that is true of our responsibilities to God, as well.

Micah 6:8 (KJV)
8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Is this command different from the overarching command to love? Obviously, it really isn't, it just explains in a little more detail and in different words. In fact, I've heard that "walking" with God is what we ultimately are to do, that it encompasses every one of our responsibilities.

So I guess my point is that it is really impossible to describe God's commands to us by using one word. Perhaps "love" explains it the best. But when Yeshua stated the two commandments He was making a summary just like God had before in Deuteronomy and Leviticus.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (KJV)
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Leviticus 19:18 (KJV)
18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

The problem is that humans are notoriously self-centered and half the time don't really understand how to love either God or our neighbors. So even if we want to love God and our neighbors how are we to know how to love? Thankfully, God didn't leave us without a description of what that love looks like. It is called the Torah. Yeshua then amplified and fleshed out even further God's Torah commands in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5,6, and 7).

So is love our only commandment? Yes, and no. God said this before His command to "love God" in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 6:1-2 (KJV)
1 Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it:
2 That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.

God also said this:

1 John 5:2-3 (KJV)
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

1 John 2:3 (KJV)
3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

We demonstrate our love for God and others by keeping God's commandments. Although love may be the summary of the Law, the details are explained for us in the Torah. It is wrong to assume that love, without an understanding of what is looks like, will fulfill God's requirements.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Galatians 4:4-11 Messianic Style


Paul shared a parable with the Galatians that equated them with a child heir, who before maturity was no more than a servant. As he was explaining how this applied to the Galatians he was about to describe what happened in the fullness of time.

Galatians 4:4-11 (KJV)
4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
8 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.
9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

When the time was right, God sent his Son, Yeshua the Messiah, as a baby, subject to the same Law that all mankind was subject to, the Torah (verse 4). God's purpose in sending His Son was to redeem those that are under the Law so that they might receive the adoption of sons and daughters (verse 5). Paul made this personal as he changed "them" to "we." As believers the Galatians were indeed sons and daughters of God and through the Spirit of God's Son they were entitled to call God, "Abba" meaning father (verse 6). As these Galatians came to faith they were no longer servants (remember the child heir), but sons and daughters, and therefore heirs of God through Messiah (verse 7).

In verse 8 Paul began to describe what had been going on with the Galatians. He acknowledged that before faith (when they didn't know God) they served them which were not really gods. This is the state of the unbeliever. Even if someone is an atheist and claims that they don't follow any religion, they serve Satan and the forces aligned against God. In the case of the Galatians they were primarily pagans, serving the Great Goddess Mother (see previous post). But now the Galatian believers were saved. In verse 9 Paul related something about the Galatians that he was surprised at, that even though they were believers, they had turned again to the weak and beggarly elements that they had served before. He asked, "Why do you desire to be in bondage again?"

Again, traditional Christianity has tried to interpret verse 9 as stating that the Galatians were turning back to weak and beggarly elements, meaning the Torah, but this is not possible. These elements are the same as those in verse 3, the occult, spiritual forces that characterize life before faith. By returning to these pagan practices the Galatians were placing themselves back into bondage. Paul couldn't understand why they wanted to do that.

Verse 10 confirms that the practices that the Galatians were involved with were not Torah practices. They were observing days, months, times, and years. The Jews were specifically forbidden to observe times in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

Leviticus 19:26 (KJV)
26 Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times.

Deuteronomy 18:10 (KJV)
10 There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,

Deuteronomy 18:14 (KJV)
14 For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.

God was warning his people about engaging in occult practices. This ties in with verse 8's summary of what the Galatians had come out of. Again, since the Galatians had primarily been pagans, any return could not be to Judaism, since they had not come out of Judaism.

Then in verse 11 Paul ended this section by saying that he was afraid that he had labored amongst them in vain. Imagine how Paul's heart must have ached, knowing that he had sown the Gospel message, that it was received, and yet, the Galatians were turning back to paganism?

Today in Christianity we are a lot like the Galatians. Many have been saved mightily and have committed their lives to Yeshua, but have returned to paganism without even knowing it. Most of us know that occult practices like horoscopes, seances, and tarot cards are wrong, but there are other practices that are just as bad that are slipping into the church in the guise of good practice. Contemplative prayer, walking of labyrinths, and lectio divina are just some of them. But perhaps even more insidious are the practices that we have participated in for hundreds of years, not realizing that they come from paganism. These are practices that Paul would have denounced based on this chapter of Galatians. They are the observance of pagan holidays such as Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Lent, Advent, and Sunday Sabbath. We have Christianized them, but slapping a Christian theme onto a pagan holiday doesn't make it Christian.

Instead, God gave us feast days as stated in Leviticus, which many Christians push aside because they don't want to be Jewish or they have misunderstood various writings in the New Testament. Besides, if a person wants to celebrate Yeshua's birth or His resurrection, the Lord's feasts in Leviticus already point to Messiah. The Feast of Tabernacles, likely when Yeshua was born, reflects His dwelling (or tabernacling) with us. The Feast of First Fruits (right after Passover), when Yeshua was raised from the dead, reflects His resurrection. We don't need pagan holidays as replacements, nor do we want to find ourselves in the same place as the Galatians. Let us commit to pure Christian practices!

In the next post, Paul continued speaking to the Galatians in a personal way.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Galatians 4:1-3 Messianic Style


As chapter four begins Paul continued his argument. The Law's purpose is as a schoolmaster, convicting mankind of sin, which in turn leads to repentance and faith.

Galatians 4:1-3 (KJV)
1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;
2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.
3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:

Paul started off by making a comparison. Verses 1 and 2 refer to the child of a wealthy landowner. Although he is the lord of the estate as heir to his father, he is yet a child and doesn't really differ from a servant. He is under tutors and governors until he reaches maturity at the time appointed by his father. Then in verse 3 Paul stated that the Galatian believers were like that child. He said that they were in bondage under the elements of the world.

Traditional Christianity has interpreted this bondage as bondage under the Law, but it is unlikely that Paul would have called the Law a bondage or an element of the world.

Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)
18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Psalm 119:77 (KJV)
77 Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for thy law is my delight.

Psalm 119:113 (KJV)
113 I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love.

1 John 5:2-3 (KJV)
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

It is also unlikely that the Galatians would have considered themselves in bondage under the Law. The assembly of the Galatians consisted primarily of Gentiles. In Galatia, at that time, the most important cult was that of the Great Goddess Mother (Roman Cybele). (The Condensation of Specificity: Paul's Use of "stoicheia" by Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu: However, Paul included any Jewish believers in Galatia by his statement of "we" being in bondage in verse 3. So the bondage includes both Jews and Gentiles.

So what are these elements of the world? The word translated "elements" is the Greek word "stoicheia." The basic meaning of the word refers to the four elements that the world was believed to be made of, fire, water, earth, and air. But Paul's usage went far beyond this. In Roman and Greek philosophy the term also included the occult, spiritual forces that were in control of the world. Paul's use of the word fits in very well with this idea. The Galatians believers had been in bondage to the occult, spiritual forces around them.

How can it be explained then that both Jews and Gentiles were in bondage to these "elements?" The Gentile's bondage to paganism and idolatry is evident, but the Jews were often involved in their own brand of idolatry, ranging from accepting idolatrous teachings of Greek philosophy to being bound by oral law that was placed on the same level as the written Law. This is not to say that the oral law was necessarily evil or idolatrous, since it defined how the Jews lived. It became idolatry when it led the Jews into violating the written Law or it was viewed as a necessary part of salvation.

Going back to verse 2, Paul stated that as children in bondage to these "elements,"  they were under tutors and governors until maturity. This is reminiscent of chapter 3's "schoolmaster." This again points to the purpose of the Law as a guardian or keeper that demonstrated how life was to be lived. 

In verse 4 Paul went on to describe what occurred "at the fulness of time" and how this related to his parable of the child in verses 1 and 2. This will be covered next time.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Galatians 3:21b-29 Messianic Style


Last time Paul had begun to explain the purpose of the Law and its relationship to salvation by grace through faith. He continued with this:

Galatians 3:21b-29 (KJV)
21 for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

In verse 21b Paul went on to say that if the Law could give life, then righteousness or salvation would have been by the Law. However, he pointed out that because of the Law, it is obvious that all mankind is sinful (verse 22). The promise of salvation given by faith in Yeshua is only given to them that believe. But before a believer comes to faith he or she is "guarded" (Aramaic English New Testament by Andrew Roth) by the Torah (verse 23). Paul was saying that before faith, mankind's only way of living is by staying within the confines of the written Law. When faith comes, Torah is moved internally and the Holy Spirit's power is there to help the believer live according to the Law.

Verse 24 summarized what Paul had been saying. The Law is the schoolmaster that convicts mankind of sin, thereby bringing them to desire a remedy, which is repentance and then faith in Yeshua's work on the cross. The believer is then justified by that faith. After faith, a believer is no longer under the schoolmaster (verse 25). Since the Torah has been internalized, obedience is possible by the Holy Spirit. The condemnation that the schoolmaster brought is no longer there. But it is the condemnation of the Torah that is gone, not the Torah itself.

Paul then went back to his initial argument in verse 26 that through faith in Yeshua the believing Galatians were the children of God and by baptism had put on Yeshua's righteousness like a garment (Aramaic English New Testament) (verse 27). Therefore, there is only the body of Yeshua, not separate groups of Jews or Gentiles (Greeks), slaves or free born members, nor males or females. All are one in Yeshua (verse 28). And if they are all Yeshua's then they all are Abraham's descendants and heirs according to the promise of salvation by grace through faith (verse 29).

All Christians agree that the purpose of the Torah initially is as a schoolmaster. Traditional Christianity then says that once Yeshua came, the Torah was no longer needed as a schoolmaster,  since Yeshua fulfilled the Torah. Therefore, no one needs to observe the Torah any more. However, if Galatians had been written with that intent, the purpose of the Torah is removed.  How do unbelievers come to Yeshua? There would be no source of conviction! The Torah must continue in force.

Some Christians believe that the Ten Commandments or those laws from the Torah that are repeated in the New Testament can now function as the schoolmaster. This is only partially true. Paul made no such distinctions and this thinking only allows believers and unbelievers alike to violate the Torah as a whole.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Galatians 3:15-21a Messianic Style


Paul was determined to make the Galatians understand that they had already been saved by grace through faith in Messiah Yeshua and that they did not need to add anything further to their salvation.

He continued his argument.

Galatians 3:15-21 (KJV)
15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.
16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.
21a Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid:

In verse 15 Paul compared God's covenant of salvation to the covenants that human beings make with others. Just as a human covenant cannot be annulled or added to once it is confirmed, God's covenant cannot be annulled or added to once it has been confirmed. The new Galatian believers' covenant with God was confirmed by the receiving of the Holy Spirit. That was it! Nothing needed to be added to it! (David Stern in the Jewish New Testament Commentary (548-549) uses the word "oath" instead of "covenant" to reflect that once an oath is made it cannot be changed, while strictly, a covenant can be changed by a codicil.)

Paul continued his discussion about Abraham in verse 16. The promises of salvation were made originally to Abraham. The promises were also made then to Abraham's seed (descendants), based on faith. But his descendants are "one" in Yeshua. David Stern summarizes with these nine truths:

          (1) Israel is God's son.
          (2) The Messiah is God's Son.
          (3) Israel is descended from Avraham (Abraham), is Avraham's seed, the children of Avraham.
          (4) The true children of Avraham are those who trust.
          (5) Those who trust in Yeshua are united with him by that trust -- they are part of his Body, one with him, one, singular.
          (6) In the thinking of the Tanakh (Old Testament), a king represents his people to the point of being one with them; and the king of Israel is treated as representing Israel, standing for them, being one with them.
          (7) The Messiah Yeshua is the King of Israel, the promised Son of David, one with Israel.
          (8) By trusting, Gentiles become identified with and in some sense a part of Israel.
          (9) All of God's promises reach their culmination and fulfillment in the Messiah, who is Avraham's "seed." (549)

In verse 17 Paul stated that the promises to Abraham were given 430 years prior to the giving of the Law. Therfore, the Law cannot annul those promises. If the observing of any laws made the people heirs of God, it wouldn't be then by promise (verse 18).

So what purpose then did the Torah serve?  It was to show sinful man what constituted right and wrong. With Yeshua's coming the Law was then written on the hearts of believers and the Torah no longer condemned believers. The Torah still exists to show unbelievers what constitutes right and wrong. Although the Torah doesn't condemn believers, the Torah is still meant to be the guide to behavior (verse 19). Paul stated that the Torah was given by the angels through Moses the mediator.

Verse 20's meaning is contested. However, Moses was the mediator, not of one, but of two, since he acted between God and the people of Israel. The promises given to Abraham were not given through a mediator, but through God himself. This may be another point that Paul was making regarding the superior position that the promise of salvation had over the Torah.

Lastly, was the Torah against the promises of God? Paul's response was a resounding "God forbid!"

Christianity has traditionally pitted the Torah against salvation received by grace through faith. But, Paul consistently stated otherwise, that they work together. This is the truth about law and grace.

This thought will be continued next time.