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Galatians, what a misunderstood book!
Often, one of the first things Christians will say when you tell them the law has not been abolished is: “you need to read the book of Galatians!” In spite of the multitude of scriptures in the “New Testament” which demonstrate we should keep Yahweh’s law, many understand Paul’s letter to Galatians to state otherwise.
In reality, there is not a single verse in the book of Galatians or anywhere in the scripture that would tell us that the law has been abolished. Rather, much to the contrary! The book of Galatians actually proves that while we are not saved by our observance of the Torah (The Hebrew word translated “Law” all throughout the scriptures), true believers will make a sincere effort to walk in its precepts.
In this study we will go through each of the verses in Galatians chapter 2 through chapter 5, which contain the key verses speaking of Yahweh’s Torah/law and its place in our life. It is the words in these chapters that are most frequently understood as “abolishing the law”. Thus, we will examine them to see if Paul is really making any claim that the law is now abolished and not to be heeded.
Almost all of the Christian world regards Paul’s letter to the Galatians as “proof” that we need not concern ourselves with keeping Yahweh’s Torah/law. This is a major mistake that must be addressed thoroughly. It is often more difficult for a person to ‘unlearn error’ than to ‘learn truth.’ For this reason, the studies into the book of Galatians is longer than most.
If you feel that I’m in error in this study, feel free to contact me. I’m only interested in the truth.
Galatians chapter 4
This study is a continuation of the study on chapter 2 and 3 of the book of Galatians. If you have not read the previous studies which go over chapters 2 and 3, verse by verse, please read them before reading this study. Otherwise, the points made here may not make any sense to you.
We left off in Galatians 3 with a very important conclusion:
Galatians 3:26-29 – So in Messiah Yahushua you are all children of Elohim through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Messiah have clothed yourselves with Messiah. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Messiah Yahushua. 29 If you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
The blessing of this is that each of us become children of Elohim, the seed of Abraham by Yahushua the Messiah. All of us are now one in the Messiah Yahushua. It was not circumcision or the ‘good news of the circumcision’ that made this possible, it was the blood of Yahushua. Continuing in this thought, Paul next says:
Galatians 4:1-3 – What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world.
During the time period in which Paul was speaking, the common practice was to appoint a caretaker to watch over a child until he was of a certain age. Paul is using this cultural practice as an illustration of the role of Yahweh’s law in our lives. Rather than functioning as a means by which we are able to receive Yahweh’s promise of eternal life, the law of Yahweh simply shows us what sin is and reveals our own bondage to it.
In the case of the Galatians, it was their idolatry and other pagan practices that was exposed as worthy of condemnation. The Torah/law of Yahweh teaches us that we need our Heavenly Father’s mercy upon us if we ever want to hope for eternal life. The way we receive that mercy is through Yahushua’s righteousness being placed upon us:
Galatians 4:4-5 – But when the set time had fully come, Elohim sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.
Note that Yahushua was under the law even as we were. There are some who believe that the phrase “under the law” is a metaphor for a person committing a sin. But this isn’t true because Yahushua was born under the law but did not commit sin. Yahushua was born under the law and kept the law to absolute perfection. For this reason, He is the Righteous One who is able to redeem those who were under the law but condemned as sinners, held in bondage to the elements of the world (See “What it Means to be Under the Law“)
Galatians 4:6-7 – Because you are his sons, Elohim sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
7 So you are no longer a slave, but Elohim’s child; and since you are his child, Elohimhas made you also an heir.
In His love and mercy, Yahweh redeemed us (bought us off the slave market) and caused us to be adopted into His family, making us sons of Elohim. This was made possible because Yahushua died for us. When He died for us and rose again, our Adam man participated with Him in that death and we were made a new creation:
Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Messiah and I no longer live, but Messiah lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of Elohim, who loved me and gave himself for me.
So we were made sons of Elohim rather than mere servants or children who were held under the bondage of sin. Of course, now that we are made free this does not mean that we should continue in sin:
1 Corinthians 6:20 – you were bought at a price. Therefore honor Elohim with your bodies.
Romans 6:1-2 – What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?
2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
So again, we “live to Elohim” as Paul said in Galatians 2. We don’t rebuild again that sin that was destroyed or we’ll be making ourselves transgressors again. But apparently the Galatians had a problem with this very thing:
Galatians 4:8-11 – Formerly, when you did not know Elohim, you were slaves to those who by nature are not elohim. 9 But now that you know Elohim– or rather are known by Elohim– how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
Many believe that the “days and months and seasons and years” are in reference to the Sabbath and feast day gatherings that Yahweh commanded in the Torah/law. They claim that any observance of such things are an attempt to “earn our salvation” rather than trusting in the blood of Yahushua to be our cleansing.
Paul is not specific about what “days, and months, and times, and years” he is referring to.
A traditional Christian might say that Paul is condemning the observance of any day, month time or year. But even if this were the case, it would actually condemn the traditional Christian because going to church on Sunday would be an observance of a day. And certainly the observance of Christmas and Easter festivals would fall under that as well.
But is Paul speaking of Yahweh’s commanded observances of the weekly Sabbath, Passover, Pentecost and other such holy days? If so, Paul is condemning himself because he was a feast keeper:
Acts 18:20-21 – When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not; 21 – But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if YAHWEH will. And he sailed from Ephesus.
The passage reads differently in the NIV, in that they took out “I must by all means keep this feast,” but many Greek manuscripts do contain this reading. Paul said that he was looking forward to keeping the feast in Jerusalem.
So if we understand the feast days to be the “weak and beggarly elements” that bring us into bondage, this would contradict Paul’s own practice. In fact, Paul said:
Acts 25:8 – When Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.”
So was Paul bringing himself into bondage? Was he observing the very “weak and beggarly elements” that he told the Galatians not to observe? Was Paul a hypocrite? The answer to all of these questions would have to be “yes” if we understood the keeping of these commands in the Torah to be “weak and beggarly.”
So what was Paul talking about? Let’s read it again more carefully. Remember that the Galatians were formerly idol worshipers:
Galatians 4:8 – Formerly, when you did not know Elohim, you were slaves to those who by nature are not elohim
Having been idol worshipers, there was no feast keeping to “turn ye again” to. They did not formerly keep the feast days and Sabbath.
Galatians 4:9 – But now that you know Elohim– or rather are known by Elohim– how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?
The forces here were the “weak and miserable forces” that they were formerly in bondage to, as he previously said:
Galatians 4:3 – So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world.
Since the Galatians were formerly idol worshipers, the observances that they were “turning back” to would be observances that were found in idolatry. They were not formerly a Torah observant people but “were slaves to those who by nature are not elohim.”
It isn’t the keeping of the Torah/law that results in bondage. It’s transgressing the law that is sin and bondage. Otherwise Yahushua Himself was in bondage because He was born under the law and kept it without fault.
At this point Paul must have been very frustrated because not only were the Galatians looking to “another gospel/good news” for assurance of salvation, but they were also holding onto former things that they were supposed to be turned away from. No wonder he was exasperated and said:
Galatians 4:11 – I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you
Even more evidence that Paul wasn’t condemning them for keeping the feast days and Sabbath was his next statement:
Galatians 4:12 – I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong.
Since Paul himself kept the feast, he would be again contradicting himself in saying “become like me” if the “days/months/seasons/years” were referring to the feast days. He wants them to be as he is, for he considers himself to be like them–redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, saved by grace through faith–not through any work of men but by the righteousness of Yahushua the Messiah.
Paul next makes the point that their wayward ways are not a personal hurt to him (“you did me no wrong“), even though he toiled and labored for them through infirmities:
Galatians 4:13-15 – As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you,
14 and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of Elohim, as if I were Messiah Yahushua himself.
15 Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.
The specific infirmity that Paul speaks of is quite possibly poor eyesight (compare this to Gal 6:11), but it is not certain. What is certain is that he suffered many afflictions while he proclaimed the good news, and the Galatians received the good news with joy and thanksgiving in spite of the afflictions.
Galatians 4:16 – Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
Those who were false teachers among them were apparently speaking against him so he brings to remembrance the blessedness and love they all had for one another, and reminds them that he isn’t their enemy–but only wants to bring them the truth. There was a tremendous amount of peer pressure being placed on them from all sides, and they were caving into believing a false way of salvation:
Galatians 4:17 – Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them.
They were being manipulated by others who used exclusion and peer pressure to get them to conform. One example of that is back in chapter 2 when some of the Jews refused to eat at the same table as the Gentiles.
Galatians 4:18-20 – It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you. 19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Messiah is formed in you, 20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!
Zeal is good, but it must be according to truth.
Next Paul begins to use an allegory in order to demonstrate the truth of the good news. Many believe that this allegory proves that we should not be obedient to the law of Yahweh, but once again we will demonstrate this to be a false belief.
First of all, remember what it really means to be “under the law”. It means to submit to the ‘good news of the circumcision’ which is contrasted with the true good news as follows:
With this in mind, let’s continue to read Galatians 4:
Galatians 4:21-23 – Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.
Once again, Paul appeals to the book of Genesis to demonstrate an eternal truth. Remember that Yahweh promised Abraham he would have a son in his old age even though he never had any children. After this promise was made to Abraham, both Abraham and Sarah initially thought that the promised son would not literally come through Sarah’s womb, but through her handmaid/bondwoman (Hagar) on behalf of Sarah. The son that was born through Hagar was Ishmael.
Ishmael is called one who was ‘born according to the flesh‘ because he was brought about in a way that was contrary to Yahweh’s promise, being the son of a bondwoman (slave). Yahweh was actually going to fulfill his promise by miraculously allowing Sarah to have a son (Isaac) well past child bearing years. Thus, the promise was going to be fulfilled by a work of Yahweh rather than a work of men.
This becomes a perfect illustration of the difference between one trying to receive Yahweh’s promise of salvation by a work of Yahweh and another trying to receive Yahweh’s promise of salvation by a work of men:
Galatians 4:24-25 – These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar.
25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children.
So why is Jerusalem and her children compared to Hagar and her children? Jerusalem as a whole were (like Abraham) attempting to receive the promise through human effort, coming up with their own idea of how Yahweh would fulfill his promises rather than letting Yahweh fulfill it Himself. The inhabitants of Jerusalem were trying to bring about the promises of eternal life through their own works rather than through works of Yahweh through the Messiah, who brings all of us the righteousness we need to have eternal life.
Any effort to use the Sinai covenant as a means of salvation will ultimately fail to deliver a man from the bondage of sin–for none of us have kept the law. None of us will receive the promises of Yahweh through human effort. It takes a work of Yahweh for any of us to have salvation.
Galatians 4:26 – 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.
Those who cleave to the understanding that we receive the promise of eternal life through the work of Yahweh are likened to Isaac, the son of a freewoman. We are the children of Promise because we have become the seed of Abraham through Yahushua the Messiah who lives in us…rather than through our own human effort of circumcision or Torah/law keeping.
Galatians 4:26-28 – But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written: “Be glad, barren woman, you who never bore a child; shout for joy and cry aloud, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.” 28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” 31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
The bondwoman was ultimately cast out of Abraham’s household because of the persecutions (Genesis 21) and was not allowed to be an heir with the free woman. For this reason, it is important to submit to the true good news of salvation rather than the false ‘good news of the circumcision’ which states that we do not receive salvation until we keep the law and get circumcised.
Galatians 5:1 – It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
The yoke of slavery is (as we discussed in previous chapters) the ‘good news of the circumcision.’ As we discussed, Peter agreed with this in Acts 15:10-11. See the previous chapter discussions for more information. Yahweh did not bring them out of slavery so He could put them back into slavery again. Salvation was always by faith, and not by works (Habakkuk 2:4)
At this point, Paul begins to make some important statements about circumcision and its role in the true ‘good news’. In short, circumcision is not part of the good news of Yahushua in the sense that whether we we can still receive salvation whether we are circumcised or uncircumcised.
Let’s continue in Galatians 5:
Galatians 5:2-5 – Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Messiah will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.
One of the most important things to remember when reading the book of Galatians is that he is speaking to a certain group of people. In this case, he is speaking to the Galatians who were about to fall prey to a false ‘good news’. As is evidenced by Paul’s statements, “You have become estranged from Messiah, you who attempt to be justified by law” and “For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith,” the subject matter at hand is whether or not circumcision is a part of the true good news that brings salvation.
Paul was NOT against circumcision if done for the right reasons. Proof of this is found in (once again) Paul’s own example and practice:
Acts 16:1-3 – Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. 2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
In light of the common interpretation of Galatians 5, Paul was doing the very thing that most people think Paul was telling the Galatians not to do! Was he circumcising Timothy so that “Messiah could profit him nothing” and so that he would become “estranged from Messiah?”
Galatians 5:3-4 – Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
Why did Paul tell the Galatians that they would be “fallen from grace,” “alienated from Messiah,” and “Messiah would be of no value” if they were to become circumcised because of Jewish pressures but then circumcise Timothy “because of the Jews?”
Was Paul a hypocrite? Certainly not, but he would be if you went along with the common interpretation of Galatians.
He was on one hand trying to tell the Gentiles of Galatia to not give into Jewish pressures, but then by most interpreters he gave into Jewish pressures himself in Acts 16:1-3.
What is really going on here?
The truth is that Paul was not against circumcision. He was against the false doctrines found in the “good news of the circumcision” which were a perversion of the true “good news” that Yahweh desires to proclaim.
Timothy’s father was a Greek. This means that Timothy would not be of Jewish heritage because in scripture a person’s lineage follows the fatherly line.
Today, Orthodox Jews believe it follows the mother’s lineage but it is not certain if this was the practice in the first century. But even as the son of a Gentile, Timothy was raised in the scriptures by his Jewish mother Eunice (2Tim. 1:5, 3:15), was “well reported of by the brethren” according to Acts 16:2, and was ready in his heart to be circumcised.
Now there is no record of Paul ever circumcising anyone other than Timothy. But we see that in Acts 16:3, Paul decided to take it upon himself to circumcise Timothy.
Why did Paul want to do the actual act of circumcision here? To prove to the Jews that he was not in any way against circumcising the son of a Gentile if it was done for reasons that would not pervert the good news of Yahushua. He did this right after going to the apostles and elders about the circumcision question in Acts 15.
Paul’s decision to make sure he was the one to circumcise Timothy would alleviate any concerns that Paul’s trip to Jerusalem had any intentions of doing away with circumcision as a whole, even for the son of a Gentile–as it says “for they all knew his father was a Greek.“
Let’s read the verses in Galatians again:
Galatians 5:2-5 – Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Messiah will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Messiah; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope
The issue here was our source of “righteousness.”
Those who held to the ‘good news of the circumcision’ believed that person had to learn/ obey the Torah and be circumcised before they could be considered righteous, and thus be saved. But the true good news is that one need only repent and believe in Yahushua to be considered righteous, and thus be saved.
The former was an attempt to be “justified (declared righteous) by the law.” The latter was the humble admission that our own righteousness is inadequate to gain any hope of receiving salvation through it.
As a reminder, let’s look at our diagram again:
If a man was to try to be “justified by the law” by submitting to the ‘good news of the circumcision’ and getting circumcised, they would be a “obligated to boey the whole law.” Why? Because in order for us to be justified (declared righteous) by the law, we would need to keep every single commandment in order to be considered righteous. For whether we fail in one point, or a thousand points, we are still labeled a transgressor. For this reason, any attempt to be justified by the law will utterly fail. This is why the law has no part in justifying us. We need Yahushua for our righteousness/justification. That’s why it says that we “await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.”
Galatians 5:5 – For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in the Messiah Yahushua neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
So again Paul makes the point that if we are in the Messiah Yahushua, whether we are circumcised or uncircumcised it doesn’t amount to anything in regards to whether or not we have righteousness. If we come to Yahushua, we are saved regardless of whether we are circumcised or not.
Let’s examine those verses once more before moving on:
Galatians 5:2-5 – Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Messiah will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Messiah; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 – For in Messiah Yahushua neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Again, keep in mind that Paul himself circumcised Timothy. Therefore when it says “the Messiah will be of no value” and “every man who lets himself be circumcised…is obligated to obey the whole law” and “you have been alienated from Messiah,” it does not mean everyone in the entire world who becomes circumcised is condemned.
Paul is writing to the Galatians. Before we think his statements apply to everyone in the entire world, we need to examine the context, examine other scriptures, and examine Paul’s own practices to get a full understanding of what was intended. Otherwise we have Paul sending Timothy to the lake of fire by circumcising him “because of the Jews.”
Paul is addressing the false ‘good news of the circumcision,’ so for someone to be circumcised by them was a sign of submission to that false doctrine, a doctrine so dangerous it could cause a man to lose his salvation.
Paul himself did circumcise the son of a Gentile to prove he wasn’t against circumcision, but he vigorously refuted anyone who taught this ‘good news of the circumcision’ which was always was a false doctrine.
The truth is that if we are in the Messiah Yahushua, whether we are circumcised or uncircumcised doesn’t gain us salvation. To the contrary, if we use it (or any other commanded act) as attempt to replace the work of Messiah, we are putting ourselves under the law and separating ourselves from Yahushua.
We are sons of Abraham through Yahushua the Messiah, not circumcision. In this sense it avails us nothing. But circumcision for the right reasons does fulfill a purpose. Otherwise Timothy endured a very painful ordeal for nothing.
He wasn’t getting circumcised because he wanted to witness to the Jews, as some say. Timothy was going to be circumcised anyway. Paul was choosing to be the one who actually did the act of circumcising Timothy ‘because of the Jews’. He was proving to them that he was not against circumcision if done for the right reasons.
What are the right reasons? No, it is not so that you can impress the Jews! He was clearly dead against that!
In the Torah, circumcision was never the first item on Yahweh’s list of things He desired. Yahweh didn’t give Abraham the covenant of circumcision on the day that he called him. He gave the covenant of circumcision to Abraham after Abraham had walked with Him many years.
This was also how Yahweh dealt with this issue with the children of Israel. The children of Israel were in the wilderness for 40 years and were not circumcising their children but Yahweh said nothing about it until just before they entered the promised land:
Joshua 5:2-7 – At that time Yahweh said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.” 3 So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath Haaraloth. 4 Now this is why he did so: All those who came out of Egypt– all the men of military age– died in the wilderness on the way after leaving Egypt. 5 All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the wilderness during the journey from Egypt had not. 6 The Israelites had moved about in the wilderness forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed Yahweh. For Yahweh had sworn to them that they would not see the land he had solemnly promised their ancestors to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 7 So he raised up their sons in their place, and these were the ones Joshua circumcised. They were still uncircumcised
The trek of the children of Israel going through the wilderness is a picture of our own salvation. It wasn’t until just before they entered the promised land that Yahweh said anything about it. Why? Yahweh had some major sin that needed to be dealt with first. Idolatry, fornication, and a lack of faith were the major issues that needed to be dealt with first.
The same is true of Gentiles who are turning to Yahweh. They need to focus on learning Yahweh’s commandments and practicing them before they concern themselves with circumcision:
Romans 2:25 – Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised.
For this reason Paul told the (very carnal) Corinthians who were turning to Yahweh:
1 Corinthians 7:18-19 – Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised.
19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping Elohim’s commands is what counts.
The real focus for one being called was the need to keep Yahweh’s commandments. This was in perfect line with the ruling in Acts 15.
Gentiles needed to spend their time learning the Torah and this was the reason James made the ruling in Acts 15:
Acts 15:19-21 – “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to Elohim. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”
The expectation that came out of this ruling was that the Gentiles would be learning the Torah when they attended the synagogues every Sabbath. This is why James limited the requirements for new believers to some ‘necessary things’ which demonstrated their allegiance to Yahweh. The ‘food polluted by idols… sexual immorality… the meat of strangled animals…and blood‘ were common in idolatrous temple practices. They needed to demonstrate that they had chosen Yahweh to be their Elohim and were show some level of fruit arising out of their repentance.
Now Timothy was not circumcised as a child because his father was a Greek. But he was not raised to be an idol worshiper. His Jewish mother and grandmother raised him in the scriptures:
2 Timothy 3:15 – from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Messiah Yahushua.
Because of this, Timothy, had many who ‘spoke well of him,‘ and was quite ready as an adult to go ahead and get circumcised. Paul’s decision to be the one who circumcise him in Acts 16:1-3 was proof that Paul still preached circumcision if done for the right reasons. He did this to prove to the Jews that he was not against circumcision–even if the person is an adult and the son of a Gentile.
As we know, the actual commanded time of circumcision was on the 8th day. For an adult to go through this process is extremely painful. It wasn’t the first item on Yahweh’s agenda in the Torah and it wasn’t in the first century assembly either, per the ruling in Acts 15 and other verses.
Galatians 5:7-11 – You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?
8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in Yahweh that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. 11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.
Further evidence that Paul was not against circumcision is Paul’s statement “if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted?” Because Paul still preaches circumcision, and proved that he wasn’t against it in Acts 16:1-3, there should be nothing offensive about Yahushua’s death on the tree being sufficient to bring salvation. But because some in Judah did not see righteousness by faith, they do stumble:
Romans 9:30-33 – What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. 33 As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
So the Gentiles were receiving righteousness by faith in Yahushua while many of the Jews were not because they were setting aside the work of Yahushua and trying to gain righteousness by their own works of law keeping. Thus, Yahushua became a stumbling stone and rock that made them fall them rather than the only begotten Son of Yahweh making them righteous.
If Paul did not preach circumcision, there would be a legitimate reason for them to stumble because circumcision is clearly something Yahweh commanded (Genesis 17:12, Lev 12:2-3, Exodus 12:48). But Paul points out: the fact that he did preach circumcision should cause the ‘offense of the cross/stake’ to ‘cease.’ The only reason it does not is because some are not seeking righteousness by faith in Yahushua, but by their own works. For this reason, the children of the bondwoman persecute the children of the free woman–as we read earlier.
Galatians 4:29 – At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now.
But everyone, Jew or Gentile, is able to receive the rebirth of the Spirit if they are willing to let the Adam man die and let Yahushua live in them by the power and wisdom of Elohim:
1 Corinthians 1:22-24 – Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Messiah crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom Elohim has called, both Jews and Greeks, Messiah the power of Elohim and the wisdom of Elohim.
Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Messiah and I no longer live, but Messiah lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of Elohim, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Let’s continue in Galatians 5:
Galatians 5:12 – As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!
(KJV) Galatians 5:12 – I would they were even cut off which trouble you.
Some, like the NIV translators, have understood this to mean that Paul was hoping that the ones who troubled the Galatians would emasculate themselves. I don’t believe that this is necessarily true because being ‘cut off’ can also be in reference to someone who is cut off from the community of believers. Being cut off from the fellowship of believers is certainly the context of his statement:
Galatians 5:10 – I am confident in Yahweh that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty.
So Paul’s confidence was that they would judge the who were troubling them by cutting them off from fellowship. That is the penalty he was looking for. He would rather them cut themselves away from the believers, but either way they needed to be judged because they were perverting the true good news of Yahushua and turning people toward their own ‘good news of the circumcision,’ a doctrine that was never true at any time in history.
New believers in Yahushua have the grace and liberty to learn and apply Yahweh’s commandments as His Spirit leads, without having a spiritual gun pointed to their head if they don’t immediately whip into shape. But Paul does warn the Galatians that liberty is not to be used as an excuse to walk in sin:
Galatians 5:13-14 – You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Indeed it is true that all of Yahweh’s law is fulfilled when we love our neighbor as ourselves. Knowing this, we should forsake the idea that we don’t keep a certain commandment because “Yahushua fulfilled all that.” The truth is that Yahushua fulfilled every commandment in the Torah and if He is dwelling in us then we will fulfill them as well! This is what it truly means to “walk in the Spirit.”
Ezekiel 36:27 – And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
Romans 8:6-7 – The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to Elohim; it does not submit to Elohim’s law, nor can it do so.
So the carnal minded man is hostile to Elohim because they is not submitting to the Torah, which is Elohim’s law which teaches us HOW to love Yahweh and love one another. Our liberation in Messiah is never to be used as an excuse to continue transgressing the Torah/law of Yahweh, as is commonly taught today. It is because we have transgressed the Torah/law of Yahweh that Yahushua had to come and die for us in the first place!
Paul now goes on to explain the way one walks in the flesh vs. the Spirit:
Galatians 5:15-18 – If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Notice it says that we will not be under the law if we are led of the Spirit. There are two ways that we can find ourselves ‘under the law‘. One is by refusing to acknowledge that our righteousness and our salvation comes from Yahushua alone. The other is by refusing to be led by His Spirit which causes us to walk in His statutes, keep His judgments and do them! So Paul warns the Galatians:
Galatians 5:19-21 – The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of Elohim.
How is that for a warning! We must walk in the Spirit and never use our liberty as an occasion or excuse to disobey Yahweh.
Galatians 5:22-26 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
So Yahweh’s plan was to promise all of us eternal life through Abraham’s Seed, Yahushua. First by showing us the path of righteousness which is in His law. And Yahweh, being ever so merciful, gave His only Son to redeem us from the curses that result in our disobedience to Him. The standard of righteousness DOES NOT CHANGE when we accept Yahushua, but our standing before Yahweh does!
It is a total distortion to teach that everyone else in the world is expected to refrain from sin (transgression of the law) and will be condemned for their failure to keep it but those who receive Yahushua are free to purposely transgress the law all day long! This is not Yahweh’s ‘Good news’ and Paul was making that very clear! We need to walk in the Spirit! If we walk in the Spirit, we will be ‘subject to the law of Yahweh.’
But we will not misuse the law of Yahweh to make it fulfill a function that it is never able to fulfill: Bring us righteousness and salvation. It is this misuse of the Torah that Paul is addressing in Galatians. Let’s not misuse his writings to say something that he never meant to say.
Those who do so are in a lot of trouble:
2 Peter 3:13-17 – But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Master’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that Elohim gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.
So let’s be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless. Let’s not be among the unlearned and unstable who twist his letters to their own destruction.
In the end, Yahushua will not be saying “Depart from me, ye commandment keepers!” Rather, as Paul said, those who walk in the flesh (the former ways of sin) will not inherit the kingdom of Yahweh.
Therefore, let’s walk in the Spirit…being found by Him without spot and blameless. Not because of our own righteousness, but because of His indwelling. If He dwells in us, then He will cleanse us of the former things and give us the power to walk as He walked, live and He lived, and be where He is! This is the good news!
Revelation 3:21 – To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.
Revelation 21:7 – Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.
Let it be so that we are among the inheritors, ever faithful to trust in His righteousness for our salvation, ever seeking to walk in His Spirit, ever cleaving to the one who is the same yesterday, today and forever. The eternal principles of love as given in the Torah have not changed and they never will. Let’s seek to walk in those eternal principles…that we might likewise remain…that His word (Yahushua) would abide in us forever.
May Yahweh bless you and may He have mercy on us all!