Posts Tagged ‘Galatian error’

The ‘Law’ of Sin and Death

“The Lord God took the man  and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die”(Genesis 2:15-17).

One of the biggest misconceptions within the tenets of Christianity is that the old testament ‘law’ has been done away with and followers of Christ are no longer ‘under the law.’  Though I cannot be certain from where this doctrine originated, I’m going to guess it evolved from choosing only half of this verse in Romans as a doctrinal view.

“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14-15). 

The word translated ‘law’ in this verse is the Greek nomos.   This Greek word can mean anything from general principles of law to the first five books of the Bible known as the Torah.  It’s such a general word that Strong’s Concordance actually says that the meaning of the word nomos must be derived from the context in which it is used.

Within the context of the Romans verse using nomos is the word ‘because.’  Because is used to introduce a word or phrase that gives an explanation or reason.  To claim “I’m not under the law, I’m under grace” is not giving the reason why.  The reason why in this verse has to do with sin no longer being the master of one’s life. 

Law and Justice

According to an online dictionary, law is defined as “the system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and may enforce by the imposition of penalties.”  From a Biblical perspective, it would be necessary that the Kingdom of God have a system of rules that regulates the actions of its citizens.   When one of the citizens breaks the law, they receive justice for doing so. 

This is what happened in the Garden of Eden, the eternal paradise, the first glimpse at the Kingdom of God.   Adam was given one rule.  He couldn’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  If he broke the rule, the penalty was death. 

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;  but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:15).

Adam was given the command before the woman was made.  It was his responsibility to pass this one command on to his wife.  However, because she was deceived by the serpent, she ate the fruit and gave some to Adam who committed the sin of disobedience.  They realized their sin in their nakedness and tried to cover it up.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (Genesis 3:6-7).

God was not fooled by their fig leaves.  He knew their hearts.  He saw their sin.  He cursed the serpent who deceived Eve.  He gave Eve pain in child bearing and gave her a desire to rule over her husband.  He cursed the ground from which Adam was made so that Adam would toil all the days of his life for food.  He proclaimed His justice on Adam’s sin: death. 

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). 

Because of Adam, everyone sins.  Because of Adam, sin and death entered the world.  Because of Adam, everyone was kicked out of the Kingdom of God.

Going Beyond God’s Boundaries

Some time ago, my son invited a friend to spend the weekend.  This friend was not a Christian, did not even believe in God.  However, he had questions he wanted answered.  Starting with the basics, I asked him to define sin.  He thought deeply for a few minutes and said, ‘doing bad things.’ Of course my response could only be, ‘Who determines what things are bad, or good for that matter?  He replied, “Good question.”  I explained that if someone puts their faith in God, it should be God and no one else, who makes that determination.  He agreed. A foundation was laid for the law of sin and death and the gift of eternal life. 

As Creator of the Universe, God gave one law to Adam.  After the flood, God gave more laws to Noah for mankind.  To Abraham, God gave laws for him and his descendants.  Through Moses, God gave 613 laws to Israel outlining how to love and worship Him along with how to live in a community and love your neighbor.  All of these laws from Adam to Israel have one thing in common – they are God’s laws.   In Hebrew, the word ‘law’ is torah and means“teachings or instructions.’ Sin is nothing more and nothing less than breaking God’s teachings and instructions.

“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).

As the Ruler of the Kingdom of Heaven, God defines sin as breaking His lawor torah. Sin is ultimately disobeying His instructions andgoing beyond the boundaries of His established desire for our behavior.  The consequences for sin, as Adam learned, is death (Romans 6:23).

In Hebrew, the word for ‘sin’ is chata and means ‘to miss or go wrong.’  In Greek, the word for ‘sin’ is hamartia and means ‘to miss the mark.’  This is exactly what Adam did.  He went beyond the boundaries that God established for him in Paradise, disobeyed God’s one instruction and missed the mark.  As a result, everyone sins (Romans 3:23).  Everyone.  There is no one who escapes the ‘law of sin and death.’

God’s Grace and Sin

“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?” (Romans 6:15).

According to Paul, stating “we’re under God’s grace” is no excuse to continue breaking torah.  What if Adam and Eve’s conversation went something like this?

“God loves us unconditionally.  He created this incredible Garden for us.  He gave us authority over the animals that we named.  We walk and talk with him every evening in the breeze.   He has given us all the trees in the garden from which to eat except this one.    Why would he kill us? He won’t care if we just taste the fruit.  We will be like Him.  Besides what does ‘death’ mean anyway?”  Just look at the abundance of fruit on the Tree of Life!”

Oh yeah, those were the serpent’s words.  Adam and Eve had no understanding of God’s grace, the power of His grace to overcome sin and even the desire to sin.   However, because of their sin, God’s grace abounded to Adam and Eve.  He removed the leaves and covered them with garments of skin.  In order to make the garments, blood had to be shed.  Animal blood.  This set up the torah of blood for the forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22).  His incredible grace did not stop them or their children from sinning.  Cain killed Abel. 

The incredible grace of God was probably something they told and retold their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They probably spoke often about  how they sinned against God, how He promised a Redeemer,  and how He shed the blood of an innocent animal to cover their sin.   God’s grace did not remove them from the law of sin and death nor did it change the fact that they had to live out God’s judgments for their lives in a fallen world.   God’s grace kept them alive for many more years and kept them walking in the hope of a Redeemer.   God’s grace empowered them to put the past in the past and press on toward the goal, the higher calling of God’s promised Seed that would restore all things to the way they were in the Garden, but it included an even better promise, the power to overcome sin and death  (Philippians 3:14).   

Victory Over Sin and Death

“Because the Torah of the Spirit, which produces this life in union with Messiah Yeshua, has set me free from the law of sin and death … (Romans 8:2).

The law of sin and death brought on by Adam’s disobedience to God’s one instructionwas destroyed by the Seed of woman, the second Adam, the Messiah Yeshua.  His blood atoned for sin and brought universal forgiveness.   Through his resurrection, he destroyed the power of death.  When Yeshua ascended into the heavenly realm, his Father poured out His Spirit in order to begin the restoration process.    Those who are born again of the Spirit of God re-enter the Kingdom with the power to overcome sin and disobedience to torah – the same power that resurrected Yeshua from the dead.   Kingdom citizens no longer live as slaves to sin and disobey God’s laws.   They no longer live under condemnation because they are set free from the law of sin and death through faith in the work of Messiah Yeshua.  They are now free to live out the Torah of the Spirit written on their hearts.

“In fact, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed (the Spirit)  remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God” (1 John 5:18).

Does Sinless Mean Perfect?

“Be perfect therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Not long ago I read a letter in the newspaper written by a local pastor.  In the letter the woman commented several times that she was ‘not perfect’ as a rationalization for things that were less than virtuous and honorable in her life.  I wanted  to laugh, if it wasn’t so sad.

“Perfect” in the Greek is teleios and means ‘mature and adult.’  When this pastor wrote, “I’m not perfect,” what she really was saying,  “Please excuse the sins in my life.  I’m not behaving maturely and acting like an adult.”  What a sad commentary on the power of God in the life of a pastor!

Most of the world and even people in the church think of ‘perfect’ in the same way this pastor does – incapable of sinning.  Consequently, they just muddle along rationalizing their disobedience and never experience the victory of God in their lives.  As a pastor who should be teaching and guiding a flock of God’s people, her words mock the Father who is perfect and Yeshua who told us to “be perfect as our heavenly Father.’

Of course, sinning and ‘falling short’ are inevitable in life.  We must learn from our ‘shortcomings’ and mistakes.  We must be transformed into maturity, making wise decisions for our actions,  not making foolish excuses regarding our ‘imperfection.’

Biblical Maturity

“We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing” (1 Corinthians 2:6).

Maturity involves wisdom that is not of this world and does not act in the ways of this world.

“Brothers, stop thinking like children.  In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults” (1 Corinthians 14:20).

Maturity involves a transformation of mind to a way a person thinks in regards to evil.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, argued like a child; now that I have become a man, I have finished with childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:10-11).

Maturity puts away childish behavior and acts like an adult.   

“Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14). 

Maturity involves growing up spiritually, eating solid food,  being trained in righteousness, and using discernment when it comes to evil.   With another reference to evil, it must be an important concept  to understand when growing from a babe drinking milk and basic elementary teachings into maturity (Hebrews 6:1-3).

“Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Messiah Yeshua, sends greetings.  He is always wrestling in prayer for you that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (Colossians 4:12).

Maturity means being fully assured that you are in God’s will and you stand firm.

Noah

“This is the account of Noah.  Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time and he walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).

The Hebrew word in this verse for blameless is tamim and means ‘perfect, blameless, sincere, whole, complete.’   This word carries with it the idea of being free from objectionable practices.

Tamim is also used in reference to the people of God being called to avoid the idolatrous practices of the Canaanites (Deuteronomy  18:13).  Though there are no Canaanites today, there are many idolatrous practices that the people of God should be avoiding, but instead they lack the discernment that maturity provides so they embrace this sin.

Tamim also implies that a person externally meets all the requirements of God’s law or Torah.   In other words, there is nothing in a person’s outward activities that are odious to God.  Because of the inward condition of their heart, they meet God’s standards of living rightly before Him.    

According to Genesis, Noah walked with God and tamim describes his relationship to God.   Noah was a mature man.  He used wisdom in a corrupt world and his maturity to discern good from evil.   He took no part in the idolatrous activities going on around him; he remained separate and his life exemplified this separateness.    He stood firm in God’s will to build an ark while the world around him went from bad to worse and mocked his  faith in an unseen God.  Noah had a right heart and therefore walked blameless or perfect before God.

Did Noah sin?  Of course he did.  He planted a vineyard, got drunk, and lay naked in his tent.   He was shamed by Ham.  However, his sin did not affect his maturity in the sight of the Lord because he had obeyed God and witnessed His mercy. 

Abraham

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God El Shaddai; walk before me faithfully and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1).

Abraham left Bablyon and its idolatrous ways.  He lived in tents with his family apart from the rest of the world. He obeyed God’s commands, even to the point of being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah.  He is called the ‘Father of Faith’ and was given the sign of circumcision as evidence of his faith.  He is also  called tamim, mature and blameless.

Did Abraham sin?  Of course he did.  Twice, he lied about Sarah not being his wife nearly killing the kings of Egypt.  However, his sin did not affect his maturity in the sight of the Lord because he believed God and witnessed His Provision. 

King David

“For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings 15:5).

David had faith in God like no other Israelite soldier.  He trusted in God when he stood before Goliath with only a few stones and a slingshot.  When Goliath was killed, he credited God for delivering him from the hands of the Philistines and certain death.  As a warrior David cleansed the land of Israel from idolatrous people through war.   With skillful hands, David led the armies of Israel.  As a King, he shepherded the people of Israel with integrity of heart (Psalm 78:72). 

Did David sin?  Of course he did.  He sinned when he cut off the tzizit of King Saul, God’s anointed king.  He sinned when he had Uriah the Hittite killed.  He sinned when he committed adultery with Bathsheba.  However, his sin did not affect his maturity in the sight of the Lord.   He was called tamim, blameless and a ‘man after God’s own heart’ because when he sinned, he repented and retained the Holy Spirit (1 Samuel 13:14).

Zechariah and Elizabeth

“Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly” (Luke 1:6).

Both Zechariah and Elizabeth were called tamim.  As  a descendant of Aaron, Zechariah did his Temple duties as prescribed for his lineage through Abijah.  Elizabeth was barren.  They desired a child.  An angel comes to Zechariah and tells him he is going to have a son.  He doesn’t believe the angel and is rendered mute until the boy is born.

Did Zechariah and Elizabeth sin?  There is nothing in Scripture that says they did; however they were human beings.  Perhaps Zechariah not believing the angel could be considered sin, and if it was, it didn’t change Zechariah’s or Elizabeth’s maturity in the sight of God and they raised the last prophet who proclaimed the coming Messiah. 

The Body of Messiah

“You must be blameless (perfect) before the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 18:13).

Yeshua quoted this command from the Torah because he understood the Kingdom of his Father and how its citizens must behave.  If he didn’t believe it was possible to be ‘perfect’, he would never had commanded his followers to be so.  The Amplified Version of the Bible adds more understanding to Yeshua’s words in Matthew 5:48,

“You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity] as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Accordingly, we must be perfect, growing in complete maturity of godliness in mind and character before God just like Noah, Abraham, King David, and Zechariah and Elizabeth.  As citizens of God’s Kingdom, we have been give His Spirit that empowers us have victory over ‘the law of  sin and death’  and live blameless in a world as corrupt as ‘the days of Noah.’  We must keep ourselves spotless from the world’s corruption and idolatrous practices so that we  are mature and can discern good from evil and reach the proper height of virtue and integrity.   In order to do what Yeshua commanded,  we must live according to the Spirit of life that is found in the teachings and instructions of God, erroneously translated as ‘the law.’  To claim ‘imperfection’ is no excuse for sinful behavior any more than being ‘under grace’ should give us the freedom to disobey God’s commandments and break the law.  When we misinterpret the ‘law’ that was destroyed on the cross,  we put ourselves back under the law that brings death and forfeit the amazing grace of God that was given to Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, and David; the empowering grace of God that we are called to proclaim.

“We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Messiah” (Colossians 1:28).

©2012 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article,  please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive. 

What’s Wrong in Galatia?

“They stirred up the people, as well as the elders and the Torah-teachers; so they came and arrested him and led him before the Sanhedrin.  There they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never stops speaking against this holy place and against the Torah…” (Acts 6:12-14).

Whenever we share our faith with non-Jewish believers that we keep the Biblical Sabbath, celebrate the Feasts of the Lord and eat according to Leviticus, we are always referred to the book of Galatians and warned of legalism and Judaizing.  What is it about Judaizing, legalism and the so-called ‘Galatian error’ that incites people to react so defensively toward a non-Jewish believer who desires to obey God’s commands out of a heart of love, commitment and devotion?

The Word is “Compel”

“Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised.  They only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Messiah…. They want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh” (Galatians 6:12-14).

According to this verse, new gentile believers were being compelled to undergo outward flesh circumcision as a requirement to live out their faith in Yeshua of Nazareth.  This happened because some Messianic Jews were fearful of being persecuted by non-believing Jews for their faith in Yeshua.

The Galatian error had nothing to do with faith obedience to the commands of God or Torah, it had nothing to do with the Sabbath, the Festivals or dietary regulations. The Galatian error was about a ‘written code’ that was inhibiting the non-Jew’s freedom to live in obedience to God’s commands and enjoy the blessings, promises and covenants that they now had access to as part of the commonwealth of Israel through faith in Messiah.

Circumcision

“Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts” (1 Corinthians 7:19).   

When studying Galatians and Paul’s teachings, it is important to understand the terminology he used when referring to the Body of Messiah, Jews and non-Jews.  Many times circumcision verses are taught with an anti-circumcision viewpoint along with the idea that  to become circumcised means ‘forcing someone to obey God’s commands.’  This is not how Paul used the terms ‘circumcision’ and ‘uncircumcision;’ this is not what circumcision means.

First Corinthians has nothing to do with the act of circumcising the flesh.  It compares the flesh condition of two different groups of people: the Jews who were known as ‘the circumcision’ and the gentiles who were known as ‘the uncircumcision.’  Putting the verse in the proper terminology, Paul is saying that it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a non-Jew, what matters is keeping God’s commandments.  It can be reasoned from this verse that Paul never taught a gospel that encouraged disobedience to Torah,  but states that both Jew and gentile have the responsibility to keep God’s commandments which include Sabbath, Festivals, and dietary regulations.

Paul uses the same terminology in Galatians 6:16:

“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” 

Paul is again not speaking about the act of circumcision.  He is saying “Being Jewish or non-Jewish means nothing; what counts is being a new creation [in Messiah].”  He wants all the Galatians (and those who read Galatians) to understand that our flesh condition, our DNA, has nothing to do with our justification before God. All of us, Jew and non-Jew,  need to be born again into the Kingdom of God; everyone,  Jew and non-Jew, needs to be new creations in Messiah (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Redemption from the Law

“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4).

Yeshua, who was fully God, humbled Himself and came down to earth as a human being.  He  was born into a world of sin and death just like every other human born of a woman.   He lived under the laws of human nature with the temptation of sin, but remained sinless because his Father was not Adam, but Yahweh.  He never broke one of His Father’s commands as written in Torah.  He lived them perfectly and taught them to his followers correctly.  Because he was completely righteous and without sin, his death was sufficient payment to free all mankind, Jew and non-Jew, from the law of sin and death and give them life now and forever as sons of God.

“You are all sons of God through faith in Messiah Yeshua, for all of you who were immersed into Messiah have clothed yourself with Messiah.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.  If you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 5:26-29).

We all live under the ‘law of sin and death’ until we are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and become sons of God.    No one in Galatia or anywhere else at any other time was ever justified by laws – man’s or God’s.   As redeemed sons of God in Messiah, there is no spiritual differentiation between Jew and non-Jew, male or female, slave or free.   When each of us comes to faith in Messiah, we become Abraham’s seed and evidence of the promise God made to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him.

Zealous for ‘the law’

“For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.  I was advancing Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:13-14).

In his own words, Paul admits that before he met Yeshua, he persecuted new Jewish believers regarding Judaism and the traditions of the fathers that he called ‘the law.’  If anyone lived contrary to the ‘traditions of Judaism,’  they were persecuted and even put to death by his authority. Until his Road to Damascus experience,  Paul was the greatest persecutor of Messianic Jewish followers of Yeshua who he thought could no longer adhere to traditional Judaism and the religious system that it included.  Acts 7:54-60 records him front and center at the stoning of Stephen receiving the coats of the witnesses at his feet.

Conversion through Circumcision

Before Yeshua’s death and resurrection,  the only way for a gentile  God-fearer to  join the ‘commonwealth of Israel’ was to convert to Judaism.  This was done through a ritual conversion that included circumcision of the flesh.   Though circumcision was initially given as a covenant sign of faith to Abraham, over the centuries circumcision had become an outward symbol of following Judaism which included following all of the manmade traditions, yokes, and burdens that went with it.

In the Temple, a ’wall of partition’ separated the people of Israel from the gentiles.  Though a God-fearer from the nations could come to Solomon’s Colonnade to pray, they could never enter the Temple  area unless they had legally converted to Judaism through ritual circumcision.  It was this ‘wall of partition,’ the traditional ‘law’ to become legally Jewish that Yeshua destroyed in his flesh.

The problem in Galatia was not that Messianic believers from the nations were being forced to obey the commandments of God, but that non-Messianic Jews wanted gentile believers to convert to Judaism.   Paul made it very clear that gentile believers did not have to  convert to Judaism to live out their faith in Yeshua. 

In fact, Paul taught that all believers in Yeshua of Nazareth needed to remain in the flesh condition they were in when they were saved.  If they were ‘uncircumcised,’ they were to remain as gentiles.  If they were ‘circumcised,’  they were to remain as Jews.  It is the witness of Jew and gentile worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob together in a Biblical way that is the testimony of Messiah. 

“Circumcision has value if you observe the law [of Judaism], but if you break the law [of Judaism], you have become as though you had not been circumcised” (Romans 2:25).

Paul says that circumcision to become lawfully Jewish has no value because it is completely dependent on observing Judaism and its traditions.  A ritual circumcision has no foundation in faith, but in the traditions of the fathers; the traditions of men.  These traditions or laws are easily broken and then it is as if the person is no longer a convert to Judaism.

Paul understands this thought process more than anyone because he was a ‘Judaizer’ himself.    Moreover, he has learned through personal experience that being legally Jewish, of which he was as a descendant of Benjamin, is not as valuable as faith in Messiah Yeshua.   It is faith in Yeshua that gives all believers – circumcised or uncircumcised – not only freedom from the law of sin that leads to death, but also the burdens of Judaism.

Titus and Timothy

Enter Titus.  Titus was a Greek believer (non-Jew).  He did not feel compelled to be circumcised.  He was quite content to remain in his non-Jewish condition, but it created some problems within the  Jewish congregation that needed to be dealt with.

“This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Messiah Yeshua and to make us slaves” (Galatians 2:4). 

Notice that  Paul doesn’t say Jewish believers in Messiah are creating the problems, but rather ‘false brothers’ who had ‘infiltrated’ the body of believers in Jerusalem.  In Jerusalem ‘false brothers’ would most likely be Jews who had rejected the Messiah and were Judaizing or ‘false brothers’ could imply that these men ‘pretended, bore false witness’ to the Messiah. The purpose of these ‘false brothers’ was to ‘infiltrate’ the Body of Messiah and compel the gentile believers to convert to Judaism through circumcision.

Titus was a test case.   Though he personally did not feel the need to be circumcised, he was still being pressured to become legally Jewish.  If Paul allowed him to be circumcised and become legally Jewish, then the whole message of salvation by faith for the nations would have been nullified.   It would have changed justification by faith in Yeshua to works of the flesh – heritage or conversion.  The gospel to the nations with which God entrusted Paul would have ended abruptly.

But what about Timothy?   He was circumcised.

Timothy had a Greek father and a Jewish mother.   His mother and grandmother  raised him with the Hebrew Scriptures and he knew of his Jewish heritage.   For him to be circumcised was not an issue of conversion from a gentile status to a legal Jewish one because he was already ‘legally Jewish’ through his birth mother.   Furthermore,  Paul was going to take Timothy with him on his missionary journeys to places where there were unbelieving Jews. Being an uncircumcised Jew would have been a huge a stumbling block for the Jewish people to hear and receive the message of salvation in  their own Jewish Messiah.

Foolish and Bewitched

“You foolish Galatians!  Who has betwitched you?” (Galatians 3:1).

I cannot count how many times this verse has been quoted out of context to ‘correct us’ when we share with people that we are obeying God’s commands.    It is almost funny, if it wasn’t so sad.  We have met and known real people who sincerely  believe that obedience to God’s Torah is foolish and we are somehow being led astray by a ‘bewitching spirit’ and have ‘fallen from grace.’

Justification for sin comes through Messiah Yeshua’s atonement on the cross and by faith in Him alone.   There is no argument there.  To compel someone to become Jewish according to a written code involving circumcision of the flesh is most definitely a foolish error when it comes to the message of justification.  However, when someone is sharing that they love the Lord God of Israel and desire to obey His commands out of that love, they are not bewitched or foolish and trying to compel their friends to legally convert to Judaism.  In fact, it is quite the opposite when Yeshua Himself said, “If you love me, you will obey my commands” (John 14:15).

Zealousness and History

“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 be zealous for them” (Galatians 5:17). 

The unbelieving Jews only wanted gentile believers to ‘mutilate their flesh’ so they could boast about them.   They liked the idea of multitudes following them and their rules.  It boosted their egos and made them feel important and in control of this new movement of God.   They wanted to be able to say, “Look how many gentiles are converting to Judaism!”  Simply put, this was the Galatian error in Paul’s day: forced gentile conversion to Judaism.

It is very possible the Messianic Jews didn’t really know what to do with all the gentiles coming to faith in Yeshua.    Though the Council in Jerusalem outlined the responsibility of a gentile turning to God, there was no guarantee that the pagan ways of the nations wouldn’t infiltrate and destroy the Messianic faith that was just out of the womb.  Messianic Jews were well aware that Yeshua didn’t preach the kingdom of Judaism, but they also didn’t want to lose their Jewish identity, Biblical heritage.  In their defense, after 2000 years of gentile ‘infiltration,’  there was some merit to their concerns and struggles.

In the first century, there were more Jewish believers than gentile.  Gentiles who came to faith in Messiah grafted into the ‘commonwealth of Israel‘ and became part of the Olive Tree of Israel.    They met in synagogues on the Sabbath and were taught the Torah (Acts 15:21).   They took on a Biblically ‘Jewish’ identity while retaining their unique calling as gentiles.   As they tried to live out their new faith in a Biblical way with Biblical truths,  they felt the judgment of the Judaizers who wanted adherence to the ‘written code’  that a non-Jew needed to convert to Judaism.  Read in this context Colossians 2:16 takes on a whole new perspective and the freedom the gentile had received in the reality of Messiah:

“Therefore do not let anyone (Jew)  judge you (gentiles) by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Messiah.”

When the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, the Jewish nation was scattered all over the world.  Jerusalem was no longer central to Judaism, the Jewish people and the Messianic faith. The Jewish congregation of believers led by James was no longer able to be an example of faith (1 Thessalonians 2:14).

As the centuries passed and the number of gentile believers increased,  there was a loss of identity with Israel and Rome took its place.  The Torah no longer came out of Zion nor the Word of the LORD from Jerusalem.   Anti-circumcision or anti-semitic doctrines crept into the church and edicts from various church councils, including Nicaea and Laodicea,   made it illegal for  believers in Yeshua to follow anything that appeared ‘Jewish’ including Sabbath, festivals, circumcision, and dietary regulations. 

Unfortunately for the growing Body of Messiah,  everything in the Bible looked ‘Jewish’ because God had  entrusted His Torah to the Jewish people to guard and protect.  Eventually Rome took the place of Jerusalem, the Hebrew Scriptures became written in Greek and Latin, and the Word of the LORD became the edicts of the Popes. Gentile believers easily fell into Roman catholicism against all warnings by Paul in his letter to the Romans (Chapters 9-14),  while Jewish believers either converted to Roman Christianity or died.  Then, of course, came the Crusades, the Inquisitions and the Holocaust.

The Modern Error in Galatia

Judaizing is a non-issue in today’s Christian church as Christians are no longer part of the Messianic Jewish community.   They do not attend synagogues for their teaching and instruction as did the first century believers.  They are not faced with ‘false brothers’ who compel them to convert to Judaism or be cast away from the God of Israel.  The Christian church no longer teaches Torah as an outline for living a life of obedience.     In fact, most if not all  Biblical truths that were illuminated by Yeshua and lived out by the Apostles and first gentile believers (including some Jewish traditions that Paul commended the gentile believers for keeping) have been eliminated to the point that neither Paul, the Apostles or Yeshua would recognize the Body of Messiah today.

The modern Galatian error is a now a ‘gentile code’ that compels Jews to follow the ways of the nations imbedded in the Christian church.   Jews who come to faith in Jesus Christ lose the vision of the eternal covenants and promises given to them.  They ‘legally convert’ to Christianity through baptism into some denomination.  Through the twisting of a misunderstood, first-century problem, the Body of Christ discourages anything Jewish and Jewish converts attend church services on Sunday and celebrate all manner of holidays that are foreign to them and prohibited by the God of Israel in the Hebrew Scriptures.  In these murky waters, they have lost their identity as Jews and their call to be a light to the gentiles has been snuffed out. 

Something definitely has ‘bewitched’ the church and it’s not a gentile desiring  to obey God’s commandments; it’s a distortion of truth that paralyzes gentiles from entering into the complete promise to Abraham, the fullness of the new covenant, and walking in the commandments of God.   Jew and gentile still remain separated and their testimony to the world of ‘one new man’ is impeded by a misrepresented error that no longer has its roots in Judaizing and compelling gentiles to become legally Jewish through ritual circumcision.  The modern ‘Galatian error’ has become the anti-semitic catch phrase for arrogance and pride over the first century Messianic Jews who dared to allow gentiles to enter the commonwealth of Israel through faith in the Jewish Messiah.

©2012 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article,  please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.