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 states 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, the word nomos means ‘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 was not to 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 teach this one command 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 with slithering on his belly and eating dust. He gave Eve pain in childbearing and the desire to rule over her husband. He cursed the ground from which Adam was created 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 Paradise, 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; he 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 answered, “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, God gave one law to Adam. After the flood, God gave more laws to Noah for mankind. God gave laws to Abraham and his descendants. Through Moses, God gave 613 laws to Israel outlining how to love and worship Him, along with laws on 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’ and ‘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).

God defines sin as breaking ‘His law’ or Torah. Sin is ultimately disobeying His instructions and going beyond the boundaries of His established rules for our lives. 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 the Garden, disobeyed God’s one instruction, and missed the mark. As a result, everyone sins and ‘misses the mark’ (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 Knowledge of Good and Evil!”

Oh yeah, those were the serpent’s words. Adam and Eve had no understanding of God’s grace, His empowering grace that overcomes sin and even the desire to sin. However, even in their sin, God’s grace abounded to Adam and Eve. He removed the fig 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 law of blood for the forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). God’s incredible grace, however, did not stop Adam and Eve or their children from sinning –– Cain killed Abel.

The incredible grace of God was probably something they told to their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. They probably spoke 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 judgment for the rest of their lives. God’s grace allowed them to live many more years with the hope of a coming Redeemer. God’s grace empowered them to put the past in the past and press on toward the goal, the promised ‘Seed of woman’ who would restore all things to the way they were in the Garden, but, it included an even better promise –– the power to overcome the ‘law 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 to mankind by Adam’s disobedience to God’s one instruction was destroyed by the ‘Seed of woman,’ the second Adam, Yeshua. His blood atoned for sin and brought 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 Spirit’s power to overcome sin and disobedience to Torah. 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 Yeshua. They now have freedom to live out the Torah written on their hearts by the Spirit.

“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 to the Editor written by a local pastor. In the letter the woman commented several times that she was ‘not perfect’ as justification for a list of things that were less than virtuous and honorable in her life. I would have laughed, if it weren’t so sad.

‘Perfect’ in the Greek is teleios and means ‘mature and adult.’ When this pastor wrote, “I’m not perfect,” she was really saying, “Please excuse the sins in my life. I’m not behaving maturely and acting like an adult.” Though we are to forgive the sins of one another, this is 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 justifying their disobedience and never experiencing 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.”

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 with regard 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 learning 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 standing 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 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 these sins.

Tamim implies that a person externally meets all the requirements of God’s 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 with God. Noah was a mature man. He used wisdom in a corrupt world, 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 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 his son, 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 Babylon 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 Philistine 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 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, and a ‘man after God’s own heart’ because when he sinned, he didn’t justify his sin, he repented (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 performed 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 a lack of faith and sin. If it was sin, 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 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 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 into spiritual maturity like Noah, Abraham, King David, and Zechariah and Elizabeth. As citizens of God’s Kingdom, we have been given His Spirit that empowers us to have victory over ‘the law of sin and death’ and live tamim, blameless lives 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 can discern good from evil and attain godly virtue and integrity. In order to do what Yeshua commanded, we must live according to the Spirit of life that is found in the Torah of God, erroneously believed to be the ‘law of sin and death.’ To claim ‘imperfection’ is no justification 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 of sin and death’ that was actually 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 to overcome sin and be ‘perfect.’

“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 walk with gentile believers and say that we keep the Biblical Sabbath, celebrate the Feasts of the LORD, and eat according to God’s instructions in Leviticus, we are always referred to the book of Galatians and warned about legalism and Judaizing. What is it about Judaizing, legalism, and the so-called ‘Galatian error’ that incites people to react defensively toward a gentile 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 Paul, new gentile believers were being compelled to undergo outward flesh circumcision as a requirement to live out their faith in Yeshua. This happened because some Messianic Jews were fearful of being persecuted by non-believing Jews for accepting Yeshua as Messiah.

The ‘Galatian error’ had nothing to do with faith obedience to the commands of God, it had nothing to do with the Sabbath, the Feasts of the LORD or dietary regulations. The ‘Galatian error’ was about a ‘written code’ that inhibited the gentile’s freedom to obey Torah and enjoy the blessings, promises, and covenants they now had access to as part of the ‘Commonwealth of Israel’ through faith in Messiah.

‘Circumcision’ and ‘Uncircumcision’

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

When studying Paul’s teachings, and especially Galatians, it is important to understand the terminology he uses when referring to Jews and gentiles. Many times his ‘circumcision’ verses are taught with an ‘anti-circumcision’ viewpoint with the belief that if gentiles become circumcised, they are obligated to obey God’s commands. This is not how Paul used the terms ‘circumcision’ and ‘uncircumcision.’

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians has nothing to do with the act of circumcising the flesh. He uses ‘circumcision to compare two different groups of people: the Jews who he called ‘the circumcision’ and the gentiles who he called ‘the uncircumcision.’ Putting his words in their proper context and terminology, Paul is saying that it doesn’t matter if you are a ‘circumcised’ Jew or an ‘uncircumcised’ gentile, what matters is keeping God’s commandments. It can be reasoned from this understanding that Paul never taught a gospel that encouraged disobedience to Torah, but believed that both the ‘circumcised’ Jew and the ‘uncircumcised’ gentile have the same responsibility of keeping God’s commandments which include Sabbath, the Feasts of the LORD, and dietary regulations.

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

Paul uses the same terminology in Galatians. He states that being a ‘circumcised’ Jew or ‘uncircumcised’ gentile means nothing; what matters is becoming a new creation.  He wants all of the Galatians (and those who read Galatians) to understand that neither our outward flesh condition nor our DNA has anything to do with our justification before God. All of us, ‘circumcised’ or ‘uncircumcised’ need to be born again to enter the Kingdom of God; everyone, Jew and gentile needs to become a new creation in Messiah (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Redemption to Sonship

“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 the world of the ‘law of sin and death’ just like every other human born of a woman.   He lived under the laws of human nature being tempted to sin; however, he remained sinless because his Father was not the Adversary, but the Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh. He never broke any of His Father’s commands in Torah.  He lived them perfectly and taught them correctly to his disciples. Because he was completely righteous and without sin, his death was sufficient payment to redeem all mankind, ‘circumcised’ and ‘uncircumcised’ from the ‘law of sin and death’ and give them the hope of eternal life as sons and daughters 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).

Each of us live under the ‘law of sin and death’ until we are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.    No one in Galatia or anywhere else at any other time was ever justified by laws –– man’s or God’s.   As redeemed sons and daughters of God, there is no spiritual difference between ‘circumcised’ or ‘uncircumcised,’ Jew or gentile, male or female, slave or free.   When we put our faith in Yeshua, we become Abraham’s seed and heirs to the promise.

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).

Paul admits that before he met Yeshua, he persecuted new Jewish believers regarding Judaism and the traditions of the elders 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 experience on the road to Damascus, Paul was the greatest persecutor of Messianic Jewish followers of Yeshua because he believed they would no longer adhere to traditional Judaism and its religious system. Acts 7:54-60 records him front and center at the stoning of Stephen, receiving the coats of the witnesses at his feet.

Gentile Conversion through ‘Circumcision’

Before Yeshua’s death and resurrection, the only way for a gentile God-fearer like Cornelius to join the ‘Commonwealth of Israel’ was to convert to Judaism. This was done through a conversion process that included circumcision of the flesh. Though circumcision was initially given as a covenant ‘sign’ to Abraham, over the centuries circumcision had become an outward show of following Judaism and all of its man-made traditions, yokes, and burdens.

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

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

In fact, Paul taught that all followers of Yeshua needed to remain in the spiritual condition they were in when they were saved.  If they were ‘uncircumcised,’ they were to remain as gentiles with a calling to make the Jew envious for Yeshua.  If they were ‘circumcised,’  they were to remain as Jews with the calling to be a light to the nations. It is the witness of Jew and gentile worshiping the God of Israel in unity that becomes the full testimony of Yeshua.

“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 states that ‘circumcision’ to become legally Jewish has no value because it is completely dependent on observing Judaism and its traditions.  A ritual circumcision does not necessarily have its foundation in faith, but in the importance of the traditions of the elders; the traditions of men.  These traditions and rules are easily broken, and then it is as if the gentile is no longer a convert to Judaism.

Paul understands this entire process more than anyone because he had been a Judaizer and believed gentiles needed to convert to Judaism. Moreover, he learned through personal experience that being legally Jewish, of which he has the most extensive credentials, is not as valuable as faith in Yeshua.  It is faith in Yeshua that gives all believers –– ‘circumcised’ or ‘uncircumcised’ –– not only freedom from the ‘law of sin and death,’ but also the burdensome laws of Judaism.

Titus and Timothy

Enter Titus. Titus was a Greek believer, a gentile. He did not feel compelled to be circumcised. He was quite content to remain in his gentile condition, but it created some problems within the Jewish congregation that needed to be addressed.

“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 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 either be Jews who had rejected the Messiah and were Judaizing the new gentile believers, Jewish men who bore ‘false witness’ to the Messiah. The purpose of these ‘false brothers’ was to infiltrate the Body of Messiah and compel the Messianic gentiles to convert to Judaism through ritual circumcision.

Titus was the test case.   Though he personally did not feel the need to be circumcised, he was still being compelled to become legally Jewish.  If Paul allowed him to be circumcised and become legally Jewish, then the whole message of salvation by faith for gentiles 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 understood his Jewish heritage. For him to be circumcised was not an issue of conversion to be ‘legally Jewish’ because he was already ‘legally Jewish’ through his birth mother.   Furthermore,  Paul was going to take Timothy with him on missionary journeys to places where there were unbelieving Jews. Being an uncircumcised Jew would have been a huge a stumbling block for those Jews to hear and receive the message of salvation in  the Jewish Messiah.

Did Titus not keep God’s Torah while Timothy did? Of course not. Paul has already answered this question: “Circumcision [being Timothy] is nothing and uncircumcision [being Titus] is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts” (1 Corinthians 7:19).  For Titus to believe that he had a different set of commandments than Timothy or did not have to obey God’s commandments like Timothy would have amounted to not only ignorance, but also gentile arrogance.

Foolish and ‘Bewitched

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

I cannot count how many times this verse has been quoted to correct us and our walk of faith. It would be funny, if it wasn’t so sad.  We have met and known 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 Yeshua’s atonement on the cross and by faith in Him alone. There is no argument there.  To compel someone to become legally Jewish through circumcision is most definitely a foolish error when it comes to the message of justification.  However, anyone who loves the God of Israel and desires to obey His commandments is neither ‘bewitched’ nor foolish. They are not compelling anyone to legally convert to Judaism.  In fact, it is quite the opposite. They are sharing a fuller message of salvation that includes sanctification. Yeshua Himself said, “If you love me, you will obey my commands” (John 14:15).

The Zeal of the Judaizer

“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, the Judaizers, 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 making 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 highly probable the Messianic Jews didn’t really know what to do with the number of 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 like Paul were well aware that Yeshua didn’t preach the kingdom of Judaism, but they also didn’t want to lose their Jewish identity and Biblical heritage.  In their defense, after 2000 years of gentile infiltration, councils denouncing everything Jewish about faith in the Jewish Messiah, and the melding of pagan gods with Biblical holy days, 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 Torah (Acts 15:21).   They took on a Biblically Jewish identity while retaining their unique calling as gentiles to make the Jew envious. They tried to live out their new faith celebrating the Feasts of the LORD and eating according to God’s instructions. Read in this cultural context Colossians 2:16 takes on a whole new perspective.

“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 70 CE, the nation of Israel 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 the 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 Jerusalem and Rome took its place.  The Torah no longer came out of Zion nor the Word of God from Jerusalem, but from Rome and the Popes. Anti-circumcision and anti-Jewish doctrines crept into the church and edicts from councils like Nicaea and Laodicea made it illegal for  believers in Yeshua to follow anything that appeared ‘Jewish’ including the Feasts of the LORD, Sabbath, circumcision, and Levitical 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.  As Rome took the place of Jerusalem, the Pope spoke in the place of God, and the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Latin, gentile believers easily fell into Roman religious practices against warnings by Paul in his letter to the Romans (chapters 9-14). Jewish believers either converted to Roman Christianity or died.  Then, of course, came the Crusades, the Inquisitions, and the Holocaust Nazis that just murdered Jews because they believed them to be ‘Christ killers.’

The Modern ‘Galatian Error’

Judaizing is a non-issue today as Christians are no longer part of the Messianic Jewish community.   They do not attend synagogues for teaching and instruction as did the first-century gentiles.  They are not confronted by ‘false brothers’ who compel them to be circumcised and convert to Judaism. The Christian church no longer teaches Torah or the Prophets as the foundation of the spiritual Temple, let alone as an outline for living a life of obedience.  In fact, most Biblical truths that were taught by Yeshua and lived out by the apostles and first-century believers have been eliminated to the point that neither Paul, the apostles, nor Yeshua would recognize the Body of Messiah today.

The modern ‘Galatian error’ has become a gentile code that compels Jews to follow the pagan ways of the nations embedded in Christian theology. Jews who come to faith in Jesus Christ ‘legally convert’ through baptism and confirmation into one of hundreds of Christian denominations. Christiandom discourages anything remotely Jewish and their Jewish converts attend church on Sunday, celebrate pagan holidays that are prohibited by the God in the Scriptures, and eat the flesh of swine.  In these murky waters, many of the ‘circumcised’ have lost their Jewish identity, and their call to be a light to the nations has been snuffed out. 

Something definitely has “bewitched” the church and it is not a Messianic gentile obeying God’s Torah; it’s a distortion of Paul’s teachings (2 Peter 3:16). This distortion has paralyzed the ‘uncircumcised’ from walking in the commandments of God. The ‘circumcised’ Jew and ‘uncircumcised’ gentile still remain separated. No one Judaizes and compels gentiles to become ‘legally Jewish’ through circumcision. The ‘Galatian error’ has become the anti-semitic catch phrase for arrogance over first-century Messianic Jews who dared to allow the ‘uncircumcised’ 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.