Posts Tagged ‘legalism’

Parashah 49: Ki Tetze (When you go out)

Parashah 49: Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19

“When you go out to war against your enemies, and Adonai your God hands them over to you, and you take prisoners…” (Deuteronomy 21:10).

The War Zone

When Isra’el goes to war and a soldier brings back a captive woman he is attracted to,  she must follow Yahweh’s regulations for joining the community.  She is to go into the man’s house, shave her head, cut her fingernails and remove her captive garments.  For an entire month she is to mourn her parents before consummating the marriage relationship.  If the man tires of the woman after a time, he is not to sell her or treat her like a slave because he has humiliated or defiled her.   

“If a man has recently married his wife, he is not to be subject to military service; he is to be free of external obligations and left at home for one year to make his new wife happy” (Deuteronomy 20:7, 24:5).

Men who are engaged or recently married are not to go to war.  In the recent skirmishes between Isra’el and the Palestinians, I read at least one story of a newly engaged man being killed in the war.  His fiancé was left alone to be married to another man.  These stories bring grief for the widow and the young man’s family, but had they followed the Torah regulation, they would be married, setting up their home, and maybe even having a child who would take the man’s name into the next generation.  

Capital Punishment

Punishment for a rebellious child after they have been disciplined and still refuse to pay attention was death.  Rebellion is willful insubordination. A rebel, according to the dictionary, is an ‘insurgent, mutineer, terrorist and freedom fighter.’  Consider what happened on a ship when there was mutiny!  A child, like a mutineer, could infect not only the family with their rebellious ways, but also the community.  Terrorism within the nation of Isra’el would not be tolerated nor would freedom fighters! 

The description of the rebellious child in Deuteronomy, however, is not a terrorist, but a son who lives wildly and gets drunk.  This drunken son is taken to the leaders at the city gate where he is stoned.  This implies that everyone knew of this man’s rebellious behavior and his unwillingness to change.  Only then could ‘all the men of his town stone him to death’ (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).

If someone committed a capital crime like murder, adultery or blasphemy, they were put to death.  If death was by hanging on a tree, the body must not remain on the tree all night, but must be buried the same day.  This person has been cursed by Elohim (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).

A scroll known as the Temple Scroll was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.  It contained the halakah or legal interpretations to Torah regulations.  From about 530 BCE until the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, anyone who was guilty of treason or blasphemy was to be hung on a tree before the people he had betrayed and before Elohim who he had blasphemed.  While he hangs on the tree, he is accursed by Elohim and men.

The Essenes, a sect of Judaism who had strict halacha based on Torah andprotected the scrolls of the Tenak by putting them in the caves at Qumran, held this legal regulation for a blasphemer.  The Sadducees who were the ruling authority and controlled the Temple in Yeshua’s day obviously held to this view as this is how they condemned Yeshua.  The Pharisees leaned more toward stoning a blasphemer first and then hanging him on a tree, but all three sects would have viewed crucifixion, hanging on a tree, as being a curse.

“The Messiah redeemed us from the curse pronounced in the Torah by becoming cursed on our behalf; for the Tanakh says, “Everyone who hangs from a stake comes under a curse” (Galatians 3:13).   

The ‘Curse of the Torah’ = Legalism

“A curse on anyone who does not confirm the words of this Torah by putting them into practice. All the people are to say, ‘Amen!’” (Deuteronomy 27:26)

According to this verse, those who do not put into practice the instructions found in Torah are cursed.  By dying on the cross, Yeshua removed the curse of Torah, not Torah itself.

Torah, which is holy and the commandments which are just and good, still serves two purposes: to define sin and to sanctify people to become “Holy to Yahweh” (Romans 7:12). Legalistic outward observance of Torah perverts these two purposes and destroys Torah.

According to Sha’ul,  no one is made righteous or justified in the eyes of Elohim by obeying Torah because its first purpose is to point out sin(Romans 3:20).  Believing one is justified before Elohim by legalistic outward observance of Torah is not based on faith, but a misuse of the words “anyone who does these things will attain (eternal) life through them.”  No one has or ever will receive eternal life by keeping the commands of Torah.  It is not because no one can keep Torah commands, but because that was and still is not Torah’s intent. 

“For neither being circumcised [Jew} nor being uncircumcised [non-Jew] matters; what matters is being a new creation” (Galatians 6:15).

Through our faith in Yeshua’s work on the cross, we have been released from the Torah of sin and death. The first purpose of Torah – to point out our sin – has been accomplished.

After the new birth, the spiritual Torah takes on its second purpose, to set apart a people for Yahweh.  Through the Ruach HaKodesh, the Torah is taken from stone tablets and written on hearts of flesh.  We no longer follow ‘the letter of Torah’ by an outward obedience, but through an inward change of heart grounded in love for Yahweh and our neighbor.   Once we are new creations,  the Torah becomes the light for our path and the Ruach HaKodesh convicts us of our sin, leads us to repentance so we become “Holy to Yahweh” (John 17:17).

“Thus, my brothers, you have been made dead with regard to the Torah through the Messiah’s body, so that you may belong to someone else, namely, the one who has been raised from the dead, in order for us to bear fruit for God. For when we were living according to our old nature, the passions connected with sins worked through the Torah in our various parts, with the result that we bore fruit for death. But now we have been released from this aspect of the Torah, because we have died to that which had us in its clutches, so that we are serving in the new way [of obeying Torah] provided by the Spirit and not in the old way of outwardly following the letter of the law(Romans 7:4-6).

“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.  For what the Torah could not do by itself, because it lacked the power to make the old nature cooperate, God did by sending his own Son as a human being with a nature like our own sinful one [but without sin]. God did this in order to deal with sin, and in so doing he executed the punishment against sin in human nature,  so that the just requirement of the Torah might be fulfilled in us who do not run our lives according to what our old nature wants but according to what the Spirit wants.  For those who identify with their old nature set their minds on the things of the old nature, but those who identify with the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  Having one’s mind controlled by the old nature is death, but having one’s mind controlled by the Spirit is life and shalom. For the mind controlled by the old nature is hostile to God, because it does not submit itself to God’s Torah — indeed, it cannot (Romans 8:2-7).

“Being circumcised [Jewish] means nothing, and being uncircumcised [non-Jewish] means nothing; what does mean something is keeping God’s commandments” (1 Corinthians 7:19).

Women Dressed Like Men

“A woman is not to wear men’s clothing, and a man is not to put on women’s clothing, for whoever does these things is detestable to Adonai your God” (Deuteronomy 22:5).

From this verse comes the idea that cross-dressing is detestable to Yahweh.  It was this verse that convicted me to change my wardrobe.  I had fallen into the western cultural dress code that blurs the difference between men and women, masculinity and femininity.  When I realized that my husband and I had the same clothes, some exactly the same, especially flannel shirts, I went through my closet and removed anything that was similar to his and began dressing more feminine, wearing skirts, blouses and dresses.  Soon after my personal revelation, I realized I had been dressing my young daughter in overalls and similar clothing to my son, even hand-me-downs.  I changed that immediately.  Over the years, the blurring between sexes has increased exponentially in western culture and the consequences are enormous.

Here is another ‘translation’ for Deuteronomy 22:5 that I found interesting.  There is some question as to its accuracy, but it adds a different nuance to the idea of ‘cross-dressing.’

“Never cause or force a warriors weapon to be used by a woman or weak person; neither dress warriors armor on a woman or weak person for to Adonai, God of Host, disgusting is such that do so.”

A woman should not dress in military armor or to carry a soldier’s weapon.  This puts a very different view on women dressing like men (high priests), especially with the modern-day view of placing women not only in the armed forces, but in combat.  The Hebrew word towebah, means “disgusting”and is the same word used for eating unclean foods.  The blending of the sexes has gone from dressing similarly to women in the military – both here and in Isra’el – and it could very well be disgusting to the Creator who made us male and female and sent men off to war, not women.    

Blending Threads

“You are not to wear clothing woven with two kinds of thread, wool and linen together” (Deuteronomy 22:11). 

Linen, which comes from flax, was always used for the priestly garments (Leviticus 6:10).   Linen is a symbol of being “Holy to Yahweh.”  When the prophet Ezekiel was being shown the measurements of the Millennial Temple, the ‘man in bronze’ held a flax measuring cord.  In that Temple, those who are descendants of Zadok will serve Yeshua wearing linen (Ezekiel 44:18).  The Bride of Messiah is given ‘fine linen’ as a wedding dress to wear at the wedding feast (Revelation 19:8). 

John had a vision of Yeshua in Revelation and his hair was snow-white like wool.  The prophet Isaiah says that sins will be washed white as wool.   Wool, which comes from a sheep, is a symbol of redemption. In Revelation, the redeemed masses are given white robes washed in the blood of the lamb different from the ‘fine linen’ of the saints (Revelation 7:14, 22:14). 

Yahweh desires purity even with fabric, seeds and animals.  The Israelites mixed the holy and the profane with the golden calf.  The congregation in Laodicea mixes the holy and profane and becomes lukewarm.  Sha’ul tells the congregation in Corinth not to become unequally yoked, believer with unbeliever.   Mixing the righteous and unrighteous does not result in a pure faith, a pure love or a pure walk before Yahweh.

Virgin of Isra’el

Women who were virgins, still had their sexual purity, were completely dependent on their fathers, husbands and brothers for protection and provision.   In a patriarchal system, women especially needed special protection from abuse.  The regulations in Deuteronomy 22 and 23 brought honor to the women in Isra’el.  Israelite men were commanded to treat their women different from the nations around them, the nations they would expel.  No man or woman was to take part in ritual prostitution at a pagan temple because worshipping Yahweh was to be different from the worship of other gods and that included protecting virgin women from emotional, physical and spiritual abuse.

Two Wives

There are regulations for a man with two wives, one loved and the other unloved.  These verse perfectly describes the situation of Jacob who married Leah, but loved his wife Rachel.   His unloved wife gave him a firstborn son named Reuben while Rachel’s firstborn was Joseph.  As per the instruction, Jacob did not give Joseph, the son of the wife he loved,  Reuben’s firstborn blessing.  Because Reuben slept with Jacob’s concubine, he lost the blessing and a double portion was given to Joseph through his sons Manasseh and Ephraim (Deuteronomy 21:15-17).

Brother Marries Brother’s WifeLevirate Marriage

A brother is to marry his brother’s wife if he dies without children.  This describes what happened between Judah and Tamar.  When Judah refused to give Tamar his third son, she created a plan that would give her a child and keep the name of her husband’s family alive.  This is why Judah commended Tamar for her righteousness. 

The Latrine

“Also you are to have an area outside the camp to use as a latrine.  You must include a trowel with your equipment, and when you relieve yourself, you are to dig a hole first and afterwards cover your excrement. For Adonai your God moves about in your camp to rescue you and to hand over your enemies to you. Therefore your camp must be a holy place. [Adonai] should not see anything indecent among you, or he will turn away from you” (Deuteronomy 23:13-15).

I used this verse when potty training my toddlers.  We have always lived where we had a septic system.  I used the distance from the toilet through the pipes in the house that led out of the house to the septic tank to show them how our excrement went out of the camp so our home would be a holy place.   When we lived in the Rocky Mountains, we did a lot of back-country camping and the use of a trowel was vitally important – also a regulation of Elohim.

He Wants Me Back Syndrome

“In such a case her first husband, who sent her away, may not take her again as his wife, because she is now defiled. It would be detestable to Adonai, and you are not to bring about sin in the land Adonai your God is giving you as your inheritance” (Deuteronomy 24:4). 

If a man divorces his wife and she remarries and divorces again (or is widowed), the first husband may not take her back. Though it may sound harsh, it is for the protection of the woman to not be defiled repeatedly.  Such defilement is not allowed in the community of Isra’el.

The Fatherless and the Widow

When harvesting grain, olives, and grapes, no one is to go back to their field for a missing sheaf, beat the tree for the last olives or return to the vineyard.  What is left in the field, on the tree and on the vine is to be left for the fatherless and the widow.  This is Elohim’s way of providing for those who have no provider – a husband or a  father.  By doing this, Yahweh becomes the Husband and the Father providing for the widow and orphan.  

Correct Weights

“You are not to have in your pack two sets of weights, one heavy, the other light.  You are not to have in your house two sets of measures, one big, the other small.  You are to have a correct and fair weight, and you are to have a correct and fair measure” (Deuteronomy 25:13-15). 

Though this is specific to measuring produce, there is a spiritual aspect to this command:  we must not weigh people differently.  James 2:6 tells believers not to give more honor to the rich than to the poor.  The weights of human value are always measured wrongly and with different standards.  Even when it comes to righteous judgment, we are not to be a respecter of persons, but judge fairly and honestly with justice.


“Therefore when Adonai your God has given you rest form all your surrounding enemies in the Land Adonai your God is giving you as your inheritance to posses, you are to blot out all memory of ‘Amalek from under heaven.  Don’t forget” (Deuteronomy 25:19).

Yeshua and the Seven Brothers

“That same day, some Tz’dukim came to him. They are the ones who say there is no such thing as resurrection, so they put to him a sh’eilah: ‘Rabbi, Moshe said, If a man dies childless, his brother must marry his widow and have children to preserve the man’s family line.’There were seven brothers. The first one married and then died; and since he had no children, he left his widow to his brother.The same thing happened to the second brother, and the third, and finally to all seven.After them all, the woman died.Now in the Resurrection — of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all married her.”’

“Yeshua answered them, ‘The reason you go astray is that you are ignorant both of the Tanakh and of the power of God.For in the Resurrection, neither men nor women will marry; rather, they will be like angels in heaven’” (Matthew 22:23-30).

“Yeshua said to them, “Isn’t this the reason that you go astray? because you are ignorant both of the Tanakh and of the power of God? For when people rise from the dead, neither men nor women marry — they are like angels in heaven” (Mark 12:24-25).

“Yeshua said to them, “In this age, men and women marry; but those judged worthy of the age to come, and of resurrection from the dead, do not get married…” (Luke 20:34-35).

Haftarah (Readings of the Prophets)

Isaiah 54:1-10 

Proverbs 5:18

B’rit Hadashah (New Testament Readings)

Matthew 5:31-32

Matthew 19:3-12

Mark 10:2-12 

1 Timothy 5:17-18

Midrash Ki Tetze: Freedom from the Curse of Legalism

Compare the ‘curse of Torah’ or legalistic observances within Judaism with Yeshua’s Torah teachings.  How could Yeshua remove the ‘curse of Torah’ while still teaching obedience to  Torah commands?

©2018 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 Torah portion or the complete Torah cycle, please purchase Open My Eyes: Wonders of Torah.

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).

When we share our faith walk with non-Jewish believers saying 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 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 they now had access to as part of the commonwealth of Israel through faith in Messiah.


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

When studying Galatians and especially 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 with the idea that if non-Jews become circumcised, they lose their freedom and are forced to obey God’s commands. This is not how Paul used the terms ‘circumcision’ and ‘uncircumcision;’ this is not what ‘circumcision’ means.

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians has nothing to do with the act of circumcising the flesh.  He 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 its proper context and 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 believed 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 outward flesh condition nor our DNA, has anything to do with our justification before God. All of us, Jew and non-Jew,  (circumcised or uncircumcised) need to be born again to enter the Kingdom of God; everyone, Jew and non-Jew, (circumcised and uncircumcised) needs to become a new creation 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 (the law of) sin and death just like every other human born of a woman.   He lived under the law of human nature with the temptation of sin, however, he 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 (circumcised and uncircumcised), from the law of sin and death and give them life now and eternally 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 (circumcised or uncircumcised), 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 like Cornelius to  join the ‘commonwealth of Israel’ was to convert to Judaism.  This was done through a religious process 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 the outward sign of following Judaism and 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-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,’ the ceremonial ‘law’ to become legally Jewish that Yeshua destroyed in his flesh.

The problem in Galatia was not that Messianic gentiles 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 followers of 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 according to the commands 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 states that circumcision to become lawfully 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 value of 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 entire process more than anyone because he was a ‘Judaizer’ himself wanting gentiles to convert to Judaism.  Moreover, he has learned through personal experience that being legally Jewish, of which he has the most extensive credentials, 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 laws 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 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 most likely be Jews who had rejected the Messiah and were Judaizing the new non-Jewish believers 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 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 flesh 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 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 those Jews to hear and receive the message of salvation in  their own Jewish Messiah.

Did Titus not keep God’s commandments while Timothy did? Of course not. This question has already been answered: “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 commands as 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 out of context to ‘correct us’ and our walk of faith. 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, someone who loves the Lord God of Israel and desires to obey His commands out of that love are not bewitched or foolish. They are not trying to compel 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).

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, 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 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 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 initially 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 and councils denouncing everything Jewish about faith in a Jewish Messiah, 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 to make the Jew envious.   As they tried to live out their new faith celebrating Biblical holy days, they encountered judgment from the Judaizers who wanted their adherence to the ‘written code’  first: gentiles needed to convert to Judaism.  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 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 the an example of faith (1 Thessalonians 2:14).

As the centuries passed and the number of gentile believers increased, they lost their connection to Jerusalem.  The Torah no longer came out of Zion nor the Word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Anti-circumcision or anti-Jewish doctrines crept into the ‘church’ and edicts from various church councils like Nicaea and Laodicea made it illegal for  believers in Yeshua to follow anything that appeared ‘Jewish’ including Sabbath, Biblical festivals, 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.  Eventually 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 all 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.

The Modern Error in Galatia

Judaizing is a non-issue today 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 Biblical truths that were taught 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 embedded in Christian doctrine.   Jews who come to faith in Jesus Christ no longer embrace the eternal covenants and promises given to them. They ‘legally convert’ to Christianity through baptism and confirmation into one of hundreds of denominations. Through the misunderstanding of a first-century issue, the modern-day church discourages anything remotely Jewish and their ‘circumcised’ converts attend church services on Sunday and celebrate foreign holidays that are prohibited by the God of Israel in the Scriptures.  In these murky waters, many of the ‘circumcised’ have lost their Jewish identity and their call to be a light to the gentile nations has been snuffed out. 

Something definitely has ‘bewitched’ the church. It’s not a Messianic believer obeying God’s commandments; it’s a distortion of the Truth. This distortion has paralyzed ‘the uncircumcised’ from entering into the promises given to Abraham, the reality of the new covenant as prophesied by Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and walking in the commandments of God as lived out by Yeshua. Jew and gentile, ‘circumcised’ and ‘uncircumcised’ still remain separated. Their testimony to the world of ‘one new man’ is impeded by an error that can no longer be called Judaizing and compelling gentiles to become legally Jewish through ritual circumcision.  The modern ‘Galatian error’ has become the anti-Jewish catch phrase for arrogance over the 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.