Galatians 2 | Galatians 3 | Galatians 4 & 5
Galatians, what a misunderstood book!
Often, one of the first things Christians will say when you tell them the law has not been abolished is: "you need to read the book of Galatians!" In spite of the multitude of scriptures in the "New Testament" which demonstrate we should keep Yahweh's law, many understand Paul's letter to Galatians to state otherwise.
In reality, there is not a single verse in the book of Galatians or anywhere in the scripture that would tell us that the law has been abolished. Rather, much to the contrary! The book of Galatians actually proves that while we are not saved by our observance of the Torah (The Hebrew word translated "Law" all throughout the scriptures), true believers will make a sincere effort to walk in its precepts.
In this study we will go through each of the verses in Galatians chapter 2 through chapter 5, which contain the key verses speaking of Yahweh's Torah/law and its place in our life. It is the words in these chapters that are most frequently understood as "abolishing the law". Thus, we will examine them to see if Paul is really making any claim that the law is now abolished and not to be heeded.
Questions answered on
If you feel that I'm in error in this study, feel free to contact me. I'm only interested in the truth.
Galatians chapter 2
After his introduction, the first thing Paul mentioned in his letter to the Galatians was:
Galatians 1:6-9 - I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Messiah unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Messiah. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
This topic is the subject matter throughout the book of Galatians. The real question in the book of Galatians isn't whether or not we should keep the Torah. The real question is this: What is the "true good news" that Yahushua wants us to proclaim? Does the true "good news" mean that we receive salvation after we have been circumcised and kept the law? Does the true "good news" proclaim salvation through abolishing the law so that our sins are taken away? Or does the true good news simply proclaim that we can receive forgiveness for transgressing that law if we repent and believe in Yahushua...nothing added?
Galatians 2:1-2 Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
This chapter begins with Paul describing his time in Jerusalem with his fellow laborer in the faith, Barnabas. They had gone to Jerusalem to discuss the matter of what the true "gospel/good news" is really supposed to be. What is needful for a person to receive salvation? The 15th chapter in the book of Acts discusses this visit to Jerusalem in detail:
Acts 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, [and said], Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
Notice carefully that the reason this trip was necessary was due to certain men from Judea teaching the brethren that they would have no salvation unless they were first circumcised. When they brought this doctrine to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, Peter/Kepha referred to this kind of theology a "a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear":
Acts 15:5-11 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses." 6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. 7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago Elohim chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 "So Elohim, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 "and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 "Now therefore, why do you test Elohim by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 "But we believe that through the grace of the Master Yahushua Messiah we shall be saved in the same manner as they."
Peter/Kepha states that all are "saved" through the grace of Yahushua Messiah. As evidenced by this statement, the question they were discussing is whether or not the Gentiles were saved through the grace of Yahushua the Messiah, or by circumcision and keeping commandments. This was also the original question in Acts 15:1.
Kepha said, "we believe that through the grace of the Master Yahushua the Messiah we shall be saved, even as they." His point was that everyone, Jew or Gentile, is saved by grace, not by keeping the law or by circumcision. Even Jews who had been circumcised and kept the law didn't have salvation until they believed in Yahushua. He also said that to make circumcision or Torah/law observance the requirement for salvation would be to "test Elohim." But how would it "test Elohim?"
The testing would be: "Can Yahweh still bring the Gentiles into His flock while making the (quite painful) painful act of adult circumcision, and/or keeping the Torah/law of Yahweh a prerequisite to being saved?" In truth, there was not a man in all the generations of Israel who had ever kept the Torah, so to make the keeping of the Torah a requirement before salvation was not the true "good news" that Yahushua and the apostles were to be teaching.
So Peter, after detailing the proof that Yahweh had accepted the Gentiles in their uncircumcised state (Cornelius received the Spirit in Acts 10), affirmed that both Jews and Gentiles are saved through the grace of Yahushua the Messiah rather than circumcision or any other act of Torah/law observance. The ultimate decision in Acts 15 by James was not to require circumcision for salvation (Click here for a verse by verse study in Acts 15 for details).
So who were these "certain men from Judea" anyway? To properly understand the book of Galatians and the context of Paul's letter, it is important that we have an good understanding of what kind of people Paul was facing. For this reason we will begin to identify the beliefs and characteristics of these "certain men from Judaea." In this study, we will keeping a running list of notable characteristics of these "certain men" as we go along. Here is what we have so far:
Continuing in Galatians 2:
Galatians 2:2-3 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. 3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:
Chronologically, the event Paul is describing (Acts 15) marks the first notice of Titus in scripture. Titus would eventually go on to be Paul's co-laborer and assistant in his ministry with the Corinthians and other places (see letters to the Corinthians & the book of Titus). Titus was among the group that went to Jerusalem and the apostles in Jerusalem did not require him to be circumcised.
Galatians 2:4-5 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Messiah Yahushua, that they might bring us into bondage: 5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
Again, the emphasis is placed on the "truth of the gospel/good news" being proclaimed rather than "another gospel." In verse 4, Paul identifies the "certain men from Judea" as "false brethren". We also see they they like to work in secret. Another attribute about them can be found in Galatians 6:
Galatians 6:12-13 As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Messiah. 13 For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.
So these "false brethren" were actually Torah breakers themselves but they were most interested in circumcising Gentiles so that they could go back to their Pharisee friends and brag about it. The focus on the praise of men was amongst the notable characteristics of some Pharisees of that time:
Matthew 23:4-5a For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men:
What Yahushua said about them continued to be true when Paul wrote this letter to the Galatians. They wanted to throw the weight of having the learn & keep the Torah and getting circumcised upon the necks of Gentiles before they would be accepted as having had salvation, and thus accepted into the fellowship and brotherhood of Messiah. This is not Yahushua's yoke at all.
Let's add these elements to the list of notable characteristics:
So these Pharisees regarded it as their duty to go to the Gentile believers in Yahushua and try to bring them over to "another gospel" which had their own way of receiving salvation. They apparently viewed the true good news as "bad news" for the future of their sect and they wanted to try and pervert the true good news with their doctrines.
With this understanding of what these "false brethren" were all about, let's continue reading Galatians 2:
Galatians 2:6-10 - But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: Elohim accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed [to be somewhat] in conference added nothing to me: 7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as [the gospel] of the circumcision [was] unto Peter; 8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) 9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we [should go] unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. 10 Only [they would] that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.
So Paul tells the Galatians that the apostles and elders added nothing to the good news that Paul was proclaiming to the Gentiles. In fact, they had agreed to have Paul and Barnabas go to the Gentiles while they went to the Jews. However, Paul next reports that Peter/Kepha and Barnabas got caught up in a form of hypocrisy:
Galatians 2:11-13 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
Both "dissembled" and "dissimulation" in this context mean "hypocrisy" and are translated "hypocrisy" in most translations. But why was it hypocritical? And why was Paul bold enough to rebuke Kepha/Peter, the man who walked with Yahushua for over 3 years?
They had just had the council in Acts 15 and they had all come to Antioch to deliver the decision to the brethren (Acts 15:30-35). When all together at the council, Kepha/Peter and Barnabas both stood with Paul and agreed with the good news they had been proclaiming. So for both of them to withdraw from keeping company with the Gentiles was quite hypocritical. They were standing with the truth that Gentiles were to be accepted into the brotherhood and having salvation in Acts 15, but in practice they were withdrawing and separating themselves from them out out of concern for what those of "the circumcision" might say or do.
Peter was especially at fault because he had walked with Yahushua for over 3 years and was chosen by Yahweh to first bring to good news to the Gentiles (Acts 10). At that time he was willing to fellowship with the Gentiles and defended it in Acts 11. So here was a situation where some very important leaders are sinning and causing confusion among the Gentiles by their actions, which was contrary to the decision that was made beforehand. So Paul asks:
Galatians 2:14-15 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel...
(Again we see that the primary issue here is "what is the true gospel [good news]?" Paul rebuked Kepha/Peter for not walking uprightly according to the truth of the good news.)
Galatians 2:14-15 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before [them] all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? 15 We [who are] Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
Now there are some who like to interpret this as Paul in essence saying "If you are a Jew and have rightly abandoned the law (living like a Gentile), why do you compel the Gentiles to keep the law like a Jew by only eating with the Jews?" Due to this interpretation, it is commonly understood that this is a passage that supports the doctrine of the law being abolished. But verse 15 exposes the fallacy of this interpretation when Paul contrasts the Jews with Gentiles and identifies the Gentiles as being sinners.
So while many think that Paul's statement of Peter "living after the manner of Gentiles" was a positive one, it is actually a negative one because in verse 15 Paul says we are not "sinners of the Gentiles!" In other words Paul was saying, "Peter, how are you ever going to bring the Gentiles (sinners) into living righteous life when you are acting sinner yourself?" This was a very convicting statement to Peter that exposed his hypocrisy.
So rather than Paul's rebuke being proof that a Gentile should not keep the Torah, it was simply a rebuke that Peter himself was sinning (transgressing the law 1John 3:4) when he chose to fear man over Yahweh, pretend he was going along with a false gospel, and play the hypocrite.
This interpretation is further evidenced when we look into one of the alternative readings in older Greek manuscripts. Consider the comparison here:
The KJV reads: "why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?"
The Nestle-Aland Greek text (based on older manuscripts) reads: "How can you compel the Gentiles to live as do the Jews."
So the question wasn't "Why are you over there trying to get Gentiles (Torah breakers) to live like Jews (Torah keepers)? Don't you know the law is abolished?" The real question was "How can you ever compel the Gentiles to keep the Torah (like Jews are supposed to) if you are a sinning yourself?" Both Greek texts are compatible with the latter understanding, but the Nestle-Aland text would contradict the common Christian interpretation of these verses.
The True Good News Explained
Let's now look further into these verses to hear a declaration of the true good news, something Kepha/Peter was failing to be straightforward about:
Galatians 2:15-16 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Yahushua Messiah, even we have believed in Yahushua Messiah, that we might be justified by the faith of Messiah, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
In verse 15, notice that the words "who are" are in italics in the KJV. When a word is italicized in the KJV, it is to alert the reader that those words are not found in the original text. Commas are also not found in the Greek or Hebrew language. Therefore, what it should read is, "We, Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, know (Greek. perfect tense) that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Yahushua". This solidifies the understanding that Paul is stating that righteous Jews, who know the truth, ought to know what is right and proclaim the right way to the Gentiles. Therefore he was saying that "WE (Paul, Barnabas, Kepha and all of them), Jews by nature" know very well that we are not justified (made righteous) by works of the law, but by faith in Yahushua.
The word translated "Justified" in verse 15 (Grk. #1344) simply means to be "declared righteous."
It is a simple but important truth that none of us are able to be made righteous through the law of Yahweh. The law of Yahweh simply tells us what is right and wrong. It will not declare any of us to be righteous. To the contrary, it will declare that we have been unrighteous! None of us will be able to stand before Yahweh on the day of judgment and say, "From birth until death, I kept Your law!" For this reason, we are condemned unless we can somehow be declared righteous even though we were not. We need a Savior. We need have Yahushua's righteousness applied to us in order for us to have salvation. Once we are clothed with His righteousness by faith, we have all the righteousness we need to be saved.
When Kepha/Peter refused to eat with the Gentiles, a people who were formerly idol worshipers and were still learning about the Torah, he was suggesting that they had not yet received salvation and were unworthy to sit with him at the table. By his example he was suggesting that he agreed with those "of the circumcision" that the Gentiles needed to be circumcised and keep the Torah in order to be accepted by Yahweh and accepted into the family of believers. But in Yahushua, all we need to do is repent (turn away from sin and toward righteousness) and Yahweh will purify our hearts by faith, giving us the grace to learn His commandments--at a pace that we can bear-- without fear of condemnation.
Consider the differences in the two "gospels:"
|Good News of 'the Circumcision'||The True Good News|
It was this "good news of the circumcision" that Paul spent a tremendous amount of time battling against. They truly believed that a person was only saved when they became a son of Abraham through circumcision. Why? The reality is that in scripture, there is almost a ring of logic to it. The logic was that since circumcision was the sign of the covenant between Yahweh and Abraham, which stated that He would give Abraham's descendants the land of Canaan, one needed to be circumcised in order to be a son of Abraham and thus--an inheritor of the land. Being an inheritor of the land was needed in order to receive all the promised blessings that came along with that covenant--namely eternal life in that land. But there are number of reasons why this belief was wrong and Paul discusses this in great detail in Galatians chapter 3. We will go over that later.
Meanwhile let's continue we left off in chapter 2:
Galatians 2:17-21 But if, while we seek to be justified by Messiah, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Messiah the minister of sin? Elohim forbid. 18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
At this point Paul is making a very interesting statement. He discusses a potential situation where a person who sought to be justified by Messiah was instead found to be a sinner. But how could such a situation be possible? Isn't everyone who seeks to be justified by Messiah "declared righteous?"
The answer to that is a flat "NO." Not everyone who seeks to be justified by Messiah is declared righteous. Yahushua said that Himself in Matthew 7:
Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Master, Master, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Master, Master, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
The ones Yahushua said He would condemn apparently thought that they were "justified by Messiah" and even claimed to do various miracles as a testimony that Yahushua was with them. But they were found sinners ("Depart from me, ye that work iniquity"). So if one refuses to do the will of the Heavenly Father, they will not be declared righteous. The word translated "iniquity" is Grk. word #458, anomia. This word literally means, "illegality, i.e. violation of law" according to the Strong's Greek Lexicon. The Thayer's Greek Lexicon says it means, "1) the condition of without law 1a) because ignorant of it 1b) because of violating it 2) contempt and violation of law, iniquity, wickedness."
The truth is that those claim to follow Yahushua but want to continue to live a life of sin (transgressing the Torah) are in big trouble! We need to not be among them!
Therefore, Messiah is not a minister of sin at all. As Paul said, "Elohim forbid!" (Lit. May it not be!)
Galatians 2:17-21 But if, while we seek to be justified by Messiah, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Messiah the minister of sin? Elohim forbid
Here are a couple of other places where Paul said this same phrase:
Romans 6:15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? Elohim forbid.
Romans 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Elohim forbid: yea, we establish the law.
Paul was again saying, "Elohim forbid" decide to continue in sin or even that we make the law void through faith. Rather, we establish the law (Greek word #2476, 'cause it to stand'). He is basically saying the same thing here in Galatians. Messiah is not a minister of sin (transgression of the law).
1 John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
So Paul says if I choose to build again the things which I destroyed (sin), I make myself a transgressor. Read it again:
Galatians 2:17-21 But if, while we seek to be justified by Messiah, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Messiah the minister of sin? Elohim forbid. 18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
The word translated "transgressor" here (#3848) is found 5 times in the 'New Testament' and every single time it is used in reference to someone disobeying the law of Yahweh given through Moses (Rom. 2:25, 27; Gal. 2:18; Jas. 2:9, 11). But how was sin "destroyed" in us to begin with?
19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto Elohim. 20 I am crucified with Messiah: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Messiah liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of Elohim, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Note that it says we are "dead to the law." Note that it does NOT say the law is dead to us! There is a huge difference. If we are dead to the law then we have fulfilled the requirement that the law demands: our death. The law demands that we die because at some point in our life we have broken that law. When we receive Yahushua, we become "dead to the law" because we are "crucified/impaled with Messiah." But we also "live to Elohim."
What is being said here is that if one chooses to "build again the things which I destroyed" (sin) we make ourselves a transgressor and are rebuilding the sin that was placed upon us before we "died to the law." Yahushua is not a minister of sin. He didn't die for us so that he could destroy our sins only so that we could go back to our former life of transgressing the law. He died for us so that the law's death requirement could be fulfilled in us if we become a part of His body which was put to death on the tree but now "lives to Elohim!" Read the verse again with this understanding in mind and it makes perfect sense:
Galatians 2:17-21 But if, while we seek to be justified by Messiah, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Messiah the minister of sin? Elohim forbid. 18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto Elohim.
"For" in verse 19 and 20 indicate that the words to follow were the reasons why Yahushua is not a minister of sin. We are not to rebuild the things we destroyed (transgression of the law) and we died to the law so that we could "live to Elohim." It is no longer we who live but it is "Messiah that liveth in" us.
Galatians 2:19-20 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto Elohim. 20 I am crucified with Messiah: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Messiah liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of Elohim, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
This being the case:
1 John 2:4-6 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of Elohim perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
If "Messiah liveth/abideth in us" then we will walk as He walked. How did He walk? He kept the Torah to absolute perfection. Because He kept the Torah to absolute perfection, He is the righteous one. His righteousness is what saves us when it is no longer we who live but Messiah who lives in us. Yahushua is not an minister of sin, He is a minister of deliverance from sin by saving us from death and living out the righteous commandments IN US that He kept while on the earth. Our obedience to the Torah/law of Yahweh is the evidence that Yahushua lives in us.
This is not to say that Yahushua demands that we instantly walk in perfection. He only requires that we turn away from sin, truly (from the heart) seeking to keep Yahweh's commandments as we learn them at a pace that HE decides, not man. Ultimately our righteousness comes from Yahushua the Messiah who gave His life for us.
21 I do not frustrate the grace of Elohim: for if righteousness come by the law, then Messiah is dead in vain.
If our righteousness (and thus, our salvation) were to come from Torah keeping, we could have been declared righteous without Messiah and He died for nothing. The "good news of the circumcision" taught that believers in Yahushua are not saved until they learn and obey the Torah, then get circumcised. But the true "good news" is that we are all saved the moment we choose to repent and have faith in Yahushua. And what good news that is! Our hearts are purified by faith the moment we repent and believe. It is just as Kepha/Peter said in Acts 2:38:
Acts 2:38-39 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Yahushua Messiah for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as Yahweh our Elohim shall call.
We repent, and are baptized in Yahushua's name to represent the death of the old man and Yahushua living in us. The Spirit of Yahweh then dwells with in us, guiding us to all truth, guiding us day by day to higher levels of obedience, just as the prophet Ezekiel predicted this indwelling of His Spirit would do:
Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
Those who promoted the "gospel of the circumcision" believed circumcision and Torah obedience had to come first, and that's why they were shocked when the Spirit fell upon uncircumcised men:
Acts 10:45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Still, there was a tendency for a circumcised person who is learned in the Torah to treat those who just came to Messiah differently, as if they had no salvation yet. This is not the true "good news" and that is why this letter to Galatians was written.
The "good news" isn't that we are forgiven and now are free to disobey Yahweh's law now. That's not good news at all.
The "good news" isn't that we achieve salvation and forgiveness through Yahushua after we get circumcised and keep the law.
The good news is that Yahweh receives us and is willing to save us the very moment we turn our hearts toward learning and following His ways of truth in the Torah and the rest of His word, receiving Yahushua the Messiah as our righteousness for when we failed to be obedient toward it. The moment we decide to do that, we are received into the body of Messiah and are now sons and daughters of Elohim, children of Israel, through Yahushua the Son of the living Elohim, who, by the Spirit of Yahweh, dwells within us.
GALATIANS CHAPTER 3 > > >
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