Showing posts with the label Law

Limits of the Law

In responding to claims that Gentiles must be circumcised, Paul appealed to the common experience of the Spirit received by the Galatians. Did they receive the gift due to a “ hearing of faith ” or “ from the works of the Law? ” Having begun in the Spirit, why did they now seek the “ completion ” of their faith based on “ flesh ” by submitting to circumcision?

Fullness of Time

Paul argued that adopting the rite of circumcision would constitute regression to something rudimentary, and an earlier stage in the redemptive history of God’s people. If Gentile believers did so, they would be obligated to keep the whole Law, and they could easily find themselves “ severed from Christ ” - (Galatians 5:1-4).

Rebuilding Barriers

The third chapter of  Galatians  is pivotal to Paul’s larger argument, in which he stresses the oneness of God’s people. The old social divisions existing under the Mosaic Legislation are inappropriate in God’s one covenant community since the promised “ Seed of Abraham ” has arrived, namely, Jesus of Nazareth. In his Body, “ there can be NEITHER Jew nor Greek .”

Having Started in the Spirit

In  Galatians , Paul addresses a growing danger. Certain “ men from Jerusalem ” claimed that Gentiles must keep the deeds of the Mosaic Law to “ complete ” their faith, or at least, some of its statutes and rites. They were “ compelling Gentiles to Judaize ” by adopting circumcision, calendrical observances, and perhaps the Levitical dietary restrictions.

Even an Angel

After a curt introduction, Paul began his  Letter to the Galatians  with a stern warning and a sharp rebuke. What some members of the congregation were contemplating would replace Jesus with a false messiah and a counterfeit gospel. Abandoning the “ faith of Jesus Christ ” by engaging in circumcision and other “ works of the law ” for justification before God would lead inevitably to being severed from Christ. Thus, the seriousness of his language.

This Evil Age

The death of Jesus inaugurated the messianic age with consequent changes in the status of God’s people .  In his epistle to the Assembly in Galatia, Paul declares that his apostleship originated from the same God who raised Jesus from the dead, the Messiah of Israel who gave his life to “ deliver us from this evil age .” His declaration anticipates his proposition in the body of the Letter that the arrival of Jesus changed the status of the Law for the people of God, the “ children of Abraham .”

The Works of the Law

Sin is the Great Leveler that places everyone in the same predicament: Bondage now, death and “ wrath ” later. No one is exempt from the penalty of sin, and no one has a legitimate excuse for trespassing the commandment of God who will “ render to each according to his works .” But what, precisely, did the Apostle Paul mean when he brought “ works ” into the discussion? Good deeds and human efforts in general, or something more specific?

Why, then, the Law?

If a man is not justified from the works of the Law, what was the purpose of the Law given at Sinai? – Galatians 3:19 .  In  Galatians , Paul declares that we are set right with God from the “ faith of Jesus Christ ” and not “ from the works of the Law .” But if keeping the “ works of the Law ” does not justify us,  what is the purpose of the Torah ?

Doing the Whole Law

Anyone who is under the Law of Moses is obligated to keep all its required deeds and rituals, and therefore, risks coming under its curse .  In Galatians , Paul responds to teachings from certain “ men from Jerusalem ” who are disrupting the churches by claiming that male Gentiles must be circumcised to “ complete ” their faith.

Circumcision - Cutting Issue

With the new era inaugurated by Jesus, circumcision is no longer a sign of membership in the covenant community .  Circumcision is an obstacle to claims that disciples must keep the Mosaic Law. In Genesis , it is the entrance rite of the Abrahamic covenant and the identifying sign of the covenant. And it is mandatory under the law given through Moses at Mount Sinai.

Controversy in Galatia

The key issue in Galatia is whether Gentiles must be circumcised and keep some, at least, of the deeds required by the Torah .  Paul’s letter to the Galatians is his response to a controversy in the churches of Galatia. The issue is the status of Gentile believers. Must they conform to Jewish practices and submit to the regulation of the Mosaic Law, especially the rite of circumcision?