Showing posts with the label Law

Fullness of Time

In his Letter to the Galatians , Paul argues that adopting the rite of circumcision would constitute regression to something rudimentary, a reversion to an earlier stage in the redemptive history of God’s people. If Gentiles adopted a Torah -compliant lifestyle, they would return to bondage and once more experience the social divisions inherent in the Law. They would forsake the great and many benefits they had acquired through the “ faith of Jesus .”

Rebuilding Walls

The final paragraph of Chapter 3 in his Letter to the Galatians is pivotal to Paul’s argument. It stresses the oneness of God’s people. In the covenant community, the old social divisions that existed under the Mosaic legislation are inappropriate since the promised “ Seed of Abraham ” has arrived, namely, Jesus of Nazareth. In the covenant community, “ there can be neither Jew nor Greek .”

Justified From Faith

According to Paul, what identifies God’s people and determines membership in the covenant community is Jesus, especially the Messiah revealed on the cross, and nothing else! That does NOT mean the Mosaic Law serves no purpose, but it is not the basis for determining who is and who is not a redeemed son of God. Right standing before God is based on the “ faith OF Jesus Christ ,” not the “ works of the Law .”

Having Started in the Spirit

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

Even an Angel

After a curt introduction, Paul begins his Letter to the Galatians with a stern warning and rebuke. What some members of the congregation are contemplating constitutes replacing Jesus with a false messiah and a counterfeit gospel. To turn from the “ faith of Jesus Christ ” to circumcision and other “ works of the law ” as the basis of right standing before God leads inevitably to apostasy. Thus, the sternness of the Apostle’s 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 .”

Works of the Law

Sin is the Great Leveler that places every man and woman in the same predicament - bondage now, and death and “ Wrath ” later. No one is exempted from the penalty of sin whether Jew or Gentile, and no one has a legitimate excuse for his or her sin. Without exception, God will “ render to every man according to his works ,” and with Him, “ there is no respect of persons .”

Limits of the Law

In responding to claims that Gentiles must be circumcised, Paul appeals 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 do they now seek “ completion ” based on “ flesh ” by submitting to circumcision?

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?