An Outline of Galatians
I wrote this study to show that arguments from Galatians that support
modern teachings of elimination of the Law have been misunderstood, and
improperly applied. In attempting to throw out earning salvation by
works, the Church has thrown out obedience with the bath water.
So what Law is Paul talking about in Galatians? Is he in fact extolling
the virtues of dumping the Law in some "fulfilled" rubbish heap? I don't
think so. If we read carefully, with our new understanding of what The
Law is, then we see that what Paul is attacking is the idea that we can
follow any rule or regulation and "earn" anything, especially Right
Standing Before God. He is also telling us that man has always, and
only, been in Right Standing before God by Faithful Obedience.
believe Paul is teaching us about "Justification by Faith" and speaking
against the principle of earning our salvation by Merit.
the comments included here are taken from the one page summary of
Galatians given to me by the pastor of a Bible Church by the name of
David Johnston, who represents typical Protestant thinking.
For am I now seeking the
favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still
trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
Being a servant of the Messiah wins God's approval, but not man's. We
do not try to win man's approval at all. One cannot aim for both. If we
cater to people, we could not be servants of the Messiah.
Galatians 1:11-24. Paul received the Good News directly from
Yeshua, he was not taught by someone else. The Good News was that
Gentiles (anyone) could join God's people and share in God's promises
without having to become a Jew first. An interesting comment I've read
mentions Matthew 13:52 in connection with Paul:
And Jesus said to them, "Therefore every
Torah teacher (scribe) who has become a disciple of the kingdom of
heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure
things new and old."
It was because of a
revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I
preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of
reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in
vain.........12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he
used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw
and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.
In chapter 2 Paul mentions the "Jerusalem Council" of Acts 15. It is
important to make the connection that the Council was considering an
issue from the problem Paul is talking about in this section. Namely,
how were Jews and Gentiles supposed to fellowship together in view of
some of the Oral Law interpretations of the rabbis? (An interesting side
note is that we can also choose to eat kosher for the sake of fellowship
with Jews also.)
I believe Acts 15 deals with fellowship issues,
not abrogation of the Law. If the Law is abrogated, why are the four
rules mentioned in Acts 15 concerned with eating? Further, I think Paul
was confronting Peter on the point of allowing the "smaller matter" of
eating to interfere with the "weightier matter" of the spread of the
Gospel. In fact, there's a possibility that what is really under
consideration here is "ritual purity" rather than the Law.
13 The rest of the Jews
joined him in hypocrisy; with the result that even Barnabas was carried
away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not
straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the
presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not
like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?
Keep in mind that there are several factions mentioned in this book.
"Jew" and "Judean" are the people that are culturally and physically
Jewish. Implied is the two factions of "Messianic Jews" and
"non-Messianic Jews," which means those Jews who accepted Yeshua as
Messiah, and those Jews who did not. "The Circumcision" is probably
those non-Messianic Jews, along with some converted Gentiles, who wanted
to insist on the Gentiles undergoing the ritual of Circumcision to
convert to Judaism.
'Judaizer' has at least three different meanings:
- The Circumcision faction, those who thought that the Gentiles
had to perform the outward symbol of conversion to Judaism (Paul did
not think of them as believers in 1:6-9). The Circumcision did not
care if the Gentiles actually lived up to the Torah (Galatians
- Another meaning is Assimilationist, meaning those who wanted
Gentiles to assimilate into Jewish culture. (The church has had it's
own version of assimilationists in people who required the Jews to
stop being Jewish in order to become "Christian.") Assimilationists
wanted to stop Gentiles from acting like Gentiles and instead act
like Jews. However, we are "free in Christ" to follow their
practices provided our motives are sound.
- A third meaning for Judaizer is Legalist, those who perverted
Torah into a legalistic system unrelated to trusting God.
It is very important to understand which group Paul is talking about when
reading the rest of the book.
15 "We are Jews by
nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles;
knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through
faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we
may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law;
since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.
These verses are key to understanding Paul's view of the Law of
Moses. Here Paul must be talking about "the Law" being the perverted
system of Merit (works of the Law), or in other words using the rules as
a means of gaining forensic righteous from God. The question is, can you
"Become Righteous (enough) by following some rules," or do you "Become
Righteous (for salvation) by Faith." Of course the answer is salvation
comes by faith, and after faith is exercised then we work. The works
don't justify us, the works come because we are justified. It's a
question of sequence, not importance.
He could not mean the Torah
is bad, or that following Torah is bad, because elsewhere he says that
the Law is "holy, just, and good" (Romans 7:12, 1 Timothy 1:8, Galatians
3:21), "I delight in God's Law" (Romans 7:22), and "we uphold the Law"
(Romans 3:31). To Paul, works done in obedience to the Torah were
grounded in Trust, never in legalism (Romans 9:30-10:10). As I said
earlier, the Law also contains the teachings of Yeshua which makes it
extremely difficult to say that it is bad.
This is one of the
reasons why modern teachers are so confusing. They teach that the Law is
bad, but the Word is Good. How can both be true?
"a person is not declared righteous by God on the ground of his
legalistic observance of Torah commands, but through the Messiah
Yeshua's trusting faithfulness...for on the ground of our legalistic
observance of Torah commands no one will be declared righteous."
For through the Law I died
to the Law, so that I might live to God.
Some have held here that Paul "no longer needed the Law." No longer
needed it for what? As a guide? As part of the Word of God by which we
are supposed to live, in addition to bread? (Deuteronomy 8:3, quoted by
Jesus in Matthew 4:4.) While it's true that Paul's forensic
righteousness didn't come from the Law, how can that fact be stretched
to mean the Law is no longer needed? In my view you might as well say
The Word is no longer needed.
Using the definitions above, the
verse can be translated as "through letting the Torah speak for itself I
died to its traditional legalistic misinterpretation, so that I might
live in direct relationship with God."
20 "I have been
crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives
in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the
Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
21 "I do not
nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law,
then Christ died needlessly."
In view of the biblical definition of Law, then what Paul says here
is more consistent with the rest of the Word than most modern teachers
would have us believe. First, Paul says he doesn't live. Does this mean
he is physically dead? Of course not. What does he mean, then? What
doesn't live? His old nature, or "old man." See Romans 6:1 through 8:13.
Second, he says he does not reject God's gracious gift. What gift?
The death of Messiah. Does the death of Messiah mean we are suddenly
righteous in all of our behavior, or righteous in our standing?
Obviously not our behavior, or John would not tell us that "if we say we
have no sin, we lie and the truth is not in us." So, Paul must be saying
that righteousness comes by faith, not by legalistically following some
rules. The Messiah's death is pointless, if righteousness does not come
by faith, which it always has.
Why were we booted out of Gan
Eden? In my opinion, for placing our faith in ourselves rather than God.
Faith of course meaning trusting obedience.
Galatians 3:2. Some say here the Spirit of Christ does not come by following the Law,
but by faith. This is true, and always has been since the beginning. As
a matter of fact, Adam and Eve lost their relationship with God through
lack of faith (trusting obedience). Is the only basis for following the
Law because we want to get something? Or do we follow it because our
Loving Father gave it to us for our own good? It is absolutely true that
if we "do the Law" expecting to get something then we have perverted the
Law. But this does not make the Law bad.
3 Are you so foolish?
Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4
Did you suffer so many things in vain-if indeed it was in vain? 5 So
then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among
you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
David Johnston points out here that following the Law doesn't make us
perfect. I agree. We follow God's instructions because we have been made
perfect and there is no reason why we can't "do" His Teachings.
Especially since our relationship to Him is one of Love and Trusting
Should we avoid obedience to God's
Instructions because we are NOT going to get righteousness for salvation
from the obedience? Is a payoff the only way that God can get our
Another way of saying verse 5 is: has God ever given
us anything because we deserved it? God does not give us the Spirit and
work miracles among us because we earned it. But He does these things
because He loves us and we are faithful to Him. When we say God is
faithful, what do we mean? We mean that God actually does what He says
He will do. Not that He had strong feelings for us, not that He believed
in us, but that He does what He says. And He became our example. God
help us if His Actions had remained as beliefs or feelings.
Galatians 3:6. Notice the first part of the verse - "Avraham
trusted in God and was faithful to Him." Righteousness was
credited to Avraham's account, but on what ground? Faith, which is
Trusting Obedience. See also Genesis 26:5 where Abraham is said to
be blessed because he obeyed the commandments of God.
3:10,11. Dave Johnston mentions that "Implicit here is that no one
can keep the Law." Unfortunately this flies in the face of such
scriptures as Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Him who
strengthens me" and Deuteronomy 30:11-14:
"For this commandment which I
command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.
It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will go up to heaven for
us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?' Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea
for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?' But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it."
What I think Paul is saying, is that no one can earn enough
righteousness before God to merit Salvation as if it were wages.
If the Law is perverted into a set of rules by which we attempt to earn
something from God, then it becomes a curse because we cannot earn
anything. But part of the Law is Trusting Obedience (the just shall live
by faith). Shall we throw this out also? So therefore, "It is evident
that no one shall be justified by legalistic observance of rules."
Galatians 3:12. David Stern has what I believe to be an
excellent rendering of this verse in his book The Complete Jewish Bible.
He has it thus:
Furthermore, legalism is not based on
trusting and being faithful, but on a misuse of the text that says,
"Anyone who does these things will attain life through them."
Galatians 3:13. The Messiah delivered us from the curse
resulting from not obeying the Law, but not the Law itself. The problem
is, if you render the Law itself as a curse, then we are saying the Jews
were under a curse, which is patently not true. The only curse they had
was the same as we all have. Further, Paul says in other places that we
are all under the law until we come to faith in the Messiah Yeshua.
Galatians 3:17-18. Pastor Johnston has it that righteousness
by faith was God's standard. True, and as I have mentioned before, it
always has been this way. He says this principle precedes the Law and
the Law does not invalidate the promise. Absolutely. The Law itself was
His Grace in Action.
Galatians 3:21, 22, 23. Verse 21 says
that the Law does not stand in opposition to God's promises. The purpose
was not to earn Merit before God, but to uncover Sin. If we are supposed
to continue in trusting obedience or faithfulness, how are we doing it
now if we could not do it then? On the ground of Messiah's trusting
faithfulness, not our own. The Jews could do it before if they had faith
in the promises of God.
Otherwise Faith itself could be used in
a legalistic fashion in the same manner as the Law, because if we say "I
had faith, therefore I earn Salvation" this is the same thing as saying
"I obeyed the (letter) of the Law, therefore I earn Salvation." In no
way, shape, or form do we have enough on our own to "earn" anything from
Galatians 3:24,25. Pastor Johnston says here that "the
Law led us to Christ by showing us our need for a Savior. Now that we
have the Savior, we no longer have a need for the Law." With all due
respect, however, this is reading into the text. I take these verses to
mean that we were imprisoned in legalism (by our own efforts) until the
Messiah's trusting faithfulness was revealed, so the Law led us to the
Messiah. By the way, the Law still functions to lead people to Messiah.
These verses (3:21-25) have parallel subject matter in Romans,
Chapters 3 and 6. One way of trying to relate what Paul is saying about
our relationship to post-Messiah Torah is by the illustration of sick
and healthy people. A healthy person can be in an environment that would
be bad for a sick person. In the same way, a Christian (healthy person)
can be associated with The Law (in right relation), but a sick person
(sinner) would die. The Law is not Death itself, but it causes death
because of the individual's condition. If we try to relate to God's
Instructions (Torah) in any way other than trusting obedience (faith),
then we are under a curse (die) because our condition is imperfect.
It is a parallel to how we approach God Himself. If we try to get
with Him in a way that does not involve faith, then we would die because
we do not have the required perfection.
"Elemental things" is defined for us in verse 8 and 9 - "beings that are
not gods." The text in Verse 3 mentions elemental things, switches to
"beings that are not gods" in verse 8, then back to "elemental things"
in verse 9. I think the translators should have stayed consistent with
the context and properly identified the "elemental things" as "things
that are not gods" or spirits. And the concept of earning righteousness
before God, whether through the Law or Faith, or even Grace (which
likewise can be perverted in a legalistic fashion), is definitely from
spirits that are not God.
Again, observing special days, months,
seasons, and years in a legalistic fashion is not right. However, many
peoples then and now observe special days, months, seasons, and years
that do not follow the Law. There is nothing in the text to specifically
apply these things to the Law.
Galatians 4:19. Someone told
me once, when I said that the Law helps us in our sanctification
process, that we receive Christ fully formed (and therefore do not need
the Law). Here Paul says that Messiah is formed or takes shape in us. We
start out as babes, and as we walk in trusting faithfulness Christ
becomes formed in us. It's a process of learning and growing, not
instant sanctification. This, in my opinion, is where the Law still
helps us by teaching elementary things until we can grasp the adulthood
Galatians 5:1-4. The point here could best be
summarized by reversing the terms. Paul is talking about Jews trying to
make Gentiles into Jews, but now the Gentiles try to make the Jew become
a Gentile. What are we to do with a Jew who places his trust in Messiah
Yeshua? Reverse his circumcision and take away his talit? Should we make
the Jew into a Goy? For centuries the church has tried to do just that.
In other words, Paul is saying that a Gentile does not have to
become a Jew in order to join God's people (and neither does a Jew have
to become a Gentile). All that is required is faith, or trusting
obedience. If a Gentile does convert to Judaism, he has lost faith
(fallen away from God's Grace) because now he is seeking to earn his
righteousness by following a set of rules. As Brent likes to say, in
reality, he is trying to gain something that he already has. By placing
his faith in something or someone other than God, in a fashion similar
to Adam and Eve in Gan Eden, he has fallen from grace.
Law Paul is referring to here also includes the Oral Law. The concept of
Oral Law being equal to the Written Law is a lengthy discussion; I don't
think I can get into it here. Suffice it to say that the Oral Law was
thought to have been delivered to Israel at the same time as the Written
Law, and the Oral Law came to include many interpretations and
rabbinical explanations of the Written Law. It is these that Yeshua was
probably referring to when He inveighed against the Jewish "tradition"
(Matthew 15:3,6; Mark 7:3,5-13).
For Galatians 5:1, Pastor
Johnston has "trying to tell someone that they must be circumcised, or
must follow any part of the Law, is putting them under a yolk of
slavery." Unfortunately, this verse must be stretched out of proportion
to get this rendering. What "yoke of slavery" is Paul referring to?
Jesus' yoke that is easy, the burden light? The holy, just and good
instructions from God? Or the man-made system of perverting the Law into
Rather, the yoke of slavery is that of trying to gain
righteousness that satisfies God's demands for perfection by doing
something to earn it.
For Galatians 5:2, Pastor Johnston has "If
you try to follow the Law, Christ is of no benefit to you." Actually,
again the reference is to legalism (circumcision), not the Law. Which is
the same statement Paul has been making all through the book. If you try
to gain something from God by "earning" it, then Christ has no value or
advantage to you because His gift is appropriated by trusting obedience,
not by "earning."
Galatians 5:5-6. Circumcision (following
a rule or law - legalism) doesn't matter as regards forensic
righteousness, only trusting obedience (which means deeds or actions)
done in love. I disagree with Mr. Johnston that "trying to follow the
Law has no meaning." You have to watch the capitalization of "Law" here
and elsewhere because the Greek word is not capitalized.
Following the Law has much meaning, if it is done in trusting obedience.
It is the trusting obedience, or faith, that puts the meaning into
following the Law.
Galatians 5:13. We are not to allow our
freedom to become license to indulge the old nature. We are to serve (an
action) one another in love (also an action). The next statement is very
important: "For the whole Torah is summed up in this one sentence - Love
your neighbor as yourself." If the Torah (Law) has no meaning, if it is
a "yoke of slavery," if it is a "curse," why would Paul equate the Law
It is not the Law itself that is wrong, but trying to
use the Law unlawfully, or legalistically, that is wrong.
Galatians 5:18. If we are led by the Spirit, we are not in
subjection to legalism.
Galatians 5:23. Here Paul says that
nothing in the Law, or Torah, stands against the things of the Spirit.
How can this be if what current Christian teachers instruct us
concerning the Law is correct? It's because the Law itself is not wrong,
but the way it is used is wrong.
Galatians 5:25. We should
order our lives by the Spirit, and spiritual things. Which is
interesting given the fact that Paul says the Law is spiritual in Romans
7:14, and only the spiritual can discern spiritual things in 1
But a natural man does not accept the things
of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot
understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he
who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no
Or how 'bout this in 1 Corinthians 14:37,38
If anyone thinks he is a prophet or
spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are
the Lord's commandment. But if anyone does not recognize this, he
is not recognized.
How can Paul equate "spiritual" with "the Lord's commandment" if the
Law and the Spirit are mutually exclusive?