Every Torah Observance apologist has to eventually talk about Galatians. They all talk about how Christians tell them to “read Galatians”, and have a good chuckle. What they don’t typically do is engage with it in a way that forces them to walk deeply through the text and deal with it directly.
What they all do is spend an inordinate amount of time “introducing” us to Paul and talking about how Torah observant he was and how there’s just no way he could be contradicting their theology. Before we get to talk about Galatians, we invariably are made to listen to a drawn-out story from Acts and out-of-context citations from wherever Paul says something nice about the Law in this and other epistles.
This is invariably placed in opposition to the traditional Christian view of Paul, which is caricatured as opposed to the Law, saying the Law is completely irrelevant, saying that it’s not even Scripture, and other such falsehoods. With Paul’s pro-Torah position and the Christian’s Torah-hating position now firmly “established”, the Torah teacher can begin to carefully talk about Galatians.
In The Pauline Paradox book, Galatians occupies one chapter, devoted to explaining how it doesn’t challenge the unnamed author’s views on the Torah. In this article, I’ll be reviewing those explanations, testing them as 119 Ministries always asks people to do. I hope you find it useful.
The author doesn’t pretend to be offering a full commentary on the book but says he is going to “explore an alternative interpretation of several passages” (p. 75). So I won’t be holding him to the standard of addressing everything the book says. However, I will be pointing out if anything relevant to his argument is being ignored. This is especially important in order to test the claim he makes at the end of the chapter, that he’s “reviewed all the difficult passages in Galatians” (p. 94).
The commentary for much of chapter 1 is light, skipping past a lot of text that is not considered pertinent to the issues of the Torah. Then it comes to chapter 2 and the issue of Titus, and the fact he wasn’t circumcised. The biblical passage reads:
Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. 2 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. 3 But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. 5 But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.Galatians 2:1-5
The crucial point in this passage that must be addressed is the fact that Paul did not allow Titus to be circumcised. He did not give in to those who were calling for it. The liberty Paul mentions is cited as the reason Titus is not circumcised. This has clear implications on how we are supposed to relate to the Law of Moses, but is clearly about something specific.
Now, let’s test the author of The Pauline Paradox. Does he deal with the text directly, or does he do something else?
Often it’s taught that the “false brothers” mentioned in verse 4 were observing the Law of God and that they were attempting to compel the Galatians to observe God’s Law, bringing them into “bondage”.119 Ministries. The Pauline Paradox: What Did Paul Teach About the Law of God? (p. 77). 119 Ministries. Kindle Edition.
Well, we already have a problem. Yes, the text has implications concerning the Law, and yes, they are definitely going to challenge the 119 author’s theological positions. However, notice how this is framed. Instead of talking about what the text says, he is talking about what other people, who are not named, supposedly say about the text. He’s off to a bad start when it comes to accurately handling Galatians. It isn’t that one can’t talk about other views. It’s that this other view is presented in as weak a light as possible, clearly implying that these interpreters just don’t want to “observe God’s Law”. We haven’t heard the author’s interpretation yet, just his opponents’. Does he go on to offer his own as a contrast, so we can see how much more biblical he is than these other interpreters?
He warned against seeking the approval of man, and that the Gospel he preaches is not from man but from God (Galatians 1:10-12). Thus, the “different gospel” being preached to the Galatians by these false teachers was not from God but from men. This is a crucial point! Obviously, the Law of God didn’t come from men; it came from God. And if the false doctrine being pushed on the Galatians was a manmade doctrine, then the false doctrine in Galatians was not the doctrine that believers ought to obey God’s Law!119 Ministries. The Pauline Paradox: What Did Paul Teach About the Law of God? (p. 78). 119 Ministries. Kindle Edition.
Well, this is interesting. Here we have the author telling us all, as if we didn’t know, that the Law of God came from God. And we have a couple of exclamation points thrown in for good measure, so we know how serious he is. Problem is, we’re no longer talking about the text. We’re just hearing his feelings about the people that he characterizes as opposed to the Law. Hang on. Opposed to the Law! There, that sounds better, I guess.
A couple of paragraphs later, we hear that “The issue in Galatians 2:1-5 is not that the ‘false brothers’ were teaching obedience to God’s Law regarding circumcision” (p. 78). Well, now we know what we already knew he thought about the Law of circumcision. What we don’t know is anything about this text. We’re still waiting to hear: what’s going on in the text?
It is in this paragraph where he finally tells us something. The false brothers “were attempting to ‘compel’ Gentile believers to get circumcised as a prerequisite to salvation and inclusion into the people of God” (p. 78). This is an interesting idea. Now, did you read that in the text above? Did Paul say that? This author, like many Torah teachers, likes to accuse people of inserting man-made doctrine into the text. But he’s actually the one doing it. Paul didn’t say a single word about circumcision “as a prerequisite to salvation” in this text, or, frankly, anywhere in Galatians. Now, it may be that they were saying this, but it is not important enough to Paul for him to include it in the letter. How hard would it have been for Paul to talk about trying to compel circumcision “for the wrong reason”? Paul doesn’t say that. He clearly says Titus was not circumcised. No qualifications.
Our author then goes on, for the rest of the section on this verse, to talk about how bad it is to require circumcision for salvation, or ritual conversion to Judaism for salvation, and never comes back to actually connect it to what Paul said. This isn’t surprising, because what the author says to “interpret” Paul’s words is actually just a defense put up against a caricature of his theological opponents, and the text has been completely forgotten. This chapter on Galatians is forgetting to talk about Galatians.
After this, he addresses the section where Paul confronts Peter. There is debate on whether Peter was doing things like eating non-kosher, but I’ve found that debate to involve a lot of speculation on all sides, which would get distracting, so I won’t dive into that here. I will say one thing about it, though. The stakes in that debate are lopsided. If Peter was, indeed, eating meat that the Torah called unclean, it demonstrates, conclusively, that Torah Observance theology is false. However, the converse does not prove Torah Observance theology true. Peter could certainly have continued to eat a kosher diet and it wouldn’t prove the “traditional” view of the Law to be false or Torah Observance true. So our author has to reject and argue against Peter eating non-kosher, or his whole system falls. I and other Christians can have the same theology regardless of what “live like a Gentile” means in this passage.
The next section of the chapter has our author presenting a disjointed argument, citing N.T. Wright, that “works of the law” are really non-biblical rituals, and that’s what Paul means when he says we are “not justified by works of the Law”. There are several issues, here. If the false brothers were pushing non-biblical practices, there is no evidence of this from the text. Paul speaks often of Law and works of the Law and doesn’t make any fine distinctions regarding non-biblical practices under any of those labels. Paul doesn’t label these as traditions of men or any equivalent. Since our unnamed author has also said clearly in the book that salvation and justification don’t come through works of the real Torah, as well, it just seems like introducing confusion to try to insert this theory from Wright. It only makes sense to include if one wanted to argue for works-righteousness, as it would nullify these statements in Galatians as being about something non-biblical.
Next, the author notes another “difficult verse”, Galatians 2:19. His “interpretation”, if you can call it that, doesn’t touch the context, so let’s go ahead and get some of that, so we can see if he’s actually dealing with the text. It hasn’t been happening so far.
15 “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; 16 nevertheless 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. 17 But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! 18 For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to 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.”Galatians 2:15-21
Paul makes it clear that justification, being declared righteous before God, is not based on the Law, but on faith in Christ. And not because there is something special about faith. It is because Christ, by faith, lives in believers and they in Him. We have been crucified with Christ. Our righteousness comes from Jesus, not from the Law, or else Christ died needlessly.
The “difficult” bit is where Paul says “through the Law I died to the law, that I might live to God”. Now, at first reading, this phrase to “die to” or “live to” something is an odd turn of phrase we are not exactly used to in English. The closest I can think of is someone saying “you’re dead to me” about a person they want nothing to do with. But what does it mean to say of yourself that you’ve “died to” something? Let’s see what our author thinks it means.
As we continue through Galatians, we encounter another difficult verse: “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God” (Galatians 2:19). What does Paul mean here? Quite simply, the Law helps us realize we are sinners–the law declares us guilty and requires death. But in Messiah, we die to the Law’s penalty so we can live a new life to the Lord, empowered by the Holy Spirit to keep God’s Law (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:25-27).119 Ministries. The Pauline Paradox: What Did Paul Teach About the Law of God? (p. 82). 119 Ministries. Kindle Edition.
So, when Paul says he “died to the Law”, he actually means “died to the Law’s penalty”. That’s all. Now, once again, is that what we read in the biblical text? Is there anything in the passage tying this phrase to the penalty of the Law? We see that we are not justified by works of the Law, followed by the verse in question, followed by Paul’s statements about being crucified with Christ, and that righteousness comes through Christ, not the Law. The “penalty of the Law” doesn’t come up, but the Law’s inability to save certainly does.
So what does Paul mean when he says, “through the Law I died to the Law”? Paul uses this phrase “died to” only a handful of times, and is, in fact, the only biblical author to do so. It appears once, here in Galatians, and three times in Romans.
May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?Romans 6:2
For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.Romans 6:10
But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.Romans 7:6
In Romans 6, we have a discussion of how we are to live in union with Christ. We are united with Him in His death, shown in baptism, and we will also live with Him. Verse 7 says that “he who has died is freed from sin”. Paul then goes on to speak of us dying with Christ, so that we will also live with Him (v. 8). We are to consider ourselves “dead to sin” (v. 11) because Jesus “died to sin” (v. 10). Does it mean “died to sin’s penalty”, the way our author says we should understand it with regard to the Law? If we didn’t have any context, we might say that, but since it has to be something that Jesus can do as well as us, according to Romans 6, that seems unlikely. Jesus was never under the penalty of the Law.
In context, of course, we are not left to simply wonder. Right after saying Jesus died to sin, so we should consider ourselves dead to sin, Paul explains what he means in the very next verse.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.Romans 6:12-14
For Paul, dying to something is not letting it “reign” so that we “obey”. Here in Romans 6, the thing we die to, that Jesus died to, is sin itself. As believers, we join with Jesus in His resurrection. He did not let sin reign in His body at all, and so we, because we are raised with Him, are not to let sin reign in our bodies, either. To “die to” something is to reject its authority, according to Romans 6.
And notice how the passage ends, talking about how we don’t let sin master us, because we are not “under law”. By contrast, those who are “under law” do not have Jesus’ resurrection power and so have not died to sin. The concepts are here linked by Paul.
Romans 7:6 also links these concepts, since Paul does not stop talking about the concepts of authority and slavery and being slaves to righteousness or sin, and being under jurisdiction of law from 6:14 all the way to 7:6, where this other occurrence of “died to” happens. In fact, the beginning of chapter 7 talks specifically about marriage and how death removes the law of marriage from the living partner. Death releases one from Law. That is the context in which 7:6 happens, which speaks of us as having been released from the Law, because we died to that by which we were bound, so that we now serve God in “newness of Spirit” instead of “oldness of the letter”.
Do you see how these concepts are all woven together? In 7:6, it could be saying we died to the Law, as that is what was just mentioned, or that we died to sin, because we have been released from the Law. In other words, the death of Christ signaled the death of our slavery to sin, due to being “released from the Law”. That’s what the text says.
When we look at Galatians 2, do you see any parallels? Of course. Paul begins by talking about how the Law does not justify us. We don’t achieve righteousness through the Law. Rather, we are “crucified with Christ”, or as Romans says, died with Him. Paul is talking about the same concepts, but from a slightly different angle, now dealing with slightly different errors. Remember that this is at the tail end of the discussion of Peter’s drawing back from table fellowship with the Gentiles. It is preceded by the statement “if I rebuild what I once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor.” What is that about? The context is clear. Paul is speaking hypothetically of himself as if he were Peter, who rebuilt what was destroyed, namely, the division between Jew and Gentile among the people of God. Paul points out that, in contrast with that sinful thing he could do, rather, through the Law, he died to the Law. In other words, through Christ’s obedience to the Law, and to the Father, unto death, Paul is no longer reigned over by the Law.
An Aside about “The Law”
Now, if our author were to read this, I’m sure I can imagine how he would attempt to refute what I have just said. He would likely love to bring up some favorite argument for his theology, maybe from Matthew 5:17 or 1 John 3:4. Or perhaps he would like to straw-man my position as thinking we can “do away with” or “disregard” or “abandon” the Law of God or any concept of obedience to God. Any one of these tactics would prove that he can’t deal with the text as it stands, but must flee the context and seek to attack his opponent through misrepresentation or appeal to his favorite arguments, arguments that have been answered elsewhere.
Rather, I would suggest that this author or anyone else who would seek to defend 119 Ministries’ position at this point to go back and read the chapter “Which Law, Paul?” again. I disagree with much of the reading into the text that we find in that chapter, but would point out one point it makes rather clearly: Paul uses the word “Law” in more than one way. Now, our nameless author wants to clearly and carefully determine the parameters in which Paul does this, but he doesn’t get to. The fact is, Paul does use “Law” in more than one way, and I would submit that here, in Galatians, where the controversy rages about putting Gentiles under the knife in service to the Law, that “the Law” in Galatians doesn’t refer to God’s unchanging moral standards, but rather to the commands specifically dependent on the Sinai covenant. Commands that are not binding outside that covenant, whether in Genesis before it came to be, during its tenure, in the nations outside Israel, or after it, since Christ established the New Covenant to make the whole world, including Israel, to become Abraham’s inheritance. Paul can speak of the Law in more than one way, right?
The next passage the author spends time on is Galatians 3:10-14, in which Paul says that anyone who relies on the Law is under a curse. Nameless’s heading asks “Is God’s Law a Curse?”. Since I would, like him, answer in the negative, and since the passage doesn’t say the Law is a curse, there’s very little of value to respond to here. I would just point out that the author’s citation of Deuteronomy 11:26-28, which mentions blessings and curses, does not connect with the curse Paul is talking about. That curse is based on the actual text Paul quotes as saying “cursed is anyone who does not continue in all things written in the book of the Law”. That is Deuteronomy 27:26. One wonders why the author thinks we should have a citation of a different passage than the one Paul actually quotes from. Paul’s quotation makes it clear what he is driving at. Righteousness does not come by obedience. Only condemnation comes from reliance on obedience to the Law, since it curses anyone who does not keep it all. No one has kept it all, so it curses everyone, period.
Rather than talk about this, the author would rather talk about the “blessings and curses” that Paul didn’t talk about, at least not in terms of the Law. Amazingly, Paul did talk, in this very chapter, about blessing, but not based on the Law.
6 Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. 7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.Galatians 3:6-9
Paul does, indeed, talk about blessings and curses, but not in the way 119 Ministries wants him to. Blessing comes by faith, a curse comes from reliance on the Law.
The next section of Galatians really highlights the deceptive way this author seeks to frame his dealing with the text. Rather than quote the passage in its entirety, we get the first verse separated from the context, to be interpreted all on its own, before moving to the remaining verses, to deal with them separately. This chopping up of context happens more than once in the book, but we have a great example here.
Let’s start with the biblical text and then see what he does with it.
15 Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. 16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ. 17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.Galatians 3:15-18
We’ll talk about all the implications of this in a moment, but notice how verse 15 talks about how a later covenant cannot nullify or add conditions to a previous covenant. That principle is then applied to the Law, to show that the Law cannot set aside or add conditions to the covenant God made 430 years earlier, with Abraham. That much is fairly straightforward. Now, let’s see what our author does with this.
As we move forward in Galatians, Paul makes an interesting remark about covenants. He says, “Even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified” (Galatians 3:15). A lot of people might gloss over this, but this is a significant point as it concerns God’s Law. If no one can add to or take away from the manmade covenants, how much more is that the case with God-made covenants? Think about it. If man’s covenants cannot be annulled or changed, then neither can God’s covenants. Thus, this is an emphatic statement from Paul that God’s Law, as part of the Mosaic covenant, cannot be annulled or changed.
Let’s continue:119 Ministries. The Pauline Paradox: What Did Paul Teach About the Law of God? (p. 85). 119 Ministries. Kindle Edition.
What follows is a citation of Galatians 3:16-18, leaving verse 15 off. Then we get the interpretation of these verses:
Paul is setting up the premise for his next statement regarding the purpose of the Law. He says that since the Law is not a means to salvation–since Abraham was not required to be circumcised to come into the faith–and the Law is the same as it was for Abraham, those at Sinai, and those today, a question arises: why, then, was the Law given? He answers that question in verses 19-29.119 Ministries. The Pauline Paradox: What Did Paul Teach About the Law of God? (p. 86). 119 Ministries. Kindle Edition.
Notice how our author has completely ignored verse 15 in his interpretation of verses 16-18. The interpretation he gives shows us exactly why he did this. First, you can tell that he really liked drawing a line from verse 15 straight to the Mosaic covenant and the Law, concluding it cannot be changed. Second, as you can see here in the second interpretive section, that he believes the Law was the same “for Abraham, those at Sinai, and those today”. So Nameless thinks that the Law predates Sinai.
Do either of these two conclusions hold up? Not even a little bit, when you just do what the author recommends and don’t “gloss over” verse 15, but put it into its context. Paul makes this statement about covenants to compare the first covenant in His thinking, the one with Abraham, with the later covenant, the Law. So, far from showing that no one can add to the Law, Paul is saying no one can add to the Abrahamic covenant or set it aside, with specific application to the Mosaic covenant. It is the later covenant that cannot be added to or nullify God’s promise to Abraham. God’s promise to Abraham stands, independent of the Mosaic covenant.
The author’s second point, that the Law was the same for Abraham, is clearly contradicted by Paul’s statement that it came “430 years later”. The Law in Paul’s mind is something Abraham knew nothing of.
What Paul is actually pointing out is that this later covenant of the Law, which brought a curse to all who break it, could not, by that curse, nullify the blessing promised through Abraham, received by faith. See how the whole passage hangs together? When you have to chop it up to make your theology work, your Torah observance theology doesn’t work.
And when you are so busy defending a false system, it gets hard to keep things straight, as shown in the next section, starting with Galatians 3:19. Paul speaks of the Law being “added”. And the author asks the question: “Added to what? It was added to the promise given to Abraham.” (p. 86).
Now, if he hadn’t chopped up the previous passage, he might remember that the specific covenant Paul says “no one…adds to it” was the promise given to Abraham. That is the specific example Paul says was not added to, but our author didn’t see it in his haste to misapply verse 15 to the Law, so he said it was “added…to the promise”.
The real reason Paul asks “why then the Law?” in 3:19 is because he just got done talking about how it cannot be added to the previous covenant or nullify it. That’s why the question makes sense. Our author’s disjointed speculations about what the text means don’t account for this question at all. But it’s a natural question on the correct, traditional interpretation of the passage.
Paul’s answer to the question is “because of transgressions”. The right understanding of this phrase is debated among scholars and commentators. Of course, 119’s author doesn’t address any of that, but just quotes some friendly-sounding commentators to get to the interpretation he wants, which is that the Law is a way to “deal with transgressions” (p. 88). This was done, we are told, through the sacrificial system.
The sacrificial system reveals God’s method of dealing with transgressions. This part of the law taught that sin is dealt with through repentance and atoning sacrifices. The curse for breaking God’s law–death–was transferred to the innocent animal. The animal died in the worshipper’s place so that the worshipper could receive forgiveness. This harkens back to a few verses earlier in Galatians where Paul speaks of Christ redeeming us from the curse of the law “by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).119 Ministries. The Pauline Paradox: What Did Paul Teach About the Law of God? (p. 88). 119 Ministries. Kindle Edition.
Is that what Paul is saying? Let’s test it.
19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. 20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. 21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.Galatians 3:19-22
So, does the passage mention the sacrificial system? Does it mention a way of “dealing with sin” by transferring it to an animal? In fact it seems to be saying the exact opposite. It talks about how the Law was added because of transgressions “until the seed would come”, which is Christ, we know from what Paul said in the immediately prior verses. But what, exactly was the Law doing during all that time? Paul points out what it could not do and what it did. What it could not do was to “impart righteousness”. Now, the sacrificial system, if it was taking away peoples’ sins, seems like it was imparting righteousness, if in a temporary way. Of course, since the author didn’t quote or deal with any of this, it’s hard to know what he meant.
So the Law was not imparting righteousness. What was it doing? It “shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given”. There it is. That’s what “because of transgressions” means. It means to reveal and increase the sinfulness of sin so as to point people to the needed atonement of Christ.
When we look at this at the greater theological level, we see that thinking about “Why the Law” in this way is consistent with Paul elsewhere when he asks the same question. In Romans, he treats this same subject with slightly different terminology, but it fits together perfectly.
20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.Romans 5:20-21
Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.Romans 7:13
Notice how Paul is giving us the purpose of the Law in all of these passages. The Law brings sin, and increases it, so as to reveal grace and Christ all the more.
So, like we saw in Galatians 2, here, the author does not let the passage speak for itself, but grabs statements and phrases and isolates them so that he can offer his own interpretations, not found in the text. He refuses to let Paul interpret Paul.
At this point in the epistle, we have come to one of the toughest passages for Torah Observance advocates. The passage about the pedagogue, or guardian/tutor. Let’s hear what Paul says before we jump into the book’s interpretation.
23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.Galatians 3:23-29
This is one of the clearest expressions, though not the only one, that plainly speaks of no longer being under the Law of Moses, in terms of its authority, not just its “penalty” or “curse” as Torah Observant folks often insert into these passages.
And notice that we are not just told we aren’t under the tutor anymore, but we are told why. It is because we are all sons of God through faith. We are sons, come into our adulthood by faith in Christ. And as such, since it is all by faith, that is why Paul then talks about there being neither Jew nor Greek, among other things. The Law, as Paul has been talking about it in Galatians, was not something given to Greeks. It was for Israel. But now, without the Law of Moses in place like it once was, there is no longer any meaningful spiritual distinction between Jew and Greek. And other distinctions lose much of their negative consequences because we are all one in Christ. And belonging to Him, we are all Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise. That goes all the way back to what Paul was saying about the real “blessings”, not of Deuteronomy, but of Genesis. This entire section is one.
So, how does our author deal with this? First, he stops his quotation at verse 25, which talks about not being under the guardian, before Paul tells us why. But dealing with what he has cited, he cites another Torah Observant commentator, and concludes this:
But what do we make of verse 25: “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.” Does this mean that the law is useless once a person receives the Messiah by faith? Not at all. Keep in mind the context. Paul is saying that one of the functions of God’s law is to keep charge over us until it leads us to the Messiah in whom we find salvation by faith. Once one has put their faith in the Messiah–once one has been brought to the teacher–the law’s role as a pedagogue has ended.119 Ministries. The Pauline Paradox: What Did Paul Teach About the Law of God? (p. 90-91). 119 Ministries. Kindle Edition. (emphasis in original)
So, the author proposes that being a pedagogue is “one of the functions” of the law, and once a person has been brought to faith in Christ, its role as such has ended. A person who believes has already been led to Christ, and so doesn’t need the Law to do that. Now, this is fine so far as it goes, but of course, we know where he’s going with it. I’ll get to that in a moment. First, I just want to point out how he is, once again, ignoring context. What did Paul just say about the Law before this? The Law shut us up under sin. That is the way that it leads people to Christ. It magnifies guilt. That is how it functions at a guardian. And that is why we are no longer under it when we come to Christ. People who have been redeemed are not, and need not be, “shut up under sin.”
119 misses all of that, in his haste to explain away this difficult passage. Now, of course, he moves on to reassert what we have already seen to be contrary to the passage:
One who has already come to faith in Christ no longer needs the law to lead them to faith in Christ. But this does not mean that the law ceases to function in other roles, such as defining sin and bringing blessing to those who obey it.119 Ministries. The Pauline Paradox: What Did Paul Teach About the Law of God? (p. 91). 119 Ministries. Kindle Edition.
The Law of Moses does not define sin. This can be seen from the text earlier that clearly and explicitly says that the Law came 430 years after Abraham. There is simply no getting around this text. Unless our nameless author is prepared to say there was no sin before Moses and Sinai, he cannot honestly maintain that the Law of Moses defines sin. And as far as “blessing”, this passage rightly contrasts the curse for even the slightest disobedience of the Law with the blessing of faith. This is not to say that there are no blessings for obedience. Only that Paul is not here or anywhere making that point. And blessings for obedience are not based on the covenant that is no longer in effect, but are rather based on the New Covenant, but that’s a topic for another article.
Our author’s conclusion offers nothing we haven’t interacted with. The fact that Paul ties everything back to the Abrahamic promise, which predates the Law and so cannot be affected by it, is completely lost in The Pauline Paradox.
In his treatment of Galatians 4, we will see the author’s last block quotation from Galatians, which is verses 8-11. It really looks as if he has run out of steam at this point, having worked so hard to slice up chapters 2 and 3. From this point, we mostly just have, not so much a commentary on the text, but a running summary of his own theology, punctuated by single statements or summarizing, instead of quoting, the text. That’s never a good sign when you’re doing apologetics. As we will see while we work through the text, there is good reason why he doesn’t spend much time looking at it in detail anymore.
This ignoring of the text starts right with verse 1 of this chapter.
As we continue through Galatians, Paul states that, before we came to faith, we were slaves to the elementary principles of the world (Galatians 4:1-7). These false ideas, philosophies, and values of the world enslaved us and put us into bondage. Yeshua was born of a woman who was in the same circumstances as all of us, being born under the law of sin and death. Through Yeshua, we are adopted into the family of God and brought out of the world. This sets up the context for the next difficult passage in Galatians concerning God’s Law.119 Ministries. The Pauline Paradox: What Did Paul Teach About the Law of God? (p. 91-92). 119 Ministries. Kindle Edition.
Notice the citation? This paragraph is the sum total of commentary on Galatians 4:1-7. And as you can see at the end, it “sets up the context” for “the next difficult passage”. He is absolutely right about that, but he avoided reading the passage for a reason. Let’s just read these verses and see if his paragraph even comes close to an accurate interpretation.
Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. 3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.Galatians 4:1-7
Now, did you know, from reading the author’s paragraph about this passage, that Paul was still talking about the pedagogue from just a few verses earlier? The subject has not changed. Paul is still talking about how the Law is a guardian, now speaking of how, when a son is under guardians and managers, he is not different from a slave, though he is the owner of all of the estate. And Jesus, too, was born under the Law. Notice how the author not-so-subtly tries to change what that says. He says that it was the woman who was “born under the law of sin and death”. Can’t have Jesus being born under such a law. But wait, where does Galatians talk about the Law of sin and death, or define it? Nowhere at all. It isn’t in this epistle. The author is adding to the text of Scripture, since it is refuting his theology. It is Jesus who was “born under the Law”. And it wasn’t “the Law of Sin and Death”. It was just the Law. The same law Paul has been talking about the whole time. But, of course, our author can’t retreat to one of his two favorite “interpretations” of “under the law” here. He can’t say Jesus was born under the penalty of the Law. Neither can he say that Jesus was born “under the man-made law”. Neither escape hatch works, so he has to massage the text to try to make it about Jesus’ mother. But it isn’t about her. It’s about Jesus.
The whole thing is a continuation of what Paul already said about the pedagogue, but now with more force and explicitness that just can’t. be borne by Nameless.
Notice that he inserts the idea of “false ideas, philosophies, and values of the world”. That’s not in the text, either. Paul is clear about what enslaved us. It was the Law. So, what exactly are the elementary things of the world? There is much debate about what that is, exactly, but I won’t just blow smoke and tell you it’s what I want it to be, with no argument or even interaction with the text. From the prior context, which is clearly about the Law, I would say that it is probably akin to other passages that also describe the Law in physical terms. The actual blessings and curses of Deuteronomy are all physical, of this world. They are concerned with plenty or famine, peace or war, etc. Also, in Hebrews 9:9-10, the sacrifices are said to be only concerning “food and drink and various washings, regulations of the body imposed until the time of reformation” Notice the earthliness of the regulations? Notice how they are “imposed”? The parallels to “the world” and “slavery” are pretty clear. What we certainly don’t see are “false philosophies”. That is an imaginative invention of our author, possibly shared by others, but still just as much reading into the text a concept that is simply not there.
The next section, verses 8-11, is, of course, treated as if what we just read didn’t exist, or rather, as if our author’s interpretation were the “context”. Let’s take a look at it and see why it is the last block quoted passage from Galatians.
8 However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.Galatians 4:8-11
Now, before we dive into the text, let’s see what our author thinks is happening here:
Pagans and idol worshipers had their own sabbaths and feast days. Paul’s readers were former pagans: “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods” (Galatians 4:8, emphasis added). That’s why Paul tells them not to “turn back again” to the things they celebrated when they “did not know God”.119 Ministries. The Pauline Paradox: What Did Paul Teach About the Law of God? (p. 93). 119 Ministries. Kindle Edition. (emphasis in original)
From his emphasis, you can see why he wanted to quote this one. It talks about Paul’s readers and their former lives worshiping other gods. And since “elemental things” are mentioned, they feel able to justify pulling something pagan or false backwards into the prior passage.
Unfortunately, reading doesn’t work that way. Unless someone purposefully veils the meaning of something, to come to more clarity later, we don’t get to grab whatever meaning we want, especially when the prior passage is all about the Law.
So, what is going on here? Paul is tying two groups together. Jews and Gentiles, prior to Christ, were both enslaved under something that was “elemental”. For Israel, it was the Law, with its regulations concerning earthly things, diet, sabbaths, washings, etc. And religious pagans, as our author readily says, also had their own “sabbaths and feast days”. They also had sacrifices, dietary regulations, and all sorts of things similar to what is in the Torah. To be sure, they also had many terrible practices, but Paul is clearly making a connection based on where they are similar.
And notice how Paul speaks in verses 1-7 in first-person plural, saying “we” were enslaved. Then starting in verse 8, he switches to “you”. Paul is pointing out that he and other Jewish believers were enslaved under the Law, and so were pagans under man-made or even demonic regulations. Just because one was from God and the other was not doesn’t mean they can’t both be a source of enslavement, from which Christ sets people free.
But the 119 author doesn’t want everyone to see the clear connections, so he doesn’t quote both passages.
He then skips past verses 12-20 with no comment, but that is because it is mostly about Paul’s relationship with the Galatians and not directly about the Law, so we’ll skip ahead too.
It is hard to say which passage in Paul is treated with the least respect, twisted the most. But the next section, Galatians 4:21-31, is definitely on the short list.
Of course, instead of getting the passage quoted, and then interpreted in context, as this whole book is supposed to be doing, we just get a bunch of thoughts of the author, starting, of course, with what he thinks his opponents think. He says that:
Many people think that Paul is saying that the Mosaic covenant, which includes God’s Law, has enslaved those who practice it. But believers in Yeshua are sons of the free woman–we are not enslaved to the Law! But that is an overly simplistic interpretation that completely misses Paul’s point. Note in verse 25 that Hagar in this analogy “corresponds to the present Jerusalem.” Paul is not speaking against the Law of God but against the misuse of the Law of God by those in the Jerusalem of Paul’s day who taught that Gentiles needed to ritually convert and circumcise themselves to be initiated into God’s covenant people. Paul’s point is that anyone who tries to gain salvation through their own effort is like Abraham trying to gain God’s promise through his effort with Hagar.119 Ministries. The Pauline Paradox: What Did Paul Teach About the Law of God? (p. 93). 119 Ministries. Kindle Edition.
Ok, you got that interpretation straight? Let’s see if we can find that in the biblical passage itself.
21 Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23 But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. 24 This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. 27 For it is written,
“Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear;
Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor;
For more numerous are the children of the desolate
Than of the one who has a husband.”
28 And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. 30 But what does the Scripture say?
“Cast out the bondwoman and her son,
For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.”
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.Galatians 4:21-31
This text is not unclear. It is not difficult. The introduction, completely ignored by the 119 author, talks to the people of Galatia and asks, “you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law?” Now, is Paul talking about the “penalty of the law” here? Or the “Law of sin and death” as our author tried to say he was referring to in verse 4 of this same chapter? Obviously, Paul couldn’t mean these things. Who “wants” to be in these situations? Nor could Paul be talking about human traditions, because he uses the term “law” twice in the same context about the same thing. He asks “do you not listen to the law”, and proceeds to cite the Torah, from Genesis.
No, it is absolutely clear that “under law” here means to be under the authority of the Torah, the Law of Moses. And Paul is clear that this is not what the people are, but what they are saying they want to be, by submitting to circumcision. It couldn’t be clearer. How does our author respond to this? He doesn’t. He doesn’t acknowledge these words exist in the text at all. I guess that’s one way of “dealing with the difficult passages” in Galatians.
And you can see, looking at what he says this passage is about, that it is not even close. The two women are two covenants, one from Sinai, and one being the promise made to Abraham, fulfilled in the New Covenant. Paul clearly separates the two covenants, as we should expect from what he said in the previous chapter, that one does not add to a previous covenant. Our author thinks that he can get away with protesting about slavery as if that’s what “many think”. But that is what’s in the text. And the slave woman is not “this present Jerusalem”. Read carefully. The slave woman is a covenant, proceeding from Mt. Sinai, bearing children who are slaves (v. 24). There is no ambiguity. And just to make the point even clearer, Paul mentions Sinai a second time in the next verse, saying that Hager is Mt. Sinai, and only then, that she corresponds to the present Jerusalem. Paul ties the present Jerusalem back to Sinai. So it isn’t that Hagar simply corresponds with people in Jerusalem who have a false gospel or something. Paul says twice that she is allegorically the covenant made at Sinai.
Did the author of The Pauline Paradox deal with the difficulty of this link to Sinai? Did he even mention Sinai? No, he did not. He would rather you not think about that. The blatant and repeated hiding from the text is truly deceptive.
But why would he do this? The answer is clear. Paul is clear. The two covenants, one of promise, which is through Sarah and Isaac to believers in Christ, and another, which is through Moses at Sinai and symbolized by a slave woman and slave children, are not to be combined. These are two separate covenants. And we, believers in Christ, are not children of one of these women. We are not members of one of these covenants. We are members of the covenant based on the free woman, based on the promise, based on faith. We are not members of the Sinai covenant. And therefore, if there is a law or regulation that is tied only to those who were members of that covenant, that law is not binding on those outside that covenant: namely, believers in Jesus.
Paul’s thinking is consistent throughout. From all the way back at the beginning of chapter 3 until now, Paul has not stopped talking about how believers are connected to the promise made to Abraham, and not to the Law given at Sinai.
This passage completely destroys Torah observance theology, and there is no insertion of extra terminology that could believably change that, so of course it must not see the light of day in 119 ministries’ book.
For the section on Galatians 5, while the author does mention some other verses in his “explanation”, he only sets his sights on verses 1-5 and verse 18. And that is all we will get of his treatment of Galatians. And of course, nothing he says in chapter 5 will acknowledge the fact, seen clearly in the previous chapter, that Paul is talking about different covenants when he is talking about the Law. Let’s look at a couple important bits.
Galatians 5:1-5 — God’s Law: Bondage or Freedom?
Some people attempt to use this passage to suggest that Paul compared following God’s Law to being in slavery. Some even suggest that a person has fallen away from grace if they continue to follow God’s Law after coming to know Messiah119 Ministries. The Pauline Paradox: What Did Paul Teach About the Law of God? (p. 93). 119 Ministries. Kindle Edition.
As you can see, rather than interpreting Paul, we are once again getting an interpretation of the author’s own characterization of his opponents: “some people”. So, since he won’t read the text, let’s read the text.
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.Galatians 5:1-6
Astute readers will notice that I quoted verses 1-6, while Nameless’s heading only mentions verses 1-5. You can see why he would completely ignore verse 6. As he does. Nowhere in this chapter on Galatians does he even try to interpret that verse.
He acts so bothered by all of “some peoples'” interpretation of Paul’s use of slavery language, but he isn’t really. He is totally fine with that analogy, as he explains when talking about Romans, in the previous chapter of the book:
In verses 16-23, Paul concludes Chapter 6 with an analogy to slavery. There are two types of slaves, according to Paul. We either serve God by obeying His Law, which makes us a slave to righteousness, or we serve sin by breaking God’s Law, which makes us a slave to sin. Those are our only two options.119 Ministries. The Pauline Paradox: What Did Paul Teach About the Law of God? (p. 58). 119 Ministries. Kindle Edition.
So this protestation is just too much. The “interpretation” we are offered does not deal with the difficult parts of the text at all. He latches onto verse 4, which mentions being “justified by law” in order to once again insert his own idea of “misuse of the law”. But that is not at all Paul’s point. Paul says circumcision and uncircumcision aren’t “anything” in Christ, but rather “faith working through love”. Paul is very consistent. His slavery metaphor, begun in the previous chapter, while describing the son under the pedagogue, then continued while talking about Hagar and Sarah, is carried straight through here. Our author does not acknowledge this. It’s clear that Paul is still speaking of the covenants, and how those in Christ are not part of the Sinai covenant, the covenant of slavery that he was very clear about before. The simple fact is that Paul is saying, just like he did in the previous chapter about those “wanting to be under law”, that if you are seeking to be a part of that prior covenant, you are rejecting Christ’s covenant, the only one that can justify you. You can’t be justified by the covenant of Law. Only grace, through the work of Christ, can save you.
It isn’t even that Paul is specifically talking about what commandments we’re supposed to keep. He’s talking about covenants. If you want to do things from the Law that are not part of the New Covenant, there is no prohibition here. But you aren’t “obeying God’s Law”. You’re walking in a covenant of the past, that Paul explicitly said could never be “added to” the promise given to Abraham.
Our author finishes his treatment of Galatians by skipping ahead from verse 5 to verse 18. It’s another place where we find that “under law” phrase again, so he talks about it some.
Galatians 5:18 — Is the Law Against the Spirit?
When Paul says, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law” (Galatians 5:18), some take this to mean that the Spirit and God’s Law conflict with one another.119 Ministries. The Pauline Paradox: What Did Paul Teach About the Law of God? (p. 94). 119 Ministries. Kindle Edition.
It sure would be nice, wouldn’t it, if he ever cited someone who says what his imaginary opponents say? Like many other places in this book, I find that I cannot find my own theology accurately represented by his language. And of course, we get to hear about how wrong “some” is, but we don’t get to hear the text in context. As always, “under law” is changed by adding to the Scripture the concept of “penalty”, as we have seen over and over. And the language about walking “according to the flesh” and “according to the Spirit” are reinterpreted to be defined in terms of the Law, completely ignoring Paul.
And, of course, he skipped some pretty important stuff, including more words that are difficult for Hebrew Roots and Torah Observant people to reconcile with their theology. Let’s just read the text.
7 You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. 10 I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is. 11 But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. 12 I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.Galatians 5:7-12
There are some very important statements here. This preaching of circumcision “hinders” people from “obeying the truth”. It does not come from God, and “a little leaven leavens the whole lump”. When we consider this, along with the fact that Paul has been talking about two different covenants, and how we are not members of the one with circumcision, it becomes clear that Paul isn’t just talking about a full-throated works-righteousness perspective. He’s talking about the little things. Just like when he rebuked Peter for where he was sitting, he’s rebuking the Galatians for accepting circumcision as necessary for anything.
And this isn’t just about adding it to salvation, though that is in view. Paul said that Peter’s drawing away from the Gentiles was not in line with the Gospel, and deserved a sharp, public rebuke. Does that mean Peter was a false apostle, or taught works-righteousness? No, it doesn’t. And I will point out again that the false brothers Paul is teaching against are never described directly as adding circumcision to salvation. Yes, I’m sure that was part of the conversation, but it is not Paul’s main point. Paul is pointing out that adding any unnecessary things as “obedience” is not in line with the Gospel.
Paul wants to be so clear about this, that he denies that he still preaches circumcision. He points out that these false brothers persecute him, showing he does not preach circumcision. To do so would “abolish” the “stumbling block of the cross”. To preach that we are required to be circumcised (not first, not for salvation, not as a prerequisite, those concepts are not in the text) is to remove the cross. Paul is not being ambiguous here, and we should not play around with his words.
Paul is clearly and unambiguously saying that the reason he is persecuted is that he does not preach circumcision, and if he preached it, he would be abolishing the cross.
What does our author have to say about all of this?
Nothing. Precisely nothing at all. He skips it. Goes on as if it were not in Galatians at all.
That should tell you something.
13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.Galatians 5:13-15
I’m starting to see why everyone tells Torah observers to “read Galatians”. It’s clear that the 119 author does not want you actually doing that and comparing it with what he is arguing.
Loving neighbor as self FULFILLS THE WHOLE LAW. This verse is never the one folks like our author go to. They prefer to talk about the Law “hanging on” the greatest commandments. And Scripture says that. But it also says this.
Paul is reminding people that freedom does not mean freedom to sin, not ever calling people back to the Law of Moses and circumcision and dietary laws and feasts as examples of not sinning. But pointing out that the way we avoid sin is by loving one another, not biting one another. This is context for verse 18, which the author is ignoring.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.Galatians 5:16-24
Now, throughout Galatians up to this point, Paul has used “the flesh” more than once to speak of life according to the law.
2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?Galatians 3:2-3
23 But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. 24 This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar.Galatians 4:23-24
So, it isn’t surprising that when Paul is talking about the opposition of the flesh and the Spirit, he freely goes back and forth between talking about the law and the flesh. It is not that they are the same thing. The prior context for over two chapters has been clear that Paul is talking about the contrast between the fleshly, earthly covenant of Sinai and the covenant of promise in the Spirit by faith in Christ.
So, when he’s talking here about the fruits of the spirit and the flesh, he points out that we now can display the fruits of the Spirit because we have the Spirit, and are not dependent on the flesh, like those who were “under the Law”. It’s about the two distinct covenants.
Notice that it isn’t the Law that helps us have the fruits of the Spirit, but rather the Spirit. And by the Spirit, not the Law, we crucify the works of the flesh.
But what does 119 do? Just cram “that is, under the Law’s penalty” in there with no support from the context (p. 94). That’s it. No further argument. The rest of what is said about Galatians 5:18 doesn’t have anything to do with 5:18. It’s just more trying to convince you of his position from other texts, while studiously ignoring the one he’s supposed to be dealing with.
And finally, after having come to the end of his efforts, he confidently concludes:
Now that we’ve reviewed all the difficult passages in Galatians, it’s clear that Paul was not speaking against obeying the Law of God.119 Ministries. The Pauline Paradox: What Did Paul Teach About the Law of God? (p. 96). 119 Ministries. Kindle Edition.
It is truly difficult to see how an honest person, who truly believes he is rightly handling the text of Scripture, could so blatantly lie like that. It is perhaps the most troubling part of the book. But that’s what he says he’s done. What do you think? Did he really review “all” the difficult passages? Not even close. We went over quite a lot that he completely ignored, sometimes by misrepresenting the text, sometimes by pretending it wasn’t even there. It isn’t just that he offered interpretations we could take issue with. He blatantly ignores whole passages and context and declares his work here is done.
And of course, you may realize there’s a whole chapter he hasn’t touched at all. There’s a sixth chapter of Galatians. And while most of it contains exhortations related to not following the false teachers, and bearing each other’s burdens, there is a section that contains more problematic text for our Hebrew Roots teacher.
11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.Galatians 6:11-16
As Paul takes up the topic of circumcision one last time in Galatians, notice what he doesn’t say. He makes no mention of “prerequisites” or circumcision in the flesh “first” or any of those additions our author insists on making to the text. Paul is clear. He is writing in “large letters” to remind the people that these false teachers are trying “to make a good showing in the flesh”. He’s talking again about the earthly commandments, like circumcision. And once again, Paul clearly opposes them because they “try to compel you to be circumcised”. That is exactly what Torah observant people do. They dress it up in the nicest possible language, but at the end of the day, they think it is a sin not to be circumcised, and so are, by their arguments for Torah observance theology, trying to compel you to be circumcised.
And of course, look at what Paul says right near the end. Once again, he makes the same statement that circumcision and uncircumcision aren’t “anything”. No qualifications. It couldn’t be clearer, but it can’t be allowed when you’ve already accepted a theological system that overrides the Scriptures. What matters is not circumcision, but a new creation. It’s not one thing. It’s the other thing. Do you see it? It doesn’t say that one comes first, or that what’s wrong is getting them out of order. The Scriptures know how to speak that way. But that is not how they speak here.
So, aside from knowing not to trust 119 ministries’ nameless authors and teachers, what else can you take away from this? Let me suggest this. Galatians presents no problems whatsoever for Christians who believe the Gospel without trying to add things to Scripture that aren’t there. It’s a fairly short book.
Maybe, if you have the opportunity, instead of telling a Hebrew Roots or Torah Observant person to “read Galatians”, try suggesting, “let’s read Galatians”. As you can see, when we walk through the text, there are so many passages that just don’t work for the Torah Observance view, especially when you let the context inform what it means. And every time someone tries to add to the text, just point it out, and keep pointing out how you don’t have to do that.
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).