Jesus Christ is - The Wonderful One
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Paul, Christ's chosen instrument, discusses legalism - an exposition of Galatians....

Foolish Galatians

Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.
Genesis 21:10

 

 

In Christianity today, there are divisions which exist simply because people fail to understand the basic doctrines clearly laid out in the Word of God.  New churches spring up around us claiming a return to original biblical principles.  Some of them do follow this standard, others have their own agendas which may or may not be productive.  The Jewish Messianic movement proclaims a return to our Hebraic roots - I certainly can't complain about that.  Our Lord was born a Jew and lived the perfect, sinless life within the confines of the Jewish society.  To know our Jewish roots is to understand the very principles from which Christianity came from.  However, within the Messianic movement some proclaim we must follow the laws as outlined in the Torah (the law of Moses) which were given to the Jewish nation.  They support this thought by the statement made by our Lord:  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  Matthew 5:18.  What they fail to acknowledge is the supporting words encircling this statement, as well as the Pauline epistles, which clearly delineate the parameters of the gentile church.  Paul spent a great amount of time refuting the "Judaizers" who tried to force their misguided doctrine on the young church.  His words still echo through time and are as applicable today as they were then.  We need to have a clear understanding of his arguments in order to understand the purpose of the law and why it was introduced.  First, Jesus statement, taken as a whole:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:17-20

Jesus here states that He has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.  He further states that we need a righteousness which exceeds the "most righteous" people in the Jewish society of that day.

Paul on the other hand, says:  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.  Ephesians 2:8, 9.  This indicates that there is no requirement levied on us except faith - and even that is a gift from God.  It also indicates that there is NOT ONE thing beyond faith required for salvation - not baptism, not speaking in tongues, not observing the law, etc.  Any of these things become "works."  A gift is something offered freely and where no payment is due.

What are we to make of this when the bible is complete and without contradiction?  How can these two thoughts both be applicable?   An understanding of this is vital for Christians.  We need to read and know our bibles.  Unless we do, we can quickly be swept into bad doctrine or even into a cult.  If you are enjoying this page, please take a moment and click on this vote button.  It only takes a second.  Thank you.

A caution must be interjected at this point - I have read comments which entirely reject Paul's epistles saying "who are you going to believe, Jesus or Paul?" or something to this effect.  This shows a complete misunderstanding of biblical principles and doctrine.  Because there is a "perceived" contradiction, Paul is rejected outright without any attempt to understand the complete plan of redemption.  One link between what Jesus proclaimed above and what Paul heralds is the book of Galatians.  I'm going to try to keep this on a very basic level, but Galatians holds important truths which must be carefully reviewed. 

Paul starts this epistle by stating that he was "sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father" 1:1.  He did this to remind us of his calling and who it was from - the risen Lord himself.  In verses 6-9, Paul states the importance of holding to the gospel he preached to them.  In fact, he says "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" 1-8. From this point he reminds us how he was chosen and the story of his ministry.  In 2:3, Paul states:  Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek."  We are now seeing the beginning of the purpose of Pauls epistle.  Jews were obviously going to the church in Galatia and proclaiming the requirement that they be circumcised - in essence obeying the law of Moses.  In 2:7 Paul reminds his readers that he is the apostle to the gentiles as he does elsewhere in his epistles.  Because of this, he is conveying a message previously unknown.  His appointment was specifically designed with the gentile people in mind.  From 2:11-14 we have a passage which really is incredible - the apostle Peter was living among gentiles and as a gentile - eating with them, etc.  This would have been unheard of in Jewish society and yet there it is in black and white.  However, once other Jews showed up, Peter started to withdraw and act like a Jew again.  We can infer that he even made a show of telling the Gentiles to follow Jewish customs! 2:14.  At this point, Paul calls Peter to account for his hypocrisy.  He proclaims "We who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ." 2:15, 16  It is no longer an observance of the law, but faith by which we are justified - but how is this?  "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" 20-21

What Paul is saying here, and that which is supported by Jesus' own words above, is that Jesus fulfilled the law that we could not fulfill on our own.  Now, because He fulfilled the law, we place our trust in what He has done.  Throughout the bible, there is what is known as "substitutionary atonement."  In each case, God does for man what he cannot do for himself.  Jesus came and fulfilled the law in its entirety and then gave himself up as a sacrifice of atonement for our sins.  Paul, says "I do not set aside the grace of God." 2:21  What he is saying is that it is through God's grace Jesus came and fulfilled the law that we couldn't.  If we now attempt to do so, we are "setting aside" that grace and trying to accomplish it on our own - what a slap in Gods face!

Paul now proclaims Christ's crucifixion, 3:1 and then asks "Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?" 3:2  He was making the point that not one of the Gentiles had observed the law and yet they received the Holy Spirit.  Stop now and carefully read the passages 3:1-5 and understand his point. 

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.  I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?  Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing?  Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? 3:1-5

In 3:6-8 he uses the example of Abraham (which he will continue with later) to show that Abraham was counted as righteous simply through faith.  This same faith which applies to us who believe in Christ's completed work.  In 3:10, Paul begins to explain the purpose of the law (which will also continue later).  The law actually brings a curse "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." 3:10  Outside of the person Jesus the Christ, no one has done everything written in the law and is therefore cursed.  But in 3:13 comes the really good news "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."  Once Jesus fulfilled the law, he was crucified on a tree - He became that substitutionary atonement mentioned above; holy, righteous, sinless - he died in our place after doing what we could not do for ourselves.

In 3:15-23 Paul explains the promise to Abraham (and to his seed), the purpose of the law, and other fine points.  Concerning the purpose of the law "It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come." 3:19  The Seed is Jesus.  It is good to note here, that the promise made to Abraham came before the covenant of circumcision.  It is now the same with us - our faith is credited to us as righteousness before we accomplish any external deeds of merit.  You should stop here, get out your bible and take time here to read 3:15-23 and carefully consider these truths. 

In the next passages, Paul again makes the point that we are not under the law:  So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.  Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.  3:24, 25  Because of this, we receive our adoption "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." 3:26, 27  All people no matter what their background are included in this by faith in Jesus. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abrahams seed, and heirs according to the promise. 3:28, 29

In 4:1-7 Paul reminds us from a different angle of our adoption into God's family.  In 4:8-11 Paul again rebukes the Galatians for their turning to the law and away from grace by "observing special days and months and seasons and years!" 4:10  By this point, Paul has denounced the requirement of circumcision and the requirement to participate in Jewish festivals.  Paul will likewise denounce dietary requirements in his other epistles.  We are under no compulsion to eat kosher foods, observe Jewish festivals, be circumcised, or fulfill any other requirement of Jewish law because Christ fulfilled them in our place.  It is now our faith in His accomplishments which brings us into adoption as God's children.  In 4:21-31, Paul uses symbolism to make his point clear.  He equates those under the law with Mt Sinai where the law was received, and to the earthly Jerusalem.  He goes on to also equate them to Hagar the slave of Abraham (showing the law is a type of slavery).  However, he compares Christians with life in the New Jerusalem and with Isaac - his son born of a promise (showing our freedom from the law through life in Christ.)   He says "the slave womans son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son." 4:30

Paul starts the Chapter 5 with "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." 5:1  He implores us to stay away from the burden of the law and in 5:3 he goes so far as to say "every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law."  You can imply from this that ANY attempt to gain righteousness through the law will nullify grace whether it is dietary obedience, circumcision, or some other attempt.  In 5:12 the NIV shows how adamantly Paul speaks against the requirement to circumcise " As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!"  Paul basically says "If you think you can obtain God's favor by being circumcised - well, just keep on cutting!"  As funny as this seems, it is comparable to saying "If you think dietary restrictions will help you obtain God's favor, well...quit eating food."  Any attempt at righteousness beyond what Christ has done is an affront to what He alone has done and is absurd.  The sinless Son of God hung on a cross for our sake - what could we add to that to increase our righteousness?  Nothing!

Finally, in 5-13, Paul begins to delineate what our requirements are.  "But do not use your freedom to indulge in the sinful nature, rather, serve one another in love."  After all the talk of our freedom, Paul wants to ensure we understand that we are not free to sin.  Our freedom in Christ means we are free from the constraints of the law, but only so far as we keep from sinning.  This is a constant theme in Paul's writings and we must always be careful to remember that our freedom is not license to sin.  Paul is so concerned with this, he lays down what is not acceptable:  So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.  The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  5:16-21  From 5:22 through 6:10, Pau'ls writings are clear and concise - explaining our life in Christ.  In 6:11, Paul says something which seems unusual "See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!"  Paul was probably dictating the letter up to this point, but to ensure the recipients understood that the message was from him and not an imposter, Paul personally wrote this part.  His handwriting was easily distinguishable and verified authorship of the letter.  This was a regular practice in Paul's letters - his "distinguishing mark."  After this, Paul again brings the law into the text "Not even those who are circumcised obey the law." 6:13  And again, "Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation." 6:15

Understanding Pauline doctrine is essential to understanding what Jesus' mission was on His first Advent.  God's plan of redemption is perfect, but without understanding it, we can easily be drawn away from sound truths and manipulated by those who have fallen away from grace. 

I hope this page has helped you understand more fully why we are free from the contraints of the law and now live by the Spirit as we await the return of our Great Lord and Savior Jesus!

If this page has helped you in anyway, please send me an email and let me know:  notafool@Wonderful1.com.

 

 




Hibiscus and Mountain photos - My boss...John Lester

Pretty Girl in Exotic car - My friend....Liz

Mt Fuji Photo - Hiroki Suzuki

 

"And His name shall be called Wonderful"
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