Tag Archives: Christ

Where did Christmas come from?

Considered “The most wonderful time of the year”, Christmas has become the most popular and widely celebrated holiday around the world among Christians and non-Christians, alike. Christmas Trees, Wreaths, Holly, Carols, Gift-giving, Santa Claus and various other traditions are among the highlights of this season, that all Christians get involved in. But few know the actual origins of these traditions, that are celebrated as “Christmas” today. Even few would even give ear to the fact that Pagan Festivals & Traditions are what gradually became “Christianized” and ended up as part of the Season of Christmas.

Please note that the point of this post is not to diverge anyone from being joyful of the fact that Christ was born on this earth. Rather, it is to point out where the “current celebration of Christmas” and its various traditions originate from.

December 25th was the day which was celebrated as the Birthday of “Mithra” (also known as Mithras) a god of the Persians and subsequently of the Romans. It was also the day when Romans celebrated “Sol Invictus” (Unconquered/Invincible Sun) the official sun god of Rome. Then there were the Egyptians who had Celebrations of their own, in honor of “Isis” and “Ra” on December 25th, which were later adapted into the Roman and Greek pantheon of gods. The celebration of Christmas was even banned in England and America at one time. In this study, I will provide a plethora of Historical facts from reliable sources such as The Encyclopedia Britannica, The History Channel & BBC, in validating these facts.

The information on this post is broken down into these sections
1. Was Christ born in December?
2. Why is December 25th a center-point in Pagan Festivities?
3. Historical facts on the connection of Paganism & Christmas
(Collated from the Encyclopedia Britannica, The History Channel & BBC)
4. The origins of the Christmas tree and Decorations
5. Gift giving and Saturnalia
6. What about Santa Claus?
7. What’s so wrong in celebrating Christmas?
8. Sun Worship and the Word of God
9. Why I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore
10. Can you worship God through the celebration of Christmas?
Conclusion

1. Was Christ born in December?
Most Christians know that Yeshua (Jesus’ true name) was not born on December 25th, and that this date was instituted by the early Roman Catholic Church. The Biblical account of Christ’s birth, points out that Shepherds kept their flock out grazing in the fields on that night (Luk 2:8). Most scholars believe that He could not have even been born in the Month of December as Shepherds could and would not have taken flocks out into the fields in the cold rainy climate of winter time in the Middle East.

Another point worth looking at, is the name “Emmanuel”(Mat 1:23). Emmanuel which means “God with us” was never used as a name for Christ. Rather, this prophecy written in Isa 7:14, leads us to believe, He might have been born around the days of “The Feast of Tabernacles“(Lev 23:33-43), which is celebrated with the central theme of “God tabernacling with us”. This would also explain the reason why there was no room for Mary & Joseph at the inn(Luk 2:7), as tens of thousands of people came to Jerusalem at the time of “Tabernacles”(known also as the feast of ingathering) according to the commandment(Exo 23:14-17). It would also be the perfect time for the Roman Government to call in a registration for taxation(Luk 2:1), as everyone would return to the land of Judea at this time.

There is no sure way to know the month of His birth, as the Gospels are silent on it. Whether it’s at the time of the “Feast of Tabernacles” or not, all historians and scholars agree on the fact that it could not have been the Winter months of December.

2. Why is December 25th a center-point in Pagan Festivities?
The reason was a phenomena called the “Winter Solstice”. The Winter Solstice is the time when the Sun is farthest from the Earth, making the environment colder, effectively bringing winter and snow to some countries in the world. The Winter Solstice happens every year on December 21st or 22nd, which means the Sun will be the farthest away from the earth on this day. The cold atmosphere will start to improve from thereon in. Most of the ancient cultures believed that the Sun was recovering at this time, and they worshiped the Sun at this time. (Sources of information given below in point 3)

3. Historical Facts on the connection of Paganism & Christmas
References for these facts have been collated from the Encyclopedia Britannica, History Channel and BBC. The information given below are excepts completely taken from those sites. Please note that links have been provided for each of these excerpts of Historical facts, so that you can check them for yourself. 

Saturnalia

“One of the best-known festivals of ancient Rome was “the Saturnalia”, a winter festival celebrated on December 17–24. Because it was a time of wild merrymaking and domestic celebrations, businesses, schools, and law courts were closed so that the public could feast, dance, gamble, and generally enjoy itself to the fullest. December 25—the birthday of Mithra, the Iranian god of light, and a day devoted to the invincible sun, as well as the day after the Saturnalia—was adopted by the church as Christmas, the nativity of Christ, to counteract the effects of these festivals”. From Encyclopedia Britannica

“Christmas is the most popular of all festivals among Christians and many non-Christians alike, and its observance combines many strands of tradition. From the ancient Roman pagan festivals of Saturnalia (December 17) and New Year’s come the merrymaking and exchange of presents”. From Encyclopedia Britannica

“The ecclesiastical calendar retains numerous remnants of pre-Christian festivals—notably Christmas, which blends elements including both the feast of the Saturnalia and the birthday of Mithra”. From Encyclopedia Britannica

Sol“During the later periods of Roman history, sun worship gained in importance and ultimately led to what has been called a “solar monotheism.” Nearly all the gods of the period were possessed of solar qualities, and both Christ and Mithra acquired the traits of solar deities. The feast of Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun) on December 25 was celebrated with great joy, and eventually this date was taken over by the Christians as Christmas, the birthday of Christ”. From Encyclopedia Britannica

iisis00001p1Isis2“In Roman times, important Isis festivals were held on December 25, January 6, and March 5″.
From Encyclopedia Britannica

“In the religion of Sol, the festivals were determined by astronomy. The greatest festival was held on December 24–25, at the time of the winter solstice. Because from this date the length of the day began to increase, it was regarded as the day of the rebirth of the god and of the renovation of life”. From Encyclopedia Britannica

Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime; it survived further in the custom, also observed in Germany, of placing a Yule tree at an entrance or inside the house during the midwinter holidays”.
From Encyclopedia Britannica

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“Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. Many peoples rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight”.

“In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out, which could take as many as 12 days”.

Mithra2“In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. For some Romans, Mithra’s birthday was the most sacred day of the year”.

“Although some evidence suggests that his(Jesus’) birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival”.

“The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston”.
Excerpts from History Channel Website

“Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness”.

“In the Northern hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year falls on December 21 or December 22 and is called the winter solstice. Many ancient people believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return”.

Ra of egypt“The ancient Egyptians worshiped a god called Ra, who had the head of a hawk and wore the sun as a blazing disk in his crown. At the solstice, when Ra began to recover from the illness, the Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes which symbolized for them the triumph of life over death”.

“Early Romans marked the solstice with a feast called the Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. The Romans knew that the solstice meant that soon farms and orchards would be green and fruitful. To mark the occasion, they decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs. In Northern Europe the mysterious Druids, the priests of the ancient Celts, also decorated their temples with evergreen boughs as a symbol of everlasting life. The fierce Vikings in Scandinavia thought that evergreens were the special plant of the sun god, Balder”.

220px-Oliver_Cromwell_by_Samuel_Cooper“The influential Oliver Cromwell preached against “the heathen traditions” of Christmas carols, decorated trees, and any joyful expression that desecrated “that sacred event.” In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense; people were fined for hanging decorations. That stern solemnity continued until the 19th century, when the influx of German and Irish immigrants undermined the Puritan legacy”.
Excerpts from History Channel Website

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“It was not until the 4th century AD that Pope Julius I, set 25th December as the date for Christmas. This was an attempt to Christianize the Pagan celebrations that already took place at this time of year”.

“The Romans also held a festival to mark the Winter Solstice. Saturnalia (from the God Saturn) ran for seven days from 17th December. It was a time when the ordinary rules were turned upside down. Men dressed as women and masters dressed as servants. The festival also involved processions, decorating houses with greenery, lighting candles and giving presents”.

holly“Holly is one of the symbols most associated with Christmas. Its religious significance pre-dates Christianity. It was previously associated with the Sun God and was important in Pagan customs. Some ancient religions used holly for protection. They decorated doors and windows with it in the belief it would ward off evil spirits”.

“As the date of Christ’s birth is not in the Gospels the Puritans thought that Christmas was too strongly linked to the Pagan Roman festival and were opposed to all celebration of it, particularly the lively, boozy celebrations inherited from Saturnalia. In 1644 all Christmas activities were banned in England. This included decorating houses with evergreens and eating mince pies”. From BBC

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4. The origins of the Christmas tree and Decorations
Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans, and plants and trees that remained green all year round had a special meaning for people in the winter. Scandinavians had a custom of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at Winter time to scare away evil spirits. Similarly, the Germans placed a Yule tree at the entrance or inside the house during the midwinter holidays. In Northern Europe, the priests of the ancient Celts, decorated their temples with evergreen boughs as a symbol of everlasting life, while the Egyptians filled their homes with palm rushes symbolizing the triumph of life over death. (Sources of information given above in point 3)

5. Gift giving and Saturnalia
Saturnalia which was the most famous of Roman Festivals, was held from December 17th to the 24th, and was dedicated to “Saturn”. While feasting, gambling and wild merrymaking were all part of Saturnalia, “Gift giving” was also a key aspect of this Celebration, which was later incorporated into the Christmas festivities. (Sources of information given above in point 3)

It is important to note, that some point at the “Wise men and the bringing of gifts” as a reason for Gift Giving at Christmas time. The only issue with this point is that the Wise men were not present at Christ’s birth, as per the Gospel accounts. (Please read this post for more information on this subject)

6. What about Santa Claus?
Even good old Saint Nick, who brings gifts for Children on Christmas Eve, has deep rooted connections to Pagan traditions. The most solid connection is between Santa and Odin, the white bearded Norse god who rode a eight legged horse through the air in the winter time. Saint Nocholas’ story got mixed with Odin’s legend with a few creative touches along the way to create Santa Claus as we know him today. From a God riding an eight legged horse through the sky to a jolly old man riding on a sleigh with eight reindeer (and later 9 with rudolph added in 1939) through the night sky, Santa surely owns “Christmas” today.

Given below are excerpts from the book “St. Nicholas – his legend and his role in the Christmas Celebration and other Popular Customs” by George H.McKnight (Printed in 1917) Pg 24, 25, 138, 139
odin“There has been pointed out also the parallelism between the ”beste tabbaerd” of St. Nicholas sung about by children, and the magic robe which enabled Odin to pass from place to place; between the gray horse of St. Nicholas on which he rode over the roofs of houses, and Odin’s horse, Sleipnir, on which he took an autumn ride through the world; between the sheaf of grain in pagan days left in the field for Odin’s horse and the wisp of hay left by children in their shoes for their friend St. Nicholas”.

“The time of the St. Nicholas festival, December 6th, and of Christmas, where St. Nicholas has come to play an important part, coincides in part with the season of the year when Odin, as god of the air, made his nightly rides, or, as god of the dead led through the air the troops of spirits of departed ones. From Odin St. Nicholas inherited his gray horse, which in some Germanic countries he uses in his nightly rides, but which he traded for a reindeer before coming to America. For this horse of St. Nicholas children in parts of Europe leave the hay and oats once left for the horse of Odin. From Odin, too, Santa Claus inherited certain details of his appearance, most notably his long white beard as distinguished from the kind of beard familiar in pictures of the bishop-saint”.

7. What’s so wrong in celebrating Christmas?
All of us are engaged in a personal walk with God Almighty. We will all have to, someday, stand before His judgement seat and give account to Him personally. I cannot and do not attempt to judge anyone, but reprove, correct and instruct using Scripture.

God spoke to Israel saying “Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. (Deut 12:30,31).

God is specific in telling His people not to serve Him, in the ways that gentiles serve their Gods. When thousands of years pass, it is easy not to know what is Truth & what is Tradition. This is why we must put our trust in His Word alone. The fact is, that “Christmas” is not mentioned or celebrated by Yeshua (Jesus’ true name), His disciples or any other Biblical writers. It is a “Tradition” that appeared a long time after the first century church. And Historical facts prove that almost all of it is made up of Pagan Traditions. The question we need to ask ourselves is, whether we want to do the things that were done to other gods, on specific days which were separated for those gods, saying we are now doing it for our Heavenly Father. Isn’t this the very same thing He warned us about in Deut 12:30,31?

The difference today is that most Christians do not have any clue what “Truth” is, and what “Tradition” is. They practice these traditions, saying that they do it for God, not knowing the historical significances of the things they do. If “Mithra” was celebrated on December 25th, can we now use the same day to celebrate our Messiah’s Birth. And we must not forget the fact that celebration of His birth is not even a Biblical doctrine. We might be disconnected from these past traditions, so much so, that we do not even know or remember that these traditions were Pagan. But does God Forget? Is 2000 years a long time for Him, as it is for us? These are all valid questions that all Christians should answer for themselves, in their personal walk with God.

8. Sun Worship and the Word of God
Civilizations around the world worshiped gods that had connections to the Sun. And as we see above, December 25th was a day in which Most sun gods were venerated. Our Heavenly father had instructed us not to do these things in His Word:
Deu 4:19  And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.
Deu 17:3  And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded;

Israel worshiped the Sun against the Word of YHVH in the Old Testament accounts:
Eze 8:16  And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD’S house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east.
2Ki 23:5  And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.
2Ki 23:11  And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathanmelech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire.

9. Why I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore
Reason no.1- It is not Biblical
Reason no.2- It is the day when various civilizations used to celebrate their own renditions of the Sun
Reason no.3- It is not even close to the real date of Christ’s actual birth
Reason no.4- The Christmas tree, wreaths, holly, gift giving, santa claus and most of the other traditions including the day of 25th December have strong connections with pagan festivities
Reason no.5- God has commanded us not to worship Him in ways other civilizations worshiped their gods
Reason no.6- I would rather keep Biblical feasts/appointed times(Lev 23) instead of man-made feasts and traditions

10. Can you worship God through the celebration of Christmas?
Some say that they do not worship other gods or the Sun by celebrating Christmas, and that God sees their hearts. God indeed sees our hearts. But If we do something wrong in “His sight”, thinking it is the right thing to do in “our hearts”, such as use pagan practices to worship Him and celebrate the birth of our Messiah, is it still right in His sight? Can we mix worship that should be Holy unto God with what is unholy pagan traditions? These are questions that needs to be answered by the individual, as we are all judged by what we do and not by what we believe(Rev 20:12).

Conclusion
In wrapping this up, I would like to point out that I am in no way ordering anyone to stop celebrating Christmas. Christmas is a tradition which all of us have grown up with, and as such, it is a tradition that has a deep connection with many of us. While some would read these facts and see it as informative, others may be infuriated at the connections made. In this study I have clearly shown the facts of how December 25th and other Christmas traditions are rooted deeply in paganism, and I ask everyone not to take offense at the information provided. If you still feel it is alright to continue a tradition that has been handed down to us from clear pagan roots, so be it. At least now you know where these traditions come from. If you feel it does not sound like a good idea to continue in the tradition, just know that there will be opposition towards your decision, mainly from your family and loved ones (if they do not agree with you). It is our duty to place God’s Word above Tradition, and to obey Him and His Word alone.

The Tabernacle, Temple, Synagogue & Church – What is the House of God?

What is the difference between the tabernacle, the temple, the synagogue and the church? Does God reside in buildings? Can any place of assembly be called “The House of God”? There is little clarity on this subject. Many believe that there was no requirement for a temple of God, and that it was an Old Testament precept removed with Messiah’s sacrifice on the cross. We shall delve into the subject and see what the Bible truly teaches about “The House of God”.

A. What is the Church & Synagogue?
B. What is the Tabernacle & Temple?
C. What is the difference between the Temple and a Church/Synagogue?
D. Can any place of assembly be equated to the Temple of God?
E. Does God reside in a building?
F. Did Christ Replace the Temple of God?

G. The temple of our Bodies

A. What is the Church & Synagogue?
Moses' Seat fromIn an earlier study, we have discussed the biblical definition of the word “Church”. Our findings were very clear – both, “Church” and “Synagogue” meant bodies of people. Not a building or a place – biblically speaking. It is a little known fact that the 1st Century believers attended Synagogue as per James’ Epistle (The word assembly in Jas 2:2 should be translated as synagogue). Even though modern Christians feel a Synagogue is for Jews while Church is for Christians, there was no such separation in thought among the 1st century believers. Both represented bodies of people and not any type of religious building.   

B. What is the Tabernacle & Temple?
The Tabernacle

After the deliverance from Egypt by the hand of God, the children of Israel were commanded to build a sanctuary(H4720 – Mikdawsh – Holy/Set-apart place). Specific instructions were given for the creation of this Tabernacle(H4908 – Mishkawn – Tent/Dwelling Place) and everything inside, to Moses on the Mount of Sinai(Exo 25:8,9,40, 26:30, Heb 8:5). The work was done accordingly (Exo 39:42,43) and the Tent was setup and finished according to further instructions(Exo 40:1-33). The Glory of Yehovah filled the Tabernacle with a physical thick cloud(Exo 40:34), so much so, that even Moses could not enter it. The physical Cloud and Fire were present in the Tabernacle for all the Children of Israel to see, wherever they went henceforth(Exo 40:35-38).

framework-and-tabernacle-layers-lesson-23The Levites were specifically chosen for the keeping of the Tabernacle(Num 1:50,51,53, Chap 3) and the Tabernacle itself was a covering (a sort of capsule) for God to walk with the Children of Israel(2Sam 7:6). This dwelling place moved to a variety of locations till finally under David, the Kingdom was unified. The main content of the Tabernacle was the Ark of the Covenant, which carried the tablets of the covenant written with the hand of God. After God settled the Children of Israel in the land promised to Abraham, there was no more reason for a tent which was pitched and removed – so King David planned to build a House for God which would house His Ark and His Glory(2Sam 7). But God wanted it built by Solomon, the Son of David(2Sam 7:12,13). It is clear that the Tabernacle, even though it was not a permanent structure, was also known as the House of God(Exo 23:19, 34:26, Deut 23:18, Jdg 18:31, 20:18, 21:2).

The Temple in Jerusalem
solomon-templeAfter Solomon came to power, he started the work for God’s House according to God’s command(1Kin 5:3-5) and finished it by moving the Ark from the Tabernacle to the Temple(1Kin 8:3-9). And similar to the establishment of the Tabernacle, where Moses could not enter because of the Glory of God, the cloud filled the holy place so that the priest could not stand to minister(1Kin 8:10,11). Furthermore, God appeared to Solomon and told him that He has consecrated the Temple to Himself by putting His name there, and His eyes and heart would be there perpetually. But He also warned Solomon, that if he or his children turn away from God, that the Temple will be destroyed(1Kin 9:2-9).

Babylonian Chronicles Because of the sins of Solomon, God decided to separate the unified nation of Israel(1Kin 11:9-13). Ten tribes were handed over to Jeroboam, known as the House of Israel, while the rest were left in the hands of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon(1Kin 11:29-36), known as House of Judah, from thereon. These were the two houses of Israel, mentioned in Jeremiah and Hebrews where the New Covenant is mentioned. Both these kingdoms would fall, according to the warnings of the Prophets due to their disobedience, firstly the Kingdom of Israel to Assyria; and then the Kingdom of Judah to Babylonia, where the Temple built by Solomon was also razed to the ground(2Chr 36:19, Ezr 5:12) in 587BC.

The 2nd Temple in Jerusalem
The Temple would be rebuilt under the patronage of King Cyrus of the Persian Empire, by Ezra and Nehemiah(Ezr 5:13, 6:14). The Ark of the Covenant is not mentioned being carried away by the Babylonians or to have been in the 2nd Temple, but is believed to have been hidden by the Prophet Jeremiah before the sack of Jerusalem according to the Apocryphal book “Second Maccabees”.

titusThe Temple we read in the Gospel accounts was the 2nd Temple built by Ezra & Nehemiah, and added onto by Herod the Great, while the same would be destroyed again according to the words of Yeshua, in 70AD by the Romans under Titus. It is believed that all the Disciples of Yeshua other than John, and even Paul would have been killed off by Rome, before the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70AD.

The 3rd Temple in Jerusalem
Even though there is a fair amount of debate among Christian Denominations whether a 3rd Temple would ever be built, prophetic verses such as 2Thes 2:3,4, Dan 9:27 would have us believe, a main sign of the end of days which is the “Antichrist” better known as the “Son of Perdition/Destruction” would set himself up in the Temple of God, and shall stop the sacrifices. Considering sacrifices can only be offered in the temple of Jerusalem(Deut Chap 12, Psa 78:68, Psa 132:13,14, 1Kin 8:29) the place in which He chose to put His name (2Chr 6:6, 1Kin 11:36), we can deduce that the Temple of God where sacrifices will be offered in these prophetic verses is none other than a temple in Jerusalem. But since the 2nd Temple was destroyed in 70AD, for such prophecies to come to fruition, there must be a 3rd Temple built in the future.

C. What is the difference between the Temple and a Church/Synagogue?
The Temple was built according to the command of God(1Kin 5:5) where God chose to place His Name – the city of Jerusalem/Zion(2Chr 6:6, 12:13). There was only one Temple where sacrifices could be brought to God. The Levites were given the right of service and the Sons of Aaron were the priests. No one else could serve in the temple of God in Jerusalem. Jer 33:17-26 shows forth that the word of God and the Covenants He has made with the Levites and David can never be broken.

In the 1st Century AD, synagogues were in every city around the Hellenistic empire which was under Roman rule(Act 15:21), as we see Yeshua, His disciples and even Paul attending many such assemblies. But there was ONLY ONE Temple. And Yeshua, His disciples and even Paul frequented the Temple in Jerusalem often. Paul even offered sacrifices of Purification for himself and others in Acts 21. This was the Temple where Yeshua was tempted(Mat 4:5). The place where Yeshua overthrew the moneychangers/sellers saying “My House shall be called the house of prayer(Mat 21:13/Isa 56:7), but you have made it a den of thieves(Mat 21:13/Jer 7:11). Where He healed(Mat 21:14). Where He taught daily(Mat 26:55, Luk 21:37,38). This was the same Temple where the 1st Century believers gathered daily(Acts 2:46). Where they taught(Acts 5:20,21). Where Paul offered sacrifices of purification(Acts 21:26,27, 24:18). And which was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD.

The Temple in Jerusalem cannot be equated to a building or assembly, as it was ordained, planned & created according to God’s Word and Will. God let the House that was built for Himself be destroyed twice in history, because of the transgressions of the people. But as per the Prophet Micah:

Mic 4:1-3 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

As many of us know, the above verse talks of the Reign of Messiah, in which the House of God and Jerusalem are both mentioned to be active and very much in existence.

While the Church/Synagogue are assemblies of people, the Temple in Jerusalem was a vessel for God to have an existence on the earth. It was His palace on earth from where He ruled as King over His people.

D. Can any place of assembly be equated to the Temple of God?
You may have heard some of today’s church buildings being called the House of God. While our bodies are called the “House of God” in several places in the New Testament, nowhere has a building ever been called the Temple/House of God, or equated to the Temple that stood in Jerusalem.

E. Does God reside in a building?
Even though the Temple in Jerusalem was known to be a place of high importance in the scriptures, there are many who believe that the Temple was purposeless after the Resurrection of Messiah. The fact that the early church spent most of their time in the temple(Acts 2:46) and that Apostle Paul offered sacrifices of purification at the temple(Acts 21:26,27, 24:18) should be enough to show that the importance of the Temple never dwindled in their eyes.

Many question the necessity of the temple because of verses such as:

Act 7:48-50 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?

Act 17:24  God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;

The fact is that the thoughts conveyed above by Stephen and Paul are nothing new, but originate from the Old Testament Scriptures. The Temple was not a place made for God to live in, as even the Heavens cannot contain Him. These thoughts are not new ideas revealed after Christ, but what was always apparent to everyone before Christ.

1Ki 8:27  But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?

2Ch 2:6  But who is able to build him an house, seeing the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him? who am I then, that I should build him an house, save only to burn sacrifice before him?

2Ch 6:18  But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!

Isa 66:1  Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

Also read Paul and his use of Greek Philosophy on Acts 17:24

The Temple was never built to contain God, but as a place/vessel/body that was specially chosen to host His Holy presence on Earth. It is very unlikely that the significance of the Temple ever changed after Messiah’s resurrection, because of this reason.

F. Did Christ Replace the Temple of God?
Another reason many do not see a reason for a physical Temple in Jerusalem, is because of the thought that Christ replaced it. It is true that He equaled Himself to the Temple(John 2:19-21). Rightly so, as God’s full glory resided in Christ just as in the Temple.

Verses such as these have led people to believe that Christ has done away the Temple of God:

Joh 4:21  Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.

Mar 15:37,38  And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.

While John 4:21 could be most likely speaking of the destruction about to fall of Jerusalem as He spoke of many a time in His ministry(Luk 19:44, 21:6), the idea of the Veil being torn has become one, if not the main reason that many believe in the futility of a Temple. In the Gospels, Christ’s death leads to the veil of the Temple being torn in two. Many interpret this as a sign that the separation between God and Man was removed through this act, and that we can now freely go into the holiest of holies. While I do not disagree that Christ’s Death & Resurrection corrected our standing with God, I see a few key details which need to be pointed out before we make any assumptions.

map32It is important to point out that there were 2 veils in the Temple. One which separated the Courts from the Holy place and one which separated the Holy place from the Holiest of Holies. In Hebrews 9:3, when the author speaks of the veil between the Holy place from the Holiest of Holies – He calls it “the second veil”. So it is very likely that what was torn was the outer veil. Furthermore, if the Temple acted as a Garment/Covering that encapsulated God, the tearing of the Veil at the death of Messiah could signify an act of mourning done by God towards His only begotten Son. We see similar practices in the Scriptures in Gen 37:34, 2Sam 13:31, Jos 7:6.

G. The temple of our Bodies
Some believe that our bodies have wholly replaced the Temple in Jerusalem. There are many verses in the New Testament writings that compare our bodies to the Temple of God, such as:

1Co 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
1Co 6:19  What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
2Co 6:16  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Eph 2:21  In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
1Pe 2:5  Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

tmSo what are we to make of this? Have our bodies replaced any remnant of a physical Temple in Jerusalem? While our bodies are a dwelling place for God, as Paul himself writes in 2Corinthians 6:16, he is quoting “I will dwell in them, and walk in them” from the Old Testament Scriptures (Exo 29:45, Lev 26:12, Eze 43:7). So it is not a new thought to think of ones body as a dwelling place for God.

The physical Temple in Jerusalem on the other hand, is a central part of both God’s Word and prophecy.

Isa 2:2,3 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Isa 56:6,7 Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.

See Ezekiel chapter 40 to 48

Conclusion
As we saw God instituted the tabernacle, and later the temple in Jerusalem, while the synagogue and the church both stood for bodies of people and not physical structures. While God is not contained in a man-made house, it was His choice to create such a place for His glory to reside and for the people to come to Him with the designated Sacrifices. While not all assemblies or buildings can be called “The House of God” in a Biblical sense, The Temple of God is for from an abolished precept. Yeshua(Jesus’ true name), His disciples or Paul never directly said anything about the Temple being anything other than the House of God. In fact the interaction between the Temple and the 1st century believers was a close one, as we even see with Paul. The tearing of the veil at Christ’s death or the fact that our bodies are called a dwelling place of God, does not mean that the Temple in Jerusalem was any less important in the Bible we hold in our hands today.

 

The Veil of Moses – Misunderstandings regarding 2 Corinthians 3:12-18

Paul’s words to the Corinthians about the Veil of Moses is commonly understood to be a metaphor for the Old Covenant. The Christians who have this understanding say that this veil which is the Old Covenant was removed through Messiah and the New Covenant. We shall test this theory using Scripture and see whether context and the references from the Old Testament story of Moses putting on a veil over his face, can shine some light on this particular passage.

This study has been broken down into the following sections:
1. 2Cor 3:1-5 and the Context in “being commended”
2. Letter of the Law and Spirit of the Law
3. Old Testament and New Testament
4. Moses and the Veil
5. 2Cor 3:6-11 and the Glory of the Ministries
6. 2Cor 3:12-18 and the Spiritual Vail which covers God’s Glory
7. 2Cor 4:1-6 and the Glory of God in Messiah
8. Conclusion

1. 2Cor 3:1-5 and the Context in “being commended”
In his 2nd Letter to the Corinthians, Paul discusses a variety of subjects, but comes back to one theme, time and time again, where he speaks of not needing earthly commendation. Let’s look at the start of this theme, as it will provide context to the verses in question.

2Co 3:1-5 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;

Paul asks the question whether he needs to commend himself, or whether he needs letters of commendation from the Corinthians. He answers his own question by stating that the best epistles of commendation are in fact the Corinthians themselves and the lives they live in front of others. He says that the Corinthians are not his own epistle but of Christ, which were written through him, and he alludes to the New Covenant in prophecy, saying “written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart”(Jer 31:33, Eze 11:19,20, Eze 36:26,27). The theme of “receiving commendation from God is more glorious than having it of man”, continues throughout the letter as we see below.

2Co 4:2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
2Co 5:12  For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.
2Co 10:12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
2Co 10:18  For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.
2Co 12:11  I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.

It is clear that there was some doubt of Paul’s apostleship among the Corinthians(2Cor 13:3, 11:5,13) that he needed to reaffirm his position and also say that he need not be commended by man to be glorified by God(2Cor 12:11,12). There were some who were saying that the letters Paul wrote were weighty and powerful, but his demeanor and speech were weak(2Cor 10:8-12) thereby questioning his ability to be an Apostle.

2. Letter of the Law and Spirit of the Law
The Law! A subject which is looked at with contempt and disgust, even though it was given by God Himself and praised by many. Under the law, bondage, curse, fallen from grace, nailed to the cross, and many such phrases come to mind when we speak of the Law. But seldom does anyone try to examine and learn about the Law of God, the reason for it’s existence and Paul’s view of it. Instead most of us are used to taking the majority view as the correct path.

What is the Law of God?
The Law of God was given to us to know what sin is(Rom 7:7). The breaking of the Law is Sin(1Jn 3:4). It exists to point us towards what is right and wrong. If we do the right thing according to the Law of God, we are blessed with life – while disobedience to it brings the curse of Death(Deut 30:19). No man is justified/made righteous through the Law of God(Psa 143:2, Gal 3:11) as a person who keeps the whole law, yet break even one, he becomes guilty of all(Jas 2:10). We are not saved by keeping God’s Law, but through the faith we put in God, and the Grace He shows towards us(Rom 4:2-4). But that does not make God’s Law void(Rom 3:31). After we are saved through the Grace of the Father, we need to be obedient to His Law(1Jn 2:4, 3:24). Faith which exists without the practicing of His Word/Law, is dead faith(Jas 2:20).

What is the “Letter of the Law”?
The Letter of the Law, the engraved Commands along with the precepts, statutes and the judgments is what defines Sin. If not for the Law, we would not know what sin is(Rom 7:7). The breaking of God’s Law which is Sin(1Jn 3:4) would lead us to death(Rom 6:16). The Law was not given for people to attain justification/salvation – which was a free gift of God(Eph 2:8). Seeking justification/salvation through the obedience to the Law, would be a certain death sentence, as it would become legalism, as you become one who does not need God, relying on your own self to be deemed righteous – when the true use of the Law was the knowledge of sin(Rom 3:20). If there was no Law, there would not be “sin” as categorised by God. Sin, judgement and death are active because of the Law(Rom 7:9-11). But this does not mean the Law is against Grace, as the Law was never supposed to give Life or justification/righteousness(Gal 3:21).

What is the “Spirit of the Law”?
As explained above, through the Letter of the Law everyone is adjudged a sinner, who should receive the punishment of death. And this is where the Passover sacrifice of Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) comes in(1Cor 5:7). The blood of an unblemished lamb is substituted for your own life(1Pet 1:19), where all who come under the blood of Messiah are seen as dead(Col 3:3) for our offence of breaking the Law of God. The curse OF the Law, which is death (not to be confused with the popular false teaching that God’s law IS a curse – Rom 7:13) is what Christ redeemed us from(Gal 3:13). He did not take on Himself the punishment for sin, so that we can keep sinning (remember that sin is breaking God’s Law). Rather, that we can now be obedient to His Law without the curse which came whenever we broke His Word. We are to go beyond the plain sense of the letter of the Law and seek out the Spirit as well. Not that we discard the plain sense, but that we go beyond the plain sense and set ourselves a higher standard as Messiah taught. For example He set a higher standard for the Law of adultery in Mat 5:27,28. Does this mean he changed the letter of the Law? Did He abolish it? God Forbid. He merely fully taught the Spirit of the Law. This is what he meant when he said “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil”.

3. Old Testament and New Testament
Before we proceed, we must understand what the 2 covenants mentioned in this passage really are. It sounds trivial to define what these covenants are. But the fact is that many of us do not understand what they entitle at all.

What is the Old Testament or Mosaic Covenant?
The Covenant was made with the Children of Israel using Moses as a mediator and ratified with blood(Heb 9:19,20, Exo 24:7,8). The Covenant consists of the Ten Commands(Exo 34:28, Deu 4:13, 2Ch 6:11) which were called the Tables of the Covenant(Deut 9:9, Heb 9:4) and the Book of the Covenant(Exo 24:7, 2Kin 23:2) which had all the statutes, judgements and precepts(Deu 5:24-31)

What is the New Testament/Covenant?
The Covenant was made with the House of Israel & the House of Judah using Messiah as a mediator and ratified with the blood of Yeshua the Messiah(Jer 31:31-33, Heb 8:8-10, Heb 9:15,16). The Covenant entails God’s Law being put inside the people and being written in their hearts(Heb 8:10, Jer 31:33).

According to the above, we see an immediate relationship between the 2 covenants. The Mosaic Covenant was the revealing of God’s Law and the New Covenant was the internalising of it by being written in the heart and put inside. The Mosaic Covenant brought forth the Letter of the Law and the New Covenant showed the Spirit of the Law. The Law is common to both Covenants. The difference being, one was written on tables of stone and the other on tables of the heart as alluded in 2Cor 3:3. The Spirit of God is what helps keep the Spirit of the Law, which is the Law written in the heart and put inside us(Eze 11:19,20, Eze 36:26,27). The Law given through the Mosaic Covenant is an integral part of the New Covenant, as the Law of God is what is internalised and written in the tables of the heart instead of the tables of stone.

2Co 3:6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

When Paul says that the “Letter of the Law” kills, he is speaking of the reason for the Law revealed in the Old Covenant – which is to provide the knowledge of sin, which leads to judgement and death. He contrasts this with the “Spirit of the Law”, much in the same way as he does in Rom 7:6, as this is what the New Testament is – an internalising of the Law of God – an obedience which comes from the heart and from inside, instead of a rigid system of obedience to the letter without love.


4. Moses and the Veil

The event where Moses covered his face with a Veil plays an integral part in this passage, as Paul draws on this part of Scripture to make a parallel. Let us examine the story in Scripture, before we move onto Paul’s explanation.

Exo 34:27-35 And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them. And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai. And Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face. But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel which he was commanded. And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

veilWhen Moses went upto the Mount of Sinai and received the Covenant, he stayed up in the mount for 40 days and 40 nights without food or water. When he returned from God, his face was shining visibly, that everyone including Aaron and the rulers of the congregation were afraid to come near him. God’s glory was somehow transferred visibly to Moses’ face temporarily. And He would cover his face from the people, with a Vail until he went back before God. Whenever he returned with a face which shined forth God’s glory, he would cover it with a vail.

5. 2Cor 3:6-11 and the Glory of the Ministries
Now that we have a basic understanding of the context and the Biblical concepts used by Paul, we will move onto the next part of his writing.

2Co 3:6-11 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.

We must understand what Paul is saying in these few verses to get a proper explanation of the main passage in concern. We have already looked at how the context is on being commended for the work he is doing as an Apostle and the questions raised on the validity of his apostleship(2Cor 13:3, 10:8-12, 11:5,13).

Here in verse 6, he continues to explain that God has made them into ministers of the New Covenant. Not of the “Letter of the Law” which condemns us as sinners worthy of death, but ministers of the “Spirit of the Law” which counts us righteous through the Grace of God in obedience of a higher/stricter Law taught by Messiah and internalised by the Spirit. Now in verse 7, Paul moves into a parallelism with the story in Exo 34 by saying that Moses who brought the Law of God to the Children of Israel, was the minister of the Mosaic Covenant which is the “Letter of the Law” which was engraved in stones and condemned us as disobedient sinners. The Glory he speaks of here is regarding the “ministration” and not “The Law” or “The Covenants”. This is a common mistake made by many when reading this passage. In the same way Paul is in the Ministration of the New Covenant, Moses was in the Ministration of the Mosaic Covenant. The Glory which is paralleled is of “The Ministration” and not “The Covenants” or “The Law”. Now calling the “Ministration of the Mosaic Covenant”, the “Ministration of Death” can seem like a negative statement, but as Paul had explained before, the Letter could not save anyone, but put them to death. This was the reason for the existence of the Law – the knowledge of what sin is, and what death is. As Moses was in the ministration of the Mosaic Covenant, which was engraved on stone, his face shone temporarily with the Glory which was from God, that the Children of Israel could not look at the face of Moses. This imparting of Glory on the face of Moses was temporary as we see in Exo 34. Now in verse 9, Paul compares the glory of the Ministry of the Mosaic Covenant, to the Ministry of the New Covenant. He says that the Ministry of the Spirit is more glorious than the Ministry of the Letter. That the Ministry of Righteousness (being seen as one who has paid for sin, and being deemed righteous through the death of Messiah) is more glorious than the Ministry of Condemnation (being labelled as sinners by the Law, deserving of death). Paul goes onto say in verse 10, that if you compare the glory of the Ministry of the New Covenant to the glory of the Ministry of the Mosaic Covenant, the glory of the Ministry of the New Covenant exceeds so much more, that the Ministry of the Mosaic Covenant is almost as if it had no glory at all. (Again please remember that Paul is comparing the “Glory of the ministration”, not the covenants or the Law). In verse 11, he once again reiterates that if the Ministration of the Mosaic Covenant was glorious, in which the Glory of God seen on the Face of Moses, faded away(see end of verse 7), how much more glorious is the ministration of the New Covenant which is in effect today. With this Paul moves onto the passage in concern below.

6. 2Cor 3:12-18 and the Spiritual Vail which covers God’s Glory

2Co 3:12-18 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Paul who thus far compared the glory of the “Ministry” of the Mosaic Covenant and the “Ministry” of the New Covenant, says in verse 12 that they have hope of a greater ministry, that they speak clearly/openly unlike Moses. Moses covered his face with a vail that the Children of Israel could not gaze at what came to be ceased – which is his face that temporarily shone. What he covered with a veil was the “Glory of God” that was temporarily manifest on his face. In verse 14, Paul compares this physical vail that covered the Glory of God that shone forth in Moses’ face to a spiritual vail which blocked the eyes of the Children of Israel from witnessing the fullness of God’s Glory. Paul exclaims that the same spiritual vail or blindness is still blocking their view, that even when they read the Old Covenant they cannot see God’s true Glory because of the spiritual veil which is blocking the light from shining forth. This spiritual vail can only be removed through Christ as per Paul. (It is important to note that the thing that is done away in Christ is not the Old Covenant or The Law, but the spiritual vail which covers their eyes). Paul continues in verse 15 saying, that even in his day, the vail is still upon their hearts when they read the 5 Books of Moses, which can only be removed when their hearts turn to God. In other words the majority of Jews of his day were reading God’s Word without seeing God’s true Glory. This is the difference Paul spoke of earlier, in the Letter of the Law and Spirit of the Law. And that only God’s Spirit will lead people to true liberty. In verse 18, Paul continues to explain that through God’s Spirit, our spiritual vail has been taken away that we look at God’s Glory with an uncovered face (without vail), and are being changed to His glory by looking at a reflection of His Glory (which is Christ, as we see stated in 2Cor4:4,6).

7. 2Cor 4:1-6 and the Glory of God in Messiah
We must continue the reading without stopping here, as Paul has not finished making the point he started making in the start of this chapter. Paul is writing a letter without verses and chapters to the congregation of Corinth. It is important to keep note and continue forward to see what the conclusion of his argument is.

2Co 4:1-6 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

In verse 1 of Chapter 4, Paul comes back to his main argument of seeking commendation, to say that therefore we have a ministry where we showcase God’s Glory, through God’s mercy and without being weary of the obstacles against them. In verse 2, Paul strongly shares that in his ministry they have not being deceitful in handling God’s Word (The Old Testament Scriptures) and that they have not used trickery or been dishonest. He goes onto say that we have been commended to each of the believers’ conscience by the use of the truth of God’s Word and Good News. (We see that Paul is still trying to explain his ministry and the uselessness of being commended by people, when true commendation and glorification comes from God). Verse 3&4 is where Paul explains the vail once again, saying that whoever is blind to the Good News they bring are them that are lost who have been blinded by the god of this world, so that they might not see the glory of the Good News of Christ, which is the Fullness of Glory of God which would shine forth from Christ in the same way that it did from Moses. In Verse 5, Paul yet again speaks how they do not preach/herald themselves but Christ, and themselves only as servants of the congregation and Christ. Paul closes this particular topic in verse 6 by saying that God who created light to come forth from darkness in the beginning of time, has done a similar thing with our own lives. Our hearts which were in darkness have been lit up with knowledge of the Glory of God, which shines forth permanently from the face of Christ, in the same way that the Glory of God shined forth from Moses’ face temporarily towards the Children of Israel.

7.Conclusion
In the congregation of Corinth there seems to be some sort of doubt of Paul’s apostleship (2Cor 13:3, 11:5,13) that made him reaffirm his position and also say that he need not be commended by man to be glorified by God(2Cor 5:12, 10:18, 12:11,12). There were some who were saying that the letters Paul wrote were weighty and powerful, but his demeanor and speech were weak(2Cor 10:8-12) thereby questioning his ability to be an Apostle.

In the chapter in concern, Paul mainly defends his position and Ministry, comparing the glory of the Ministry of the Old Covenant done through Moses to the Ministry of the New Covenant carried out by Paul. The Glory he speaks of here is regarding the “ministration” and not “The Law” or “The Covenants”. This is a common mistake made by many when reading this passage. In the same way Paul is in the Ministration of the New Covenant, Moses was in the Ministration of the Mosaic Covenant. The Glory which is paralleled is “The Ministration” and not “The Covenants” or “The Law”.

Then he moves onto the vail that Moses wore and compares it to a spiritual blindness which keeps some from seeing God’s full Glory. This vail can only be removed by Messiah Yeshua. It is important to note that the thing that is done away in Christ, is not the Old Covenant or The Law, but the spiritual vail or blindness which covers their eyes.

In the beginning of the 4th chapter, Paul concludes by saying that they are being commended to each of the believers conscience by the use of the truth of God’s Word and Good News. We see here that Paul is still trying to explain his ministry and the uselessness of being commended by people, when true commendation and glorification comes from God. He explains that some do not see the glory of the Good News of Christ, which is the Fullness of Glory of God which would shine forth from Christ’s face in the same way that it did from Moses.

Taking all of the above into consideration, we see that this particular passage does not speak of an abolishing of The Law of God or of The Mosaic Covenant. This simply was a case made against opposition made to his ministry, and the blindness of some towards the Glory that comes from God.

Was the “Last Supper” a “Passover Meal”?

The Pre-Passover MealSome believe that the last meal which Christ shared with His disciples, is a “Passover meal”. There are valid reasons for this connection to have been made. In this short study, it will be our aim to check whether the “last supper” was a “Passover meal” or not. If it is, indeed a “Passover Meal”, then the communion taken by millions of Christians worldwide every week, signifies this meal. If it was Christ’s last meal that He taught to be kept as a remembrance, it makes a significant difference in how we view the Last Supper of our Lord.

This post is broken down into these parts
1. What we know about the Biblical Passover Commandment
2. Discrepancies in the Gospels? Or a simple misunderstanding?
3. Was the Last Supper a Passover Seder?
4. Was Christ partaking in a Passover meal?
5. Conclusion

Required Reading
What is the Biblical Day, Week, Month, Year? and does it really matter?
Good Friday or Passover?
Did Christ die on a Friday? The fulfillment of the Sign of Jonah

1. What we know about the Biblical Passover Commandment
1. The Passover meal is consumed at the end of the Passover day, at sunset, when the 15th day is starting, and has to be consumed before the next sunrise(Exo 12:8-10). Effectively, it is consumed on the 1st day of Unleavened Bread before the coming dawn. The Passover day would be on the 14th day of the 1st Biblical month, and does not align in anyway to the current Gregorian calendar which is used by everyone today.
2. The meal itself consists of 3 things, namely, a) Lamb roasted in fire b) Bitter Herbs & c) Unleavened Bread(Exo 12:8).
3. The Passover Lamb was killed on the 14th Day of the 1st Biblical Month, which is the Passover Day, in the evening(Exo 12:6)
4. The Passover Lambs were to be sacrificed at the Temple in Jerusalem, and nowhere else(Deut 16:1-7).
5. This was a commandment which was to be kept forever(Exo 12:24).

2. Discrepancies in the Gospels? Or a simple misunderstanding?
At first sight, the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke) seem to be in disagreement with John’s Gospel on whether the Last Supper was a Passover meal or not. While Matthew, Mark & Luke seem to be saying that Christ and His disciples were having a Passover Meal, John witnesses that Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) was crucified on the Day of Passover. If the Synoptic Gospels are correct, and they were having the Passover Meal, the crucifixion would have happened on the day preceding Passover, which is the 1st Day of Unleavened Bread – A High/Special Sabbath day(Lev 23:6,7, Joh 19:31). My belief is that all of the Gospel accounts are correct, and that there are no discrepancies between them. Out of the 3 possibilities that arise from the Gospel accounts, only one could be correct – and all 4 gospels need to agree, while disproving the other 2 possibilities. For a timeline of the time from the Last Supper to Christ’s Death, please go here.

CaptureThe 3 possibilities we are left with are:
A) The Last Supper was a Passover Meal & Christ died on the eve of the 1st Day of Unleavened Bread
B) The Last Supper was not a Passover Meal & Christ died on the eve of the day of Passover
C) The Last Supper was a Passover Meal which Christ & His disciples consumed a day earlier, and Christ died on the eve of the day of Passover

Verses that are in need of inspection – Gospel of Matthew
Mat 26:4,5 And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.

Mat 26:17  Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?

Mat 27:15  Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would.

Mat 27:62  Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,

Verses that are in need of inspection – Gospel of Mark
Mar 14:1,2
After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people.

Mar 14:12-16 And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover? And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him. And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us. And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.

Mar 15:6  Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired.

Mar 15:42  And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,

Verses that are in need of inspection – Gospel of Luke
Luk 22:7-13
Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat. And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare? And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.

Luk 22:15,16 And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.

Luk 23:16,17  I will therefore chastise him, and release him. (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.)

Luk 23:54  And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.

Verses that are in need of inspection – Gospel of John
Joh 13:1,2
Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him;

Joh 13:27-29 And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.

Joh 18:28  Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.

Joh 18:39  But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

Joh 19:13,14 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!

Joh 19:31  The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

Joh 19:42  There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

Out of the above verses, John is very clear that the “Last Supper” happened at the start of the Day of Passover. The Passover lambs would be killed at the Temple of Jerusalem on the following day from Noon till Evening, and the meal would be taken afterwards at Sundown as it ushered in the 1st Day of Unleavened Bread.

But why do the Synoptic Gospels give a different story. Or do they? According to Matthew, Mark and Luke – the disciples came to Yeshua and asked about the Passover meal, on the 1st day of Unleavened Bread. At first sight, a person who knows about the Passover may become quite confused, as it seems to be implying the Passover was killed on the 1st day of Unleavened Bread. It would be too late to prepare for a Passover meal on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, as the Passover was eaten between Sunset and Dawn(refer above graphic). Also it seems to be in direct conflict with their own words where they mention the day of Christ’s crucifixion as “the Day of Preparation”(Mat 27:62, Mar 15:42, Luk 23:54) which was another name for the Day of Passover – as that was when they prepared for the Passover. These verses from the Synoptic Gospels tend to agree with John’s words in 19:14,31&42 as well.

There is a valid reason why the Passover and the 1st Day of Unleavened Bread seem to be mixed up in the Synoptic Gospels. In the 1st Century AD, The Passover & the Week of Unleavened Bread were not counted as 2 different feasts but one. Josephus, the famous 1st Century Historian regarded the feast to last 8 days beginning on the 14th (Antiq II, 15.1). So, when the Synoptic Gospels speak of the 1st Day of Unleavened Bread, it is in fact speaking of the Passover – the Day of Preparation – which all 4 Gospels agree to in Mat 27:62, Mar 15:42, Luk 23:54, Joh19:14,31&42.

We can rule out a crucifixion and death on the day after Passover (1st Day of Unleavened Bread) because of the above reasons. Furthermore, Mat 26:4,5 & Mar 14:2 witnesses that the Chief Priests & Scribes wanted to refrain from putting Yeshua to death on the Feast (The 1st Day of Unleavened Bread was a High/Special Sabbath day where courts would have not operated). Also, we see that the Synoptic Gospels witness that Pilate released a prisoner on the Feast Day(Mat 27:15, Mar 15:6, Luk 23:16,17) which agrees with Joh 18:39 to be the Passover.

3. Was the Last Supper a Passover Seder?
But why then does Christ say “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer” as seen in Luke’s Gospel? Some conclude that Yeshua had the Passover a day before the prescribed time, because of such verses.

Some of the many similarities that are spoken of, between the Passover Meal and the Last Supper are as follows:
(1) The Last Supper took place in Jerusalem
(2) Held in a room made available to pilgrims for that purpose
(3) The meal was held during the night
(4) Christ celebrated the meal with his “family” of disciples
(5) They were reclining while they ate
(6) Bread was broken during the meal
(7) Wine was consumed
(8) A hymn was sung
(9) The symbolic significance of the meal was discussed

Of the above mentioned similarities, most could be part of any meal. The fact remains that the Last Supper was not taken on the eve of Passover, as we have already tested. The eve of Passover, leading to the 1st day of Unleavened Bread, was the time when the Passover meal was commanded to be consumed(Ex 12:2,6, Lev 23:5, Num 9:3). Messiah was crucified on the day of Passover(John 18:28, 19:14) and He died on the evening of the same day (Mat 27:46-50, Mar 15:33-37, Luk 23:44-46). The Last Supper was eaten, the evening before Passover eve, at the start of the Day of Passover. The Biblical Passover meal consisted of Lamb killed at the Temple in Jerusalem on the Day of Passover, Bitter Herbs & Unleavened Bread. None of which are mentioned by the Gospel writers. Even the Bread mentioned by authors of the Synoptic Gospels is regular bread(G740-Artos) and not “unleavened bread”(G106-Azumos). Furthermore, Christ and His disciples could not have been partaking of a seder similar to a Passover meal today, as some believe – reason being, the Passover Seder was created after the destruction of the Temple in 70AD by the Rabbis, and was not in use before.

4. Was Christ partaking in a Passover meal?
The question then remains, why did Yeshua speak of a Passover Meal? A little known fact about the evening before the Passover (evening that starts the 14th of the 1st Biblical Month) is that the Jews in the 1st Century, and even today celebrate the start of the Passover with a meal. Evidence of this tradition can be seen in The Jerusalem Talmud (Jer. Pes. 27d) reckoned that “the Pesach (Passover) of that time to actually begin on the 14th”. The Foundation Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum ad Novum Testamentum, edited by Safrai, Stern, Flusser and Van Unnik, produced the work entitled “The Jewish People of the First Century” which states of the evening before Passover (evening which starts the 14th of Abib/Nisan) “The eve itself was a sort of feast because the paschal sacrifice was offered that afternoon” (Volume 2, page 809). The Last Supper was most probably a Pre-Passover Meal that was shared in anticipation of the Passover ahead.

Luk 22:15,16 And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.

As we see in Luke’s testimony, this Pre-Passover meal was the closest Christ would be to sharing a Passover meal with His disciples. He had desired to eat the Passover together with His disciples before He suffered, but knew that He would not be alive the next evening. He wishes to share this missed Passover Meal with them, when He returns again and tells them He would not partake of it till then. Looking at this verse in this sense aligns with all of the other verses, as the Last Supper is clearly not a Passover Meal, but a Pre-Passover meal.

5. Conclusion
The Last Supper was a meal shared at the beginning of the 14th Day of the 1st Month of the Biblical Year. Although the Synoptic Gospels and John’s Gospel seem to be contradicting each other, they all agree that Christ died on the Passover and the Last Supper was held the night before. The Last Supper may seem like a Passover seder, but there isn’t enough evidence to prove the likeness of this theory. The Last Supper would have most probably been a Pre-Passover meal shared in celebration of the ushering in of the Passover day, and the upcoming Sacrifice, through which we came out of slavery to Sin, just as the Israelites came out of slavery to Egypt.

Why Christians need to plead forgiveness from our Jewish brethren

From even before the time of the early (so called) Church Father, John Chrysostom who coined the term “Christ-Killer” in 386 AD, referring to the Jews – the time of Passover and Good Friday have been occasion to both verbal and physical attack against the Jewish people by so called Christians. These thoughts and ideas seem to bubble up in some form or manner in Christian congregations even today. It is important therefore to do an internal observation into Christianity, to rectify ourselves rather than point fingers at others.

Imagine a world where Christ preceded Moses, and the Christian preceded the Jew. Now Imagine Jews saying that Moses brought Christ’s teachings to an end, and that we must all follow Moses instead. In this imaginary reality, Christians who did not agree with the Jews were marginalized, falsely accused for various ills, humiliated, abused, tortured, persecuted, their books burned, property confiscated, burdened with extra taxes, forced to wear badges of shame, places of worship burnt, belief outlawed, enslaved, converted forcefully, arrested, imprisoned, expelled, attacked by mobs, burnt at the stake, hung, massacred and even exterminated by Jews, in the name of Moses. Would you as a Christian, want to be associated, much less believe in such a person – in whose name, such grievous acts were done?

Known as the Blood Libel - The accusation of ritual murder by the Jews began in medieval England when a Christian boy disappeared. The local population, already predisposed to blaming Jews for all the ills of the world, was quick to blame the Jews of kidnapping the boy to extract his blood to make Passover bread. An insane accusation as Jewish Law strictly prohibits the consumption of blood

Image of a medieval etching, depicting Jews committing a purported ritual murder, known as the Blood Libel – US Holocaust Memorial Museum

The sad reality is that Christians have done all of the above and much worse to our Jewish brothers and sisters for close to 2000 years, and all in the name of Christ. Most Christians would refuse to believe such, but the annals of history record the persecution Jews have undergone in the hands of Christianity. From before the time of the crusades, the Jews have been looked at as “Christ-Killers” with contempt and disgust. They have been subject to all sorts of physical and psychological trauma because of their beliefs and simply because they are “Jews”. They have been accused of everything from ritual murder of Christian children to the poisoning of water. Antisemitism has been part and parcel of mainline Christianity from the early 1st century Church of Rome to Catholicism right down to Protestantism. When you read Paul’s words of concern and caution to the congregation in Rome, saying “boast not” and “be not highminded” in Romans Chapter 11, you see these roots of antisemitism which snowballed into a tragedy such as the Holocaust.

In my opinion, an even more grievous act has been done to our Jewish brethren by Christians. And that is the stealing of the Jewish Messiah-Yeshua(the real Hebrew name of Jesus) and disfiguring Him and His teachings, so that no Jew would even want to know about Him. Christians are quick to forget that Yeshua, His disciples, Paul, James and thousands of believers in the 1st Century were all Jews. Christians are quick to forget that Paul spoke many a time in his letters about the coming together of Jew and Gentile as one people in Christ. Christianity has made Christ to be the inventor of a new Religion. An abolisher of God’s Law given through Moses. Christians have made themselves the chosen people, while the Jews have been discarded in their minds and sidelined by their actions.

On top of all this, some Christians have the audacity to say that “Jews reject Jesus”. If I was a Jew, and my people were marginalized, falsely accused for various ills, humiliated, abused, tortured, persecuted, our books burned, property confiscated, burdened with extra taxes, forced to wear badges of shame, places of worship burnt, belief outlawed, enslaved, converted forcefully, arrested, imprisoned, expelled, attacked by mobs, burnt at the stake, hung, massacred and even exterminated – in some form by those who profess to be Christians – I would not want any part in such a “Messiah” either. It is time for Christians to wake up and own up, that we have hurt our brothers and sisters for whom Christ died – deeply, and to the extent to which they cannot bare. No matter whether we were not there at the time of such persecution, no matter whether it was not our denomination which did such grievous acts, no matter whether the propagators of such massacres were not real Christians – these acts have been done under the banner of Christianity, by people who profess to be Christians. And it is no wonder that a Jew would teach their child to have nothing to do with Jesus. Christianity has pushed our Jewish brothers and sisters to this place.

Now am I saying this is the only reason the Jews reject Yeshua as Messiah? No. There are several reasons such as the debate on fulfillment of prophecy. But the persecution they have endured at the hand of Christianity is one of the biggest reasons for their current standing of who Yeshua is. It is a scar that is permanently ingrained in their minds. They have endured not only physical persecution but theological, where Christianity believes that it has replaced the Jews as the chosen people. Antisemitic sentiment is rampant in Christian minds, where most regard themselves superior to Jews, when in fact we should embrace them as our brothers and sisters who are the chosen people to whom we are grafted in.

So what can we do, as Christians? We should own up to this faults first. We should not only apologize, but plead for forgiveness from them. And not only them, but from God – for carrying out such heinous acts in the name of Christ, against His chosen people. The people He handed His Word to. The people He made His Covenants with. Not only has Christianity walked away from its roots, it has chopped off its own roots and become a separate tree. Christians need to get in touch with its roots once again. We need to recognize that there was no new religion in the 1st century, but a difference of understanding of Yeshua as Messiah.

So here is my open apology and prayer to my dear Jewish brothers and sisters around the world. “May you have the heart to forgive us for what we have done to you throughout the past centuries. May God – the Creator of Heaven and Earth, to whom both of us pray to – give you the ability and strength to put this scarred past behind you and look at us as your brothers and sisters. We love you. and we pray for your safety and goodwill. May you be blessed abundantly by our Father in Heaven! Amen”

To my Christian brothers and sisters around the world, my prayer is that you study the word more thoroughly, and find in your heart to root out any antisemitic notions in your minds, so that we can truly become one people with our Jewish brethren. Be humble enough to admit the wrongs of our Christian forefathers which we have inherited, and plead for forgiveness for the hurt that which we have caused. May we be able to have a healthy interfaith dialogue with each other through love and patience. And may we have the strength to rise up to the aid of our Jewish brethren whenever they need us.

As Ruth, a Moabite woman by birth, but the Great Grand Mother of King David – the Jewish heir to the throne, said “thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:” – even though our beliefs differ about Messiah, we do believe in the same Creator God. May we also have the ability to accept each other as one people – sons and daughters of God our Father. May you be a blessing to everyone around you.

Was God’s Law blotted out and nailed to the cross? Misunderstandings regarding Col 2:11-17

Paul’s letter to the Colossians contain one, if not the most famous of verses used to prove that God’s Law is done away with Christ’s death. While many Christians quote this passage, not many of us pay proper attention to the words used by Paul – which ultimately leads us to read our own doctrines into the text. Peter was right to warn believers to be careful when reading Paul’s Letters, as many were distorting his words in their day(2 Pet 3:15,16). Nothing much has changed, as the letters and words of this Misunderstood Apostle are still unwittingly distorted by many. Let’s try to put our preconceived ideas and beliefs away so that we can approach the text afresh, and see the true meaning of Paul’s words to the Colossians.

This study is broken down to the following areas
1. Introduction (Col 1:1-2:9)
2. The meaning of Principalities and Powers (Col 1:16, 2:10,15)
3. Circumcision made without hands (Col 2:11)
4. Buried with Him in Baptism (Col 2:12)
5. The meaning of Handwriting of Ordinances (Col 2:14)
6. Let no one judge you (Col 2:16)
7. A shadow of things to come (Col 2:17)
8. Being subject to Ordinances – the commandments and doctrines of men (Col 2:18-23)
9. Conclusion

Abraxas. Egyptian-Roman amulet, 100-400

Abraxas.
Egyptian-Roman amulet, 100-400

1. Introduction
The congregation at Colosse was most probably established and had not even seen Paul face to face(Col 2:1). Paul greets them and thanks God for their faith, telling the Colossians that his prayer is for them to increase in the knowledge and understanding of God. He then thanks God for making them part of His kingdom through Christ. Paul explains that everything in Heaven and on Earth were created through Him, whether it be thrones, dominions, principalities or powers. (This proclamation of authority whether it be in heaven or earth, being under Messiah will be an important thought to consider when we come to the verses in question, as the letter deals with who has authority over the Colossian believers) He goes onto explain that Christ is above all things, being made the head of the body of believers. His blood made peace, reconciling everything to God. Even though the Colossians were aliens before God, when they were doing things contrary to God, Messiah had reconciled them to God through His blood. Paul then explains his ministry to the gentiles of revealing Christ in each and everyone who believes, which was a mystery revealed in their day.

Gnostic Gem Showing the Lion-Faced Deity Laldabaoth (Sophia’s Son). From L’antiquité Expliquée et Représentée en Figures, by Bernard de Montfaucon (Paris: F. Delaulne, 1719)

Gnostic Gem Showing the Lion-Faced Deity Laldabaoth (Sophia’s Son). From L’antiquité Expliquée et Représentée en Figures, by Bernard de Montfaucon (Paris: F. Delaulne, 1719)

In the second chapter Paul once again speaks of the mystery of God, and how wisdom and knowledge is hidden in Him. He asks them to beware of being deceived by persuasive language – in context of Knowledge and wisdom. It is apparent reading the letter thus far, that the Colossians were being persuaded by some party or parties in the realm of wisdom and knowledge. There is a strong probability that these were Gnostics who believed in “Hidden Knowledge” (Gnostikos in Greek meant “Having Knowledge”) – they were known to shun the physical/material world and wanted to embrace the spiritual world. Gnosticism could also be likened unto the “traditions of the elders” which practiced justification through certain works. Gnostics believed that gnosis (knowledge, enlightenment or ‘oneness with God’) may be reached by practicing philanthropy to the point of personal poverty, sexual abstinence and diligently searching for knowledge/wisdom by helping others. Outwardly, it looked like a good way of life, but inwardly it did nothing to help believers, being just man-made ideas. This will be apparent when we reach the end of Chapter 2.

Paul advises them to be rooted and built up in Christ, and be steadfast & established in the faith they had received. In Col 2:8, Paul once again tells them to beware of philosophy, empty delusions which are according to human traditions and principle of the world. And then proclaims once again that all “principality and power” is under him, as the fullness of divinity resides in Him. In other words, their is no higher authority than the savior and lord of our lives, Yeshua the Messiah.

2. Principalities and Powers
At this juncture, before proceeding to verse 11, we must identify the true meaning of “Principalities and Powers”. The usual explanation is that these are spiritual entities which had authority over humans, before Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Let’s test this against the writings. Paul uses this phrasing 3 times in the letter to the Colossians, denoting a certain importance of said phrase to the point he is trying to make.

Col 1:16  For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
Col 2:10  And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
Col 2:15  And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Principalities – Strong’s Dictionary – G746 – ar-khay’ – From G756; (properly abstract) a commencement, or (concrete) chief (in various applications of order, time, place or rank): – beginning, corner, (at the, the) first (estate), magistrate, power, principality, principle, rule.

Powers – Strong’s Dictionary – G1849 – ex-oo-see’-ah – From G1832 (in the sense of ability); privilege, that is, (subjectively) force, capacity, competency, freedom, or (objectively) mastery (concretely magistrate, superhuman, potentate, token of control), delegated influence: – authority, jurisdiction, liberty, power, right, strength.

The use of the phrase “Principalities and Powers” in the New Testament 
Luk 12:11  And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates(G746), and powers(G1489), take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:
Luk 20:20  And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power(G746) and authority(G1489) of the governor.
1Co 15:24  Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule(G746) and all authority(G1489) and power.
Eph 1:21  Far above all principality(G746), and power(G1489), and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
Eph 3:10  To the intent that now unto the principalities(G746), and powers(G1489)in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities(G746), against powers(G1489), against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Tit 3:1  Put them in mind to be subject to principalities(G746), and powers(G1489), to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,

These two Greek words “Arkhay” & “Exooseeah” are mostly used for rule/authority/governance in an earthly sense, as in magistrates, governors, rulers, etc. In the letter to the Ephesians Paul uses the same words to speak of spiritual rule and authority, but he clearly mentions “high places” or “heavenly places” to explain that he is not speaking of it in an earthly sense. Luk 12 and Titus 3 are clearly speaking of earthly rulers and authorities using the same Greek words. Looking at the above evidence, it is most likely that Paul was speaking of an earthly “Arkhay” & “Exooseeah” in the letter to the Colossians. Colossians 1:16 further explains the fact that he was speaking of earthly rulers and authorities as well as the heavenly.

3. Circumcision made without hands
Returning to the Letter to the Colossians, we see Paul suddenly addressing the topic of circumcision. One of the main concerns in the 1st century was whether gentile believers in the faith should be circumcised or not before they were accepted as believers – in other words, some were saying that Gentile believers needed to be circumcised to be saved. The 15th Chapter of Acts shows the conflict and the resolution created by the Jerusalem Council. Many of Paul’s letters directly tackle this idea of “justification by Works” – in other words “being saved because of becoming circumcised”. And it is the same argument that Paul brings to the Colossians. Just after explaining that Christ is above all so called rulers and authorities, he explains that the Colossians have been circumcised with the circumcision made without hands – The circumcision of the heart – both spoken by Paul(Rom 2:29) and God Himslef(Deut 10:16, 30:6, Jer 4:4) in the Old Testament Scriptures. Circumcision of the heart was repentance and turning from your iniquities towards God.

4. Buried with Him in Baptism
After explaining that they have received “salvation” (putting off the body of sins of the flesh) without physical circumcision, Paul then turns to baptism. Explaining that they have died to the old life in baptism (burial in water) and being resurrected through the faith in God, Paul writes that they were dead in sin and uncircumcision – but have now been forgiven their sins.

It is important to note that the Jewish Rabbinic authorities believe a proselyte(convert to Judaism) must engage in Circumcision and Baptism before they are regarded part of the congregation ([A] Refer discussion by Maimonides on Yevamot 47a-b). This is still considered mandatory and is in practice even today. It is proven through archaeology that there were ritual baths (special places for baptism) even before the time of Christ, so it is safe to say Jewish Proselytes were circumcised and baptized before they were accepted into the community, even in the 1st Century. It should now be apparent to you why Paul discusses Circumcision and Baptism in his letter to the Colossians. These were new converts into the faith, and most definitely, the rulers/authorities wanted them to adhere to the customs/traditions of their day. In the eyes of these “principalities” and “powers” a proselyte was to be physically circumcised and then baptized before they were part of the faith. The Jerusalem Council had announced this was not necessary to become part of the congregation as one is saved only by faith and the grace of God. Circumcision was never a requirement to approach God. In fact it was a commandment for parents, as they are the one who circumcised a child on the 8th day.

Paul explained that the Colossians had been circumcised with a circumcision done without hands, and with baptism to Christ – so that they did not need any further acts to be done in accordance to the principalities and powers of their day.

5. The meaning of Handwriting of Ordinances
As we step into the main verses in question, the context leading to this verse becomes all the more important. Christians are quick to say that the phrase “Handwriting of Ordinances” refers to the “Law of God” or “Law of Moses” or “The Old Testament Scriptures”. Nothing can be further than the truth.

Handwriting – G5498 – khi-rog’-raf-on – Neuter of a compound of G5495 and G1125; something hand written (“chirograph”), that is, a manuscript (specifically a legal document or bond (figuratively)): – handwriting. This word can only be found in Col 2:14

Ordinances – G1378 – dog’-mah – From the base of G1380; a law (civil, ceremonial or ecclesiastical): – decree, ordinance.
Luk 2:1  And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree(G1378) from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
Act 16:4  And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees(G1378) for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.
Act 17:7  Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees(G1378) of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.
Eph 2:15  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances(G1378); for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

The phrase “handwriting of Ordinances” is only seen in the letter to the Colossians. The word “Ordinances” (Dogmah) is seen 5 times in the New Testament and 3 of those occasions clearly refer to “man-made Decrees”.

Eph 2:15 stands out amongst them, as Paul connected it to the “middle wall of partition” (also known as the soreg). While God had given Commandments and His Law, the word Dogmah stood for man-made Decrees/laws/ordinances. If Paul was indeed speaking of God’s Law & Commandments, he would not have needed to use the word “ordinance”/”decree”(dogmah) in his letter. These “ordinances” which were prescribed by the principalities and powers, were hostile to the worship of God, as they restrained anyone other than “Jews” (as per their definition) from worshiping God. These ordinances made a clear separation between Jew and Gentile, by elevating one above the other, to the extent where gentiles were looked down upon and disassociated, by Jews everywhere (Joh 4:9,27, 7:35, Act 10:28, 11:2,3, Gal 2:12).

Coming back to Col 2:14, we see that which is blotted out and nailed to the cross is “Dogmah” or man-made decrees, and not any parts of the Scriptures. Just as Paul explains in Eph 2:15, these were hostile towards us. He repeats those words to the Colossians by saying that those decrees were against and opposed to believers of God. In the same breadth Paul explains these rulers and people of authority(principalities and powers) who create and subject others to these man-made decrees had been made powerless by Christ, as He alone held authority over all.

6. Let no one judge you
One of the most misunderstood and misused verses in the New Testament, this verse is commonly used as a proof text to say that the Sabbath and feast days that God called “His Feasts” are now discarded after Christ. Let’s look at the verse a little closer.

Col 2:16  Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

Paul writes that “therefore”, hinting at the so called rulers & authorities (principalities and powers) who are powerless because of the true person who has authority over all of God’s children; For this reason the Colossians should not let anyone judge/condemn them. They were under a higher authority. But what were these Principalities and powers condemning the Colossians for? This verse can be read in the following ways:

A) Let no man therefore judge you FOR NOT ADHERING TO Food Laws, Holydays, New Moon days and Sabbath days.
B) Let no man therefore judge you FOR ADHERING TO Food Laws, Holydays, New Moon days and Sabbath days.

The majority of Christians understand this verse to be read according to “reading A” in which Paul is asking the Colossians to let no one judge them for not keeping God’s Law. The inverse maybe true as well. As per “reading B”, Paul could also be asking them to not let anyone judge them for adhering to God’s Law.

According to the context, it is clear that these gentile believers were being influenced by the Jewish authorities of their day in the realm of adherence to their man-made laws and authority. Paul had already explained that these “dogmah” ordinances/man-made laws were done away in Christ. It is likely that these “principalities and powers” were judging these new Gentile believers for keeping Food Laws, Holy days, New Moons and Sabbath days without proper adherence to their laws which were made for proselytes. In their eyes, these proselytes were keeping the ways of God before being officially accepted into the fold. They were acting outside their authority, and that was not acceptable.

7. A shadow of things to come
Paul concludes the advice about not letting anyone judge them by saying that the Food Laws, Holy days, New Moons & Sabbaths “are” a shadow of things to come. Note that Paul did not say “were” but “are” indicating they are still a shadow of things to come. The next part of the verse is written “But the body is of Christ”, which can also be translated as “and the body is of Christ”. However it is translated, it is apparent that Paul is saying that the Shadow is cast by a body which is Christ. Meaning that these Laws “are” a shadow of the coming Christ and His Kingdom.

8. Being subject to Ordinances – the commandments and doctrines of men
Paul completes his advise on coming under authority/rule of men and obeying their man made laws/doctrines/commandments by speaking of the Gnostic influence on the Colossians once again. We saw that he had mentioned the pursuit of wisdom at the start of the second chapter possibly indicating influence by Gnostics. Now paul speaks of asceticism (a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from worldly pleasures, often for the purpose of pursuing spiritual goals), worship/religion of angels, pride in wisdom and intrusion into the unknown. These were all Gnostic ideas/teachings, making it obvious that one of the main parties trying to influence the Colossian believers were indeed the Gnostics.

Paul reminds them to be firmly connected to Christ, the head of authority, who nourishes all believers in faith. And also to not be in subjection to principles of the world or doctrines/commands of men that say do not touch, taste, handle – which appear to be wise, but is self-made religion and asceticism which neglect the body, but do nothing to stop the indulgences of the flesh. In other words, they seem to be spiritual commands but are man-made ideas which does nothing to bring you closer to God. Some see these verses to be speaking of God’s Law, such as the food laws… but Paul is very clear in saying that these are “commandments and doctrines of men”.

9. Conclusion
The Colossians were a group of new believers who were being influenced and criticized by certain authorities. These “principalities and powers” as Paul put them, were in places of power but had no authority over the Children of God, as Christ was the head of the body. Through His sacrifice, He had put those man-made ordinances/doctrines to shame by triumphing over them. There was no more barrier for Gentiles to approach God in repentance. These proselytes need not be subject to the ways of man anymore. The second influencing factor were the Gnostic thoughts in their day. These ideas rejected the earthly life altogether for Spiritual knowledge and wisdom, in worshiping angels and in asceticism.

The Colossians who were most likely being pushed, bullied and rejected by both Jews who held onto the “Traditions of the elders” and the Gentiles who were peddling Gnostic thought, were being influenced in the middle – to which Paul writes to strengthen them in the Gospel they have heard and to advice them to separate God’s Word from the Word of man. Separate God’s eternal Law from the temporary man-made commands and doctrines. Separate Christ who has full authority over them to the powerless “principalities and powers” of their day.

It is important to dissect Paul’s words carefully, and to always remember that we do not fully know the backgrounds of the assemblies he wrote to, nor the troubles and conflicts they faced. We must understand that Paul adhered and walked according to God’s Law, and that his common rebuke was against justification/salvation through the doing of the Law. When taken in context there is no doubt that Paul was speaking of man-made doctrines being nailed to the cross and being blotted out, and not God’s eternal Law.

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[A]”By three things did Israel enter into the Covenant: by circumcision, and baptism and sacrifice. Circumcision was in Egypt, as it is written: ‘No uncircumcised person shall eat thereof’ (Exodus 12:48). Baptism was in the wilderness, just before giving of the Law, as it is written: ‘Sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes’ (Exodus 19:10). And sacrifice, as it is said: ‘And he sent young men of the children of Israel which offered burnt offerings’ (Exodus 24:5)…When a gentile is willing to enter the covenant…He must be circumcised and be baptized and bring a sacrifice…And at this time when there is no sacrifice, they must be circumcised and be baptized; and when the Temple shall be built, they are to bring a sacrifice…The gentile that is made a proselyte and the slave that is made free, behold he is like a child new born.”

Examining Paul’s letter to the Galatians

The letter to the Galatians, one of the most misunderstood sections in the bible, have become one of the main sources used to label God’s law as a “curse which was annulled through Christ”. This post will attempt to analyse, review and explain this letter written by Paul, using the overall context and try to put to rest many of the misinterpretations and misunderstandings that are floating around in modern Christianity.

The following study is broken down into these key parts for your ease.
1. Exhortation
2. Background
3. Summary
4. Explanation
5. Conclusion

1. Exhortation
It is important to keep in mind the audience and their background as we read this letter, so that we do not read any of our preconceived notions into the text. We must not pluck verses out of a letter meant to be read as one single document. Even though verses and chapters have been divided for us by translators of the Bible, it is important to remember that there were no such divisions made in Paul’s original letter. Furthermore, it is mandatory to keep in mind Peter’s warning regarding Paul’s writings (2Pe 3:15,16) where he states that some things written by Paul are hard to understand and that they are distorted by people who are unstable and unlearned.

2. Background
Authored by Paul – “the misunderstood Apostle”, this letter was written around 50 – 60AD to the congregation of believers in Galatia, a ancient district in what was known as Asia Minor(modern day Turkey), which was occupied by Celtic tribes, from as far as 3rd century BC. The Gauls – of Celtic origin, who were called “Galatae” (Galatians) by 3rd-century writers, settled in the territory in 3rd century BC, and became part of the Roman protectorate in 85 BC.

Statuette of Cybele on a cart drawn by lions - The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Celts who worshiped nature with the help of their druids, are believed to have worshiped the Phrygian form of the nature deity of all Asia Minor, known as “the great mother of the gods”. Known also as Cybele and Magna Mater, the pagan goddess had a holy week in March and a Festival named “Megalesia” in her honor. Various other pagan deities such as Zeus, Hercules, Hermes and Artemis were also worshiped in Galatia according to Coins found from the province.

Paul who had at least visited Galatia twice in his journeys according to the Acts of the Apostles (16:6, 18:23), writes this letter soon after their conversion, as per his complaints of their speedy apostasy (Gal 1:6). The Galatians had believed the Gospel, but were now being influenced into thinking that they were not truly saved until they were circumcised as per the beliefs of some 1st century Jewish believers of Christ. This question was the main subject matter of the meeting of the Jerusalem Council, mentioned in Acts 15. It is important to note that just like there is a debate today as to whether or not we need to obey God’s Law, in Paul’s day, the main debate revolved around whether a person is truly saved if he is not circumcised. (Acts 15:1-2, 15:5-7, 21:20-24)

While many a time Paul refers to all Jews as “the Circumcision”, (as they were all circumcised on the 8th day after their birth by their parents, unlike the Gentile believers), It is important to note that the group usually known as the “Circumcision Party” were a group of Jewish believers of Christ who held to the view that Gentiles could not be saved unless they were Circumcised. This religious view originated from the Pharisaic sect and their Oral Laws (also known as the Traditions of the Fathers/Elders). Circumcision was a statute given to the parents, starting with Abraham(Gen 17:11-12) and became part of the Mosaic Covenant later(Lev 12:3). Nowhere was it a pre-requisite for Salvation, as Abraham himself walked with God for 25 years before he received the sign of Circumcision as part of the Abrahamic Covenant and was adjudged righteous before the act of Circumcision(Rom 4:3,10,11). Paul is seen standing up against their teachings both in his letters (Tit 1:10,14, Gal 6:12,13, Philip 3:2,3) and in person(Act 15:1,2, Gal 2:11-14). Gal 2:13 proves that not all Jews were of the Circumcision Party. Peter himself had a run in with this group previously(Act 11:2-18). It must be pointed out that Paul did not take issue with the act of Circumcision, circumcising Timothy(Act 16:3) and saying it is of “much value” in Rom 2:25 & 3:1,2. His whole argument revolved against the idea of “Circumcision as an act for justification/Salvation” which will become apparent as we move through the letter to the Galatians.

3. Summary
The main subject of the letter is the question of “whether one should be circumcised to be saved?”. This point will become evident as we start dissecting the letter further. The letter starts off with a greeting (Gal 1:1-5) followed by a brief account of his calling (Gal 1:6- 2:10). Then he proceeds to tackle the issue at hand “does anyone need to be circumcised to be saved” (Gal 2:11- 5:12), and ends with additional guidance, final words and a blessing (Gal 5:13 – 6:18).

4. Explanation
Key areas of importance will be underlined for your benefit.

Gal 1:1-5
Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Short greeting by Paul to the brothers of Galatia, introducing himself and glorifying Messiah Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) with Father God in Heaven.

Gal 1:6-7
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

Paul starts by admonishing the Galatians for removing themselves from Christ unto another Gospel. The “Gospel” or “Good News”, as per the apostles was simply that there was life after death through the resurrection of Christ (1Cor Chap 15). Even though he writes of Galatian believers turning to another gospel, he is quick to call it “not another”, in the very next sentence. There are some who have been bringing confusion to the congregation, by teaching them some thing contrary to what Paul had been teaching. These teachers were believers in Yeshua, as they were preaching the same Gospel, but they were also perverting the gospel with their ideas. We will find about these ideas, as we proceed.

Gal 1:8-12
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Paul explains that anyone (whether it be man or an angel from Heaven) who preaches a gospel contrary to what is taught by the Apostles, would be under a curse. And that He obeys God rather than men – as a true servant of Christ does not try to please the whims of men. Furthermore, he confirms that the Gospel he preached came to him by revelation – pointing to the revelation he had on his way to Damascus (Act 9:3-7, 22:6-10). It is apparent that Paul goes on to explain his calling, because certain people had questioned his ministry and whether he can be trusted to deliver truth. According to Paul,not even an Angel from Heaven can change God’s Word/Good news.

Gal 1:13-24
For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me.

Paul provides a detailed account of his work as an apostle after he believed in Yeshua as Messiah. It is important to note that he mentions “the Jews’ religion” or Judaism of his day and that he was above many in the faith. (We know that Paul was part of the sect known as the pharisees – Phil 3:5). He also reports that he was “exceedingly zealous of the traditions of the fathers”. The “traditions of the fathers/elders” is a key dynamic which needs to be understood when reading this letter. It is a known fact that the Pharisees observed a set of laws/rules known as the “Oral Law”, in addition to the written Law of God given through Moses. This “Oral Law” is known as the “traditions of the fathers/elders”(Mat 15:2, Mar 7:3,5) . This same set of laws live on to this day, among a sect of Judaism known as “Orthodox” – and is in the form of a book called the Talmud/Mishnah, today. As per the name, “the tradition of the elders” are traditions that have been handed down by the Elders/Fathers/Rabbis which was considered as Law, and equal to, or more important than God’s Law. The importance of knowing this information will become apparent as we proceed through the study. (For further study on this topic, please refer “Who were the Pharisees” & “What are Phylacteries”).

Gal 2:1-2
Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;  (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.

Paul continues his account from the chapter before, explaining that he communicated what he taught, his gospel, his good message to the Apostles of repute, privately. It is clear that he wanted to make sure his work was done according to the Apostles in Jerusalem, as he communicated his gospel with them privately, so that he knew he had not run in vain. This shows that he had the approval of Jerusalem, when it came to what he taught. This becomes even more clearer when you read Acts 21:17-26, where James conveys how some thought Paul taught against God’s Law, but it was only a misunderstanding. James makes it clear that they have passed judgement, proclaiming new believers among the gentiles to be subject to 4 laws before they are accepted into the fold. His judgement was that the rest would be learnt at synagogue, every Sabbath day(Acts 15:21). Please read this study for more information on the judgement given in Acts 15.

The very next sentence takes a sudden turn from all that Paul was explaining so far, and brings us to the issue at hand. “But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek”. This sentence needs close examination, as it will reveal the underlying issue of “forced circumcision”. It is apparent that some taught the gentiles that “without being circumcised, one cannot be truly saved”(Act 15:1). This was the addition to the Gospel Paul spoke of, in his introduction(Gal 1:6-9). Some were adding to the Good news of “everyone being saved through Christ”. Their addition was that even though we are saved through Messiah, Gentiles should be circumcised to be truly saved. Jews were circumcised on the 8th day after their birth. Gentiles who underwent no such thing, were uncircumcised – hence the issue of whether one needs to be circumcised or not.

While circumcision is a statute of God, it has never been a prerequisite for Salvation. God’s grace alone saves us – this has been the case, even in the time of the Old Testament. So, where did this teaching of “Salvation not being possible unless you are circumcised” originate? It is not a teaching that originates from the Old Testament Scriptures. Reading Acts 15:1&5, we receive another clue into the origins of this idea. This idea was known as a “custom of Moses” and it was promoted by the believers in Messiah, who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees. The words “custom/manner of Moses” draws direct attention to the “traditions of the elders/fathers” mentioned before by Paul(Gal 1:14), and is evident by the fact that it was backed by the sect known as the Pharisees. It is important to note that “custom of Moses” is clearly different to “Law of Moses”.

Coming back to the study, we see Paul defending the liberty in Christ, which is obedience to God’s Word and no other extra teachings such as the “traditions of the elders”, and accuses of false brothers who are trying to put the congregation back in bondage. The traditional understanding of this verse among today’s Christian is that “God’s Word/Law” is bondage. I would like to challenge this preconceived idea – as per what we have gathered so far from the letter – and present that the bondage Paul is speaking of is, none other than man-made teachings such as the “traditions of the elders”. In other words, “liberty” is obeying God’s Word, while “bondage” is obeying man-made teachings as God’s Word.

Paul then goes onto explain that the Apostles understood that he was entrusted the work of taking the Gospel to the Gentiles/uncircumcised, while the likes of Peter were entrusted the mission to the Jews/circumcised. He goes on further to say that the Pillars in the faith, such as James, Cephas & John had also given Paul the “right hand of fellowship” towards his mission/teaching to the gentiles, asking additionally only that he remember to take care of the poor.

Gal 2:11-15
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

As Paul reports a past event where he corrected Peter, the circumcision question is raised again. As Paul describes, Peter and all the other Jews had been eating with the gentile believers in Antioch. This was an unusual act for the Jews, as it was not a social norm at the time. It was considered unlawful for a Jew to keep company with gentiles (Act 10:28). This was a custom which had no root in God’s Word, but had become a norm by the 1st century. In fact, God had shown the error of disassociation with gentiles through a vision to Peter. Additionally, Peter had been accused of eating with Gentiles by the group named the “Circumcision” before (Acts 11:2,3).

We see Paul reporting that Peter had withdrawn from having fellowship with the gentile believers, fearing this “Circumcision” group. Other Jews had also followed suit (this shows that the “circumcision” does not refer to all Jews, but only a specific group in this case just as in Acts 11;2,3). Paul writes that he saw them going astray from the “truth of the gospel”. By disassociating with the Gentile believers, Peter was effectively promoting that “Circumcision” played a key part in Salvation. The “truth of the Gospel” was that a believer was saved through the Grace of God. Peter and the Jewish believers were exhibiting that the Gentiles who had not being circumcised were not truly part of their fellowship and were not walking uprightly according to the Gospel. This had led Paul to admonish Peter by explaining that Paul & Peter who were both Jews by birth, born to the faith of God in Heaven, were different from the Gentiles who are sinners as they did not have God. Paul goes on to say that if he was a true Jew(A Circumcised Child of God), he would not act as a Gentile(Uncircumcised Sinner) and try to compel Gentiles to live as Jews. In other words, he would not compel (through his disassociation with Gentile believers) the Uncircumcised Gentiles to be Circumcised – as his actions gave the idea that without Circumcision, the Gentiles were not truly part of the congregation.

Gal 2:16-21
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

In the previous section, Paul went on to challenge Peter for his lapse in judgement where Peter indicated that an “uncircumcised Gentile was not saved” through disassociating with the Gentiles. In this section, Paul explains this teaching to the Galatians. No man is justified through the “Works of the Law”. No man achieves salvation through the “obedience to God’s Word”. Salvation is a free gift given through the faith we place on God and the sacrifice of Messiah. Turning God’s Law/Word into a set of rules that can be obeyed to achieve righteousness/salvation was what Paul stood against, calling it “Works of the Law”. In other words you were working to attain salvation through the Law, by saying a Gentile is saved through the act of Circumcision. There is no backing for this idea in the Old Testament Scriptures. No one achieved salvation through Circumcision. No one is justified/made righteous/ saved through the observation of Law.

Paul explains that the “uncircumcised gentiles” who are seeking justification/salvation through Christ, does not mean that the Messiah serves a sinful congregation(because the uncircumcised gentiles were seen as sinners still in need of salvation which could be achieved through the observation of circumcision). Paul talks next about not building again which he destroyed. This is surely “the traditions of the elders” mentioned in Gal 1:14, which he says he was extremely zealous for. The “Work of the Law” in discussion in this letter which is “Salvation through Circumcision” is a “tradition of the elders” which Paul says he “destroyed” in himself.

Taking the the above as context, it is clear that Paul speaks of two Laws in the next verse. “Gal 2:19  For I through the law(God’s Law) am dead to the law(Oral Law/Traditions of the elders) , that I might live unto God”. Both the Oral Law and Written(God’s) Law were considered Law in the 1st Century, especially by the “Circumcision Party” who seeked to enforce it on Gentiles. Verse 13 provides the context, to which Law was destroyed by the Other. True Salvation was from God and not by Works done by the individual.

If a person was seeking salvation through obedience to the Law, he ideally neutralizes the Grace given by God freely, which comes through the death/sacrifice of Messiah. The Grace of God is what makes all righteous – and is a free gift which cannot be earned.

Gal 3:1-6
O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Paul admonishes the Galatians for being led astray by these vain teachings. He questions the Galatians whether any of them received the Holy Spirit through the obedience of Law or the faith they had in God? He questions them asking whether after they have received the Spirit of God, they believe “circumcision” could make them perfect/righteous/justified. It is clear that the Galatians have suffered some sort of persecution, and Paul asks them to make sure that it was not in vain. He wants the Galatians to ponder on the question of “Circumcision for Salvation” by looking at the physical signs/miracles done by the Spirit amongst them. If they were not saved, how could the Spirit of God be working miracles in their congregation?

Gal 3:6-9
Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

Paul brings the example of Abraham and how he was justified through faith(Gen 15:6). As God promised that the nations would be blessed through Abraham who was made righteous through Faith, Paul makes the case that the Galatians who are part of the “uncircumcised gentiles” would also be blessed through faith.

Gal 3:10-14
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

A critical misunderstanding must be addressed and resolved in this section. Most Christians believe that the Law is a Curse. Nothing can be further from the truth. Please read this study if you want to know more about the “Curse OF the Law”.  Paul tells the Galatians that whoever wants to achieve salvation through “Works of the Law” are under a curse, as the Law says that whoever disobeys the law is under a curse(Deut 27:26). Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4 saying that we are justified before God through faith. No one can be justified before God by the Law, as all have fallen short(Psa 143:2, Ecc 7:20). The Law is there for 3 reasons – to show what sin is, to curse us when we break it & to bless us when we obey it. Faith is what brings you into favour with God. Faith is all you need to receive salvation. Law is there to guide you afterwards, on how to live life. That is why Paul says “And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.” Faith first, Law second. Since no one can keep His Law perfect, we are bound to be cursed with the curses written in the Law. These curses written in the Law are what Messiah took on Himself. So as we have faith in God, He moves us from death to life, and as we obey Him, if we are to fall short, Christ has already taken the curses meant for us.

♦ Blessings & Curses of the Law: Deu 11:26-28, Deu 30:15,19, Deu 29:21 Dan 9:11, Jos 8:34
♦ List of Blessings for obedience(keeping His Covenant by obeying God’s Law) in Deut 28:1-14 & Lev 26:1-13
♦ List of Curses for disobedience(breaking His Covenant by disobeying God’s Law) in Deut 28:15-68 & Lev 26:14-39

Gal 3:15-18
Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

It can never be emphasized enough here of the reason for the Galatians to consider Circumcision as a valid reason for salvation. When they were taught (much like in Antioch – Acts 15) that without circumcision you are not saved, they were scared that the promise comes after circumcision. The belief was that “Circumcision” comes from Moses – indeed it was given to the people by Moses – but it was instituted through Abraham(Joh 7:22). But nowhere did it say that it was a requirement for Salvation. Abraham himself walked with God for 25 years and received the promises before circumcision. So Paul used Scripture to explain this truth to the confused Galatians. (It is important to note that we must not think less of the Galatians, as this was a genuine doctrinal issue which was not easily settled. Paul and Barnabas had a hard time settling this matter in Acts 15:1,2 which is why they had to get the issue settled in Jerusalem)

In Gal 3:15, Paul makes an important point which is missed by many readers. He says that “even when it pertains to a man-made covenant, no one can add or take away from it”, and then explains that the Covenant made by God through Moses cannot be dis-annulled by the  Covenant God made through Abraham. The Abrahamic Covenant will not be broken because of the Mosaic Covenant which followed. Food for thought, for whomever believes that the Mosaic Covenant is broken because of the New Covenant.

Paul continues explaining that the Promise of Salvation came through the Abrahamic Covenant and that the “terms” were given through the Mosaic Covenant. One did not cancel the other. Abraham, and the nations through him, were to be blessed – which was a promise made before the Mosaic Covenant, to which the believing Gentiles were now qualified through Christ – the Promised Seed of Abraham. The Inheritance or heir-ship in the Kingdom came through the Abrahamic Covenant and not through the Law.

Gal 3:19-22
Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

Since Paul has now said that the inheritance and heir-ship comes through the promise made to Abraham, he then explains the reason for God’s Law. He says that it was given because of transgression. In other words, it showed how to not live contrary to God’s ways. In the same stroke, Paul declares that the Promise is not against the Law either! He says “God Forbid” such a thing! According to his words which restates Scripture, he says that God’s Law was never meant to give life or make us righteous. The Scriptures themselves say that all are under sin(1Kin 8:46, Ecc 7:20, Psa 130:3). No man can make himself righteous through the Law as the Scriptures correctly conclude. Righteousness comes through the promise made to the Faithful. The Promise made to Abraham. That promise was Christ, and Abraham also had faith in Him(Joh 8:56).

Gal 3:23-29
But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Before faith came, that is Christ – the promised one, who even Abraham put his faith on, everyone was kept under the care of the Law. They were guarded by the Law. (Some emphasize how “kept under the Law” showcases the harshness of the Law and how it kept us under its thumb – I would like to point out that the word “kept” used here is “G5432 – froo-reh’-o”, meaning a watcher, to mount guard, to hem in, protect.)

The next verse explains Paul’s words further. The Law was a Schoolmaster who brought us to Christ, till we were justified by Faith. After Christ gave us the promised justification through faith, we are no longer accountable to the Schoolmaster but Christ Himself. (Some point at this verse as proof that we are no longer this harsh Schoolmaster which is the Law. It is advantageous to know that the word used by Paul was “G3807 – pahee-dag-o-gos’ (Thayer Definition – a tutor, i.e. a guardian and guide of boys. Among the Greeks and the Romans the name was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class. The boys were not allowed so much as to step out of the house without them before arriving at the age of manhood). As per Paul we were entrusted to the guardian of the Law till Christ came. The Law was a tutor which supervised and guided the life and morals of the Children of God till the promise of God came to fruition. We were supposed to learn from the tutor till we were old enough to put the learning to practice without supervision. It is erroneous to say that “the Law is done away”, using such a verse when Paul himself said that the Law was never against the Promise a few pen strokes before.

Paul concludes the first section of his teaching by saying, that we become Children of God through faith in Messiah. For whoever is baptized into Christ puts on Christ, becoming one body, so that there is no more division such as Jew/Greek, etc. If we are part of Christ, we are part of Abraham (from who’s seed Christ came), which means we are partakers of the promise of our Father Abraham.

Gal 4:1-7
Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Paul has already made the case that Gentile converts are heirs through the promise made to Abraham – who is Christ. Now he explains that an heir is under guardians and overseers, nothing but a servant – till he/she come of age. Paul explains that all (inclusive of himself) were under worldly principles when we were yet children in the faith – being under various teachers and overseers as we did not know any better. (It is important to note that “elements of the world” denote worldly teachings and not the word of God. As we read the next few verses, it will become clear that these “principles of the world” included
1.”traditions of the elders/fathers” for the Jew (from which the idea of Salvation through Circumcision comes)
2. “Pagan worship” for the Gentile

Paul goes on to say that when the Father discerned it was time, he sent Christ, who was also under the supervision of the Law, so that He could redeem/buy us, so that we could be justified through faith (which the Law could never do). In Gal 3:19-22 Paul had already explained that the Law, which is not against God’s Promise, could never make anyone righteous. “Justification/Salvation/The Promise” was through Faith all along.  If we were to stay under the supervision of the Law, no one could ever be justified, as the Scriptures say that “all are under sin”. Our adoption happens not by keeping of Law, but through Faith in Messiah – which is the Promise. The Law is there to only let us know what Sin really is. Remember, that the core theme is still justification through the Law – especially Circumcision.

The Holy Spirit, was the guarantee of this fact. Paul explains that the Galatians who had seen the power of the Holy Spirit were to know that they had already received justification/son-ship through Faith, and had no need to justify themselves through the Law – especially Circumcision.

Gal 4:8-16
Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?

Next, Paul explains being in bondage under the elements/principles of the world in the sense of the Gentile first. He says that when you (Galatians) did not know the one true Creator, they served them that are not gods (Trees/Sun/Statues/etc). Then Paul questions how they are turning back to the same weak and worthless worldly principles of pagan worship after they came to know the true creator. Paul is alarmed that they have started observing days, months, times and years. Some rush to say that these are Sabbaths and Feast days from the Scriptures. The context is clear that the Galatians were Gentiles involved in Pagan Worship, and after they came to be known by God, they have returned back to their old ways. Could this be the Festivals and Holy weeks celebrating Magna Mater/Cybele, to which the Galaltians were participating?). Paul is afraid that all his work has been in vain, and begs the Galatians not to think that Paul is speaking through anger or offense. He explains that they had done nothing wrong against him and that they had showed him kindness and being a blessing to him, even helping him through his infirmities. So, Paul questions, just because he speaks truth and admonishes the congregation – whether he has become an enemy unto them.

Gal 4:17-25
They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.
But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you. Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

Next, Paul moves onto explain being in bondage under the elements/principles of the world in the sense of the Jew. Unlike the Gentile, the Jew was brought up knowing the Creator, but they were still in bondage because of the way they handled the Law. Through their own traditions, known as the “Traditions of the Fathers/Elders” they had made the Law into a mode of reaching justification/righteousness/salvation. And they were now imposing the same on the confused Galatians. Paul starts by saying that they(the Circumcision Party who taught that Gentiles could not be saved unless they are circumcised) are affecting the Galatians in Zealousness – much like the zealousness Paul had(Gal 1:14). But they themselves refuse to hear/learn or be affected by the Galatians. Paul explains that it is a good thing to be affected by zealous teachings if they were good, whether he be present with them, or not.

Coming back to the main point in concern, he says that it is like he is experiencing birth pains till these children – his children, the Galatians come to maturity in Christ. He questions why they desire to be guarded by the Law, when we should be subject to Christ, and why they do not understand the Law of God. He then relates a story from the Law (Torah or the 5 books of Moses) to explain why we should not be justified by the Law and to show them the bondage, the Circumcision party is trying to put them in. His example from Gen 16 & 21, is as follows:

Abraham had 2 sons. one from a servant(Hagar) and one from a freewoman(Sarah). Isaac, the one from Sarah was born according to the promise of God, while Ishmael was born from Hagar according to the will of Abraham & Sarah because of their lack of faith. Paul explains that this has a hidden meaning, and was a picture of things to come. He explains further, that Isaac through Sarah and Ishmael through Hagar were symbols for the two Covenants. The Covenant which was given at the mount of Sinai gave birth to bondage – this was Hagar. Hagar was the mount of Sinai in Arabia (where most of the Ishmaelites dwelt) and corresponds to Jerusalem on earth, and its children – all the inhabitants who were the Jews. Paul says that just like Hagar, they are in bondage, while the heavenly Jerusalem is the mother of us all, and is free. (The majority of Christians use this example to show how God’s Law brings bondage, and how the New Covenant mentioned by Jeremiah and the author of Hebrews is what frees us from Law. This is a misunderstanding in several fronts, as the whole objective of Paul is to show that we are not justified by Law. Not that the Law is done away. In his own words “Is the Law against God’s Promise? God forbid!”. So what did he mean by this example?)

First of all, we must understand that the two covenants Paul is speaking of, are the Mosaic and Abrahamic. He had previously in Chapter 3, spoken in length, about the 2 covenants and how the Mosaic does not cancel the Abrahamic. His whole premise throughout has been that we are justified by faith through the promise given to Abraham, and not through the Law – especially circumcision, as the Galatians had been taught that they cannot be saved unless they get circumcised – as per the Circumcision party.

Paul explains that the Mosaic Covenant had given birth to Fleshly children who are still in bondage with their mother – earthly Jerusalem. Jews who were trying to be justified through the Law, and who were teaching “salvation through Circumcision” were the ones that symbolized Ishmael – born of flesh, and not promise, who were now under bondage with Jerusalem, as the Law could not save anyone. It must be stressed here that Paul is NOT saying that God’s Law is Bondage. He is saying that the current state of bondage that the religious Jews are in, has come about from the Law – The Mosaic Covenant. This does not mean, it is a fault of God or the Covenant itself, but of the ones who received it and put it into practice.

The Abrahamic Covenant was what gave birth to the children of Promise, who are free with their mother – heavenly Jerusalem. Believers, whether Jew or Gentile, who came to be justified through the faith they put in God and the work of Messiah resembled Isaac, born of faith and promise of a freewoman.

In simpler terms:-

Mosaic Covenant

Abrahamic Covenant

Mother of Flesh – Hagar = Earthly Jerusalem

Mother of Promise – Sarah = Heavenly Jerusalem

Ishmael = Ones who try to be justified through Law

Isaac = ones who are justified through faith

Has given birth to children in bondage

Gives birth to children of promise (heirs)

Gal 4:26-31
For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

Paul, then quotes Isaiah’s words in Isa 54:1, which speaks of the 2 houses of Israel. The House of Israel which was said to have been divorced (Isa 50:1) and was exiled for their adultery was the desolate woman. The House of Judah, who was punished with a 70 year exile period was the one with the husband. Isaiah prophesied that there would be many more children of the desolate House of Israel than of the married House of Judah. The return of the House of Israel was prophesied, and the gentiles who were coming into the fold of the Messiah were part of that woman who was called desolate. (For an in-depth study into the 2 houses of Israel, read this study)

As promised to Abraham, the nations or the Gentile world were to be blessed by the Abrahamic Covenant. Paul explains that just as Isaac was of promise, we are also of promise. And that just as Ishmael (the flesh) persecuted Isaac (the spirit), the fleshly Jews, who are trying to justify themselves through the Law are persecuting the Gentiles who are trying to be justified through faith. Paul goes further on quoting Gen 21:10-12 speaking of how the servant and her son was put out without receiving heirship with the freewoman and her son. He explains that in the same way, the Galatians are to put out the teachers and teachings of “salvation through Law”/”salvation through circumcision” as those will not receive heirship along side the ones who claim “Salvation through Faith”/”Salvation through promise”. Paul exclaims that we are not justified by Law but by faith – we are not of the servant, but of the free.

Gal 5:1-5
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

Bondage came through making the Mosaic Law into a way for salvation. God’s Law was simply the way to know what sin is, the way to obey Him. God entrusted the Law to bless who obey Him with Life and Curse who disobeys with death. This was the curse that Messiah took upon himself. This was the liberty we received. A person who tries to keep God’s Law perfectly, will still fall short and be cursed according to His Word. We can be released from such a curse only through having Faith that he will forgive us through the sacrifice of Messiah. A person who believes in himself to keep God’s Law for Salvation is in bondage, as there is no way he can redeem him/herself from the curse of death. Paul tells the Galatians not to try and receive salvation through the Law (specifically circumcision in their case) after they have been redeemed from the curse of death through Christ. Paul makes himself crystal clear by telling them that whoever practices circumcision for the reason of justification (as he says Justified by the Law) has made Christ’s sacrifice worthless. Moreover, if you are circumcised so that you believe you will receive salvation, that means you are trying to be justified by the Law, which means you must keep the whole law perfectly, without error – as one mistake, and it is in vain, as you are judged a transgressor and cursed with death. A person who puts his/her faith in the Law for salvation makes Christ’s sacrifice a vain thing thereby falling from God’s Grace. Paul explains that all we can do is have hope through the Spirit that we will be judged righteous through faith, as we are unable to save ourselves.

Gal 5:6-12
For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be. And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. I would they were even cut off which trouble you.

After explaining the reason for the Law and explaining the justification through faith, Paul now gets back to the point in question – Circumcision for salvation. He declares that circumcision does not add anything to whoever is justified through Christ – nor does it take away anything from the uncircumcised. Paul questions the Galatians about the person who is bringing these unsettling doctrines to them, and states that he will be accountable for what he teaches. He warns that just as a little leaven puffs up the whole dough, these wrong doctrines can affect the whole congregation. Paul is confident that the Galatians will consider his words and turn back to correct doctrine. Paul who had believed and taught these principles of “Circumcision for salvation” through the “traditions of the elders” as a pharisee, questions the Galatians, “If I am still preaching Circumcision, why am I still persecuted?” In other words, if he was preaching the religious doctrines of the Pharisees according to the “Traditions of the fathers” there would be no need for him to be persecuted. If he was preaching the same doctrine as the “Circumcision party”, then there is no need of preaching salvation through Christ. Paul hopes that these trouble makers would be removed swiftly from the Galatian congregation.

Gal 5:13-18
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

Even as at one extreme Law is used for Salvation, the other extreme is to say there is no Law. So Paul warns the Galatians about using the freedom received through faith in Christ, wisely. To never make it an opportunity to be subject to the flesh/sin, but to love and serve each other. And to remember that the whole Law pertaining to each other, hangs on Love thy neighbor, as thyself. Paul begs them to stop arguing and being at each others’ throats on these matters. He asks to follow God’s Holy Spirit, as it will lead you away from the flesh/sin. And if you are in harmony with God’s Spirit, that means you are obedient to Him in every way – which means the Law does not need to guard you, as you know what is right from wrong. In other words you are not under the supervision of the Law, if you have God’s Spirit in you, as you will be obedient anyway.

Gal 5:19-26
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

Paul makes himself clear that people who engage in sin/fleshly desire such as adultery, fornication, uncleanness and the like, would not be allowed entrance to the Kingdom of God. He urges them to practice love, joy, peace and the like which are the fruits of the Spirit. Towards all good and obedient things towards God and man, there is definitely no Law, as the Law shows Sin, and is against sin. The Law is never against righteousness, that is why there is no law against all good fruits which proceed from God. He explains further that fleshly lusts and affections are put to death by those who are truly Christ’s. Paul urges the Galatians not to provoke or envy each other, and not to desire vain glory, such as that comes from saying “I am Circumcised, so I am better than you”.

Gal 6:1-10
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

Paul comes to the end of his letter and gives advise in several matters, asking the congregation to bring back a person in sin or wrong doctrine back in love, being careful not to be tempted by the same. He asks them to become part of each other’s lives fulfilling the path that Messiah took. He implores them not to be high minded, thinking of themselves above others. Paul asks each of them to test their own doctrines and ministry, so that no one rejoices in the effect they have had on others, but in his/her own life. Teachers should teach the goodness of the word. Paul asks none to be deceived. Who engages Sin will receive rewards of Sin – which is death, and who engages in Spirit receives rewards of Spirit – which is Life.  He asks the Galatians not to be weary of doing good – especially towards believers in Christ.

Gal 6:11-18
Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand. As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

Paul points to the long letter he has written to them, and concludes his answer to the question of “Salvation through Circumcision”. He explains that “they” are compelling you to be circumcised for outward reasons, so that they will not be persecuted by the Jewish religious authority, as Paul is. They desire Gentiles to be circumcised so that they can boast about the people they have brought into their doctrine, and not because they keep God’s Law (as they were breaking most of it through their oral law – the traditions of the fathers/elders). Paul says that he does not glory in anything that he has done or the countless congregation he initiated, but in Christ’s sacrifice and the justification he receives through grace from God. Paul once again pronounces that in Christ what benefits is a new man who has changed his ways, and that being circumcised or being uncircumcised adds nothing to this redeeming work. He bids peace and mercy of God towards them who would stick to this ruling. And asks the Galatians not to trouble him further on this question. With final salutations, he completes his writing.

5. Conclusion
Reading the Letter written to the Galatians as such, a letter, from start to end – helps clear out many misconceptions and misunderstandings that have risen up through Paul’s words. Peter was correct in warning the believers to be careful of Paul’s Letters, as many were misinterpreting his words even in the 1st Century. Is circumcision required for justification? is it a pre-requisite to being accepted as part of Messiah’s Congregation? These were the questions raised in Acts Chapter 15 as well as this letter to the Galatians. Paul dissects the Abrahamic Covenant and explains the essence of the sign of Circumcision as well as the theme of faith and righteousness. If righteousness came through a personal act, one could boast in receiving salvation through what he had done. Paul explained the error of this idea which was being taught by the Circumcision Party being a religious ritual coming down through the Oral Law (Traditions of the Fathers/Elders), existent even today. Erroneous teachings such as “The Law is a curse“, “If you obey the Law, you fall from Grace“, “the Law is done away” and “Law is bondage” are all exposed, while the true purpose of the Law, which was never given for Salvation, but was a light towards the path of Obedience comes out in the arguments of the Misunderstood Apostle – Paul, who was falsely accused of teaching against the Law of God.