Tag Archives: Christ

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.

Understanding Sacrifices and Offerings, and whether they are done away in Christ

The “Scriptures” or the Old Testament, as it is known today, consist of many Sacrifices and Offerings which were instituted by Our Heavenly Creator. Though many of us are vague on the details of such, and see these sacrifices and offerings as archaic and barbaric, we must not forget that they are part of God’s Word. While these sacrifices/offerings have ceased with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD, many Christians believe that they are done away in Christ, never to be re-instituted again. While much of this thinking stems from the idea that “God’s Law is a curse that was done away in Christ“, there are many prophecies which speak otherwise.

the-lamb-illustration-1It is the objective of this study to give you, the reader, a basic understanding of the different kinds of sacrifices and offerings instituted by YHVH through Moses, to unravel the reasons for such actions and see whether they have ceased altogether or whether they will reappear in the time of the Millennial rule of Messiah Yeshua.

 

 

This study is broken down to the following sections:
1. What are Offerings & Sacrifices?
2. The different varieties of Offerings
3. What was the reason for offering sacrifices?
4. Sacrifices & Messiah
5. Earthly Priesthood & Heavenly Priesthood
6. Sacrifices in the Millennial Kingdom?
7. Conclusion

1. What are Offerings & Sacrifices?
Offering – The word translated as “offering” in our English translations of the Bible come from the Hebrew word “Korbawn” (H7133 – something brought near the altar, that is, a sacrificial present: – oblation, that is offered, offering). An offering was a gift brought before God, similar to a manner of approaching a king, with humility and due honor. It did not necessarily consist of Animal Sacrifices, but could be anything from bread to jewels(Num 28:2, 31:50). We see Yeshua alluding to the same “Corban” in Mark 7:11 when rebuking the Pharisees.

Sacrifice – The word translated as “sacrifice” in our English translations of the Bible come from the Hebrew word “Zabach” (H2076 – to slaughter an animal. usually in sacrifice: – kill, offer, sacrifice, slay). An Offering was not necessarily a “Zabach” (animal sacrifice). The difference could be seen clearly in Lev 3:1 And if his oblation(Korbawn) be a sacrifice(Zabach) of peace offering, if he offer it of the herd; whether it be a male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the LORD.

2. The different varieties of Offerings
While Animal Sacrifices(Zabach) was just one type of offering, there are also many other types of offerings, that we are not familiar with. Offerings could be divided to 2 main categories as “blood offerings” and “bloodless offerings”.

BLOOD OFFERINGS mainly consisted of
“Olah” translated as Burnt Offerings (H5930 – ascending, going up in smoke: – ascent, go up)
“Shelem” translated as peace offering (H8002 – requital, that is, a sacrifice in thanks)
“Chattath” translated as sin offering (H2403 – offence, and its penalty, occasion, sacrifice, or expiation; also an offender: – punishment of sin, purifying for sin, sinner). Both “Sin” and “Sin Offering” is called “Chattath” (Lev 4:3).
“Asham” translated as Trespass offering (H817 – guilt; by implication a fault; also a sin offering: – guiltiness, offering for sin, trespass)

BLOODLESS OFFERINGS mainly consisted of
“Minchah” translated as Meat/Meal Offering (H4503 – apportion, that is, bestow; a donation; euphemistically tribute; specifically a sacrificial offering. usually bloodless and voluntary: – gift, oblation, meat offering, present, sacrifice).
“Nesek” translated as Drink Offering (H5262 – libation; pouring out, pour)

RITUALS OF OFFERING THE ABOVE
“Terumah” translated as Heave Offering (H8641 – something raised, lifted, offered up). For example, part of the Peace offering could be lifted up, and therefore called a heave offering (Lev 7:32)
“Tenuphah” translated as Wave offering (H8573 – tumult; specifically the official undulation of sacrificial offerings: – offering, shaking, wave). For example,  part of the Peace offering could be waved, and therefore be called a wave offering (Lev 7:30). Several offerings were waved, such as the Leper’s trespass offering (Lev 14:12), Consecration offering (Lev 8:27), Sheaf of Firstfruits (Lev 23:11) and Loaves at Pentecost (Lev 23:17).

THE SIX MAIN OFFERINGS COMMANDED BY GOD
1)Burnt Offering (Olah)
2)Meal Offering (Minchah)
3)Peace Offering (Shelem)
4)Sin Offering (Chattath)
5)Trespass Offering (Asham)
6)Drink Offering (Nesek)

Different combinations of these above categories of offerings were used for different instances – such as – consecration of priests, nazarite vow, cleansing of leper, person defiled with issue, women giving birth, jealousy trial, etc.

3 MAIN GROUPS OF OFFERINGS
• Sweet savour offerings – Burnt and Peace offerings
• Atonement offerings – Sin and Trespass offerings
• Supplementary offerings – Meal and Drink offerings (added to other offerings)

1) BURNT OFFERING
Burnt Offerings are first seen many years before Moses, being offered by Noah(Gen 8:20),  Abraham(Gen 22:2) & Job(Job 1:5). Better translated as “Ascending Offerings”, these were wholly burnt at the Altar.

Commanded Burnt Offerings –
1) Continual Burnt Offering – One lamb was to be offered each morning and evening (Exo 29:42) at the Temple, and the fires would continually burn through morning to evening, and so on.
2) Sabbath Burnt Offering – On top of the continual burnt offering, on the Sabbath, two lambs were offered (Num 28:9,10).
3) New Moon/Month Burnt Offering – Two young bullocks, one ram & seven lambs were offered on the first day of each month (Num 28:11).
4) Burnt offerings at the seven Feasts/Appointments – Passover(2Chr 30:24), Unleavened Bread(Num 28:24), Firstfruits(Lev 23:12), Pentecost(Lev 23:18), Trumpets(Num 29:2), Atonement(Lev 16:24), Tabernacles(Num 29:13-38)
5) Consecration – of priests(Lev 8:18, 9:2), of people (Lev 9:3-7) of Levites(Num 8:12)
6) Dedication – of the altar – (Num 7:87), of the temple(1Kin 8:64)
7) Cleansing – of women bearing children(Lev 12:6), of lepers(Lev 14:19), of people with some kind of bodily discharge(Lev 15:15), a defiled Nazarite(Num 6:11)
8) Completion of a vow(Num 15:8), specifically a Nazarite vow as well(Num 6:14)

Each day, each sabbath, each month, each feast, in consecration, dedication, cleansing and completion of oaths, physical contact with God was prescribed. They were constant reminders of who is King, Lord & God. All important events and commemorations were celebrated by offering such gifts to God.

Voluntary Burnt Offerings
An individual could bring a burnt offering on his own free-will, but what should be offered and how it should be offered was instructed(Lev 1:2 onwards). Even the people who were not native born Israelites (aliens/strangers) were capable of making burnt sacrifices(Lev 22:18). The poor could also offer pigeons and turtle doves instead bullocks and lambs(Lev 12:8 & 1:14).

The process of sacrifice
• Offering – being accepted by God
It was offered only at the brass altar in front of the door of the tabernacle/temple(Lev 17:8-9).
The offerer then laid the hand on the animal, identifying with it, and showing that he himself is offered up(Lev 1:4)
• Shedding blood – being atoned/covered by God
The offerer killed the animal and shed the blood, which was sprinkled around the altar by the priest(Lev 1:5). Then he had to skin the animal, at which point the skin was kept by the priest(Lev 7:8). Then the offerer cut the meat into pieces, which was placed on the altar by the priest(Lev 1:6-8). The inwards and legs were washed with water, and placed by the priest on the altar(Lev 1:9)
• Burning – Being adored by God
Then all of the animal was completely burnt on the altar as a pleasant smell to God(Lev 1:9)

While in some offerings, the offerer and the priest shared a part, in the burnt offering they burnt it whole to God as a sweet savour. The same applied for a poor man who brought a pigeon – the only difference being the priest would kill it instead(Lev 1:14-17).

The burnt offerings were accompanied by a drink offering and meal offering, with various sizes according to the animal(Num 15:3-12). Trumpets were sounded over the burnt offerings done on the New Moon days and appointed feasts(Num 10:10).

2) MEAL OFFERING
Usually translated as meat offering in the King James Version, the reason for this was that “meat” was generally used for food in the early days. It is also translated as meal offering or grain offering in various translations, but the meaning derived from the Hebrew word “Minchah” is Gift/tribute/apportion. First seen in Gen 4:3-5 in the offerings of Cain & Abel, it is seen again in Gen 32:20 & Gen 43:26 translated as present. The Meal offering is an act of remembrance(Lev 2:2), of worship, gratitude and request for future blessing. As a supplementary to other offerings such as the daily, Sabbath, Feast day offerings, Consecration of the priests & levites, End of a Nazarite vow and the Cleansing of the leper, the portion of the meal offering varied according to the animal sacrificed(Num 15:4-10).

The ingredients of the meal offering consisted of fine flour, oil and frankincense(Lev 2:1). Every meal offering was also seasoned with salt, called the “salt of the covenant”(Lev 2:13). Salt being a preservative agent, was certainly used to ratify covenants(Num 18:19, 2Chr 13:5). Anything Leavened was not part of Meal offerings.

The process of sacrifice
The meal offering according to Lev 2:2-3 is;
• a memorial – reminder of the indebtedness to God
• Offering made by fire – consumed by fire to indicate being devoted wholly to God
• Sweet Savour – Giving satisfaction to God

3 states of wheat could be used for the meal offering:
1) Corn – Ears of wheat parched on a pan and rubbed to obtain roasted grains (Lev 2:14)
2) Flour – Wheat ground into fine flour and mixed with oil to make a batter (Lev 2:1)
3) Bread – The flour baked into bread could be offered by baking in the oven, baking in a flat plate or baking in a frying pan (Lev 2:4,5,7)

It was brought by the offerer to the priest, who burned the necessary quantity at the altar. The amounts of oil and frankincense used with the component of wheat differed according to the animal sacrificed(Num 15:4-11)

After it was burnt at the Alta, whatever was left was provided to the priests (sons of Aaron) as food. It was to be eaten inside the holy place, in the court of the tabernacle, and never to be baked with leaven. Only people who were ritually pure could eat it, and this was said to be a statute forever(Lev 6:14-18).

3) PEACE OFFERING
Derived from the root word “Shalam” (H7999) meaning to be safe, it was an offering of giving thanks, and were divide into 3 types of peace offerings (Lev 7:11-16)
1)Thanksgiving for received salvation(Lev 7:12)
2)a fulfillment of a vow – when expected salvation is received(Lev 7:16)
3)voluntary offering of giving thanks(Lev 7:16) – as an expression of rejoicing with God, as in the case of Solomon at the dedication of the Temple (1Kin 8:63)

The peace offering consisted of a part of an animal sacrificed to God through fire, part given to the priest as food and the rest eaten as a festive meal in fellowship.

The offerer could bring an ox, sheep or goat from his flock(Lev 3:1,6,12) but it would need to be without blemish. There was more freedom of choice as a male or female could be offered up, but there was no provision for a pigeon or dove as the whole point of the offering was the sacrificial meal, and a chance to join with God in a time of fellowship and thanksgiving.

The peace offering was also accompanied by 4 varieties of cakes(Lev 7:11-14)

The process of sacrifice
Similar to the burnt offering, the offerer brought the animal to the door of the tabernacle, laid hands on it, identifying himself with it, and killed it. The priests sprinkled the blood, after which the offerer removed all the fat of the animal as part of God’s burnt offering(Lev 3:3-5,9) set forth as a sweet savour to Him. The fat was prescribed as the food of YHVH offered up by fire(Lev 3:16). The second portion was given to the sons of Aaron as per the instructions of God(Lev 7:34, 10:15) The remainder was used in a sacrificial meal eaten inside the temple court with all of the offerers family including his servants(Deut 12:11,18) with much rejoicing(Deut 12:7). This is what Paul alludes to in 1Cor 10:18. They were having communion with God. The meal was to be partaken on the same day, but could be eaten the next day if it was for a vow or a voluntary offering. Whatever was left had to be burnt with fire on the third day, and nothing left or eaten(Lev 7:15-18).

If the sacrificed meat came in contact with something unclean, it could not be eaten but burnt. All who ate it had to be ceremonially clean as well. Any who broke these precepts were said to be cut off from His people by God Himself(Lev  7:19-21).

The fat was not to be eaten as it was God’s portion, and the blood was not to be eaten(Lev 7:22-27) as it was used for atonement and had life(Lev 17:11).

4) SIN OFFERING
With the giving of the Law, everyone was given the knowledge of Sin (Rom 5:13). No more could one say “I did not know”. This offering was intended for such a person who had broken God’s Law to be restored back to a right relationship with God(Lev 4:31). Willful sin could not be atoned through this offering. Lev 4:2,13&22 shows whether it is the individual, the congregation or a ruler, they must all atone for sinning through ignorance. Lev 5:1-4 specifically mentions a few unwitting sins – a witness who keeps quiet, a person who touches an unclean thing and realizes it later and a person who makes a rash oath and realizes his guilt. Confessing the sin was of utmost importance(Lev 5:5). The sacrificed animal would take the place of the person for his guilt and act as atonement.

Different people in different offices had to bring different sacrifices according to the greater responsibility they carried. The higher the rank, the more valuable the sin offering would be.
• The high priest must bring a bullock (Lev 4:3-12)
• The whole congregation must bring a bullock (Lev 4:13-21)
• A ruler must bring a male goat (Lev 4:22-26)
• A common man must bring either a female goat(Lev 4:27-31), a female lamb(Lev 4:32-35), two turtledoves or two pigeons(Lev 5:7-10), or a tenth of an ephah of fine flour(Lev 5:11-13).

Sin done knowingly was not covered through the sin offering and God had mentioned that people doing such would be cut off from His people(Num 15:30).

The process of sacrifice
The offering was brought to the brass altar at the door of the tabernacle(Lev 4:18). Then the offerer laid his hands on the offering(Lev 4:33), and possibly confessed the sin(Lev 5:5, 16:21). Then the animal was killed by the offerer(Lev 4:29). Blood was sprinkled as atonement(Lev 4:5-7) and the fat was burnt on the bronze altar(Lev 4:8-10). The remainder would be burnt wholly outside the camp in case of the priest’s or congregation’s sacrifice(Lev 4:12,21), but was left for the priest’s consumption in other cases(Lev 6:26).

5) TRESPASS OFFERING
The trespass offering and sin offering are closely associated to each other. While sin was the act, trespass was the result. The word “Asham” (H817) is used for the trespass(Psa 68:21), the trespass offering(Lev 5:18) and the compensation paid for it(1Sam 6:3).

Trespasses were divided among things done against God(Lev 5:14-19) & things done against the neighbor(Lev 6:1-7). A trespass against his neighbor is also counted as a trespass against God (Lev 6:2).

The process of sacrifice
The trespass was confessed, assessed and paid with a fifth being added to what was taken/lost(Num 5:7). After the trespass was recompensed, a ram was offered to God(Lev 6:5-7). When David said “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned”, he understood that the trespass against Uriah was a sin against God. If the person who was wronged was dead or had no family, the payment would go towards the priest(Num 5:8). Just as in the sin offering, the animal was killed near the altar, blood sprinkled and the fat burned, while what remained was given to the priest to be eaten in the holy place(Lev 7:1-6).

6) DRINK OFFERING
The drink offering which had the act of pouring out, usually consisted of Wine. In Gen 35:14 Jacob pours a drink offering as well as David is seen doing the same in 2Sam 23:16. Used as a complementary offering, it was used for all offering other than the Sin offering and Trespass offering. Even though oil and water was also used as drink offerings, the prescribed drink offering of the temple was of Wine(Exo 29:40). And even strong wine was used(Num 28:7).

The process of sacrifice
Various quantities of wine was offered alongside the main sacrifice, and was poured on them(Num 15:5,7,10). The table of shewbread consisted of a jug and cup for the pouring out of these sacrifices(Exo 37:16, Num 4:7 – cover should be translated “poured out/cup”). The drink offering was most probably poured on the sacrificed animal(Lev 23:18). It was a sweet savour offering before God’s eyes(Num 15:10) and is never mentioned to have been drunk by the priests.

3. What was the reason for offering sacrifices?
The sacrifices each person had to offer for various reasons at various occasions created a profound sense of responsibility, accountability of personal actions and duty/reverence towards the King over all – our Father in Heaven. While in our current lives we have no way of measuring sin, or better, the wages of sin – the people who made physical sacrifices of blood and wine experienced what it took to cover sin, to approach God, to be holy before Him. Offerings gave weight to Sin, in a way we can never understand, as each person had to offer their own sacrifices, killing animals, thereby getting covered in their blood – experiencing first hand, that it took life to cover death – it took blood to cover sin.

Another reason for many of the misunderstandings regarding these offerings, stem from a wrong understanding of what Atonement is. Derived from the Hebrew word Kaphar(H3722) “Atonement” means “to cover”, as covering your sin. A good example for the above is Gen 6:14, where “Kaphar” is used as cover instead of atonement. While the blood covered the shamefulness, nakedness and sin, the forgiveness wrought from offering sacrifices could not have been a complete, spiritual forgiveness. In Yeshua, we have spiritual forgiveness so that even if our body dies, it can be resurrected anew. The earthly forgiveness, that sacrifices brought was a temporary bridge so that we were not cut off from a Holy God because of our Sinful nature. To understand this more fully, we must understand the connection between Sacrifices & our Messiah.

4. Sacrifices & Messiah
As a lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Messiah’s Sacrifice was the pinnacle of all Sacrifices, and it is evident that all sacrifices pointed to Him. But it is important to understand that His sacrifice is not offered up in an earthly temple, but in the heavenly construction(Heb 9:23-26). What was created on earth was a duplicate of the heavenly(Exo 25:40, Heb8:5), and it is in this heavenly temple that Yeshua offers up His blood. His sacrifice is what purifies the soul and clears our conscience(Heb 9:9), which could not have been wiped clean with the blood of earthly sacrifices, but only covered(Atoned).

When we as Children of the Most High, sin, we bring shame to Our Father. And for such actions we should ideally be punished – but Our Messiah took on our shame, thereby taking the just punishment we should receive, on Himself. The love that Yeshua showed us is boundless for this reason. In animals, the life given for our own, was of a lesser being which was only able to cover us for the time, but not give just satisfaction for the trespass done against God. Yeshua’s Life was a just exchange for our own lives which were destined for death, but in Him have been transformed to Life.

So the question should never be “whether Earthly Sacrifices are done away in Christ”. Rather, the Heavenly Sacrifices offered by Yeshua are a means of receiving purification for our life beyond the earthly bodies, while the earthly sacrifices were a means of being covered on earth, so that we are not cut off from God, in our walk till we attain eternal life. The two should not be mixed up, as one has nothing to do with the other – the heavenly being for eternal life and the earthly being for the temporary life on earth.

5. Earthly Priesthood & Heavenly priesthood
In the previous section we saw that the Earthly Temple built in Jerusalem was a copy of a Heavenly temple structure. The Earthly Temple was handed over to the Levites and the Sons of Aaron to be managed, and it is a clear fact that Yeshua can never be a priest on earth(Heb 7:13,14). All throughout the Book of Hebrews, its author explains how Yeshua, in the order of Melchizedek, has taken charge of the heavenly service and sacrifice, where better sacrifices are offered(Heb 9:23). On earth, fleshly bodies needed cleansing even after Yeshua’s death. A good example being Paul’s own sacrifice and purification done in the Temple in Jerusalem. Just as the Earthly Sacrifices should not be mixed up with the Heavenly Sacrifices, the Earthly priesthood should not be mixed up with the Heavenly priesthood. One does not replace the other, but only foreshadows the better – the Heavenly.

Heb 9:23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

6. Sacrifices in the Millennial Kingdom?
Most of the prophets in the Scriptures speak of the Millennium reign of Yeshua. And one interesting fact is that almost all of these verses speak of various offerings such as Burnt sacrifices and Animal Sacrifices made at the time. A few such instances are given below.

Isa 56:6-8 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(Olah) and their sacrifices(Zebach) shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.

Jer 33:15-18 In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness. For thus saith the LORD; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings(Olah), and to kindle meat offerings(Minchah), and to do sacrifice(Zebach) continually.

Dan 9:27  And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice(Zebach) and the oblation(Minchah) to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

The greatest detail of such sacrifices comes from not these, but Ezekiel Chapter 40 to 46. All sorts of details from the sizes to the appearance of the new temple is prophesied through Ezekiel. Ezek 43:18-27 speaks of the animal sacrifices offered on the altar by the Levites, while chapter 44 goes on to speak of the Levites in service and especially the lineage of Zadok. Chapter 45 & 46 continue to speak of animal sacrifices, and all of the instituted offering in the book of Leviticus, as well as specific offerings made on the sabbaths, new moons and feast days.

Eze 40:42  And the four tables were of hewn stone for the burnt offering, of a cubit and an half long, and a cubit and an half broad, and one cubit high: whereupon also they laid the instruments wherewith they slew the burnt offering(Olah) and the sacrifice(Zebach)
Eze 44:11  Yet they shall be ministers in my sanctuary, having charge at the gates of the house, and ministering to the house: they shall slay the burnt offering(Olah) and the sacrifice(Zebach) for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister unto them.
Eze 46:24  Then said he unto me, These are the places of them that boil, where the ministers of the house shall boil the sacrifice(Zebach) of the people.
Eze 43:18-27 And he said unto me, Son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD; These are the ordinances of the altar in the day when they shall make it, to offer burnt offerings(Olah) thereon, and to sprinkle blood thereon. And thou shalt give to the priests the Levites that be of the seed of Zadok, which approach unto me, to minister unto me, saith the Lord GOD, a young bullock for a sin offering(Chattath). And thou shalt take of the blood thereof, and put it on the four horns of it, and on the four corners of the settle, and upon the border round about: thus shalt thou cleanse and purge it. Thou shalt take the bullock also of the sin offering(Chattath), and he shall burn it in the appointed place of the house, without the sanctuary. And on the second day thou shalt offer a kid of the goats without blemish for a sin offering(Chattath); and they shall cleanse the altar, as they did cleanse it with the bullock. When thou hast made an end of cleansing it, thou shalt offer a young bullock without blemish, and a ram out of the flock without blemish. And thou shalt offer them before the LORD, and the priests shall cast salt upon them, and they shall offer them up for a burnt offering(Olah) unto the LORD. Seven days shalt thou prepare every day a goat for a sin offering(Chattath): they shall also prepare a young bullock, and a ram out of the flock, without blemish. Seven days shall they purge the altar and purify it; and they shall consecrate themselves. And when these days are expired, it shall be, that upon the eighth day, and so forward, the priests shall make your burnt offerings(Olah) upon the altar, and your peace offerings(Shehlem); and I will accept you, saith the Lord GOD.

The context of the above Scriptures is the Millennial Kingdom beyond any doubt. And it is clear that these prophets have spoken of Sacrifices being offered up at that time, just like before. So the thought we need to consider is why such sacrifices are offered in the future. As mentioned before, the Heavenly Sacrifices done through the Heavenly Priesthood is Spiritual in nature and brings eternal life through the wiping away of sin, while the Earthly Sacrifices done through the Earthly Priesthood is physical in nature and acts as a temporary cover from sin on earth.

In the Millennial Kingdom, Sin is still an active facet of life(Zec 14:16-19, Rev 20:7,8) and will not be expunged till the end of the Millennial Kingdom(Rev 20:14). Paul is right in saying “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin(Rom 3:20).” During the 1000 year reign of Yeshua, righteousness and holiness will prevail, but those with earthly bodies will still have a sin nature, and there will be a need to teach about how offensive sin is to a holy and righteous God. Animal sacrifices will serve that purpose, “but in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year”(Heb 10:3). A temporary cover for sin will be required at this time, through offerings made at the active Temple in Jerusalem. Only after the Millennial reign, will the Heavenly Jerusalem come down, replacing the Old Temple with the Heavenly(Rev 21:1-4). When sin and death are cast off, there will be no more reason for physical animal sacrifices – till that time, the re-instituted system of Temple Offerings will stand according to Scripture.

7. Conclusion
The reason for the objections brought against an earthly sacrificial system stem from the belief that “Sacrifices” took away sin. We have seen that the blood of animals could never wipe away sin, but rather act as a temporary covering. What’s more, the sacrifices also gave weight to “Sin” and served as a lesson to the sinner, that the relationship with God was based on purity and obedience. Just as one cannot approach a king without right attire, a man in sin could not approach a Holy God. In the earthly realm, the instituted offerings dressed up the person so that they were not naked before God, in their walk in this temporary body. Offerings showed how great and holy God was and what drawing near to Him entails.

Yeshua’s sacrifice and His Blood could never be offered in the earthly temple, but in the Heavenly construction where it cleared the conscience and made us pure in Spirit so that one could receive Eternal Life. While the earthly foreshadows the heavenly, the two are separate and have nothing to do with each other – one meant to be a temporary cover for temporary life and the other wiping away sin wholly, opening a path to Eternal Life. This is why the Sacrifice of Messiah did not abolish the Earthly Sacrifices. It is why even the Apostle Paul went to purify himself through sacrifices in the temple many years after the death of Messiah(Acts 21:23-26). It is why the prophets speak of a time where offerings will be re-instituted with the building of a third Earthly Temple in Jerusalem.

Even though these offerings were expressions of ones heart, symbolic of the offerer being offered up as an offering, they were never a substitute for obedience to God(1Sam 15:22, Mic 6:6-8). The psalmist put it aptly when he said “An afflicted heart would be desired more by God, than burnt sacrifices(Psa 51:16,17)”. What matters is obedience, when it comes to His Word. And the sacrifices and offerings instituted by YHVH are part of His word. It was never abolished in Yeshua, but rather ceased temporarily with the destruction of the temple only to be re-instituted when it is rebuilt. In the interim we can only bring our prayers as Offerings, and our lives as a sacrifice unto Him. Let us be obedient in all He has instituted, walking in holiness, and do what is possible till the prophesied time of His return.

Did Christ die on a Friday? The fulfillment of the Sign of Jonah

The death of Christ is celebrated all over the world on “Good Friday” by millions of Christians in different denominations. But few question the origins of “Good Friday”, even if it is not mentioned in the Bible. Not only does it not contain “Good Friday”, the Gospels do not even speak of a Friday Crucifixion. But why then, do Christian congregations around the world teach/celebrate a “Friday” Crucifixion? In today’s study, we will delve into this question and find answers with the help of “the Sign of Jonah” mentioned by Christ several times in the Gospel accounts.

1. Introduction
The only thing mentioned throughout the Gospels without any disagreements, is that Yeshua (Jesus’ true name) died on the day known as Passover (John 18:28, 19:14, Mat 27:46-50, Mar 15:33-37, Luk 23:44-46). So where did the idea of a Friday Crucifixion arise from? Let’s review the information given by the writers of the Gospels.

  1. Yeshua died on the Evening of the Passover. (John 18:28, 19:14)
  2. Yeshua died around the 9th Hour of the Passover day (3pm in Modern day time)
    (Mat 27:46-50, Mar 15:33-37, Luk 23:44-46)
  3. Yeshua died on an evening before the Sabbath, or as it was drawing towards the Sabbath (Joh 19:31, Mar 15:42,43, Luk 23:52-54). The Sabbath started at sundown(Lev 23:32)
  4. Yeshua rose after the Sabbath and before dawn on the 1st day (Mt 28:1-6, Mar 16:2-4, Luke 24:1-3, Joh 20:1,2)

So according to the above biblical evidence, Yeshua died before the Sabbath and rose after the Sabbath. The biblical Sabbath Day coincides with the day which is presently known as Saturday. Using the above, Christian Denominations around the world believed, and still believe in the following hypothesis (Please note that the following will be disproved using Scripture subsequently)

2. Today’s belief of the majority:

Crucifixion and death on Passover = (Friday Eve)

In the Tomb on Sabbath Day = (Saturday)

Resurrection = (Sunday before dawn)

This is the reason all Christian Denominations regard “Friday” as the day of Crucifixion & “Sunday” as the day of “Resurrection”. But this theory has a major flaw in it.

3. A questionable hypothesis

Mat 12:40  For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

As per above text from the Gospels Christ alluded that the story of Jonah was prophetically connected to Him, and that He would be in the heart of the earth for 3 days and 3 nights. According to the theory highlighted in Point number 2, which is accepted by millions of Christians worldwide, where is the 3 days and 3 nights? Some count Friday, Saturday & Sunday as the 3 days & 3 nights, although it is erroneous as Christ would have been dead for a maximum of 36 hours according to the above theory.

4. The Sign of Jonah & the witness of Yeshua
In the time of His ministry, Yeshua spoke of His death and resurrection multiple times. One of the signs He provided out of the Scriptures was of the “Sign of Jonah”.

Mat 12:38-40 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Mat 16:4  A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.
Luk 11:29  And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. 

a. What was the “Sign of Jonah?”
Jon 1:17  Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. 

As we see in the book of Jonah, the prophet was in fact there in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights. And Messiah directly connected this as a sign of His own death and resurrection. If you have read the prayer that Jonah made inside the belly of the fish, this connection become much more apparent. Jonah’s prayer was a prophetic prayer about the Messiah, just as it was about himself.

Jonah Chapter 2 Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.

You could read this prayer, and almost see that it is a prayer made by Yeshua to the Father. He cries because of His affliction, and sees that God has heard Him. Out of the belly of the Grave (translated as Hell) God hears His cry. Even though it was the Father’s will that Yeshua be cast down into the deep in the midst of the seas of people, and was cast out of sight as sin enveloped him, and death took His body – YHVH – God Almighty brought Him up once again, giving life to what was doomed to corruption. He indeed sacrificed Himself with thanksgiving – He payed which He had vowed to do. And salvation (Yeshua in Hebrew) was proved to be of God through Him. And as per God’s command, the earth spewed out Yeshua to the land of the living – now glorified.

The “Sign of Jonah” was truly a Messianic sign in the Scriptures, awaiting completion – brought to pass through Yeshua’s Death & Resurrection.

b. Yeshua’s witness about the three days, in the Gospels

Joh 2:19  Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
Mat 27:63  Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.
Mar 14:58  We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.
Mat 26:61  And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.
Mar 15:29,30 And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, Save thyself, and come down from the cross.
Mat 27:40  And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
Mar 8:31  And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
1Co 15:3,4 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

We see the 3 days being mentioned over and over again in the Gospels. But the most important verse that contains “3 days” is 1Cor 15:3,4 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

In it Paul mentions the 3 days according to the “Scriptures” or Old Testament as we call it today. But where is such a prophecy contained anywhere in the Old Testament? The only place where the 3 days is mentioned is in Jonah 1:17 which is called the “Sign of Jonah”. It is particularly detailed in saying “3 Days & 3 nights” which is later confirmed through the words of Yeshua in Mat 12:38-40. It is clear that He was in fact to be in the heart of the earth for 3 days & 3 nights. A full 72 hours according to the time reckoned by Yeshua in Joh 11:9 (Day = 12 hours / Night = 12 hours ; 3Days & 3Nights = 72 hours)

4. Does it matter whether it’s 1 day, 2 days or 3 days?
Some believers are quick to shrug off this sort of topic saying “all that matters is that He died and rose again – it doesn’t matter whether He died on Friday or any other day”. While it is true that victory over death matters above all, we must ask the critical question “why do we believe in a death and resurrection of a Saviour?”. The reason is that the Scriptures have prophesied in such an event. If there was no such event recorded, how were people to believe the claims of Yeshua? How could He say “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” (Luk 24:44). How could Paul write “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1Cor 15:3,4)

The “Sign of Jonah” was truly what Yeshua and Paul were referring to.

5. Questioning today’s belief of Christ’s Death on Good Friday
The “Sign of Jonah” is clear. Yeshua had to fulfill the Scriptures by being in the belly of the earth for three days and three nights. From the time of death and entombment to the time of resurrection and rising from the tomb should have been 3 days and 3 nights. So how is a Friday evening death and burial to sunday early morning resurrection provide 3 days & 3 nights? It barely gives 1 day and 2 nights. So what happened to the rest of the 2 days and 1 night?

Can the majority ever be wrong? and for so long? They can be, when no one questions the accepted teaching, believing it while not testing it against the word critically. Even though this wrong teaching of Friday death to Sunday Resurrection has existed for more than 100 years, in their ignorance, these teachers accepted one fact – that the Sabbath day is in fact the modern Saturday. This teaching is based on only one assumption. That Yeshua died before a Sabbath, and rose after a Sabbath – which gave them Friday(death) – Saturday(Sabbath) – Sunday(resurrection). Now let’s find out the true mystery behind the 3 days & 3 nights or as we know it now “The Sign of Jonah”.

6. How Yeshua died before the Sabbath, lay in the Tomb for 3 Days and 3 Nights, and still rose after the Sabbath
It is imperative that we understand God’s Feast days for this part of the study, and if you are not familiar with these concepts and scriptures, I welcome you to read the post “Good Friday or Passover” before we go further. If you have a working knowledge of God’s Feast days and what is known as the HIgh Sabbaths, lets continue.

Since Passover could fall on any day of the week each year, not being constrained to a particular day of the week, in that Particular year in which Yeshua died, for all the Scriptures to not have any inconsistencies, Passover would have fallen on a Wednesday. It would have all taken place as per list given below:

Wednesday – 14th of 1st Month – Passover (Yeshua dies and is buried before eve/sundown)
Thursday – 15th of 1st Month – 1st day of Unleavened Bread – High/Special Sabbath
Friday – 16th of 1st Month – 2nd day of Unleavened Bread
Saturday – 17th of 1st Month – 3rd day of Unleavened Bread – Fixed /Regular Sabbath
Sunday – 18th of 1st Month – By the time the women came, Yeshua had risen

Wednesday Sundown to Thursday Sundown – 1st Day (1Day + 1Night)
Thursday Sundown to Friday Sundown – 2nd Day (1Day + 1Night)
Friday Sundown to Saturday Sundown – 3rd Day (1Day + 1Night)

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A basic knowledge of God’s Feast days provide an all important clue to the mystery of the fulfillment of the Sign of Jonah. On how Yeshua died before the Sabbath, rose after the Sabbath, and was still in the tomb for 3 days and 3 nights. Anyone who understands God’s Feast days know that these were all prophetic foreshadows of the work of the Messiah. Yeshua died on the 1st feast day “Passover”, was buried on the 2nd feast day “Unleavened Bread” and rose on the 3rd feast day “Firstfruits“. (He also sent the promised Holy Spirit on the 4th feast day “Pentecost” and is going to return on the feast day “Trumpets“). It is also basic knowledge that the day following Passover is always a “High/Special Sabbath” known as the 1st day of Unleavened Bread(Lev 23:7, Num 28:18). This is why John specifically mentions “for that sabbath day was an high day“, speaking of the day following Passover(Joh 19:31). If the mainstream Christian teachers who taught and still teach of Christ’s death on Good Friday, understood a little bit about God’s Feast Days mentioned in Leviticus 23, they would know how to reconcile “The sign of Jonah – 3 Days & 3 Nights” and the “Death before the Sabbath & Resurrection after the Sabbath”.

It is imperative that we stop teaching that He died on Good Friday, and stick to the facts. He died on Passover, which could not have been Friday that particular year, if the “Sign of Jonah was to be fulfilled through Yeshua.

7. Conclusion
The Sign of Jonah is THE only prophecy that was connected and specifically spoken of, in light of Yeshua’s death and Resurrection – being cited as evidence for His Messiah-ship. In light of this, Three Days & Three Nights in the belly of the earth needed fulfillment with absolute necessity, so that the Scriptures were fulfilled. As we have seen, the doctrine of Good Friday does not hold water when it comes to the fulfillment of this Prophecy, as there were only 1½ days of entombment according to this common teaching. With a little bit of knowledge in the Scriptures, we can start to understand the fact that the Sabbaths mentioned in the Gospels in regard to Yeshua’s death and resurrection are 2 separate days instead of the single weekly Sabbath day as taught by mainstream Christianity. Yeshua died on Passover, which fell on a Wednesday, the year He died. This does not mean that we stop celebrating Good Friday, and now start celebrating Good Wednesday. Rather, we must start celebrating God’s Feast of Passover which is the day when all of us were saved from death, by God who passed over our lives through the Blood of Yeshua smeared on the door posts of our hearts.

Once Saved Always Saved? Learnings from the Parable of the Sower

The topic of salvation is a massive subject, with varying opinions. One of the most controversial issues regarding salvation is, whether the idea of “once saved, always saved” is true or false. Some say that you are eternally secure and that you cannot lose the salvation which has been freely provided, in anyway. Others say that there is a chance of falling away, and losing your salvation if you do not continue in the faith. Which of these contrasting opinions is true? Can we or can we not lose the “life” given to us by God?

This study consists of the following sections
1) 4 categories of terrain that reflect 4 different kinds of people and outcomes
2) Once saved always saved? Is it Scriptural?
3) Salvation is conditional
4) But what is the right path? The path of Righteousness?
5) Who is really saved?
6) Testing the Scriptural proof provided for the doctrine of “Eternal Security”
7) Conclusion

parable of the sowerAnswering the questions posted above and figuring out whether the doctrine of “Eternal Security” (Once saved, Always saved) is Biblically accurate, will be the objective of this study. And for this purpose, we will use the help of, one of the most famous parables communicated to us by Messiah Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) ; The Parable of the Sower.

The Parable
Luk 8:5-8 A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold.
The Meaning
Luk 8:11-15 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

1) 4 Categories of Terrain that reflect 4 different kinds of People and outcomes
This famous parable which is even taught to the youngest of Christians, is of special importance to us. We see Christ explain that the “Seed” is the “Word of God”, and then move on to the different terrains which this seed falls on, explaining the meanings as given below:
1. Way side: They hear, but do not believe and are not saved
2. Rocky: They hear, believe, but fall away when confronted with temptation
3. Thorny: They hear, believe, but bear no fruit because of cares and pleasures of this life
4. Good Soil: They Hear, keep the Word and bears fruit

God’s Salvation through Messiah, is available for all of the 4 categories of people mentioned above. But it is clear that, some reject this salvation through unbelief. Some believe, but wither away as they do not continue in faith. Some believe, but bear no fruit as they are choked with the worries and pleasures of this life. Only some keep the word they heard through faith and bear fruit. It is clear that the word which went into the ears of the people mentioned as “rocks”, heard, believed, but still fell away. So can there be people who hear, believe and still are not saved? according to Yeshua – the answer is a yes!

When we say “we are saved”, what we actually mean is that we believe in receiving “eternal life” and being saved from “eternal death”. Even though we call ourselves “saved” right now, when will we be really saved from eternal death which is the lake of fire(Rev 20:15)? Is it not at the end of time, when we receive the promised everlasting life(Rom 6:22)? Don’t get me wrong; we have been given the guarantee of salvation, but we will receive it only when we stand in front of the judgement seat of God. When we come to believe God through Messiah in repentance and obedience, our names are written in the book of life. But if we are like the rocky terrain or the thorny terrain, we must remember that God has the power to blot out our names, as we read “Rev 3:5  He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (also read Psa 69:28).

Only the ones who hear God’s Word and obey it, bear much fruit as the ones called “good soil”. To bear fruit, we must abide in Messiah(Joh 15:4-6) or be burned as fruitless branches(Luk 13:9) at the day of judgement (Mat 13:41,42). Hearing is worthless if you do not keep/obey His Word(Mat 7:24, Luk 11:28, Joh 14:23, Heb 5:9, Jam 2:24).

2) Once saved always saved? – Is it Scriptural?
Just because a person believes in God, does not guarantee him/her salvation. If that was the case, then the seed which fell on rocky terrain should not wither away, nor should the seed that fell among thorns be choked. We must remember that, in the kingdom of heaven there are no fruitless branches/trees(Joh 15:2). The Word of God that is deposited in your being must bring forth fruits that shows the seed which has sprouted in your heart(Mat 7:16,17). Let’s look at a few other examples of Scripture, that cements the fact that all who believe are not assured of Salvation. (If you are a believer in the doctrine of “eternal security”, please test it against the following Scriptures, and may the Holy Spirit show you the truth)

Mat 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity(transgress the Law).
Mat 24:13  But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
Luk 12:45,46 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
Rom 2:6-9 Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 
Rom 11:22  Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
1Co 9:27  But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
2Co 13:5  Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates(rejected)?
Gal 5:19-21 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. 
Col 1:22,23 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
Php 3:11,12 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
Heb 3:14  For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
Heb 5:8,9 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
Heb 6:4-6 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
Heb 10:26  For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
Jas 5:19,20 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
2Pe 2:21  For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
Rev 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
Rev 2:23  And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
Rev 21:7,8 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Rev 22:14  Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
Eze 18:24 But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.

3) Salvation is Conditional
Some would disagree with me on this point. But a simple review of the basic principles taught by Messiah, is enough to understand this fact. The free gift of salvation depends on a change in lifestyle. Turning towards God from the sinful path we were in – which is known as “repentance”(Luk 13:5, Mar 1:15). Repentance is not only a thought, but an act – it is not merely being sorry and asking forgiveness for the sins we have done, but correcting our ways not to repeat the same again. True repentance brings about a wrestling in one’s inner being(Rom 7:19-24). Without true repentance, no person can have true salvation(Act 2:38, 3:19, Rev 2:5). It is not only repentance, but continuing on the right path till the end, that assures Salvation(Heb 3:14).

4) But what is the right path? The path of Righteousness?
A person who is truly “saved” or has received “salvation” is a person who has left the old sinful self behind(Rom 6:13-16). This person knows the difference between sin and righteousness, and is on a corrective path(2Tim 2:21). He/she does not engage in willful sin(Rom 6:1,2). Which brings us to the question, what is sin?

1Jn 3:4-6 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.

Sin is breaking God’s Law as seen above. Without God’s Law, we cannot know what “sin” is(Rom 7:7). The knowledge of “sin” is through God’s Law(Rom 3:20). Many of us misunderstand what the Law is, saying “if you follow God’s Law, you have fallen from Grace”. This is not what Paul wrote in his letters. His words were “whoever is JUSTIFIED by the Law, is fallen from Grace“(Gal 5:4). In other words, no one can attain righteousness for themselves by following the Law. Grace is a free gift given by God because of our faith in Him(Rom 5:2). He is the one who let’s us enter into life from death. He is the one who saves us because of His grace. But after we are “saved”, how do we know what is right from wrong? That is what the Law is there for. As a guide, to help us become obedient to Him. If a person claims to be saved, but still disobeys God’s Law(which is not the curse) – he/she is committing sin whether it is deliberate or unintentional.

5) Who is really saved?
To recap, a person who is saved(attained salvation from death) cannot be a sinner(one who dwells in sin/breaking God’s Law). If a person claims to be saved, and continues in willful sin, his/her “salvation” is questionable at best. He/she has not repented truthfully, and may not be saved even though they believe so. This does not mean to say, that a true believer who is saved can never fall short of God’s standards and commit sin. A person who falls short, will admit his failure and correct himself in repentance. A good example for such a person is David – who is known as “a man after God’s own heart” (Act 13:22, 1Kin 15:5). In our personal walk with God, there might even come a time when each of us find out(through reading His Word/Commandments/Laws), that we have been doing something that God resents. At such an occasion, we will ask for His forgiveness for continuing in that sin, and change our ways from that day onward. Such an example can be seen with King Hezekiah in 2Chr chapter 29.

6) Testing the Scriptural proof provided for the doctrine of “Eternal Security”
Many proof texts are put forth as evidence for the doctrine of “once saved always saved”, which do not agree with the entirety of Scripture. It is therefore necessary for us to test these scriptures and see whether the interpretation derived from them are true or false. While there are quite a number of verses quoted as proof, we will test some of the most famous scriptures given as evidence of this doctrine. (Please read and test the examinations provided for each of the text, given in red color subsequent to the said passage)

Rom 8:38,39 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Paul is right to say that no external force on heaven or earth can separate each of us from the love of God. But this does not mean that we can be assured of His love, His Grace or His Salvation, if we choose to go back to our old ways of living in sin. External forces cannot effect our salvation, however we are able to affect it by how we live our lives)

Joh 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (Each person who believes in Messiah is given the free gift of everlasting life. But we also need to understand that a true believer needs to put his/her faith into action. Having faith without keeping His word is an empty endeavour – Jas 2:19,20)

Joh 10:28,29 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. (Christ is clear when He says that no one who He gives eternal life to, can be plucked from His hand. The only thing we need clarification on is, who He is speaking about. He is speaking of His sheep who hear His voice and follows Him. This comes back to the argument that we made previously about the good soil – whoever keeps His word/follows Him till the end, will for sure be saved from eternal death) 

Jud 1:24  Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy (Christ is able to present us faultless through His blood and also help us keep from falling through the example he has left us. As verse 23 states, the believer needs to hate the things of the flesh which is sin. A person who is on the right path, is who He will present faultless before the Father [Rev 3:5])

Rom 8:29,30 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
Eph 1:5  Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
Eph 1:11  In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: (Is it true that God has predetermined or that He knows of all the true believers who will come to Him? Definitely! But this does not mean every person who professes to believe or believes and falls away afterwards, would have been in God’s list in the first place. Time does not affect Him, and because of this reason He already knows whether each of us will make it to the Kingdom or not. In His eyes we have made those decisions already.)

There are many more verses that are utilized to prove the doctrine of “once saved, always saved” which, when examined in light of the whole Word of God, does not stand as sound pieces of evidence.

7) Conclusion
While we remember that salvation is a free gift of God which is provided to every living soul, we must also keep in mind that, we alone have the power to (1) reject it as the “way side” terrain, (2) believe but fall away as the “rocky” terrain, (3) believe but get caught up with this life as the “thorny” terrain, or (4) believe and put the word to practice thereby bearing fruit like the “good soil” terrain. The simple fact is, that a person who believes today, and falls away tomorrow to never come back in repentance, would most assuredly lose the salvation promised by God, as it is their own choice to abandon it. Only the ones who continue in the righteous path would get to the gates of the Kingdom of God to receive the promised Salvation(Mat 7:13,14).

Not all who say “Lord, Lord”, not all who prophesy in His name, not all who cast devils in His name, not even all who do many other wondrous works in His name, will enter into His Kingdom (Mat 7:22,23). What makes us so sure to promise unwitting believers that the moment they believe in Christ, they are assured of receiving Salvation? We must first ask them to transform their lives and start following God’s Word(Rom 12:2). We must ask them to reach for perfection which starts from Scripture itself (2Tim 3:16,17). We must preach and teach them, warning them, so that they are presented perfect to Christ (Col 1:28). And to hold onto the faith till the end(Heb 3:14). We need them to prepare their lives as “Good soil” which is ready to receive the seeds of “God’s Word” which grow and bare much fruit, so that when the owner of the field returns, He will be happy with the harvest yielded, and would gather them into His Barn(Mat 13:30).

Mat 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

Can we eat all meats? Food sacrificed to idols and misunderstandings regarding 1Cor 10:25

As most of Paul’s words, another common misunderstanding of his writings is the fact that he gave permission to eat anything and everything – effectively making void God’s decree of what is to be eaten and not, written down in Leviticus Chapter 11.

So was he making the law void? If so, why does he say “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law“(Rom 3:3). Is he contradicting himself, or have we misunderstood his words; as Peter wrote “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction”(2Pe 3:15,16). Let us see whether Paul was telling the believers to “eat all meats” or whether we have misunderstood his writings.

The below study is broken down into 7 sections for your ease.
1. A personal connection to this misunderstood verse
2. What happened in Corinth after Paul left?
3. A historical background of Corinth and the environment Paul lived in
4. Examination of Paul’s words: where to start
5. A brief look at 1Cor 8:1 to 10:33 as one topic/theme
6. Now we finally come upon the verse in question 1Cor 10:25-33
7. Conclusion

1. A personal connection to this misunderstood verse
I was brought up in a traditional Christian family background where we were free to eat anything we liked. “Paul had given specific instructions that Christians could eat anything”. “We were free”. “Christ had died so that we could have these freedoms”. These were the doctrines I had learned at sunday school.

When I first understood the Scriptures in their entirety, many of my earlier beliefs were questioned. I struggled within myself to look at things afresh, without preconceived ideas or notions. Putting things into context, both historically and textually, I was met with one question after the other. As I progressed in my studies, proving myself wrong, and coming to the understanding that I had believed in un-scriptural teachings for so long –  one of the questions that kept coming up was “can I eat what I have been eating all this time? Bacon, prawns, cuttlefish, crab and the like?” Instantly, the answer would pop into my mind – Paul said “Whatsoever is sold in the meat market, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake”1Co 10:25. It couldn’t get clearer than that – Paul said we could eat anything! Right? I had to make sure I was right.

In my studies, I learned something obvious. Paul was writing “letters” to specific congregations. These letters were targeted at particular groups in history, with specific problems and questions. You can’t read a line off an epistle such as this, separate! It’s a letter which is meant to be read from beginning to end. Paul did not mark verse numbers and break his letter down into chapters. These were done much later in time, to make reference easier. So now I had to read each of these letters in one go. And that is what I did.

To further understand the Historical context of the Corinthian congregation, I turned to an expert. Namely Dr. Bruce Winter, who has written a book named “After Paul left Corinth”, which as the name suggests, explores the historical atmosphere of Corinth after Paul left the congregation following his stay with them for one and half years (Act 18:11). I would highly recommend every Christian who wants to know the true meaning of Paul’s words, to read this book.

2. What happened in Corinth after Paul left?
It is important to understand the historical context of the Roman Colony named Corinth, at the time Paul wrote this letter. Without understanding what they went through and what circumstances they lived in, how can we, who live 2000 years after them, hope to understand the true context of Paul’s words?

We know that Paul stayed at Corinth for one and a half years(Act 18:11), which would have been enough time to train and teach the believers in the ways of God. He also commends the congregation for still “following the traditions” that he passed on to them(1Cor 11:2). So the question we should be asking now is, why does Paul suddenly have to explain about eating food from the market? Did he not teach them about food for 1½yrs? Why hadn’t he passed on a tradition on what to do in this regard? Or had circumstances changed in Corinth, so that he needed to give them new instructions?

Even though Paul’s letter to Corinth has been preserved, we do not have the letter which the Corinth congregation sent to Paul. The believers had written to Paul about at least six main matters which they needed answers on, which were addressed by Paul in this letter(7:1, 7:25, 8:1, 14:1, 16:1, 16:12) as we see, Paul himself writing “Now concerning the things you wrote about”(1Co 7:1). Furthermore, Paul had received reports of the issues at Corinth, from other sources as well(1:11, 5:1). It is also important to note that this was not the first time he had written on such issues to Corinth, as he says “I wrote to you in my letter….”(1Co 5:9), which they had misunderstood previously(1Cor 5:10)

3. A historical background of Corinth and the environment Paul lived in
1. Jews had been expelled from Rome under the order of Claudius around 49AD (Act 18:2)

2. The imperial cult where emperors and dignitaries were deified, and regarded, as well as, worshiped to as gods were also on the rise[A]. The “gods on earth” mentioned by Paul, in reference to “so-called gods and lords” could be speaking of such worship (1Cor 8:5)

3. The Isthmian games, a festival of athletic and musical competitions in honour of the sea god poseidon, was also held in Isthmus of Corinth[B]. The president of the Games, was known to have given multiple civic dinners to all who had Roman citizenship [C]. The “right” mentioned in 1Cor 8:9, could very well be the right to eat at Poseidon’s sanctuary at Isthmia, which was open to all who had Roman Citizenship at Corinth.

sanctuary-students working

The Santuary of Poseidon at Isthmia (Click to learn about the excavations done by the Ohio State University

“Archeological evidence suggests that the games did not return to Isthmia until about 50 AD. At that time, the temple and the facilities for the games were repaired, and in 67 AD the Emperor Nero took part in the panhellenic games.” (It is more than possible that the Isthmian Games and the dinners at poseidon’s temple started after Paul left Corinth, requiring him to write to them on how to act accordingly in these changed circumstances.)

4. The city authorities controlled the marketplaces, and special provisions were made for Jews to obtain meats which were slaughtered according to their standards[D]. (The Corinthian congregation would have also had to buy the meat separated for the Jews as per regulations made in Acts 15:20,29).

5. There was no such religion called Christianity at the time of Paul. In fact, the name “Christian”, mentioned only 3 times in the New Testament (Act 11:26, 26:28, 1Pet 4:16) would have been a derogatory term, at the time, as we see it’s use being connected to shame by Peter (1Pet 4:16).

6. Even-though believers in Christ, had significant theological differences with Jews who did not believe in Christ, they were all regarded as part of Jews and one belief system, being called a sect (Act 24:5,14, 28:22).

4. Examination of Paul’s words: where to start
As I have mentioned above, it is important to read the whole of the 1st letter to the Corinthian congregation in one go, to really understand the instructions Paul is providing the Church of Corinth. But, as such a study might not be possible in a short post such as this, we will focus our attention to the the particular part of the letter in concern. Even though the verse in question is 1Cor 10:25, Paul starts addressing this single topic in 1Cor 8:1 and goes upto 10:33. As such, this whole part of the letter needs to be read without interruption, to understand the context of 1Cor 10:25.

5. A brief look at 1Cor 8:1 to 10:33 as one topic/theme
As we will see in this study, from 1Cor 8:1 onwards till 10:33, Paul addresses only one topic. And this topic is none other than, “food offered/sacrificed to idols”. In 1Cor 8:1, Paul starts by saying “Now concerning food offered to idols and this theme continues on till the end of chapter 10(besides a deviation in chapter 9) where he is still speaking on the same topic when he writes “But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it”(1Cor 10:28). Following is a summarized version of the 3 Chapters in concern: (Although reading through the complete section is advisable, the main/important sections are marked in red for quick reference) 

1Cor 8:1-3 Paul enters into the topic saying that we all have knowledge regarding things offered to idols. It is important to note that “abstaining from meat offered to idols” was one of the four key judgements that was commanded by the Jerusalem Council to be adhered by all believers (Acts 15:20,29). [please read this study for an in-depth understanding of these four main rulings made by James]. Paul reproves the Corinthians not to be puffed up by the things they know, but to act in love.

1Cor 8:4-5 Paul says that everyone of you know that an idol is nothing, as there are no other gods but ONE. He then goes onto mention that there are many who are known to be gods and lords on earth as well as heaven, possibly making reference to the “imperial cult” which worshiped the emperors as divine beings alongside the other idols which were worshiped, such as apollo, poseidon and aphrodite in Corinth.

1Cor 8:6-8 He then explains that there are no other gods other than the Father, and no other lords other than Christ for them. And that some do not possess this knowledge, being accustomed to idol worship and offering sacrifices in the past, still think eating meat at such a place would be equal to idol worship. (This was exactly what was happening at the Isthmian Games mentioned above in section 3. The President of the Isthmian Games was hosting large dinners at the temple complex of poseidon for the Roman citizens of Corinth. Even-though the food at these dinners were not offered to poseidon, eating at such a place could be seen as idol worship by new Christians because of their “conscience being weak” as per Paul’s words.)
1Cor 8:9 The “Liberty” or “Right” spoken in this verse, would have been the right Christians with Roman Citizenship at Corinth, received to participate at the civic dinners held in honor of the Isthmian Games. Participating at such an occasion would have been a highest honor one could receive in Corinth. Paul advises the people who had this right to be careful that they do not put other believers at risk.
1Cor 8:10 Paul speaks to the ones who had the “right” to participate at the civic dinners to be careful, as a new believer could easily see them at these idol temples, and think that participation in eating of meats offered to idols is an acceptable thing to do. We should especially note that Paul is not approving anyone of eating “meat offered to idols” as this goes against the ruling made by the Jerusalem Council in Act 15:20,29. He was simply saying that the Corinthians who had Roman citizenship should think twice before they participated at the Isthmian Game dinners (which were hosted at the idol temple of poseidon) as new believers could see them dining there, and think that it is acceptable to eat things that were offered to idols. The ones who had this “civic right” knew that the dinners hosted at the temple of poseidon did not have food offered to poseidon, but an outsider would not know this, and could be tempted to think participating in idol worship was acceptable.
1Cor 8:11-13 Paul ends the first part of his argument saying, that just because a seasoned believer understands what is right from wrong, he/she should be careful in how they guide their actions, as they could lead another to sin by what they do and how they act. He furthermore argues that if he is making a brother sin through his actions, he would rather eat nothing at all.
1Cor 9:1-27 Paul diverts for a moment from the subject at hand, to answer the ones who questions his authority (1Cor 9:3) explaining the service he is involved in, expecting nothing in return.
1Cor 10:1-11 Paul returns to the subject on hand, by giving a host of examples from the Old Testament Scriptures. He explains how God was with the children of Israel in the wilderness, the same way He is with them now. And how God was not pleased with many of the israelites because of their lusts, idolatry, fornication, provocation and murmuring. He explains that all of these situations came to pass as examples for them. 
1Cor 10:12,13 Paul advises the Corinthians to be careful of being arrogant to the extent where one thinks that they cannot fall into temptation. And that with temptation, God provides a path of escape.
1Cor 10:14 Paul makes a clear statement, coming back to the topic on hand “flee from idolatry”! basically have nothing to do with idolatry.
1Cor 10:15-18 Paul asks the Corinthians to judge his words, and see whether it is right, explaining how partakers of the wine and the bread become part of Christ. Similarly partakers of the sacrifices at the Jerusalem Temple become partakers of that Altar.
1Cor 10:19-21 He explains that an idol is nothing. And that the “sacrifices offered to such idols” are also nothing of concern. But the sacrifices made to these idols by Gentiles are done towards demons, and that a person cannot be a partaker of the body of Christ and also be a partaker of such, done towards demonic beings. 
1Cor 10:22 He points back at the example he gave earlier about the Children of Israel, by asking whether we are trying to provoke God, and attain the same fate as them?
1Cor 10:23-24 He points back at 1Cor 8:9 here, saying things that are “lawful” or received as a “right” (speaking of the right of dining at the Isthmian Games) are not always profitable or edifying in regards to the congregation and other believers. He appeals to the Corinthians asking them to do whatever they do, for the good of their brothers and sisters in the congregation.

6. Now we finally come upon the verse in question 1Cor 10:25-33

1Cor 10:25 Whatsoever is sold in the shambles(meat market), that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: 

In this study so far, we have seen that the topic in concern still remains “meat offered to idols”. As per section 3- point 4, we know that special provisions for meats were made at the markets of Corinth, as the Jews were known to not eat meat offered to idols, meat with blood or animals which were strangled to death. These were the exact requirements set forth by the Jerusalem Council in Act 15:20,29 for all gentile believers to follow. So it is safe to presume that believers in Christ would have also purchased meat from the same vendors who provided meat for the Jews. The Corinthian congregation would have had to buy meats which were specially separated and prepared for the Jews, as eating anything else would have been going against the words of James and the Jerusalem Council.

The fact that Paul who was with the Corinth congregation for 1½ yrs, and had given them many traditions that they were still adhering to(1Cor 11:2), had to now write to them saying “eat anything sold at the market, without question” can lead us to conclude that some circumstances had changed in Corinth. It is possible that the special provision for meat made for the Jews would have been revoked as the Romans were becoming agitated with them. Claudius had deported all Jews from Rome(Acts 18:2) and Gallio the deputy of Achaea was more than hostile towards Jews(Acts 18:16,17). From 40AD onwards there were tension building against the Jews, with uprisings happening in Judea in 46-48AD which were put down by the Roman authorities. All of these factors would have pushed authorities to draw back special provisions provided to the Jews such as what was provided in the meat markets.

If the special meat provision was revoked, the Corinthian Congregation would now need to have questioned Paul whether it would be acceptable to eat from the meat market, as they were unsure of the quality and origins of the meat they bought. The meat could have been brought to the meat markets from the temples, as we see such a case in 1Cor 10:28, where meat offered to idols were served at dinners.

Paul’s judgement was “to eat from the meat market, as their was no way to clearly know what was offered to idols or not”. But then he continues his discussion quoting Psalm 24:1 “For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof”, known to have been a blessing which was recited before meals by all Jews[E]. Then in 10:27,28 he asks the congregation to eat what is set before them if they go for a function hosted by a non-believer, but to not partake if the non-believer informs them that the food is in fact, what is offered to idols as a sacrifice. Paul writes to them saying, not to partake for the sake of the non-believer (possibly to also showcase to the non-believer that Christians do not partake in idol worship, thereby gaining a chance to speak to them about the gospel) and also partly because eating what is sacrificed to idols, knowingly, is a sinful act as per the Jerusalem Council judgement. He further explains in 10:29-33 that the refusal to consume meat that is offered to idols, is not only a personal issue, but something that effects other believers as discussed above under 1Cor 8:10. He ends his words saying whatever you do, to do it for the glory of God, not offending Jew, Gentile or the Church, seeking to save others in all that they do.

7. Conclusion
The letter written by Paul to the Corinthians, like any other letter, needs to be read from beginning to end without pause. Plucking a verse out of context, such as 1Cor 10:25 could be used to argue that eating any food is permissible – but this would not be the reality behind the words of Paul. Like many of his writings which are misunderstood, this verse needs to be examined in its historical and textual context, for us to know its true meaning. The historical background of the Isthmian Games and its dinners hosted at the temple of poseidon as well as the special meat market provisions made for the Jews, shed light on the background of the questions the Corinthians would have written to Paul about. Paul in return explains why believers should not engage themselves in idolatry and eating sacrifices made to idols, and how they should act upon the discontinuation of the specially separated meat in the Corinthian Market. Nowhere does the topic of “eating against God’s instructions” come to play, in this epistle to the Corinthians. The written instructions of Lev 11 was never revoked by Paul; he simply said to eat the meats at the Corinth Market, as there was no way to know whether a particular meat was offered to idols or not. If a believer got to know that a meat was in fact offered to an idol as a sacrifice, he/she was not to partake in such a thing, as per the ruling of the Jerusalem council.

References ———————————————————————————————
[A] Pseudo Julian Letters 198, 407Bff. Also read ‘Achaean Federal Imperial Cult, Part II; The Corinthian Church’, TynB 46.1 (1995) 169-78
[B] E.R. Gebhard, ‘The Isthmian Games and the Sanctuary of Poseidon in the Early Empire’, in T.E. Gregory ed., The Corinthia in the Roman Period, Journal of Roman Archaeology Supp.8 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1994), pp.78-94
[C] Plutarch Moralia 723A
[D] P.R. Trebilco, Jewish Communities in Asia Minor, SNTSMS 69 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p.17. See also Josephus – Antiquities of the Jews Book 14, Ch 10.24
[E] T. Ber. 4.1.

The middle wall of partition – Misunderstandings regarding Eph 2:14-16

Ephesians 2:14-16 is one of the many verses used to say that God’s Commandments/Law written down in the Old Testament has now been abolished, in Christ. It is popularly taught that the “middle wall” that separated us from God, is God’s Commandments/Laws, and that they were taken down through Christ’s sacrifice, because they were hostile towards us.

Today, we will test this theory, taking archaeological evidence alongside historical context, to understand the true meaning of Paul’s words. It is this authors belief that this verse, like countless other statements made by Paul, has been misunderstood by mainstream Christianity today. And now let’s move on to the verse in question.

Eph 2:14-16 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition (between us); Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, (even) the law of commandments (contained) in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

In this study, we will break down this verse and research into what Paul is describing, to better understand what he is trying to teach the Ephesians. This study will focus on the following:
1. Context and background of the verse
2. What is the middle wall of partition/separation?
3. What is the “law of commandments in ordinances” which is called “enmity” by Paul?
4. Connecting the “law of commandments in ordinances” with the “middle wall of partition”

5. What are the “two” that are reconciled (made into one) through Messiah?
6. Conclusion

1. Context and background of the verse
Starting at the beginning of chapter 2, we see Paul making these following points:-
Eph 2:1-3 We were all living in sin and disobedience as Gentiles
Eph 2:4-7 But God who loved us, showed us mercy, by saving us through His grace
Eph 2:8-10 And through grace alone, are we saved – and not by anything that we do
Eph 2:11-14 You were all gentiles, called “uncircumcised” by the “circumcised” (Jews), without God and Christ, aliens to the citizenship of Israel, strangers to the covenants of promise – but now have been brought close to God through Christ.

Note that Paul makes a clear statement that the Ephesians were gentiles without hope, living in Sin, till God saved them through His Grace. He says that they had no part in the citizenship of Israel and the covenants of promise, till they were brought near by Christ. In other words, through Christ and God’s Grace, they have been given citizenship of Israel and also ability to partake in the covenants of promise. This is the background and context of the verse in question.

2. What is the middle wall of partition/separation?
Even though most Christians believe that the “middle wall” mentioned in this verse is a metaphorical expression used to speak of God’s Law, this is far from the truth. The context of this verse, lets us know that Paul was speaking of the division of Gentiles and Jews(uncircumcised & circumcised), and how gentiles had no part in Israel before Messiah.

The interesting fact that many Christians are unaware of, is that there was a physical barrier(a middle wall) that separated gentiles and Jews in the days of Paul, at the Temple in Jerusalem. Known as the “soreg”, this partition prohibited gentiles from entering into the temple courts. We will look at a few pieces of evidence on this fact below.

It is important to note at this point, that “Jews” are only a part of Israel – and hence, all Israel cannot be called Jews. Please read the articles, “The Parable of the prodigal Son & the 2 Houses of Israel” , “Defining the terms Jew & Gentile” & “Defining the term Israel” for a better understanding on the above statement.

ESV-temple

Archaeological Evidence
The soreg was a low wall surrounding the Temple in Jerusalem, which served as a boundary/partition wall.

Museo della civiltà romana a Roma (Eur) - Room 15 (Christianity) # 4 - Cast of the plaque forbidding any non-Jews to enter the second precinct of the Temple of Jerusalem. The original stands in the National Archaeological Museum in Istanbul.

Museo della civiltà romana a Roma (Eur) – Room 15 (Christianity) # 4 – Cast of the plaque forbidding any non-Jews to enter the second precinct of the Temple of Jerusalem. The original stands in the National Archaeological Museum in Istanbul.

Beyond this point, entry was permitted only to Jews who were not impure through exposure to death.

The soreg featured signs, in a number of languages, that warned these unauthorized people against entering the area of the Holy Temple.

Some of the signs which were placed on the “soreg” have been discovered, of which one is pictured to the left. The inscription says “No outsider shall enter the protective enclosure around the sanctuary. And whoever is caught will only have himself to blame for the ensuing death” – (Translated by K. C. Hanson & Douglas E. Oakman)

Biblical Evidence
A) It is a known fact, that there were Gentiles who went up to the Temple in Jerusalem to Worship God.
Joh 12:20  And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:
Act 8:27  And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,

B) The fact that the Gentiles were kept separate from the Jews is also apparent
Act 21:28  Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.

Historical Evidence
In the “Wars of the Jews” written by the scholar Josephus Flavius around 75AD, he says the following:
When you go through these [first] cloisters, unto the second [court of the] temple,
there was a partition made of stone all round, whose height was three cubits: its construction was very elegant; upon it stood pillars, at equal distances from one another, declaring the law of purity, some in Greek, and some in Roman letters, that “no foreigner should go within that sanctuary” for that second [court of the] temple was called “the Sanctuary,” and was ascended to by fourteen steps from the first court. (A description of the temple – Book 5, Chapter 5, Verse 2)

Considering all of the above facts, it is safe to say, that Paul was referring to this “partitioning wall” in his letter to the Ephesians, as it was a prominent feature of the Jerusalem Temple at that time, which restrained gentiles from entering in. It is also important to note that this wall was not part of the design God had given, but was a later addition made by the Jews in authority, to keep gentiles from entering the temple precinct. Nowhere in the Old Testament would you be able to find of such a structure that separates people into two groups. But this had become the norm in the 2nd Temple times, and no Gentile could enter into the Temple precinct because of it. As such, this was a man made barrier, and a man made commandment which kept Gentiles from coming to God’s Temple.

3. What is the “law of commandments in ordinances” which is called “enmity” by Paul?
Most Christians would jump to the conclusion that the “law of commandments in ordinances” mentioned by Paul, is none other than the Law which was given through Moses, in the Old Testament by our Heavenly Father. What most of us fail to see is that this term is completely different to “The Law of God” and “The Commandments of God”. To understand this difference, we must look into the meaning of the word translated as “Ordinances”.

In the Original Greek Manuscripts, the English word translated as “Ordinances”, comes from the following : G1378 – δόγμα – dogma – From the base of G1380; a law (civil, ceremonial or ecclesiastical): – decree, ordinance. This word is seen only 5 times in the New Testament in the following verses:
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;
Col 2:14  Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances(G1378) that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

Looking at the above verses, one thing should become apparent to you. The word “ordinance”, means and can even be translated as “Decree” – which means “an official order that has the force of law”. While God had given Commandments and His Law, Decrees were laws that were man-made. If Paul was indeed speaking of God’s Law & Commandments, he would not have needed to use the word “ordinance”/”decree” in his letter. Paul could have only been referring to man-made orders, in this verse through the term “Ordinance”. These “ordinances” were indeed hostile, as they restrained anyone other than “Jews” 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)

Added on 13th August 2017: Contributed by Joanne Smith
The Greek word dogma (G1378 in Strong’s) is used in the Septuagint (Greek OT) only in the book of Daniel. Daniel 2:133:10,12,29; 4:6; 6:8,9,10,12,13,15,26

4. Connecting the “law of commandments in ordinances” with the “middle wall of partition”
It is a clear fact that Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, spoke of the broken down “middle wall of partition” to be connected solely to the “law of commandments in ordinances”. As we have seen above, if Paul was speaking of the physical wall of partition at the temple, and man-made decrees that enforced such separations, this makes perfect sense, as the partition wall was a man-made decree which separated the Jew from the Gentile. In other words, the Jews in authority at the time of Paul, had made a decree that was regarded as official Law and a Commandment, that Gentiles could not enter into God’s sanctuary, even though it was allowed for Jews. Paul was merely saying that this separation that men had imposed on people was now no more because of Messiah. To understand more about the decrees (which were regarded as Law) imposed on the 1st century people by the ruling Jews such as the pharisees, please watch the this teaching.

5. What are the “two” that are reconciled (made into one) through Messiah?
What puts this argument completely in place, is the idea Paul speaks about in connection with the broken down wall of partition. Paul says that Christ has “made both one” and again, that “twain one new man”. What or who are these two parties which are made one?

Let’s review the facts that we know already
1. The context of the Chapter speaks about how, gentiles had no part in the covenants of promise and they were excluded from the citizenship of Israel, before they were saved through God’s Grace and sacrifice of Christ.
2. History proves that there was indeed, a physical partitioning wall at the Temple which kept Gentiles separate from Jews. Paul spoke of this wall to have been broken down through Christ’s sacrifice.
3. The original Greek wording seen in the verse in question, is specifically speaking of man-made decrees, and not God’s Law. There were many such laws/decrees imposed on people by the ruling parties, such as the pharisees.

If Paul is speaking of this partitioning of Gentiles and Jews, and that this “man-made” partitioning or “middle wall” was not in effect because of Messiah, what are these 2 parties he is referring to? Is he not saying that there is no more division? there are no more jews & gentiles? that no one can keep the covenants of promise from the gentiles? that gentiles are now fellow citizens of Israel?

Consider the following:
1. Christ came to gather Jews & Gentiles into one nation
Joh 11:49 And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.

2. Christ said there would be one flock under one shepherd
Joh 10:16  And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

3. Paul says Gentiles are fellow heirs and partakers of the promises given to Israel
Eph 3:6  This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

4. Paul says that the gentiles are grafted into the Olive tree which is Israel
Rom 11:17  But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, (Please read the whole of Chapter 11)

5. Paul says that there are no more divisions such as Jew & Gentile – we are all one in Christ
Gal 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In short, this is what Paul is trying to say:
As sinful gentiles, we had no part in the covenants of promise, and were also excluded from the citizenship of Israel. But when Christ came and saved us through God’s Grace, the partitioning wall that kept us outside, was broken down. No man-made decree can keep us away from enjoying the covenants of promise or the Citizenship of Israel, as all who believe in God are now made into one people. We were once hostile to God, but now through the blood of Messiah, we have been drawn into His sanctuary, not to be separated ever again.

6. Conclusion
Even though Eph 2:14-16, is usually used as a proof text for “the Law of God being done away”, we have made every effort in the above study to understand this passage in its original historical and biblical context. This has led us to the conclusion that Paul was speaking of a separation of God’s People, rather than an abolishing of God’s Law. Paul used a physical wall of separation to show how Gentiles had no part with God, before Christ. He further showed the Ephesian congregation, that the man-made decrees of separation were no more in power, because of God’s grace, as he had drawn believers, both Jew & Gentile unto Him, to make both one in Him. There are no more gentile. No more Jew. No separate flocks or peoples. Only His people “Israel”. If we consider ourselves His people, we are “Israel” – let us not separate, what God has made one, through the sacrifice of Yeshua.

Essential Reading:
The Parable of the prodigal Son & the 2 Houses of Israel
Defining the terms Jew & Gentile
Defining the term Israel
The betrothal, Divorce & Re-Betrothal of God’s People through Messiah