Tag Archives: grace

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.

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.

The Gracious God of the Old Testament

All of us know that our Father in Heaven is a gracious God, who loves us and has abundant mercy towards us. But through years of conditioning, many Christians have come to view the God of the Old Testament as a completely different person – a harsh judge with a fiery character. Now, almost all Christians believe that God does not change. But how does one angry-godexplain this change in character? They turn to the idea of “Dispensationalism” – an idea which first reared it’s head in the 1800’s through the views of John Nelson Darby. So the idea is that God had not revealed his “Gracious character” in the Old Testament age – but that it was only revealed after Messiah Yeshua (Jesus’ true name). This idea is also closely connected to thoughts of a certain “Marcion of Sinope” who lived as far back as 145AD. He is the first person recorded to have made a distinction between the God of the Old Testament and the New. Labelled as a heretic at the time, sadly, his thoughts do live on in the Church today.

Introducing you to the Gracious God of the Old Testament!
God does not change. In fact His name “YHVH” (pronounced Yehovah) means “I was” that “I was”, “I am” that “I am”, “I will be” that “I will be”. It is in His character not to change. He is our everlasting Heavenly Father who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. So why is it that Christians view God in a different light when it comes to the Old Testament? Is there evidence that He, in fact was, Gracious at the time of the Old Testament similar to how He is seen today? I welcome you to read the abundant evidence in the Scriptures – Meet Our Gracious, loving, merciful God who was the same in the time of the Old Testament!

God has always been Gracious
Gen 6:8  
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.
2Ki 13:23  
And the LORD was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, and had respect unto them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence as yet.
Exo 33:19
 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
Exo 33:17  And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.
Gen 39:21  But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
2Sa 7:15  But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.
2Sa 22:50,51 Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and I will sing praises unto thy name. He is the tower of salvation for his king: and sheweth mercy to his anointed, unto David, and to his seed for evermore.
1Ki 8:23  And he said, LORD God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart:

God has always revealed Himself as a Gracious God
Exo 22:27  For that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? and it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious.
Exo 34:6,7 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
Hos 2:19  And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies.
Jer 9:24  But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.
Isa 54:8  In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.
Exo 20:6  And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Jer 31:3  The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. 

His people have always known that He is a Gracious God
2Ch 30:9  For if ye turn again unto the LORD, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land: for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him.
Neh 9:17  And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.
Neh 9:31  Nevertheless for thy great mercies’ sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.
Psa 86:15  But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.
Psa 103:8  The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
Psa 111:4  He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.
Psa 116:5  Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.
Psa 145:8,9  The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.
Joe 2:13  And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
Jon 4:2  And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.
Mic 7:18  Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.
Psa 86:5  For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.
Psa 36:7  How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.
Psa 69:16  Hear me, O LORD; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.
Psa 130:7  Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.
Dan 9:18  O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.
Dan 9:9  To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him;
Dan 9:4  And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;
Lam 3:22,23 It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
Isa 63:7  I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses.
1Ch 21:13  And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand of the LORD; for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man.
Mic 7:18  Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.
Isa 30:19  For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee.
Psa 103:4  Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
Psa 119:132  Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.
Psa 119:156  Great are thy tender mercies, O LORD: quicken me according to thy judgments.
Psa 51:1  Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Psa 84:11  For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
Num 14:18,19  The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.
Deu 5:10 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
1Ch 16:34  O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever. 
2Ch 5:13  It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD;
2Ch 7:3  And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.
Psa 138:2  I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.
Psa 130:7  Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.
Psa 119:64  The earth, O LORD, is full of thy mercy: teach me thy statutes.
Psa 108:4  For thy mercy is great above the heavens: and thy truth reacheth unto the clouds.
Psa 107:31  Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
Psa 103:11  For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
Psa 94:18  When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O LORD, held me up.
Psa 86:5  For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.

His Graciousness endures forever
Psa 52:1  Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? the goodness of God endureth continually.
Psa 103:17  But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children;
Psa 107:1  O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Psa 25:6  Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.
Jer 33:11  The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the LORD of hosts: for the LORD is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the LORD.
Jer 9:24  But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.
Isa 54:8  In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.
Isa 54:10  For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.
Deu 7:9  Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; 
2Ch 20:21  And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever. 
Ezr 3:11  And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.
Neh 13:22  And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy. 
Psa 118:1  O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.

Conclusion
Why list down so many verses? Why emphasize the fact that God has always been a loving, merciful, gracious Father? Because there is a gap in the mind of today’s Christian, between the Old Testament and the New. There is no such thing as a change of Character in God, that has happened or revealed itself throughout the past. He has always been a Judge. He has always been a jealous God. He has always been a loving God. He has always been a merciful God. He has always been a gracious God. And His character will not change. He is YHVH – The Everlasting, Unchanging – Praise be to Him!

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.

Is God’s Law a Curse?

The belief that the “Law is a curse”, is a doctrine that has been handed down for many generations in Christianity. Each New born Christian is taught one way, or the other, that the Law is useless, done away and even a curse. They are taught that whoever “obeys/does” the Law of God is “under a curse”. The proof for this idea comes from the letters of Paul – “the misunderstood apostle” as I call him. Today, we will delve into the Scriptures in hope of uncovering the truth behind his words and clear out any misunderstandings these verses have created.

Let us review the words of Paul that have been misinterpreted by most Christians
Gal 3:10 
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.
Gal 3:11 
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
Gal 3:12  
And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
Gal 3:13 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:

Life&DeathReading the above, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that whoever obeys “God’s Law” is “under a curse” and that the “Law is a curse”. If many more Christians knew the context of Scripture, that Paul himself is quoting the Old Testament here, and understood the Covenant God made with His people, these misunderstandings would cease to exist. The core of this misunderstanding lies in not knowing that God set forth both Blessing & Curses, and Life & Death, when He made the Covenant with His people.

 

The Blessings & Curses of the Law
When God made the Covenant at Sinai & confirmed it at Horeb, He set forth Blessings & Curses before His people. If the people obeyed, they would be blessed. If the people disobeyed, they would be cursed.

Deu 11:26-28 Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.
Deu 30:15,19 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
Deu 29:21 And the LORD shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law:
Dan 9:11  Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.
Jos 8:34  And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law.

Read the list of Blessings for obedience(keeping His Covenant by obeying God’s Law) in Deut 28:1-14 & Lev 26:1-13

Read the list of Curses for disobedience(breaking His Covenant by disobeying God’s Law) in Deut 28:15-68 & Lev 26:14-39

The above verses are clear on the fact that God set forth blessings and curses for the ones who obey or disobey.
Life, good & Blessings were for the obedient.
Death, evil & Curses were for the disobedient.
This was the Law of God. The Law of God could save no one. Neither did it have a mind of its own. It was merely a set of instructions to live by. Whoever lived by them had life, good & blessings, while whoever disobeyed had death, evil & curses on their lives.

Now let’s  focus our attention on what Paul wrote about, in Gal 3:10-13

Gal 3:10
Paul quotes Deut 27:26 saying that whoever “does not continue/does not abide” in God’s Law is “cursed”. Deut 27:26 reads “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.” (Also read Jer 11:3, Eze 18:24)

Gal 3:11
Paul differentiates the Law & Faith, saying no one will be justified through the Law of God but by faith quoting Hab 2:4 “the just/righteous shall live by faith” in God. This is exactly what the Prophet Habakkuk spoke through the Spirit, in Hab 2:4 which reads “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

Gal 3:12
Paul furthers his argument saying that the Law has no connection to faith, but that whoever does/obeys the Law will live in them (will have life through it) quoting Lev 18:5 “Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.” (Also read Neh 9:29, Eze 20:11,13)

Gal 3:13
Then, Paul goes onto explain an important point that is the root of this misunderstanding. It is important to note that, it is not the fault of Paul but our own, that we have misunderstood this for so long. Paul says that through Christ’s death on the cross, He has redeemed us from the curse of the law. It is clear that Paul is not calling “God’s Law” a curse. He is simply saying that Christ redeemed us from the “Curse OF THE Law”.

What was the curse of the Law? The Curse of the Law was that whoever disobeyed/sinned would die(Eze 18:24). Sin led man to death(Rom 5:12). We know what Sin is, only through the Law(Rom 7:7)

What did Christ redeem us from? He redeemed us from death which was the wages of Sin(Rom 6:23). Paul was right to say that Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) saved us from the Curse of the Law, as the “Curse of the Law = Death”.

A short review of the points made by Paul in the above 4 verses;
• Whoever does not obey God’s Law is cursed (Gal 3:10/Deut 27:26)
• The righteous are not justified before God, through Law, but by Faith (Gal 3:11/Hab 2:4)
• The Law is different to Faith, but who “obeys/does” the Law will have life(Gal 3:12/Lev 18:5). So, conversely, if someone does not obey/do the Law, they will have death.
• But Through Christ’s sacrifice we are free from the curse of the Law, which is Death(Gal 3:13). Not that we can be disobedient to Him, but that we would have grace & mercy, through repentance, whenever we fall short of obeying God’s Law.

With the above understanding, let’s review Gal 3:10-13
Paul has made his case that no one is “justified/made righteous” before God through the Law, but by having Faith in God. But he has also said that whoever disobeys God’s Law is under a curse. Even though we are “justified/made righteous” through faith, Obedience to God’s Law is necessary to not be under the curse of Death. In other words, We are saved/justified/made righteous through Faith, but our obedience to God & His Laws decides whether we stay under His favour/grace and obtain Life eternal. Just because someone who believes in God’s mercy, is saved, does not mean he/she can go on disobeying God and still have His favour/grace towards him/herself. But, whenever we fall short, and break His Law (Sin), we are now not under the curse of the Law, because Christ has taken the Curse, which is Death, on Himself.

“Sin” or “Disobedience” against God is the “breaking of God’s Law” (1Jn 3:4  Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.) This could be written as a simple equation as given below;

COMMITTING SIN = BREAKING GOD’S LAW brings CURSE OF THE LAW = DEATH
LIVING RIGHTEOUSLY = OBEYING GOD’S LAW brings BLESSING OF THE LAW = LIFE

Because of Christ, even when we break The Law, we can still receive mercy through repentance, and not be under the “Curse of the Law” which is Death.

Conclusion
Paul never called God’s Law, “a curse”. This is a man-made doctrine which has existed in the Christian congregations, from as early as the 3rd Century AD. The “Curse of the Law” was Death, which was the wage needed to be paid for Sin. Through Christ’s intervention and death, He took this curse on Himself, giving us freedom from Death and passage to eternal Life. Our Messiah did not take away the Law through His death. He took away the “Curse of the Law” through His death. We receive salvation through Faith, and not by keeping God’s Law. This was the same with the people of Israel, as they were saved from Egypt & Slavery through God’s Grace & Mercy, and not because of any righteousness they had. After they were saved, God wanted obedience from them. This is the same pattern seen throughout the Scriptures. We are also required to be obedient towards our Heavenly Father after He saves us through His grace. And whenever we fall short, He still has mercy towards the repentant, because of the redemption work of Messiah Yeshua.

We cannot call the Law of God, a curse, as it is only a guide on how we should live. The choice is upto us. We can choose to live in the blessings or to die in the curses. We cannot blame God’s Law for the choices we make. Let us walk in the “Blessings of the Law” by being obedient to our Creator and choose life Eternal, for He has paid the ultimate price for our lives, so that we are never under the “Curse of Law”, which is death.

Is it Law vs Grace and Faith vs Works?

Modern Christianity pits Law against Grace and Faith against Works. Is this doctrine Scriptural? Was this the plan and wish of our Heavenly Father? Did our Messiah put an end to Law and Works? It is important for us to understand the biblical definitions for each of these terms as well as learn the connections between these 4 biblical terms. If you are seeking the roots of our faith, and you are a person ready to be reproved, corrected and instructed by Scripture, I invite you to test the following study.

Definitions of Law, Grace, Faith & Works

Law – God’s Law lets us know what Sin is, in His eyes. Breaking God’s Law, is considered Sin.

  • Rom 3:20  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 7:7  What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
  •  1Jn 3:4  Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law

Grace – Grace is God’s unmerited favor on our lives. We are saved and made righteous by His Grace towards us

  • Eph 2:8  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
  • Rom 3:24  Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
  • Tit 3:7  That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Faith – We gain God’s Grace through our Faith in Him. It is the belief that “He is the Creator & Redeemer, and there is no Life in us, without Him”

  • Heb 11:6  But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
  • Eph 2:8  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
  • Rom 4:5  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

Works – Works Is all that we do. Our obedience to his Word/Law brings us blessings. We will be judged according to our Works

  • 2Ti 3:16,17  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
  • Jas 1:25  But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
  • Rev 20:12,13  … and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

Is Law against Grace?

Many presume that God’s Law is against Grace, and that by keeping God’s Law, we fall from Grace. These are common misconceptions which have risen from misunderstandings of Pauline Letters. Let’s look at some of these verses which have been taken out of context and study them further.

Rom 6:14  For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
For one who quotes the above verse as proof of God’s Law is against His Grace, we have to read the very next verse to understand Paul’s thoughts. “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid”. (Remember that Sin = Breaking God’s Law : 1Jn 3:4). So effectively, what Paul is saying is “What then? shall we BREAK GOD’S LAW, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid”. But why then did he say we are not under the Law? this will be addressed in the next point.

Gal 2:21  I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Gal 5:4  Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
The above verses in Paul’s letter to the Galatians explains what his whole ministry revolved around. Contrary to popular belief, Paul never said God’s Law is done away with. The misunderstanding lies in the concept of “Righteousness by the Law” or “Justification by the Law”. Paul is not saying that the “Law is against Grace”, or that whoever that obeys the Law has fallen from Grace. He is simply saying that “Righteousness” / “Justification” cannot be attained through the Law. He is saying that whoever tries to “attain righteousness” by the Law, has fallen from Grace. A good example of this, is the doctrine of the Circumcision Party which taught that a person needs to be circumcised to be saved/ receive salvation/ attain righteousness/ be justified. We are not made righteous through the Law, which is there to guide us. This is why we are not under it. But does this mean the Law is done away with? by no means. If that was so, what would we be judged by? God’s Law was never meant to be against His Favour/Grace.

Grace enables us to live according to God’s Law

The Grace of God clearly cannot be against the Law of God. This idea is further endorsed by Paul as we see in the verses below

Rom 6:1  What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
Remember that Sin = Breaking God’s Law according to 1Jn 3:4. So effectively, what Paul is saying is “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in BREAKING GOD’S LAW, that grace may abound?”. Grace came to us through Messiah’s blood Sacrifice because we were “Law Breakers” or “Sinners”. What Paul explains here is whether we can say, that we are no longer under Law and continue in Sin, because Grace has been poured on us. Grace has been poured on us, so that we no longer continue in Sin (Breaking God’s Law). (Refer Rom 6:15 as well)

Is Works against Faith?

Similar to the notion that God’s Law is against Grace, some presume that Faith is all that we need. The common misconception here is that works is “dead” where faith is “alive”. Many of these thoughts have also sprung up through misunderstandings of Pauline Letters. Let’s look at some of these verses as well, and study them further.

Gal 2:16  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.
As per the definition of the word “Works” given above, “Works” of the Law, means what you do in obedience to God’s word. For example not committing Adultery or Murder are Works of the Law. Just as we saw in the verses regarding Law & Grace, Paul again focuses his attention in telling the reader that you are not justified through your obedience to God’s Law, but by the Faith you have in God.

Rom 3:28  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Here again, Paul’s focus is justification through “Works”. He is not saying that one should not Obey God’s Law, but he is simply saying that one is not Justified through the good/obedient works he does. We are saved/ made righteous/ justified because of our faith – because we believe that God will give us the Grace we need to move from death to life. Just because we believe in God’s graciousness, can we now say that we do not need to be obedient to Him? To keep and do the Words of God? Obedience to God’s Words was never supposed to be against the Faith we have in God.

Works is what perfects our Faith

Even though no one is justified through “Works” alone, obedience to God’s Word or Works of the Law as it is known, does perfect our Faith in God. In other words. when we obey Him, we show the amount of Faith we have in Him. Let us see the explanation given by James in this regard.

Jas 2:21-24  Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
James explains the connection between Works and Faith in a few words. He shows how Abraham’s Faith became perfect in the eyes of God, when he was willing to do what was commanded by God, even to slay his only son. In Gen 15, when God promised him an heir and a countless amount of descendants, Abraham believed. Gen 15:6 reads “And he believed in YHVH; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” God counted Abraham’s Faith as righteousness the moment he believed in God. But James shows how this verse of Scripture was fulfilled only when Abraham obeyed God in offering up his son. (And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness:) As much as we have faith in God, without obedience to Him, that faith is not perfected. In other words, if we say we have Faith in Him, but keep on disobeying Him, how can we prove our faith like our father Abraham did? Let us obey Him and show how much faith we have in Him.

Conclusion

As we have seen through the passages above, we cannot pit “Law” against “Grace” and “Works” against “Faith”. We are not made righteous through the “Law” or our “Works”. It is only through our “Faith” and His “Grace” that we are saved. This doe not mean that God’s Law is done away with and we do not have to do the Works of the Law. God’s “Law” shows us how to be obedient in doing the “Works”, as much as “Faith” in Him, produces “Grace” or His Favor towards us. “Grace” in turn helps us keep his “Law” as well as our “Faith” becoming perfect in His sight through the Obedient “Works” we do.

We have to break down the wrong doctrines taught to us and start reading God’s Word through the help of His Spirit. Let us be perfect before God (2Cor 13:11, 2Ti 3:17, Heb 13:21, Rev 3:2) adding Works to our Faith and keeping His Law because of His abundant Grace.

There are many more misunderstood verses regarding this subject which we will study in the coming days. Meanwhile, I also invite you to read this study for more clarity on this topic.

The misunderstood parable of New and Old Wine

Christ often spoke in parables and sometimes the interpretations are also recorded clearly in the Gospels. In Matthew 9:9-17, Mark 2:14-22 & Luke 5:27-39, Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) spoke another parable to the pharisees, which He did not provide an interpretation afterwards. The “Parable of the New & Old Wine” is often used to say that Yeshua was discarding the Old Mosaic Law, while introducing “A New Law which was built on Truth & Grace”. We will delve into this misunderstood parable and try to understand (with proper context) what Yeshua was really trying to say.

If time permits, I suggest that you also read “Who the pharisees were” which shows how they were not keepers of God’s Law & “Did Christ overule the Old Ten Commandments with 2 New Commandments?” which shows how Yeshua merely quoted the 2 New Commandments from the Old Testament and that He did not introduce a New Law.

For the purpose of this study, we will use the reading from Luke to investigate and understand what Yeshua was trying to say taking proper context into consideration. (I have highlighted the important parts below).

Luk 5:27-39  And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. And he left all, rose up, and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink? And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days. And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved. No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.

Notice how this Parable is connected to a feast made in Levi’s House. Levi, who is also called Matthew in Mat 9:9, follows Yeshua leaving his work which was Tax Collecting, and makes a feast to which Yeshua was invited. Many of Levi’s friends and some who were Tax Collector’s(Publicans) were also present at his house.

The Scribes and Pharisees who kept a close eye on Yeshua all the time, ask Him why He is sharing a meal in the midst of sinners and tax collectors. Yeshua answers them by saying that He came to bring sinners to repentance.

Then they ask Yeshua, why His disciples do not fast often, and pray, like the disciples of the pharisees. To which Yeshua answers by saying that they will fast when He is taken away from them.

Then He goes onto convey the parable which is in question. Before we move onto the Parable, I want you to understand the context behind this parable and why Yeshua said this parable to the Pharisees. (We know that the Pharisees were actually hypocrites and keepers of their own laws and traditions which were against God’s Commandments).

Proper Context
Let us observe the events leading to this parable. Luke 5 starts off with Yeshua asking Peter, James & John to follow Him, which meant becoming His disciples. This was a bold move for a person who was gaining respect throughout Judea as a great Rabbi/Teacher. There would have been so many more well educated people He could have chosen from the Scribes or the Pharisees, but He opted to choose lowly fishermen. In Luke 5:27, Yeshua enrolls a Tax Collector named Levi, next as one of His disciples. First, fishermen and now a Tax Collector – The Pharisees and Scribes would have been furious. Fishermen were “uneducated” while Tax Collectors were “traitors” in the eyes of the Pharisees. This is the background behind this event and the parable of interest.

Yeshua’s choice in disciples were a concern to the Pharisees and they found fault with them saying “Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but yours eat and drink?” This was the reason behind the parable that Yeshua put forward to the people who questioned Him.

Now that we understand that the reason behind the parable was “the question about His disciples”, let’s move on to decipher the parable.

Part I of the Parable
No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old.

Part II of the Parable
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.'”

Using proper context, we understood above, that this parable was spoken out as a reply to the questioning which came up regarding Yeshua’s choice of disciples. Using this context we can come to a proper interpretation as follows:
Old Garment/ Old Wineskin = Disciples who have learned Pharisaical TeachingsThe Piece from a New Garment/ New Wine = New/Proper Teaching of God’s Word
New Wineskin = Disciples who are open to learning God’s Word/who have not learned pharisaic ways
Old Wine = Pharisaic Teaching of God’s Word which is God’s Word mixed and changed with their own laws, traditions and teachings

(In the parables given above, “The Old Garment” and “The Old Wineskin” are parallels, meaning they represent the same idea. In the same way, “The Piece from a New Garment” and “The New Wine” are also parallels. The “New Wineskin” is obviously the opposite of the “Old Wineskin” in the same way that the “Old Wine” is the opposite of the “New Wine”.)

Let’s try to read the Parable again with the interpretation given above, to see whether it makes sense in proper context, as an answer to the Pharisees.

Part 1 of Parable No one tears “a piece from a new garment” and puts it on an “old garment”. If he does, he will tear the “new”, and “the piece from the new” will not match the “old”.
Interpretation No one can put “New/Proper Teaching of God’s Word” into a “Disciples who have learned Pharisaical Teachings”. If done, the “New/Proper Teaching of God’s Word” will go to waste, as it will not match the lifestyle of the “Disciples who have learned Pharisaical Teachings”

Part 2 of Parable And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.'”
Interpretation And no one puts “New/Proper Teaching of God’s Word” into “Disciples who have learned Pharisaical Teachings”. If done, “Disciples who have learned Pharisaical Teachings” will not be able to contain the “New/Proper Teaching of God’s Word” and the “New/Proper Teaching of God’s Word” will go to waste, and the “Disciples who have learned Pharisaical Teachings” will be condemned/destroyed(because they rejected the proper teaching). But “New/Proper Teaching of God’s Word” must be put into “Disciples who are open to learning God’s Word/who have not learned pharisaic ways”. And no one after learning “Pharisaic Teaching of God’s Word which is God’s Word mixed and changed with their own laws, traditions and teachings” desires “New/Proper Teaching of God’s Word”, for he says, ‘The “Pharisaic Teaching of God’s Word which is God’s Word mixed and changed with their own laws, traditions and teachings” is good.'”

Using this interpretation we can come to the conclusion that Yeshua was indeed speaking in context, to the pharisees, who were questioning Him about how He was choosing uneducated sinners as disciples. To which Yeshua replied by a parable that showed how it was better for Him to choose “uneducated sinners” over the so called “educated ones learning pharisaic doctrine, which was clearly against God’s Word“. He spoke how He needed to choose new wineskins so that He could pour the “correct teaching of God’s Word” into them, while old wineskins which contained “different teachings” could never hold the correct teaching of God. This was the simple argument He made with this parable, so that the pharisees would not question Him anymore.

Some have interpreted this parable to say the “Old Wine” represents the “Old Mosaic Laws/Commandments” while “New Wine” represents “Grace and Truth”. One who studies the bible will understand that “God’s Word/Commandments are not against Truth, but Truth itself” and that you cannot pit God’s Commandments against Grace and Truth.

I am not, in any way, saying that this is the final and conclusive interpretation of this Parable. But I am offering everyone a chance to look at the parable afresh with proper context according to God’s Word. As I always say, Do not believe anyone. Read it for yourself and check whether what you understand, is in complete agreement with everything written in the Scriptures. For too long, we have been giving ear to people who have taken things out of context and given their own interpretations, that do not gel with God’s Word completely. Test this interpretation with the same critical mentality and may the Holy Spirit, the helper, who is there to help us understand God’s Word, help you in having a closer walk with our Father in heaven.