Galatians, Full Page
I prepared the following during my research for the book, "Israel's
Identity/Israel's Conversion." The message in Galatians is
very clear for those who will study it seeking the truth of the
matter of New Testament Israel. I believe you will find the following
consistent with Scripture, though certainly not consistent with
the prevalent preconceived notions about Israel.
The Problem Stated
Living 2000 years from the time of the introduction of the Gospel of Christ, we fail to understand the significance of what took place at its introduction. The people of New Testament times, the first church, were Israelites/Jews of the first order. Israel had been thoroughly indoctrinated with the distinction between themselves as Gods chosen people (Jews/Israelites) and the surrounding Gentiles (non-Jews/non-Israelites). The message of Christ that voided the fifteen hundred year distinction created great consternation among those who loved the Lord and the Law of Moses. They just could not grasp the fact that faith in Christ alone, as exemplified by Abraham, made one a member of Gods chosen people and heirs to Gods promise to Abraham. Old Testament Jews/Israelites had no problem with Gentiles worshiping God, but the Gentile had to proselytize to Judaism.
There were Jewish religious leaders who were so convinced that the old distinction between Gods chosen people, Israel, and the Gentiles had to be maintained that they closely followed the spread of the Gospel of Christ over the known world, teaching the new converts that the old distinction between Jews/Israelites and the Gentiles had to be maintained. There are very few New Testament epistles that do not deal with the message of the false teachers who sought to maintain the distinction that Christ destroyed:
And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. (Acts 15:1-5.)
Thus true legalism is adding the works of the law to grace through faith for salvation. Though the false teachers claimed they represented the church at Jerusalem, the Apostles made it clear that they did not send them out:
Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: (Acts 15:24. See also, Rom. 9:32.)
Many today also try to maintain the old distinction that existed before Christ between "Gods chosen people (Israel)" and the Gentiles. So, obviously, the very best way to effectively deal with the modern misunderstanding that seeks to maintain that distinction is to use the Word of God.
The Book of Galatians
We would be remiss if we tried to discuss the Israel of God
and the promises God gave to Abraham and the heirship to those
promises without considering the clear statements by the Spirit
through Paul in the book of Galatians. This book is, no doubt,
the clearest statement by the Spirit as to the identity of the
seed of Abraham, the true Israel of God, and the rightful heirs
to the promises of God. As the reader should know, the Christian
church of the first 100 years or so was overwhelmingly Jewish/Israelite:
It was born out of the old Jewish/Israelite nation. It is evident
from the book that the false teachers dealt with by Paul were
using everything in their power to persuade the new Christian
converts to return to the Jewish religion centered in the Temple
at Jerusalem. The false teachers worked very hard to convince
the new converts there still remained a Jew/Gentile distinction.
The false teachers were saying that if people wanted to be truly justified, right with God and heir to Abrahams promise, they had to continue in all the Mosaic law, both the moral and the mediation laws: the Ten Commandments and the rituals and sacrifices as established through Moses. They argued against justification by Gods free grace through faith by saying that if Pauls message was true, then individuals could continue in sin. In order to strengthen their own position, the false teachers undermined Pauls authority to establish doctrine contrary to the Jews religion for the new Christian church.
For brevity's sake, we will only discuss a few of the more pertinent portions of this book. However, a complete commentary on the book by this pastor is available upon request.
Paul spends most of Galatians chapter one proving he is not a Christian novice. Paul was not unfamiliar with the Jews message, having not only practiced but led in the Jews religion for many years, with great personal profit. As we follow Pauls writings, we find that wherever he went, Jewish false teachers followed him. We know what the false teachers (messengers of Satan?) taught from the many things Paul presents to counter their teachings. Whenever someone was converted by faith in Christ, the teachers would tell them that in order to be a true Christian and heir to Abrahams promise, they had to go through the ritual of becoming a Jew, circumcision. We also know that the false teachers tried to maintain the Old Testament distinction between Jews and Gentiles after Christ completed His work and rose from the dead. At the time, no doubt Paul was very upset that these teachers followed him around, undermining his ministry. Paul may have gotten tired of repeating the same line to the different churches because of the influence of the false teachers. Yet, because they did follow him around, we have 14 books by Paul, most of them dealing with the false teachings, which we may not have had otherwise.
The date of the letter is maybe 53-55 AD, shortly after the church was founded. It was before the fall of Jerusalem, and the teachers were telling the new Christians that they had to go to Jerusalem in order to worship God properly. The fall of Jerusalem should have ended the argument forever as to who is the true seed of Abraham. However, though it remained in the background, it was revived again with vigor in the late 1700s.
While Paul was among the people, they trusted and accepted his teaching. He was no sooner gone than the false teachers came in, and corrupted what Paul had taught. The teachers were of the physical seed of Abraham, and they insisted that though the people were now Christians they had to observe the Jewish rites and rituals if they would inherit the promised blessings of Abraham. The teachers claimed Apostolic authority from the main church at Jerusalem, teaching that Paul was inferior because he had not seen Christ face to face before Christs death. Therefore, Pauls teaching had to yield to theirs. In fact, they even taught that Paul had changed his views after he left the Galatians, and that Paul now believed that the Christian had to observe the Jewish rituals if they would be heirs to Gods promise to Abraham. Among the teachers arguments was that in order to be a true child of Abraham, one had to be circumcised. Their false teachings caused strife and turmoil.
Paul wrote this letter in defense of the true gospel of faith, pointing out that faith alone inherits the promise given to Abraham, and thus faith makes one a true Jew or Israelite. Faith was the way that Abraham claimed the promised blessings of God, and faith is the way that every person since will claim the promises of God. However, Paul also makes it clear that genuine, godly faith results in faithfulness to the laws of God.
1 as taught at Providence Baptist Church, Moorefield WV.
Opening the letter, Paul sums up the gospel here in just one short verse, 1:4. He gives the two reasons why Christ gave himself: First, for our sins - He paid our sin debt in our place. And second, to deliver us from this present evil world. He gave Himself that we might have the power not to walk after the lusts of the flesh as listed in Galatians chapter five. (See also, 1 Pet. 1:17-19, 2:24.)
The False Messages
The false message was basically that the new Christian converts had to continue in the Jewish religious rites if they hoped to be right with God and heir to Abrahams promise; the logical conclusion of that false message was that there remained a Jew/Gentile distinction after Christ.
Paul called the addition of works of the law to faith another gospel, which is not another gospel, that is, a false gospel. He even implied that demonic influence caused the people to depart from the gospel of grace without the works of the law. The logical conclusion of the false gospel was a false distinction between Jews/Israelites and the Gentiles after Christ.
Galatians is probably the strongest book of the 66 in the Bible against false teachers. The only other passage that might be considered as strong is Deuteronomy 13, where the false teachers were commanded to be put to death, showing what God thinks of them. In Galatians, they are to be cast out of their Christian teaching positions.
The false teachers showed up wherever Paul had been. Paul preached
the gospel that simple faith in Christ made one an heir to Gods
promises to Abraham; Paul then established public assemblies where
the Word of God was to be taught, and then he moved on. False
teachers would soon appear with their false doctrines, mixing
Judaism with Christianity, saying that to be saved and heir to
Abrahams promise, one had to follow the old Israelite religion.
It sounds like there was only one man who showed up here, yet
he had a great influence, 5:9, 10. Adding works of the law to
grace, the false teachers added the Jewish work of circumcision
to the grace of God for salvation, 6:13. The teachers were very
sincere and convincing, and were able to sway the new converts
to themselves. Remember, they had no written New Testament by
which to judge the teachings: All they had was the Old Testament.
The false teachers, called Judaizers, attempted to mix the rites and rituals of the old Jewish religion with Christianity. They were trying to mix both the mediation laws and the moral laws of Moses with the gospel of Christ for salvation. Paul points out that neither Abraham nor any person since was/is saved by anything except the grace of God through faith. Any one who teaches anything different is a messenger of Satan. (See 2 Cor. 11.) Paul points out that though the false teachers appeared as very sincere and zealous ministers of Christ, they were messengers of Satan because they added works to faith for salvation, i.e., legalism. Clearly, any message about Jesus that adds to or removes from simple faith in Christ is the message of another Jesus: It is not the Jesus of the Bible.
Paul expressed his amazement that the people among whom he had worked so hard departed so quickly from the truth of the gospel. His amazement is evident by the number of times he make the reference: 1) 1:6; 2) 3:1, 2; 3) 4:10, 11; 4) 4:20; 5) 5:7. As soon as the people got out from under Pauls influence, they followed another gospel. No matter how sincere or zealous the messengers were, if the message did not line up with the gospel as recorded in the Old Testament, justification by grace through faith in Christ, Paul desired Gods curse upon the messengers, vv. 8, 9. (See also, 1 Cor. 16:22, Jos. 7:15 - accursed thing.)
Galatians 3:1-10, Paul proves that the gospel message he preached to the Gentiles about the finished work of Christ for salvation was in total conformity with what the Apostles taught at Jerusalem. Seventeen years after Pauls conversion and fourteen years after he went to Jerusalem to see Peter, Paul went back to Jerusalem with Barnabas. He also took with him Titus, a Gentile believer. Though Titus was a converted Gentile, the Christian Church, under the leadership of the Apostles, did not insist that Titus be circumcised and become a "Jew," as the false teachers were insisting of Christians. After Paul told the Church leaders at Jerusalem what was taking place through him and the message the Lord had given unto him, they agreed that Paul was given a special ministry to the Gentiles. On the other hand, they also understood that Peter had been given a special ministry to the Jews. So not only did the Jewish Christian Church at Jerusalem not change nor add to Pauls message, the Christian leaders there placed their blessings upon Paul and Barnabas, and their message of justification by faith alone and the removal of the distinction between the Jews/Gentiles.
Paul points out that he, being trained by the Lord Jesus Himself, preached the same message to the Jews at Jerusalem as he preached to the Gentiles: there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, for both are "saved" through the kind of faith exhibited by Abraham, from whom Paul proves that the just shall live by faith. Paul makes the point that he could not have received his message from Peter, only being with him fifteen days, 1:8. Nor could he have received it from the other apostles at Jerusalem, for he saw none of them, save James the Lords brother.
Faith and the Old Testament
Any one could join the Jewish religion, and thus the Israelite nation, of the Old Testament simply by committing themselves to the God of Abraham by faith. Their committal was exhibited by doing what was required of them by the sacrificial laws that pointed to the future work of Christ, including circumcision. No person had remission of sins in the Old Testament by offering a sacrifice; their remission came because they looked forward by faith to the coming sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Christ Jesus. The work of Christ changed nothing of the "Jewish" faith once delivered to the saints:
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (Jude 3.)
The saints were the Old Testament saints. The Spirit tells us through James that the gospel today is the same as was delivered to the saints of old. The work of Christ only removed the parts of the genuine Jewish religion that spoke of the sacrificial work of Christ. The rest of the Old Testament religion remains. Therefore, the Gentiles were and are still brought into the faith which was once delivered unto the saints as they were before Christ. The saints followed the religion delivered to Adam, followed by Abraham and developed more fully by Moses.
In other words, the gospel message was the same after Christ
as it was before Christ. Those who make up the people of God are
of the same faith today as they were before Christ -- faith in
Christs atoning work for them. Paul tells us that it was the same
God for both the Jews and Gentiles, 2:8. The logical conclusion
must be, therefore, that it is the same religion for both the
Jews and Gentiles as it was before Christ. The unbelieving Jews
were broken off from the root, Israel, and replaced by believing
Christians, whether natural born Hebrews/Israelites or natural
The freedom from the old mediation laws brought about by the work of Christ upset the false teachers, who evidently were well respected, big conference speakers, so they used every means at their disposal to bring the new Christians back under the bondage of the Jewish Temple worship and ceremonies, i.e., sacrifices and circumcision, 2:4. Their self-importance did not impress Paul at all, v. 6. Their false message that did not emphasize Christs finished work for sinners identified them as ministers of Satan. (2 Cor. 11:15.)
When the Jewish/Israelite church leaders at Jerusalem saw that God was using Paul to call the Gentiles into the faith once delivered to the Old Testament saints, they gave him their blessings with only one instruction, remember the poor, v. 10. (We will not go into the implications of this exhortation to Paul at this time.) Paul agreed with this because he was already doing it.
Paul was traveling the world with the message that salvation was by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ. His message was very much against the Jewish message of the false teachers; their false message said that the Jewish nation, or Israeli nation, was Gods special nation. It said that nation was the apple of Gods eye. It said that those who wanted to be among Gods chosen people had to continue in (or join) the nation by continuing in the Jewish rites and rituals.
On the other hand, Paul preached that the believers in Christ were Gods chosen people. He preached that the promises to Abraham were inherited by grace through faith. He preached that through the work of Christ the promises were just as accessible to the Gentiles as they were to the Jews. He preached that the wall between Jews and Gentiles was now down through Christs atoning work and the distinction was only between believers and unbelievers. In other words, there are only two classes of people in the world since Christ: those who are in Christ by faith, and those who are not in Christ. The dividing line was now Christ, not the rites and rituals of the Jewish religion. Not liking Pauls message at all, they followed him everywhere, challenging his authority to teach such a message so contrary to the Jewish tradition of the elders.
Defending his authority from the Lord Jesus to teach contrary to Jewish tradition, Paul points out that the Church at Jerusalem recognized his authority to rebuke the Apostle Peter at Antioch. The issue over which Paul rebuked Peter is important for our purpose: The problem was not a moral problem, but was over the distinction between Jews and Gentiles as required by the law of Moses:
When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.(Deut. 7:1-3.)
Peter knew this law, quoting it to Cornelius. (Acts 10:28.)
Then Peter was called to the church at Jerusalem to answer the
charge that he had violated the law. (Acts 11:1-4.) Peter explained
what happened to him in Acts 10 when he had been sent to the Gentiles.
He told them that now the wall of separation had been removed
by God Himself through in the work of Christ: Christ had sent
them into all the world to preach the gospel. The Church accepted
Peters explanation, and rejoiced that God had removed the distinction.
The first Church at Jerusalem recognized that the only separation
between people is now separation between believers and unbelievers,
not between "Israelites" and "non-Israelites."
The law of God forbid any kind of close relationship with those outside the chosen people, Israel. The law of God found in Deuteronomy 7:1-3 was transferred to all Believers through the work of Christ.
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Cor. 6:14-18.)
The false brethren had tremendous influence. They even influenced Peter to reestablish the Old Testament Jew/Gentile distinction that required Gentiles to proselytize to Judaism to worship God. Paul told Peter that salvation by grace through faith for both the Jews and Gentiles was not a new doctrine, being clearly established in the Old Testament law of God. (2:16, 17. There was no New Testament when Paul rebuked Peter according to Gods law of salvation by grace through faith. See Lk. 24:44-48.) Notice what Paul told Peter: "We who know Christ and the Old Testament law know that a man is not made right with God by his good works, but by faith in Christ; we who know Christ and the Old Testament law know that there is no longer a Jew/Gentile distinction; we who know Christ and the Old Testament law know that all men are now one in Christ; we who know Christ and the Old Testament law know that a man is justified by grace through faith." (2:15-17.)
Paul told Peter: "You know we are justified by grace through faith in Christ. You know that Christ removed the distinction between the Jews and Gentiles, and they are now one body in Him. In fact, Peter, you are the one who saw the vision when the Lord sent you to the first Gentile convert. Now you are again making the distinction between the Jews and Gentiles by eating with them and then removing from them when the MUCKITY MUCKS come around. When you did that, you rebuilt the very thing you worked to destroy -- the distinction between Jews and Gentiles. When you made the separation, you made Christ a minister of sin. The sin was rebuilding the distinction that you destroyed when you were faithful to the vision and went to Cornelius."
We should observe that there are those today who make good livings rebuilding a supposed distinction between Jews and Gentiles. They travel the country saying that if the Christian will be right with God, he must support that supposed distinction. Those who are trying to rebuild what was destroyed by Christ are as much sinners as were these false teachers who tried to rebuild what was destroyed in Christ. They are also heir to the strong rebuke issued by Paul against Peters efforts to rebuild a supposed Jew/Gentile distinction. Those who travel the country under the name of Christ rebuilding their supposed distinction make Christ a minister of sin, and themselves transgressors of the law. (2:17, 18.) The efforts of the false teachers were so effective that even Barnabas, Pauls right hand man, was carried away with their dissimulation (hypocrisy, condemnation).
We must keep in mind that Galatians 2;16-21 is a public rebuke given specifically to Peter, dealing with Peters specific sin -- rebuilding a separation he had removed.
The argument to the gospel message of justification by grace
through faith was that it gave license to sin. Paul points out
that the reason believers are not under the law for justification
is so we might live unto God through Christ. The purpose of freedom
from the eternal curse of the law and from its power is so Believers
can serve God. It is not so they can peruse their own fallen lusts.
Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.(Rom. 7:4.)
Paul points out that Gods freely given justification by grace through faith, far from freeing man from obedience to the Law of God, causes him to willingly follow the desires of God for him as revealed in the Law, 2:20. The work of Gods grace in those justified by Gods grace through faith puts to death the fallen desires in them. In other words, the redeemed are no longer controlled by the fallen desires. Rather, they are controlled by the desire to live godly lives. The believer is not motivated by what he desires to think and do, but by what the Lord God desires for him to think and do.
If one can be justified by keeping the law, then Christ died in vain, v. 21. In fact, if a person can be justified through the Jewish religious practices of keeping the moral and mediation laws, then there would have been no reason for Christ to even come. Paul is speaking to Peter who was fearful of the important Jewish men from Jerusalem. When these men showed up, Peter was not abiding by the Jewish law which required dissociating from all non-Jews. Peters fear of what these important men would do and say caused him to try to rebuild what he had tore down, the Jewish laws and traditions, including separating from non-Jews.
Paul uses this account of what happened at Antioch with Peter to prove that the gospel message he had been given by the Lord had authority over the most important man in the Christian Church, the Apostle Peter. Paul will then go on to expand on the Christian gospel that held even Peter accountable.
Thus far Paul has proved: First, the Old Testament law clearly foresaw that justification by grace through faith would come equally to both Jews and Gentiles (sinners were never justified by keeping the law) through Gods promised seed, Christ, the Messiah. Second, the new church after Christ no longer recognized the old distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles that had been so well maintained by Jewish law. And third, those who today seek to maintain the traditional Old Testament Jewish (Israelite)/Gentile distinction are teachers of a false message, as they attempt to rebuild what Christ destroyed.
Chapter three opens with Paul expressing his utter surprise that the people who had been so well instructed in the gospel, as previously presented by Paul, should forsake it. He says that surely the people are under a demonic spell to believe the message of the false teachers. He expresses his surprise at how foolish they can be. He points out that they started out by faith in the finished work of Christ for their justification, yet they gave that up for works of the flesh for justification. He asks if they had suffered in vain the many evils at the hands of the Jews for leaving the Jews religion for Christ. After being set free from the law by faith in Christ, he asks why they are willing to be bound by the works of the law for justification, especially when works of the law were never required for salvation, nor did the law bring about miracles. (See Mk. 16:15-20.)
Paul argues from the very thing every genuine Israelite was proud of: their link to Abraham. The teachers were trying to convince the people that in order to truly part of the promised people and heirs to Abrahams promise, they had to follow the law. Paul proves that Gods promised blessing to Abrahams seed is passed down by faith not through literal race nor by religious persuasion.
There has been a great amount of discussion over the original promise of Genesis 12:1-4a:
Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy fathers house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him;
The Lord gave the promise twice more to Abraham:
As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. (Gen. 17:4-8.) And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. (Gen. 22:15-18.)
The false teachers taught that the promise was passed down
by natural means. The coming of Christ and the teachings and writings
of the New Testament authors proved otherwise. What the apostles
taught and wrote created great conflicts between them and the
circumcised decedents of Abraham. The Spirit points out that Abraham
left his home, his family, everything, in obedience to God, not
knowing where he was going. His faith, which led to action, in
Gods fulfilling His word was counted unto him for righteousness.
(Rom. 4:3, Gal. 3:6, Ja. 2:23.)
The land Abraham looked for was not the literal land of Canaan, Palestine. (He. 11:8-16.) In other words, Palestine was not what was promised to Abraham for an everlasting possession as is claimed by many today. Romans 4:13, tells us that the promise was that Abrahams seed would be heir of the world. The place Abraham looked for was an eternal inheritance, an eternal city built by God where Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant. It is the same city that Christians of all ages look for. (He. 12:22-24.)
The false teaching of his day was quite similar to ours today, saying that Gods chosen people were/are the literal, physical decedents of Abraham. Paul proves that such an idea is not of God; it is totally unscriptural. Gods chosen people of all ages, both before and after Christ, are those who have the faith of Abraham.
Genesis 12:3/Galatians 3:8, 9, the promised blessing passed down from Abraham through the faith of Abraham was/is justification by faith or the Gospel of Christ. It is the forgiveness of sin and the clear conscience before God. (Rom. 3:22, 25, 4:5, 9, 11, 1 Tim. 1:19, Heb. 10:22.) The preaching of the gospel to Abraham was that through Abrahams seed, even the Gentiles would find forgiveness of sin. Peter preached that the blessing promised to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 was the forgiveness of sin and victory over the power of sin. (Acts :25, 26.) The true Old Testament Israelite showed his faith that the Lord would fulfill that promise when he followed the ceremonial laws, making the sacrifices required by Moses.
Paul tells us in Romans four what took place in Genesis 12:1-3. Paul is preaching against a false teaching of his day that said one had to continue in the Old Testament rites and rituals in order to be heir to Gods promises to Abraham. Almost all of Pauls books deal with the situation to some extent, Galatians and Romans especially. Here Paul responds to the Jewish contention that the blessings of Abraham and eternal life were passed down by the works of circumcision and doing what was required in the Jewish religion.
First, Paul proves that all people, both Jews and Gentiles, are natural born sinners. Because God is no respecter of persons, both Jews and Gentiles are under the death penalty. Second, Paul proves that no person has any natural desire nor ability to seek after God; the ability to seek after God is given by God. Third, Paul deals extensively with circumcision, which was a very hot issue in his day. Circumcision was given in Genesis 17:7-9, twenty five years after the first giving of the promise. The two promises, chapters twelve and seventeen, were identical, except for the later addition of circumcision.
Based upon Geneses 17:10, 11, many of Abrahams descendants believed that if they were circumcised according to the law in vv. 10, 11, they had no fear of hell. According to Charles Hodge:
It is obvious that the Jews regarded circumcision as in some way securing their salvation. That they did so regard it, may be proved not only from such passages of the New Testament where the sentiment is implied, but also by the direct assertion of their own writers. Such assertions have been gathered in abundance from their works by Eisenmenger, Schoettgen, and others. For example, the Rabbi Menachem, in his Commentary on the Books of Moses, Fol. 43, col. 3, says, "Our Rabbins have said, that no circumcised man will see hell." In the Jalkut Rubeni, num, 1. it is taught, "Circumcision saves from hell." In the Medrasch Tillim, fol. 7, col 2, it is said, "God swore to Abraham, that no one who was circumcised should be sent to hell." In the book Akedath Jizehak, fol. 54, col. 2, it is taught that "Abraham sits before the gate of hell, and does not allow that any circumcised Israelite should enter there." The apostle considers circumcision under two different aspects. First, as a rite supposed to possess some inherent virtue or merit of its own; and secondly, as a sign and seal of Gods covenant. (A Commentary on Romans, p 63. 1853. 1973 reprint by Banner of Truth Trust, PO Box 652, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. This writer has dealt thoroughly with circumcision in his book, "Padobaptism and the Word of God.")
The Midrash recounts how a man was supernaturally rescued from
an attack by his enemies because he had just been circumcised.
(Midrash Rabbah, Translated into English with Notes, Glossary
and Indices under the Editorship of Rabbi Dr. H. Freedman, B.A.,
PH.D. and Maurice Simon, M.A. In Ten Volumes, I.396. The Soncino
Press, London. First Printing, 1939. "The Midrash thus created
and brought into shape by the Soferimfor the purpose of expounding
the Torah--and latter also other parts of the Hebrew Scriptures--fulfilled
a vital necessity..." From the Foreword, I.xi.)
A basic false teaching Paul was dealing with in both Romans and Galatians was the teaching that in order to be heir to Gods promise to Abraham, one had to obey the law and be circumcised. Then once the person was circumcised, the person could pretty well live as he pleased.
Fourth, Paul proves that Abraham inherited the blessedness of forgiveness of sin by faith. (Rom. 4:1-6.) Abraham was justified by faith, not by the work of the law: the circumcision commanded in Genesis 17:10. Obviously, the works of the law referred to in Romans 4:2 include all the good works one might do, though Paul is referring specifically to circumcision. Paul refers back to the blessing promised to Abraham in Genesis chapters twelve and seventeen. The false teachers were teaching that the blessing was passed down only to those who were circumcised. Paul makes it clear that the blessing promised to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 was/is passed down by faith. That blessing is the forgiveness of sin -- justification by faith. Paul points out that the blessing of Abraham passes down regardless of whether one is a Jew or Gentile. Therefore, the Church is the legal heir to Abrahams blessing: the forgiveness of sins. The promise to Abraham was that the Christian Gospel of Christ would go to the Gentiles by faith. Abraham saw the Gospel of Christ, and rejoiced. (Jn. 8:56.)
Paul points out that Abraham had the promise from God long
before he was given circumcision. The promise was in Genesis 12,
and circumcision was not given until Genesis 17, about twenty
five years later. Abraham is the father to ALL who place their
faith in Christ, not just the Jews only. Physical circumcision
never had nor does it have today anything to do with being the
seed of Abraham according to the promise of God to Abraham. (Rom.
4:11, 12.) The blessings of Abraham have always been by faith.
Those who look to a work of the law to inherit Abrahams blessing (circumcision, baptism, physical relationship, rituals, &c.), rather than inheriting a blessing they will inherit a curse because they are unable to continue in all the law. Paul clearly says that the work of Christ was to bring the blessing of Abraham upon all people, Jews and Gentiles. The blessings of Abraham come through faith, and not through the works of the law as was/is taught by false teachers. (Gal. 3:10-14.)
Paul counters the false teachings with two points: A) he identifies the blessings promised to Abraham, which were two-fold, spiritual and physical. Spiritual - God promised that Abrahams seed would be a blessing to all the earth. The seed was/is Christ, and the promised blessing is the forgiveness of sin. Paul points out that the forgiveness of sin is through Christ, and is now available to everyone. Psychical - The psychical was that Abrahams seed would be heir to a literal land - a literal place in the earth. Paul tells us that the land promised to Abrahams seed as an everlasting possession was not just the literal land of Palestine, but it is the whole world. B) Paul proves that Abraham received the promised blessings from God based upon faith, not upon the works of the law, for circumcision was not given until twenty five years after Abraham received the promise, and the Ten Commandments, along with the Jewish rites and rituals, were not given for another four hundred years after Abraham received the promise.
Therefore, the false teachers were just that, false. They were liars, either intentional or unintentional. They did not know the Scriptures, or they would not have corrupted Gods promised blessings as given to Abraham, corrupting them with the works of circumcision and keeping the law. However, the Scriptures clearly teach that the kind of faith Abraham had will result in works pleasing to God. (See the book of James.)
The covenant that God made with Abraham said that God would gather together all His people into one body. The body would not be divided into two parts, the literal psychical seed of Abraham, Jews, and the non-seed of Abraham, Gentiles. The body of Gods people would be one and made up of both Jews and Gentiles. (Gal. 3:14, 15.)
The use of "Their/They"
Though Genesis 17:8, 9, uses plural, their/they, Paul clearly tells us that the singular word seed, as spoken to Abraham in Genesis twelve, seventeen and twenty two, refers to Christ. (Gal. 3:16.) In other words, they findtheir blessings in Christ, the Seed. Clearly, the only dividing line in the world today is Christ, despite the false teachings that attempt to maintain the Old Testament distinction between Jew and Greek-Gentile. (Gal. 3:28.) Though mens covenants are strong, Gods is much stronger: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar... (Rom. 3:4.)
The inheritance is defined in Genesis 17:8, 9, as the promise that God should be the God of a particular people -- that is, by virtue of the covenant made with faithful Abraham, all people having the faith of Abraham, Jews and Gentiles, have the blessings promised to Abraham. Paul points out that one cannot claim Abrahams blessings by a mixture of faith and law: it must be either by law or by faith, and it is clearly by faith. (Gal. 3:18.) Law voids faith, and faith mixed with law is not faith, v. 21. Righteousness had to be by faith in order for the whole world to be included in the promised blessing, justification.
It is very worthy of note here that Paul argued for justification by Gods grace through faith from the Old Testament. He did not argue from his own words, though he could have, for he was penning the Word of God. Paul did not argue from the words Christ spoke while He walked here on earth, nor from the words of other New Testament men, such as Peter, James or John. He argued from the law and the prophets (Rom. 3:21.) Thus those who do not know the Old Testament are wide open to any false doctrine that comes along, particular when the message appeals to the natural man and is presented by persuasive, charismatic teachers. (Eph. 4:14, Col. 2:4-9, 1 Cor. 14:20, Heb. 5:10-14.) The people at Gaul were accepting the false message not because of its soundness, but because of the "nice" messengers.
The Purpose of the Law
Paul made it abundantly clear that the law as given to Moses could not save a person, nor free a person from the power of sin. The false teachers were trying to get the people to either return to the temple rites and rituals in Jerusalem, or if they were Gentiles, become Jewish proselytes. (Acts 15:1-5, 24.) If the law will not save nor make one right before God, then what is its purpose? The question is answered by Paul. The immediate context refers to the mediation laws, the laws of the temple. (3:19-21.) However, the overall context of the law includes all the laws governing Gods household. (Cf. Heb. 3:1-6, 10:21.)
The law referred to in vv. 19, 20, was only given till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.Note, accordingly, the promise was not actually made to Abraham, but to the seed. The heir to the promise, therefore, is Christ. Those in Christ by faith in both the Old and New Testaments are, accordingly, joint heirs with Him. (Rom. 8:17.) Therefore, the law referred to in v. 19, must be the law that was only in effect till Christ came -- the mediation laws. Only those laws were the ones done away with in Christ, for the Ten Commandments never were the mediation between God and man. Only the sacrificial laws mediated, and those Christ clearly replaced.
The Old Testament law as given at the Mount through Moses contained two laws: first, the Ten Commandments, or the moral law which applied to the whole world, and second, the blood sacrifice, or the mediation law which applied only to Israel. (Also included was the civil law, which could come under the moral law.) At times, the New Testament authors refer to the moral law, the Ten Commandments. At times, they refer to the blood sacrifices, the mediation laws. Then at times they refer to the total laws of Gods government of His household. The context normally tells us to which law they refer.
The Ten Commandments were given in Exodus 20:10-17. After the Lord God (the Lord Jesus Christ) spoke the Ten Commandments, the people, realizing the holiness of God and their transgressions, stand back, and ask Moses for a mediator, vv. 18-26. Hence, the mediation laws were added. So the law being dealt with in Galatians 3:19, is the mediation law, which was only good till the seed should come to whom the promise was made. That law spoke of Christ to come who would be the mediator between God and man. (Titus 2:5, 6.) Thus we have two laws given in Exodus 20: first, the Ten Commandments, which showed men their sinfulness, and second, the mediation laws, which provide sinful man an approach to his Thrice-Holy God.
The Ten Commandments revealed the holiness of God and what is expected by God of man. The requirements of the Ten Commandments are upon every person who ever lived, whether they are Jews or Greeks, whether they are saved or unsaved. Every person will stand before God one day and answer for their actions according to the Ten Commandments. (Rom. ch. 2.) A purpose of the Ten Commandments is to stop the mouth of every person from claiming he or she is good enough for fellowship with the heavenly Father. The Ten Commandments prove that every person is a sinner, without exception, before God. The Ten Commandments prove that every person needs a mediator, someone to lay his hand on sinful man and on the Holy God.
Therefore, the Ten Commandments law will never pass away: the commandments will reveal the holiness of God as long as there is a God. In fact, heaven and earth will pass away before one speck of that law passes away. The Commandments still reveal how God requires man to live; they still reveal how we are to treat both God and others. They are and will always be Gods standard. Since Christ, Gods spirit dwells in Gods people, and He gives them a love for the Ten Commandants.
The purpose of the mediation laws was to mediate between God and man until the promise would come; the promise was Christ. Christ came, and now the mediation laws are dead. Also, the mediation laws preserved national Israel as a distinct people, just as sure as if the nation had been placed on an island. Thus national Israel was preserved until Christ came.
Remember, Paul is writing to people who could not imagine any other approach to the Heavenly Father apart from a literal blood sacrifice, a mediation offering, that had been practiced for fifteen hundred years. Accordingly, they were very susceptible to the influence of the false teachers to return to the old mediation laws done away with by the Seed, Christ. So Paul tells them again that the purpose of the temple laws was only to provide mediation until the true Mediator would come, Christ. Paul argues that righteousness and approach to God the Father is now by faith in Christ, not by keeping the law and being faithful to the temple.
The promise was given to Abraham. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness. Then the law was given 430 years latter. The law did not add to what was promised to Abraham, nor did it counter the promises given to Abraham. The law did not bring about righteousness, for that still came by the faith as exhibited by Abraham. (V. 21.) In fact, Paul says that if the law had been able to bring about righteousness and life, Christ would not have had to come. The law brings to light the guiltiness of all men to the end that they will flee to Christ to be freely justified by Him.
Paul points out also that the mediation laws were only given to a small minority of people, Israel, though all men and nations were under the curse of sin. (V. 22. Ps. 14:1-3, 53:1-3, Job 14:4, 15:14, 9:30-33, Rom. 3:9-31.) The Commandments define Gods holiness and mans sinfulness, showing man his absolute necessity for a Mediator. The Commandments were given to show man how to please God. (1 Jn. 3:4.) Though the Old Testament mediation laws were given to a very limited group of people, Israel, Gentiles could participate in the mediation by proselytizing to the Jewish religion. However, with the work of Christ, the mediation was expanded to cover the whole world; Paul makes it clear that the "Gentiles" no longer had to proselytize to the Jews religion.
God did not give the blood sacrifice to bring righteousness and remission of sins. The blood sacrifice was only a stop-gap measure until the time was right for Christ to come. Then He came, and made the sacrifice for sin.
Paul also points out that neither the mediation laws nor the
Ten Commandments was given so the people could inherit the promised
blessings of God. The promised blessings were by faith, but the
heirs to Abrahams promise was restricted to those who kept the
Then all the New Testament books prove that since Christ, the promised blessings are available to everyone though Christ, regardless of whether they are Jews or Gentiles.
3:24, schoolmaster can be viewed as all the law given at the mount 430 years after the promise, the view of many good men. However, Ephesians 2:11-22 overwhelmingly requires that the schoolmaster refer to the mediation laws that kept Israel a distinct nation for many hundreds of years. However, exclusiveness in worshiping the Heavenly Father was never Gods final plan. The exclusiveness was to teach of or point mankind to Christ. When He came, they were removed and the distinction between Jews and Gentiles removed.
Vv. 23-25, the use of we, our and us shows that Paul referred to the mediation laws that had for fifteen hundred years been imposed on them, the Jewish church of old, until the time of reformation, or the time of Christ. (Heb. 9:9.) V. 24, our schoolmaster... Paul identified himself with those to whom he writes. The people are evidently people who had been practicing the Jewish religion of circumcision and temple worship of God. V. 25, is a "freedom" verse, for it says that the restrictions, confinements and burdens of those laws were removed by faith in Christ. Their purpose of teaching about Christ and His work, and justification by faith in Him was fulfilled, so they are longer in effect. We must also include the Commandments in this freedom, for conversion includes conversion in ones attitude toward the Commandments of God. They are no longer a binding burden, but a joy.
Galatians 3:27, refers to spiritual baptism. (1 Cor. 12:12.)
And again Paul repeats himself, saying that the division between
Jew and Gentile has been removed in the body of Christ, the church.
(Titus 3:4-7. Isa. 61:10, 11; Rom. 3:19-26.) How foolish to attempt
to continue the division between Jews and Gentiles done away with
Galatians 3:28, 29, Abrahams seed and thus the heirs to the promise given by God to Abraham is clearly identified: The seed is Christ, and the heirs are those in Christ:
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Rom. 8:17. See also, St. John 8:37-44, 1 Cor. 3:23, Eph. 3:6, Titus 3:7, Heb. 1:14, 6:17, Ja. 2:5, &c.)
Chapter Three, Conclusion
1) Abraham was not an Israelite, receiving the covenant-promise while still a Gentile. However, he was a Hebrew, being a son of Eber. (See also, Gill on Gen. 14:13.)
2) the false teachers were saying that in order to be part of the covenant-people, and heir to the covenant-promise given to Abraham, one had to be either a physical heir to Abraham, or had to proselytize to the Jewish religion as passed down from Moses. Paul had no kind words for those who taught that lie, reminding us that the distinction between Abraham and the rest of the world was not the law nor circumcision. The distinction was Gods grace claimed by Abraham through faith. Abraham did not have the covenant-promise according to the flesh nor according to the works of the law. Accordingly, the covenant-promise could not be passed down by the law because it was made long before the law was given.
3) there was no Jew/Gentile distinction before Abraham and
the promise. Therefore, the promised blessings to Abraham are
inherited apart from any Jew/Gentile distinction. Throughout Galatians,
there is a strong curse against those who seek to rebuild the
physical distinction between the old Israel and the Gentile nations
that was destroyed in Christ.
John Gill gives the following introduction to Galatians four:
In this chapter the apostle discourses concerning the abrogation of the ceremonial law, under which the Old Testament saints were, being as children under tutors; blames the Galatians for returning to it when they were freed from it; puts them in mind of their former affection to him and to his ministry; describes the false apostles, who had been the occasion of their departure from the truth, and by a beautiful allegory sets forth the difference between the legal and Gospel dispensations. And whereas in the latter part of the preceding chapter he had compared the law to a schoolmaster, under which the Jews were till Christ came; he here makes use of another simile to express the same thing by, which is that of an heir while under age being under tutors and governors, until the time fixed by the parents will, #Ga 4:1,2 an accommodation of which simile is in #Ga 4:3, by which the Jews under the former dispensation are represented as children, and as in a state of bondage to the ceremonial law, from which there is a deliverance by Christ at the appointed time of the Father, by whom he was sent for that purpose...(John Gill, 1696-1771, Online Bible, CD.)
Hebrews 10:5-13: 1) Hebrews deals with the same basic problem
Galatians deals with -- the desire to seek justification through
obedience to the law; 2) the law is identified as the Old Testament
laws requiring various sacrifices, offerings, washings and burnt
offerings for sin; 3) Christ came to remove that law -- He fulfilled
it; 4) Christ had to have a body, so He could make the sacrifice
pleasing to God for the remission of the sins of His people (Isa.
53), and 5) the offering finished, Christ sat down on the right
hand of God where He will remain until all His enemies are subdued
The Old Testament Israelite who desired to be right with the Heavenly Father under the old covenant had to participate in many carnal washings. (E.g., Exo. 30, Lev. 14 & 17, Num. 19, &c.) On the other hand, we can identify the new Israelites under the new covenant by identifying who has been sprinkled or washed with the new pure water as prophesied in the law and the prophets. (Ezk. 16:9, 36:25, Zec. 13:1.) The new Israel of God,the legal heir to the promises, is identified by who is now included in the prophesied washings; it consists of all who have been saved, by the washing of regeneration, and it is made up of both Jews and Gentiles. (Gal. 3:28-4:8. Eph. 5:25-27, Titus 3:4-7, &c.)
In the Fathers good time, Christ came to redeem them that were under the law, i.e., the Jews. (See also, Mk. 1:15, Eph. 1:10, Heb. 9:10.) The Gentiles were never under the ceremonial laws as delivered to national Israel; however, they were certainly under the Commandments, and held accountable thereunto. Paul tells us that the Gentiles were without the law, but the law Paul referred to was the laws of the Jewish religion, for the Gentiles were never unaccountable to the Commandments of God. (Rom. 1:20, 2:12, 1 Cor. 9:20, 21.)
[T]he adoption of sons. Who are Israelites? Who are the children of God, or the true Israel of God? They are those, whether Jew or Greek (Gentile), who have been adopted into the family of God, and have received the Spirit of his Son. (Rom. 9:4ff., Gal. 3:26-4:8.) And thus Paul points out that the Jews/Israelites must be adopted as sons of God, as do the Gentiles. (Therefore, even the natural branches had to be grafted into the true olive tree, Christ, Rom. 11:17-24.) Paul proved previously that both Jews and Gentiles were in the same fallen state as sinners who could only become the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
(V. 5.) The adoption of the sons of God is from everlasting, but is revealed and shown in the time appointed for it. (V. 7) The word "servant" is not taken here for one that lives in sin, which is appropriate for the unfaithful, but for one that is yet under the ceremonies of the Law, which is proper to the Jews. (Geneva)
(V. 5.) By whom are meant chiefly the Jews, who are elsewhere represented as in and under the law, in distinction from the Gentiles who were without it... (Ibid.)
Being a child of God by faith in Christ is the same as being a child of Abraham. Those who are sons of God are the children of Abraham as promised by God, and, accordingly, they alone are the heirs to the promise given by God to Abraham, (3:24) which we have already defined. Throughout this letter, Paul continually stresses the fact that heirship has nothing to do with physical birth, physical location nor with religious practices, i.e.,keeping the laws of the Jews religion. (1:13.) At every turn, Paul points out that heirship is based upon faith: only those who are the sons of God are the children of Abraham according to the promise given to Abraham. The blessings of that promise are passed down by faith, not by race nor nationality.
Galatians 4:8ff. According to the context, Paul is speaking
to those who had been converted by Gods grace to Christianity
from the Jews religion, and the false teachers were convincing
them to return to that religion. A major problem in New Testament
times was the Judaizers efforts to get people to be faithful to
the Old Testament religious practices, centered in the Temple,
though it was all done away with in Christ. (Eph. 2:15.) Those
to whom Paul writes were being convinced by the damnable heresies
of the Judaizers, and thus they were desiring to take up again
those binding religious practices of old Jewish days, months,
times and years required under the old law. (Cf. Mat. 23:1-4.)
Paul expresses his surprise that they desire to exchange their
freedom they have in Christ from the Jews religious practices
for the bondage of the Jews religion. Then Paul expresses his
concern for their salvation -- desire to follow the Old Testament
religious ceremonies is not a sign of Christianity. The true signs
of Christianity will be developed in chapter 5. (See 2 Pet. 2:1,
Jude 1:4. The teachers were professing Christians, yet they denied
that the Lord completely paid the ransom price for His people,
and thus they added the works of the law to faith, e.g., circumcision,
baptism and Jewish rituals. In the situation Paul addresses in
Galatians, they taught against salvation and blessings outside
of the line of Abraham, and sought to maintain the Old Testament
Jewish (Israelite)/Gentile distinction. The false teachers of
all ages, thought teaching in the name of Christianity, bring
upon themselves their own swift destruction, and destruction to
those who follow them.)
Galatians 4:12-20. Having spoken sharply to the Galatians, even accusing them of being under demonic spells, Paul tempers his words by reminding of his love toward them. He reminds them that he was not among them without many afflictions and infirmities; he reminds them that he was there not in physical power (as the false teachers were), but with spiritual power; he reminds them that he was among them for their benefit, not for his own; he reminds them that they received him and his message as an angel of God representing Christ Jesus. "Why," Paul asks, "are you turning from the blessedness of close communion with the Father to the bondage of the law?" He expresses his shock that they departed so quickly from that close relationship of friendship with himself to a relationship of adversaries. The reason for the change was because the truth he was telling them concerning the gospel went contrary to the lies of the false teachers concerning who is Israel and the heirs to Abrahams promise.
Agar/Sarah, vv. 21-27, a key passage.
We should keep some things in mind as we look at this section: First, Paul was a natural born Jew, and a very zealous follower of the Jews religion before his conversion, and second, the law being dealt with is the law of the Jews religion: its rites, rituals, offerings and sacrifices. Using Hagar and Sarah, Paul presents an allegory, so we can understand who are the children of promise.
Bishop Lightfoot (1828-1889) introduces this section:
'Ye who vaunt your submission to law, listen while I read you a lesson out of the law. The Scripture says that Abraham had two sons, the one the child of the bondwoman, the other the child of the free. The child of the bondwoman, we are there told, came into the world in the common course of nature: the child of the free was born in fulfilment of a promise. These things may be treated as an allegory. The tow mothers represent two covenants. The one, Hagar, is the covenant given from Mount Sinai, whose children are born into slavery (for Sinai is in Arabia, the land of Hagar and the Hagarenes), and this covenant corresponds to the earthly Jerusalem, which is in bondage with her children. The other answers to the heavenly Jerusalem, which is free--I mean the Church of Christ, our common mother. In her progeny is fulfilled the prophetic saying, which bids the barren and forsaken wife rejoice, because her offspring shall be far more numerous than her rivals, who claims the husband for herself. ... It must be remembered however that in his choice of words here St Paul regards not only the original history, but the typical application, the Jews being the children of Abraham after the flesh, the Christians his children by the promise. (J.B. Lightfoot, The Epistle of ST. PAUL to the Galatians, 179, 180. 1865. Reprint by Zondervan Publishing house, Grand Rapids, Michigan. ND. "The Arabians are called 'sons of Hagar, Baruch iii. 23... It is to the Sinaitic peninsula apparently that Hagar flees [Gen. xvi. 7, 14], and possibly some portion of it may have borne her name in St Pauls time..." P 181. Thus Hagars decedents possess the Persian Gulf oil fields.)
(6) The false apostles urged this, that unless the Gentiles
were circumcised Christ could profit them nothing at all, and
also this dissension of those who believed in the circumcision,
against those who believed in the uncircumcision, both these things
being full of offence. Therefore the apostle, after various arguments
with which he has refuted their error, brings forth an allegory,
in which he says that the Holy Spirit did through symbolism let
us know all these mysteries: that is, that it should come to pass
that two sorts of sons should have Abraham as a father common
to them both, but not with equal success. For as Abraham begat
Ishmael by the common course of nature, of Hagar his bondmaid
and a stranger, and begat Isaac of Sara a free woman, by the virtue
of the promise, and by grace only, the first was not heir, and
also persecuted the heir. So there are two covenants, and as it
were two sons born to Abraham by those two covenants, as it were
by two mothers. The one was made in Sinai, outside of the land
of promise, according to which covenant Abrahams children according
to the flesh were begotten: that is, the Jews, who seek righteousness
by that covenant, that is, by the Law. But they are not heirs,
and they will at length be cast out of the house, as those that
persecute the true heirs. The other was made in that high Jerusalem,
or in Zion (that is, by the sacrifice of Christ) which begets
children of promise, that is, believers, by the power of the Holy
Spirit. And these children (like Abraham) do rest themselves in
the free promise, and they alone by the right of children will
be partakers of the fathers inheritance, whereas those servants
will be shut out. (u) That desire so greatly. (Geneva.)
The Galatians had been converted out of the Jews religion, and, accordingly, forsook its laws that had set the Jews apart from other nations, e.g., circumcision, &c. The false teachers were persuading the new Christians that they had to continue in the laws of the Jews religion if Christ would "profit them" at all. Pauls argument has been that heirship was based upon faith, not upon physical birth nor following the Jews religious practices. He now says, "OK, you want to be under the Jews law, let me tell you what it says:"
Abraham had two sons; the first by natural means through Agar, and the second by supernatural means through Sarah. The first son was produced by a lack of faith through the bondwoman; the second was produced by faith through the lawful wife, according to the promise. Consequently, those who claim to be the heirs of the blessings promised to Abraham through the flesh or through the laws governing the Jews religion are the sons of the bondwoman. On the other hand, those who claim to be the heirs of the blessings promised to Abraham through faith in Christ are the children of the promise made to the freewoman. Moreover, those who claim legal heirship through legal or fleshly relationship to Abraham are children of the earthly Jerusalem in existence in Pauls time. On the other hand, those who are the children of Abraham by faith (Gal. 3:7-18) are children of thefree Jerusalem which is above.
Clearly, here Agar = the Jewish people under the old Jewish dispensation before Christ; Sarah = the chosen people, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ (Paul is quoting Isa. 49:14; 51:2; 54:1-6 in this section):
[I]n St Pauls application, Hagar, who for a time possessed the affection of Abraham and conceived by him. She thus represents the Jewish people at one time enjoying the special favour of Jehovah. (Lightfoot, 183.)
Hebrews 12:22-24, tells us that the heavenly Jerusalem is the Jerusalem entered into through the mediator of the new covenant, that is, Christ; the Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all is the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ where all peoples become one; there is no distinction between Israelites (Jews) and Gentile in the Jerusalem which is above. (3:28, 29.) Hence, the Jewish laws Paul is speaking against simply made one a member of the earthly Jerusalem which was soon to pass away in 70 AD. (See also, Isa. 2:2ff., 52:9, 62:1ff., Mic. 4:1ff., Philp. 3:20, &c.) In the end, the heavenly Jerusalem entered into by faith in Christ has a far greater population than the earthly Jerusalem that was destroyed.
The Early Church Fathers view of Hebrews 12:22, 23 is interesting. Origen (185-230-254):
22. Now, if the statements made to us regarding Israel, and its tribes and its families, are calculated to impress us, when the Saviour says, "I was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,"(1Natt. xv. 24.) we do not understand the expression as the Ebionites do, who are poor in understanding (deriving their name from the poverty of their intellect--"Ebion" signifying "poor" in Hebrew), so as to suppose that the Saviour came specially to the "carnal" Israelites; for "they who are the children of the flesh are not the children of God."(3. Rom. ix. 8.) Again, the apostle teaches regarding Jerusalem as follows: "The Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all." (4. Gal. iv. 26.) And in another Epistle: "But ye are come unto mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and to the Church of the first-born which are written in heaven." (6. Heb. xii. 22, 23.)... (Fathers, IV.371. As translated from Origens Greek text. Origen said that it is "Jewish mythology" to hold to a literal regathering to the old city of bondage, Jerusalem; he saw no distinction between the Jews and the church since Christ. Ibid,622. See the complete quote elsewhere.)
Accordingly, Christ was sent not to the lost sheep of Israel
after the flesh, but to Israel after the Spirit, i.e., the elect
church. He did not call and lead His lost sheep back to
the bondage of the old, carnal Jerusalem, but called and led them
to the new Jeruslam, which is freedom from above.
Children of the Promise
Paul is clear and plain: Christians are the children of promise. (Vv. 28-31.) Paul continues with his allegory. Speaking as a Jew who had persecuted Christians, he tells the Galatians that the then current Jewish persecution of the Church of Christ was like the persecution of Ishmael, who pictured the natural born Jews, against Isaac, who pictured the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom. 9:6-13, Acts 3:25. Note that Paul answers the objection that it does not seem right for the natural children of Abraham and Isaac to be set aside in Gods plan for the spiritual children, Rom. 9:14-33.) It should not go unnoticed that modern Arabians also claim literal heirship to Abraham, the Muslims, delight in killing the true descendants of Abraham, Christians. They also carry on continual warfare against those they perceive to be Abrahams seed, national Israel.
Note that both the natural born and spiritual born decedents of Abraham can not be the promised heir, so Abrahams natural born decedents had to be cast out. In other words, the promised blessing given to Abraham cannot be claimed by both natural and spiritual means, and Paul has proved many times over that it is against Gods law for the promise to be expected by natural means. (Rom. 4:13-18. Paul uses the term broken off in Rom. 11. However, the breaking off was not permanent, for those broken off could be grafted back into the true olive tree, Christ, the true Israel of God.)
Paul points out the absurdity of exchanging the freewoman and the glory and beauty of the heavenly Jerusalem,the new Mt. Sion, for the bondwoman and the drab earthly Jerusalem, the old barren, bleak and desolate Mt. Sinai. Because the blessings can not be inherited by natural means, Paul tells the people to refuse to be placed back under the yoke of slavery, as exemplified by the Jews religion. (Gal. 5:1.)
The Issue With Hagar & Sarah
The issue with Hagar and Sarah is not over which of the women had the physical son who was the heir to the promise. The issue is clearly stated, "Which woman lawfully had the promise?" Sarah was the lawful wife to whom the promise was given. Thus the issue of the whole book of Galatians is over the promise: is the promise passed down by natural birth or by spiritual birth, the new birth?
Origen (185-230-254), commenting on Hebrews 12:22, 23, refers to Galatians 4:26:
22. Now, if the statements made to us regarding Israel, and its tribes and its families, are calculated to impress us, when the Saviour says, "I was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,"(1Natt. xv. 24.) we do not understand the expression as the Ebionites do, who are poor in understanding (deriving their name from the poverty of their intellect--"Ebion" signifying "poor" in Hebrew), so as to suppose that the Saviour came specially to the "carnal" Israelites; for "they who are the children of the flesh are not the children of God."(3. Rom. ix. 8.) Again, the apostle teaches regarding Jerusalem as follows: "The Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all." (4. Gal. iv. 26.) And in another Epistle: "But ye are come unto mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and to the Church of the first-born which are written in heaven." (6. Heb. xii. 22, 23.)...(Fathers, IV.371. Translated from Orignes Greek.)
Accordingly, Christ was sent not to the lost sheep of Israel
after the flesh, but to Israel after the Spirit, i.e., the elect
church. He did not call and lead His lost sheep back to
the bondage of the old, carnal Jerusalem, but called and led them
to the new Jeruslam, which is freedom from above.
First, there are those today under the name of "Christians" who desire to see the old Jews nation and religion reestablished. Paul clearly states that that old nation and religion cannot coexist with Christ. Most of the book of Romans, the entire book of Galatians and the entire book of Hebrews makes it clear that those who accept any reestablishment of that old nation and religion must turn their backs upon Christ. They must apostatize from the Christian faith; the two cannot coexist in the same family any more than Ishmael and Isaac could coexist in the same family.
Second, there are those today who try to establish a physical link to Abraham, thinking that by doing so, they prove themselves the legitimate heirs to the promised blessings given Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Thus they willingly place themselves under the bondwoman, who is forbidden by Gods Law-Word from being the heir. Those who want to reestablish a literal linage to Abraham are willingly turning their backs upon the heavenly Jerusalem and the glorious promises claimed by faith therein.
V. 1 actually closes chapter four, as Paul urges the Galatians to not yield to the influence of the false teachers and become entangled again in the Jews religion which claimed natural heirship back to Abraham. To do so would place themselves into the bondage from which Christ has set them free. Paul continues to contrastnatural heirship with spiritual heirship.
This is probably one of the strongest sections in Galatians as Paul rebukes both the teachers for teaching the false gospel and the people for yielding to the teaching. Paul gets right to the point:
First, he tells them that if the new Christians convert back to the old things Christ replaced, they have denied Christ and departed from the Christian faith.
Second, if a person depends upon one part of the law for his salvation, he becomes bound by it all, and he has denied Gods grace.
Third, he clearly identifies Christians with the Old Testament saints who, by faith, waited on the Lords salvation. (Gen. 49:18, Lam. 3:25, 26, Titus 2:13, &c.)
Fourth, he expresses his disappointment in the people for forsaking the liberty found in the Christian faith for the bondage of the Jews religious practices.
Fifth, the word persuasion  is found only in v. 8, meaning treacherous or deceptive persuasion. Thus Pauls statement is quite straight-forward -- the teachers who were trying to add works (something man can do) to the work of Christ for justification were treacherous, deceptive, perverters and corruptors of the gospel of Christ -- they were offering another gospel, which was not the gospel. Paul had already told them that those who listened to the treacherous, deceptive teachers were under a bewitching spell, causing them to yield the freedom faith offered for the bondage that works offered. Now he makes the point again that the spirit "moving" them to add anything natural (natural relationship to Abraham, any good work one might do, &c.) to the work of Christ in order to be part of Abrahams promised seed is NOT Gods Spirit. (Gal. 1:6-9; 2:1; 5:8.)
Sixth, he warns them that if they permit any corruption of the gospel among them, the whole of the gospel and the whole of the people will soon be corrupted.
Seventh, Paul expresses his confidence that upon being reminded of the truth, the people will return to the truth despite the persuasive teachers.
Eight, the false teachers were trying to convince the people that Paul supported what they were teaching, circumcision, but Paul reminds the people that if he did, then why do the Jews persecute him.
Ninth, Paul speaks very strongly against the false teachers, wishing they were even cut off which trouble you.There are several understandings for cut off: A) Gods immediate hand upon them, so they might not do any more mischief to the Church, i.e., death. B) physical mutilation. C) their mouths stopped, "they that trouble you I wish they were dumb." D) withdraw from or cast out of the church. (See John Gill and Robertsons Word Pictures.) Any way v. 12 is viewed, it contains some of the strongest language spoken by any man against others.
Thus Paul clearly spoke against at least two modern classes of people: those who seeks to claim heirship for a literal people through a supposed physical relationship to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob/Israel, e.g., Identity &/or Dispensationalism, and those who seek to be heirs through baptism or other works of the Mosaic law.
Paul gives the Spirits definition of liberty and bondage: liberty
from the power of the flesh, and bondage to the flesh. (Vv. 13-26.)
He urges us to Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ
hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of
bondage. The law, whether the commandments or the mediation, could
not provide genuine liberty, freedom from bondage. The true heirs
to Abrahams promise will not live in bondage to the power of sin,
for they have been set free by the gospel of Christ.
Apparently, there were disagreements among the people over what made one a child of Abraham, natural birth and religious observances as taught by the false teachers, or was it faith in Christ. This chapter urges the people to get along with each other despite disagreements and in the spirit of meekness and brotherly kindness.
Paul tells the people that if they want to be bound by law,
then they should be bound by the law of Christ; if they want to
be under a burden, they have a burden to be under, one anothers
burdens. (See Jn. 13:34, 35; Lev. 19:18; Jn. 14:15; 15:10; Exo.
20:6; 22:31; 26:3.) Note the contrast between the law of Christ
and the law of the Judaizers. The Judaizers called for a separation
between people based upon the relationship with Abraham and ritualistic
observances of the Jewish religious laws, (e.g., Gal. 1:14) teaching
that if Christ would benefit, one had to proselytize to the Jews
religion. The law of Christ teaches that one is a child of Abraham,
which contrasts with the Judaizers who say that natural relationship
and obedience to the laws of the Jews religion make one a child
of Abraham. (See Introduction.)
Vv. 6-10 are given in the context of properly supporting faithful ministers and godly works of charity. (See The Biblical Examiner, July, 1997.)
In vv. 11-18, Paul sums up what he said in the previous letter.
1) large a letter... There is plenty of speculation about what Paul meant here, and we will not add to that speculation.
2) mine own hand. Lightfoot says that Paul only took pen in hand and wrote this conclusion to the letter, vv. 11-18. However, the strong implication is that he wrote the entire letter with his own hand, showing: a) his genuine love for the people; b) the seriousness of his concern about the errors of the false teachers among them, and c) his honest desire to recover them from the errors they were being led into.
3) he restates his position about the false teachers among them; they were men proud of their linage to Abraham and their "privileges" of being Hebrew followers of the Jews religion.
Paul expressed his alarm over the teaching that Christian converts
should follow the Old Testament Jewish days, months, times and
years. (4:10.) There are folks today who claim to trace their
linage back to Abraham, so they "keep" the Jews holy
days, e.g., Passover. Those who love the Lord Jesus should have
the same alarm over any desire in the hearts of professed Christians
to follow the old Jewish religious practices, hoping they will
be more closely identified with the Heavenly Father.
4) Paul, inspired by the Spirit, exposed the motives of these teachers. Their first motive was to avoid thepersecution for the cross of Christ. They compromised the gospel of Christ lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. Paul spoke these words from personal experience, for he persecuted the church for the cross of Christ. Their second motive was so they could boast about how many followers they acquired. (There is money in millenialism!) The true character of the false teachers is described by Peter:
And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. (2 Pet. 2:3.)
Outwardly they appeared righteous before men, but their goal was not the well-being of the people, but their own well-being. Rather than feeding the flock of God, they were fleecing the flock of God to build up their own self-ego.
5) Paul points out that behind all the pleasant words about keeping the old Jewish religious laws (that were done away with by the work of Christ), the teachers were actually lawless -- they undermined the clearly stated laws: a) of justification by faith apart from any works of the law, which alone makes one a child of Abraham and heir to the promise, as proved by the Old Testament law and prophets; b) of brotherly love, love thy neighbour as thyself; c) of humble service; d) concerning proper care for their faithful ministers and proper financing of godly charitable works; e) of Christ and obedience to His words as spoken in the Commandments; f) of the works of the flesh vs the works of the Spirit, and g) of circumcision.
The goal of the teachers was not love for the Law-Word of God nor for the people; rather, it was to pursue their own purpose, which included exalting themselves before men and a good income.
Some time ago, a CD was sent out, anonymously, documenting
the infighting for power and money among some of the biggest names
in the electronic evangelism industry, all in the name of "promoting
the Lords work." Paul has only condemnation for "teachers"
who are motivated by a desire for more power (i.e., influence
over people) and money.
Paul points out that false teachers only use the parts of Gods law that strengthen their hold over the people and increase their own following and income at the expense of faithful teachers. (They "rob churches," building upon other mens labors.) They were misusing the law to: a) "prove" what they wanted to prove (e.g., that there still existed a Jew/Gentile distinction); b) counter Pauls influence, and c) undermine the godly ministers in the eyes of the people. We should note that Paul supported everything he taught, particularly the destruction of the Jew/Gentile distinction, from the Old Testament law.
Sadly, the Law-Word of God can be ripped apart and pasted together by false teachers to support any convenient idea. (Eph. 4:14.) 2 Timothy 2:15, rightly dividing does not mean mangling Gods Word, nor rending it apart and pasting it back together in a manner to support whatever doctrine that draws the biggest crowd or most money:
By adding nothing to it, neither deleting anything, neither mangling it, nor rending it apart, nor distorting it: but marking diligently what his hearers are able to bear, and what is fit to edifying. (Geneva.)
There are "teachers" who study and teach Gods Law-Word with a "cut and past" method: cut a little here and past a little there, and you soon have a supposed word from God that will support anything one desires to teach. Gods Word must be examined in its entirety and in conformity with its context in order to get its proper understanding. In the case being dealt with by Paul, the mangled Word supported a continued Jew/Gentile distinction after Christ.
Certainly, passages can be removed from their context to preach a Bible truth (e.g., whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap and be sure your sins will find you out), but one must understand that the passage is being removed from its primary understanding, or false hopes can be given. Can we say that the promise I can do all things through Christ which strentheneth me means "I can do all things like take my neighbors wife"? Did the Lord mean all things in Matthew 21:22, such as wining the lottery? How do we know if Gods Word is being "cut and pasted" according to the teachers good pleasure? Only by serious study of Scripture can we know the truth, and Paul, in the book of Galatians, used the Old Testament Scripture to expose the lies of the false teachers.
6) circumcision was the major controversy. The false teachers came from Jerusalem promoting a continued Old Testament Jew (Israelite)/Gentile distinction and teaching that only the followers of the Jews religion had claim upon Abrahams promised blessing. Therefore, they taught the new Christians that though converting to Christianity, they had to return to Judaism and follow the Jewish religious laws, exemplified by circumcision. Only then could one be an Israelite and heir to Abrahams promise. (Ac. 15.) Paul made it clear thatcircumcision, or being a Jew/Israelite and a follower of the Jews religion, had nothing whatsoever to do with heirship to Abraham: it availeth nothing. The Jew/Gentile distinction was done away with in Christ, and now, Paul points out, the dividing line between men and nations is the new creature in Christ. (Gal. 6:15, 1 Cor. 7:19, 2 Cor. 5:17, Col. 3:10, 11, &c.)
The teachers were looking for more numbers of converts back to the Jews religion to add to their name: they constrain you to be circumcised. V. 12 implies that the primary efforts of the false teachers were among theuncircumcised Gentiles. However, the overwhelming evidence within the book is that the efforts were to reclaim the Jews who had converted to Christianity, escaping the bondage of the Jews religion, e.g., 4:9-11.
7) "Who Is Israel?" is a primary controversy dealt with thoroughly by Paul throughout this book. A key issue is, "Who is the heir to Abrahams blessings?" "Who is the Israel of God who possess the premises of old?" The false teachers claimed the inheritance was through Old Testament national Israel, through physical linage to Abraham and through the Jewish religious laws; Paul claims that the inheritance always was and presently is through faith in Christ, evidenced by brotherly love and love for the Law-Word of God, even in the area of finances.
Paul is clear, proving from the Old Testament that only those who are a new creature in Christ make up the Israel of God. Natural birth, though that birth might be according to the Jewish/Israelite religious laws of Jews/Gentiles, has nothing to do with being a child of Abraham: "Upon the true Israel, whose praise is from God and not from men; Ro 2:29." (V. 16, Geneva.)
8) v. 17 seems to be a sharp rebuke to those who would trouble Paul over the issues he has so throughly covered in Galatians, a book he wrote with his own hand. The issue is settled, and Paul does not want to be further bothered about the matter of "Who Is Israel and thus the children of Abraham." He sounds as though he now delivers those who choose the pleasing words of the false teachers, at whose hands he had suffered so greatly, over to the deceptive spirits that appeal so much to the natural man.
9) Paul points to the marks of his suffering for the cross of Christ as the conformation that his stand on Israel is the Spirits stand. The distinction has always been, is and will always be the faith of Abraham, not the physical laws of the body of Abraham.
10) though Paul has been very firm with these unstable people, even hinting of demonic influence among them, his parting words are affectionate and humble, even elevating the people to his level (something the false teachers would never do).
His desire is that they would abound with the grace of God, that is, both the desire and power to do the Lords will as revealed in His Law-Word.
We must conclude with this thought: The messages of false teachers with their false gospels (which is not gospel) and their false distinction between men, Jew/Israelite vs Greek/Gentile rather than the distinction of faith in Christ, are very appealing. Only the grace of God keeps one out of the snares of those teachers and only the grace of God can deliver those caught in the snare of those fowlers. (Ps. 91:3, 124:7, 1 Tim. 3:7.)
Taking his farewell of them, he wishes them grace, and the Spirit against the deceits of the false apostles, who labour to beat those outward things into their brains. With your minds and hearts. (Geneva.)