Making Sense of Galatians – Part 2

Summary of points 1 through 4 (from last week): Paul writes to the Galatian churches for the purpose of steering them away from the damning gospel of the “circumcision party” (2:12) who were preaching observance of the OC cleans laws (otherwise known as the “works of the law” or “law”) as necessary to salvation (justification). Gaining justification (a spiritually clean/right standing w/God) under the NC, is secured by faith in Jesus Christ for Jew and Gentile alike apart from any observance of the prior covenant’s clean laws. As such, what Paul is not condemning in this letter is observance of God’s OC moral commands, though how we understand them must be according to their new application in Christ (the “law of Christ”).


5. Why Paul took such a condemning position against the OC clean laws for NC salvation: to preserve God’s previous:

5.1. command (Deu 12:32 w/2:21-3:1 and 5:1-4 = The Law is a closed system)

5.2. promise (of Gentiles remaining Gentiles and yet being grafted into/adopted into Abraham’s family – Act 15:14-19/Amo 9:11-12) (3:27-29; 4:17, 6:12-13) = As stated last week, circumcision was a Jewish identity marker. The Judaizers did not want people in the NC who did first become “Jews” (i.e., take on Jewish identity through circumcision).


6. What the plan of salvation (or “gospel”) looked like for Paul under the NC: functionally, it was the same as the OC: you gain it by faith (which includes observing the prescribed NC signs/clean laws associated with such faith – e.g., baptism) and you maintain it through faithfulness ([gain] 3:26-28 [faith = baptism], 5:1-5, [maintain] 5:6, 13-14, 24-26).


7. The broad strokes of Paul’s argument (How Paul lays out his letter to the Galatians):

7.1. Perversion to the mechanics of salvation means preaching a different (or damning) gospel:

7.1.1. Gain perversion: To gain justification (be spiritually clean), a person still needs to observe the OC clean laws – including circumcision (1:6-9 w/2:1-5 w/11-16) = OC clean laws (“works of the law”; e.g., circumcision, separation from those not circumcised) were never able to truly justify. They offered temporary pass-over but never propitiation/real cleansing from sin (Rom 3:25), hence the reason everyone (including Jews) are required to put faith in Christ as the way to receive justification. Key point not to miss: the gospel problem is mechanical (what must a person do to be saved?) not historical (what did Christ do to save us? e.g., 1Co 15:1-4 w/12-17). In addition, by requiring observance of the OC clean laws for gaining justification, you are nullifying the need for Christ’s cross-work (since once more), the Law is a closed system (2:21-3:1, 5:1-4, also 5:18).

7.1.2. Maintain perversion: BC we have been justified by faith in Christ (versus through observance of the OC clean laws), we no longer have to maintain that justification through observance of the moral commands (2:17-20) = In the same way a person had to submit to God’s moral commands (“For through the Law I died unto the Law”) in order to live for Him under the OC (i.e., to maintain their saving covenant relationship), so also under the NC, a person must submit to Christ (“I have been crucified unto Christ…the life I now live…I live in faithfulness to [Grk. en pistei…tey {dative}] the Son of God”) and His new application of God’s moral commands – i.e., the “law of Christ” (6:2; 1Co 9:21). IOW: faith in Christ ≠ antinomianism (Act 21:21 [“forsake” = Grk. apostasia] -24 [“keeping the Law” = maintaining what you gained]).

7.2. The superior nature of justification gained by faith versus through observance of the OC clean laws is proven by:

7.2.1. the indwelling Spirit (miracles) (3:2-5)

7.2.2. the precedent set with Abraham and the promised blessings (3:6-9, 14)

7.2.3. the incongruency of the Law in general w/the Abrahamic covenant and blessings which were not gained by human effort (3:10-12, 15-18)

7.2.4. Christ’s removal of the curse associated with being Gentiles so that we could be included in Abraham (3:13-14).

7.3. The nation of Israel (one of the promises made to Abraham with regard to his natural descendants) received the OC clean laws as a temporary help (a “tutor”) for dealing with sin (becoming spiritually clean/being justified –again, acts of pass-over) until the time of the promised “seed” (Christ) who would be the permanent, propitiatory solution for gaining justification and “impart(ing) (eternal) life” (3:19-29).

7.4. To be a child of Abrahamic requires casting off the enslavement of the OC clean laws (4:1-31; do not be: [9] enslaved to “elemental things”, [31] “children of the bondwoman” [allegorical rep. of OC Israel as Ishmael]).

7.5. Freedom from observance of the OC clean laws:

7.5.1. is necessary to receiving justification through faith in Christ (5:1-[5] “we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness”) = We are gaining our righteousness by faith; (18 “if you are led by the Spirit [justified by faith], you [cannot be] under the Law”) = Seeking justification thru the OC clean laws; (6:14-16; [15] “a new creation” = Justification by faith, [16] “those who will walk by this rule peace and mercy” = Those who are justified by faith]; IOW: being justified by faith requires not seeking such justification thru the OC clean laws.

7.5.2. does not affect our obligation to keep the moral commands (law of Christ) as also necessary to getting to heaven (5:6 “faith working [maintained] through love” w/13-14; See also 16-26 [21] “will not inherit the kingdom of God” = Our salvation is dependent on our obedience; (6:1-10) [3] = Thinks he is something simply bc he possesses faith; [4] = Our confidence as Christians/those who have gained salvation by faith must reside in our performance {2Pe 1:5-11}; [5] = Each person is responsible for maintaining what he has gained; [6] = They must demonstrate through practice what they have learned; [10] = Faith working through love {5:6 w/13-14}]).

Making Sense of Galatians – Part 1

Galatians in one of the most confusing books in the NT. This confusion is exacerbated by the Evangelical’s false assumptions about the book’s legal language and the framework of salvation established by God in the Bible. This short series will provide the Christian with the information needed to remove such confusion and make sense of Paul’s important letter to the Galatian churches.

1. What prompted Paul to write the letter to the Galatians:

The invasion of a group of Jewish Christians (otherwise known as the Judaizers or “party of the circumcision” – 2:12) who were teaching that salvation required observance of the OC clean laws [spiritually clean/righteous/justified] (circumcision [2:3, 7-9, 12, 5:2-3, 6, 11, 6:12-13, 15], separation from those not circumcised [2:11-13], Sabbath holidays [4:10]). Paul – who planted the Galatian churches during his 1st missionary journey, (Acts 13-14: Perga, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe), condemns these individuals as “false brethren” (2:4) and their teaching as a “different gospel” (1:6-9).

2. Why Paul was confident that his gospel (which did not require the observance of the clean laws to be saved) was the true gospel:

2.1. Direct revelation from Jesus Christ (1:11-12).

2.2. Prior confirmation from the “pillars” (James [half-brother of Jesus, apostle and senior pastor of the Jerusalem church], Cephas [the apostle Peter] and John [the apostle]) of the Jerusalem church (2:1-2) = Paul recognized the authority of the church’s leaders – especially in gospel matters; (2:3-5 “liberty”) = Release from the clean laws (Jam 1:25, 2:12). (2:6a “what they were makes no difference to me, God shows no partiality”) = Though Paul recognized (and was submissive to) the authority of the church’s leaders, he also recognized that such authority was by proxy. It only existed as long as they were in agreement with God. (2:6b “those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me”) = Their gospel proved to be no different than mine.

2.3. Faith in Jesus (His death) had replaced them as the new clean law/way to gain righteousness/justification (2:16, 3:8-9, 5:1-5; Rom 3:31 w/Act 21:20-21).

3. How Paul became aware of the Judaizers’ presence in Galatia:

An incident at Paul’s home church, Antioch (2:11-13) = Because of the Judaizers (sent by James and the Jerusalem church), Peter, Barnabas and other Jewish Christians were separating themselves/would not eat with the uncircumcised Gentile Christians in Antioch. (2:14 “live like Jews”) = Live observing the clean laws. Antioch sent Paul to the Jerusalem church to resolve the matter/determine whose gospel was correct. There Paul changed the mind of Peter and James (Act 14:26-15:19; v10 w/1 and 5 = The “yoke” of the clean laws). Since there is no mention of the church’s ruling (or letter – Act 15:20-31), it is more than likely that Paul wrote the Galatians letter before his trip to Jerusalem (possibly on the way).

4. Why we can be confident that what Paul is condemning in the Judaizer’s gospel is not (as assumed by Evangelical’s) the entirety of the OC Law or the propagation of a works-based salvation:

4.1. The initial mention of the problem is related to the clean laws (2:1-5 “circumcision”)

4.2. Paul frequently pairs his mention of the various clean laws (most especially circumcision) with “works of the law” (or “law”) and contrasts them with justification by faith/the cross (2:12-16, 5:1-4, 11, 6:12-16). If Paul saw all of God’s laws as problematic to the issue of justification, then why does he limit his examples to only those things associated w/the clean laws? The same is true in every other epistle where Paul speaks against the Law. His examples are limited only to those things related to the clean laws – most especially circumcision, God’s special identity marker for the Jews (e.g., Rom 3:28-30, 4:1-11).

4.3. The massive problems associated w/thinking any Jew would endorse a works-based system of salvation (3:12 “He who practices them shall live by them”) = Evangelicals view Paul as teaching that the OC (or the Law) establishes an impossible works-based system of salvation. The Judaizers (they believe) were too arrogant to recognize their past which proved their inability to achieve this impossible standard and instead seek God’s mercy – the purpose or intention (per Evan) behind its establishment by God. The massive problems associated w/ this kind of thinking:

4.3.1. Gal 3:12 is an allusion to Lev 18:5 which cannot be establishing a work-based system of salvation since the Jews receiving it were already in saving covenant relationship with God (Exo 24:7-8; e.g., Lev 16:34 [Yom Kippur]; Psa 85:1-4, 103:1-5 w/15-18, 132:16). The only other way to understand God’s words in Lev 18:5 is as maintenance: the Jews needed to maintain the saving covenant relationship they had already received by grace through vows of faith.

4.3.2. God’s constant punishment of His people in the OT is due to their lawless easy-believism (similar to the Evangelical FAG: the law is “nice but not necessary”) – not their “arrogant” attempts at lawfulness. This was the problem of the Pharisees as well – the most likely identity of the Judaizers (Act 15:5) (Mat 23:28-32; See also Luk 18:9-14 “pharisee” = Lawless hypocrite, giving the appearance of lawfulness but – unlike the publican, unwilling to repent, do justice and truly be obedient to God’s laws. See Mat 15:3-9; Luk 7:30 w/Luk 3:1-14; e.g., publican – Luk 19:1-10).

4.3.3. God’s standard is doable (Deu 28:1-2 w/Deu 30:11-14; Luther’s two false assumptions leading to his FAG invention: 1] w-b salv. {Luther was a Roman Catholic monk}, 2] inability of man {The Bondage Of The Will}).

4.4. Paul confirms the moral commands as another necessary (and continuing) condition of salvation we are responsible for producing (5:5-6, 12-21) = Notice: 1) we are the responsible agents (13, 16), 2) we will not “inherit the kingdom of God” if we fail to produce them (21). These two things not only prove that Paul is not condemning the entirety of the Law but that the FAG is false since anything we are responsible for producing that is necessary to salvation constitutes another instrumental condition of salvation (WCF, “faith is the sole instrument of salvation.”).