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The Epistles of Paul - Galatians Part 6: Liberty in Christ
For most of the first four chapters of this epistle to the Galatians, Paul has been explaining that the works of the law, which were the required rituals and ceremonial ordinances, are done away with in Christ. At the same time, Paul has explained the circumstances of the fulfillment in Christ of the Abrahamic covenant and the promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and to their seed after them, after the same manner which Yahweh God had made those promises in the Old Testament. Because the children of Israel shall not any longer be judged by the law, but instead have mercy in Christ, and because they are no longer bound to the rituals and ceremonies of the law, they have liberty in Christ, which Paul is about to explain here in Galatians chapter 5. But liberty in Christ is not liberty from morality or from the commandments of Yahweh God. Rather it is the freedom to love and have mercy for one another, and to receive of the same, to a much greater extent than the letter of the Hebrew law allowed, as Paul shall also explain here in this chapter of Galatians.
It should be clear from Scripture as well as from experience that a man cannot be found righteous by the law, because all men sin and fall short of the glory of God. That is why those promises to Abraham are so important to the New Covenant, because the New Covenant, as Paul has explained here, is the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham which must be kept by Yahweh God in spite of the dissolution of the Old Covenant due to Israel's failure to keep the law of God. In this manner Paul is attempting to put the covenants in perspective. But before Christians can do the same, it must be understood that both covenants, the Old and the New, were made with the same genetic people according to the Word of God in the promises which He had made to Abraham. Neither covenant circumvents nor supersedes the promises to Abraham, which were passed down through Isaac and Jacob and to the seed of their loins after them. So the New Covenant is not at all predicated on the Old Covenant. Rather, the New Covenant is predicated on the Abrahamic covenants. Wherever it says “forever” in the Old Covenant, that “forever” depends upon whether the children of Israel would keep the law. But wherever it says “forever” in the original promises to Abraham, that “forever” only depends upon Yahweh. Man fails, but Yahweh God cannot fail.
If Israel were held to the Old Covenant law which they broke, then all of Israel should be put to death and the promises to Abraham would fail. But the promises to Abraham could not fail, so Yahweh had promised that He would make a new covenant with the same children of Israel, and the terms of that covenant are expressed explicitly in Jeremiah chapter 31, although facets of it are also mentioned elsewhere in the writings of the other prophets. So Paul had said in Galatians chapter 3 that “13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law... 14 in order that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Nations at the hand of Christ Yahshua, that we should receive the promise of the Spirit through the faith”, and it is clear that Paul meant to refer only to the nations of Israel, where for instance he says a little further on in that same chapter “23 But before the faith was to come we had been guarded under law, being enclosed to the faith destined to be revealed. 24 So the law has been our tutor for Christ, in order that from faith we would be deemed righteous.” But that faith must be according to the faith of Abraham, who believed that all of the promises of God would come to his own offspring, from the nations and kings which had been promised to come from his own loins. So Paul concludes at the end of Galatians chapter 4: “28, And we, brethren, down through Isaak, are children of promise.”
Being children of the promise in that manner in which Isaac was, Yahweh God did not allow any substitutes for seed from Abraham's loins through Sarah, and even rejected seed from Abraham's loins through the bondwoman Hagar. Neither could Abraham himself substitute for that seed, as he attempted to do by making Eliezer his heir, and Yahweh reject the notion and said “he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.” Therefore children of the promise must be from Abraham's loins, in the manner of Isaac, as the children of Israel certainly were. The Galatians, a tribe of the same people who were referred to as Kimmerians, Sakae and Scythians in ancient times, were indeed a portion of the children of Israel taken captive into Assyria nearly 800 years before Paul had visited them in order to bring to them the Gospel of Reconciliation in Christ.
Here in Galatians chapter 5 Paul will continue to illustrate that Christian Israel is not to be judged by the law, but that they instead have liberty in Christ, a liberty which he first mentioned in this epistle in chapter 2. But Paul was not an anti-nomian. It must not be forgotten that long before the giving of the law at Mount Sinai, Abraham was blessed by Yahweh “5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws”, as we are informed in Genesis 26:5. The modern anti-nomian position has evolved out of a complete failure to distinguish the commandments of God from what Paul had called the “works of the law”, which we have shown to be a reference to the sacrifices and rituals and ceremonial ordinances of the law, as we discussed Galatians chapter 2. Paul shall explain the ongoing need for Christians to keep the commandments of the law here.
Several years after writing this epistle to the Galatians, while writing his epistle to the Romans, Paul would make an even lengthier explanation of this same thing, where he asked in chapter 3 of that epistle: “31 Do we then nullify the law by faith?” and then he answers the question himself by responding: “Certainly not! Rather we establish the law.” Paul had also repeated the commandments in Romans chapter 13 where, sounding very much like the words of Christ in the Gospel, he said “8 You owe to no one anything, except to love one another: for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 Indeed you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not lust, and any other commandment is summarized in this saying, to wit: 'You shall love him near to you as yourself.' 10 Love for him near to you who does not practice evil: therefore fulfilling of the law is love.”
Neglecting the commandments of God which are the foundation for basic morality necessary to form a Godly society, is to despise one's brethren. Christians should volunteer to keep those commandments out of love, as Christ had said “if you love Me, keep My commandments”, and as Yahweh said that Abraham “kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” without any threat of punishment if he had done otherwise.
Paul had asked the Romans in chapter 6 of that same epistle “16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves as bondmen to obey, bondmen you are to whom you obey, truly either of sin for death, or of obedience for righteousness?” He had also explained this in yet a different manner in his epistles to the Corinthians, and he advises his readers, in 2 Corinthians chapter 10, to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”. Peter spoke likewise, where in 2 Peter 2:19 he said of the enemies of God which corrupted Christian assemblies: “19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.” The only true liberty for Christians, is liberty in obedience to Christ, as He Himself had said in Matthew chapter 11: “29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The children of Israel failed because they could not keep the law of Moses, and here in Galatians chapter 5, Paul exhorts his readers not to fall backwards once again, to seek justification under the law, because since no living man can be justified before God (Psalm 143), it is only possible for the children of Israel to have justification in Christ.
1 In the freedom in which Christ has set us free, you stand fast indeed, and do not again be entangled in a yoke of bondage.
Paul is making a direct reference to that which had been expressed by the apostles in regards to the law, as it was described by Luke in the account given in Acts chapter 15, where upon a dispute with certain Judaizers at Antioch Paul and Barnabas had agreed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles to confer with them as to whether or not the so-called “works of the law” should be maintained by those of the Nations who were turning to Christ. We read in the opening verses of this chapter: “1 And some had come down from Judaea teaching the brethren that if you would not be circumcised in the custom of Moses, you are not able to be saved. 2 Then upon there coming no little discord and debate by Paul and Barnabas against them, they ordered Paul and Barnabas and some of the others among them to go up to Jerusalem to the ambassadors and elders concerning this debate.” When Paul and Barnabas arrived in Jerusalem, it then says: “5 Then there arose some who were persuaded by the sect of the Pharisees, saying that it is necessary to circumcise them and to instruct them to keep the law of Moses.” Paul's first recorded ministry in Galatia is briefly described in Acts chapter 16, and now writing this epistle it is several years after that and he is still addressing these same questions which had already been resolved in Jerusalem.
To continue with what Luke recorded concerning this in Acts 15: “then the ambassadors and the elders gathered together to see concerning this account”, where Peter responded first, and then we read: “7 And there being much debate, Petros arising said to them: "Men, brethren, you know that from the first days Yahweh has chosen among you through my mouth for the Nations to hear the account of the good message and to believe. 8 And Yahweh who knows the heart has accredited them to give the Holy Spirit just as also to us. 9 And distinguishing nothing between both us and them, by faith He cleanses their hearts. 10 Therefore now why tempt Yahweh to place a yoke upon the necks of the students which neither our fathers nor us have been able to bear?” So here in Galatians chapter 5 Paul refers to the “works of the law” as a yoke of bondage.
With this, James is recorded as having expressed agreement, where he spoke following Peter and said in part: “14 Sumeon has declared just how at the first Yahweh considered to take from among the Nations a people in His Name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree just as it is written”, so we see that the people whom Yahweh had considered are the same people of dispersed Israel for which Yahweh had declared a new covenant in the writings of the prophets, which is why James' epistle is addressed to the “twelve tribes scattered abroad”, and then James said: “19 On which account I judge not to trouble those from among the Nations who turn to Yahweh, 20 but to enjoin them to abstain from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from that which is strangled and from blood. 21 For Moses from generations of old has those who are proclaiming him in each city in the assembly halls, being read each and every Sabbath.”
Now James cannot change the words of Christ in the Gospel, and it cannot be said that he intended to do so here. Where Christ had said “if you love Me, keep My commandments”, He certainly meant those same commandments which are found in the law of Moses which He had referred to frequently. For instance, when Christ was asked which commandments were to be kept, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 19, He had responded by summarizing some of the commandments in the law and He said “Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Therefore we must understand that in Acts chapter 15 James is only supplementing what is found in the Gospel concerning the commandments of God, which those turned to Christ would have from the Gospel and writings. Paul had later told the Romans (15:4) “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”
Elsewhere, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 22, Christ was asked which commandment was the greatest, and it is written that “37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” That second commandment is in the law in Leviticus, but it is not with the ten commandments first given in the law in the book of Exodus. So where Christ had said “on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”, it is the responsibility of men to read the law and the prophets and to deduce these things.
Therefore, in Acts chapter 15 where James gives three injunctions which are not found in the Gospel, he also indicates what other things there are in the law which are not rituals or ceremonies and which should be kept in addition to the basic ten commandments and the injunction to love one's neighbor that we should all be familiar with. So James says “to abstain from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from that which is strangled and from blood”, and from these we should discern that in addition to the basic ten commandments and other things which are advised in the Gospel, Christians should also seek to keep those laws which maintain the pure and undefiled condition of both their own bodies and the bodies of their offspring.
Paul had already discussed circumcision in Galatians chapter 2, relating it to the “works of the law”. Now, after exhorting his readers not to return to the yoke of bondage represented by the sacrifices, rituals and ceremonies of the law, of which circumcision was a part which was explicitly mentioned in Acts chapter 15, Paul once again admonishes the Galatians on this matter explicitly:
2 Behold, I Paul say to you, that if you should be circumcised, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 And I testify again [D wants “again”] to every man getting himself circumcised, that he is obligated to do the entire law.
The Greek word περιτεμνομένῳ is a Present Medium Dative Case Participle of περιτέμνω (Strong's # 4059), which means to cut around the perimeter of something, and therefore in this context to be circumcised. The dictionaries (such as the one in Bible Works version 8) which insist that this form belongs to the Passive Voice are incorrect, although sometimes from the context the Medium form of this word translates into English as a Passive form. The Passive form περιτέμνησθε, does appear in verse 2, but here in verse 3 the Participle is of the Medium Voice (often called the “middle voice”). Medium Voice verbs indicate that the subject of the verb is both the producer and the recipient of an action, and since this verb is in the Medium Voice here, in reference to “every man” it is interpreted as “getting himself circumcised”. It is quite certain that Paul is not considering those infants who are circumcised involuntarily, which is a common practice in society today because of the Judaized medical profession. [See Wm. MacDonald, Greek Enchiridion, pages 5 and 62 for the grammar.]
Here we are going to quote from James chapter 2, and doing so we should recognize that what James says concerning the law in that chapter is absolutely agreeable to what Paul says concerning the law here in Galatians chapter 5 and in his epistle to the Romans. It should also be observed that James was writing to the “twelve tribes which are scattered abroad”, and Paul is writing to a portion of those same twelve tribes here. In that chapter, after admonishing those who would show a preference for the wealthy over the poor, James said: “8 If, however, you fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture: 'You shall love him near to you as yourself', you do well. 9 But if you respect the stature of persons, you commit an error, being convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For he who should keep the whole law but would fail in one thing, has become liable for all. 11 For He having said 'you should not commit adultery' also said 'you should not commit murder', and if you do not commit adultery but you commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 Thusly you speak and thusly you do as if going to be judged by a law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy for him not effecting mercy. Mercy exults over judgment.”
The assertions that mercy exults over judgment is what James further builds upon where in chapter 4 of his epistle the apostle had written about judgment and said “11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” In that same manner Paul had said in Romans chapter 14: “10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” So we see that Paul and James agree concerning the children of Israel and the law. The law had commanded that Israelites put such sinners to death, but Israel is free from the judgments of the law. Now there is mercy and forgiveness for repentant sinners, as Christ so often illustrated in the Gospels. But Paul instructed Christians in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 to disassociate with unrepentant sinners, and pray that Yahweh judges them. This is because propitiation for sin was according to the “works of the law” under the Old Covenant, but now Christ is the propitiation for sin (Romans 3:25, Hebrews 9:26, 1 John 2:2, 4:10).
[Now we should know why Christians do not execute judgment against other Christians who sin, even when those sins are so repulsive that they would like to do so according to the Levitical law. Yet Christians do have and should exercise the right to defend themselves and their loved ones. Therefore the disposition of certain criminals has been a subject of debate that shall persist until the fulfillment of the age.]
Likewise, as Paul talked about freedom from the rituals of the law, James also discussed this “law of liberty” in the first chapter of his epistle, where he wrote: “But he peering into the perfect law of freedom and abiding by it, not being a forgetful hearer but a doer of work, he shall be blessed by his deed.” Peter also would have assented, where he had written in chapter 2 of his first epistle: “15 Because thusly is the will of Yahweh: doing good to muzzle the ignorance of foolish men, 16 as free men yet not as if having freedom for a cover for evil, but as servants of Yahweh.” The freedom Peter speaks of is the law of liberty in Christ, which Paul says here has set those who were under the law free from that yoke of bondage.
So as Paul says here and as both James and Peter would agree, if one gets himself circumcised because he seeks to keep the law, then he is therefore obligated to keep the entire law, as James' words explicitly indicate. In this case Paul says here that Christ is of no advantage. But failing on one point of the law, one is condemned because by getting circumcised, one sought justification in the law, while the Christian should instead seek justification in Christ. As Paul had said in Romans chapter 2: “25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.” Instead, by seeking justification in Christ, the Christian understands that he shall be judged by a law of liberty which is apart from from the works of the law.
Paul goes on to describe the consequences of seeking justification under the law:
4 You are left unemployed, apart from the Anointed. Those that in law are tested have fallen from favor.
Paul explained in his epistle to the Romans that the election of Yahweh God was by favor, referring to the favor which was promised to the children of Israel in accordance with the promises to Abraham, and that the election was not from the works of the law, in Romans chapter 11: “1 Now I say, has Yahweh thrust away His people? Certainly not! Indeed I also am an Israelite, of the offspring of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 Yahweh has not thrust away His people, whom He knew beforehand. Do you not know in Elijah what the writings say? How he petitions Yahweh concerning Israel, 3 'Yahweh, they have killed your prophets, and they have demolished your altars, and I alone was left remaining, and they seek after my life.' 4 So what did the response to him say? 'I have left to Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed a knee to baal.' [Elijah's ministry was conducted among the tribes of Israel, and not Judah. During the time of Elijah's ministry, Jehoshaphat was king in Judah, who “walked in the first ways of his father David” and followed after Yahweh his God. But the scripture Paul quotes pertains to Israel, since Israel had turned completely to idolatry, and propitiation sacrifices for sin and the other rituals and ceremonies were not being made in Israel according to the law. Therefore Paul concludes:] 5 Now in this manner even in the present time there has been a remnant in accordance with the election of favor. 6 But if in favor, no longer from rituals: since favor would be favor no longer.” So the example that Paul makes in Romans is that even under the Old Covenant, Yahweh judged men apart from the works of the law. If Yahweh had promised to justify Israel apart from the works of the law, how can men think that they can do better for themselves by clinging to the rituals for their justification? Therefore Paul asserts:
5 For we in Spirit from faith anxiously await the expectation of justice.
The King James Version and others have “through the Spirit”, but there is no preposition or definite article accompanying the Dative Case noun in any of the manuscripts of Galatians considered by the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece.
As a digression, some commentators imagine that because the word for what we call the spirit is actually translated from Greek and Hebrew words meaning either breath or wind, that perhaps the spirit of man is intangible because of that association. What they should consider is that wind and breath are indeed tangible, but that by themselves they cannot be seen or grasped or followed by men in the flesh. That is certainly why the spirit of a man was named in such a manner, but it does not mean that the spirit of man is something intangible. As Christ said in John chapter 3: “8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear its sound, but you do not know from where it comes and where it goes. Thusly are all who are born from of the Spirit.” The spirit is like the wind, but it nevertheless must have a substance of its own. When the Adamic man lives after the flesh, he sins and he is no better than the beasts. But when the Adamic man follows the spirit of God within him, he seeks to follow the laws of God written in his heart. Paul explained in 1 Corinthians chapter 7 that the law itself is spiritual, and therefore only those who are willing to live in the Spirit of God could even have the ability to keep it.
Speaking of sin, Paul had said in Romans chapter 8: “12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Then he went on to describe the expectation of the Adamic creation which awaits “the manifestation of the sons of God.” This is the expectation of justice of which Paul has written of here, which is also prophesied in Isaiah chapter 45: “17 But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end. 18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. 19 I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.” So by this we see once again that true justification is not by the works of the law, but only by the declaration of Yahweh God.
Then in that same place Yahweh through the prophet concludes: “22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. 23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. 24 Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. 25 In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.” Isaiah quoted from the Word of Yahweh to Elijah in relation to this justification, and so did Paul in relation to this same justification in Romans chapter 11, explaining that justification is not by the rituals and ceremonies, which are the works of the law, but by the declaration of Yahweh God.
The children of Israel alone had the promise of justification in and by the Word of Yahweh their God, and therefore only the children of Israel have that “the expectation of justice” of which Paul has spoken here. Then Paul concludes in relation to that justification, that:
6 In Christ Yahshua neither circumcision nor uncircumcision prevail at all, but faith acting through love.
Likewise Paul had written in 1 Corinthians chapter 7 that “19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.” Christians should do what Yahweh their God expects of them because they do have a faith, or belief, in the expectation of justice which He has promised them, and therefore they should act out of love for Him and for one another. For that same reason, they should keep His commandments, however keeping the rituals and ceremonies of the law do not gain them a better position with God. Rather, as we often see illustrated in the Gospel, the Christian's love for his brethren gains him treasure in heaven.
7 Have you run well, you who have resisted to be persuaded in the truth? 8 That persuading is not from He who is calling you.
The Codex Bezae (D) wants the word for “not” in verse 8, which must be in error. The Greek word ἐγκόπτω (1465) is to hinder or thwart but here, since the verb is used intransitively, to resist. The phrase may have been written “you who have impeded being persuaded”.
The reference to “He who is calling you” can only be a reference to records of the prophets and the promises of Yahweh God to call the children of Israel to obedience from their captivity. As the Word of God says to the children of Israel in Isaiah chapter 48: “12 Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last”, it also says in Isaiah chapter 62: “11 Behold, the LORD hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. 12 And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.”
Paul is concluding his argument with the expectation that it is convincing, and that it has convicted the hearts of those among the Galatians who had been persuaded by the Judaizers. But in their resistance to truth Paul tells the Galatians that:
9 A little leaven leavens [D has “beguiles”] the whole dough.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 5 Paul had made a similar statement in a different context. However the understanding persists, that leaven, being difficult to detect, affects the entire loaf of bread once it is introduced. Therefore false ideas concerning Christ likewise affect the entire body of Christians, once they are accepted.
Here Paul is saying this in relation to the contentions of the Judaizers, and it is evident from Acts chapter 15 that the Pharisees in Jerusalem were instigating them. Christ warned the apostles to “Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1), ostensibly because among other things, in Matthew chapter 23 He admonishes them for paying a “tithe of mint and anise and cummin” while they had “omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith”. In other words, they kept the “works of the law” but neglected any love for their fellows or true belief in Yahweh God, seeking instead to justify themselves. Yet Christ Himself had cited the Word of God in Hosea where he said to them in Matthew chapter 12: “7 But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.”
With this it may be evident that it is from the party of the Pharisees that those who would lead Christians captive to the works of the law had proceeded in the first century. It is these of whom Paul had spoken in Galatians chapter 2 where he said that there were “false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ”, and with that Peter also agreed, in 2 Peter chapter 2 where he had said “1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying Yahweh that bought them..” and then, speaking of these same intruders, “19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.” [Which should then be cross-referenced to Romans 6:16.] Several hundred years later, when the Roman Catholic Church was formed, it is evident that the Pharisees had prevailed in many ways.
10 I have confidence for you among the number of the Prince [literally “in the Prince”, B wants the clause entirely], that you will have no other purpose, and he who is agitating you shall bear the judgment, whoever he may be.
Therefore the apostle James says in his epistle: “1 You must not produce many teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive a greater judgment.” Those who teach false doctrines under a presumption of authority are judged to a greater degree than those who merely follow. The Word of Yahweh says in Jeremiah chapter 50: “6 My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace.” In that same manner it speaks concerning the shepherds, in Jeremiah chapter 25: “34 Howl, ye shepherds, and cry; and wallow yourselves in the ashes, ye principal of the flock: for the days of your slaughter and of your dispersions are accomplished; and ye shall fall like a pleasant vessel. 35 And the shepherds shall have no way to flee, nor the principal of the flock to escape. 36 A voice of the cry of the shepherds, and an howling of the principal of the flock, shall be heard: for the LORD hath spoiled their pasture. 37 And the peaceable habitations are cut down because of the fierce anger of the LORD.”
11 Now for my part, brethren, if I yet proclaim circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then has the stumbling-block of the cross been rendered idle?
The Greek word σκάνδαλον is literally a trap, but here it is a stumbling-block, a phrase familiar from the King James Version which basically has the same meaning. The last clause is not marked as a question in the King James Version or in the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece. All of the other translations of the Greek text as well as the editors of the Nestle-Aland text have read the Greek word ΑΡΑ (in all capital letters and without accent marks, as it appears in the great uncial manuscripts) interpreted as the Inferential Particle ἄρα (“then...”) rather than as the interrogative ἆρα (“then?”), although Liddell & Scott state that “ἄρα never begins a sentence” and “in prose, ἆρα almost always stands first in the sentence.” Here in all of the extant great uncial manuscripts, ΑΡΑ stands first in the sentence, and therefore it must be read as the interrogative ἆρα (“then?”). We interpret the clause as if Paul is asking a rhetorical question which would expect a negative answer.
Indeed, Paul had still continued to teach the necessity of circumcision for those who were Judaeans as late as Acts chapter 16, which was even after he had the meeting in Jerusalem with the other apostles regarding the law in relation to those of the Nations. In Acts 16 it is recorded that Paul had circumcised Timothy according to the law, on account of the Judaeans because Timothy's mother was a Judaean. This was just prior to his first recorded ministry among the Galatians. Yet regardless of what he was teaching at that time concerning the law he was still persecuted by the Judaeans, which is the point he is making here.
Paul refers to the Word of Yahweh from Isaiah chapter 8, which is speaking of the time when the Assyrians would invade Israel and Judah: “13 Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. 16 Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. 17 And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. 18 Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.” Likewise Peter says in 1 Peter chapter 2 that Christ is the head corner stone, prophesied of in the Psalms (118:22): “8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: where unto also they were appointed.”
In the context in which Paul cites the passage here, Christ is the stumbling-block to men who would deny the Word of God while seeking to justify themselves through works, while those in Israel who put their trust in Christ and His mercy for their justification shall not fall.
12 I would even be obliged that those upsetting you were to cut themselves off.
The 3rd century papyrus P46 has “Then also those upsetting you will cut themselves off.” If this reading were accepted, the particle ΑΡΑ would once again be the first word of the sentence, where it would be interpreted as the interrogative particle ἆρα (“then?”), and so I may write “Then would those upsetting you cut themselves off?” However we prefer the reading of the other manuscripts.
The Greek word ὄφελον (Strong's # 3785), is “I would...be obliged” here. The word also appears in 1 Corinthians 4:8, 2 Corinthians 11:1, and Revelation 3:15 where it is always simply “would” or “I would” in the King James Version. Liddell & Scott derive this word from the second form ([B]) that they list for definitions of the verb ὀϕέλλω, which they have as “to increase, enlarge, strengthen”, where I would rather understand that it is derived from the first form ([A]), which is a variation of ὀϕείλω (Strong's # 3784), which is “to owe...to be a debtor”, and which fits quite well the English idiom whereby it is rendered here, and with the context wherever the word appears.
13 For you have been called on to freedom, brethren, only not that freedom for occasion in the flesh; but through love [D has “but in the love of the Spirit”] you serve one another.
Once again, Paul's teachings are entirely consistent with his having brought the Gospel to the dispersions of Israel, which were in part found in the Galatians of this epistle. The concept of liberty granted to one who keeps the commandments of God in connection with the mercy and salvation of God is found in the Psalms, from Psalm 119: “41 Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD, even thy salvation, according to thy word. 42 So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me: for I trust in thy word. 43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments. 44 So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever. 45 And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.”
Likewise the preaching of the Gospel was to proclaim liberty to the captives, meaning that liberty would be proclaimed to the children of Israel who were put off from Yahweh their God when they had broken the old covenant and as a result of that, the old kingdoms were destroyed. Ever since they were put off, they were under penalty of death for their transgressions. Yet God Himself chose to come as a man and to die so that they would be freed from the law which they had violated, which Paul explains in Romans chapter 7. As it is recorded in Luke chapter 4, Christ quoted this same passage from Isaiah chapter 61 in reference to Himself: “1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; 3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”
Paul admonishes that Christians should serve one another, and it is seen in the Gospel of Christ that true Christian love is evident in one's Christian communion, which is how Christians should serve one another. As Christ gave His life for His brethren, Christians are to follow Him and do the same. That does not necessarily mean dying for one's brethren, although at times that may be necessary. But rather it means dedicating one's life for one's brethren, and that principle is the foundation for true Christian communion. As we see in chapter 10 of Mark's Gospel: “17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. 19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. 20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. 21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.”
In Luke chapter 9, in a record of a different conversation, Christ had also said “ 23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Sacrificing our own lives for the good of our brethren, we lose our lives for the sake of Christ, spending them in service to Him. So Christ said in another place, in Matthew chapter 20: “27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Serving Him as He demands of us, which is to serve our brethren, doing that we seek treasure in heaven. For that reason Paul further stated here:
14 For all the law is fulfilled [D has “fulfilled in you”] in one statement, to wit: “You shall love him near to you as yourself.”
Yahshua Christ had made this same profession in several places in the Gospel. In Mark chapter 12, after Christ was asked “Which is the first commandment of all?”, we read: “29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. 32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: 33 And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
The Greek word translated as neighbor in the King James Version is usually from the adverb, with the definite article, τὸν πλησίον, which literally means one who is near, and nothing else. By itself it really does not distinguish between nearness in relationship or nearness in geographical proximity. However other Greek words which are found in the New Testament and translated as neighbor do indicate mere geographical proximity, such as γείτων (1069) and περίοικος (4040).
Here Paul is quoting primarily from Leviticus 19:18: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD”, and the Hebrew word for neighbor in that passage infers a nearness in relationship, but not merely in geographical proximity. The Hebrew word in the original text is Strong’s Hebrew # 7453, reya', a word which is said to be derived from Strong’s Hebrew # 7462, ra'ah, and which is “an associate (more or less close)” and Strong then lists the King James Version translations of the word as “brother, companion, fellow, friend, husband, lover, neighbor ... (an-) other” and so it should certainly be evident that τὸν πλησίον does not simply refer to “one who lives nearby” etc. The root word, Strong's # 7462, is defined by Strong as “a primitive root; to tend a flock, i.e. pasture it; intransitive to graze (literally or figuratively); generally to rule; by extension to associate with (as a friend)...” and so it seems that one’s πλησίον can only be a fellow flock member! The law itself puts ones neighbor within the context of “the children of thy people”. So it is evident that according to the language employed in the law, if one is of your flock then he is a neighbor.
15 But if you bite and eat one another up, watch lest by one another you are consumed.
Loving one's brother means seeking to help lift him up, rather than oppressing him. The ancient children of Israel were rebuked by Yahweh in Micah chapter 3 because those with advantage had oppressed the disadvantaged: “1 And I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel; Is it not for you to know judgment? 2 Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones; 3 Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron.”
The heads of the house of Jacob were not literally flaying and eating the people, but rather they were devouring them economically. Christians Israelites should seek to help their brethren and their Christian communities in every way they can, including economically. They should not be in competition with their brethren, because seeking to gain the advantage over them they devour them. Doing so, they themselves are consumed while they appear to be wealthy.
There are other ways, emotional and social as well as financial, in which Christians may “bite and eat one another up”, and doing these things we also set ourselves against the interests of our brethren and contrary to the health of our communities. Paul had said in Romans chapter 15: “1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.”
16 Now I say, you must walk in the Spirit, and desire of the flesh you should not at all fulfill.
When men seek their own enrichment, or seek to fulfill their lusts for their own pleasure, they do so at the expense of their brethren and their communities. All men have fleshly desires, yet for those who seek to please God Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 9 that “every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.” It is a pursuit of the fulfillment of those fleshly desires which leads to sin and death, as the apostle James said in the first chapter of his epistle: “14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”
17 The flesh desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; indeed these are in opposition to one another, in which case you should not do these things that you desire.
As we discussed at length when presenting Romans chapter 8 here early last year, the Adamic man is peculiar above all other creatures because he has two natures, the fleshly and the spiritual. From this, Yahweh had promised the children of Israel that He would write His law in their hearts (Jeremiah 31). Yet as Christ had said in the Gospel, no man can serve two masters, and it is the challenge of the Adamic man to overcome the nature of the flesh, choosing instead to live in the spirit. Therefore Paul said in Romans chapter 8: “2 Indeed the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Yahshua has liberated you from the law of guilt and death. 3 The law is powerless, in that it has been weak over the flesh, Yahweh sending His own Son in the likeness of errant flesh, and amidst guilt, condemned guilt in the flesh, 4 that the judgment of the law should be fulfilled among us, who walk not in accordance with the flesh, but in accordance with the Spirit.” So with this we may also see in part just how the law was a schoolmaster for Israel, to bring them to Christ.
Paul continues in that chapter of Romans: “5 For they who are in accordance with the flesh, strive after the things of the flesh; and they who are in accordance with the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 Indeed the purpose of the flesh is death, but the purpose of the Spirit, life and peace. 7 Because the purpose of the flesh is hostile to Yahweh, then to the law of Yahweh it is not obedient; neither is it able to be; 8 and they that are in the flesh are not able to satisfy Yahweh.” So here we may see why, as it says in the Psalms, no living man can be justified before God, and why rituals and ceremonies cannot make a man righteous.
Once again, Paul continues in that chapter: “9 However you are not in the flesh, but in Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of Yahweh dwells in you; and if one has not the Spirit of Christ, he is not of Him: 10 but if Christ is in you, indeed the body is dead because of fault, but the Spirit alive because of righteousness.” Once an Israelite realizes the consequences of the pursuit of the flesh and the implications of the Gospel of Christ, he should abandon the pursuit of the flesh in expectation of the Kingdom of Heaven. But as for those who have not the spirit of Christ, meaning those who are not of Adam, Paul had said in 1 Corinthians chapter 1 that “the account of the cross is folly to those who are going to die”.
It is only by keeping the commandments of God that a Christian has communion with God and Christ, as Christ had said in John 14:23: “If one would love Me he shall keep My word, and My Father shall love him and We shall come to him and We shall make an abode with him.”
18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are under no law.
And this is also an often misunderstood passage. Paul is not an anti-nomian. Rather, he is saying that if one follows after the desires of the flesh, doing all of those things which are contrary to the law, then one is not in the Spirit. The law is spiritual, and one is in the spirit when he chooses to keep the commandments.
Paul spoke in this same manner in his first epistle to Timothy, which was written as he departed from Ephesus, several years after he had written this epistle to the Galatians. There, in 1 Timothy chapter 1, he wrote: “8 Yet we know that the law is good, if one would use it lawfully. 9 Knowing this, that law is not laid down for righteous, but for lawless and unruly, impious and wrongful, unholy and profane, patricidal and matricidal, murderous, 10 fornicating, homosexual, kidnapping, lying, falsely swearing men, along with anything else which is contrary to sound instruction 11 according to the good message of the honor of the Blessed Yahweh, which I have been entrusted with.” [The word ἀρσενοκοίτης means nothing else but to refer to what we may call a homosexual today, which is properly a Sodomite.]
So if one is led by the spirit, one is not under the law, because the law is for sinners and not for the righteous. Paul continues in that same manner as he had expressed these things to Timothy here in Galatians:
19 Manifest are the deeds of the flesh, such things are [here D and the MT interpolate “adultery,” where the text follows א, A, B, and C] fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, use of drugs, hostilities, contention, rivalry, wrath, intrigues, dissensions, sects, 21 envyings, [here A, C, D, and the MT interpolate “murders,” where the text follows P 46, א, and B] drunkenness, revelries, and things like these; which I have announced to you beforehand, just as I have said before, that they who practice such things shall not inherit Yahweh’s kingdom.
The Greek word φαρμακεία (Strong's # 5331) is the “use of drugs” here. This same word is the source of our English word pharmacy and its relations. Strong defines the word as “medication”, Liddell & Scott “the use of drugs, potions, spells...”. The word appears elsewhere in the New Testament only in Revelation, in various forms, at 9:21; 18:23; 21:8; and 22:15.
While the list of evils which Paul lists here is somewhat different than what he had listed in 1 Timothy, where he discusses much the same thing, in either case he is only giving examples of behaviour which is contrary to the law of God, and which is therefore also contrary to Christian deportment. Paul is obviously not an anti-nomian. But one is not excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven if one has ever done any of these things. The children of Israel have mercy and an intercessor for their sin (1 John chapter 2). The law results in death, but it is the Spirit which produces life, and Paul is only saying that none of these things will be practised in the Kingdom of Yahweh, so Christians should put them away now. By abstaining from these things, Christians demonstrate their love for their God and their brethren.
Speaking on this same topic once again in 1 Corinthians chapter 6, which was also written later than this epistle and while Paul was in Ephesus, he had said “9 Or do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of Yahweh? Do not be led astray: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminates, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor rapacious shall inherit the kingdom of Yahweh. 11 And these things some of you may have been, but you have cleansed yourselves; moreover you have been sanctified, moreover you have been deemed fit, in the name of Prince Yahshua Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.”
Every Israelite is given space for repentance, but as Paul also said in his first epistle to Timothy, in chapter 5: “24 Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.” Christians who repent of their sins in this life are not accompanied by their sins when they stand before the judgment seat of Christ.