THE BOOK OF ACTS
Paul writes Galatians - Part two
From Paul's first visit to Jerusalem to his second visit it
was 14 years. He went up by "revelation" to go up, for of himself
he probably would not have gone, for he knew the Gospel he
preached was from Christ and was the same as the apostles at
Jerusalem. He did meet with those of "reputation" there just to
make sure he did not run, or had not "run in vain." He says in
essense, "Titus who was with him and who was uncircumcised,
did NOT have to be circumcised, in spite of false brethren who
came in just to spy on us and try to bring us again in the
bondage of claiming certain physical rites like circumcision
was necessary for justification and to be saved." Paul and
company did not give any subjection to their ideas not even for
He is here answering the claims of those who had come within
the Galatian brethren. The Jerusalem apostles of "reputation"
preached no different Gospel than what he preached, and those
uncircumcised like Titus did not have to be circumcised.
He further strengthens his argument by going on and naming
names of those in Jerusalem who "seemed to be somewhat" in
private conference added NOTHING to what Paul taught. But when
they saw the Gospel was given unto Paul and that God had worked
BOTH in Paul and Peter in a mighty way, then James, Peter, and
John, who seemed to be spiritual "pillars," gave him the right
hand of fellowship, and were quite satisfied that Paul and
company should go to the "heathen" or uncircumcised and they
would go to the Jews or "circumcised."
All they wanted from Paul was that he should remember the
poor, which he was already doing (verses 1-10).
He still further is going to nail down the point, in answer
to the false teachers (that he was "less" of an apostle than the
Jerusalem apostles), that he was no way behind or "less in
authority" than the apostles at Jerusalem and specifically Peter,
who had been used by God so effectively.
At one time Peter had visited the Antioch church, and he
fellowshipped and ate meals with the Gentiles of the
congregation. But when certain ones came from James at Jerusalem,
Peter somehow thought it may look bad to those arriving if he was
seen eating meals with Gentiles. Peter obviously here in this
situation, somehow got full of the wrong thoughts, the old
thoughts of the way Jews lived towards Gentiles, in their false
way of understanding that they had to look upon Gentiles as ....
well like people with a terrible infectious decease. Peter got in
his head the false notion that those at Jerusalem would still
think this way also. To be frank, Peter really was mixed up in
his mind about the whole situation. He withdrew from eating and
fellowshipping with the Gentiles of the Antioch church. Well it
had a rippling effect on the Jews of the church there, and even
Barnabas got off track in following Peter.
Paul knew Peter was being a hypocrite, and told him, face to
face. Then when that did not seem to get him on the right track
of the truth of the Gospel, Paul upbraided Peter in front of the
whole Antioch church. Peter was practicing one thing but here he
was teaching another thing by his actions, in this particular
case. And it was all basically leading back to saying that you
have right standing with God, being justified, by "works of
physical rites and laws (and a lot of those laws were man made
ones, like separating from Gentiles in meal eating fellowship).
Paul made it public in the "church congregation" that a person is
justified, forgiven, made at one with God, not by works of laws,
but by FAITH in JESUS. And if we act as sinners while trying to
be justified by Christ (as Peter was now practicing) it was not
Christ who was a sinner, for sure. Christ was not condoning the
reversal practice of Peter and Barnabas and the other Jews, it
was they who were sinning.
Those false Old Covenant/Circumcision teachers who were
claiming that it was through serving "laws" without needing
Christ, were in error trying to state and claim that Paul was
less in authority than Peter and those apostles at Jerusalem.
They were lying about some things, and trying to make a case with
other things, that were not any case at all.
Paul finishes his thoughts on this by saying after being
justified by Christ and not by "works of laws" we are to put away
ourselves and "our ideas" of theology and be crucified with
Christ, which means Jesus lives IN us, and still being in the
flesh, yes, we live by the faith OF the Son of God, who loved us
and gave Himself for us. We are not to battle against the grace
of God by trying to be righteous or justified, forgiven of sins
and declared sinless, by the works of laws. If we try to do it
this way, then Christ has died in vain for us. And of course this
is what the false teachers wanted to say, that there was no need
of Jesus as the Christ in justification and salvation, it could
all be obtained by serving the Old Covenant and physical
circumcision (verses 11-21).
Paul will now answer the argument of Abraham, and those who
lived under the old dispensation, before the cross of Christ,
that it was NEVER by works of laws, that a person was justified,
but by the grace and plan of God through a promised "seed" of
Abraham who would come to die for sinners and so give
Paul hits them between the eyes, by calling them "foolish"
which seems to have been a word used by some secular writers, so
they were used to having that word aimed at them. He asks them if
they received the Spirit, by faith, or by works of law, doing
physical rites. They knew it was NOT by works of law. So if it
was by FAITH, then why are they being foolish by thinking they
can be made perfect (another way of saying, be forgiven, be
justified) by performing physical rites (like circumcision), by
the flesh? And those like Paul who performed miracles among them,
was it done by serving works of law, or was it done by "the
hearing of faith" - the answer is implied as the latter.
Now he moves on to the example of Abraham. He was given a
promise from God that sinners would be justified through faith
(Gen.12:3). This is the foundation of the Gospel, and the Gospel
was then preached to Abraham. Paul explains that those who
believe justification is through law observance, are truly under
a curse, for the law says in Deut.27:26 that you are cursed if
you do not do all that the book of the law (five books of Moses -
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) gives as laws.
The only way you could not be under a curse of the Old Covenant
laws was to do every single one of them perfectly all the time,
and so never sin. And Paul's clear inference is that it would
then be impossible for anyone to be justified by obeying all the
Old Covenant laws, for no one person ever kept them perfectly
(except Christ of course, which is taken as a given).
It was never intended by God that people should be justified
by law keeping, because, no one can keep it perfectly and never
miss the mark, or never sin, but it was always God's plan to
have sinners justified, forgiven of sins, through FAITH. Abraham
had that faith, all his children will have that faith. The law
was not of that plan of faith, yet if you did do them perfectly,
and never break a one of them, you would live. Of course if
you never sinned you never needed to be forgiven of sin, hence
you are sinless and so will live for eternity.
But Paul knew not one single person had ever served the laws
of the Old Covenant perfectly without sinning, except Jesus
Christ. So it was that Christ then could redeem us from the
curse of the law, which was that if you do not obey it perfect,
you sin, and sin brings the penalty of death, a curse indeed.
Christ did obey the law, was therefore not a sinner, did not
Himself need a savior, and was automatically qualified for
life eternal. But he died on the tree to take our sins upon
Himself, so we could receive justification and the promise of the
Holy Spirit, justification from sin, through Jesus Christ,
and faith IN and THROUGH Him. So we were indeed delivered from
"the curse OF the law" - the curse of death by not obeying it
perfectly - by having faith that Jesus took our death upon
Himself, in our stead. Justification then was by faith and not by
trying to obey perfectly the laws of the Old Covenant, and being
circumcised (verses 1-14).
Paul argues that even in human covenants if the covenant be
ratified - signed and sealed shall we say - then it is complete
and cannot be altered or made void. So it was with the covenant
God signed, sealed, and delivered to Abraham, pertaining to the
ONE seed of Abraham - namely the Christ. That promise of
justification (as he has been discussing) for sinners was to be
through the Christ Messiah, and the covenant with Abraham of that
promise was 430 years PRIOR to the Old Covenant (the entirety of
it, with all of its laws, physical and otherwise) drawn up and
signed between God and Israel under Moses.
He argues that if obtaining eternal inheritance of salvation
was by working at it through Old Covenant obedience, then it was
no longer by "promise" or another way of saying "grace." Yet, God
had from the start declared obtaining inheritance of eternal life
(justification/salvation) would be by "promise" - the promise of
the ONE Messiah redeemer, from Abraham, who would die for the
sins of the world (verses 15-18).
The question would now arise in people's mind, of what good
then was the law or the Old Covenant. The KJV does not bring out
the sense of the Greek here. Paul answers by saying, the Old
Covenant was added or brought into being with Israel to MAKE
TRANSGRESSIONS or SINS that much MORE EVIDENT. It was a way to
MAGNIFY sin and transgression or wickedness.
As Israel observed all the do's and don't - all the FINE
points of especially the physical rites and ceremonies, Temple
rituals, animals sacrifices, etc. THEN transgression OF MORAL
LAWS, would be IMPRESSED on their minds. Even certain "being
clean" or "being unclean" from the Temple worship (i.e. a woman
giving birth to a child was to be unclean from Temple worship for
a certain length of time - she was not allowed to worship in the
Tabernacle or Temple), had an amplifying effect towards God's
HOLINESS. IT WAS A PHYSICAL LESSON TOOL TO IMPRESS ON THE HUMAN
MIND THE HOLINESS OF GOD.
All this LESSON to AMPLIFY sin through all the Old Covenant
laws was only to last UNTIL the promise of the ONE saving Messiah
The argument that some would now reply with, that the law or
Old Covenant was then against the promise, Paul says in not true.
For if there could have been a righteous law, or Covenant of
doing things, working and living a life that was within human
possibilities to live PERFECTLY, then inheriting Eternal Life,
could have been achieved that way. BUT the Scriptures and of
course God, knew and foretold that it would be impossible for
give LIFE that way, because all humans would NEVER be able to
live in PERFECT obedience to that Covenant system of giving life
through obeying laws. So indeed the Scripture claimed of a truth,
that ALL humans are under sin, have sinned and come short of the
glory of God (see Romans 3:23). Hence LIFE could only come
through a SAVIOR, who was Jesus Christ. Having FAITH in Him,
faith in the promise of God that His Christ would be the ONE to
take the sins of all mankind upon Himself, to die for the
sins of everyone, faith in the promise and faith in Christ as
Savior, would give justification and LIFE (verses 19-23).
The Old Covenant, Paul says, was then like a "hired servant"
who brings the children to the schoolmasters, looks after them
until they are in the hands of the schoolmaster. The Old Covenant
was the "servant" - yes, it looked after, up to a point,
the behavior of the children, kept them in check so they were not
completely out of control and running wild, doing there own
thing, and making mayhem in the household. But it was only to
lead the children UP TO the ONE schoolmaster who would really be
able to bring them to reconciliation and into at-one-ment with
God, and so give eternal inheritance to them, and that ONE master
When faith in the schoolmaster has come, when delivered over
to Him in trusting faith, then the "servant" who took care of the
children to that point, is no longer needed. Paul was saying we
are NOT under the Old Covenant in its entirety, as Israel was, we
are under a new system - the system of faith and the covenant of
promise to Abraham, that ONE would come to justuify mankind.
So it is with us, Paul goes on to state. We are now the
children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. Being baptized in
Christ means we have Christ in us (back to chap.2:20). And if in
Christ, then there is no difference between anyone, we are all,
male, female, Jew, Gentile, ONE in Christ, we are all on the same
footing, the same level playing field, as for salvation. If we
are Christ's we are then Abraham's seed, we are just as if we
have literally come from the very literal descendants of Abraham,
to whom the promise of faith was given in the first place (verses
Paul is NOT teaching here that the whole Old Covenant is
"abolished" or "done away with" in its entirety, so Christians
can do it "my way" (as one song was once called), just live
whatever way seems right in their own eyes, make up their own
"life style" of do's and don'ts. He is countering the teaching
being put forth by some that the man Jesus does not have to be in
the equation, that justification and salvation can be obtained by
following the Old Covenant in its entirety and especially the
blood rite of physical circumcision, while any Christ Messiah man
does not have to be in the picture.
Paul is stating the truth as to HOW a person is TRULY
justified and saved from sin to eternal inheritance, as opposed
to the false teachers' ideas and theology on how to be justified
with God and saved - theirs was one of "works of the law" (the
entire Old Covenant) with emphasis on circumcision - Paul's was
one that the Scriptures taught from the beginning, even with the
great Abraham - justification through FAITH in the saving life
and death of the Christ - God's Messiah - the sin bearer, who
came to die for the sins of all mankind. FAITH in His saving
work would give the Holy Spirit to the believer, which would set
them on the road to inheriting eternal life, it was not through
"works of the law" but through FAITH (see again chapter 3:2 with
As was Paul's way of writing he leaves off the subject of
the two Covenants for a while (but comes back to it again as we
shall see), to talk about the sins of the Jews and the Gentiles,
and how both groups of people must have the Lord Jesus to justify
and deliver them from their old life of sins and death.
He first relates how the Jews (the "we" of verse 3), were
children in "bondage" to the rudiments of their society of false
ideas, false theology, false traditions and practices. Yes, the
Jews had the Old Covenant ("the law"), yet were still in bondage
to sin and false ways of "their world." But God in the time
appointed sent His Son to REDEEM the Jews who had the law but yet
were under its death penalty from sin. He delivered, redeemed,
justified, the Jews that believe, and they became God's sons
Then Paul switches to "and because YOU are sons" - meaning
those of Galatia, God sent forth His Spirit of His Son into them,
and they can also call God, Abba, which means "Father." They then
are also no more servants of the false ways of their society, but
they are sons of God, and so they are "an heir of God through
Christ" (verses 6-7).
Now Paul must correct them from "turning back" to some of
the false practices of their society they came out of when they
first accepted the Gospel of Christ. He reminds them that when
they "knew not God" they served the ways of false gods, that sure
are not gods in any real sense. "But now," Paul says, "AFTER that
you have come to know God, or rather are known of God (it was God
who called them to the light of His truth), how TURN YOU AGAIN,
to the weak and beggarly rudiments, whereunto you desire AGAIN to
be in bondage (verse 9).
The Greek for "turn you again" literally does mean that, it
means, to "back to" - "again as first" - "again anew."
Verse 10, "You observe days, and months, and times, and
years." And Paul reams them out for so doing (verses 10,11).
Many have falsely taught that the Galatians were observing
the "Jewish festivals and holy days" and Paul was telling them
not to. Nothing could be further from the truth! The Galatians,
when serving gods that were no gods, when they did not know the
true God, they sure were not observing the festivals of Leviticus
23. And Paul says they were RETURNING TO some old former
practices that were "bondage." God's festivals and holy days
could never be termed "bondage."
No, the Galatians, had returned, again at first, again anew,
back to as before, some observances of their old pagan days,
months, times, and years. The pagans had ALL KINDS of "sacred" to
them anyway, days of observance, like the day of the sun, Sunday,
like Ishtar, or what is known as Easter, like the festival in
their month of the end of the year, we today call Christmas, and
they had months like January and the first of its days for the
"new year" - and many many more times and days and months,
devoted to their gods that were by nature no gods.
Many of the Galatians had returned AGAIN to their old former
customs and traditions that were indeed bondage, because they
were false, not from God, and would therefore bring them under
the bondage of sin once more.
Paul reiterates how they received him even with his weakness
in the flesh, which seems to have reference to some problem with
his eyes (verses 13,14,15). He preached the Gospel to them and
they received him as if it was an angel sent from God come in
their midst (verse 14).
He wonders aloud to them, if he has become in their minds an
enemy, because he is telling them the truth of the matter about
these false teachers, who have effectively bewitched them in the
wrong theology. He is in anguish over them, until they once more
return to serving Christ, and his desire is to be present with
them, that he may see them going the correct way of God, and
change his speech and tone of voice for the better, for he now,
when writing this epistle, was in doubt about their salvation
Now Paul returns to the issue of the TWO Covenants, from
verse 21 to the end of the chapter.
TO BE CONTINUED