When reading Gal 4.21-31, we must keep in mind that he is talking about how you get justification from God. He is not saying “cast out the Torah” because Paul was Torah observant and a Pharisee (Acts 23.6). The two covenants referred to in 4.24 are Sinai and Moab (Deut 29.1). Sinai is Hagar, a slave, because it turned into a system of works righteousness to some, and in the this case, Beit Shammai and their doctrine of ritual circumcision to be saved (Acts 15.1). Hagar had a son of the flesh, an act of Abraham’s “works.” This “corresponds to the present Jerusalem” and the Pharisee’s from Beit Shammai’s system of works righteousness. On the other hand, the Covenant of Moab (Deut 29.1-30.6) is of the “spirit” (the Shekinah) and life (Deut 30.6) symbolized by Sarah. They were to cast out the system of works through ritual circumcision to be saved (becoming a Jew) according to the 18 Edicts of Beit Shammai. Paul draws on the example of Abraham who cast out Hagar because her son was not going to inherit the status of first-born and there was strife between Hagar and Sarah, and neither will works righteousness “live with” the “Jerusalem above.”
In Gal 5.1-6, Paul is not against circumcision for Jews, after all, he circumcised Timothy (Acts 16.1-3). He was against the ritual circumcision of a non-Jew to become a Jewish proselyte to be saved. If a man receives ritual circumcision for salvation, then he needs to keep the whole law perfectly. We already know that Yeshua destroyed that argument in Matt 5-6. If they try, then they have fallen from grace because now they think merit from God can be earned. Gal 5.4 is linked to Gal 4.20 where Paul had doubts about whether they were believers. In Gal 5.8, this “persuasion” that they needed to be ritually circumcised did not come from God. He goes on in 5.9 to say that a little leaven (bad teaching-1 Cor 5.6) leavens the whole lump. Where he says in Gal 5.10-12 “mutilate themselves” is a play on words and it has the meaning, “If you believe in ritual circumcision for salvation, then they should cut off their whole member and really get saved.” It also means to “cut off” this false teaching from you. Gal 5.13-14 repeats what Hillel had been saying long before Paul. They needed to get away from this teaching and love their neighbor “lest you be consumed by one another” indicates there was some fighting going on.
Gal 5.15-21 has numerous Jewish concepts that we will briefly touch on. To “walk by the Spirit” means to be under the control and guidance of the Spirit, to have the same attitude in heart and mind. People who do not follow the Torah are not walking by the Spirit. The Spirit will not lead you contrary to what is in the Word of God. In Scripture, being led by the Spirit is closely linked to obedience to the Torah, which is the result of a changed heart (Ezek 36.26-27). Where Paul mentions “the flesh” he is talking about the corrupt nature of man. When he says we are “not under the Law” he means a system of works developed around 300 B.C. to 70 A.D. It also alludes to the fact that we are not “under arrest or indictment” anymore for our sins. We are not liable to punishment or penalty as described in the Torah. Where Paul says “not inherit the Kingdom of God” he is referring, first of all, that the Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of Israel, his movement on earth (1 Chr 28.5; 2 Chr 13.8; Acts 1.6). That kingdom was still being offered in the first century (Acts 3.12-21).
Paul goes on to say in Gal 5.22-25 that “there is no law” if you are led by the Spirit. This is another verse that is misunderstood and misinterpreted. This means that if you are led by the Spirit you are not breaking the Torah. “Those who belong to Messiah have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” means the damaging power of them is gone. They have lost their governing power. It’s not that our passions and desires are gone, but their ways are restrained. Just like a crucified man is still “alive” fastened to a cross, but he can’t act or move like before because he is being restrained. If a person says they “live in the Spirit” they will walk in the Torah and the Scriptures. How do you know when a prophecy isn’t from God? It will contradict the Scriptures.
Gal 6.1-5 says that we are to “restore” a person caught in any sin. That word “restore” means to “set a broken bone, act like a doctor.” To “bear one another’s burdens” means to “lift up and forgive.” The “Law of Messiah” is the “Torah of Messiah” (Psa 40.7; John 5.39-47). In Gal 6.6-18 Paul uses the term “what large letters I am writing to you.” Paul wanted them to know it was from him, in his writing. But, it may also refer to an eye problem he may have had (Gal 4.12-15). The “Israel of God” is the Jewish remnant in part, but the non-Jew will be included in this ultimately (Rom 11.17). Paul says that he “bears the marks of Yeshua” meaning that he has wounds on his body from various scourging’s, stoning and all the stress from being ship-wrecked, beaten and no sleep.
Let’s move on in our study of the Torah and New Testament Foundations to Eph 2.14-15. Paul makes the point that both Jew and non-Jew are “both one” in Messiah. The “law of commandments” there is not the Torah but the 18 Edicts of Beit Shammai and any man-made laws. Yeshua’s death broke down that wall of separation (the 18 Edicts). Some versions have “dispensation of the grace of God” in verse 2 (KJV for instance) and Christianity teaches the “age of Law” and the “age of grace” but both of these are inaccurate. Grace began to be manifested in the earth in the Garden of Eden and it has always been an attribute of God. When did grace start? With the first sin. The Torah started in Eden also. Both “started the race” together and have been running parallel, and they will finish the race together. Adam, Abraham, Abel, Sarah, David and every believer were justified by grace. The word “mystery” in v 4 is “sowd” and it means a “deeper meaning.” The mystery, or deeper meaning, is stated in Eph 3.6 where it says, “that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs and fellow-members of the body (the eschatological congregation that was expected) and fellow-partakers of the promise in Yeshua the Messiah through the gospel (basar).” The main expectation of the believing Jew in the first century was that the Gentiles would be believers, but they believed that the non-Jews would become Jews through ritual circumcision, and then become believers. They did not see that non-Jews would become partakers of the Kingdom of God without becoming Jews first. That was the “mystery” that was being revealed.
Phil 3.1-6 talks about the “false circumcision.” Paul sarcastically refers to the false circumcision and tells the Philippians to keep their eye on them and to beware of their mutilations or fake circumcision (ritual circumcision to become a Jew). The word “dogs” there are those not in communion with believers and are “outside the city” (Rev 22.15) and “covetous” in Isa 56.10. In other words, the pagans (kelevim=dogs).
Paul probably wrote his epistles in Greek because he was writing to non-Jews in Asia Minor and Greece (Europe). However, he wrote in Hebraic terms, concepts and idioms. So, he may have used Greek words but there were Hebraic meanings behind them. For example, in v 2, he uses “dogs” as we have said. The Hebrew is “kelev” and it means a pagan, but he used the Greek word for dog. The “katatomai” or “mutilations” of 3.2 was used for those who wanted to circumcise a non-Jew for salvation, according to the 18 Edicts of Shammai. When Paul says “who worship in the Spirit” he means “according to the Torah.” He tells them to put “no confidence in the flesh” especially in ritual circumcision and works. There is only one tree (Rom 11) and non-Jews have been grafted into that tree as a “wild olive (oleaster tree). The oleaster branch does not change into an olive branch (become a Jew) but it can be grafted into and a partaker of the life and root of the olive tree (Jewish heritage). The only branches that got “saved” after the oleaster tree was cut down and burned were the ones grafted into the olive tree. In Phil 3.4-6 Paul gives his credentials and he had every reason to boast in the flesh, but he didn’t. However, in Phil 3.7-8 he did not say these things were “discarded” because he still kept the Torah and remained a Pharisee. But, by comparison, there is no comparison to Messiah.
When Paul mentions the “genealogies” in 1 Tim 1.4 he is referring to the traditions handed down from generation to generation that were not consistent with the Torah (Titus 3.9). Paul goes on to say in 1 Tim 1.5-11 that the “Law is good if one uses it lawfully” as opposed to those who use it legalistically, because it does not impart life. The Torah was not made for a righteous man and no man is righteous in and of himself. It was made for the “lawless” or those without the Torah, which includes all of us at one point. Titus 3.9-11 touches on what Paul said in Timothy about “genealogies” and traditions that have been handed down from one generation to another not consistent with the Torah. “Disputes about the Law” are arguments on points of Torah, the “minutia” connected to the “genealogies.” A “factious man” is a heretic who forms parties to remove basic doctrines from the Torah. There is nothing in these verses that are anti-Torah but they are there to correct some approaches to it. The point is, don’t get into pointless discussions about the Torah that go nowhere or cause divisions. On the other hand, we are to handle the Scriptures and be able to defend the truth and discuss points in a reasonable manner, hopefully learning along the way.
This ends our basic overview of some of Paul’s statements on the Torah that can be misunderstood. In Part 22, we are going to start by going over some information on the Sabbath. There is a common belief in Christian circles on the Sabbath that are incorrect and are a product of “Replacement Theology” and are anti-Torah. Christianity has a different perspective and we are going to begin to bring this out.