Galations Part 1
Should We Live as the Circumcision Party, Jews, or the Gentiles?
Galatians 2:144 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?
Galatians 2:14 is often cited to suggest that Paul is teaching that believers should live like the Gentiles and not as Jews. This is done to support a faulty theological doctrine that creates a divide in the purpose,delivery, and design of Elohim’s law. In such a scenario, the Jews obviously represent the Law of Elohim, and Gentiles represent not following the Law of Elohim. Thus, those who do not want to live according to Elohim’s established ways in His Word, declare the Law of Elohim made void through their faith. Or they simply pick and choose which commandment “system” they want to obey based on any several different man made doctrines. Thus which commandments are still in effect is simply a matter of opinion. In either case, they side with their understanding of Paul by declaring that we are to not be like the Jews (Law of Elohim as written by Moses) but instead like the Gentiles (either no law or a different “system of commandments”)
As we proceed through this study, we will discover that Paul is actually teaching the exact opposite of what is described in the above. It should be immediately mentioned that from the beginning, any Gentile coming into the faith was always intended to adopt the same law as the natural born Israelite. There is no difference between and Israelite and an Egyptian, Moabite, Greek, etc. in the faith.
Numbers 15:15-16 One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before Yahweh. One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you.’
Lev 19:34) (Lev 24:22) (Num 9:14) (Num 15:15-16) (Num 15:29) (ie: Ruth) (Is 42:6) (Is 60:3) (Mat 5:14) (Eph 2:10-13) (Ac 13:47) (Ro 11:16-27) (Jer31:31-34) (Ez 37) (1 Jo2:10) (1 Jo 1:7)
It should also be noted that this would be yet another example of Paul’s letters being twisted by those who are ignorant and unstable in their understanding of the Word of Elohim. Numbers 15:15-16 clearly says one law for all, yet many want to read and believe otherwise. Many want to teach they can break Elohim’s law (sin/lawlessness/1 John 3:4) just because they are not a natural born Israelite as if that is what His Word teaches. This might sound like some harsh language, but this is actually the often ignored words and warning of Peter himself.
2 Peter 3:14-17 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the lawless;
Therefore if Paul was in fact teaching that converted Gentiles were to not keep the same Law of Elohim as the Jews, He is then violating Elohim’s established Word as written by Moses. This would be quite odd because Paul himself taught that he believed and practiced everything written in the Law and Prophets when he was accused of not teaching and practicing the Law of Moses:
Acts 24:13-14 Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the Elohim of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.
That would certainly mean that Paul believes Numbers 15:15-16 to still be true, unless he was lying. However, let’s pretend that we still did not believe Paul on this matter and that one could still convinced that they should live as Gentiles. Let’s test that doctrine even to its surrounding text. First, we need to cover the basics. Galatians 2:14 mentions several different groups of people common in first century Galatia. It would make sense for us to understand each group well to enable us to discern the doctrines and belief systems of each.
We have three specific groups we need to understand fully: 1) “Circumcision Party” 2) Jews such as Paul, Peter and Barnabus 3) Gentiles Group 1) Circumcision Party
Galatians 2:12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. Galatians 2:13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.
Peter used to eat with the Gentiles (Acts 10-11) but now after delivering the decree of Acts 15 Peter is playing the hypocrite by sitting with the Circumcision Party. He is doing this because he “fears” them. Peter must fear them because he knows that the decree James issued calls the Circumcision Party nothing better than false teachers. This is obviously not going to make those of the Circumcision Party too happy. Given the amount of influence and power this group had in the first century, it would not take much for this group to assemble a list of false accusations against Peter just like what was done to Stephen in Acts chapters 6 & 7. We need to understand what the Circumcision Party believed and practiced to fully understand why Paul reacted the way he did.
This is certainly the doctrine (or “false gospel”) that Paul is teaching against in the letter to the Galatians. Paul mentions several times that the false doctrine of salvation through the law is the core error that the Galatians have been mislead to believe. The “Circumcision Party” believed that it was only through Elohim’s law (starting with circumcision) that Gentiles could be saved as proselytes.
Acts 15:1 And certain men came down from Judea (to Galatia) and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
False teachers (“Circumcision Party” - Ga 2:7-12; 5:12 and “Works of Law” Ga 2:16;3:2;3:5;3:10) began promoting their doctrine (“oral law”) in Galatia that required Gentiles to be circumcised in a certain way. They also taught that all commandments of Elohim coupled with commandments of men need to be followed before one can be justified for salvation .
Gal. 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Yahshua Messiah, even we have believed in Yahshua Messiah, that we might be justified by the faith of Messiah, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
This theme continues throughout Galatians: (i.e. Ga 2:21; 3:2; 3:3; 3:5; 3:11; 5:4) “Works of Law” Qumran document 4QMMT (4Q394-5) gives us some insight to a Jewish sect in the first century called “Works of Law” The Jewish sect of Works of Law believed many things in their doctrine that were contrary to Elohim’s law and also taught that Gentiles could not be saved. They were, in effect, not living Elohim’s law in faith but in fact living their own invented law-which was a twisted form of Elohim’s law (similar practice of the 6 sects of the Pharisees). Their doctrine was related to those of the “Circumcision Party.” This would be why Galatians 6:13 states that this group that is supposedly teaching Elohim’s law for salvation do not even “keep Elohim’s law themselves.”
In the end of Acts 15 we read that James declared the doctrine presented in Acts 15:1 as false doctrine, that it is faith that saves us, not circumcision as the doctrine of the “Circumcision party” teaches. This is the exact same thing Paul is teaching in his letter to the Galatians.
Galatians 6:13 For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.
In summary, the two main problems with the “Circumcision Party” are that they present a false gospel (salvation by works) and they do not keep the Law of Elohim themselves. They only keep circumcision in the flesh to boast in the flesh. In reality, the whole point of outward circumcision according to the Law of Elohim is to be a demonstration of our inward circumcision. Elohim’s law is to be practiced as it was intended to be practiced, not as a means to salvation, but out of love for Elohim (1 John 5:2-3).
Group 2) Jews Such as Paul, Peter and Barnabas In Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul declares that those that subscribe to the doctrine of salvation by circumcision simply to boast in the flesh (outward only) are not true Jews. We just read that this belief and practice is the root doctrinal error of the Circumcision Party. This false doctrine misleading the beliefs of the Galatians. Thus, Paul does not consider the Circumcision Party as true Jews. He simply can not according to his own definition in the context of this false circumcision doctrine.
Romans 2:28-29 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from Elohim.
Paul was constantly dealing with the false doctrine of the Circumcision Party in his letters. Those of the Circumcision Party do not keep Elohim’s law themselves but only do certain works to boast in the flesh. Paul’s point is that we are to be circumcised in the heart first. This is what the Law of Elohim already taught:
Deuteronomy 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.
Deuteronomy 30:6 And Yahweh thy Elohim will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live.
Jeremiah 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to Yahweh, and take away the foreskins of your heart, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem.
The Circumcision Party focused on outward application only. instead of inwardly through faith. Obviously such doctrine does not stand the test in the first century and nor does it today, whether it be for circumcision or any other commandment of Elohim.
The Law of Elohim is only good if it is used in the way it was intended to be used:
1 Timothy 1:8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully,
Once we are circumcised of the heart, then and only then are we are to be circumcised in the flesh. The Circumcision Party had it all backwards. Outward circumcision is nothing if we are not doing it out of circumcision of the heart first as found and taught in the commandments of Elohim. Paul taught the same to the Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 7:19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of Elohim is what matters
We even learn just a few verses later that the reason that Paul has to teach the Corinthians that circumcision and uncircumcision is nothing is because they were also being taught the same false doctrine as the Galatians.
Circumcision can not save us from our sins. We were redeemed and bought on the cross.
1 Corinthians 7:23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.
If we follow such works based salvation false doctrine we are simply just obeying men, not Elohim. This was a massive problem in the first century.
Acts 5:29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey Elohim rather than men.
In the first century, mainstream Jewish leadership practiced something called the “oral law” (Talmud). Paul later refers to this doctrine as the “works of law” (see Qumran document 4QMMT (4Q394-5)) or “commandments of men.” Yahshua also referred to the “oral law” as the “traditions of the elders” that violates the “law of Elohim” (Mark 7; Matthew 23). There is much that can be said about the “oral law.” However, at a very basic level, the “oral law” consisted of doctrines, teachings, and commandments of men that much of the mainstream Jewish leadership of the first century elevated above the commandments of Elohim. In some cases the “oral law” even contradicted the commandments of Elohim. This major issue of the first century is also the point and purpose of Yahshua’s teaching in Matthew 5, His rebuking in Mark 7, and many of His other points of contention with Jewish leadership during the length of His ministry. The critical point to remember here is that there is a clear difference between the “commandments of men” and the “commandments of Elohim.”
ss="scriptureLocation">>Mark 7:6 He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘ This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men
>Mark 7:9 He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of Elohim, that you may keep your tradition.
Mark 7:13 making the word of Elohim of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.” It is the Word of Elohim that we are to follow, not doctrines and traditions of men.
Even in Mark 7:10 specifically, we see our Master appealing to what was written by Moses as the Word of Elohim. We must remember that it is every word that came out of the mouth of Elohim (which happened at Sinai) that is to be food for us (Matthew 4:4). In summary, Paul does not consider anyone a real Jew unless they have an inward desire to keep Elohim’s commandments for Elohim only, not for men. Outward only Jews kept Elohim’s law not for their love for Elohim (1 John 5:2-3) but simply to boast in the flesh. Thus, they had no faith in Elohim, but sadly only faith and love of themselves, in their ways and through their commandments. Paul, Peter and Barnabas would have qualified as a true Jew according to Paul’s definition. Paul, Peter and Barnabas observed Elohim’s law because of their inward desire, not because of the false outward motivation of the Circumcision Party. They rejected the “oral law,” the same “oral law” that Paul rejected coming out of his previous Pharisee doctrine when he was zealous for the “traditions” of his fathers (see Galatians 1:14).
3) Gentiles The group of the Gentiles is the easiest to define. Paul defines that group in the very next verse:
Galatians 2:15 "We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles;
Paul contrasts the true Jews (we) with the Gentile sinners. Thus, these Gentiles were not saved but were still in the bondage of their own sin. According to Paul, the true Jews know salvation by faith and are not sinners (follow the Law of Elohim). It is Paul’s desire that Peter is an example to Gentiles, not an obstacle.
The Summary of the Three Groups: 1) Circumcision Party – They present a false gospel of salvation through Elohim’s law starting with circumcision. They place their faith in themselves and their traditions in error. In addition, they also do not keep Elohim’s law themselves (sinners). 2) Jews - Jews such as Paul, Peter and Barnabas – This is the group that Paul associates himself, Peter, and Barnabas with. Paul defines a true Jew as someone who is circumcised of the heart, meaning that their heart is fully “cut out” for Elohim. One with a circumcised heart has every desire to keep Elohim’s ways, not for man or for himself, but to love Elohim. They do not practice the traditions “oral law” that is contrary to the Law of Elohim as written by Moses. This is actually the whole point of the Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-33; Ezekiel 36:26-27)
3) Gentiles – The Gentiles are also called sinners. They are not yet saved. In this regard they are like the Circumcision Party, but still differ in culture and doctrine. Now we are better enabled to examine the verse in question:
Galatians 2:14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?
Now there are some who like to interpret this as Paul in essence saying "If you are a Jew and have rightly abandoned the law (living like a Gentile), why do you compel the Gentiles to keep the law like a Jew by only eating with the Jews?" Due to this interpretation, it is commonly understood that this is a passage that supports the doctrine of the law being abolished. But verse 15 exposes the fallacy of this interpretation when Paul contrasts the Jews with Gentiles and identifies the Gentiles as being sinners.
Galatians 2:15 "We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles;
Thus, Paul declaring that Peter was acting like a Gentile can only be interpreted as being highly negative. Paul was calling Peter a sinner and a poor hypocritical example for the Gentiles. Now that we have defined the groups in Galatians 2:14, this understanding should be very clear. Galatians 2:14 But when I saw that they (Circumcision Party) were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel (presented false gospel), I said to Cephas in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew (true Jew), live like the Gentiles (sinners) and not like the Jews (true Jew - us), how is it that you compel the Gentiles (sinners) to live like Jews (true Jew – us)? Paul is in effect asking Peter, “How can you expect the Gentiles (sinners) to act like a (true) Jew if you are acting like the Gentiles (sinners like the Circumcision Party) yourself?” The KJV reads: "why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?" The Nestle-Aland Greek text (based on older manuscripts) reads: "How can you compel the Gentiles to live as do the Jews." So the question wasn't "Why are you over there trying to get Gentiles (Torah breakers) to live like Jews (Torah keepers)? Don't you know the law is abolished?" The real question was "How can you ever compel the Gentiles to keep the Torah (like Jews are supposed to) if you are a sinning yourself?" Both Greek texts are compatible with the latter understanding, but the Nestle-Aland text would contradict the common Christian interpretation of these verses. (Torah = Law of Elohim) This is a massive departure from how this verse is usually interpreted. Many want to associate themselves as Gentiles. But if we are believers then we are no longer Gentiles but have become citizens of the commonwealth of IsraelE
Ephesians 2:11-13. We have been removed from the wild olive tree and grafted into the cultivated olive tree (Romans 11) - which is Israel
Jeremiah 11:16. We have left the nations (Gentiles) and have been adopted into the family of the one nation of Elohim (Israel). Thus, we are to follow the same instructions given to Israel from the beginning.
The Rest of Galatians 2: In conclusion of chapter 2, Paul continues to teach against the false doctrine of the Circumcision Party that teaches a works based salvation.G
Galatians 2:16-17 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Messiah Yahshua, even we have believed in Messiah Yahshua, so that we may be justified by faith in Messiah and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. "But if, while seeking to be justified in Messiah, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Messiah then a minister of sin? Elohim forbid!
Paul teaches the same thing in his other letters:
Romans 6:15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? Elohim forbid.
Romans 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Elohim forbid: yea, we establish the law.
In chapter 1 Paul states how he as a Pharisee had to come out of such false doctrine himself.
Galatians 2:18 "For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor
Paul then goes on to say that he died to the law to enable him to live for Elohim.
Galatians 2:19 "For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to Elohim.
That seems confusing, but we also know that Paul teaches the same thing in Romans 7 that he is teaching in Galatians 2:19.
Romans 7:9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.
Does this mean that Paul discards the Law of Elohim? No, absolutely not. “Elohim forbid!” The law is designed to kill us so that it produces an inward desire to live to Elohim instead of for our self. It is through the law that we realize that we are sinners. This is what it is supposed to do, and for that, it is good.
Romans 7:11-12 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.
Paul then teaches that because the law kills him by exposing his sin that the desire to keep the Law of Elohim and desire to hate the law of sin is the natural result in our faith:
Romans 7:13-25 “Has then what is good (Law of Elohim) become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good (Law of Elohim), so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of Elohim according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank Elohim—through Yahshua Messiah our master! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of Elohim, but with the flesh the law of sin.”
With this, we realize that Paul is certainly not teaching against the Law of Elohim in Galatians 2:19, but describing the correct process that the Law of Elohim is to serve, a process that has been perverted and twisted by the Circumcision Party.
Galatians 2:19 "For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to Elohim (serve the Law of Elohim).
Paul explains the Law of Elohim in this way for a very important reason. The Circumcision Party reads Elohim’s law and simply does Elohim’s law to boast outwardly. Without faith Elohim simply does not recognize such works as obedience, but instead men’s faulty religious systems under the guise of Elohim’s ways. Paul’s point is to prove that Elohim’s law is designed to convict us by defining and exposing our sin. At that time it is to force us to realize that we are sinners, thus it can not be a means to salvation. Elohim’s law is to point us to the means to salvation (Messiah). We then put on the mind of Messiah (Romans 7:25; 1 Corinthians 2:16) in our faith, which is serving the Law of Elohim because of our salvation, not for it.
Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Messiah; and it is no longer I who live, but Messiah lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of Elohim, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Paul concludes that practicing Elohim’s law for salvation nullifies the grace afforded to us through faith. Righteousness unto salvation is through Messiah alone.
Galatians 2:21 "I do not nullify the grace of Elohim, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Messiah died needlessly." However, just because we have faith that affords us grace and righteousness unto salvation by Messiah it does not mean that we are no longer practice the righteousness of the Law of Elohim.
Galatians 2:17 "But if, while seeking to be justified in Messiah, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Messiah then a minister of sin? Elohim forbid!
Romans 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Elohim forbid: yea, we establish the law.
It is because of the righteousness afforded to us by grace that we actually practice righteousness. Messiah becomes our example to follow the Law of Elohim, not our excuse to not follow the Law of Elohim.
1 John 3:7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.
Now that we know this, we do not want to forget this!
2 Peter 20-21 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the master Yahshua Messiah, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.
To summarize what Paul is teaching in Galatians a simply as possible, it could be said that “Obedience is the fruit of conversion – not the root.” Obedience is not our salvation, but the evidence of it. It is simply how we “will know them by their fruits.” Test every doctrine to His Word. In the end that is what we are all accountable to, His Word, not doctrines of men.