My Scripture Studies
Removing the Blinders

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Why the Letter to the Galatians?

The letters of Paul are complex and often hard to understand.  Perhaps that is because we do not connect easily with their seemingly distant culture and historical context. So questions and misunderstanding can abound when we hear Paul letters in the setting of a modern church pulpit.

The issue is that many of Paul's Jewish perspectives are hidden from modern view by his training in the ancient Hebraic method of Jewish teaching some 2,000 years ago.

Without an understanding of the Galatian letter's context in a world where traditional Judaism intersected with bias in the pagan culture of ancient Galatia, a surface reading of the letter or for that matter most letters penned by Paul, can lead one to think that one of his goal's is to provide an override to God's instruction manual.

That perspective is a remnant of the antisemitic dispensational perspective influenced by a man named Marcion. He taught that the heresy that God changes. I realize you may stop reading here but...

Peter the fisherman and Jewish disciple of Yeshua once wrote that Paul’s “letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (see 2Peter 3:16).

Ignorant and unstable people distort Paul's letters
to their own destruction. 

Wow! These are hard words from Peter, destruction is gravely serious. Destruction causes so much damage that repair is impossible!

Today, there are those who say the Torah does not point to Messiah in opposition to Yeshua's word in Matthew 5:46-47 or they say it is old, set aside or "hung on the cross" while often turning to Paul's letters to  "prove" their position, yet few seem to realize it, but Paul quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures to deliver the heart of his messages:
  • Galatians 3:8, Paul quotes from Genesis 12:3
  • Galatians 3:10, Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 27:26
  • Galatians 3:11, Paul quotes from Habakkuk 2:4
  • Galatians 3:12, Paul quotes from Leviticus 18:5
  • Galatians 3:13, Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 21:23

This fact is a part and parcel of Peter's warning...

Peter is concerned about Biblical blinders to Scripture and rabbinic teaching in a form of cognitive dissidence if you will, teaching that the letters of Paul provide a grace escape from the Bible.

Peter was present at the sermon of beatitudes. He heard Yeshua boldly declare: not one jot or tittle will ever be done away with in the Torah as long as heaven and earth remain.

Peter believed the words then, do you now?

Yeshua (aka Jesus) excludes no one from His voice and authority on the eternal truth He declared in the Sermon on the Mount. By its very nickname, this teaching of Yeshua of Nazareth should remind you of another mountain, Mount Sinai and the weight of the words spoken from the fire and thunder there. Not one jot or tittle of those words declared in the wilderness of Sinai are done away with, no not one. This is the testimony of Jesus as He taught the spirit and truth regarding the eternal purpose in the Kingdom of God in the two witnesses of Matthew 5 and John 5.

The humble Yeshua Jesus taught the way of the Kingdom that seems hidden for some yet is found front and center in the Torah.

Before He was confronted by the arisen resurrected Yeshua, rabbi Paul rejected the Biblical concept of a suffering Messiah revealed by the prophets. Many rabbis struggle with this today just as Paul did before his journey to Damascus. However, a revered Jewish sage known as the Vilna Gaon, who lived in the mid 1700's taught that one of the roles of "the" Messiah was that of Moshiach ben Yosef.

According to this revered rabbi, the humble Messiah's mission is to reveal the 'Sod,' the hidden parts of the wisdom of Torah. The Vilna Gaon is not the only Jewish source of commentary on the role of Moshiach ben Yosef, the suffering Messiah. The humble Messiah is discussed at great length in many other Jewish writings.

The humble words of Yeshua are etched in the gospel accounts beginning with Matthew for all to see as He fills up the Torah with meaning and deep compassion. Perhaps you have read Matthew 5:17-19, there the Greek word "plēroō" has been translated in our modern Bibles as "fulfill"...
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to 'fulfill'.

For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." NASB
If you are thinking that "plēroō" means to put an end to the Torah, its time to rewind because the Greek word "plēroō" actually means to cause to abound - to render perfect - to perform, fulfill does not "do away with."

So, let's ask again: Why the letter to the Galatians?

Anyone that has traveled internationally knows that when you visit a foreign country for the first time, you can be well served by enlisting a guide for the all sights, but more importantly a guide can help you understand the culture of the people.

A historic Biblical perspective on Paul as a rabbi and Jewish Believer in Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel can be like a good a travel guide when it comes to the hidden cultural aspects of the Galatian letter. The letter is set in a context amid the epicenter of the chaos of paganism and idol worship in which polytheism was a civic duty in the Greco-Roman world mixed with diverse religions, languages, ethnicities and cultures.

Every line of Paul's letters comes from an unchanging Biblical context intertwined with the historical, social and cultural setting of his day. In many ways, life in first-century was very different from our world, and many traditional interpretations of Paul's letters ignore this cultural disparity allowing only a dim view of Paul's reality.

For starters, there was no separation of religion, government or politics in the Roman Empire dominance of the first century. Today, our so-called modern western society waves a banner of separation of church and state, but in yesteryear that idea would yield a prison sentence. After all, homage and sacrifice to the many mythic Greco-Roman gods including the Emperor himself were expected and required of 'citizens' of the Empire. Yet, miraculously in Rome's heyday, Jews were exempted from many of these civic duties by Roman decree because the Romans refrained from imposing their religious beliefs on the people they conquered in an odd form of expressing superiority.

In chapter 5:1-4 of the letter sent to Galatia (now modern day Turkey), Paul writes difficult words for those Gentiles that had formerly been "estranged from Messiah" who were being told "a yoke of bondage" was a duty and obligation for salvation.

Bondage arises out of the precepts of oppression, not the rule of the mercy filled heart of grace that transcends human understanding found in Almighty God's Torah. This lovingkindness was witnessed firsthand by Moses when he was called again to the top of the mountain to receive the renewed covenant after the first tablets were broken at the foot of Mount Sinai.

The sin of the golden calf broke the promise of the people. They said we will do all that God has spoken:

"So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord." Exodus 19:7-8 

Yet they broke their promise. The breaking of the covenant is literally shown as the ten words were shattered when Moses threw down the two tablets. Yet instead of vengeance, God called Moses back up the mountain to receive the ten commandments covenant again.

This gospel (good news) of God's character is described for the world to see and believe in Exodus 34:6-7 after the covenant promise was broken as The Lord spoke to Moses at the mountain top revealing His lovingkindness and forgiveness:

“The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin..."

This is why Paul wrote against a stony belief of justification before God by men's deeds and doctrine rather than God's relationship truth revealed in His forgiveness of sin in mercy and abounding lovingkindness. Paul was teaching we are to become mirrors to reflect His  compassion and lovingkindness first and foremost.

Paul called man's attempt at salvation by deed a doctrine of justification and a yoke of bondage. In his rabbinic style of teaching, Paul wrote of God's forgiveness of sin after he realized the Torah was given as a guide for life, not as a to do list to check off for salvation:

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Messiah has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Messiah will profit you nothing.

And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole Torah.

You who have become estranged from Messiah, you who seek to be justified by Torah; you have fallen from grace."

To one whose eyes and ears are not re-focused on God's own narrative about His character with a perspective of the admonition given to the Galatians, Paul's words sound like a warning against walking in the Torah path and a condemnation of circumcision.

However, we must reconsider the religious culture that Paul was raised in if we are to begin to understand his message. If a requirement of faith and salvation mandates that you become circumcised to be in good standing with God, Paul is saying you take on a debt of bondage that cannot be paid.

Paul message is that good standing by earning salvation by anyone who claimed to be justified in circumcision is in spiritual bondage because God's mercy is based on God's character, not people's deeds. After all, everyone has sinned. If you sin after circumcision, then what,,, keep cutting?

Not only that, Paul’s point in all of his writings about circumcision is that it was never a salvation requirement. After all, what about every woman on the planet, what are they to do?

Paul's teaching is integrated in the Torah and the admonitions from the Prophets. After all, Paul knew that the Scriptures plainly declare Abram was God's friend and that he sojourned under The Lord's direction some 30 years - long before he was circumcised at age 99 (see Genesis 17:25-26 and Romans 4:11-16).

Paul's central point is that it's a sure indication people come under the bondage of legalism by the religious decrees of men. In Paul's day, the doctrine of salvation requiring circumcision was held by a people he labeled as "the party of the circumcision" (see Galatians 2:12).

Paul knew whether Jew or Gentile, man, woman or child all fail to keep God's law so there is no merit for salvation or redemption by one's own effort to 'keep' the law, because we all fall short in one way or another.

Paul knew that Almighty God declared circumcision a covenant 'sign' for Abraham and his descendants, but it was not the covenant 'promise' given to Abraham many years earlier.

Paul knew this was the same pattern declared in the Torah for the families of Israel as well as the strangers and sojourners with them that were 'saved out' of Egypt as they followed the pillar of fire through the wilderness some 1,500 years earlier.

Paul understood that the descendants of those that were saved were not circumcised until the end of their journey at Gibeath-haaraloth (see Joshua 5:2-3), yet they had walked with God present in their midst for 40 years uncircumcised.

They were uncircumcised as they followed the Shekinah glory cloud to the Promised Land.

Paul never turned his back on his heritage or the Jewish people, he remained Sha'ûl of Tarsus a Jew and a Pharisee many years after his Damascus Road encounter (see Acts 21:39). Yet, he did oppose men's religious attitudes that added to Torah and carried a separation from grace view of "the party of the circumcision" that misses the mark shown by Moses' return to the mountaintop after the national sin of Golden Calf idol.

Moses was called to return to God on the mountain with an assignment, bring The Father's renewed covenant and the message of lovingkindness and forgiveness down to the multitudes with a second set of tablets etched in stone to a people saved by God's love and compassion, not destroyed by their own broken promise and adultery with an Egyptian false idol.

Paul had come to realize that Israel and the sojourners that came out of Egypt with Moses were forgiven not by what they could do to seek righteousness after they broke God's marriage covenant, but the only ways was by God's majesty in mercy and lovingkindness.

Following their golden calf idolatry, Moses witnessed firsthand God's love and mercy on the mountaintop.

If we look closely, we can hear the heart of the Torah message is grace, the way seemingly hidden within Paul's letters and his testimony to Felix the Governor in Acts 24 as he bears a second witness to the words of the Prophets and Moses like those recorded in Deuteronomy 9:5:

"It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
"But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets..." Acts 24:14
A big part of Paul's admonition to the Galatians is that without a mercy-filled circumcised heart, one can become a slave to a religion of self-imposed legalism seeking justification and a goal to 'earn' merit and salvation from God. Paul like Moses warns: "It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart..."

Ignoring God's words brought destruction on ancient Israel and religious legalism separates people from the truth of life giving kindness of God's compassion and glory. Paul's letters reverberate that message as the Torah and the Prophets describe God's by mercy and lovingkindness and Paul repeats the message of what The Lord requires from the prophet Micah:

"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8  

That is the way. When we dig in deep, we can see Paul never said he was converted to any new religion called Christianity. He didn’t believe Messiah Yeshua of Nazareth ever stopped being Jewish. Paul never promoted anti-Semitism as some Jews have been misled to believe by misinformed sermons from a pulpit of dispensational replacement theology.

Paul never turned against God’s assignment for Israel to teach others about Him either.

The apostle understood Israel was to be a nation of priests and prophets to a Gentile idol-worshipping world to fulfill the goal of the Torah and be a light of the nations. God’s intent was for Israel to be a distinct people, a nation who would point others to walk with God and toward His provision as their Redeemer and Savior. In fact, Paul never taught that the way was separate from the assembly of Israel.

He taught that Yeshua was the Messiah of 'all' Israel that follow the way of the the Holy 'One" on earth as it is in heaven. He taught that all Isreal will be saved.

"And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’" Romans 11:26-27

Any other view, carries Scriptural blinders. The distortion can be temporary if we just open our eyes.

Acts 9 states Paul was healed of his physical and spiritual blindness to the mountaintop purpose of Torah to reveal God's character in the truth and spirit of mercy and lovingkindness. After he 'saw the light' Paul never intended any of his teachings to encourage people to turn their back on God's Kingdom constitution, the instruction manual upheld in esteem by the Jewish people. Paul brings this to unquestionable focus in his letter to the Romans. Go ahead reread Romans 3:20; Romans 3:31; Romans 6:15; Romans 7:7, Romans 7:12 and Romans 11:26-27 for yourself.

Like the words written to the Romans, every other letter aligns with Paul's esteem for the Torah with a focus on forgiveness by God's kindness and mercy found in the words recorded by Moses. Paul understood that what God had commanded was impossible without the gift of grace and that repentance was essential for forgiveness.

Paul's word to the Galatians about God's weightiest instruction against sin provides further proof of this Jewish rabbi's focus on the heart of Torah:

For the whole law [Torah] is fulfilled [performed] in one word [saying]:
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

Paul did not come up with that summary by the way... it's direct from God's mouth and recorded by Moses in Leviticus 19:17-18:

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD."

Take the time to consider the heart of this divine Torah truth. Call it law if you insist, but doing so takes away from God's word because Torah is much more than that. Torah is God's teaching and instruction that is reveals God's character bonded in love. That message is embedded in Paul's letters that seems so difficult to understand as he weaves the highest teaching of the Torah of God into the hearts of people living in a mixture of a decadent pagan society and an unbelieving religion that strayed from God's heart.

The teaching and instruction of God defines sin as the thoughts and actions that oppose loving God and others and Paul reiterates this in Galatians 5:18-21 even declaring the lost inheritance of an anti-Torah lifestyle:

“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” 

It is time to take a prolonged look at the Galatian letter and consider the ancient culture of the polytheistic Roman Empire where idol worship and sexual perversion prevailed front and center as the norm of the day.  Come to think of it, what goes around comes around.

If we just look we will also find "religious" conflicts that remain with us whether Jew or Christian, and that fact will shed some new light on the letter to the Galatians. Today, some of these conflicts include rules, legal interpretations, rituals, customs, traditions, sects and denominations that have evolved over time and in many aspects define religion.

So, we must ask... does the letter to the Galatians deal with the words of the Torah being questioned or does the letter reveal a concern about a mindset of hypocrisy that can develop out of extra-Biblical justification by traditional religion and the opinions of interpretation?

As history shows, many Jewish customs and traditions began in antiquity during the diaspora of the southern tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi in Babylon when the exiles established "Talmudic" academies while under the captivity of Nebuchadnezzar after his armies attacked Jerusalem in 586 BC. By the time Paul arrived on the scene in Jerusalem, Jewish life had two primary views defined in the sects of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

During the 70 years in Babylon, certain traditions and customs arose from rabbinic-style interpretations that were finally documented in the Talmud around the fifth century. The Talmud and rabbinical literature now records the opinions and debate of rabbis on the rule of several Jewish laws found in the traditional observances that the forefathers began to develop in Babylon.

The thing is, no matter how much good will or intent, the idea of a set of laws or observances coming from the interpretation of men is by its own definition, extra-biblical but don't take my word for it.

According to the Jewish historian Josephus:

"What I would now explain is this, that the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the laws of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them, and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers." Antiquities of the Jews Book 13 Chapter 10.6

Many traditional observances were expanded and moved into written form well after the Temple's destruction by Titus in 70 AD. These were influenced by two leading schools of Jewish teaching, the school of Hillel and the often opposing views if the House of Shammai during Paul's time. Both schools taught and expounded on opinions that had worked their way into traditions that originated in the absence of the Temple services some 500 years earlier yet as recorded in Jewish history there was opposition and debate. The reason for debate they are based on interpretation. Men debate because of opinion and that can lead to controversy. According the Jewish Encyclopedia there are: "Three hundred and sixteen controversies between these two schools are preserved in the pages of the Talmud..."

The "house" of study or school that molded Paul's way of thinking was in Jerusalem under the tutelage of Gamaliel the Elder  (see Acts 5:34-39 and Acts 22:3). Gamaliel was a Pharisee as well and a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest court, the great council of Jerusalem. Gamaliel was the grandson of Hillel the Elder and his's family lineage includes a link to Rashi generations later.

After his "Damascus Road" encounter and much study re-examining Scripture, Paul came to realize that his issue with tradition was that he had let some his opinions lead him into prejudice and away from the teaching of Gamaliel on God's character of mercy and lovingkindness. To understand why Paul called himself a Pharisee, we would be well served to study the sayings of Gamaliel. One is recorded in Acts 5:34-39 where he warns the high priest and his associates known as the Council that judged Yeshua against harming His disciples:

"... a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. 
So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God."

Paul had developed a stony heart embedded in a pretense of virtuous character aka hypocrisy forgetting what he had learned at the feet of his Jewish rabbi. His eyes were opened in Damascus as he realized his own leavened attitude of hypocrisy and discrimination was huge problem that Yeshua challenged:

"Under these circumstances, after so many thousands of people had gathered together that they were stepping on one another, He began saying to His disciples first of all, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." Luke 12:1 NASB

A few prideful Pharisees allowed their hypocrisy to lead to judgmental hatred. This was leaven according to Yeshua. Hypocrisy and pride had puffed them up to the point that they thought they might achieve righteousness in deed rather than righteousness in mercy and grace granted only by God's character. Eventually, this leaven of hypocrisy led the counsel of certain men's hearts into grave darkness as they conspired to kill Yeshua of Nazareth because they rejected Him as Messiah and considered Him to be a threat to their religious rule. They opposed those (the disciples) that did not follow their authority but instead followed the Torah's highest teaching of The Kingdom way preached by Yeshua.

Yeshua confronted only a few people. He knew they had stony hearts standing against highest teaching of God's Torah, the Prophets and the Writings. Yeshua taught the same justice by mercy and grace foundation that is God's heart and the fountain of life in "the way" of Torah. This is 'the way' the Jew Yeshua taught according to Acts 24:14, that the truth of loving kindness is declared under the authority and compassion of God, not men and their traditions.

Yeshua taught the same loving kindness declared by God through the witnesses of Moses, Hosea, Micah, David and Solomon that was the very same faith of the majority of the Jewish people in the first century. That is why the Jewish multitudes followed Him, they knew that earning one's salvation was not the cornerstone of their faith. They knew what The Lord had promised Moses and what pleased Him:

"The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, 
“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 
And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.” Exodus 34:5-9 
"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6  
"Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? The voice of the LORD cries to the city -- and it is sound wisdom to fear your name: "Hear of the rod and of him who appointed it!" Micah 6:7-9 
"O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Psalm 51:15-17 
"Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice." Proverbs 21:2-3 

Despite the schism of views recounted in the Talmud, the arrogant leaders of the Pharisees and Sadducees agreed as they stumbled over the Torah teaching of Yeshua and the instruction shown in Leviticus 19:18:

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord.”

The Pharisees and Sadducees sought revenge and bore grudges as they threw stones of accusation.

Before he set off to Damascus, Paul had sought authorization to persecute any Jew that professed "the way" of Yeshua, His resurrection and ascension as the Messiah of Israel and Son of God. According to Acts 8:8, it was Paul that approved Stephen's stoning and death. The religious opinion that continues was that Yeshua could not be Israel's Messiah, he did not reestablish the Davidic kingdom as they expected.

They ignored Daniel 9:24-26; Zechariah 9:9; Zechariah 11:12-13; Psalm 2:7; Psalm 22:16-19 and Isaiah 53.  They expected Balaam's final oracle to be fulfilled in their day as shown in Numbers 24:15-25, but the forgot what Balaam had said about latter days to Balak before his prophecy: "Come, I will let you know what this people will do to your people in the latter days.”

The traditions and views of the Pharisees and Sadducees were much like the many schools of thought today with differing opinions of religious men. Much like the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots and Essenes of yesterday, today's Reform Jews have separated from the halakha of Orthodox Judaism while Christianity has fractured into denominations. The cracks began when medieval Christendom's leadership falsely taught the church replaced the Jews with a new covenant people, a spiritual Israel that rejected Judaism. The cracks eventually fragmented into many separate beliefs that have morphed into today's denominations.

In the end, the only leadership or opinion that matters is God's.

How can we know Paul was referencing certain Jewish customs of halacha? Simple, he says so when he confronted the issue with Cephas on the matter...

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? Galatians 2:14

Another perspective that may help us understand Paul's letter is a Jewish tradition. The custom is a precept that God writes every person's good and bad deeds in the Book of Life, and tradition says if your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds then one can improve their chances on Yom Kippur that a person's name might be inscribed in the Book of Life.

Yet halakha is not a set of rules to be tossed wholly aside, not all add to or take away from Torah. After all, a great teaching of halakha, perhaps the most esteemed rule is to love one's neighbor. This great Jewish perspective on life and society weighs great importance on the proper treatment of others described in the Torah and that is the same message of Jesus and the same found in Paul's letters woven from the Torah.

Within his letters, Paul uses halakha taught by Yeshua (for examples see 1Corinthians 7:10-11; 1Corinthians 9:14 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 14:34; 1 Thessalonians11:23-25.

Paul's letters address the same instruction of Hosea 6:6 and its parallel found in Isaiah 29:13:

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” 
“The Lord says: These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”

In the proper context, it is clear Paul was concerned that customary religious misinterpretation that could present a stumbling block of pride or arrogance in front of the good news of love as an acknowledgment of God while tossing compassion aside in favor of observance of traditions taught by men.

Paul knew firsthand how pride could lead to persecution if God's heart of mercy was missing (see Isaiah 29:13). Paul's focus was for all Believers, Jew or Gentile, to faithfully fulfill the Lord’s will to establish His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Paul profoundly understood his own former stony heart:

"For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus." Galatians 1:11-17 

Paul is not the only Jewish rabbi to write of this issue. In 1955, another famous Jew, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel provided the same warning in his book God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism:

"Indeed, the essence of observance has, at times, become encrusted with so many customs and conventions that the jewel was lost in the setting. Outward compliance with externalities of the law took the place of the engagement of the whole person to the living God."

In his letters, Paul is preaching the same sermon as Rabbi Heschel and calling for love and respect as the place for engagement for all people especially in the Jewish witness of Messiah Yeshua to the Gentiles (non-Jews). Paul had experienced his own encrusted religious customs that divided people in religion and did not fulfill the purpose of Torah.

After meeting with Messiah Yeshua on the road to Damascus, Paul came to realize both Jew and Gentile were created in the image of God and Yeshua gave His life as a ransom for the salvation of all people with no precondition based on traditions not inscribed in God's heart of mercy and lovingkindness shown at Mount Sinai.

To better understand the context of the cultural and historic issues at hand, here's something you may have never considered as you've read the letters of Paul.

Rome's food markets as well as those in Galatia, Corinth, Thessalonica, Colossia, Philippi and Ephesus were all run by Gentiles and most of them sacrificed sheep and cattle to the many mythic false-gods of that they worshipped and then sold them in street markets.

You may not know it, but remnants of false-god worship remain in plain sight today as we retain the names of our planets and their moons from these false Greco-Roman idols:
  • Mercury
  • Venus
  • Mars 
  • Jupiter
  • Saturn
  • Uranus
  • Neptune
  • Pluto
Even the Moon has a lunar problem today, it is taken the name of another fake deity Luna, the Roman goddess of the Moon. Other than the term mother nature, only the Earth's name remains unpolluted, it derives its name from the first verse in the Scriptures, the Hebrew word, erets אֶרֶץ.

The heavens above with our solar system's amazing planets are not the only remnant of the Greco-Roman world. Most of the 12 months of the year come from idol worship and so-called Greek gods. January is named for Janus, March is named after the god Mars, April for Aphrodite, June for Juno.

In Rome's ancient culture, the Caesars were considered gods too, this is known as the imperial cult and it too pollute our modern calendars. For example, July is named for Julius Caesar and August for Augustus Caesar. Week days are named after Norse idol-gods and Saturday retains the name of the Rome false-god Saturn, aka Saturn's day and of course there's Sun-day.

It can be disheartening that the remnant of false gods still describe time on this planet, but it does not govern it. The Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and the Romans all worshiped the sun. The Greek-god was Helios and the Roman Sol Invictus. These idols had different names but they were the same as people worshipped the sun and used its planets as a foundation for polluting God's purpose in them. What a lousy scenario if you just stop and think about it for a minute. God's perfect timepiece, the solar system has been branded with idols as has our the long forgotten creation calendar God designed to point us toward His Feast Day appointment calendar.

Greco-Roman timekeeping has caused many to not lose track of time, it has led to an identity crisis thinking God's Feasts are only for the Jewish people.

Before we think all is well, that the Greco-Roman false-gods and goddesses birthed out the pagan minds polluted by ignorance, astrology and the divination of Egypt and Babylon do not mean much to us anymore and that their lucky charms, the idols of wood and stone are long gone, think again...

Ancient eclectic, polytheistic cult idols based on debauchery, licentious sex, moral chaos and philosophy have always morphed and shape-shifted into other forms depending on the culture and dominant government power of the day.

The unchanging message of the Bible still relates to the modern contemporary world, to your life and God's time keeping.

Today, often without realizing it; people worship other idols like money. Its pretty crazy when you think about it, but God warned that idols of stone and wood are not real, and neither is money these days. After all, money is no longer denominated by gold, silver or copper, its modern reality is not real at all. Money is just a few electronic digits, a row of electrons called a credit or debit on a bank account and an investment is simply an electronic accumulation of ticker symbols on a stock market.

The modern idol list goes on in other forms. Like the ancient Greek culture sports teams, heroes and sports idols dominate our modern week-end psyche. You may have never thought about it, but what's up with all the sports mascots?

Not to bore you but Merriam Webster defines a mascot as: "a person, animal, or object adopted by a group as a symbolic figure especially to bring them good luck." Synonyms include amulet, charm and related words are toadstone; emblem, symbol, token and totem. The Random House Dictionary says the origin of mascot is French: "mascotte meaning talisman, charm, derivative of masco sorceress."

Man oh man that sounds bizarre, so its time to leave the charm of Rome and the Greek sport's arenas and get back to the letter of Paul.

The letter writer had a goal. He wanted to help people prioritize the weight of God's Word. If you look at the Ten Commandments, the first four point to our first priority which is to love God with all of our heart, mind and soul.  The second priority is not disconnected, it is outlined in the last six which is to love your neighbor as yourself. These two are the jewels, the foundation stones of the Ten Commandments and the foundations stones of the whole of Torah.

If we look closely at the letters, we will see that Paul is addressing this issue of relationship priority declared in the ten words, aka the ten commandments.

Pauls shows us that passing judgment on others by not loving a neighbor, opposes the greatest commands of the Torah to love God and care for love others.

Judgment separates Jew and Gentile, whether then or now. As a Pharisee, Paul understood this more than most, he knew his temporary blindness was in his prejudice. He knew judging others distances oneself from the very heart of The Father and the promise of Messiah. He knew the priority in human relationship is to love our neighbor and not bear a grudge. He knew forgiveness too because his own religious views had once led to grudges, vengeance, imprisonment and eventually death for people like the Jewish disciple Stephen.

How did Paul the lifelong Torah student learn to know the heart of The Father? Just re-read the Torah of Leviticus 19:15-18 and Deuteronomy 9:6 and Deuteronomy 10:19:

'You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. 'You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. 'You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him.  'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:15-18 NASB 
“Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people." 
"Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. "

Paul knew his own past stubborn sin against men and he was concerned for the weak in faith, those "new" to true faith that were still heavily influenced by Roman and Greek thinking, lifestyle and a pagan idol-infested mindset in opposition to Torah:
"Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions." Romans 14:1
Paul notes certain Jewish believers in Rome refused to eat meat for fear that it was defiled by idol worship and many became vegetarian because it eliminated the possibility of association with idol sacrifice.  Yet, the issues at hand were beyond food and a custom that disallowed meat to be consumed that was butchered and sold by Gentiles because they were considered idolaters.

Imagine yourself as an observant Jew, trying to keep the traditions of your fathers in ancient Rome and you might understand Paul's concern was that religious division could hinder relationships and sharing the message of the good news of the Kingdom of God with the Gentiles. Imagine too, yourself as a former pagan saved by grace, yet now arrogant and against the Torah.

Paul was concerned that the Yeshua-believers would stumble like he once did and withdraw from the Gentiles and vice-versa.

This is the culture context of the letters
that is misunderstood today.

Another perspective on Paul can be seen if we consider the conflict of the two leading sects of Judaism in his day. This is known as by the division of the Sadducees and the Pharisees.

Did you know that those known as the Sadducees rejected the halakha of the Oral Torah that had developed over generations which the Pharisees claimed was passed down by oral tradition from the days of Moses?

The Sadducees insisted on a strict, literal interpretation of the written Torah just as Karaite Judaism does today rejecting extra Biblical traditions in direct conflict with the lifestyle of Orthodox and Reform Judaism.

The Sadducees sought to follow the written Torah, yet incredibly they stubbornly rejected the hope of resurrection that described Jesus shown in the Torah, Prophets and Writings. These include stories that point to resurrection as shown when the prophet Elijah prayed and God raised a young boy from death in 1Kings 17:17-24); or the story when Elisha raised the son of the Shunammite woman in 2Kings 4:32-37 and the story of a dead man's body that was thrown into Elisha's tomb that was resurrected when his body touched Elisha's bones as described in 2 Kings 13:21.

Resurrection was the great divide then, yet there was more. Many traditions advocated by the Pharisees were in opposition to the Sadducees who opposed observances not found in the Torah and both conflicts are described among these sects throughout the Newer Testament. You can read about this in Matthew 16:6, Matthew 16:12, Matthew 22:23 and Act 23:7-8 for yourself. Not only did the Sadducees not see eye to eye with the Pharisees, different sects disagreed with each another over polarized interpretations and deeply divided opinions between the Jewish sages of the day, Hillel and Shammai.

After the Temple was destroyed, Pharisaic opinion underwent a gradual process toward rabbinic Judaism as we now know it. If you are not familiar with today's Jewish halakha, consider the Orthodox view on what is sanctioned by modern rabbis in regard to eating meat: after eating a meal with meat, one must wait one, three, or up to six hours "depending on one’s custom" before consuming dairy products despite the words of Genesis.

Oddly in opposition, the Torah portrays an amazing story about the lunch meeting God had with Abraham. Check it our for yourself in Genesis 18:2-8.

When tradition and opinion are added to the Bible's core teaching on God's character of mercy and lovingkindness, Paul was concerned they can impair our love for a neighbor, so Paul wrote that those "opinions" should be examined. That is the context of Paul's letter to those in the synagogue of Rome, i.e. if you do not observe God's law based on Biblical truth at the "mercy" seat, you keep a tradition of men that has no merit in salvation.

Paul brings the division of opinion to focus when he describes the divide of Sadducee and Pharisee over resurrection in Acts 23:6-8:
"But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men [and] brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both."
Have you ever considered that when writing of "days" in his letter to those in Rome, Paul was likely not speaking of the weekly Sabbath or the Feast Days of The Lord?

That may fly in the face of what you have been taught or thought, but we can know this because the Lord's "holy" set apart days are always described in Scripture with a connection to their names given by God such as Passover, Unleavened Bread and all other appointed Sabbath days, they are not referenced simply as days. The passage in Greek is missing the word Sabbaton.

Paul's letters do reference the set apart days. For example:

And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures Acts 17:2 
And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days. Acts 20:6
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath [days] Colossians 2:16

Not only that, but if we just look at the context of hedonistic history and pagan culture in the Roman Empire, we must realize too that there was a long standing debate between the Biblical calendar and Roman time keeping. Without question, days were debated, so much so the Roman calendar changed several times in the window of time between the foundation of Rome and the fall of the Roman Empire.

Compounding this issue, we must remember the days of the Roman week were dedicated to the false-gods of the seven visible planets. This and other aspects of the Roman calendar that are hidden in plain sight to us today may be the 'day' issue that Paul wrote of as Rome's calendar and work week conflicted with the keeping of the Sabbath and the Feast Days of The Lord.

If you think you are not familiar with Rome's debate over 'days' think again and consider history and the debates of history, after all why did our planet convert to the Julian calendar?

In Rome, not only was there an ongoing debate on what day or year it was, in Rome's culture each 'day' had a 'character' of its own, which was noted in the "fasti." The fasti or the "Six Books of the Calendar" was a Latin poem published by Ovid in 8 AD that explained the origins of Roman holidays and associated customs for each day supposedly put forth to mankind by their false idol-gods. The most important of these superstitions were days denoted as 'dies fasti' marking days when legal matters could be heard and 'dies nefasti' when they could not. Not only that there was 'dies comitiales' when public assemblies known as 'comitia' were permitted.

Can you imagine trying to honor God's word and assemble for a Biblical Feast Day like Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost) or Sukkot (Tabernacles) on a day in Rome that was not marked on the fasti calendar that would not allow a Biblically ordained assembly?

It is possible too that Paul may have been referencing the Jewish tradition of fasting on one's wedding day. In light of extra-Biblical tradition, Paul was likely teaching that days of fasting other than Yom Kippur are times that each person must individually be convinced of.

Consider too, he may have even been referencing differing opinions on the timing of the day counting up to the festival of Pentecost aka Shavuot. That is a debate which existed between the Pharisees and the Sadducees over the meaning of the Sabbath noted in Leviticus 23:15-16. Believe it or not, that debate still lingers on. The question is: do we count after the weekly Sabbath or after the High Sabbath Day of the first day of Unleavened Bread to start the 50 day counting?

To give you a better perspective on the debate of days, there are halakic restrictions established since the destruction of the Temple regarding days of joy that rabbis apply to each day of the three-week period including the nine days between the 1st of Av until after Tisha B’Av. These customs include not eating meat or drinking wine or grape juice during the nine days. It is also forbidden to wear freshly laundered clothing during the nine days, and the list goes on...

With that background on the conflict of culture, when we consider the Galatian question about circumcision as a requirement for a covenant relationship because some individuals had said that unless Gentiles are circumcised they cannot be in covenant (Acts 15:1).... With the help of proper context we might better understand the reason the Pharisee Paul went to Jerusalem to meet with the disciples regarded the issue of whether circumcision was required for all proselytes.

Together, they discussed the Scriptures and how to enter into a loving covenant relationship with the formally estranged Gentiles.

Something has been lost in translation because a careful reading of Acts 15 reveals they did not say that a person coming into the faith without circumcision should not be circumcised. If they did, we must know Paul was sorely mistaken and broke "the rules" in the very next chapter of Acts by circumcising Timothy and preaching the decrees of Torah to keep as shown in Acts 16. Timotheus was the son of a Jewess, but his father was a Greek and he was not circumcised until he met Paul:

"And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem." Acts 16:4

Acts 15 provides a solid foundation priority that the pagan Gentiles were to be taught because they were coming out of Babylonian worship infused with idol worship and sexual perversion as their way of worship:

"...abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well." Acts 15:29

This simple guidepost against pagan worship practice was not the sum of the ways of Torah to be learned according to the consensus because the disciples knew that God's ways would be learned on each Sabbath in the weekly synagogue teachings as the Hebrew Scriptures would be read and heard.

How do we know? They said so:

"For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.” Acts 15:21

In Pauls' day, the only way to learn the Scriptures was in the synagogue on the Sabbath, no one had a Bible, there was no printing press for another 1,600 years. So, the disciples that met in Jerusalem set a priority on some Torah basics for those Gentiles formerly participating in hedonistic pagan lifestyle and worship that required sacrificing to idols, eating blood and all kinds of illicit sexual immorality in and around the pagan Temples dedicated to their false gods and goddesses.

They all agreed on these basic priorities because they knew the Torah would be read and taught each and every Sabbath. After all, in the end Believers must act as the King acts, walk as the King walks, and talk as the King talks.

The disciples knew this would happen when the Torah is read, studied and experienced as God's instruction manual for life in the Kingdom. They also knew that even the least commandment would not be set aside, after all it was a great teaching of Yeshua:

"Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:19

A question you might ask then is: what on earth happened, if this was good enough for the disciples of Yeshua 2,000 years ago, why does the mainstream "church" today not read and teach the Torah and meet on every Sabbath acting as the King acts, walking as the King walks, and talking as the King talks?

Stop and think about that... you will find the answer.

Paul's ministry to the nations (aka the Gentiles) was about life in Messiah Yeshua and learning about a new lifestyle within the highest teaching of Torah.

If the four guidelines of Acts 15 were the only rules for righteous living for "the church" why do we still have the Ten Commandments, why don't we condone murder, lying, adultery and idolatry?

Paul was an expert in the Torah, not only that, he knew the teachings of the strictest sect of the Pharisees. That's not my opinion, he said so himself:

"Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!" Acts 23:6
"My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee." Acts 26:4-5

So, if we want to stop skimming the surface and dig in deep into the Jewish context, culture conflicting with the pagan setting of the days of Paul of Tarsus, we might see something, a hidden treasure in the book of Acts that can help us better understand Paul's message to the Galatians: "... I have lived as a Pharisee."

The Pharisees upheld the Torah and the promise of resurrection. Paul wasn't turning the Galatians against the Biblical instruction of circumcision found in the teaching he upheld with Timothy, nor any of God's words recorded by Moses that Yeshua of Nazareth expounded upon with great authority. We know Paul upheld the Torah in his Messianic faith in the Messiah of Israel because he professed it himself:

"Do we then overthrow the law (Torah) by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law (Torah)." Romans 3:31

Paul was preaching against his own prejudice and past of putting prejudice above upholding the Torah of God as a Believer in the resurrected Jewish Messiah. Before He met Messiah, he led religious persecution against those that were called "The Way." His new found heart and message was simple, don't exchange the gracious mercy gift of a life-changing relationship in grace with The Father for religious "works of law" in an attempt to try to earn merit with God and salvation by works of halakha.

About 70 years ago, a letter was found at Qumran in cave four, it is a part of the Dead Sea scroll collection and catalogued as 4QMMT from the an abbreviation of its Hebrew name, Miqsat Ma`ase ha-Torah aka the "works of the law" recorded by the Essenes.

Image: Library of Congress

According the notes at the Library of Congress the letter expresses some of the sect’s halakhic views:

"Apparently it consisted of four sections: (1) the opening formula, now lost; (2) a calendar of 364 days; (3) a list of more than twenty rulings in religious law (Halakhot), most of which are peculiar to the sect; and (4) an epilogue that deals with the separation of the sect from the multitude of the people and attempts to persuade the addressee to adopt the sect's legal views."

Martin Abegg is the author of an article entitled "Paul, 'Works of the Law' and MMT." It appeared in the 1994 November-December edition of Biblical Archaeological Review noting:

"In short, ma-ase ha-torah is equivalent to what we know in English from Paul's letters as 'works of the law.' This Dead Sea scroll and Paul use the very same phrase. The connection is emphasized by the fact that this phrase appears nowhere in rabbinic literature of the first and second centuries A.D. -- only in Paul and in MMT."

"The works of the law that the Qumran text refers to are obviously typified by the 20 or so religious precepts (halakkah) detailed in the body of the text. For the first time we can really understand what Paul is writing about. Here is a document detailing works of the law" (p. 53, BAR, 11-12/94 issue).

The discovery of the Dead Seas Scrolls are a miracle and the MMT clears up one aspect of the a clouded picture of Paul's letters.

Paul realized that good or religious efforts to achieve righteousness will never earn anyone redemption as he referenced traditions like those recorded by the Essenes.

"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." Galatians 2:16 KJV

Salvation's door must be marked by the blood of the Lamb of God, the work of Yeshua, not men.

Many have mistakenly portrayed Paul as a "former Jew" that turned his back on Judaism and started a new religion after he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul did not start a new religion. Hold on to your pew, but he never went to church on Sunday as many people believe, and he did not turn against Torah the faith of Messiah Yeshua or the Jewish people.

What Paul did was depart from his religious prejudice which he had once given greater weight than the faith, mercy and grace found at the very heart of God's Torah. He realized his prejudice was the dividing wall of hostility.

Like Peter, he learned God holds no hostility, no division or opinion of one person being holier than another for all have sinned. He learned salvation for all is by faith alone just as Peter learned to not hold prejudice against Gentiles. The letter shows the prejudice of the day noting:

1. Gentile grain should not be brought into the Temple.
2. A fragmentary halakha about sacrifices by gentiles.

Both men learned salvation is given by God's grace to all men, whether Jew or Gentile and they learned God is faithful to bless all people for their devotion and love returned to Him.

Paul learned this truth after the bright light on the road to Damascus opened his eyes. He learned it from Yeshua who had once said to the Pharisees that had: "...neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done." See Matthew 23:23 and consider Jesus was not speaking to all Pharisees, only those that had put their opinions above the Torah just as Paul had done in persecution.

Paul's concern was that the believers of Galatia were being leavened as he once was. Leavened if you will by a religious prejudice that Paul was expert at. He like Peter had once propped up religious opinion that forbid the men of "circumcision" to associate with one that was not. Paul was now trying to teach the spirit of Torah, the weightier provision of the royal law of faith that is about growing in God's character of mercy and love, aka circumcision of the heart.

This love was the same lesson that Peter learned on the rooftop in Joppa before he met with the Roman Centurion Cornelius.

Paul taught his own past bondage to religious persecution was not the written life-giving character of the mercy and grace of the Lawgiver. Something dramatic and heart changing happened on that road to Damascus. Paul met the risen, resurrected Yeshua on the way. He came to know the glory of God on earth and the light of the world as Paul traveled to wreak havoc and drag off Jewish men and women, committing them to prison if they followed the Jewish Messiah (see Acts 8-9).

Paul's heart was changed, he learned that religious works as a means to salvation could lead to religious persecution that is blind to God's goodness and unfailing love through The Father's character revealed atop Mount Sinai.

Simply put, we cannot merit God's righteousness by what we do, all have sinned. Through his blindness and healing, Paul saw the truth declared in the scroll of Exodus at the top of Mount Sinai:
"And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.' And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." Exodus 33:19
Paul's heart was circumcised. He came to know El Shaddai's word in the flesh shown to the prophet Zechariah:
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn." Zechariah 12:10

In the record of Acts, Paul provides his own expert witness to king Agrippa, before Festus, the military tribunes and the prominent men of Jerusalem, admitting his past sin which ignored mercy and grace as he appealed to a mercy by Caesar. We can understand this if we look in Acts 26:9 where Paul proclaimed to the angry, cynical crowd:
“I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Yeshua of Nazareth."
Did you see that?

Paul was once convinced that he should oppose the name of Yeshua by persecuting others. But Jesus of Nazareth showed Paul he was wrong in opposing the mercy of God's love.

The humble Yeshua, the "pierced one" came to tear down the "middle wall of separation" that existed between Jew and Gentile. He did not add new bricks, His glory is unity (echad) in the royal law to love God and each other, both Jew and Gentile. The "middle wall of separation" is still seen today, it refers to the Torah inscribed by Moses and the living Torah Yeshua Messiah. Both are symbolized by the wall in the Temple court that separated the court of the Goyim from the court of Yehudah.

After Paul met Yeshua, he soon realized...

Messiah's purpose, formerly a mystery, is to bring Heaven to earth by reconciling the Gentiles (Goyim) to the Jewish (Yehuda) people as one (echad), one new man in one ancient faith focused on friendship and love with Messiah as King and the Torah path of righteous living, the constitution of His Kingdom for the household of Elohim.

Paul taught the Ephesians this exact storyline of The Kingdom mystery of Messiah that is inclusive for all nations to love The Father and each other on earth as it is in heaven. Everyone whether Jew or Non-Jew should seek the anointed King and be spiritually restored, following the instruction and teaching of Scripture as a witness for Messiah:
“When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Messiah, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles (nations) are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Messiah Yeshua through the gospel.” Ephesians 3:4-6
Paul never spoke against the righteous instructions of the Torah, he never spoke against the faithful Jewish people nor was he teaching against the 1,000 or so commandments found in the Newer Testament that expound on the Torah to reveal the heart of God's lovingkindness and expectation for His children to walk in righteousness.

The disciple John like Paul, taught from Isaiah in total agreement:
"Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness [Torah-lessness]." 1John 3:4
In fact, in his defense before Agrippa, Paul proclaimed in his repentance we are all to perform good deeds, i.e. mitzvot of Torah in keeping with our repentance from wrong doing:
“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance." Acts 26:19-20
Paul was combating his former longstanding, un-biblical notion of ignoring God's mercy and grace that had infiltrated the Galatia community, a teaching not found in Torah that to be considered a child of God and a part of Israel, you must first become circumcised to be saved. He opposed that religious 'work' was a requirement for any Gentile (un-circumcision) to be eligible to become a bona fide member of the "family" of the God of Israel.

Paul came to know that no person, Jew or Gentile is ever worthy of salvation righteousness by one's own deeds. Salvation righteousness, is a gift given through repentant faith and belief in the life, death and resurrection of Messiah Yeshua sent by God for the redemption and restoration of mankind to God. Salvation and atonement of sin is based on His worthiness and  blood, not ours, but Paul also knew there is reward given for a worthy walk in God's instruction for life.

Paul realized the traditional rules of religion had over time, forgotten that Abraham was God's friend years before he was ever circumcised.

According to Paul, his former religious fury against faithful Jews that followed Yeshua as their Rabbi emanated from the religious discrimination that he too had once upheld in his own heart as a raging fury that led to imprisonment and death like Stephen's (see Acts 8:1).

Paul taught that religious tradition added to the Torah as it expelled love and relationship contrary to the teaching of Moses against God's own heart described by The Creator in Exodus 34:5-6.

Look at Paul's own public confession of sin in Acts 26:10-11...
"And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities."
Why the Letter to the Galatians?

Paul's issue was that religious tradition not found in God's Word misses the goal of Torah. A tradition that Gentiles had to first be circumcised to be considered worthy or clean, otherwise they were defiled  before God was the issue at hand. Love was missing because in that tradition a Jew could not walk or talk with Gentiles, a Jew could not befriend them and certainly never eat with them.

His focus in the letter remains about a repentant walk of faith that must come first just as Abraham's faith was based first and foremost on relationship not tradition.

As we have seen, Paul professed this in the court of Agrippa describing the deeds in a proper Torah walk: "and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, [then] performing deeds in keeping with their repentance."

To get an even better grip on the Galatian letter, consider the mixture of differing 'church' traditions embedded in the thousands of denominational doctrines prevalent within the wide spectrum of Christian opinions all with shades of varying attitudes that separate rather than provide unity in the 'body' of Messiah.

A modern version of the conflict in Galatia exists today in plain sight as the root of faith in God is buried in a myriad of opposing traditions and denominational differences never found in Scripture.

Not to pick a bone with anyone in particular but only as an example, consider a doctrine of the “Church of Christ” that teaches a person must be baptized in water in order to be saved. This has resulted in heated debate much like the issue of circumcision Paul wrote about to the Galatians. Not only that it poses quite dilemma for one that believes on Yeshua on his or her deathbed.

Baptism or mikvah properly follows salvation. It is commanded by Yeshua as an outward sign of His authority in heaven and on earth. It represents inward atonement as it symbolizes the death of the old man dead to sin and the new man in resurrection life just as Yeshua baptizes the Believer with the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 3:16, Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33 and Acts 2:38).

You've probably heard or may follow one or more doctrines only required by men for church "membership," so think long and hard about this: if only a few denominations existed in Paul's day, we would find the New Testament too heavy to carry all the letters of admonition from the Jew of Tarsus for the thousands of denominations that exist today. The weight of those letters would overwhelm the Library of Congress.

So, its time to re-examine church tradition and line up denominational dogmas up against the straight plumb line of Scripture. Its time to let go of anything in your life, whether sin, belief or worship that does not align to "the way" of the life and Torah teaching of the anointed one, Yeshua of Nazareth.

If you will just step back for a moment, you will see that denominations separate us much like the Pharisee and Sadducee of Paul's day. Perhaps the best example is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the heart of Jerusalem.

The church there is believed by many to be the site of Jesus' crucifixion and burial. The site was established by Constantine's mother Helena at the end of the 4th century. Yet access to the church in Jerusalem is now governed by a Muslim family that literally holds the keys while six denominations with widely varying traditions maintain separate and distinct services. These include Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Roman Catholic, as well as Coptic Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox and Ethiopian Tewahedo.

Think about something.. which denominational group there would Paul choose to 'join' if he were living in Jerusalem today? I know that is a difficult question because the answer should be obvious.

If we look at differences in denominational dogmas that separate rather than bring people together as "one" in Messiah, we might begin to understand the dilemma of hostility and "the stumbling stones" of opinion that existed in Paul's day. They have not disappeared, you do not have to travel back in time to consider the letter to the Galatians. All you need do is drive down the street and look around at all the denominations near you or if you have the time and the means, simply go to the home base. Visit Jerusalem and go to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Have you ever visited 'different' church denominations or even a synagogue? If not, why not, you shy away because they do not "believe" as you do.

If you will take on this challenge to visit or even seek to join, sooner or later you will be asked to undergo denominational church doctrine training so that you will be eligible to 'join' as a "member."

Now, step back for a moment and ask: why membership, why do creeds, confessions and statements of faith vary so widely?

Isn't the Bible the one word of God, isn't the 'church' supposed to be the 'one' assembly, the 'whole' body of believers united as one in Messiah in "the way" just as Paul described:
"For as many of you as were baptized into Messiah have put on Messiah.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female; for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.  And if you are Messiah's then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise." Galatians 3:27-29
Now you know the dilemma of Galatians!

According to a 2011 report from the Pew Research Center, Christians are diverse theologically... "About half are Catholic. Protestants, broadly defined, make up 37%. Orthodox Christians comprise 12% of Christians worldwide."

Perhaps you are beginning to see the bricks in the walls of separation that are held by the mortar of tradition and doctrine that create division and oppose what Paul describes as "one new man."

This comes from the word of The Lord to the prophet Jeremiah:
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
    “when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah." 
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law [Torah] in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people."
The key to the covenant is the Torah of God and Messiah the living Torah... the message that is to be woven in our hearts has its foundation on God's character of mercy and lovingkindness. Every letter of Paul describes a proper relationship with God and each other is through Messiah Yeshua the living Torah.

If you think Paul if difficult to understand, consider religious differences, they offer a time portal of understanding for you to see the past today. I'll say it again, division, partition and separation from the loving heart of Torah is what Paul was dealing with in Galatia.

Like Paul, the disciples taught the opposite of religious difference.

As noted, we can learn from Peter about this too. He taught what the Torah teaches, but it took a lesson from God to show him the truth. He then wrote of one faith, "a" royal priesthood, "a" holy nation, "a" people, not many. Believe it or not, Peter never taught that you should look around for the "right" church to join because you agree with a pastor or denominational doctrine. No, Peter taught of unity in faith and the excellencies of mercy from the Torah established by THE FATHER, recorded by Moses and instructed by Yeshua as the great commission:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1Peter 2:9-10
As we can see from the words from Peter the Jew named Kepha, the focus of faith, of a royal priesthood is on God's mercy received and it is for you to proclaim the excellencies of Him and be blessed by the same faith promises declared in the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) that Jesus the Jew taught. After all, the promises were given to all Israel AND the sojourners with them. They were 'all' called out by God.

Paul and Peter each came to understand why Messiah Yeshua prayed: "that they may all be one even as we are one" to The Father in His high priestly prayer revealed to the planet in John 17:
"Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me." John 17:17-23
Like the noble Bereans mentioned in Acts 17:11, you too can search the Scriptures to see what the Father truly wants as we worship Him and love others in mercy and grace. The Torah does not need a religious fence nor a denominational dogma around it and this is a part of Paul's message. God does not need our religious creeds to help Him govern His universe or our hearts.

The Bible shows us God is first pleased with a repentant heart that desires to walk after Him in forgiveness. This is the same plain faith message of Mosest:

"Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, 
and be no more stiffnecked." Deuteronomy 10:16

Abraham is the witness to the message of circumcision. He was not circumcised in the flesh until age 99, yet he received "the covenant" blessing for the nations of the Earth long before the day Almighty God came like a man and stood before him at the oak of Mamre. It's true, Abraham walked with God as a friend for at many years before God's instruction of circumcision as a sign before Issac was conceived by Sarah.

Paul never taught against God's Word, but the rabbinic way he taught is difficult to understand.

He taught Timothy encouraging him to study the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings to be equipped for every good work (mitzvah). Think about it, there was no New Testament in existence when he penned these words:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2Timothy 16-17
An uninformed pulpit teaching of Galatians is a big problem for the pew if it teaches against God's instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Paul's teaching about the Torah from day one was interpreted in diverse ways. That was what Peter referenced when he said ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.  It is the crucial factor around which the Church has misunderstood its own relationship to the Torah, but that is changing.

So we must search out the Torah hidden within Paul's letters, to do so we must dig in deep. We must ask our Heavenly Father to give us understanding through His Spirit to help us see that doctrines can distort truth of mercy like tares sown among the wheat. Paul's message was to focus on a repentant relationship first, and faith in Messiah – not the religious doctrines of men that can mislead us if we seek them in exchange for God's mercy.

Moses instructs people not to add to God's Word or subtract from it and that's a part of the rock of Paul's letters. Did you know, the first instruction given Moses for the sanctuary was about the pure gold slab (kapporeth) covering of the ark that has now come to be called the mercy seat that rested atop the Ark of the Covenant?

Likewise, we can pray and reflect first on the unchanging Torah character of Messiah Savior Yeshua because we are responsible first to repent and seek mercy before we can be forgiven and understand God's instruction for holy (set apart) living. If we are to live out God's instruction in love we must study and teach His word just as Paul and our Messiah did (see John 13:15; 1 John 2:6; Ephesians 5:1-2 and 1Corinthians 11:1).

The reason, the “Great Commission” isn’t only about preaching about a cross, but about teaching others how to live in a Kingdom lifestyle in repentant love for The Father and others as we learn to follow God in righteous kingdom living as a child of God and one new man (Matthew 28:18-20).

This is "the way" that Paul taught and Yeshua walked. Both have been misunderstood for 2,000 years, but repentance is coming forth today praise God as a tow day divide is closing as promised by the prophet Jeremiah. Believers are learning to believe, learning to love God and His instruction that does not minimize or diminish mercy or grace. It puts the character of God first and foremost in our heart where it belongs at the seat of God's mercy. God's loving instruction is about walking near to Him, it moves a person under the penalty of man's religious tradition that rejects mercy.

In fact, it is God’s grace that provides forgiveness for the times that we "miss the mark" when we slip and fall. It is only in love for The Father that we get to walk in His path of love and repentant obedience just as we forgive those that trespass against us.

God's mercy and unending love is why the world has His once-and-for-all healing offering which is from the blood of the one pierced for our transgressions, Messiah Yeshua, the Son of God who walked a sinless Torah path and willingly offered His own life to pay the penalty that we all deserve for going astray in sin rejecting God and His commandments.

Isaiah 53:4-6 declares:
"Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness." "Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
When we accept in faith Yeshua's atoning gift of God's grace, we receive the deliverance only He can bring and we get to show our gratitude in love in faith as James taught by our heart for Torah deeds.  Our works can then honor our Heavenly Father, others and ourselves by keeping God's Kingdom ways because we want to, and we can do so in amazement and joy trusting what Yeshua has done to atone and heal mankind's iniquities!

From a proper Biblical perspective, Paul’s comments are easier to comprehend when placed into their proper Biblical and historic context, I pray this commentary has shown you... that God's restoration plan includes both Jew and Gentile, one in Messiah.

If I can summarize, Paul rightly refuted "religious" tradition that circumcision is required as the entry into a covenant relationship with Almighty God, but he does not reject circumcision, Timothy is the witness to that. Paul declares the ancient truth, that relationship based on "faith" is the doorway to covenant with our Creator. Faith is as it has always been shown by the faith of Abraham who listened to God and "crossed over" from the Ur of the Chaldeans in Babylon to the Promised Land (see Galatians 3:6-9).

Seeking the light of truth is the key to understanding Galatians.

Paul's message is hidden below the surface of his words. His point is that God seeks those who will regard Him with fond affection, rather than stand at a religious arm’s length from Him as a taskmaster. This truth is also shown in this declaration to Hosea:
“It will be in that day," says the LORD, "That you will call me 'my husband,' And no longer call me 'my master.'” Hosea 2:16 HNV
Paul's embedded message comes out in its proper context. God wants people that to serve Him and others out of love much like that of a woman for her husband. Paul's point is that God is utterly concerned with intimate relationship. The Father wants our worship to be borne of love and devotion, not ruled through religious control. The fact is, the Galatians that Paul met came from neo-pagan worship, they were 'non-Jews' fully assimilated in ancient Greek and Roman culture and lifestyle before Paul arrived with other brothers in faith.

Before they met Paul, the Galatians didn't know Torah or read it and likely did not know anything about God's teaching and instruction before Paul's arrived on the Greek scene. Instead, they worshipped many false-gods and followed the dark traditions, celebrations and seasons of Olympus.

These non-Jews had been assimilated into pagan culture, a yoke of slavery, and Paul know they would never view the Torah as they should without caring instruction that would take time.

As we might see, like the letter to the Romans, the "days and months and seasons" that were disparaged by Paul in Galatians 4:9-10 were not the Biblically appointed Sabbaths or the Festivals of The Lord, but rather the ways of hellenistic polytheism that carried on from its roots in ancient Babylonian idol worship polluted by the festivities of the nations that remain in many remnant forms today.

Many of those Greek days, months and seasons survive having morphed in Rome in one form or another from Babylon and Egypt. Incredibly, some have even been adopted into modern Christianity, but that another study. In the Greek culture of Paul's day in Galatia, people celebrated and worshipped all sorts of idols and Greek false-gods.

As we have seen, even our modern weekdays are infused in Hellenistic astrology as each day is named after false-idol gods deities of the heavens. Naming the days of each and every week was is a system made popular around the globe by the Romans when they honored the days after the neo-pagan deities of their time mixing the Bible's ancient countdown to the 7th day Sabbath with honoring false-god planet worship.

During the course of a year in Paul's day, celebrations of the Greek and Roman gods were held on a regular schedule, so if we do not have at least some understanding of the context of the culture the Galatians, we will not easily rid our confusion about the Galatian letter.

As noted, many ancient Greek traditions survive today in one form or another even including the Olympic Games that still carry on the mystical name of the home of the Greek false-gods of Olympus. In fact, references to the legends of some of the multitude of their false-gods and heroes continue in common everyday expressions such as "Achilles heel" or "Pandora's box" and "Herculean effort." They all tie to the Greek culture of Paul's day.

Even the architecture of the Greek temples like the Parthenon and the Acropolis are still revered today as well. If you doubt that, just take a trip to Washington DC to view the Greek architectural designs that are infused even in the Supreme Court building. In fact, the most recognized legal symbol there is the female figure on the steps and the lampposts leading to the main entrance representing "justice." It dates back to depictions of Themis and Justicia that are infused in the religions of Greece and Rome that still survive, alive and well.

In Roman mythology, Justicia (Justice) was one of the "four virtues." Themis was the Greek Goddess of Justice and Law.

That reverence for the Greek gods is why Paul appeals to the Galatian people to instead rely on the account of Abraham (Galatians 3:6, 3:14, 3:16, 3:18; 4:22), after all they could relate to Abram. He left the pagan ways and life of Babylon, he "crossed over" and surely Paul knew the Gentiles could understand his story. Abram was God's friend and he 'demonstrated' his love in truth and spirit as “two” witnesses to the mercy that was shown to him.

"You are the LORD God, Who chose Abram And brought him out from Ur of the Chaldees, And gave him the name Abraham. Nehemiah 9:7

As Peter subtly points out for those that distort Paul, the problem is not with Paul, people have an issue with the front of the Bible, the distort the "other Scriptures" as I did despite the fact that they are the Messiah's Bible.

So what do we do now with the bondage of law that Paul wrote about?

As we have seen, for many years, religious men were adding to the Torah or taking away from it, rather than finding rest in YHWH's love and grace established in the Torah that was made to abound through Messiah Yeshua.

When God's words are written in our hearts, His Spirit gives us the desire do the things instructed by His voice, not in order to earn favor but rather because we delight in "getting to" do them as we celebrate love for our Father and others. It is that expression of love that is the blessing... after all, loving God Almighty is the greatest command we must understand (See Matthew 22:37-40) and the second is loving others.

But there is one, a deceiver that opposes this great truth about the mercy and grace of God's love emanating from His mercy. HaSatan does not want us to be 'whole' Bible believers, so he promotes Greek philosophy. The enemy wants many to be deceived and think they do not need God's whole instruction manual. The enemy wants people to be ineffective and not know that when Jesus healed people, He instructed them to "go and sin no more."

The enemy wants you to believe the lie that faith in Yeshua should not be followed with honoring God's Torah, His instruction manual for living that defines the life of Messiah. The enemy wants us to remain sidelined in sin so we cannot be effective in showing others how to demonstrate their love for God and others through the blessing of righteous living by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The enemy wants to veil our understanding of Paul's letters and our true identity the Jew named Jesus to separate Believers from our Jewish brothers and sisters too. The deceiver abhors a proper identity of faith in Yeshua of Nazareth.

Paul taught that you too can be adopted as a part of God’s children. A family with the name Israel given as as gift by faith and trust in the gospel of the Kingdom. That's what the sojourners with Israel seen in the book of Exodus are all about.

Paul taught the Gentile believers through a repentant faith, all followers of Messiah are fellow heirs with Abraham, and partakers of the promises of the covenant God made with Israel. He taught that all  believers are grafted in as heirs of God's promise through Messiah Yeshua (see Galatians 4:7).

Paul warned the Galatians to not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage of Hellenism, a devotion to ancient Greek thought, customs and lifestyles (see Galatians 5:1).

I have said it once and say it again, the message to the Galatians is not in opposition to a Torah lifestyle that God outlined for mankind as His Kingdom constitution and the letter is not impossible to understand, provided you seek truth and spirit to understand the message in the context of true Biblical light.

Paul taught the power of the gospel and faith in Messiah Yeshua is the entry to the door of God’s covenant household. Paul taught from Moses who wrote:
"And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live." Deuteronomy 30:6
Paul hit the nail on the head by asserting that righteousness does not come via circumcision as “works of law.” He taught one’s forgiveness does not come by human deed or action seeking brownie points with God, but forgiveness comes through repentance and the redemptive work Yeshua Jesus did for all people, all nations, Jew and Gentile as He walked the walk, talked the talk and took on sin's penalty at his Passover cross three days before He arose in eternal resurrection glory as God's Priest King.

If you can understand this, then your life, your study and your perspective on the deep message of Galatians will go well with you. Not only will you be able to have a fuller grasp on the context of the religious conflict shown in Galatians that continues today, but also its great importance in the circumcision of your own heart as you work out your faith in loving God and others.

Needless to say, we need to understand the foundation of the Hebrew Scriptures given in the letter to the Galatians and that is the purpose of the website. I will say it again, Paul is not trying to do away with Torah, circumcision or start any new religion. He never did, nor did Yeshua. Instead he upholds Torah.

Paul uses the front of the Bible to prove God's mercy and grace. He always uses a Torah and prophet-based proof for his positions, not understanding that is the ignorance Peter warned of and it only causes destruction and bad preaching.

That's why Peter said ignorant and unstable people distort (Paul's letters), as they do the other Scriptures. His message, don't remain ignorant of God's Word. Study the Tanach for yourself just as Messiah did. Rather than invalidating the Torah, look to the eternal work of the Messiah that causes the Torah to abound. Let Paul show you how.  Believe the Torah, it teaches that a person can only be justified in the eyes of God not by works but by faith, mercy and redeeming grace.

Paul's doctrine is not new, it is from the beginning.

We can see Paul taught Abraham was justified by faith in the eyes of God, because of that Abraham was God's friend. Read Galatians 3:9 again for yourself. Paul taught that Abraham in faith kept the Torah he had received as instruction from God (see Genesis 26:5). Abraham was the first man to be circumcised and Paul never taught against that, in fact he called it profitable!
"What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit [is there] of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God." Romans 3:1-2
Paul was a Jew, but many have changed His Jewish identity. Paul wrote this:
“...a man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly...” Romans 2:28-3:1
And this... "I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew..."

The disciple James, another Jew whose real name was Jacob (Yaakov) also uses Abraham as the example to show us that Abraham was justified by his faith yet his faith was made perfect and complete by his works because Abraham "acted" on his faith just as James taught: faith without works is dead (see James 2:14-24).

Due to the error of dispensational, replacement theology, and lack of proper historic context, many Believers suffer from an identity crisis and misread the message of Paul and the words of James, the brother of Jesus. It is time to put an end to this.

Don't remain confused in ignorance and equate doing the law (Torah) with a goal to earn justification and salvation by good works. The Torah never taught that message as the Heavenly eternal instruction manual for "living near" God and walking in His ways on Earth because you love and worship Him.

Messiah Yeshua didn’t come to replace Israel. He came to find them and fulfill the Torah, make it abound. He came to close the gap, tear down the walls of separation to reconcile all men to God, first the Jew, and then the Gentile as an authentic faithful remnant grafted within all Israel.

The Hebrew word, Torah means "to teach, to point out as aiming". After all, instruction is what any father, but most especially our Heavenly Father gives to all of his children to draw us near and point us toward truth and living a life which is righteous and pleasing to the Father. The storyline of Exodus is quite clear about this.

Doing the Torah does not save anyone, it never did, it was given by God to teach us how to live life in the Kingdom.

Read the Exodus account carefully for yourself and take notice, Israel received the Torah from the fire "after" they were saved by the blood of a lamb and brought out of Egypt through the sea to be set-apart in covenant near the Creator God of Israel. Exodus ultimately teaches us all that a person must believe in the Messiah's atonement for sin and we get to demonstrate our love by living life in the light according to the truth and spirit of the living water of Torah. This is the same message James taught:
"Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” — and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." James 2:20-24
Yeshua Ha-Mashiach is the embodiment of living Torah, He is sinless "Word of God" made flesh. When He lived his life on this planet as a humble Jewish Rabbi from Nazareth, Jesus always instructed his followers how they could live their lives in a Heavenly way. In Matthew 5:17, our Savior taught the multitudes gathered and the Mount and He still teaches us about this:
"Think not that I have come to destroy the Torah."
This word "destroy" points us to a basic Hebrew idiom about the Torah which means to wrongly interpret and teach the meaning of God's instruction for your life given by the voice of God at another mountain, Mount Sinai:
"But I have not come to destroy (wrongly interpret and teach) but to fulfill (another Jewish idiom which means to "make abound" in your life) ..."
In Revelation 14:12 He said: "Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Yeshua." Yeshua reinforces His goal to make the Torah abound, endure in purpose and in Revelation 22:12,14 He reiterates what James had learned from Him:
"And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work (good works) shall be... Blessed are they that do his commandments (walks by love and walks in the path of the Torah taught by Yeshua) that they may have right to the tree of life (eternal life) and may enter in through the gates of the city".
Yeshua uses the words tree of life here for good reason too. It's another Hebrew idiom. Did you know that the columns of a Torah scroll are called leaves? That is no coincidence, its another Hebrew word picture. Jeremiah 36:21,23 tells us about the leaves of a Torah scroll:
"So the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll (scroll)... and Jehudi READ it in the ears of the king ... And it came to pass when Jehudi had read three or four leaves ..."
Here, the "leaves" on the "tree of life" is a reference to the passages found inscribed in the columns of every Torah scroll. The vision of Revelation also describes a river that runs beside the tree of life. Do you know why He does that? In its Hebraic context, Revelation tells us keeping the commandments of God is like a river of life and Revelation 22:2 is a direct reference to the promise of Psalm 1:2-3 which describes the delight of a person who keeps the Torah of God:
"But his delight is in the Torah of the Lord: and in his Torah does he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; and his leaf also shall not wither and whatsoever he does shall prosper".
Any biologist will tell you the basics, life cannot not exist without water. We cannot live abundantly without God's Torah either. In summary, the issue in understanding Paul's message to the Galatians is that we must read the letter in its proper Torah foundation, not mixed with religious confusion. The nature of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was that it mixed these together; the fruit of the tree, when eaten mixes the truth with lies.

Mixture is haSatan's method to cause chaos and death, that is why the Torah is full of prohibitions against (kalayim)) mixing or combining certain species of animals, plants and even clothing (shatnez). It's the Torah way of teaching a greater meaning by using creation as an example of a greater truth (see Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:11 as examples that the verse reveal insights for our understanding of holiness). The deceiver always mixes a little bit of truth with a big lie. One of those lies that I once fell for, that the Torah is an "Old" Testament. It is not, God does not change.

Paul was concerned with a mixture of truth that the way to salvation is 'doing' Torah. Paul teaches that keeping the commandments of God could never provide eternal life. The ultimate goal of Torah is to point you to Messiah, to show you that you are a sinner and that all of us need a redeemer. It sets Godly standards to show your need for the Messiah while at the same time it teaches us how we can live our lives in a kingdom way which is pleasing to God just as Yeshua did. Paul used the Torah and the Prophets as the source text to teach others who Yeshua is:
"... From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Yeshua both from the Torah of Moses and from the Prophets." Acts 28:23
Yeshua overcame the curse of willful sin (violation of Torah) by taking it upon Himself at the Roman execution stake. His death offering was an exchange for life in resurrection. He is the kinsmen redeemer breaking the curse of eternal death and separation from God which comes from our  own deliberate choice in disobedience to God's word. The Torah of God is about blessing. Yeshua did not do away with the Torah, Heaven forbid, He fills it with meaning.

He never took away the blessing that results when we walk just as He did.

Yeshua alone can redeem us from eternal death. Think of it as separation from Eden. There, the first curse was brought not by God's word, our Creator did not cause death, He warned of it; but by Adam and Eve's choice they disregarded God's instruction as if it had been done away with.

The first command given to them was a blessing to be fruitful and multiply, to bring forth life to the earth and rule over it. Our Creator never dis away with this or any blessing but the choice is yours.

Paul taught about this:
"Wherefore the law [Torah] is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid..." Romans 7:12-13
So what is its message for today? To answer that, the simple question that we should all be asking is, "How is God telling us to live and bring forth life in God's instruction?" Of course, our minds will immediately think of our natural surroundings first, but this is the wrong place to look. To answer the question, we must look inward.

How is He asking us to live? The instruction manual is within the guidelines and principles of the Torah: love God and others. This is the summary of God's will. The big picture question posed to the Galatians boils down to this: how are we to live in true faith?

Does Scripture urge you to live following man's traditions that take away or add to God's teaching and instruction or have you been "called out" to live a life separate and apart as a divine appointment with your Abba Father?

Are you truly serious about your faith? If so, live within the guidelines of God's word which Paul has told us to begins with repentance. Do you believe every unchanging jot or tittle of what God has spoken even if you do not understand them just yet? Or, do you believe the lie from Eden that He does not mean what He says as we preach man-made traditions not looking to God's Word with the covenant to bless all nations?

Do we mix the knowledge of good and evil turning our backs on His Word, and facing man's religious doctrine?

Many people are now re-considering what they have been taught and are stepping out on a walk of faith just as Abraham taught his son Isaac. As we have seen, when famine came, Isaac wanted to take control of the situation. But the message to Isaac was clear. He was told to follow God's instruction.

Isaac accepted this, he made the right choice and entered a new walk because of it. It was one he had not walked in fully before that time. In order for him to live in the provision of his Creator, Isaac had to learn to let go and trust in the voice and teaching of Almighty God. He had to learn to not follow the path that seemed good. He had to learn faith, then walk in repentance.

Since the first century, only a few, a remnant have walked boldly in faith and obedience to God not turning to men like Marcion for advice. We can be like them and return to "the way" God tells us to live in a Kingdom lifestyle.

The unfiltered message to the Galatians is for us too, we must understand that it is the walk of faith in Messiah, the living Torah that has to come first, it's the will of God.

If we will learn and choose this, then we can live as Messiah tells us to live just as He did. This is a part of the process of bringing the lost sheep home in reconciliation with God as He intended and make atonement a reality. The God of Israel does not want to remain distant, He wants to be close, to be with us, to live with us and in us, to write His Word, His law on our hearts.

Messiah Yeshua's Hebrew name means salvation. He was dedicated to God from the beginning on the 8th day of His life on earth He was circumcised and given His amazing name. Take note, His family was devoted to God's instruction in circumcision. He was set apart for God's work on Earth and the Father's purpose in His name. He was circumcised just as Isaac was on the eighth day according to the teaching and instruction (the Torah) and in agreement with the covenant given to Abraham:
"When the eight days until His circumcision had passed, He was named Yeshua, the name the angel had given Him before He had been conceived. And when the time of purification according to the Law of Moses was complete, His parents brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord… Luke 2:21-22
Messiah Yeshua is the fulfillment of the instruction and trial given Abraham that would test his faith.
“After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:1-2
After Isaac's binding (called Akedah) on the wood at Mount Moriah, Isaac is not seen again in the Torah until his bride Rebekah approached him. The same will be for Messiah Yeshua. Be the bride, approach Him today, move toward Him, seek Him.

Throughout His ministry, Yeshua taught and lived out the Torah. He never added to or took away from it. He did this by always making a resolute daily decision, a choice to put God's instruction first and foremost, not Himself, but God’s will. He said this: "I came down from Heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. I do not seek My own will but the will of Him who sent Me."

Messiah lived out His purpose to serve God as His son by setting Himself apart as a living sacrifice and He will live out Torah when He comes for His covenant bride. Yeshua taught the life of Torah when He said: "I sanctify Myself, I set Myself apart to serve God; set Myself apart from anything that is unholy, anything that is against God’s will." He set Himself apart by doing the Word of God. He never violated God’s teachings, He did not sin, He did what His Father said, like the shadow picture Isaac provides. Not only that, He became the lamb that God would provide for Himself:
And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. Genesis 22:7-8
Yeshua taught of the Kingdom of God as He healed people and gave sight to the blind while He taught that people were sanctified by truth and Spirit (John 4:23-24) that God’s Word sanctifies life on Earth as it is in Heaven. He spoke to God all the time in prayer. He had a mission. He said: "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work."

Messiah Yeshua never compromised God's will, His instruction.

Messiah Yeshua shows us how to walk out the Torah in word, thought and deed in the will of God and the Spirit of God can help us maintain our dedication in faith to The Father just as His friend Abraham did even if we do not understand how right now.

We all must make a decision to devote ourselves daily to Messiah's walk to the best of our ability if we want to live according to God's will. If we do, we "get to" set ourselves apart as a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him (1 Peter 2:9) to others. In this way, His way, a believer teaches salvation in Yeshua through the faith blessing of the gift of God's lovingkindness.

Abraham's friend of God faith is what we all need because The Lord is not only our Creator, and instructor, He is our Redeemer, Savior and friend.

Messiah can save us from destruction; the curse of eternal death by the exchange of His perfect life for ours. If we choose to live in this faith, He will send His Spirit to live in us just as The Spirit of God once filled the Temple.

Have you made your choice?

It's more than a decision, it a commitment to dedicate yourself to the God of Israel through the life gift of faith and walk in Messiah Yeshua. Do you realize that you need to make that decision to engage God’s will for your life? It's the biggest choice you will ever make. Yeshua is the only choice for eternal life.

The heart of Torah is what Paul taught, if you do not think so consider Peter's warning; ignorant and unstable people distort Paul's letters.

If you have made the choice to follow the faith of Yeshua as your savior, and Messiah the next step is to follow the way, to walk like He walked in love of The Father and others. Walking like Messiah means keeping yourself apart from anything that is unholy, anything that is against God’s will for your life because your love Him. To understand this fully, we must pray and ask for help as we study God's words to know His teaching and instruction in each situation we might encounter and each choice we make.

In God's Torah, we can learn that our Creator has a set-apart lifestyle outlined for those that follow Him and He wants us live in it just as Messiah did, helping others, teaching, discipling others. A part of that way is keeping the covenant of the Ten Commandments. That includes honoring God's Sabbath rest, keeping His appointments, even watching what we eat so that we may live a long healthy life and fish for others to do the same.

God calls His people to be different, to walk in righteousness and sanctification set apart in Messiah's lifestyle.

You can begin your journey by praising and thanking Him for all the good things He has done, is doing and will do as you realize that you have been given a path to follow that leads to life. God has given mercy and a mission because time is short to bring in the fish from the sea of humanity God has put before us.

There is eternal-life changing work to be done and it starts with your faith choice in repentance and teshuvah. You too can be a part of the reconciliation between all who belong to our God and our King so spread the message, sow the seeds of the Kingdom and tell others of God's love.

The truth of the living Word of God, the Jewish man of Nazareth Messiah Yeshua is that He desires to redeem and save all of mankind from the curse of the death penalty of sin, that is the start of the journey and the choice is yours.

Choose life and show others what you have done so they can do the same and follow Messiah Yeshua!