My Scripture Studies
Relationship - Not Religion

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Why the Letter to the Galatians?

For many, the letters of Paul are complex and hard to understand. They certainly have difficult fo me. Perhaps that is because we do not connect easily with a seemingly distant historical context, so questions abound when we place Paul in a modern church pulpit.

The reason is that we lack his Jewish perspective on the culture and his method of teaching some 2,000 years ago.

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

That is why Peter the fisherman and 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 causing so much damage that it cannot be repaired!

Those who say the Torah does not point to Messiah in opposition to Yeshua's word in Matthew 5:46-47 or that say it is old and set aside or "hung on the cross" often turn to Paul's letters to  "prove" their position. This is Peter's warning...

Some wear Biblical blinders to Messiah's words in a form of cognitive dissidence if you will, teaching a misconception that the letters of Paul take an exit from the Torah despite the weight of the Bible and the sermon of beatitudes that boldly declares not one jot or tittle will ever be done away with in the Torah as long as heaven and earth remain.

We need to pay attention to Yeshua of Nazareth!

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

The humble Yeshua Jesus boldly taught the way of the Kingdom that is hidden yet found in the Torah.

A revered Jewish sage known as Vilna Gaon, lived in the mid 1700's taught that one of the roles of Messiah was that of Moshiach ben Yosef who's mission is to reveal the 'Sod,' the hidden parts of Torah. He is not the only Jewish source of commentary on the role of Moshiach ben Yosef. It is discussed at great length in many other Jewish writings.

Yeshua's words are recorded in the gospel accounts beginning with Matthew for all to see as He fills the Torah with meaning and compassion. Perhaps you have read Matthew 5:17-19, here the Greek word "plēroō" has been translated 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" means to cause to abound - to render perfect - to perform not "do away with."

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

Anyone that has traveled internationally knows that when you visit a foreign country for the first time, you are well served by a guide not only for the sights, but more importantly for the culture of the people. A Biblical perspective on Paul the Jewish Believer can be that guide when it comes to the hidden aspects of the Galatian letter.

It is set in a context, culture and setting amid the religious chaos of paganism and idol worship in which polytheism was a civic duty in the Greco-Roman world.  Sacrifices to the many mythic gods were expected of its citizens.

Yet, somehow in Rome, Jews were exempted from these civic duties by exemption under Roman decree.

In chapter 5:1-4 of the Galatian letter (now modern day Turkey), Paul writes some difficult words for those Gentiles that have formerly been "estranged from Messiah" who were being told by some by a yoke of bondage that that arises out of the precepts of men, not the mercy heart of grace found in Almighty God's Torah that is witnessed when Moses was called to the top of the mountain to receive the renewed covenant as described in Exodus 34:6-7 when The Lord speaks to Moses from top of the mountain revealing Himself as:

“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..."

Paul wrote against the stoney belief of justification by men's deeds rathter then mercy and grace, he called it a yoke of bondage. Instead he wrote of God's compassion, lovingkindness and forgiveness of sin:

"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 words with a perspective of the admonitions to the Galatians, Paul's words sound like a warning against walking in the Torah path and a condemnation of circumcision, yet we must consider the extra-biblical religious culture. If the 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 that cannot be paid if anyone sought to be justified in salvation before God by circumcision. Paul knew that Abram was God's friend long before he was circumcised at age 99 (see Genesis 17:25-26 and Romans 4:11-16).

His point that is it's a sure indication one will come under the law in bondage of legalism by the decrees of men he called "the party of the circumcision" (see Galatians 2:12). Paul knew whether Jew or Gentile all failed to keep God's law. He knew God called circumcision a sign of the covenant given Abraham, but it was not 'the' covenant given to Abraham years earlier. Paul knew was the same for the families of Israel and the sojourners with them that were saved out of Israel that followed the pillar of fire in the wilderness. The descendants of those that were saved out of Egypt that were to enter the Promised Land were not circumcised until the end of the journey at Gibeath-haaraloth (see Joshua 5:2-3).

Paul did not oppose the Jews, he remained Sha'ûl of Tarsus a Jew (Acts 21:39), he opposed men's attitudes that carried a fallen from grace view of "the party of the circumcision" that misses the mark in Torah shown by Moses' climb up the mountain to bring the renewed covenant down by second tablets to a people redeemed by God's compassion not by what they could do to seek righteousness. On that mountain, Moses heard firsthand of God's love in mercy and if we look closely we can see that is the heart of this Torah message that is hidden in Paul's letters that speak to the words of Moses 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."

Paul's warning is that without a mercy-filled circumcised heart, one can become a slave to a religion of legalism based on justification with a goal to 'earn' merit with God. That sort of legalism separates us from the truth of life giving kindness by God's compassion and glory. Paul's letters reiterate how The Lord describes Himself and Paul delivers the same message of what The Lord requires as given through 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  

When we dig deep, we can see Paul never said he was converted, He didn’t believe that the Jewish Messiah Yeshua ever stopped being Jewish, he certainly did not promote anti-Semitism as some Jews have been led by misinformed "Christian" teachings of Replacement Theology.

Acts 9 states Paul was healed of his temporary physical and spiritual blindness and he never intended any of his letters to encourage people to turn their back on God's instruction manual upheld by the Jewish people, he brings this to unquestionable focus in his letter to the Romans. Go ahead read Romans 3:20; Romans 3:31; Romans 6:15; Romans 7:7 and Romans 7:12 for yourself.

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

Paul's word to the Galatians about God's weightiest instruction against sin provides a proof text:

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 saying 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."

So, if you will, take the time to consider the heart of this Torah truth. Call it law if you insist but it is God's teaching and instruction that is bonded in love for God and others that is the hidden foundation of Paul's letters that seems so difficult to understand as he weaves the Torah of God into the hearts of people living in a mixture of a decadent pagan society and religious Jewish culture that taught righteousness by works.

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.” 

So, let's take another look at the Galatian letter and while we are at it 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.

In addition we will find "religious" conflicts that are somehow still with us whether Jew or Christian, and that fact should shed some new light on the letter to the Galatians. Today, some of these can include rules, legal interpretations, rituals, customs and traditions that have evolved over time and in some aspects define religion whether Judaism or Christianity.

So, we need to ask... does the letter to the Galatians deal with the words of the Torah being questioned or does the letter reveal a concern about the mindset of hypocrisy that can develop out of extra-Biblical justification by religious works?

As history shows, many Jewish customs and traditions began 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 destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BC.

During the 70 years in Babylon, Jewish traditions and customs arose from rabbinic-style traditions and interpretations that came out of the Mishnah that were finally documented in the Talmud around the fifth century. The Talmud and rabbinical literature 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 idea of a set of laws coming from the interpretation of men is by its own origin, extra-biblical.

According to the 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

These traditions were expanded and moved into written form well after the Temple's destruction by Titus in 70 AD. They 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 extra-biblical traditions that had 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 they are extra-biblical. Men have dispute because of opinion. 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 Paul attended in Jerusalem was under the tutelage of Gamaliel the Elder  (see Acts 5:34-39 and Acts 22:3). Gamaliel was a Pharisee 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, Paul came to realize that his own issue of tradition was that he had let his learned opinions lead him to a stony heart embedded in a pretense of virtuous character aka hypocrisy. He knew all too well that it was this attitude of hypocrisy not halakha 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

The prideful Pharisees offended and their hypocrisy was like leaven according to Yeshua. It puffed them up to the point that they thought they achieved righteous in deed rather than mercy and grace. Eventually, the leaven of hypocrisy led men's hearts into grave darkness as they conspired to kill Yeshua because they rejected Him as Messiah and considered Him to be a threat and they opposed those (the disciples) that did not follow their teaching but instead followed the Torah only teaching of Yeshua of Nazareth.

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

This same teaching of loving kindness is declared through the witnesses of Hosea, Micah, David and Solomon:

"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 Pharisees and Sadducees agreed as they stumbled over the teachings of Yeshua and the instruction of 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.”

They sought revenge and bore grudges as they threw stones of accusation seeking their own justification to take Yeshua's life and in the end they chose their stone and called it blasphemy.

After the cross, Paul aka Saul the Pharisee led persecution and sought the approval of the of the Sanhedrin seeking religious authorization to persecute any Jew that professed "the way" of Yeshua that opposed their disbelief in 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 traditions and views of the Pharisees and Sadducees were much like the many schools of thought today with differing opinions that continue on today. In fact, much like the Pharisees and Sadducees of yesterday, today's Reform Jews tend to disregard the halakha of Orthodox Judaism.

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

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 view that may help you understand Paul's letter is a Jewish tradition that God writes every person's good and bad deeds in the Book of Life, and the tradition says if your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds then that can improve your chances that on Yom Kippur a person's name might be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year.

Halakha is not a set of rules to be tossed wholly aside.

After all, a great teaching of halakha is to love one's neighbor, the Jewish perspective weighs great importance on the proper treatment of your fellow man and that is the same message of Jesus found in Paul's letters and the Torah.

In fact, within his letters, Paul uses halakha taught by Yeshua (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 instruction that Yeshua teaches: Hosea 6:6 and its parallel, 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 the religious laws he had been trained in since his youth could present a stumbling block for the good news of love and respect as acknowledgment of God while tossing compassion aside in favor of observance of tradition and rules taught by men that can lead to persecution if God's heart of mercy is not included (see Isaiah 29:13).

Paul's focus was for Believers to faithfully fulfill the Lord’s will to establish His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. He profoundly understood his former stony heart:

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. Galatians 1:11-14 NIV

Paul is not the only Jewish rabbi to write of this. In 1955, another famous Jew, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel provided a similar message 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 men especially in the Jewish witness of Messiah Yeshua to the Gentiles (non-Jews) because he knew encrusted religious customs and conventions could divide people in religion.

After meeting with Messiah Yeshua on the road to Damascus, Paul had come to realize both were created in the image of God and Yeshua gave His life as a ransom for the salvation of all people with no preconditions based on observance of the traditions of men not inscribed in the heart of mercy found in God's Torah.

To better understand the context of the 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 remains in plain sight today as we derive the names of our planets and their moons from the idols of Rome:
  • Jupiter
  • Neptune
  • Mars
  • Venus
  • Mercury
  • Saturn
Even the Moon has a lunar problem today, it is taken the name of another fake deity Luna, the Roman goddess of the Moon. Only the Earth 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 issue remaining. Most of the 12 months of the year come from idol worship including other 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 culture the Caesars were considered gods too... 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 that Rome false-god Saturn, aka Saturn's day.

It is disheartening that the Roman calendar still governs the planet. The Roman’s worshiped the sun and used its planets as the foundation for time keeping. 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 of wood and stone as has our own calendar long forgetting the calendar God designed around His Feast Day appointments causing many Christians to lose their way and their identity as part of Israel thinking God's Feasts are only for the Jews.

Before we think all is well, that the false-god and goddess names do not mean much anymore and the lucky charms, the idols of wood and stone are long gone, think again.

Ancient false idols have simply morphed and shape-shifted into another form. The message of the Bible still relates to the, modern contemporary world and to your life. Today, often without realizing it; we worship other idols like money when driven by greed. Its pretty crazy when you think about it, but God warned that the idols of stone and wood are not real, and neither is money. Today it's just a few electronic digits on a bank statement or an electronic trade on the stock market.

The list goes on in other forms like sports teams and sports idols that can dominate our week-end psyche. Have you ever 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."

Let's leave the charm of Rome and the sport's arena and get back to Paul.

The letter writer Paul wanted to help people prioritize the proper order of God's commandments. Our first priority of course is to love God with all of our heart, mind and soul.  The second is to love your neighbor as yourself which goes back to showing others how to love God. These are the foundation stones of the Ten Commandments and the whole of Torah.

If we look closely at the letters, we can see that Paul is addressing the issue of relationship priority. Passing judgment on others or not loving a neighbor, opposes the great command of the Torah to care for love others and love God. Judgment separates Jew and Gentile then and now. As a judgmental Pharisee, Paul understood more than most, he knew judging others distances oneself from the very heart of The Father and priority in our relationships which is to love our neighbor and not bear a grudge. How did Paul the Torah student know that? Just re-read the Torah of Leviticus 19:15-18.

Paul was concerned for the weak too, those "new" to faith that were still heavily influenced by Roman thinking, lifestyle and a pagan idol-infested mindset:
"Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions." Romans 14:1
Halakha was ingrained, after all 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.  The issue at hand was food and customs that did not allow 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 there.

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

It is the culture context of the letters
that is so misunderstood today.

Another perspective on Paul is seen if we consider the conflict of the two primary 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 Oral Traditions in conflict with the lifestyle of Orthodox Judaism.

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

The extra-Biblical traditions advocated by the Pharisees were in opposition to the Sadducees and that was the conflict described between these sects throughout the Newer Testament. You can read about this conflict described 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, the Pharisees had different sects that disagreed with each another over their polarized interpretations and deeply divided opinions between the opposing Jewish sages of the day, Hillel and Shammai.

After the Temple was destroyed Pharisaic Judaism morphed into rabbinic Judaism as w know it. If you are not familiar with today's Halakha, consider one Orthodox view on what behavior is sanctioned 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. All this despite what the Torah say about about the lunch meeting God had with Abraham in Genesis 18:2-8.

When tradition and opinion are added to the Bible's core teaching on repentance and mercy, Paul was obviously 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, 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."
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, but we can consider this because the Lord's "holy" set apart days are always described with a connection to the names such as Passover, Unleavened Bread and other appointed Feast days or as Sabbath days, they are not referenced simply as days. The passage in Greek is missing the word Sabbaton. Paul's letters do reference 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 look at the context of history and culture in the Roman Empire, we must realize there was a long standing debate between the Biblical calendar and the Roman. 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 the issue, we must remember something critically important; 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 is quite unfamiliar to us today may be the issue that Paul wrote of as Rome's calendar 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 consider the debates of time, after all we did we get 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 explains the origins of Roman holidays and associated customs for each day supposedly put forth 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. Then there were 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 day that would allow an assembly?

It is possible too that Paul was writing about the rabbinic Halakha on days such as the Jewish tradition of fasting on one's wedding day. In light of extra-Biblical traditions, 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 Halakic 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. Beleive it or not, that debate still lingers. 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 on days and opinion, there are many 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 saved (Acts 15:1).... we might better understand the depth to the reasons the Pharisee Paul went to Jerusalem to meet with the disciples on this critical matter. Together, they discussed the Scriptures and how to enter into a loving covenant relationship with the formally estranged Gentiles.

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 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 so he was not circumcised until he met up with 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 that the former pagan Gentiles were to be taught:

"...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 was not the sum of the ways of Torah to be learned according to the consensus because the balance would be learned on the Sabbath in the weekly synagogue teachings. How do we know?

"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. So. the disciples that met with Paul in Jerusalem agreed on some Torah basics for those Gentiles formerly participating in a hedonistic pagan lifestyle that included sacrificing to idols, eating blood and illicit sexual immorality.

They all agreed on these issues because they knew the Torah would be heard, taught and experienced each Sabbath. After all, in the end Believers must act as the King acts, walk as the King walks, and talk as the King talks and the disciples knew this would happen when the Torah is read and studied.

A question you might ask then is: if this was good enough for the disciples of Yeshua 2,000 years ago, why does the mainstream "church" of 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... Paul's ministry to the nations (the Gentiles) was about life in Messiah Yeshua and learning about a new lifestyle within the 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 for God's Kingdom life?

Paul was an expert in the Torah and 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 and 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. 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 tradition 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 by grace with The Father for religious "works of law" to try to earn merit with God and salvation by works.

Many have 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, but Paul did not start any new religion and as many Jews may believe he did not turn against Torah or the Jewish people. What he did was depart from religious tradition and opinion of earning redemption which he had once given greater weight than faith, mercy and grace which are the very heart of God's Torah.

He learned the truth on the road to Damascus from Yeshua who had said to the Pharisees that they have: "...neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done." (Matthew 23:23)

His concern was that the believers of Galatia were being leavened if you will by a long held religious teaching that Paul was expert at. He too 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 the road to Damascus. Paul met the risen, resurrected Yeshua on the way. He came to know the glory of God and the light of the world - Yeshua as Paul traveled to make havoc and drag off Jewish men and women, committing them to prison if they followed Messiah (see Acts 8-9).

Paul realized that religious works as a means to salvation and religious persecution is blind to God's goodness and unfailing love through The Father's character revealed in the Torah. 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 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 opposing the mercy of God's love. The humble Yeshua, the "pierced one" tore down the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile, He did not add new bricks because His glory is in our unity in the royal law to love God and each other, Jew and Gentile.

When he met Yeshua, Paul realized Messiah's purpose was to bring Heaven to Earth by reconciling Jew and Gentile, indeed all mankind as one new man in one ancient faith focused on friendship.

Paul taught the Ephesians the exact same storyline of The Kingdom mystery of Messiah that is inclusive for all nations that love The Father and each other:
“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, nor was he teaching against the 1,000 or so commandments found in the Newer Testament that reveal the heart of God in the Torah. John taught from Isaiah in 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 repentance we are to perform good deeds, i.e. mitzvot of Torah in keeping with repentance:
“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 own longstanding, un-biblical notion of ignoring mercy and grace that had infiltrated the Galatia community, a teaching that to be considered a child of God, you must first become circumcised and that religious 'work' was a requirement for a Gentile (un-circumcision) to be eligible to become a bona fide member of the "family of God."  Paul realized the rule of religious works had somehow forgotten that Abraham was God's friend long before he was circumcised.

According to Paul, his former religious fury emanated from discrimination that he had once upheld even to raging fury, imprisonment and the death of others like Stephen (see Acts 8:1). He taught that traditions added to the Torah that expelled love and relationship contrary to the teaching of Moses were against God's own heart.

Look at his own confession 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 about a tradition that missed the mark of Torah. A tradition that Gentiles had to be circumcised to be clean, otherwise they were defiled and a Jew could not walk with them, befriend them and certainly never eat with them. His focus in the letter is about a repentant walk of faith like Abraham's based on repentance and honoring Torah; relationship not tradition. As you have seen, he 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, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance."

To get a better handle of the Galatian letter, consider the many differing Christian doctrines floating around in the thousands of denominations prevalent within the broad spectrum of Christianity today, all with shades of varying opinions and attitudes of separation not unity on the walk of Messiah.  A modern version of the conflict in Galatia exist today in plain sight.

For example a doctrine of the “Church of Christ” teaches that a person must be baptized in water in order to be saved. This has resulted in a heated debate between protestants like the one Paul wrote about to the Galatians.

You've probably heard of or may even follow one or more doctrines in your own church "membership," but think about this, if only a hundred denominations existed in Paul's day, we would find the New Testament too big, too heavy to carry all of the letters of admonition from the Jew of Tarsus. So, its time to examine every church tradition up against Scripture and let go of anything in your life that does not conform to the life of Yeshua as He lived it.

If we step back, we can see that denominations separate us like Pharisee and Sadducee. Just take a look at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the heart of Jerusalem where it all began. The church there is believed by many Christians to be the site of Jesus' crucifixion and burial, and the site was established by Constantine's mother Helena at the end of the 4th century.

Access to the church in Jerusalem's Old City is governed by a Muslim family that holds the keys while six denominations with widely varying traditions maintain separate services there. These include Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Roman Catholic, as well as Coptic Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox and Ethiopian Tewahedo. Think about it... which denomination service would Paul choose to join if he were around today? I know that is a difficult question because the answer should be obvious.

If we look at differences in denominational teachings 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 2,000 years, all you need do is drive down the street in any town in America, or if you have the means go to the Christian home base in Jerusalem to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Have you ever visited 'different' church denominations? If not, why not?

If you do, sooner or later you may have been asked to undergo church doctrine training so that you can might be eligible to 'join' as a "member." Now, if you step back for a moment, you might ask: why membership, why creeds, confessions and varying statements of faith. 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 and the faith promise given Abraham of blessing all nations 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
Might we suppose, if Paul were here today he might write a letter to all "denominations"? Yet, the weight of the letters would overwhelm the Library of Congress.

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 are held by the mortar of traditions and doctrine and that create division and oppose what Paul describes as "one new man."

This comes from the word of The Lord to 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... "my Torah" and its message is to be woven in our hearts so every letter of Paul describes the proper relationship with Messiah the living Torah that is to live in our mind and heart.

If you think Paul if difficult to understand, consider religious differences. Whether Christian or Jew, religious opinons offer a time portal for you to see the past. 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.

We can learn from Peter about this too. He taught what the Torah teaches. He 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 denominational doctrine. No, he taught of unity in faith and the excellencies of mercy from the Torah established by THE FATHER and recorded by Moses:
“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 these 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 taught. After all, they 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 or a denominational dogma around it and this is Paul's message. God does not need our own 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. 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 least 24 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 way he taught was difficult to understand. He taught Timothy encouraging him to study the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings to be equipped for every good work (mitzvot). Think about it, there was no New Testament 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 should search out the Torah 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 denominational 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 deeds as an exchange for God's mercy.

Moses instructs people not to add to God's Word or subtract from it and that's the rock of the foundation of Paul's letters.

Did you know, the first instruction given Moses for the sanctuary was about the pure gold Mercy Seat that rested on the Ark of the Covenant? It is called the Mercy Seat by the God of Israel for good reason.

Likewise, we must 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 understand God's instructions for holy (set apart) living. If we are to live them out in love we must teach them just as our Messiah did (see John 13:15; 1 John 2:6; Ephesians 5:1-2 and 1Corinthians 11:1).

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

This is "the way" Paul taught, and it is happening today praise God as a 2,000 year divide is closing as promised the Jeremiah. Christians are learning that following God’s instruction does not minimize or diminish mercy or grace, its puts the character of God's mercy first, at the mercy seat. Nor does it put a person under the penalty of man's religious tradition rejecting mercy. In fact, it is God’s grace that provides forgiveness for the times that we "miss the mark" when we slip and fall as we strive to walk in His path of love and repentant obedience to our Heavenly Father just as we must 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 willingly offered His life to pay the penalty that we all deserve for going astray in sin (in Hebrew "chet") 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 we receive the deliverance only He can bring and we get to show our gratitude in love of Torah deeds for our Heavenly Father, others and ourselves by keeping His Kingdom ways because we want to, and we can do so joyfully trusting what He 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 context... that God's restoration plan includes both Jew and Gentile.

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

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

Without the context of religious mandates that are not wholly Scriptural, 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 that comes out in its proper context is that 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 taught came from neo-pagan worship, they were 'non-Jews' fully assimilated in ancient Greek and Roman culture before Paul arrived with other brothers in faith.

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

Let's take a look at the word "again" in Galatians 5:1.
"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."
These non-Jews had been fully 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 these Greek days, months and seasons survive having morphed in Rome in one form or another from Babylon. Incredibly, some have even been adopted into Christianity in the form of Easter and Christmas, 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.

Even our modern calendar 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.

Today, the week begins with Sun-day in honor of Sol Ivictus, the official sun god of the Roman Empire who morphed from the Greek false-god Helios. Believe it or not, the ancient Greek theatre began as festivals honoring this false-god Dionysus. The Greek culture was hellenistic and they worshipped the pantheon of the other Greek false-gods of Olympus including Zeus, Athena, Artemis, Apollo, Hermes, Hades and Aphrodite just to name a few. Paul knew typical Greek worship ritual included feasting in honor of their false idol gods. He was all too familiar with how the Greeks celebrated all kinds of festivals and celebrations to make offerings to their mythic Olympic deities. 

During the course of a year in Paul's day, scheduled celebrations of the Greek gods were held, so if we do not have at least some understanding of the context of the culture the Galatians, we will not rid our confusion on 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 Greek false-gods and heroes continue in common 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 how do we deal with the bondage of law that Paul wrote about?

As we have seen, for many years, religious men were adding to the Torah, rather than finding rest in YHWH's love and grace established in the Torah that was made to abound in meaning through Messiah Yeshua. Galatians doesn't teach that wanting to follow what is written in the Bible is a problem, but seeking to be justified before Almighty God by deeds is a problem in any religion that adds to or takes away from The Torah of lovingkindness.

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 the Mercy Seat. HaSatan does not want us to be 'whole' Bible believers, so he promotes Greek philosophy. The enemy wants many to be deceived and think of themselves as Gentile sinners that 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 Christians 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 Roman Gentile believers and the Galatians as well that through a repentant faith grafting, all followers of Messiah are heirs with Abraham, and partakers of the promises of the covenant God made with Israel. And since believers are grafted in, they are also heirs of God's promise through Messiah Yeshua (see Galatians 4:7). This is why 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 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.

Let me say it again, Paul was declaring that “circumcision” is not required for salvation, if it did, his message to the Galatians was that they would have discounted the power of the gospel and faith in Messiah Yeshua as being the entry to the door of God’s covenant household. Paul was teaching 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
Last but not least, Paul hit the nail on the head by asserting that righteousness does not come via circumcision as “works of law.” He was right to conclude that one’s forgiveness does not come by human deed or action seeking brownie points with God, but forgiveness comes through repentance and the work Yeshua Jesus did for all people, all nations as He walked the walk, talked the talk and took sin and its penalty to his Passover cross three days before arose in eternal resurrection glory as 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.

Needless to say, we need to understand the foundation of the Hebrew Scriptures given in the letter to the Galatians. Few seem to realize it, but Paul quotes from these Scripture to make his point:
  • 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
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.

As usual, Paul uses the front of the Bible to prove God's mercy and grace. He always used 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, just read Galatians 3:9 for yourself, and 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 did not teach 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 Christians now 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 punishment for our willful sin (violation of Torah) by taking it upon Himself at the Roman execution stake. His life offering and resurrection redeems us from the curse of eternal death and separation from God which comes from our deliberate disobedience, but He did not do away with the Torah, Heaven forbid, He fills it with meaning. He never took away the blessings that result when we are obedient in our walk just as He was and is.

Yeshua alone can redeem us from eternal death, the first curse as well as the second command to mankind. The first command was a blessing to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and rule over it. Our Creator will never do away with any blessing, any good of the Torah so 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?" 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? It is within the guidelines of the Torah: love God and your neighbor. The question posed to the Galatians was: how are we to live in true faith?

Does Scripture urge you to live following man's traditions or have you been "called out" to live a life separate and apart as a divine appointment unto your Abba Father?

Are you truly serious about your faith? If so, live within the guidelines of Torah which Paul has actually told us to live by in repentance. Do you believe every unchanging jot or tittle even if you do not understand them just yet? Or, do we want to preach the addition of man-made traditions not looking to God's Word with the covenant to bless all nations?

Do we mix good and evil with only one spiritual eye on His Word, and the other on man's religious doctrine?

Many people are now re-considering what they have been taught and are taking a walk of faith just as father 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 and entered a new walk because of it. It was one he had not walked fully in before. In order for him to live in the provision of his Creator, Isaac had to learn to trust in the voice and teaching of God. He had to learn to not follow the path that seemed good. He had to learn faith, then his walk in repentance.

Since the first century, only a few, a remnant have walked in faith and obedience. We can be like them and return to how God tells us to live. The message to the Galatians is for us too, we must understand that it is the walk of faith in Messiah that has to come first. If we will learn this, then we can learn how Messiah tells us to live as He did, it is a process of bringing the lost sheep home in reconciliation with God as He intended. The God of Israel does not want to remain distant from His creation, He wants to be close to us, to be with us, to live with us in us, and make atonement a reality for us.

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 name. He was devoted to God in circumcision, set apart for God's work on Earth and the Father's purpose in His name just as Isaac was circumcised 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 the binding of Isaac on the wood on Moriah, (his binding is called Akedah), Isaac is not seen again in the Torah until his bride Rebekah approaches. The same will be for Messiah. Throughout His life, Yeshua taught and lived out the Torah. He did this by always making a decision, a choice to put God's instruction first and foremost, and not Himself, but God’s will. He stated: "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 that 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 instruction.

Messiah Yeshua shows us how to live in the will of God and maintain our dedication in faith to every word from The Father just as Abraham did.

We all need to make a decision to devote ourselves to God, to set ourselves apart as a priest though Messiah. In this way, a believer preaches salvation in Yeshua through the faith held in the blessing of the covenant given to Abraham. That faith is what we must have because The Lord is not only our Creator, but the Redeemer. Messiah can save us from death by the exchange of His perfect life for ours. If we live in this faith, He will send His Spirit to live in us just as The Spirit of God filled the Temple.

Have you made your decision?

Have you made that commitment to dedicate yourself to the God of Israel through the life gift of faith in Messiah Yeshua? Do you realize that you need to make that decision to engage God’s will for your life? It's the big decision. Yeshua is the choice of eternal life. That is what Paul taught.

If you have made that decision, the next step to follow Messiah is to walk like He walked in love of The Father. Walking like Messiah means keeping yourself apart from anything that is unholy, anything that is against God’s will for your life near Him 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, honoring God's Sabbath rest, keeping His Feast appointments, even watching what we eat so that we may live a long healthy life.

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

We can begin our dedication by praising and thanking Him for all the good things He has done, is doing and will do as realize that we have been given a path to follow that has given to us in mercy and a mission of love because time is short to bring in the fruit from the field God has set 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 and the Jewish Messiah Yeshua is that He desires to redeem and save all of mankind from 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!


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