June 18, 2022
“The Law, then, was our guardian until Messiah, so that we could be justified by faith. But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for you are all sons of God...”
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“The Law, then, was our guardian until Messiah, so that we could be justified by faith. But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for you are all sons of God, through faith in Messiah Jesus. For as many as have been immersed into Messiah have put on Messiah. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Messiah Jesus. And if you are Messiah’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to His promise.” Galatians 3:24-26
This particular passage has been somewhat controversial among believers, especially Messianic (Jewish) believers. Some theologians have suggested that Paul declared that Jews who believe Jesus is Messiah are no longer Jews. Others have suggested that Paul, with his mention of the universal inclusion of all believers into God’s promise to Abraham, was declaring that Gentile believers have now become Jews, thus reassigning Judaism to “Christians.” Neither assumption is valid, nor are those assumptions remotely close to Paul’s intended message. To understand the essence of Paul’s comments, one must consider the types of people that Paul is addressing in his letter to the Galatians.
First, there were non-Messianic Jews who were taught they must follow the legalistic “religion” that Judaism had become. This religious form had (and still has in many respects) so re-interpreted the Torah that a faithful relationship with God had been diminished to a performance-based list of impossible rules.
Secondly, there were Torah-observant Messianic Jews who believed that salvation came by way of faith, apart from works. While they departed from the man-made aspects of rabbinic Judaism, they did not depart from observing the Torah. This group would have included all of the apostles, as well as the true Jewish believers.
Third, there was the legalistic “circumcision sect.” Paul says they were a faction of James’ congregation. They called themselves believers and claimed greater apostolic authority than Paul because of their ultra-religious adherence to the man-made rules. Paul mocked them as “Judaizers,” denying they were believers at all because anything other than salvation by grace through faith falls short of true salvation.
Lastly, there was a divided group of confused Gentile Galatians! Some were following Paul’s preaching, while others were being swayed by the impressive, albeit unbiblical, disciplined lifestyles of the “Judaizers.” While the devoutness of the modern Orthodox Jew is impressive, all of that discipline, apart from Jesus’ grace, is in vain.
Paul’s message to the Galatians was simple: as it pertains to salvation, God does not elevate any people group, economic condition, or gender above another. All believers are heirs to God’s promise to Abraham, who was himself considered righteous by faith in God alone, apart from the works of the Torah. That being said, being a “Jew” means being part of a distinct ethnic people group. To this day, there are Jewish and Gentile believers, often separate in culture and forms of worship, yet ONE in Messiah’s grip and grace.