There are many verses in the Bible most of us know by hand, verses such a John 3:16 and Gal 5:1 where we read, “It is for freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be burdened by the yoke of slavery.”
Are you free in Christ, free from the yoke of slavery?
Most Christians would say, yes, I am free in Christ because I am not under the bondage of the law of Moses. Why would most Christians give this answer? Because this is what our pastors have told us, the freedom Paul speaks of in Galatians has to do with freedom from the law.
What if our pastors are wrong? Yes, they are educated men and women, they have been to seminary or Bible school, but they are not infallible. The seminaries they attended, the Bible schools they attended are not infallible; only the Bible is infallible.
What if you are reading the Bible wrong, and it is causing you to be deceived by well-meaning pastors who are deceived themselves?
Initially, the Bible did not have chapter and verse numbers. Archbishop Stephen Langton (1150-1228) came up with the idea to divide the Bible into chapters and verses. He did this to make it easier to read the Bible for priests, but by doing so, he also made it easier to misunderstand the Bible.
If we were to read the Bible without chapters and verses, we would soon see how Gal 5:1 is a continuation of the theme in Gal 4. So to understand Gal 5:1, we first have to know what Paul is referring to in Gal 4.
In Galatians 4, Paul is contrasting freedom with Christ and bondage to the law, and as we are going to see, he is not referring to the law of Moses. Yes, I know our pastors have told us he is relating to the law of Moses, but they are wrong.
In Gal 4:8, Paul says the Galatians used to be slaves before they were saved to those who, by nature, are not Gods. Now we know Gal 5:1 refers back to how the Galatians lived their lives before salvation. In Gal 4:9, Paul asks the question, why do they want to return to how they used to live where they observed weak and worthless principles after having been set free in Christ?
The key to understanding what Paul is saying is in the little word principles in Gal 4:9 and knowledge of who the Galatians were. If this is not referring to the law of Moses, and they were not Jews who had been saved, then we know Paul is not rebuking the Galatians for returning to Moses, and we will know for sure our pastors are wrong.
The Greek word for principles is stoicheion. The Greek word stoicheion refers to elementary principles.
What is “elementary principles?”
To answer this question, we have to know who Paul is writing to. If he is writing to Jews who have come to faith in Christ, then we know he is referring to the Mosaic law. If he, on the other hand, is writing to gentiles who have never been Jews, we know he is not relating to the Mosaic law. Why? Because how can Gentiles who have never obeyed Moses in the first place be rebuked by Paul for returning to the obedience of Moses?
We know the Galatians were not Jews, they were a Gaelic people consisting of three tribes worshiping Greek gods and Greek religion. So what Paul is saying in Galatians is not “do not turn back to Moses.” What Paul is saying is this “do not turn back to your old Greek religions.”
We already know Paul is not rebuking them for wanting to obey the written law of Moses.
But what about Gal 5:2? Here Paul is clearly warning them not to be circumcised, and we all know the Greeks detested the custom of circumcision. So this has got nothing to do with Greek religions. As we are going to see, two things are happening in Galatians that will clearly show us how our pastors have deceived us.
In Gal 1:14, Paul speaks of his former life before he met Yeshua on the road to Damascus. Here we see Paul is saying he was zealous for the traditions of his fathers. Did you catch what Paul is not saying in Gal 1:14? He is not saying he was zealous for the law; he is saying he was zealous for the traditions of his fathers.
What are “the traditions of his fathers?”
The traditions of his fathers are the same thing Jesus warns us about in Matt 23:2, where He tells us not to obey the Pharisees when they teach tradition. Instead, Jesus is telling us to obey them when they teach the written law of Moses. This is the same thing as Jesus says in Matthew, He has not come to do away with the written law but to teach us how to obey it.
Why is there a difference between the written Torah and the Oral Torah? To understand the difference, we have to keep one thing in mind, Paul, Jesus, the Apostles were all Jews born into Jewish culture and Jewish religion. So if we dont understand a little bit about Judaism, we don’t know what Jesus, the Apostles, and Paul is trying to tell us.
In Judaism, we have two Torahs, what is called the oral Torah and what is called the written Torah. The written Torah is the same thing as the written law of Moses found in the first five books of the Bible. The oral Torah is what we today refer to as the Talmud and the Mishna. They consist of nothing but opinions and interpretations of the written Torah very similar to a Bible commentary. All throughout the Gospels, we see how Yeshua warns us and says, do not obey the oral Torah. We are only to follow and obey the written Torah.
To understand more of this, we have to go to Acts 15.
In Acts 15:1, we see the background for what is happening in Acts 15:20-21. A group of Jews who had come to faith in Yeshua believed circumcision was the proof of salvation. To this, Paul, and the rest of the Apostle disagree. According to them, evidence of salvation is repentance from the things mentioned in Acts 15:20-21, faith in the cross, AND a willingness to learn how to obey the written law of Moses.
This group of Jews who disagreed with Paul and the Apostles believed If they were circumcised, how they lived did not matter that much. This is not unlike the heretical teachings of once saved, always saved.
Now we have to ask ourselves, is what this group of Jews (the circumcision party) believed in the oral Torah or the written Torah?
The answer is in Acts 15:1 where it says, “according to the custom of Moses.” Because it says “custom of Moses” we know this is referring to the oral Torah, not the written Torah.
So what is happening in Gal 5:2?
When we read Galatians, it is very evident they had heard the Gospel, received it with repentance back to the written Torah and faith in the cross. But then the circumcision party came to Galatia and said: “if you are circumcised, you can go back to worshiping your old gods, live as you used to live, and be sure of your salvation because of circumcision.”
This is something Paul strongly disagrees with. He says if they do this, they will lose their freedom in Christ; they will make Christ of no effect and perhaps even lose their salvation.
Now we see, Galatians has got nothing to do with the written Torah (the written law of Moses) but it has got everything to do with the oral Torah.
What can we learn from Galatians?
Galatians is a criticism of the heretic teaching that says, once saved, always saved, but it is also a warning not to syncretize what we believe in now with what we used to believe before we were saved. If we want to be saved, we have to make a clean break with the way we used to live. It is also telling us salvation can only come by repentance back to obedience of the written Torah, with faith in the cross.
Gal 5:1 we read, “It is for freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be burdened by the yoke of slavery.”
Are you free in Christ, free from the yoke of slavery?
Only if you have repented back to obeying the written Torah (the written law of Moses) believing in the cross, making a clean break from all traditions and opinions of men.
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