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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Did God designate a day? (Part VI)

Even so, the issue continued to rear its head from time to time. In fact, we have a well-preserved record of an instance of this occurring in the region of Galatia in an epistle or letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to Christians in that region. It is a pity that we don’t have the space here to quote the entire epistle, but I believe that we can include enough of it to underscore that Paul considered the efforts of the Galatians to keep the Law misguided and wrong-headed.
He wrote: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-8) Paul goes on to tell them that he did not receive his message from a human source but from Christ himself. (Galatians 1:11-24) Then he proceeds to remind them about the previous controversy regarding the question of Gentile observance of the Law and reiterates the decision of the council at Jerusalem. (Galatians 2:1-10)
Next, Paul recounted a story about a visit from the Apostle Peter to Antioch. At first, Peter accepted the Gentile brethren and openly fellowshipped with them. However, when some Jewish Christians from Jerusalem showed up later, he began to withdraw from the Gentile brethren and began to feign disapproval of their behavior (not adhering to the precepts of the Law of Moses). (Galatians 2:11-13)
Nevertheless, Paul called out Peter on this behavior. He wrote: “But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, ‘If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:14-16) Paul’s message to the Christians of Galatia could not be any clearer: He considered the new teaching that they should be obedient to the Law of Moses a heresy!
He continued: “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:1-3) In other words, how can they even consider returning to the dos and don’ts when the principles behind them have been made so clear to them?
He goes on to remind them of the example of Abraham. Paul wrote that Abraham wasn’t justified by his works. Instead, he was justified because of his belief in God’s promise to him. He said that “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” (Galatians 3:6) As a consequence, he concludes that Abraham is the father of the Gentile faithful. (Galatians 3:7-9)
Next, Paul proceeds to demonstrate that this new teaching of theirs is illogical. He wrote: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the Law to do them.’ [Deuteronomy 27:26] But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, the just shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:10-11) He tells them that if they are going to insist on keeping the Law, they will have to observe ALL of it to be theologically and philosophically consistent.
Finally, Paul makes plain to the Galatians that they can’t have it both ways. He tells them we are either justified by faith or by works – the two cannot coexist within Christian theology. He wrote: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:1-4)
In particular, Paul insisted that Gentile Christians not permit themselves to be intimidated by their Jewish brethren about the observance of things that had been enjoined upon God’s people by the Law of Moses. He wrote to the saints at Colosse: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. THESE ARE A SHADOW OF THE THINGS THAT WERE TO COME; THE REALITY, HOWEVER, IS FOUND IN CHRIST.” (Colossians 2:16-17, NIV)

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