Even an Angel

After a curt introduction, Paul begins his letter to the Galatians with a stern warning. What some members are contemplating amounts to replacing Jesus with a false messiah and a counterfeit gospel. To turn from the “faith of Jesus Christ” to circumcision and other “works of the law” as the basis of the faith is apostasy. Thus, the sternness of his language.

The Apostle to the Gentiles launched into a rebuke with words expressing his astonishment that the Galatians had departed so quickly from the gospel, one that included an ominous curse formula.

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Having Begun in the Spirit

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul addresses a growing danger. Certain “men from Jerusalem” claim that Gentiles must keep the deeds of the Mosaic Law to “complete” their faith, or at least, some of them. They are “compelling Gentiles to Judaize” by adopting circumcision, calendrical observances, and perhaps the Levitical dietary restrictions.

Paul would have none of it. Unlike his other letters, this time, his opening salutation was curt, and he immediately chastised the Galatians and launched into a diatribe against the Judaizing faction from Jerusalem.

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The new Messianic Age has dawned in Jesus, therefore calendrical rituals and other Levitical regulations belong to the old and now obsolete order.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul chided Christians for their desire “to return to bondage under the weak and beggarly rudiments” of the world, including calendrical observations. Since believers now live in the era of fulfillment, resorting to outmoded rituals is inappropriate and constitutes regression to a state of slavery.

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The Law & Prophets

Fulfillment is a prominent theme in Matthew’s gospel – with the arrival of the Messiah, the time of fulfillment has arrived. All that was anticipated in the Hebrew Bible began to come to fruition. But with his advent, what are the implications for the Law?

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provides clear answers and examples of just what he means. He did not come to adjudicate the interpretive disputes between competing Jewish sects over the details of the Law or to validate which oral traditions were correct.

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Limits of the Law

In responding to claims that Gentiles must be circumcised, Paul appeals to the common experience of the Spirit received by the Galatians.  Did they receive the gift due to a “hearing of faith” or “from the works of the Law?”  Having begun in the Spirit, why do they now seek “completion” based on “flesh” by submitting to circumcision?

Next, he cites the example of Abraham who was “reckoned righteous from his faith,” and not from the rite of circumcision that he received later. Thus, Abraham became the “father” of all who are “from faith.”

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