Rav Sha'ul’s Letter to the
Galatians
h¹b 
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This is my own personal rendering or paraphrase of (and commentary on) the Tanakh and Apostolic Writings. It should not be considered in any way authoritative. It is based on The World English Bible: Messianic Edition, also known as the Hebrew Names Version, which is in the Public Domain.

About This Version

For a glossary of unfamiliar terms, CLICK HERE.
For assistance in pronouncing Hebrew terms, a pronunciation guide is located HERE.
My short comments on the text are notated in “maroon pop-up text tips” which are accessed by “hovering” your mouse over the text. [Some short comments look like this.] Longer comments are included in footnotes. I have added emphasis to some phrases simply to call them to your attention.
Tanakh Scroll

Sha'ul’s Letter to the
Messianic Community in Galatia

Introductory Comments

Author: Rav Sha'ul of Tarsus
Theme: Messianic Gentiles Do Not Need to Convert to Judaism
Date of Writing: c. 50 CE
Place of Writing: Antioch
Target Audience: The Messianic Community in Galatia

The first and most important thing to know when trying to understand someone else’s correspondence is the social and historical context of the letter. If we get the context wrong, we have no hope of correctly understanding the content. Who wrote it? To whom was it written? Why was it written? What are the issues being addressed?

If I write a personal letter to my friend and centuries later you find it and take one or two sentences out of the middle of the letter, there is absolutely no possible way that you will ever understand the content of the whole letter. Even if you carefully read the entire letter, you don’t know me; you don’t know my friend. You have no idea of what was going on in my life or the life of my friend at the time the letter was written. The only way you can possibly know when it was written is if I dated the letter or you found it in a postmarked envelope. You don’t know why I wrote the letter. You don’t know my concerns nor those of my friend. You certainly have no idea of what conversations my friend and I shared in the months and years preceding the writing of the letter. And the things that I have to say to my friend almost certainly have absolutely no application to you or your life.

Fortunately, we know at least a little bit about the context of this letter. We know it was written by Rav Sha'ul of Tarsus, because he tells us so in the beginning of the letter. While he didn’t date the letter and we don’t have a postmarked envelope, we can extrapolate a fairly accurate estimate of the letter’s date from the events we know.

Sha'ul supervised the execution of Stephen in about 35 CE (Acts 6:8-15), and he severely persecuted the Messianic Community for two years until he met the Messiah on the road to Damascus in approximately 37 (Acts 9:3-25). From 37 to 40 he spent time in Arabia (Gal. 1:17) trying to get his head wrapped around the idea that he had been persecuting the God he had spent his life so desperately trying to serve, and figuring out how he needed to adjust his carefully developed theology to accommodate this new information. He then returned to Damascus to preach his version of Good News of the Kingdom, something he calls “My Gospel.” In 40 Bar-Nabba [Barnabas] took him from Damascus up to Jerusalem to meet Kefa [Peter] and the Emissaries (Gal. 1:18-19), but they were afraid to meet with him because of his reputation, so he only met with Yeshua’s brother Ya'akov [James]. But Bar-Nabba testified on his behalf and told them how powerfully he had been preaching in Damascus. The Emissaries sent him down to Caesarea, then back to Tarsus (Acts 9:26-30).

Meanwhile in Caesarea, the Roman centurion Cornelius became the first Gentile to come to Messiah (Acts 10) in 41 CE, and the Good News of the Kingdom was first preached in Antioch that same year (Acts 11:19-24).

In 43 Bar-Nabba went to Tarsus, got Sha'ul, and took him to Antioch with him, and they spent about a year there (Acts 11:25-26). In 44 Bar-Nabba and Sha'ul were dispatched by the Elders at Antioch to take relief to the Messianic Community in Jerusalem because of a local famine. Ya'akov, Yeshua’s brother, wrote his letter in about 45, making it probably the first of the Apostolic letters to be written. In 45 Barnabas and Sha'ul returned from Jerusalem to Antioch, taking John Mark with them.

In 45 the Elders at Antioch commissioned Barnabas, Sha'ul, and John Mark for their first missionary journey (Acts 12:24-13:3). They went  from Antioch to Seleucia, and then to Cyprus. From there they went to Salamis, Paphos, Perga in Pamphylia, where John Mark left them to return to Jerusalem. From Perga then went to Antioch in Pisidia. They left Pisidian Antioch due to persecution from the synagogue there, and went to Iconium, then to Lystra and Derbe (Acts 14:1-6). In 47 they went back to Lystra, then Iconium and Pisidian Antioch, Pamphylia, Perga, and Attalia (Acts 14:21-25). Then they went to Antioch in Syria, where they stayed for about three years from 47 to 50 (Acts 14:26-28).

In 50, “troublemakers” (perhaps the same ones who were bothering the Gentile believers in Galatia) came to Antioch insisting that Gentiles must formally convert to Judaism in order to be saved, just as they had done at Galatia. These troublemakers were not ethnically Jewish, but were Gentiles who, when they had come to faith in Messiah, had gone through the formal conversion process to become proselytes (see the vocabulary below), as was the requirement at the time. They didn't want new Gentile Believers to be allowed any “shortcuts” into the Messianic Community. This prompted Sha'ul and Bar-Nabba to take the question to the Elders at Jerusalem, where the Jerusalem Council was convened and passed the final policy on Gentiles coming into the Messianic Community (Acts 15:1-21). Go here for a discussion of that Council.

At the conclusion of the Council, the Elders of Jerusalem wrote a letter to the “Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia”  outlining the requirements for “table fellowship” between Jewish and non-Jewish Messianic Believers, and dispatched Bar-Nabba and Sha'ul, along with Yehuda and Silas, to deliver the letter to those communities (Acts 15:22-29). Having received confirmation of “his Gospel” from the Elders of Jerusalem (the first-century equivalent of what the Vatican is to the Roman Church), Sha'ul would have been eager to let the Gentile Believers at Galatia know that his position had been vindicated. So I believe it very probably that he wrote to the Galatians as soon as he had arrived back at Antioch.

Why has the  Church interpreted this letter as a battle between “Law and Grace” for nearly 200 years?

The Emissary Kefa (the Apostle Peter) said of Rav Sha'ul’s letters: “There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” (2Pet. 3:16). This is especially true of the letter before us. “Scripture twisting” of this letter by “ignorant and unstable” early Gentile Christians was largely responsible for the removal of everything Jewish from the early church, and the “twisting” of “ignorant and unstable” modern Christian Bible teachers has only served to perpetuate the original error and fan the flames of Anti-Semitism within the Church.

The traditional Christian interpretation of this letter (that I was taught in seminary and that I taught for over 35 years) is that the Torah brings only slavery, and that Christ has set us free from the bondage of the Law. That being the case, any attempt to live in obedience to Torah after coming to faith in the Messiah is “backsliding,” an abandonment of grace, and may well result in eternal damnation.

As early as the end of the first century, and almost certainly based on a grossly inaccurate interpretation of this letter, the “Church Father” Ignatius (c. 35-108 CE), third bishop of Antioch, wrote (my emphasis):

“It is absurd to speak of Jesus Christ with the tongue, and to cherish in the mind a Judaism which has now come to an end. For where there is Christianity there cannot be Judaism. For Christ is one, in whom every nation that believes, and every tongue that confesses, is gathered unto God. And those that were of a stony heart [i.e., Jews who placed their faith in Yeshua but continued live according to Torah] have become the children of Abraham, the friend of God; and in his seed all those have been blessed who were ordained to eternal life in Christ.” The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, chapter 10.

His interpretation was obviously that any form of Judaism was simply totally incompatible with faith in the Messiah. But Judaism has not “come to an end” as he taught. Judaism is alive and well, and the Messianic expression of Judaism is as close as is possible — without the presence of the Temple — to come to the form of faith and practice followed by the first century Jewish sect known as The Way, which was first disparagingly referred to as Christianos in Antioch (Acts 11:26).

The problem that keeps dividing the Body of Messiah is a near-total lack understanding of what life in first-century Israel was actually like. And for some reason known only to God, the Christian Church is in absolutely no hurry to educate themselves.

Important “Pauline” Vocabulary

These are some technical terms used by Sha'ul in this and other letters, or that are not strictly his, but are necessary for a correct understanding of his writing.

• God-Fearer: an ethnically non-Jewish person who serves the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in a Jewish manner, following Jewish customs of worship and observance, but who has not formally converted to Judaism.

• Circumcised/Circumcision: a metaphor for Jewishness, the Jewish people, whether by birth or by conversion.

• Uncircumcised/Uncircumcision: a metaphor for those who are not Jewish by either birth or conversion.

• Proselyte: a non-Jewish person who has completed a formal process of conversion to the Jewish religion. The process typically requires (a) renouncing all previous religious affiliation and beliefs and (b) acceptance of the tenets of Jewish faith, (c) making a commitment to live a Jewish life style, (d) adoption of a Jewish name, (e) circumcision for men, (f) ritual immersion under supervision of some Jewish authority and, in the days when the Temple was standing, (g) a sacrifice offered in the Temple.

• Marks of Circumcision: those matters of Torah which define Jewish identity; the external signs by which Jewishness is identified; circumcision, the Sabbath, the calendar, the Holy Days, the dietary laws.[1]

• Tradition, or Customs of the Fathers: the oral tradition, or so-called “Oral Torah;” those customs, traditions, and rules of conduct that are in addition to the commandments of the Torah.

The “bottom line” of this nearly universally misinterpreted letter is that the Good News of the Gospel as preached by Rav Sha'ul, what he called “my Gospel” or “my Good News,” is that — as confirmed by the Jerusalem Council just a few weeks earlier — when a Gentile (a non-Jewish person) comes to faith in Yeshua the Messiah, that person is already a fully-qualified citizen in good standing of the Kingdom of God and of the Commonwealth of Israel. There is no need for a formal conversion to Judaism, as was formerly required, for that individual to be fully accepted as member in good standing of the Messianic Community. In fact, Sha'ul argues most strenuously, for such a Messianic Gentile to convert to Judaism may very well place that person’s salvation in jeopardy, if such conversion is for the sake of inclusion in the Community for the purpose of gaining salvation. Such misguided conversion proves that the person’s true faith is in affiliation with the community, and not in the completed work of Yeshua the Messiah. The only way such a person can then be declared righteous by God is by successfully keeping every single commandment of Torah that applies to him (or her). Since the Messiah is the only human to have ever perfectly obeyed the Torah, salvation by obedience to Torah is simply impossible.

I highly recommend Daniel Thomas Lancaster’s 29-message sermon series on the book of Galatians.


 

Salutation

1 1From: Sha'ul, an Emissary — I did not receive my commission from human beings or through human mediation, but rather through Yeshua the Messiah and God the Father, Who raised Him from the dead — 2and from all the brothers[2] who are with me.

To: the Messianic communities in Galatia.

3Grace and shalom to you from God our Father, and from our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, 4Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might rescue from this present evil world system, in obedience to the will God, our Father. 5To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

No Other Gospel

6I’m absolutely amazed that you are deserting me so soon, the one who called you by Messiah’s grace, and turning to a different “Good News.” 7There is no other “Good News!”

What’s really going on is that there are some people who are agitating[6] you, who only want to pervert the Good News of Messiah.

 8But even if we, or even an angel from heaven, should preach to you any “Good News” other than that which we have preached to you, let him be cursed. 9As we have said before, so I now say again: if any man preaches to you any “good news” other than that which you received, let him be under the divine curse.[9] 10Does that sound like I’m seeking the favor of men, or that of God? Or am I trying to please men? For if I were still trying to please men I wouldn’t be a servant of Messiah.

Sha'ul Defends His Gospel

11I want you to know, brothers, that the Good News that I preach[11] does not come from a human perspective. 12I did not receive it from a human source, nor did anyone teach it to me. It came to me through revelation directly from Yeshua the Messiah. 13For you have heard about how I used to live in [the traditions of] Judaism.[13] I persecuted the God’s Messianic community, and did everything I could do to completely destroy it. 14Since I was far more zealous for the traditions of my fathers[14] than most men my own age, I advanced in [the traditions of] Judaism more rapidly than they did. 15But when God, Who had chosen me before I was born and called me through his grace, 16chose to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I didn’t immediately consult with anyone; 17neither did I go up to Jerusalem to confer with those who were Emissaries before me. Instead, I immediately went away into Arabia and then I returned to Dammesek. 18It wasn’t until three years later that I went up to Jerusalem to meet Kefa, and I stayed with him fifteen days. 19But I didn’t see any of the other Emissaries except Ya'akov, the Lord’s brother. 20Now, in the things that I am writing to you about, with God as my witness, I’m not lying. 21After that, I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22The Messianic communities in Judea still had no idea what I even looked like; 2they only heard the report: “The man who used to persecute us now preaches the Good News that he once tried to destroy.” 24And they praised God for me.

Sha'ul Defends His Gospel in Jerusalem

2 1Then fourteen years later I went up to Jerusalem[1] again with Bar-Nabba, and I took Titus with me. 2In obedience to revelation I had received, I went up and I laid out before them the Good News as I preach it among the Gentiles. But I did so privately before those who are acknowledged as the true leaders [of The Way], out of fear that my current or previous work might have been in vain. 3But they did not compel Titus, who was with me, to be circumcised even though He is a Greek. 4The issue only came up because some men who falsely claimed to be brothers has been secretly brought in; they had slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Messiah Yeshua, in order to enslave us. 5We did not yield in submission to them, not even for a moment, so that the truth of the Good News might be preserved for you.

6But those who are considered important[6] (whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God doesn’t show partiality to man) — those who were considered important added nothing to me. 7On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the Good News for the uncircumcision,[7] even as Kefa had been entrusted with the Good News for the circumcision[7] 8(for He Who appointed Kefa to be an emissary to the circumcision also appointed me to the Gentiles). 9When Ya'akov, Kefa, and Yochanan, recognized as the pillars of the Messianic Community, acknowledged the grace that had been given to me, they extended to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so we would go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcision. 10They only asked us to remember the poor, which I made every effort to do.

Externals Do Not Justify

11But when Kefa came to Antioch, I confronted him publicly because he was clearly wrong. 12For before some people came from Ya'akov’s community, he had been eating with the Messianic Gentiles. But when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he was afraid of the circumcision party.[12] 13And the rest of the Jewish believers joined him in his hypocrisy; so that even Bar-Nabba was carried away with their hypocrisy.[13] 14But when I saw that their walk didn’t square with the truth of the Good News, I said to Kefa in front of everybody, “If you, a Jew, live like the [Messianic] Gentiles and not like the Jews, how can you compel the [Messianic] Gentiles to live like Jews?

15“We are Jews by birth, not [so-called] ‘Gentile sinners.’[15] 16Even so, we realize that a person is not declared righteous by God on the grounds of legalistic observance of the commands of Torah, but rather through the Messiah’s trusting faithfulness.[16] Therefore we have believed in Messiah Yeshua, so we might be declared righteous on the grounds of Messiah’s trusting faithfulness,[16] and not on the grounds of our legalistic observance of the commands of Torah. Because no one will ever be declared righteous on the grounds of legalistic observance of the commands of Torah!

17But if, while we seek to be declared righteous by god through our union with Messiah, we ourselves are found to be sinners, then is Messiah a promoter[17] of sin? Absolutely not! 18For if I rebuild the legalistic bondage that I once destroyed, I really do prove myself to be a law-breaker. 19For it was through what the Torah actually says that I died to its legalistic interpretation, in order that I might live in a direct relationship with God. 20When Messiah was crucified, so was I; and my proud ego no longer lives, but Messiah lives in me. That life that I now live in my body, I live the same trusting faithfulness that the Son of God had, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21I don’t nullify grace of God. For if righteousness can be attained through legalism, then Messiah’s death served no purpose!”

Faith Does Justify

3 1You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? Right before your very eyes Yeshua the Messiah was clearly portrayed as having been crucified? 2I just want to know this one thing from you. Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit by legalistic observance of Torah commands or by totally trusting what you heard? 3Are you really that stupid? Having begun by the Spirit’s power, are you now being perfected by your own human effort? 4Have you suffered so much for nothing, if it really was for nothing?[4] 5Does God, Who supplies you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, does He do it because of your legalistic observance of Torah commands, or because you trust in what you heard and are faithful to it? 6It was the same with Abraham. He “believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.”[6] 7Therefore, know for sure that it is those who live by trusting and being faithful who are the children of Abraham. 8The Tanakh, foreseeing that God would consider the Gentiles righteous when they live by trusting and being faithful, told Avraham the Good News in advance by saying, “In you all the nations will be blessed.”[8] 9So then, those who rely on trusting and being faithful are blessed with Abraham, who trusted and was faithful.

Works of Torah

 10Anyone who relies on the works of Torah[10a] is under a curse, since it is written, “Cursed is everyone who doesn’t continue in all things that are written in the scroll of the Torah, to do them.”[10b] 11Now it is evident that no man who relies on obeying the Torah is justified before God, because “The righteous will live by faith.”[11] 12Moreover, reliance on the works of Torah [that is, reliance on one’s Jewish identity] is not faith, but rather [a misuse of the Scripture which says], “Anyone who does these things will attain life through them.”[12]

13Messiah redeemed us from the curse pronounced in the Torah by becoming cursed on our behalf; for the Tanakh says, “Anyone hung [on a tree] is under God's curse.”[13] 14Yeshua the Messiah accomplished this so that in union with Him the Gentiles might receive the blessing announced to Avraham, so that through trusting and being faithful, we might receive the Spirit that was promised. 15Now brothers, to give a human example: when anyone makes a man-made covenant, no one can annul it or or add to it once it has been ratified. 16Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his descendant. It does not say, “To descendants,” referring to many, but referring only to one, “To your descendant,”[16] which is Messiah. 17Here’s what I mean. The legal aspects of the Torah, which came into being 430 years later, does not nullify an oath sworn by God, as if to nullify the promise. 18For if the inheritance comes from the legal provisions of the Torah, it no longer comes from a promise. But God gave it to Abraham through a promise.

The Purpose of Torah

19So then, why do we have the legal part of the Torah? It was added because of transgressions, until the Descendant to whom the promise was made would come, and it was put in place through angels by a mediator. 20Now a mediator implies more than one, but God is one. 21Does that mean that the legal part of the Torah stands in opposition to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if the legal part of Torah that God gave had in itself the power to give life, certainly then righteousness would have actually come from legalistically following such a Torah. 22Instead, the Tanakh has imprisoned everything under sin’s power, so that the promise might be given, on the basis of Yeshua the Messiah’s trusting faith, to those who continue in trusting faithfulness. 23But before the time came for this trusting faithfulness, we were kept imprisoned subject to the system which results from perverting the Torah into legalism, kept under guard until this future trusting faithfulness would be revealed. 24So the Torah functioned as our pedagog[24] to bring us to Messiah, that we might be declared righteous on the basis of trusting and being faithful. 25But now that the time for this trusting faithfulness has come, we are no longer under the supervision of a pedagog.[25] 26For in union with Messiah Yeshua you are all children of God through this trusting faithfulness.

Sons and Heirs

27As many of you as were immersed into Messiah have clothed yourself in Messiah, 28in Whom there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor freeman, neither male nor female; for in union with Messiah Yeshua you are all one.[28] 29If you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s descendants and heirs according to the promise.

41What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a minor, he is no different from a slave, even though he is the legal owner of the entire estate; 2he is still subject to guardians and caretakers until he reaches the age of majority previously set by his father. 3We also, when we were “children,” were slaves to the elemental spirits of the cosmos. 4But when the appointed the time arrived, God sent out his Son, born to a woman, born under the Torah [that is, halakhically Jewish],[4] 5that he might redeem those who were under the Torah [that is, halakhically Jewish],[4] so that we might be adopted as God’s children. 6And because you are children, God sent out the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, “Abba!”,[6] (that is, “Dear Father!”) 7So through God you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if you are a son, then you are also an heir. 8In the past, when you didn’t know God, you were enslaved to those who by nature are not gods.

Elemental Principles

 9But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back to the weak and powerless elemental principles,[9] whose slaves you want to be again? 10You [already] observe days, months, seasons, and years.[10] 11I’m afraid for that I might have been wasting my time working among you! 12I’m begging you, brothers, put yourself in my place; after all, I put myself in your place. It isn't that you have done me any wrong, 13but you know that it was because of my illness that I preached the Good News to you in the first place.[13] 14My physical condition must have tempted you to treat me with scorn, but you didn’t display any sign of disdain or disgust. No, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, even as if I had been Messiah Yeshua Himself. 15What happened to the joy you felt then? For I testify to you that, if you could have, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me.[15] 16So have I now become your enemy because I’m telling you the truth? 17Oh, sure, these troublemakers are enthusiastic about you, but not in a good way! No, they’re trying to separate you from us, so that you’ll want to be like them.[16] 18It’s always good to be zealous, but only if the cause is good.

Whether or not I am present with you, 19my little children, I'm suffering the pains of giving birth to you all over again; and this will continue until Messiah takes shape in you. 20I could wish I could be there with you now and change my tone of voice.[20] I just don’t know what to do about you.

Two Women

21Tell me, you who want to be under the full yoke of Torah,[21] don’t you listen to what that Torah says? 22It says that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman, and one by the free woman. 23The son of the slave woman was born out of the efforts of human beings, but the son of the free woman was born through God keeping His promise. 24Let me explain this allegory: these two women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai and bears children for slavery; this is Hagar. 25Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to present-day Jerusalem. She serves as a slave along with her children. 26But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27The Tanakh says,

“Rejoice, you barren woman who does not bear children! Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor! For the deserted wife will have more children than the one whose husband is with her!”[27]

28Now you, brothers, just like Yitz'chak was, are children referred to in a promise made by God. 29But just as then, the one who was born through human effort persecuted the one who was born through the Spirit’s power. It’s the same way now. 30So what does the Tanakh say?

“Drive out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman will never inherit along with the son of the free woman.”[30]

31So then, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

Danger of the Marks of Circumcision

5 1Therefore, stand firm in the freedom in which Messiah has made us free, and don’t let yourself be ensnared again with a yoke of slavery. 2Listen very carefully now! I, Sha'ul, am telling you that if you accept circumcision, Messiah will will be of absolutely no value to you.[2] 3Yes, I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.[3] 4You who are trying to be declared righteous by God through legalistic Torah observance have separated yourselves from Messiah. You have fallen away from God’s grace.

5But we ourselves, through the power of the Spirit working within us because of our trust and faithfulness, confidently expect our hope of being declared righteous will be fulfilled. 6When we are united with Messiah Yeshua, neither being circumcised [halakhically Jewish] nor being uncircumcised [not halakhically Jewish] matters at all; the only thing that actually counts for anything is trusting faithfulness expressing itself through love. 7You were running the race so well! Who has stopped you from following the truth? 8Whoever convinced you of that was certainly not from Him who calls you. 9It only takes a little yeast to contaminate the entire lump. 10I am confident that since you are united with the Lord that you will accept no other view. But whoever it is that is bothering you will bear his punishment, whoever he is.

11As for me, brothers, if I am still preaching that circumcision [conversion to Judaism] is necessary, then why am I still being persecuted? If that were the case, then my preaching of the Cross wouldn’t offend anyone! 12I just wish that those who are bothering you about circumcision would prove how serious they are for themselves, and just cut the whole thing off! 13Because, brothers, you were called to be free. Just don’t let your freedom become an excuse to allow your old nature to control you. Instead, serve each other through love. 14For the entire Torah can be summed up in this one statement: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[14] 15But if you go on backbiting and devouring each other, be careful that you aren’t consumed by one another.

Spirit Versus Flesh

16This is what I’m trying to say: live your lives in the Spirit, and you won’t do what your old nature wants. 17For what your old nature wants is contrary to the Spirit, and what the Spirit wants is contrary to the old nature. These oppose each other, so you find yourself unable to do the good things that you want to do. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to perverted legalistic interpretation of the Torah. 19Now the things the old nature does are obvious: adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustfulness, 20idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, 21envyings, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you just as I have warned you before: anyone who who goes on doing these things will have no part in the Kingdom of God.

22But what the Spirit produces is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is nothing in the Torah against these things. 24Those who belong to Messiah Yeshua have crucified their old nature, along with its passions and desires. 25Since it is through the Spirit that we have life, then let us also order our daily lives through the Spirit. 26Let’s not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Bear One Another’s Burdens

6 1Brothers, if someone is caught doing something wrong,[1] you who have the Spirit must set him back on the right path, but in a spirit of gentleness. But watch out for yourselves so that you won’t be tempted as well. 2Bear one another’s burdens; this is how you will fulfill the true meaning of Torah that Messiah upholds. 3For if anyone is something when he actually is nothing, he’s deceiving himself. 4But let each of you evaluate your own actions. Then if you find something to be proud about it will be because of what you have actually done, and not just because you compared yourself to your neighbor. 5For each one will bear his own load.

6Whoever is being instructed in the word should share all good things with his instructor. 7Don’t be deceived. No one gets away with mocking God; everyone reaps what he sows. 8Anyone who continues to sow to his old nature will reap corruption from that old nature; but whoever sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9Let’s not become weary of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. 10So then, as we have opportunity, let’s do what is good to everyone, and especially to those who are part of the family of the faith.

Concluding Exhortation

 11Look at the large letters I use as I close in my own handwriting. 12The people who are trying to compel you to be circumcised only want to look good outwardly. The only reason they’re doing this is so they can escape persecution for preaching about the Messiah’s cross.[12] 13For even though they been circumcised they don’t keep the Torah themselves; yet they want to force you to be circumcised so they can boast about forcing you into compliance. 14But far be it from me to boast, except about the cross of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah! Through Him, as far as I am concerned, the world has been crucified. And through Him, as far as the world is concerned, I have been crucified. 15For in Messiah Yeshua circumcision [i.e., “Jewishness”] is nothing; neither is uncircumcision [i.e., “non-Jewishness”]. All that matters is being a new creation. 16To everyone who orders their lives by this rule, shalom and mercy be on them, and upon God’s Israel. 17From now on, let no one cause me any trouble, for I have the the scars on my body which prove that I belong to Yeshua.

18The grace of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

____________

Notes on Introductory Comments

1. From a Daniel Thomas Lancaster sermon series on the book of Galatians: message #25, “One Simple Verse,” Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship Audio Library, accessed 28 February 2016. [RETURN]

Notes on Chapter 1

1-2. The word for “brothers” here and wherever context allows may also be correctly translated “brothers and sisters” or “siblings.” [RETURN]

1-6. Greek tarasso, tarasso; to agitate, trouble (a thing, by the movement of its parts to and fro); to cause one inward commotion, take away his calmness of mind, disturb his equanimity; to disquiet, make restless; to stir up, to trouble; to strike one's spirit with fear and dread; to render anxious or distressed; to perplex the mind of one by suggesting scruples or doubts. [RETURN]

1-9. Greek anaqema, anathema, under the divine curse; a thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed, and if an animal, to be slain; therefore a person or thing doomed to destruction with absolutely no hope of redemption. [RETURN]

1-11. Prior to the ruling of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, not more than a few weeks before this letter was written, any Gentile coming to faith in Messiah Yeshua was required to formally convert to Judaism before being admitted into the Messianic Community. But Rev Sha'ul reasoned that 13 years before he was circumcised, Abraham was considered righteous by God simply because he believed God. If that’s good enough for Abraham, according to Sha'ul, that’s good enough for Gentiles who believe God. So what Sha'ul taught — what he had always taught — was that if a Gentile comes to true faith in Israel’s Messiah, that faith alone makes him or her a son or daughter of Abraham, and therefore a citizen of the Commonwealth of Israel, without formally converting to Judaism. This is what Sha'ul referred to as “My Gospel” or “My Good News.” Now with the confirmation of the “Chief Elders” of the Jerusalem Council literally in hand, Sha'ul writes to the Messianic Community at Galatia defending his Gospel. [RETURN]

1-13. Rav Sha'ul was arguably the finest theological mind in first-century Israel. Today he would be called a prodigy or a rising star. At a very young age he was accepted into Gamli'el’s “boarding school” for the exceptionally gifted. His parents shipped him off from Tarsus in Asia Minor all the way to Jerusalem where he would actually live with and be raised by the most highly-respected Rabbi in all of Judaism, Gamli'el the Elder, Prince of the Sanhedrin. Young Sha'ul was very probably his star pupil. Had he not met Yeshua, it is extremely likely that he would have one day become successor to Gamli'el as Israel's Chief Rabbi and president (prince) of the Sanhedrin.

Sha'ul says of himself: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city and trained at the feet of Gamli'el in every detail of the Torah of our forefathers. I was a zealot for God, as all of you are today.” (Acts 22:3) “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Torah, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the Messianic Community; as to righteousness under the Torah, blameless. (Phil. 3:3-6) [RETURN]

1-13. Traditions of my fathers. This phrase refers to the oral tradition, which in Rabbinic Judaism is called the “Oral Torah.” The Sages claimed that in addition to the Torah that God dictated to Moshe at Sinai, He also gave Moshe an “Oral Torah” that he did not write down, but passed orally down through the generations. I personally reject that claim because Exodus 24:4 plainly states, “Moshe wrote down all the words of ADONAI.” The oral tradition comes down to us today in the form of the Talmud, which has two components: “the Mishnah (Hebrew: משנה, c. 200 CE), a written compendium of Rabbinic Judaism's Oral Torah (Talmud translates literally as "instruction" in Hebrew); and the Gemara (c. 500 CE), an elucidation of the Mishnah and related Tannaitic writings that often ventures onto other subjects and expounds broadly on the Hebrew Bible. The term "Talmud" may refer to either the Gemara alone, or the Mishnah and Gemara together.” (Wikipedia) [RETURN]

Notes on Chapter 2 

2-1. No matter what direction one is traveling, when going to Jerusalem on always goes “up to Jerusalem.” [RETURN]

2-6. That is, the Elders in Jerusalem. I do not believe that Sha'ul was being in any way disrespectful. The men in Jerusalem to whom he would probably have deferred had they insisted were commissioned in person by Yeshua Himself. But so had Sha'ul; so he was literally of equal authority to them. [RETURN]

2-7. Throughout all his writings, Sha'ul uses “circumcision” as a metaphor for those who are halakhically Jewish and “uncircumcision” as a metaphor for those who are not halakhically Jewish. Halakhah is literally the “walk” or way one goes, and refers to Jewish legal and regulatory portions of both Torah and the oral tradition. In order to be considered halakhically Jewish in the first century, one had to be either born of Jewish parents or have undergone a formal conversion to Judaism. “Circumcision” is therefore Sha'ul’s shorthand for “everyone who was born ethnically Jewish or is a proselyte to Judaism,” and “uncircumcision” is everyone else in the world. [RETURN]

2-12. The circumcision party were those who felt very strongly that Gentiles who came to faith in Messiah must first formally convert to Judaism (“become circumcised”) before they could be saved and become members of the Messianic Community. They were, in fact, primarily Gentiles themselves who had undergone formal conversion before the ruling of the Jerusalem Council, and they felt that if they had to convert, so should every other Gentile. It wasn't really a matter of belief, but of jealousy. [RETURN]

2-13. Just in case it is not clear what was going on here, according to Rabbinic Jewish halakhah, Jews simply did not associate with non-Jews, period. Kefa [Peter] was the first to bear witness to the first Gentile to come to faith in Yeshua as Messiah, Cornelius. Kefa was a member of the Jerusalem Council that had established the new conditions for “table fellowship” between Jewish and non-Jewish Messianic Believers. Kefa was among the Elders who commissioned Sha'ul as Emissary to the Gentiles. He positively knew better. He had regular fellowship with the Messianic Gentiles until the “troublemakers” came down from Jerusalem. Afraid of what they would think of him, Kefa turned his back on the Messianic Gentiles and pretended to agree with the “troublemakers.” And the rest of the Messianic Jews in the Antioch community, even Bar-Nabba, got swept up into this hypocrisy. [RETURN]

2-15. To the Jewish mind, anyone who didn’t keep Torah exactly as they did was “a sinner.” So, of course everyone had a different idea of exactly what being “a sinner” constituted. One thing they could all agree on was that Gentile pagans were definitely “sinners.” The fact that they had come to faith in the Jewish Messiah didn’t make any difference at all. Until they went through the formal process of becoming Jewish, they were still “sinners.” [RETURN]

2-16. Virtually every English translation renders this phrase as “through faith in Jesus Christ” (or “Christ Jesus”). However, the accepted Greek text says pistiwß Cristou, “faith of [possessive] Christ”; that is Christ’s faith, the faith that Christ possesses. [RETURN]

2-17. Or servant, minister. [RETURN]

Notes on Chapter 3 

3-4. The Comnplete Jewish Bible translates this sentence: “Have you suffered so much for nothing? If that's the way you think, your suffering certainly will have been for nothing!” Probably very close to the original intent. [RETURN]

3-6. Genesis 15:6. [RETURN]

3-8. Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18 [RETURN]

3-10a. Specifically the “Marks of Circumcision” — those matters of Torah which define Jewish identity, the external signs by which Jewishness is identified: circumcision, the Sabbath, the calendar, the Holy Days, the dietary laws. Sha'ul’s point is that anyone who relies on their Jewishness, the outward signs of Jewish identity, to secure their salvation is clealy not putting their faith for their eternal destiny in the completed work of Messiah. Therefore, for them the sacrifice of Messiah can have no efficacy, and they must keep the entire letter of the Torah, as He did, in order to be counted as righteous by God. And since that is impossible for them to do, they will surely be eternally lost. [RETURN]

3-10b. Deuteronomy 27:26 [RETURN]

3-11. Habakkuk 2:4 [RETURN]

3-12. Leviticus 18:5 [RETURN]

3-13. Deuteronomy 21:23 [RETURN]

3-16. Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 24:7 [RETURN]

3-24. Greek paidagogoß, paidagogos, pedagog. Translated as “tutor” in most English translations, the pedagog was not himself the tutor, but rather was a household servant who supervised the life of the child, making sure that he got to the tutor when and where scheduled. Among the Greeks and the Romans the name was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class. The boys were not allowed so much as to step out of the house without them before arriving at the age of manhood. [RETURN]

3-25. We have now arrived at the “age of manhood” and are therefore no longer under the supervision of the pedagog. [RETURN]

3-28. Sha'ul is obviously speaking metaphorically, because in fact there are in the Kingdom still both Jew and Gentile, still both slave and freeman, still both male and female. There is no distinction as far as relationship with God through Messiah, yet there are still different classifications of individuals, with different roles and responsibilities. In his first letter to the Messianic Community at Corinth (1Cor. 12:12-31), Sha'ul explains these different roles and responsibilities by comparing members of the Messianic Community to the various parts of the body. All are essential to the life and health of the body, yet each performs a different vital function. [RETURN]

Notes on Chapter 4 

4-4. That is, born Jewish, and therefore subject to the “Marks of Circumcision” — those matters of Torah which define Jewish identity; the external signs by which Jewishness is identified; circumcision, the Sabbath, the calendar, the Holy Days, the dietary laws.

4-6. Abba is a Greek spelling for the Aramaic word for “Father” or “Daddy” used in a familiar, respectful, and loving way. [RETURN]

4-9. Elemental principles (Greek stoiceion, stoicheion) are the smallest elements of which a thing is constructed. In mathematics this would refer to basic addition and subtraction, or to the multiplication tables. In grammar or language it would be the alphabet. In nature, by pre-science reckoning, it would be the elements of earth, wind, fire, and water. On a sundial it would be each mark that shows the shadow's progress. In a beautiful tapestry it would be a single thread. But here Sha'ul is talking about those elemental principles which define Judaism, which he calls the Marks of Circumcision: those matters of Torah which define Jewish identity; circumcision, the Sabbath, the calendar, the Holy Days, the dietary laws.

The argument that he is leading up to is this: you are now already citizens of the Commonwealth of Israel and heirs to the Kingdom of God. Why would you want to go back and try to recreate those things that you already have which define who you already are? If you are already married, and you have a marriage license to prove it, why go back to the courthouse and register for a new marriage license? [RETURN]

4-10. You are already living the Hebrew calendar; you already celebrate all of the Appointed Times, the sabbaths, the new moons, the Holy Days, the Shmita (sabbatical year). [RETURN]

4-13. Apparently on Sha'ul’s first visit to Galatia, he was planning on just passing through, but he became ill and stayed for a while. While he was there recuperating from his illness, he presented the Gospel to them. [RETURN]

4-15. Some have speculated that Sha'ul’s physical condition must have made his eyes deformed and unattractive. I think instead that this is only an idiom, similar to “You would have given me the shirt off your back.” [RETURN]

4-16. They’re trying to recruit you away from our group so you’ll join their group. [RETURN]

4-20. Sha'ul was frustrated that it’s so difficult to convey vocal expression in a letter. His words may read like he’s angry with them, but his heart is breaking over their condition, and words on paper cannot properly express what he is really feeling. [RETURN]

4-21. The original text says upo nomoß, hupo nomos, under law. I added “yoke” to refer back to the comment that Kefa made at the Jerusalem Council when they were addressing this very issue: “So why are you putting God to the test now by placing a yoke on the neck of the talmidim which neither our fathers nor we have had the strength to bear?” (Acts 15:10) This is, after all, the very issue that Sha'ul is trying to deal with. [RETURN]

4-27. Isaiah 54:1 [RETURN]

4-30. Genesis 21:10 [RETURN]

Notes on Chapter 5 

5-2. The issue is not circumcision or uncircumcision. The troublemakers here, probably the same ones who were stirring things up in Antioch and required the Jerusalem Council to convene and sort things out, were telling the Messianic Gentiles that they could not be saved unless they first underwent a formal conversion to Judaism. For them, salvation was not by faith in Messiah, but faith in their association with a community. The problem is very much the same today, where many Christians believe that their salvation is dependent upon them being members of a particular church or denomination. In fact, there are some denominations in which that is their official doctrine; only the members of “our” church are saved.

What Sha'ul is trying so desperately to convey to them is that their relationship to God is wholy dependent on their relationship with Messiah. If they believe they have to convert to Judaism (become “circumcised”) in order to be ”saved,” then their faith is not in Messiah at all; their faith is in Judaism and in the Torah. That kind of faith can never save them. [RETURN]

5-3. Anyone who feels they have to be circumcised (become Jewish) to be saved is putting their faith in the Torah and not in Messiah. Since they have rejected the grace of Messiah, then in order to be counted righteous by God they must successfully obey every single commandment of Torah that applies to them, just as Yeshua — and only Yeshua — did. [RETURN]

5-14. Leviticus 19:18 [RETURN]

Notes on Chapter 6

6-1. Something that is morally wrong; not something that just happens to annoy you personally! When you correct, make sure to do so in the same manner that you would want to be corrected. [RETURN]

6-12. In the Roman Empire, of which first-century Israel was part, every citizen was required to practice the Roman state religion, which included worshiping the emperor as a god in addition to the entire pantheon of Roman gods. Anyone who failed to do so could be charged with the crime of atheism. A notable exception to this rule was Judaism, which was one of very few “legal” religions whose adherents were excused from worshiping the Roman pantheon. Gentiles who came to faith in Messiah Yeshua would not be exempt unless they formally converted to Judaism. Sha'ul says that these Messianic Gentile “troublemakers” converted to Judaism in order to escape the penalties for not practicing the Roman religion. [RETURN]

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