Galatians 3 — Faith or Human Effort?

September 1, 2014

Tiepolo-Abraham-and-IsaacIts important to recognize via the transitive property the equivalence that Paul assigns to the words “Law” and “flesh” in the first few verses of Chapter 3.  Paul says “did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” in v2 and then v3, “having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”  Paul understands that pursuing a relationship with God via the Law is tantamount to attempting to please God through fleshly efforts.  We know from Chapter 2 the law being discussed is the Mosaic Law, identified clearly by its association with circumcision.  Paul said in Ch. 2 that he is not rebuilding the old religion of rules and regulations, that if he did he would be nullifying the grace of God and Christ would have died needlessly.

Paul contrasts fleshly effort with faith, the act of believing God.  If God says that we are righteous in Christ, then the way we please Him is to simply receive that righteousness and walk in the Spirit (5:16).  Paul commends Abraham who believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (v6).  We are are blessed with Abraham “the believer” if we walk by faith.  Whereas Jim Staley wants us to demonstrate our faith by obedience to the Torah, Paul makes it clear that “the Law is not of faith” (v12).

Jim gives an “umbrella” illustration–he says the Law is like an umbrella that offers protection and keeps us dry–when we test the limits of the Law we begin to get wet.  The Law according to Jim defines a blessed life and keeps us from being cursed; obedience was never meant as the method to achieve salvation.  Paul however gives a different illustration of the Law–he describes it as a “tutor” (teacher) leading us to Christ to be justified by faith; and now that we have been so justified we are no longer under a tutor(vss 24-25).  So to Paul, those under the Law are seeking justification by obedience and those in Christ are justified by faith; Paul is clear: “the Law is not of faith”.

Mr. Staley says “we have turned (the Law) into the curse” but Paul quotes Duet 27:26:Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.”  The law is undoubtedly good (1 Tim 1:8, Rom 7:12) but that does not mean we should continue to live under it, umbrella or not.  Staley talks about there being a new Sheriff/authority in our lives, that we are no longer under the tutelage of the Law–he is correct–we are “under” the Spirit (Gal 3:2, Rom 8:1).  This completely changes our mindset from one of fear of violating rules and boundaries to confidence of acceptance in Christ (Eph 1:6)–we now walk in the command of Christ: “love one another” (John 13:34-35).

In reading through Galatians verse by verse Staley skips 3:13-18 for some reason, perhaps it was just an oversight.  This section is very important to Paul’s argument that we are no longer under the Law, however.  In it he discusses the difference between the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, and how the former is not invalidated by the later.  Earlier in verse 8 Paul quotes Gen 12:3 where it is written that all nations will be blessed in Abraham, “the believer” (v9).  Paul says our inheritance is not based on the Law which came 430 years after Abraham’s first act of faith, but on the promise given to Abraham.

When Jim resumes in v19 he criticizes “Greek” thinking which places the Law earlier and Jesus later, “linear points on the timeline”–but yet this is exactly what Paul is saying, over and over!  “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (v25)–Paul is saying “it was this, now it is this”–I died to the Law” (2:19).  Staley says this doesn’t mean we still don’t have to keep the Law, just that there has been a “transfer of authority”, that the previous authority “has to step down”.  I would like to know what the difference is between that and the fact we are no longer subject to the Law?  Paul has made very clear that we walk by faith in the Spirit and not by the Law through the efforts of the flesh (v3).

Staley proceeds directly into Chapter 4, which is appropriate since the chapter break here does not follow the line of argument Paul is making about slaves vs. heirs.  We will pick up with the end of Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 next time.

This article is in reaction to this Jim Staley video.

 

 

 


Galatians 2 — If We’re Dead to the Law, How Can We Continue to Keep It?

July 13, 2014

circumcisionPicking up in Chapter 2 verse 3, following along with Jim Staley, we read about Titus, an “uncircumcised” Greek, whose appearance in the narrative baffles Jim—he says its like we ‘walked in on the middle of a conversation and there is missing information.’  But the following verses explain why circumcision is being discussed, and the next verse “it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage is incorrectly interpreted by Staley as meaning “bondage to legalism”, not “bondage to the Law”.  But bondage to the Law is bondage to legalism, as will be seen below in regards to circumcision.

Admittedly, Jim is clear that salvation does not come from the works of the Law but through faith in Yeshua’s sacrifice.  We are in complete agreement on that.  It’s how we walk out our faith that is in dispute—Staley says we keep the Law to “prove” we are followers of Christ, ala James’ “I will show you my faith by my works”.  So then I will ask why in v4 does Paul plainly state that “not even Titus… was compelled to be circumcised”?  If we are to follow the Law, then males must be circumcised per Leviticus 12:3 and elsewhere.  In fact, if Christians ought to follow the Law, then no other day than the eighth day after birth is acceptable for circumcision, per the commandment! Certainly if a non-Jew (Israelite) wants to “celebrate Passover” (i.e., join Israel) he must be circumcised per Exodus 12:48.

Staley attributes the meaning of Paul discussing Titus’ lack of obedience to the Law over a battle in the New Testament about “what it means to be saved”—Jim says 2/3 of the NT is about this battle.  I would also agree with Staley that “what it means to be saved” is a big topic in the NT, but I must ask:  If we “prove” we love God by obedience to the Law (Jim’s words, 31:45 on video), why didn’t Titus feel compelled to be circumcised?

Titus was in a quandary if indeed we ought to keep the Law as Christians—he couldn’t get circumcised because that would play right into the party of the circumcision’s hands, but yet now he is not in obedience to what YHWH desires, if indeed we should keep the Law to prove we are followers, because the Law requires circumcision!  Staley seems to struggle with this issue (about 26 minutes into the video). I suppose Staley must believe at a later time, after the “party of the circumcision” left, Titus had himself snipped.  This serves to illustrate the sorts of issues we run into if we believe every OT command is still to be followed.

“The circumcised” are referenced three times in verses 7-9 (see more discussion in the Chapter 1 study)—“the circumcised” are Israel/the Jews. In verse 12 the “party of the circumcision” were “men from James”, the brother of Christ and leader of the Jerusalem church (Gal 1:19, Acts 15:13-29).  These were Jewish converts who believed Christians must keep the Law to be saved and taught that “unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1).  These people might have also been teaching obedience to non-Mosaic Law traditions (Staley believes this is the sole issue), but here they are only requiring what the Law prescribes.

When the “certain men from James” would not eat with the Gentiles in verse 12 Staley does not see a violation of OT food laws (i.e., eating pork) as it is not explicitly stated—he sees only a transgression of oral traditions such as hand washing or in this case, not being allowed to eat with non-Jews.  I would counter that this is also not explicitly stated. However, consider this:  Paul jumps on Peter’s (Cephas) case in v14 for compelling the Gentiles to live like Jews, so how can simply violating tradition be the question here? Jim fails to recognize that the Gentiles will never be able to meet the tradition of not eating with Gentiles, since they are Gentiles!  On the other hand, if what is meant is that they need to follow Moses’ food rules, then they are able do that.  So I think that again Paul is getting back to the basic thesis that will be seen throughout Galatians and elsewhere: we have died to the Law and are wed to another—we are not required to keep the written, Mosaic Law as an evidence of belief in Christ and salvation (see also Eph 2:15; compare with Col 2:14).

Staley admits that “it seems” like Paul is saying to Peter in verse 14 “if you live like a Gentile not keeping the Torah, why do you compel the Gentiles to keep the Torah?” I would answer, it seems like he’s saying that because he is saying that.  I think its funny, tragically funny, that even Staley sees that there are two sides—he has to have “bad guys” and “good guys” because the text demands it—but he bifurcates those keeping the Torah from those keeping the Torah and oral traditions, rather than as Paul does very clearly later in Galatians, differentiating those living under the Law with those walking by the Spirit (5:3&16).

Verses 17-21 are foundational to the Christian life; here is the correct interpretation, and the one Staley says as a “former Christian apologist” he used to put forth:

v17: We seek to be justified in Christ by faith and are no longer abiding by every requirement of the Law (for instance circumcision, see discussion above)—so now, per the Law, because I am no longer keeping its every requirement, I’m a sinner! Does that make Christ a “minister” of sin? Paul says “No!”

v18: If I went back to the Law and tried to keep it because I found I’m sinning, I would be rebuilding the old system that led me to Christ in the first place.

v19: The Law led me to Christ; in Him I’ve died to the Law so that I can live to God.  In other words, I can’t live to God if I’m alive to the Law.

v20: When Christ was crucified, I was too. I’m now “dead”, including to the Law (Rom 7). But Christ now lives in me and I live by faith in Him.

v21: If I believe I should be living by (keeping) the Law now that I’m dead to it, Christ died for no reason; I should have just kept living by the Law.

Staley says several times in his presentation that we need to be clear that when Paul talks about not keeping the Law he means only in regards to salvation; beyond that we are to live according to it.  I don’t see that in Paul’s writings; I see someone saying we were 1) led to Christ by the Law, 2) in Him we died to the Law, 3) now we live by faith, not by keeping the written commands of the old covenant.


Galatians 1–Examining Jim Staley’s ‘Understanding’

June 28, 2014

galatianswordsBefore we get started looking at verses along with Mr. Staley, let’s examine more of his introductory statements.  Staley asks (paraphrased) ‘does it make sense that “supposedly pagan Gentiles”, 100,000 pagans in Ephesus alone, would stop what they are doing, repent, and follow a Jewish rabbi (Jesus) who died for your sins on the word of another Jewish rabbi (Paul)?’

Jim says “it makes a lot more sense that these quote “Israelite Gentiles” knew exactly who their lineage was and they knew exactly what he was talking about and it became really good news” because “they had the way to come back to the (Mosaic/old-ed) covenant”.

In essence, for Jim, the gospel is the good news of how Israel, the lost 10 tribes that Jesus was sent to redeem and retrieve, is able to get back into the Mosaic Covenant.

While this may make “a lot more sense” to Jim Staley, this is not the teaching of the Bible–that those who Paul is preaching to are exclusively “lost” Israelites–and it is particularly not stated in Galatians. In fact Galatians makes quite clear that Gentiles and “the circumcised” (Jews or Israel, see explanation below) are NOT the same:

Gal 2:7, “I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised

Gal 2:8, “Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles

Gal 2:9, “…so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.”

Gal 2:12, “he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.”

Who are “the circumcised”?  Paul says of himself in Phil 3:5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews”.  In Rom 15:8 he writes For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs.”  Can it be argued that “the circumcised” are not synonymous with “Israel”?

Moreover, Paul used the terms “Israel”, “Israelite” and “Jew” interchangeably, while Staley separates them into “two houses”, Judah and Israel (also sometimes called “Ephraim” for one of the sons of Joseph).  Paul is of the tribe of Benjamin (Rom 11:1, Phil 3:5), one of the two tribes making up the southern kingdom of Judah, the “Jews”, but also identifies himself as an “Israelite” (Rom 9:3,4; 11:1).  In Chapters 9, 10 and 11 of Romans he refers to “Israel” separate from the Gentiles (Rom 11:25) while Staley explains that “Israel” are now actually Gentiles, because this is vital to his entire doctrinal construct.  He bends scripture to support his doctrine rather than his doctrine to align with scripture.galatia

In Galatians 2:15 Paul unequivocally identifies himself as a Jew: We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles”.  So Paul in his writings has called himself both a Jew and a member of Israel; apparently he “lives” in both houses.   Although Paul makes quite clear the Gentiles/uncircumcised are other than the Jews/Israel, Staley says we can’t even understand Galatians unless we understand to whom it was written:  Out of covenant Israelites desperate to know how they might get into covenant with YHWH.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves, let’s go back to Galatians 1 with Staley: Before beginning he explains that he will be reading from the NIV and sometimes the KJV.  More on the choice of translations later, but in the very first verse Staley, while reading the from the NIV replaces “Jesus” (Greek: Iesous) with “Yeshua” and Christ (Greek: Christos) with “Messiah” (an Anglicized version the Hebrew Mashiach).

There are two issues with these substitutions; the first is that he had just finished stating he would be reading from the NIV but then immediately substitutes words used by the NIV.  He does this repeatedly throughout his study.  Moreover, worse than substituting words as he is reading (how is the viewer to know this is happening unless they have open an NIV bible and are following along?) Jim adds words that are not there to cause the text to align with his views.  I will point out some occasions of this as we proceed.

The second issue is the choice of substitutions he makes: “Yeshua” for Iesous and “Messiah” for Christos.  Paul could have easily used the Hebrew versions himself since he no doubt knew Hebrew, having studied under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) and can be seen speaking it when defending himself in court (Acts 21:40-22:1), but he did not. Why?

Why, especially if the people he was sent to were the scattered Israelites who wanted back into the Mosaic covenant? He did not because the New Testament (other meaning: covenant) was new—the gospel, the good news, is now going out to the entire world.  It is spread beyond Israel and the Jews into the entire world—read John 3:16 again!

The New Testament changed languages for a purpose:  Jesus is not referred to in the NT as “Yeshua” (I am not debating what His fellow Jews called Him) but Iesous and He is not referred to as “Mashiach” but Christos, “anointed one”, nor is “God” referred to as “YHWH” but Theos, consistently, by multiple Jewish authors.  There is a huge transition, from old covenant to new, from law to grace, from flesh to spirit, and a change in language is part of this.  So Staley’s use of “Yeshua” and “Messiah”, though accurate and acceptable on one level communicates his utter lack of understanding of the big picture.paul

In reading Galatians 1 Staley zooms right by verses 6-10, which states the whole purpose of the book: to refute those trying to distort the truth of the gospel, the good news, trying to “spy out our liberty we have in Christ Jesus” (2:4)

In v14 Mr. Staley makes a distinction between “ancestral traditions” and “the law”, as does Jesus in Mt 15:2 and Mk 7:3, but is that what is meant here?  From other Pauline writings we find that the word “traditions” (Greek: paradosis) does not always carry a negative connotation (1 Cor 11:2, 2 Thes 2:15 for example). In the context of this book, those zealous for “ancestral traditions” includes the “party of the circumcision” (2:12)—Staley agrees, but who is this group? We will discuss that in depth next time.

Look at verse 15:  Paul contrasts his calling in “grace” with the “zeal for ancestral traditions” in v14—what is the opposite of grace elsewhere? The Law. What does that do to the meaning of “ancestral traditions”? Again, missed or ignored by Staley.

We will pick up with Galatians 2 in the next article.


Galatians and Jim Staley — Introduction and Discussion of “Two Houses”

June 26, 2014

staleyThis study of Galatians will be both my own, abbreviated commentary of the book and a critique of and rebuttal to Jim Staley’s video commentaries found here and here. After debating a poster on an online discussion board (see here) about whether the new covenant requires Christians to follow the Mosaic and Old Testament Laws or not (he and Jim Staley say “yes”, I say “no”), he suggested that I and other forum readers watch the teachings linked to above, which I have done.  So my principle purpose in this series will be to rebut the false teachings of those such as Jim Staley who prescribe following the old covenant as new covenant believers, not to elaborate on every nuance and uncover every nugget of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians.

In the first video, prior to interpreting the Book of Galatians, Mr. Staley begins with a 15-20 minute summary of his “two houses” belief system wherein Christ was sent only for the “lost House of Israel”, i.e., the 10 northern Hebrew tribes taken into exile in 722 BC who never returned and whom God “divorced”.  Although in the Law God prohibits remarriage, because Christ “the Bridegroom” died, the prohibition of remarriage also died, allowing God to remarry Israel.  Staley postulates that we who have believed in Christ belong to these lost tribes of Israel—we are one of the two sticks that are to be reunited in the land, per Ezek 37.  This belief is absolutely central to his construct around which is built our need to keep the Torah (more than just the 10 Commandments, we are to keep all the Laws except the sacrificial ones or that have to do with living in the land) since we are being called back into covenant with YHWH. Thus, in nearly every teaching he encourages watching his “Identity Crisis” video in which he proceeds to tell Christians that they can’t understand 2/3 of the Bible unless they see things his way, namely that God has two houses, Judah and Israel, and that you can’t be saved unless you are part of one or the other. Fortunately, per some proponents of this belief, you can be part of Israel without knowing it. Whew.twosticks

Mr. Staley opens his talk with 1 Peter 1:1-2 which uses the Greek word eklektos or “elect” to describe those called to salvation by God including those in Galatia, to whom of course the epistle to the Galatians is written.  So then, when Paul went to Galatia and the rest of the Mediterranean he was only looking for the “lost ship of Israel”, and in fact, Jesus was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel (see Mt 15:24). But Staley, perhaps for a lack of time, perhaps not, ignores the context of Christ’s statement, namely a Gentile woman asking for help, which Jesus eventually gives.  The whole notion of redemption for the “lost sheep of Israel” only is preposterous when we look at the entirety of the new testament and specifically Paul, who declares that the gospel brings “salvation to everyone who believes—to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16). Jesus statement is one of priority, not exclusion.  Paul describes himself as an “apostle of Gentiles”, which in the OT is the opposite of Israel.

Staley mistakenly says we, as Gentiles, are “split from one olive tree, one cultivated and one wild, and he’s grafting them both together…”  No, this is not what scripture says.  In Rom 11:24 Paul says “For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree…” Our (Gentile, v13, 25) tree was always “wild”—Israel (not Judah, see context and particularly v7 and v25) is of the “cultivated” olive tree.  We were never part of their tree; per v24 we are “grafted into a cultivated olive tree”, Israel. There is no “two houses”, there is one “house”, Israel, and the believing Gentiles have been grafted into it.

This falsestaley2 “two house” view could be explored in much more detail, and has been elsewhere.  I would recommend http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Articles/Two_House/two_house.html which says “Two House doctrine is sort of “Replacement Theology” in reverse.”  Exactly true. See also http://www.hebrewroot.com/Articles/two_house_answers.htm and http://www.torahofmessiah.com/2house1.html . Although I haven’t read every word of these and can’t endorse them without reservation, these will offer a good start at unmasking the non-biblicality of “Two House Theology”.

The next article will look at Galatians 1, compared with Staley’s view.


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