Galatians

Ransom

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By popular demand, I'm starting a thread to work through Galatians bit by bit.

Full disclosure: I started doing this a few years ago. But I only got a few verses in before personal life occupied too much of my time. I've revisited that thread, and if you can be bothered to look it up, you may notice that many of the initial posts in this thread are rewritten versions of the old one.

One thing I found interesting was that I started that thread in the very same way: a call for suggestions. The consensus back then was to study Galatians, as well. Is this a favourite book, or one that people feel they need to understand better?

Anyway, enjoy. Feel free to jump in with comments, and I'll be glad to discuss them. Other than that, I intend to post a verse or so on a daily basis, more or less. Hopefully I can strike a balance between what I post, and the amount I need to write day to day.
 

Ransom

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And so we begin the running commentary on Paul's letter to the Galatians.

Paul, an apostle--not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead--and all the brothers who are with me.... (1:1-2a)​

Paul: The author of this letter is Paul. Galatians is the Pauline letter usually deemed the most authentic. In fact, it has been used to establish the authenticity of other of Paul's letters by comparison, when their authorship was uncertain.

an apostle: Nearly every one of Paul's letters starts with a declaration that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ. In some letters, such as Romans, where he calls himself a "servant" first, it's not front and center. In Philemon, he is a "prisoner." To the Thessalonian church, he is just "Paul." In the churches of Galatia, questions about his apostolic authority are apparently part of the very problem he is addressing. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that before anything else, he announces himself to be an apostle.

not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father: He wasn't sent on his missionary journeys by men alone. He didn't receive his commission as an apostle or a missionary from men. He received his marching orders by a direct revelation from the risen and ascended Christ. He had had a direct experience of Christ himself, on the Damascus road.

who raised him from the dead: As we shall see, the very meaning of the Gospel is what was at stake in the Galatian controversy. It looks like Paul can't wait to get right to the point. Christ being raised from the dead is the core tenet of the Gospel. It was of "first importance" that "he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Indeed, that whole extended passage from 1 Corinthians underscores how pointless the Christian faith is, if Christ is not raised from the dead.

and all the brothers who are with me: While sometimes Paul names the brothers with him (for example, Timothy and Silas in 1 and 2 Thessalonians), here, he stands alone. It seems to me that since he is the one being challenged, he chooses to fight his own battle. Nonetheless, "all the brothers" are there with him. He is not speaking alone. The brethren are effectively co-signing the letter. This may mean his fellow travelers (such as Barnabas and Mark), or the brethren in the church from which he wrote the letter (in Antioch, perhaps).
 

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One thing I found interesting was that I started that thread in the very same way: a call for suggestions. The consensus back then was to study Galatians, as well. Is this a favourite book, or one that people feel they need to understand better?
I think a lot of us FFF'ers have IFBX or similar backgrounds, plus our tendency as humans, in general, is towards rules and laws (amplified in the IFBX), and Galatians addresses that very well, which makes it of keen interest.
 

Ransom

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I think a lot of us FFF'ers have IFBX or similar backgrounds, plus our tendency as humans, in general, is towards rules and laws (amplified in the IFBX), and Galatians addresses that very well, which makes it of keen interest.
You do make a good point. When I first started studying Galatians back in 2000 (never actually finished, so I hope I'm able to see this thread through to the end), I focused somewhat on the more "traditional" Judaizers--the ones that explicitly add works to faith, like Roman Catholicism or Seventh-day Adventism (there was a small Sabbatarian church of some kind a few doors down from my own at the time). Twenty years later, I'd change that list somewhat, to mention some of the more recent theological fads, like Hebrew Roots and some others.

My exposure to IFB-dom has been secondhand--basically, the FFF, as I was never part of an IFB church--but if I can touch on some of those issues as I go, I'll try. No rule says you can't raise them yourself, of course!

I'm using the less-interesting bits at the beginning of the book to touch on issues like authorship, dating, and so forth that are usually reserved in a more traditional introduction. It'll be a few posts before we really get into the "meat" of the letter, so bear with me.
 

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I think voicecrying’s point about the past experience with legalism is excellent for our context here. Paul wrote this letter to defend justification by faith, and warn against going back into ‘legalism’. Galatians is the only epistle Paul wrote that does not contain some type commendation for its readers...showing IMO, how important that was to him at this point in church history.
 

Ransom

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Galatians is the only epistle Paul wrote that does not contain some type commendation for its readers...showing IMO, how important that was to him at this point in church history.
Good point. One I've made indirectly, but I've just added it a bit more directly to one of the future posts.
 

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To the churches in Galatia . . . (1:2b)​

Galatia is in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). It is named after the Celtic tribes who had migrated from western Europe to north-central Asia Minor in the third century BC. Celtae was what they called themselves; to the Romans, they were the Galli.

It was long believed that Paul visited the geographical area in which the Galatians had settled on his third missionary journey, during which he "traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples" (Acts 18:23). Subsequently, he wrote his letter to the Galatian churches c. AD 56. This is the so-called "North Galatian" theory of the dating of Galatians, and it was assumed until the 17th century. Note, for example, the traditional subscript attached to Galatians in the KJV: "Unto the Galatians written from Rome." (Paul was not in Rome until well after his three missionary journeys, following his arrest and trial in Jerusalem, when he appealed his case to Caesar.)

However, archaeologists later began to uncover new knowledge about the world of the Bible. Scholars began to be persuaded that Paul was not addressing the ethnic district known in the first century as Galatia, but the political district: the Roman province of Galatia, established by Augustus in 25 BC. Paul visited the southern part of Roman Galatia on his first missionary journey. This would mean Galatians was addressed to the churches in cities such as Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, and was likely written in about AD 48-49, possibly from Jerusalem or Syrian Antioch. The "South Galatian" theory is now the consensus amongst conservative Bible scholars, and a significant number of liberal scholars also accept it. It is interesting to note, for example, that the entry on "Galatia" in the liberal Anchor Bible Dictionary takes a South Galatian position; on the other hand, the very next entry, on the Epistle to the Galatians, is North Galatian.

This is of relatively minor importance when it comes to the subject matter of the letter. However, it's significant when it comes to trying to fit this letter into the overall chronology of the New Testament. I take the South Galatian theory to be more likely. The main theme of Galatians is whether it is necessary to be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses to be saved. If the letter was written after Paul's third journey, why would he have to write such a complex theological argument? This issue was settled authoritatively by the council in Jerusalem; there was no need for him to make his case from first principles when he could have referred the churches to their apostolic letter (Acts 15:22-29). On the other hand, if the meeting Paul had with the Apostles was on his first trip to Jerusalem after his conversion and escape from Damascus (Acts 9:26ff), then this letter makes sense.
 

Ransom

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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. . . . (1:3)​

Remember that the known writings of Paul are all letters. They are addressed to specific persons or churches, to address particular issues that confronted them. Often we need to infer what those issues were, since we see only Paul's side of the conversation. For the most part, Galatians follows the usual structure for a Hellenistic letter.

  • It begins with the name of the sender ("Paul, an apostle").
  • Then comes the name of the recipient ("the churches of Galatia").
  • This is followed by the prescript, a formal greeting or salutation. Paul's typical prescript is a variation on "Grace and peace to you from the Lord Jesus" (as we see here in verse 3). "Grace" was a Hellenistic salutation, while "peace" (shalom) was a Jewish idea. I could speculate that Paul, being both a freeborn Roman citizen and a Jew, walked in both worlds--and this salutation was his way of expressing the unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ. So for this letter in particular, it's a very fitting greeting.
  • Next comes the proem. This word simply means "preface," but in an ancient letter, it refers to a short word of thanksgiving, a blessing, a prayer to a god for good health or protection for the recipients, or something along those lines. Paul's thanksgivings are usually more extensive, and more explicitly Christian. See, for example, Romans 1:8: "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world."
  • The proem leads to an introduction of the letter's topic.
  • Then follows the main body of the letter.
  • Finally, there is a formal closing. In a secular letter, this would include personal greetings, a postscript from the sender (sometimes written in his own hand), further wishes for good health, and a closing phrase such as "Farewell." Like the proem, Paul's closings are more theological than their secular counterparts. Instead of wishing good health, he gives a benediction, typically something like "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with your spirit."

Not every letter will have every one of these parts. If you want to see textbook examples of Hellenistic letter structure, see Philippians or Philemon. But in Galatians, the urgency of the situation requires that Paul dispense with some of the formalities. There is no proem: he jumps into an introduction that is a stinging rebuke of the Galatian Christians (v. 6). Paul doesn't seem especially thankful for the Galatians. This is a passionate, angry letter--in fact, as Tarheel pointed out a few posts ago, the only one in the Pauline canon that doesn't contain any sort of commendation for its recipients.

Yet he doesn't dispense with the usual prescript. As angry as he is with the Galatians' compromise, he is still gracious. The correction in this letter pastoral--it is done out of love, not malice.
 

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As angry as he is with the Galatians' compromise, he is still gracious. The correction in this letter pastoral--it is done out of love, not malice.
What a concept!
 

Ransom

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. . . who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (1:4-5)​

A major theme of Galatians is a defense of the true Gospel. Paul's salutation extends into a short sketch of what the Gospel means.
who gave himself for our sins: There isn't too much about the topic of sin in Galatians. For that, see the first three chapters of Romans, written later, which covers much of the same subject matter, but in a significantly more theologically developed fashion. Of all Paul's letters, Romans is the one most likely to have been intended as a theological essay. Perhaps at a later time, after the urgency of the Galatian controversy had passed, Paul decided to write a more extended treatment of the meaning of the Gospel, and how both Jews and Gentiles related to the new covenant.

In Romans, Paul describes the effects of sin on the human race. Man ought to know there is a God, because the world around him proclaims him. However, he has rejected knowledge of God and turned to worshiping the creation instead of their Creator. He turns to the things God hates. Even the supposedly righteous Jews, who had the privilege of receiving the Law on Mt. Sinai, are not immune from this rebellion against their God. No one, neither Jew nor Gentile, is righteous or exempt from the just wrath of God.

But Christ--God in human flesh--was the one man without sin, the last faithful Jew. He was put to death on a cross, not for his sins, but ours. His death showed the righteousness of God by satisfying the demands of divine justice. Christ's bloodshed is the objective basis upon which God declares sinful men righteous: our sin was imputed to him (who knew no sin), and his righteousness is imputed to us. The righteous God-man was declared guilty; we guilty sinners are declared righteous.

This promise is for everyone who has faith in the promises of Scripture concerning Christ's ability to save. This faith alone is sufficient basis for our justification. The so-called Judaizers who were troubling the Galatian churches denied that faith alone was sufficient: they demanded that Gentile Christians must effectively become Jews first. "It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses," they told the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:5). Another theme of Galatians is justification by faith alone. Salvation comes by faith alone; there is no room for works to be added to it. This is what the Galatians were turning away from. Paul's tone reflects the urgency of the situation. The very Gospel itself was at stake. Yet another theme is the unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ. With respect to our standing before God, there is no difference between the Jew and the Gentile, a man or woman, a slave or a freeman (3:28-29), or an apostle or a non-apostle (2:6). As the saying goes, the ground is level at the foot of the cross. Paul was willing to confront and rebuke Peter, a fellow apostle, publicly, lest Peter's separation from the Gentiles to eat only with Jewish Christians led to the false idea that there were two sets of standards for Jews and non-Jews. All come to Christ by faith, and not by following the Law.

to deliver us from the present evil age: We have been save' from the penalty of sin by Christ's substitutionary atonement on the cross. We are also still being save': God has set us apart from the world and delivered us from the power of sin, giving us the Holy Spirit to guide us in righteousness and make us more like Christ. Finally, we also will be saved: in the end, we will be glorified like Christ and be delivered from the very presence of sin. This is the distinction between justification, sanctification, and glorification.

according to the will of our God and Father: The cross was never a contingency plan. There is a stream of theological thought that claims, for example, that Jesus came as Messiah to make a well-meaning offer of an earthly Kingdom to the Jews. Had they received him as Messiah, it would have inaugurated the Kingdom with Christ as absolute ruler. While theologians would deny that this makes the cross into a sort of "plan B"--the Jews rejected their Messiah, leading to his execution--it seems to me to be a necessary implication of this doctrine. But the biblical metanarrative shows that the cross was never a "plan B." It was planned from the beginning. Right at the start of the Bible, the Protoevangelion foreshadows the wounding of Christ resulting in the defeat of Satan (Gen. 3:15). On the road to Emmaus, the risen Christ demonstrated to his disciples that his death and resurrection were taught throughout the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27). It was all by the "definite plan and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23).

'to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen: As the Reformers said, soli Deo gloria, to the glory of God alone. Everything God does is for his own glory. Everything we do should be to his glory as well.
 

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To the churches in Galatia . . . (1:2b)​

Galatia is in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). It is named after the Celtic tribes who had migrated from western Europe to north-central Asia Minor in the third century BC. Celtae was what they called themselves; to the Romans, they were the Galli.

It was long believed that Paul visited the geographical area in which the Galatians had settled on his third missionary journey, during which he "traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples" (Acts 18:23). Subsequently, he wrote his letter to the Galatian churches c. AD 56. This is the so-called "North Galatian" theory of the dating of Galatians, and it was assumed until the 17th century. Note, for example, the traditional subscript attached to Galatians in the KJV: "Unto the Galatians written from Rome." (Paul was not in Rome until well after his three missionary journeys, following his arrest and trial in Jerusalem, when he appealed his case to Caesar.)

However, archaeologists later began to uncover new knowledge about the world of the Bible. Scholars began to be persuaded that Paul was not addressing the ethnic district known in the first century as Galatia, but the political district: the Roman province of Galatia, established by Augustus in 25 BC. Paul visited the southern part of Roman Galatia on his first missionary journey. This would mean Galatians was addressed to the churches in cities such as Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, and was likely written in about AD 48-49, possibly from Jerusalem or Syrian Antioch. The "South Galatian" theory is now the consensus amongst conservative Bible scholars, and a significant number of liberal scholars also accept it. It is interesting to note, for example, that the entry on "Galatia" in the liberal Anchor Bible Dictionary takes a South Galatian position; on the other hand, the very next entry, on the Epistle to the Galatians, is North Galatian.

This is of relatively minor importance when it comes to the subject matter of the letter. However, it's significant when it comes to trying to fit this letter into the overall chronology of the New Testament. I take the South Galatian theory to be more likely. The main theme of Galatians is whether it is necessary to be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses to be saved. If the letter was written after Paul's third journey, why would he have to write such a complex theological argument? This issue was settled authoritatively by the council in Jerusalem; there was no need for him to make his case from first principles when he could have referred the churches to their apostolic letter (Acts 15:22-29). On the other hand, if the meeting Paul had with the Apostles was on his first trip to Jerusalem after his conversion and escape from Damascus (Acts 9:26ff), then this letter makes sense.
This was actually an interesting read. Thanks for sharing, Ransom.
 

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There is a stream of theological thought that claims, for example, that Jesus came as Messiah to make a well-meaning offer of an earthly Kingdom to the Jews. Had they received him as Messiah, it would have inaugurated the Kingdom with Christ as absolute ruler. While theologians would deny that this makes the cross into a sort of "plan B"--the Jews rejected their Messiah, leading to his execution--it seems to me to be a necessary implication of this doctrine.
Just read this. I'm excited to answer it in our upcoming video.
 

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according to the will of our God and Father: The cross was never a contingency plan. There is a stream of theological thought that claims, for example, that Jesus came as Messiah to make a well-meaning offer of an earthly Kingdom to the Jews. Had they received him as Messiah, it would have inaugurated the Kingdom with Christ as absolute ruler. While theologians would deny that this makes the cross into a sort of "plan B"--the Jews rejected their Messiah, leading to his execution--it seems to me to be a necessary implication of this doctrine. But the biblical metanarrative shows that the cross was never a "plan B." It was planned from the beginning. Right at the start of the Bible, the Protoevangelion foreshadows the wounding of Christ resulting in the defeat of Satan (Gen. 3:15). On the road to Emmaus, the risen Christ demonstrated to his disciples that his death and resurrection were taught throughout the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27). It was all by the "definite plan and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23).
Yes! I mentioned in another thread that I heard Schaap say that the cross was plan B, and I've heard other preachers (IFBx) say similar things. It seems that people who think that the cross was God's plan B are people who like to pretend that perfection is possible in the flesh.
 

Ransom

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Yes! I mentioned in another thread that I heard Schaap say that the cross was plan B, and I've heard other preachers (IFBx) say similar things. It seems that people who think that the cross was God's plan B are people who like to pretend that perfection is possible in the flesh.
It's not that fringe, unfortunately. It's not too far off of mainstream Dispensationalism. The classic Dispensationalists (Scofield, Chafer, Ryrie, Larkin, Pentecost, etc.) were not Open Theists: they wouldn't have believed that God honestly didn't see the rejection of the Messiah by the Jews; or the dispensation of grace, instead of the dispensation of the kingdom, coming. But their language in that respect is unfortunate. Consider Clarence Larkin, for example:


It is clear from the Scriptures that God has been trying to set up a "visible" Kingdom on this earth ever since the creation of man.... [W]hen 600 years of the "Times of the Gentiles" had run their course, God again made the attempt to set up His Kingdom on the earth, and the angel Gabriel announced to Mary the birth of the King. (Clarence Larkin, Dispensational Truth, chapter 13, emphasis mine.).


God has never "been trying" nor "made the attempt" to accomplish something. He has only done what he intended. There is no try, to quote Yoda. That would presuppose that there was a power in the universe capable of defeating his plans. As I said, I don't believe Larkin and the other Dispensationalists were Open Theists, but here Larkin certainly sounds a lot like one.

A little farther down, in a section titled "The Postponement Theory," he writes:


But some one may ask, "What would have happened if the Jews, as a nation, had repented, and accepted Jesus as King, would the earthly Messianic Kingdom have been set up?" Certainly, but not necessarily immediately, for certain Old Testament prophecies as to Jesus' death and resurrection had to be fulfilled, for He had to die for the redemption of the race, before He could assume His office as King. But this could and would have been fulfilled by the Roman Government seizing Jesus and crucifying Him as a usurper, and with Jesus' Resurrection and Ascension, Daniel's 69th week would have terminated, and the 70th week begun without a break, and at its close Jesus would have descended and set up His earthly Kingdom.

So it was God's intent and desire that the Israelite nation accept Jesus as their Messiah, which would have inaugurated the Kingdom on earth. Daniel's 69th week would have immediately been followed by the 70th week--which is to say, the dispensation of the fulness of times would have followed on the heels of the dispensation of law. But the Jews rejected Christ, and so there is a delay before Daniel's 70th week.

Jesus' crucifixion inevitably had to have happened in either case, just cuz. That's an amusing bit of handwaving by Larkin, as I don't see how Christ's execution at the initiative of the Romans (rather than the priests and the Sanhedrin) squares with his being the antitype of the Jewish sacrificial system.

Larkin correctly asserts that God always knew the Messiah would be rejected. The effect of this was God's temporary rejection of Israel, the offering of salvatio to the Gentiles, and the inauguration of the dispensation of grace. Nonetheless, Dispensationalists insist that the Church is a "parenthesis" in God's redemptive program. God never predicted the Church? He never revealed it to his prophets? Even though the church has now existed longer than the nation of Israel from the time of Jacob to the time of Christ?

Again, it's easy to see how someone could read Dispensational literature and get the impression the cross and the church were the "Plan B" that God never intended nor desired.

On the contrary, the church was the divine plan from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). The lynchpin of Paul's argument to the Galatians is that the promises made to Abraham and Israel find their fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ; that in Abraham, all the nations shall be blessed, Jew and Gentile alike, if they share his faith; and the church is the means by which these blessings are given.
 

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Again, it's easy to see how someone could read Dispensational literature and get the impression the cross and the church were the "Plan B" that God never intended nor desired.
Biblical Dispensationalists should not believe the cross was a plan B. Nor that the church was not part of God's plan before the world began.

I am enjoying reading what's being shared about Dispensationalism in this thread, though.

I just finished a 16-page Bible study series on this very topic (ironically I started it before this thread: coincidence or God's timing, we'll see).
Hoping to make a short video series with it soon, I will also upload the 16-pages file for anyone interested to read at that time.
 

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I'll provide a nugget ahead of time:

Dispensationalists do not believe the cross or the church was plan B in God's plan,
however the way God progressively revealed details about the cross and the church to people over time is a completely different story.

It is Covenant Theologians' lack of study into this topic that has been their demise into false doctrine, which UGC will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt with perhaps the most refined Bible study this topic has ever seen, coming soon. That is Complete Dispensationalism. Do I exaggerate? You'll find out.
 

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"I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?" (Nehemiah 6:3)
 
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Did the Old Testament prophets predict the Church? Yes - in Romans 9:24-26 Paul quotes Hosea 1:10 as a prediction of the Church. In Galatians 4:27 he quotes Isaiah 54:1 as a prediction of the fruitful growth of the Church. In Acts 15:15-18, James quotes Amos 9:11-12 as a prediction of the establishment of the Church among Gentiles.
 

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I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel not that there is another one. . . . (1:6-7a)​

As I said earlier, Paul skips the proem (thanksgiving or blessing) of his letter, and gets directly to the reason that he is writing.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel: Paul will get to the real substance of the Judaizer controversy in chapter 2. Here, he is denouncing their message as a "different gospel," meaning a false one.

The gospel Paul preached, which (as he says) he received from Christ, was the message of salvation by faith alone. It is sufficient to have faith in Christ to save you. "Faith" means taking someone at his word; so to put faith in Christ means to trust in the promises of the Bible regarding Christ's ability to atone for sin. There are no other obstacles to salvation: no need to obey an external legal code. In fact, as we'll see in the future, Paul regards justification by faith and justification by works as antithetical: you can't have both.

not that there is another one: There is one Gospel and one Gospel only, and it is the message that Paul was commissioned to preach: salvation comes by faith alone, through grace alone, by trusting in the work of Christ alone. Adding additional works to this faith nullifies the Gospel, making it no Gospel at all.

This is the error of the Judaizers that Paul was opposing. They were pressuring the Galatians to receive circumcision and obey the Law of Moses, saying it was necessary for salvation (see Acts 15:5). In short, it was legalism: the imposition of the Law on the Gentiles, for whom it was never intended.

This was, it seems, the first major theological controversy to confront the early Church, and you would think that the matter is settled. Nonetheless, we still have literal Judaizers amongst us today. When I started teaching from Galatians back in 2000, there was a small Sabbatarian church (one that worships on Saturday rather than Sunday) just up the street from my own. (I think the building's still there, but they're not.) Seventh-day Adventists and other Sabbatarian sects claim that while the rest of Christendom observes only nine of the Ten Commandments, they and similar groups observe all ten by keeping the Sabbath on Saturday. Practically speaking, though, their legalism doesn't stop there: many Sabbatarians argue that Christians need to observe the Jewish feast days, dietary regulations, and other parts of the Mosaic law. Sabbath-keeping, like circumcision for the Judaizers of old, is just the bait in their bait-and-switch theology. The influence of Seventh-day churches is dwindling today, but more recently, a movement known as Hebrew Roots has sprung up to advocate a return to Christianity's Jewish origins: the use of Hebrew names for deity, observance of Jewish rather than Christian holidays, or other obedience to the Torah. Basically, whenever you catch someone arguing that Christianity needs to be more Jewish, it's a safe bet he is a Judaizer.

(On a side note, one of the Seventh-day Adventist offshoots that cropped up in the early 20th century was the Worldwide Church of God, the cult founded by Herbert W. Armstrong. They revived British Israelism, the pseudohistorical belief that the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Celts, and other Germanic tribes of northern Europe who settled in the British Isles were the lost ten tribes of Israel. British Israelism was the central tenet of Armstrongism, and the supposed key to understanding Old Testament prophecy. However, not only does Galatians refute Armstrongism's Judaizing theology, but its British Israelism as well. The Galatians were Celts, as I noted earler--and they were Gentiles.)

More broadly speaking, ''legalism'' means adding meritorious obedience to faith. Some Christian traditions (in the broad sense) want to return us to a bondage of works. This is the reason Galatians was a key book for the Reformers: they saw it, not merely as an apologetic against Pharisaism, but the system of the Church of Rome that they strove to reform. It seems to me that the Roman church's confusion of justification and sanctification is what leads to a system in which a faithful Catholic must continually return to the sacraments for justifying grace, and can never know fully in this life that he is saved: "If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end,-unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema."[1]

In the 1970s, a movement called "Shepherding" or "Discipleship" emerged in Charismatic circles. This was an extreme form of mentoring, in which "sheep" were required to enter into a covenantal relationship with a "shepherd," who had the authority to micro-manage their personal lives. This included such important, personal decisions as where to live or work or whom to marry. The obedience required of a disciple to a shepherd went well beyond what Scripture requires, and led to abuses. The Shepherding Movement had dispersed by the time I became an adult, but in the mid-1990s, living in Toronto, I was occasionally approached at bus stops or in the mall by members of the International Churches of Christ (ICOC), the so-called "Boston Church." They still practiced this kind of extreme discipleship, leading to their being the subject of more complaints to cult-watchdog groups than any organization other than Scientology. (After leader Kip McKean left in 2001, the ICOC softened its stance on discipling.) The ICOC also follow the Campbellite error of requiring baptism for regeneration.

Other world religions also seek to earn God's favour through doing good works. Islam is one of the fastest-spreading religions in the world. According to Islamic theology, God cannot be known; he can only be obeyed. The most extreme forms of Islamic legalism are found in theocracies headed by factions such as the Taliban or ISIS, but even liberal, Westernized Muslims live in a cycle of prayers, fasting, alms-giving, and pilgrimages to earn Allah's favour. Even so, there is no final guarantee that an arbitrary, capricious Allah will accept them into Paradise.

Legalism takes other forms, as well. It is legalistic to focus on the minute details of the Law, and use them as an excuse to ignore its weightier (but less explicit) matters. This is why Jesus pronounced woe on the Pharisees when he denounced them for "tith[ing] mint and dill and cumin, [but neglecting] the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness" (Matt. 23:23). There is a story in Luke about Jesus healing a crippled woman on the Sabbath (Luke 13:10-17). The ruler of the synagogue is indignant and rebukes the people, telling them to come and get healed on any day other than the Sabbath. Jesus calls out his hypocrisy, noting that he would show more mercy to a hungry animal on the Sabbath by feeding it than he was allowing to be shown to a sick woman. The synagogue ruler couldn't have cared less whether she was healed or not. The rabbinical tradition of the day had a long list of activities that constituted "work," and he was only concerned that no one be seen as doing work in his synagogue on the day of rest--as though the Son of God needed to even lift a finger to heal someone.

Legalism can also mean elevating a pious application of the law to the status of law itself. Here, I think, is where we can find all those rules and traditions in fundydom that we call "standards." Paul wrote that "it is good for a man not to touch a woman" (1 Cor. 7:1 KJV). Of course, he meant in a sexual sense. Yet, on this forum and others, I've read many stories about fundamentalist Bible colleges where a woman had fallen down, and no man would help her up because the rules forbade holding hands. In a misguided effort to honour the spirit of Paul's instructions, the school forbade the letter. I think many of these extrabiblical "standards" began their lives as a well-meaning effort to erect a fence around bigger sins. There is also a more malevolent tendency, with the fundamentalist emphasis on separation, to see who can "out-separate" everyone else. Either way, when these well-meaning commandments of men are elevated to the same importance as the commandments of God, you have a legalism problem.

References

[1] Council of Trent, Session 6, January 13, 1547, Canons on Justification, 16, http://www.documentacatholicaomnia....ilium_Tridentinum,_Canons_And_Decrees,_EN.pdf, accessed April 29, 2020.
 

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The influence of Seventh-day churches is dwindling today, but more recently, a movement known as Hebrew Roots has sprung up to advocate a return to Christianity's Jewish origins: the use of Hebrew names for deity, observance of Jewish rather than Christian holidays, or other obedience to the Torah. Basically, whenever you catch someone arguing that Christianity needs to be more Jewish, it's a safe bet he is a Judaizer.
One of my facebook friends that was a member of the old FFF (don't remember what his name on the FFF was) fits this description. He celebrates the Jewish holidays and never spells out "God" or "Yahweh".

Legalism can also mean elevating a pious application of the law to the status of law itself. Here, I think, is where we can find all those rules and traditions in fundydom that we call "standards." Paul wrote that "it is good for a man not to touch a woman" (1 Cor. 7:1 KJV). Of course, he meant in a sexual sense. Yet, on this forum and others, I've read many stories about fundamentalist Bible colleges where a woman had fallen down, and no man would help her up because the rules forbade holding hands. In a misguided effort to honour the spirit of Paul's instructions, the school forbade the letter. I think many of these extrabiblical "standards" began their lives as a well-meaning effort to erect a fence around bigger sins. There is also a more malevolent tendency, with the fundamentalist emphasis on separation, to see who can "out-separate" everyone else. Either way, when these well-meaning commandments of men are elevated to the same importance as the commandments of God, you have a legalism problem.
That's as old as the garden of Eden. God said don't eat the fruit. Eve added an additional restriction of "neither shall you touch it." When I was a member of an IFBx church pastored by a Hyle's grad, he would often say don't put your fences at the cliff because if you jump the fence, it's over. He said you need to move the fence back away from the cliff so there's still a chance of keeping you safe if you jump the fence. But we see how moving the fence back worked for Adam & Eve...
 
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