CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XLIX)

Lancaster goes on to explain why this interpretation does not work for Messianic Jews. He quotes what Paul says in Acts 25:8[1] and 28:17,[2] as evidence that Paul did not reject the Torah or Judaism. Speaking again of logic, these are two conditional statements that are only applicable to Paul remaining a Jew if the premise is in harmony with his conclusion. In both cases, Lancaster would be considered in error according to the rules of logic. In his mind, Paul remained obedient to the Torah – observant all his life; a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee, a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Jew, under the full obligation of the Law, despite the fact that he considered himself an Apostle to the Gentiles. If what Lancaster says here is supposedly true, then why did Paul not continue to persecute the congregation that dispensed with the Torah and leaned totally on the work of the Anointed One for their salvation. And why did Paul say to the Romans: “For I am not ashamed of the Good News since it is God’s powerful means of bringing salvation to everyone who keeps on trusting, to the Jew especially, but equally to the Gentile. For in it is revealed how God makes people righteous in His sight; and from beginning to end it is through trust — as the Jewish Tanakh (Jewish Bible) puts it, “The person who is righteous will live his life by trust – that is faith.”[3]

For Messianic Jewish believer David Stern, when Paul said in verse nineteen that through the Law he died to the law it should be understood this way: “Through the Torah, I died to legalism.” One Jewish translation renders it thus: “Through letting the Torah speak for itself that I died to its traditional legalistic misinterpretation.[4] Stern goes on to say that this then allowed Paul to say that instead of being shut off from God by legalistic misinterpretation of the Torah, he got closer to God through faith and grace. Before, Paul wasn’t spiritually alive because the Law held no such power, but now he is alive in the Anointed One who is the full embodiment of the Law. So why should he try to meet the Law’s demands when the Anointed One already did so?

Stern also adds some additional color to Paul statement about being crucified with the Anointed One. He says that when the Anointed One was crucified as a criminal, he too was crucified with him as a criminal, a law-breaker. So it is no longer his proud Pharisaic ego that is the driving force in his life to be right with God, it is the driving force of the Anointed One’s Spirit that enables him to serve God out of love not an obligation; by faith, not works. By doing so, he lived in harmony with the trusting faithfulness of the Son of God, the Messiah, because He loved Paul and gave Himself up to be sacrificed for Paul so that Paul might receive everlasting life.[5]

Another Jewish writer, Adriaan Liebenberg, also takes issue with those who say that the Torah died to Paul.  As Liebenberg sees it, it does NOT say the Law is dead to us! There is a huge difference. If we are dead to the Law then we fulfilled the requirement that the law demands: our death. The Law demands that we die because at some point in our life we broke that Law. When we received Yeshua as Savior, WE become “dead to the Law” because we were crucified with Messiah who was dying because we broke the Law, not Him. That allowed God to raise us back up from our deadness to the Torah so that we could live for Elohiym.

Liebenberg then points out that when Paul goes on to say that he now lives with the Anointed One dwelling in him, he is actually saying that we walk as the Anointed One walked. He kept the Torah to absolute perfection! Because He kept the Torah as the only righteous One, then through Him we also keep the Torah and because God declared us as righteous in Him. This is the basis for our justification. Oh yes, from time to time we still let our sinful tendencies get the best of us. But now the Anointed One does through grace what the Torah could not do and forgives us and wipes away those stains of unrighteousness that sin left on our souls. Do not let anyone declare that they are righteous, but rather, that the Anointed One is their righteousness.[6]

Jewish writer Avi Ben Mordechai says that for the most part, what Paul said about dying to the law is being misinterpreted. They take what Paul says back in verse eighteen to mean that Paul used to keep the Torah before coming to “the Anointed One,” but because the Law points to “the Anointed One,” it, therefore, means that Paul should never attempt to rebuild a path back to the Torah to keep from denying the Anointed One and falling from grace and become a transgressor of the freedom from the Law of Moses that God gives through the Anointed One because Paul realized that the Torah was completely fulfilled in the Anointed One. So what Paul is really saying is that because the Anointed One took care of the demands of the Torah, and with the Anointed One being in him, he was now able to go on to really live for God and not become bogged down in a Law that was already fulfilled.[7]

Another Messianic writer says that at first blush verse nineteen seems to spell the end of any Torah relevance for the Apostle Paul. But there is more than what is comprehended in the first reading. Paul indicates that prior to his salvation experience, he was blinded of his true condition: dead in trespasses and sin. However, now that the Holy Spirit took up residence within him, via the sacrificial death of Yeshua, he looks back to how the Torah played a big part in bringing him to this newfound revelation about himself. The Torah, working in concert with the Spirit of God, revealed sin for what it was: a violation of God’s high standards for living right. That’s why, through the Torah, – that is, through its proper function of revealing and condemning sin, the individual is brought to the goal of the Torah, namely the revelation of the Messiah Himself. Once faced with the choice to remain in sin or be set free by the power of the blood of the Lamb of God, Paul confesses that he “died” to his old self and was consequently made alive in the newness of life that is gifted to those who choose life over death![8]

Christian Rabbi Avi ben Mordechai helps us see that when we see the word “Christ” in the Scripture, we forget that this is the Greek word for the Hebrew “Messiah” or the “Anointed One.” So, Paul is saying here in verse twenty that he was crucified with the Messiah. This is important because the Messiah came to provide something that no other human could provide. That was the sacrifice in payment for all the sins committed against Yahweh by the House of Israel,[9] as “atonement” or “ransom,”[10] along with all the sins committed by the rest of humanity. That’s why Yahweh sent Yeshua[11] to take upon Himself the death sentence that was adjudicated by Heaven’s High Court.[12] All of this was outlined as a curse upon humanity,[13] and spelled out in the Torah.[14] So it is clear that if Paul ripped out any reference to Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross and reinserted the required animal sacrifices of Leviticus, he would certainly be frustrating the grace of God.[15]

The Jewish New Testament renders verses 19-20 in such a way that appears as though Paul was saying that it was the Law that put him to death, and it did so that he might be able to live for God. And this was done because the Anointed One included Paul when He was crucified on the cross.[16] So the old Saul is dead and, in his place, a new Paul is living through the life-giving power of the Anointed One’s Spirit. And the only reason Paul is still alive is because of his faith in the Son of God keeps him alive.[17] The Son of God who came to earth and gave himself for him because He loved him.[18]

In Andrew Roth’s translation of the text from the original Aramaic version, it sure does seem that Paul gave credit to the Torah for his transformation from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive: “For by the Torah I am dead, that I might live for Elohiym.” In the footnotes, we read that Roth shares that Rabbi Simon Altaf in his Nazarene Hebraic Study Scriptures translates this verse nineteen as “For I through the human law am dead to the human law, that I might live to Elohiym.” Then in his own footnote, Rabbi Altaf notes Paul was referring to sure death by living in the Pharisaical system of commandments and that he now realized the life in Yahweh through His Torah, which was personified in the living Messiah Yeshua. This then allowed Paul to go on and say in verse that although he was crucified with the Messiah, the old Saul no longer lives, but the Messiah lives in him. So, he gives all credit for his new life to the Son of Elohiym, Yeshua, who love him and give His life for him so that he could receive a new life.[19]

The Contextual Bible paraphrases these two verses this way that adds even more depth: “For it was through the Law of God that I came to realize my impotence, that I could never keep God’s Law in my human strength, and thus be guiltless and righteous before God. It condemned me to my death and when my death penalty was paid by the Anointed One, dying in my place, the Law released me from its condemnation and authority. Released from its power, I am now under God’s power, infused with His life-giving spirit, and, therefore, alive and enabled to live up to His will for me. I have been nailed to the torture stake with the Anointed One, my “self” has been put to death: now it is not me that is living, but the Anointed One is living in me, taking care of all of God’s requirements for me. Indeed, the life that I now live, with its power to live up to God’s will for me, is a result of my complete and absolute surrender to the Son of God, who loved me and gave His life for me, and not a result of my own conscientious efforts to live by God’s Law.[20]

[1] “I’ve done nothing wrong against the Jewish law, against the Temple, or against Caesar.”

[2] “My brothers, I’ve done nothing against our people or against the customs of our fathers.

[3] Romans 1:16-17 – Complete Jewish Bible

[4] Complete Jewish Bible, op. cit., loc., cit.

[5] Stern, David H: On Galatians, op. cit., loc., cit., Kindle Location 15444-15464

[6] W. Adriaan Liebenberg: On Galatians, op. cit., loc., cit., pp. 44-46

[7] Avi ben Mordechai: Commentary on Galatians, Millennium 7000 Communications

[8] Messianic Commentary: On Galatians, op. cit., loc., cit.

[9] Jeremiah 3:8

[10] Isaiah 59:16; Exodus 32:30-34

[11] John 7:16

[12] See Galatians 3:13-14

[13] Jeremiah 11:1-8

[14] Deuteronomy, chapters 27-28

[15] Avi ben Mordechai: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 26

[16] See Galatians 5:24; 6:14; cf. Romans 6:5-11; 2 Corinthians 4:7-12

[17] See Romans 8:9-11; 2 Corinthians 13:5; cf. Colossians 1:27

[18] Jewish Annotated New Testament: Galatians, op. cit., loc., cit

[19] Andrew G. Roth: On Galatians, op. cit., loc., cit.

[20] Aiyer, Ramsey: On Galatians, op. cit., loc., cit., Kindle Locations 210-218

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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