ORIGINALLY POSTED 14 JULY, 2008
When we consider Paul’s description of the Torah as serving as a pedagogue, some difficult questions are asked of us as Believers considering whether or not any of us were actually trained in the basics of the Torah. If Paul intends the Torah to serve as a pedagogue for all, or at least most, who come to faith in Yeshua, what is this to say about Christians—and also Messianics—today? Are any of us properly trained in the Torah? What role does the Torah play in showing us our depravity as sinners, and our inherent need for a Divine Savior?
One of the most confusing passages in the Bible for many today is Yeshua’s words, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all” (Mark 10:15; cf. Matthew 19:14). Many in the contemporary Church have concluded that what Yeshua is saying here is that the best time to receive salvation is when one is a small child. The problem with this is that a small child cannot understand his or her sin nature as demonstrated by Scripture. A small child might have some kind of rudimentary understanding of right and wrong, and a small child might understand some of God’s love—but a small child cannot comprehend his or her sin nature, knowing that condemned sinners are worthy of eternal punishment.
The purpose of the Torah as pedagogue is to train individuals in what the God of Israel considers acceptable and unacceptable behavior, clearly laying forth the penalties of disobedience to Him. In the Jewish tradition, it takes anywhere between twelve and fourteen years for a child to be prepared for adulthood, knowing the principles of right and wrong, and the responsibilities that one is to be cognizant of as a member of the Jewish community. During the years between birth and bar/bat mitzvah, Jewish children are trained in the commandments of the Torah and principles of the Tanach, to prepare them to be accountable. Often this is accompanied with some kind of Hebrew study, with the youth also becoming familiar with Jewish history and tradition.
Click here for the complete version of “Are Messianic Youth Properly Trained in the Torah and All the Scriptures?”
Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians is easily the most difficult to understand text for people within today’s broad Messianic movement. Galatians has been historically interpreted by Christianity as delivering Believers a stark choice between God’s Law and God’s grace. Those who choose any obedience to the Law, according to this view of Paul, are unfaithful to the Messiah and the saving power of the gospel. Supposedly, Paul was desperately concerned for anyone who was trying to keep the Torah of Moses. Consequently, Galatians is a frequently-quoted text to today’s Messianic Believers, many of whom are simply trying to live a life of holiness by obeying God’s commandments in accordance with the example of obedience modeled by Yeshua (Jesus).
Understanding Galatians in its original context, for its original audience, and for the original issues that it addressed, can be a severe challenge. Was the issue that the Galatians faced forced circumcision, followed by salvation―or was the issue ritual proselyte conversion for inclusion among God’s people? Likewise, who were the people errantly influencing the Galatians? Were they authorized members of the assembly, or misguided outsiders with a definitive agenda?
In the commentary Galatians for the Practical Messianic, Messianic Apologetics editor J.K. McKee takes a direct look at the issues of Paul’s letter as he rebukes the Galatians for errors that have crept into their midst. Engaging with contemporary Christian scholarship on Galatians, critical questions regarding common conclusions of Paul’s words are asked. Are Paul and Yeshua truly at odds when it comes to the Torah? Were the Jerusalem leaders and Paul at constant odds with one another? How do Paul’s Pharisaical background and views affect the composition of this letter? What were the spiritual dynamics present in Galatia? What does the term “works of law” really mean? These are only a few of the questions that are considered. Likewise, some of the proposals from the New Perspective of Paul in theological studies are also analyzed.
The Epistle to the Galatians gives us a small peek into the world of the First Century Body of Messiah, and the social dynamics and divisions between Jewish and non-Jewish Believers that had to be resolved. Many of the issues that the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 would address had yet to be discussed. Many did not understand the Abrahamic blessing of his seed being a blessing to the whole world. Many thought that inclusion among God’s people came via ethnicity, rather than faith. Many did not know the proper place of obedience to the Torah in the post-resurrection era. Paul’s letter set in motion the need for these issues to be addressed by the First Century faith community.
This commentary will aid many Messianic Believers who have difficulty with Paul’s letter to the Galatians. It also provides solid, exegetical answers to those who are skeptical, if not critical, of today’s Messianic movement.
Also included in this commentary is an exposition on Acts 13:13-14:28: Paul’s visit to Southern Galatia.