Previously: galatians 1, a different gospel
The header in my Bible says, “No Return to the Law.” We all know that the headers and paragraph divisions as they appear in English Bibles were not put in place under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as the text was, right?
Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. Gal 2:11-13
I searched the Torah for the command that forbids Jews from eating with Gentiles. There are commands to forbid eating that which is unclean, blood, and certain fats; there are commands to not worship idols in the manner of the Gentiles. But I could not find a command in the written Torah, the first five books of Moses, that forbids eating a meal with Gentiles.
If you remember, Jesus came under fire for sitting down to eat with the wrong people also:
Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” Mar 2:15-16
Now we know that Jesus did not break the written Torah in any particular, but He often came under fire from scribes and Pharisees for transgressing the “traditions of the elders.” In the Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern for our passage in Galatians, he writes: “Eating with Gentiles was itself against custom, even if the food was kosher.” Ah, against custom, not against Torah.
But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” Gal 2:14-16
“Why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?” Let us put this through our ‘In context with the society and history of that time and place and with the rest of Galatians and Scripture’ decoder, and we get, “Why do you, Peter, compel Gentiles to adhere to the customs of the circumcision party, who have bound themselves to obey, not only legitimate commandments, but a myriad of other customs and traditions added by men, such as not eating together?”
You see, Jews of the first century were not only required to live by the written Torah. They were also required to live by an additional law, the Oral Law (Talmud), which contained far more regulations and commandments than the written Torah. When Jesus was accused of transgressing the law by the Pharisees, it was the Oral Law they were speaking of, and He opposed them at every turn (one famous example is in Mar 2).
Paul did not consider disobedience to the written Torah – idolatry, murder, adultery – ‘freedom’ as we do in our day. Those who did such things were not free, but slaves – of sin (Joh 8:34, see also 1 Cor 6:12). But Jews who were believers in Messiah lived in liberty in Messiah. They could pluck heads of grain if they were hungry while walking through a grainfield on the Sabbath. They could heal and do good on any day of the week. They did not observe endless ritual washings. They ate meat with dairy. They could cook with one set of cookware for all their meals. I have even looked for the command to light two candles for the family Sabbath meal on Friday evenings at sunset. Not only is there no command to do such a thing, but there is no command to have a family Sabbath meal together. I believe it is a beautiful and honoring tradition, and a lovely way to gather the family together to begin the day of rest. But we are also free to not do so if circumstances or time does not permit it. The apostles called the true Torah of God, ‘the Law of Liberty’ (Jam 1:25).
What then does Paul mean, when he says he died to the Law that he might live for God?
Continued: galatians 2, living to God