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Covenant Keepers


   Galatians is often quoted to show we don't need to keep the law today in Messiah. A closer examination, historically, and, in context, shows why Paul wrote to the Galatian brethren. He saw they were dealing with two outside forces:
      1. Former pagan practices from their polytheistic society around them, and
      2. Men trying to convince the new brethren to turn back to the only Covenant and practices they knew to be true.
   For the latter, they were covenant keepers, but they were wrong. Some things do indeed change when we come to the Messiah.
   Paul gives one of the most powerful warnings to be found in the Bible which was addressed to the brethren in Messiah about both groups. With that said, we would do well to understand exactly what is being said by Paul in this letter, because it is also used to try to prove overall that the commandments are not applicable to us today. But, the truth is, they are.
   He says in Galatians 1:8-9 ESV,
   But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you an evangel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you an evangel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
   This is one of the only letters, written by an apostle, proclaiming a curse on those teaching another evangel. The apostle’s evangel, when defined, is essentially the good news of Messiah having come to shed His blood for us, to forgive us of the death penalty hanging over our heads for breaking Yahweh's law, which is sin (1 John 3:4).

What Laws?
   One of the great things for us is that we have other witnesses to draw upon to know what the issues are here in this letter. One of the issues was former pagan practices. It's just a short section which addresses it, but it's to the point:
You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain, Galatians 4:10 – 11 NASB.
   The rest of this letter addresses Paul's concern that some of the brethren are apparently giving heed to the idea that they need to do everything found in Torah. Laws, such as physical circumcision, are to be justified and right in Yahweh's sight.
   It's easy, out of context, to see how these two verses might be considered to be none other than Yahweh's Sabbaths and Feast Days. However, knowing Yahweh's Sabbaths are forever (Lev. 23), we can see this is addressing the pagan days, months, seasons, and years.
   Polytheistic practices, such as honoring the winter solstice, or even sun-day worship were common in the 1st century. For those today who have succumbed to such traditions over the generations, it is hard to see the truth when it is presented. But, present we must.

In Context
   Let's consider what is being told to those in Galatia, compared to what is being addressed in Colossae. Let no one therefore judge you in eating or in drinking, or in respect of a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths — which are a shadow of what is to come — but the Body of the Messiah, Colossians 2:16 – 17 TS.
   Would Paul, on one hand, say, "I'm concerned for you that you are observing these days and times," and on the other, say, "Don't let anyone judge or condemn you for doing these things." Was he contradictory? Or do we need to examine each statement in context of the assemblies being addressed separately for separate issues?
   The key to understanding is to understand they are not the same days and times which he was addressing. One is pagan and the other is not. One is the way of the world, and the other is the way of Yahweh, the Almighty. There is a difference. It's our job to discern the difference and choose Yahweh's way over our own and/or other's traditions and practices.
   As the letter from Paul to Galatia and also Paul's separate letter to those in Colossae were written to help the brethren in each location, they were also both dealing with two different issues.
   Both have to be considered in context of what is written. Please read our mini-study on Colossians 2 and the Law, either online or order your free copy. You can also go directly to Colossians chapter 2 and look at both before and after the section quoted above. It should become very clear what is being said, in context. Here, however, we want to address mainly the letter to the brethren in Galatia and their going back to former pagan ways mentioned in Galatians 4:10 – 11.

   This was the one outside source (pagan worship) that Paul was addressing for the brethren at Galatia. He evidently heard that they were falling back into pagan practices, through the pagan influences in the world surrounding them.
   We could imagine how difficult it would be to be in a society that accepts many gods and many lords, and to think, "it wouldn't be that harmful to do the same with Yahweh and His Son, too." Today, we have something similar with the concept of Ecumenicalism even though the co-existence idea today is "we all serve the same One." Whether Buddha or Vishnu, or Allah or Yahweh, "it all goes back to one Supreme Being Who has many Names." Well, that's not what Scripture says (Isa. 42:8).
   If we believe that the books and letters, from Genesis to Revelation, are inspired, we had better know what the words say, so we are not taken away into a fantasy belief system or accept every wind of doctrine that comes our way. Or as Paul said, "A different evangel" message.

Say What?
   What was Paul saying to the brethren at Galatia? We know that as we looked at number one, he was addressing former pagan practices from their polytheistic society around them. But the main issue we want to address is the main problem he addressed, that is, number two: that men were trying to convince the new brethren to turn back to the only covenant and practices they knew to be true. Were they true? Yes. But, now we have the good news of the Messiah and the coming Kingdom. And with it, there is a change in the law for those in Him.
   The author of Hebrews says plainly,
If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood — and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood — why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also, Hebrews 7:11 – 12 TNIV.
   This brings up the idea: "Yahweh cannot change." We're not talking about Yahweh changing; we're talking about a change in the law out of necessity. Yes, a change in the priesthood, but also within the law itself. One, without question, affects the other.
   What changed with Yahshua's sacrifice? What has been done for us who accept Yahshua?
   To make his point, the author continues to say, in Hebrews 7:18 – 19 NIV,
   The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to Yahweh.
   A former regulation? A former law that made nothing perfect? What law was that? Is a former regulation the whole law of statutes, commandments and ordinances? Is it all five books of Moses called the Torah? Of course not! Read on.

Job Description
   What did the Levitical priesthood do? What was their job and responsibilities?
For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure, and killed the Passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves, Ezra 6:20 KJV.
   These were the captives from Babylon having been brought back to Jerusalem. Even today the Jews are recognizable. What is not so easily recognizable are the other tribes of Israel who were dispersed through Assyria.
   There are Levitical priests with genetic markers (they are also known as part of the southern tribes), in training even now in Jerusalem, for when the T emple is reestablished. Interestingly enough, the Negev desert has a tabernacle replica of the original. How quick could sacrifices be reinstituted, if they were given permission to move this tabernacle up on the T emple Mount? Pretty quickly, though they would still technically need an unblemished and unspotted red heifer to sacrifice first to use as a purification rite according to the instructions given in Scripture.
   The laws we are talking about concerning the Levitical priesthood are for the sacrificial and purification rites. What is Yahshua the Messiah for us today? He is the High Priest of the Melchizedek priesthood, not of the Levitical. He is also the sacrifice we needed. It is His blood, through the one sacrificial act, that we needed for purification so we can go on to perfection.

Keep the Feast
   Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch — as you really are. For Messiah, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, 1 Corinthians 5:7 – 8 NIV.
   Corinth was full of Greeks and Gentiles. What is Paul doing telling them to keep the Feast? No doubt, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is a 7 day feast after Passover, is observed. Is he confused, or are the ones who claim the law is done away with in Messiah? Reread the verses.
   There were most likely Jews there, too. But the point is the whole law is not done away with in Messiah. The prophecy about the saints at the end of the age tell us this in Revelation 14:12. The law was for both native born and foreigner (Ex. 12:49; Num. 15:15 -16).

Think About It
   Let's think earnestly about this, as it really puts things in perspective. Clarity comes when we understand what law is being spoken of in Galatians.
   Paul said plainly in Galatians 3:1–3NIV,
   You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Yahshua Messiah was clearly portrayed as impaled. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
   He was impaled, that is, placed on the torture stake. He was killed and sacrificed, for us. Paul is essentially asking, "Did the sacrificial laws bring the Spirit of Yahweh into our/your life?" He's asking them, "Are you now going to be perfected by sacrifices?"
Messiah redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us — for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE,” Galatians 3:13 NASB.
   Yes, the penalty for sins is death; it is a curse. Yahshua's sacrificial blood cleanses us from the death penalty of transgressing Yahweh's laws. To accept Yahshua's sacrifice is faith based; it is Yahweh's grace given to us freely, but only after we repent. What it indeed is, is a sacrifice for us, that covers us. Yahshua covers us, not other physical sacrifices.
   It is not based upon works that we do, but upon the promise through Abraham's seed, which ultimately points to the Messiah.
Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, Who is Messiah. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by Elohim and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but Yahweh gave it to Abraham by promise. What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a Mediator, Galatians 3:15 – 19 NKJV.
   What law was added because of transgressions? Don't confuse Paul when he speaks of a law 430 years later, which is speaking of the ratified 1st Covenant (known as the Old Covenant/T estament) with the people. The Abrahamic Covenant was brought in to it as a promise to it, and is now brought over in the New Covenant with Messiah. The Levitical sacrifices and purification rites are not. Overall laws still stand and transcend covenants, being everlasting.

Sacrificial System
   What happened when Adam and Eve sinned?
Yahweh Elohim made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them, Genesis 3:21 NIV.
   An animal(s) had to die to make those skins. This process of slaying animals for the people continued, and we have a written example of Adam and Eve's children, such as Abel, who offered an animal sacrifice to Yahweh early on in human history. Cain was supposed to have done the same, but didn't and suffered the consequences.
   Eventually, the Levitical priesthood was set up and established through the law and covenant, to perform these types of sacrifices and purification rites for themselves and for the people. If you remember, they were good with swords/knives, as they came to Moses when the people played the harlot during the Exodus.
Let's go back to the book of Galatians and see if what we're considering here doesn't all fit. Still thinking about the garments of skin, and why they were produced, let's look at the following:
For all of you who were baptized into Messiah have clothed yourselves with Messiah, Galatians 3:27 NASB.
   Do we understand what Paul is ultimately saying here? Yahshua is our sacrifice! This also shows that Messiah didn't just cleanse us from within, but He takes care of the outside of the cup, too, so to speak. I mention this, as some will say we still need to perform
mikvah or be purified on a regular basis through ritual water washing. Not so!
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Master, one faith, one baptism, Ephesians 4:4–5KJV.
   If we understand what Yahshua came to do, then, for us, there is only one immersion we need, and that is in the Name of the Son of Yahweh for remission of sins (Acts 4:12). Paul knew this, and so should we.
   He says in Galatians 3:22 – 23 NASB,
   But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Yahshua Messiah might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.
   This is the first time in the letter to the Galatian brethren that Paul refers to the holy "Script" as a set of inspired Writings from Yahweh. The laws within it, which, if broken, causes sin and death (Ezek. 18:4). In Messiah, this is why it is so important not to go on sinning (Heb. 10:26).
   Sacrifices were keeping those in the Abrahamic Covenant through Mt. Sinai, and in the Levitical priesthood, in custody. Not totally out of Yahweh's favor, but still not able to allow them to approach Him directly. That is, until Messiah, in the new priestly order of Melchizedek. We were shut out from being justified, until He came and was killed for all who would accept Him as the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.
   "Kept in custody of the sacrificial laws," is a correct understanding. If we say "kept in custody of the law," as in the commandments, then we say "we can continue to lie, cheat and steal," because these things "are no longer done, now that the Messiah has come." It's just not true.
   What is true is we are no longer under the tutor of the law of sacrifices.
So then, the law was our guardian until Messiah came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, Galatians 3:24 – 25 ESV.
   Here is the same verse in the KJV:
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Messiah, that we might be justified by faith.
   Again, but in the NASB:
   Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Messiah, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

Word of Yahweh
   Now, when Paul does speak of the Scriptures, he's speaking of the very Word of Yahweh that they had in the first century. He speaks of the same as "training in righteousness" to Timothy, who is left in Ephesus to teach the assembly there.
And that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Messiah Yahshua. All Scripture is inspired by Yahweh and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of Yahweh may be adequate, equipped for every good work, 2 Timothy 3:15 – 17 NASB.
   Now, wait a minute, Paul. You said, in Galatians 2:21 NASB,
   I do not nullify the grace of Yahweh, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Messiah died needlessly.
   The same word for righteousness is used. Righteousness is keeping the commandments, as they are righteous (Psalm 119:172). So, then, this has to be talking about the sacrificial law in which people sought to be justified.
   Notice that the NASB capitalized the word for law here, and other places in Galatians, making it refer to the overall law. Not so, but nice try NASB.
   Some of the words for “law” do in fact have the definite article prior to the word, as we've seen, but Paul, we find, was clearly talking about sacrificial laws in context within the book of Galatians. He was hard to understand, as Peter pointed out, but we can understand, and not be like lawless individuals using Paul's writings to justify lawlessness (2 Pet. 3:14 -17).

   There are other areas which speak specifically of circumcision, which goes back to Abraham and the cutting of the covenant with him, which was ultimately agreed upon with the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and anyone who would join.
   Hence, the reason some from Judah, no doubt, tried to get believers in Messiah to convert all the way back into an origi- nal covenant of promise, was that physical circumcision was required to be part of that covenant. This was for all males only. No females were to be circumcised.
   Male children today, of course, can and should be circumcised (on the eighth day, Lev. 12:1) for health reasons, if for nothing else. But male adults (having already lived all their life uncircumcised), when coming into the knowledge of the truth in Messiah, do not need to be physically circumcised.
Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved,” Acts 15:1 NIV.
   As you may recall, the decision from the Apostles and Elders was to have new converts remove the most detestable and evident sins (i.e., sins relating to false pagan worship), and let them come and learn from the law of Moses, which was the law of Yahweh.
Telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath, Acts 15:20b -21 NIV.
   In other words, they'll continue to learn about Yahweh's ways from the continued preaching of the law of Moses. Not only the Torah, but also the Prophets and Writings (Tanakh). And it will be with the understanding of the justification of sins through the Messiah's perfect sacrifice and shed blood.
   Paul proclaims,
But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Messiah Yahshua, in order to bring us into bondage, Galatians 2:3 – 4 NASB.
   We are not compelled to be in covenant with Yahweh through the Abrahamic Covenant, but rather through Yahshua's sacrifice. We are not to offer blood sacrifices; being in bondage to these or other personal sacrifices or purification rites through the Levitical priesthood. Still, we are at liberty to be obedient and not to steal, fornicate, cheat, break Sabbath, swear falsely or commit other crimes against Yahweh's law.
   Paul further states:
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Yahshua Messiah, so we also have believed in Messiah Yahshua, in order to be justified by faith in Messiah and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified, Galatians 2:15 – 16 ESV.
   Bloody sacrifices and purification rites would be the only aspect of the law that gives temporary appeasement, but does not truly justify. Yahshua's sacrifice allows us to have the indwelling work of the Spirit which helps cleanse the conscience on a spiritual level, and allows us to have a heightened sense of right and wrong from the written Word and the Spirit, when we're reminded what the Word says.
   There are some analogies that Paul uses, such as, the free woman versus the one who is a slave. He says Hagar is Mt. Sinai and corresponds to Jerusalem. What was happening in Jerusalem at the time of the 1st century was physical sacrifices in which all those bound by the law must perform all sacrificial rites for temporary appeasement.
   Paul says that we, however, are from the free woman, and are in that covenant, rather than the other. We are in the better agreement, in Messiah.
But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar, Galatians 4:23 – 24 NASB.
   He further shows that one is physical and one is spiritual. But why use Hagar as a representative of Mt. Sinai and then correspond- ing to what was happening in Jerusalem? After all, we're talking about Ishmael, who is said to be a wild donkey of a man! Maybe Paul Hands was thinking he was the very one that needed to give the sacrifices, so that he'd learn not to be such a wild one, but rather an obedient one.
   Nevertheless, he relates those in Messiah as those of heavenly Jerusalem, and her as a mother to us. Throughout, we see Paul relating the spiritual more than the physical. He also shows we need to make up our mind as to which covenant we want to be under.
It was for freedom that Messiah set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Messiah will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Messiah, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace, Galatians 5:1 – 4 NASB.
   Speaking of the yoke of slavery, do you think it would be hard to see the blood of innocent animals killed on your behalf? It was a terrible thing, but it was training to learn that there are consequences for sinning. The message of sin-equating-death came through loud and clear each time. It was a type of slavery in which one had to perform according to the law. The law agreement that came through Abraham and was signified or identified through physical circumcision of all the males. Speaking of "the whole law," we could ask, "Do we keep every single aspect of the law?" The answer is, "In Messiah, we don't." Paul says if we do try to be justified by the law, we will be cut off from Messiah. Plain and simple. However, we obey the overall laws because it is the expression of the inward change within us and our love for the Father and the Son.

Circumcision Without Hands
   Interestingly enough, Paul says he still preached circumcision. In light of what we have considered, it has to be the circumcision without hands. He explains this to the brethren in Colossae:
In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Messiah, Colossians 2:11 TS.
   We're now buried with Him and have died to sins. Essentially, we have died to sinning and we have the help to do it in the Spirit which writes the laws on our heart.
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do, Galatians 5:17 ESV.
   Speaking of analogies, like a magnet which repels against another magnet, one magnet can represent the evil that appeals to the flesh and the other magnet can relate to the Spirit which cannot mix with evil. So our lives in Messiah are not always at peace. There is a spiritual war going on. In some cases, it has to do with our physical flesh that Satan would like to appeal to with all sorts of evil in the world. Hence, we have to overcome the world.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law, Galatians 5:18 ESV.
   Are we led by the Spirit? If we are, then we are not under the death penalty of the law. But, the spirit of error would have everyone believe that Paul is saying that we no longer have to obey the law. Again,
Now those who belong to Messiah Yahshua have impaled the flesh with its passions and desires, Galatians 5:24 NASB.
   Does that mean none of us slip up at times? Paul didn't think this, as he also writes:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted, Galatians 6:1 ESV.
   So we are to help one another and build one another up, but sin is still not to be tolerated. Any transgression against the law is sin.
And let him who is instructed in the Word share in all that is good, with him who is instructing. Do not be led astray: Elohim is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he shall also reap, Galatians 6:6 – 7 TS.
   The Word is the Word of Yahweh. Scripture, in other words.
As many as wish to make a good show in the flesh, these compel you to be circumcised, only so that they should not be persecuted for the stake of Messiah, Galatians 6:12 TS.
   Is this not a good example of the Pharisees, who did things to be seen by men? Not that you could see their circumcision, but they no doubt would tell you of it and say you need to do the same. It happened in the 1st century and it happens today, believe it or not.
   There was division and persecution for those in Messiah in his day due to the Pharisees and others who said you must be circumcised according to T orah. We had better be able to discern the same deception being presented in our day, in the 21st century.
   But, Paul was clear:
For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation, Galatians 6:15 NASB.
   As a new creation do we neglect the commandments of Yahweh? Yahweh forbid, as Paul might say. Consider what he wrote to those in Corinth:
Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised. The circumcision is naught, and the uncircumcision is naught, but the guarding of the commands of Elohim does matter! (1 Corinthians 7:18 TS).
   Do we guard the commandments of Yahweh? Does this relate only to the circumcision? Of course not. He addresses both circumcised and uncircumcised who come into Messiah.
   This is just another example of why Galatians is not talking about the law overall, but aspects of it. Specifically, anything to do with blood and the Levitical priesthood and the purification rites thereof.
   The Galatian brethren and outside troublemaers had made it difficult, but with the inspired letters we have today, reading them in context, we can guard ourselves against the same type of false doctrines which would affect our relationship with Yahweh and Y ahshua. A relationship which will stay good, if we stay conected to Them, having the cicumcision made without hands. In the New Testament, this includes both males and, now, females.

In Conclusion
   While this article can help give an overview, it is still recommended one rereads the book of Galatians. Underline those areas which stand out. Learn more about the Levitical vs. the Melchizedek orders by reading our free booklet Orthodox Believers.

Highlights from the book of Galatians, along with a breakdown of the pertinent covenants, are listed below for your consideration:

      The evangel (the good news) of Messiah Yahshua is paramount.
      Yahshua broke down the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile.
      Those of faith in Messiah are blessed with Abraham the believer.
      Spiritual circumcision needed, not physical.
      Justification is by Yahshua's blood sacrifice, not by any other means.
      We are to walk in the Spirit of Yahweh and Yahshua, not in the flesh.
      • Don't go back to worldly pagan ways and days of false worship.
      Look forward to righteousness in the Kingdom.
      We have been adopted as sons and daughters through Messiah.
      We are heirs to the promises made to Abraham, and more, in Yahshua.

Understanding the progression of covenants/agreements:

      Yahweh's laws (commandments from the beginning, Gen. 26:5; Ex.16:28, 34).
      Sacrifices (Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Job, Noah, leading into the Levitical order of priesthood).
      Abraham (Abrahamic unilateral covenant/promises, sign of physical circumcision).

Understanding the 1st (Old) and 2nd (New) Covenants:

      1st Covenant (Yahweh, Moses and all of Israel at Mt. Sinai in Levitcal priesthood w/ physical circumcsion).
      2nd Covenant (Yahweh, Yahshua and all of Israel in Mechizedeck order w/spiritual circumision).

-Elder David Brett

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