As we discuss the difference between slaves and sons let’s remember Chapter 2:16: “Yet we know that a person is set right not by deeds based on Torah, but rather through … [the faithfulness of Messiah Yeshua]. So even we have put our trust in Messiah Yeshua, in order that we might be set right based on trust in Messiah and not by deeds based on Torah—because no human will be justified by deeds based on Torah.”[i]
[Read Gal. 3:15-29]
Mosaic Law does not Annul the Promise to Abraham
(Vs. 15-16) In Sha’ul’s day, the covenants established could not be altered by anyone, including the one who uttered it. This is much closer to the character of Adonai, then today’s contracts. Sha’ul writes to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:11-13), “Trustworthy is the saying: If we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” It is not in Adonai’s character to break His word … ever.
Sha’ul then makes an interesting midrash about the word “seed” or zerah. Normally zerah, although singular, would apply in a collective sense to all of the decedents of a person. David Stern points to nine different truths that Sha’ul expounds from the reality of Messiah being the zerah of Abraham.
- Israel is God’s son
- The Messiah is God’s Son.
- Israel is descended from Avraham, is Avraham’s seed, the children of Avraham.
- The true children of Avraham are those who trust.
- Those who trust in Yeshua are united with him by that trust – they are a part of his Body, one with him, one, singular.
- In the thinking of Tanakh, a king represents his people to the point of being one with them; and the king of Israel is treated as representing Israel, standing for them, being one with them.
- The Messiah Yeshua is the King of Israel, the promised Son of David, one with Israel.
- By trusting, Gentiles become identified with and in some sense are a part of Israel.
- All of God’s promises reach their culmination and fulfillment in the Messiah, who is Avraham’s “seed.”[ii]
(Vs. 17) Sha’ul points out that the promise was made long before the law was given to Moses or enforced. Adonai had graciously given Abraham a promise, and trust in that promise was sufficient for Abraham to be considered righteous before God. If trust in a promise of Adonai was enough for Abraham, then is trust in Adonai’s Messiah sufficient for us also?
Then Why Torah?
(Vs. 19-22) So why was Torah given to Moses? How many people have heard of Ray Comfort? He is a Messianic Jew who God has used powerfully to train up a generation of evangelists. In almost all of his discussions with unbelievers he starts by asking a series of questions. (Use a volunteer?):
- Do you think you are a good person?
- Have you ever lied? … What do you call someone who lies?
- Have you ever stolen something even if it was small? … What do you call someone who steals?
- Jesus said that whoever looks at a person with lust in their heart is an Adulterer. Have you ever looked at someone with lust?
- Now, I am not judging you, but you have just told me that you are a lying, thieving, adulterer at heart. And when God judges you on judgement day, will you be innocent or guilty?
- Heaven or Hell?
- Does that concern you?
He then goes on to share the Good News of how Yeshua’s work on the cross pays for our sins and God can legally dismiss our case. But I want you to notice what he is doing. What has he confronted the people with? That’s right, here are 3 of the 10 commandments, all of which are still all fully in force, and just as relevant as the day they were given. Not a single one of these commandments has been, done away with. Breaking any of these commandments means eternal separation from Adonai. The Torah given to Moses brings all people under the conviction of Adonai’s perfection, and brings us to the realization that we do not measure up. We desperately need help. Enter the mediator, the faithful Messiah Yeshua.
Torah the Guardian
(Vs. 23-25) Prior to Messiah, the Torah provided a way of forgiveness. This “God-given, God ordained, God sanctioned system of atonement as laid out in the Torah”[iii] was through the sacrificial system with temple, priests and the shedding of blood. Michael Brown shows that more chapters are dedicated to the sacrificial system than to Sabbath observance, holy days, idolatry, adultery, murder and theft combined.[iv] Sha’ul shows the congregations in Galatia that Torah functioned as a custodian until Messiah came.[v] But now that Messiah has come, our trust is no longer in the temporary atonement work of an innocent lamb, but rather now it is in the atoning work of Messiah Yeshua.
The Torah leads us to Yeshua. Yeshua said in (Jn. 5:45-47) “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father. The one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have put your hope. For if you were believing Moses, you would believe Me—because he wrote about Me. But since you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” All of Torah points to our need for a long-term solution to our sin, our need of a renewed mind, and our desperate inadequacy. Yeshua is truly the “goal of Torah”.
Sons and Daughters of God
Because of Yeshua’s faithfulness, and our ongoing trust in Him, we all, Jew and Gentile, are now adopted into His family. We have clothed ourselves with Messiah, become one with Him. This means that when Adonai looks at us, He sees us through the righteousness Yeshua our Messiah. Now, because of the faithfulness of Yeshua, Gentiles are “equal partners with Jews in the Body of Messiah, declared righteous by God without having to adopt any further Jewish distinctives.”[vi]
However, just as there is still “observable, physical, psychological and social distinctions between male and female and between slave and freemen …. The same is true of Jews and Gentiles: the distinctions remains; the verse does not obliterate it.” It is true that we are all now heirs according to the promise given to Abraham, and that we all must come to Messiah Yeshua in humble repentance. Sha’ul is making the point that Gentiles are absolutely not required to become Jewish, but the opposite is also true. Jews do not become Gentiles by accepting Yeshua, nor to be accepted by Adonai.
David Stern holds an interesting conversation in his Commentary, and it applies directly to our vision and mission as a congregation.
The conversation goes like this, “You Messianic Jews should not separate yourselves from us Gentile Christians by having Messianic synagogues! Don’t you know that ‘in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek’? So be like us, give up your Jewish distinctives, stop observing the Torah and the Jewish holidays, put that all behind you; worship with us in our Gentile oriented congregations, living our Gentile lifestyle. … [However] according to Messianic Jewish Pastor Mark Kinzer, the witness to the world that the Messiah reconciles Jews and Gentiles requires [us] not to suppress [our] Jewish or Gentile identity, but to maintain our identities while relating to each other in love and thus manifesting unity. If Jewish or Gentile identity is suppressed, reconciliation is invisible and therefore not a witness.”
As a Messianic Jewish Congregation, we are called demonstrate the unity between Jews and Gentiles, who are all one in Messiah Yeshua.
[i] All Scripture quotations are taken from the Tree of Life (TLV) version unless otherwise noted.
[ii] The Jewish New Testament Commentary, David Stern, pg. 549.
[iii] Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol 2 Theological Objections, Michael Brown, pg. 71-102.
[v] David Stern, pg. 553.
[vi] Ibid, pg. 554.