. The First Great Theological Battle in the History of the Church

The First Great Theological Battle in the History of the Church

In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul sought to correct a church that had lost the heart of the gospel. Dr. Grant Osborne calls this letter “the first great theological battle in the history of the church.” At the core of the disagreement was the place of traditional Jewish religious practices for Gentle converts to Christianity. The Jewish Christians of the Galatian churches believed that Gentles had to become Jews—be circumcised and submit to the Mosaic law—before they could be saved. These Judaizers were convinced that the law was still the heart of the gospel, rather than Jesus’ actions on the cross.

The modern church continues to struggle with the temptation of works-based salvation. Osborne recognizes this challenge facing Christians today and addresses it directly in Galatians Verse by Verse. In this excerpt, Osborne reveals core theme of Galatians and applies it to our lives today.

The core of this letter is the stability of the true Christian gospel. In fact, Paul defines the gospel in Galatians 3:1–4:11. Paul proves that the Judaizers’ attempt to replace the cross with circumcision and the law constitutes heresy. It is anathema to the gospel, which centers on salvation by grace through faith. When salvation in Christ is claimed to be attainable by works rather than by faith, the gospel is not merely threatened but destroyed. Jesus brought about a fundamental change in God’s economy of salvation by inaugurating the switch from the old covenant age of the law to the new covenant age of salvation in Christ. On the basis of Jesus’ willingly allowing himself to be placed on the cross and bearing our sins as our substitute, God declares us innocent, forgiven, and righteous in his sight. If we could earn this right standing with God by keeping the law or doing good works, Jesus’ death would be worth nothing (Gal 2:21).

Works righteousness keeps sneaking to the forefront in too many churches, leading them to replace the gospel with good works and do away with evangelism in favor of social concern and fellowship. These external issues must never be allowed to supplant the internal reality of faith in Christ as the core of everything we are and do. The unequivocal and unmistakable message of Galatians lies at the epicenter of the Christian faith: We are all sinners saved only by faith in the Christ who became the substitute for us and bore our sins on the cross. The works-oriented salvation of Paul’s Judaizer opponents was heresy, and to follow it constituted apostasy. In our day, we must be carefully attuned to so-called Christian movements that in reality depart from the clear gospel message and deeply endanger the church.

Our purpose is simple yet profound: We are to keep the cross central and maintain a lifestyle that is “crucified to the world”—that considers itself dead to the world’s values and goals. We are part of a “new creation,” no longer pursuing self-centered goals and sacrificing eternal realities for the fleeting pleasures of this life. We also seek a balanced life, enjoying the world in which God has placed us while centering on God, the Giver. Our goal must be to live for God’s mercy and within God’s peace.

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Galatians Verse by Verse is the next volume in the Osborne New Testament Commentaries. Pre-order it today!

Written by
Jake Mailhot
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  • Dr. Osborne is quite mistaken to call this the “first great theological battle in the history of the church”. He ignores Act 15.

  • While I agree with all Dr. Osborne’s comments, I still struggle with the practical application. If all 613 laws in the Torah, many of which are incorporated into modern day life, are now obsolete, how do I live outside of everyday life and work. The moral, ethical and cultural issues are relatively simple, but how am I supposed to handle the legal issues imposed by all levels of government. I read that the keeping the OT Law will drive us further into sin; so should we , to start with, remove all copies of the 10 Commandments in public places

    • No one but Jesus ever kept the OT law. Remember the law as it is written in the NT was a schoolmaster until the Son of God came; so be thankful to God that you are not under the law but under grace.

  • The apostle Paul became opposed to the Jews misuse of the sign of circumcision. Abraham received the sign of circumcision 13 years after he had already received the promise of a seed that would become the inheritor of the land covenant. In Romans 4:1- 11; Abraham learn that Yahweh mercifully forgave his sexual sin with Hagar that conceived Ishmael. Abraham repented of sin and was forgiven just as David in Psalm 32:1-2; 51:1-17; where it is revealed that the, “Work of Animal Sacrifice” was not needed to receive forgiveness. In Genesis 17:1-3; 9- 15-16; 19; Yahweh mercifully restored Abraham to the Covenant promise of the future Seed and he received the sign of circumcision. In Genesis 18:18-19; Yahweh also commanded Abraham to teach his children the way of righteousness and justice so that Yahweh would fulfill the promises that would become a, “Blessing” to all future generations.
    (Gen 12:3; 22:18; Acts 3:25; Gal 3:8; )
    430 years later, Yahweh spoke from Mount Sinai and Israel entered into Covenant with their pledge to keep the 10 Commandments. Yahweh also instituted the temporary priestly order through Moses and Aaron to carry out the, “Sacrificial Works of the Law.” There Were Two Commanded, “Works of the Law” that the priests were required to perform. Every male child was circumcised on the 8th day and sacrificial Works were performed to maintain the sign of Yahweh’s Covenant of “Lovingkindness and Mercy.”
    In Galatians 2:16; 3:5; 10; (NASB) and Romans 3:20; 28; (NASB) Paul uses the phrase, “Works of the Law” that refers specifically to, “Circumcision and Animal Sacrifices.” These two symbolic works did not perfect Israel’s obedience to Yahweh’s Covenant Commandments, but they became a continual reminder of sin.
    In Hebrews 10:1-4; Paul repeats that the, “Sacrificial Works of the Law” could not remove sin. So then, no one could be justified by the symbolic, “Works of the Law.”
    In Romans 2:10-14; 25-29; Paul states that everyone that keeps Yahweh’s Covenant Commandments will be justified and that the True Circumcision is in the heart of everyone that obeys Yahweh’s laws. Paul is contrasting Jews reliance on superficial symbolism to identify themselves as Yahweh’s Covenant people. But Paul is opposing there misuse of symbolism and exposing their disobedience to Yahweh’s Covenant Commandments.
    Mark 7:6-9; Messiah Yeshua also confronted the Pharisees and teachers of the law for their many hypocrisies and disobedience to Yahweh’s Covenant Commandments. The development of Jewish traditions had corrupted their understanding of Yahweh’s Righteous Laws. The influence of Babylonian paganism and Hellenistic Greek mythology had also perverted the purpose of the priestly ordinance of, “Sacrificial Works of the Law.”
    Leviticus 16: 7-10; 15-17; 21-22; the Atonement sacrifice of Holiness became a mystery hidden behind the veil. The Levitical priests no longer offered a Faithful sacrifice of Holiness, but trusted in the pagan idolatry of a, “Substitution Scapegoat.” The Jews could not recognize the Promised Holy one when he came and they rejected the sinless, “Lamb of Yahweh” by crucifying the Messiah Savior.
    In Hebrews 7:1-28; 8:1-13; 9:6-26; Paul presents an in-depth study of the priestly ordinances that are the, “Sacrificial Works of the Law.” Paul explains that the priestly order of Aaron is being replaced by the original high priest Melchizedek who remains forever. Messiah Yeshua has presented his life as a, ” Sinless Lamb” and through His Sacrifice of Holiness He has entered the Heavenly presence of the Father. Messiah Yeshua has replaced the priestly order of Aaron and has become the Eternal Priest and Judge Melchizedek.
    In Hebrews 10:5-9; Psalms 40:6-11; John 15:9-10; Messiah Yeshua Sacrifice of Perfect Obedience has replaced the, “Animal Sacrificial Works of the Law.” Messiah Yeshua ended the animal sacrifices so that he may establish the example of, “Sacrificial Obedience to Yahweh’s Covenant Commandments.”
    In Hebrews 10:15-17; the pouring out of Messiah Yeshua Spirit of Holiness will place the, “Covenant Laws of Yahweh” in the hearts and minds of Messiah Yeshua’s disciples. Truly repentant disciples will be forgiven of past sins and learn obedience that leads to justification and true righteousness and peace.
    Matthew 5:17-20; 1 John 1:9-10; Isaiah 42:1-8; 21; Messiah Yeshua said that he did not do away with the Law or the Prophets. Messiah Yeshua magnified the Law and taught obedience to Yahweh’s Covenant Commandments and said that His disciples righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees to inherit the Kingdom.
    Matthew 19:16-19; John 12:49-50; 1 John 3:1-8; Messiah Yeshua explained that if anyone desires to enter into Eternal Life they must keep the Heavenly Father’s Covenant Commandments.
    In conclusion, the apostle Paul never taught disobedience to Yahweh’s Holy and Righteous Covenant Commandments. Paul only opposed the deceptive practice of reliance on symbolism of circumcision and sacrificial works of the law that disguised sinful disobedience. Paul’s careful revelation of mysteries should also convict Christianity of their disobedience to Yahweh’s Covenant Commandments. Christianity has corrupted the Atonement sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua and have replaced the required Sacrifice of Holy Obedience with their reliance on the pagan worship of a, “Substitution Scapegoat.”
    For more info on related topics please visit: http://abibletopic.blogspot.com/

    • In response to Lambscry…..Faith in the work Jesus Christ did on the cross is all that is needed to appropriate the grace of God and receive the forgiveness of sin. When one tries to complement the work by keeping any law or ordinance is diminishing what Christ did. Your faith is divided between trusting in Jesus Christ and in your efforts to insure or maintain your salvation. Titus 3:5 clearly states we are saved without the works of the law. Gal. 3 1- 3 O foolish Galatians who has bewitched you? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit are you now perfected by the flesh?

Written by Jake Mailhot