(A study in Galatians 5)PERHAPS one of the most misunderstood books of the Bible is the Epistle to the Galatians written by Rav Sha'ul (Paul), the so-called Apostle of Liberty. As Shimon Kefa (Peter) wrote:

Richard 'Aharon'


"And regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given to him who wrote to you; as also in all of his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things that are hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction."              (2 Kefa [Peter] 3:15-16)

PAUL, of course, remained a loyal, Torah-observant Jew throughout his lifetime, as testified to in Acts 22:3; 23:6; 24:14; 25:8; and 28:17. He never converted to any other religion. However, throughout the centuries many have twisted his writings to make him appear to be anti-Torah.

     Not only was Paul personally Torah-observant: He also taught Torah-observance. He wrote to Timothy, saying, "All Scripture is inspired by God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16)." This was a reference to the Tanakh - the Old Testament. The Newer Testament had not even been written yet! He also said, "Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3)."

     The Epistle to the Galatians is one of those 'books' that is so easily misunderstood, much as Peter's vision of the sheet being lowered from heaven with a multitude of animals on it has been misinterpreted to mean that Peter (and by extension all Believers) could now eat meat from unclean animals. However, Peter understood the vision to mean, "God has shown me that I am not to call any man unholy or unclean." [1] Those who disagree with Peter's interpretation of his own vision should rip  the Epistles of Peter out of the Bible, because they obviously do not consider Peter to be very inspired if he cannot even interpret his own visions. The purpose of the vision was to help Shimon Kefa (Peter) to be willing to share the Good News of Messiah with Cornelius, the Roman centurion, even though this Italian might have just eaten pork sausage with his spaghetti (if they had spaghetti back then!).

     Rav Sha'ul wrote his epistle to the Galatians because there was a very real problem with some Pharisaic Messianic Jews who were trying to impose their legalism onto the Gentile believers in Galatia (a province located in what is today the northern part of modern Turkey). These men were legalists, although some use the term "Judaizers" to describe them. True, they were Jewish. However, the term "Judaizer" used in such a negative context sounds anti-Semitic to me. After all, there are many legalists on this planet, and only a small portion of them are Jewish. Many years ago, we attended a church which told us we couldn't dance, drink wine, smoke, go to movie theaters, play cards, etc. Admittedly, I am not recommending all of the above activities. However, it is interesting that this denomination considered the mitzvot (commandments) given to us by God to be legalism, and then substituted a host of manmade prohibitions to keep instead. Personally, I prefer the commandments of God! Yeshua was very harsh toward those who would exalt manmade commandments above the word of HaShem. The real legalism would be enforcing manmade commandments as doctrines. As Yeshua said to the Pharisees:

"Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. Howbeit, in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' For neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." [2]

Although Yeshua was criticizing Jews for exalting man-made laws above the commandments of God, in this age, it is now the 'Church' that is most guilty of this grievous sin.

NOBODY is "saved" by the works of the Law. We are all saved by grace, not of our own good works. I don't know about you, but I need the blood of Messiah on a daily basis to cover my sin, as I still fall short. We believe firmly in telling others of their need for the blood of atonement provided freely by Yeshua. He paid the penalty of all of our sins - past, present, and future - at Golgotha.

     This does not mean that Torah is abolished, however. Yeshua clearly tells us that the Torah is still valid.[3] Yochanan tells us the New Testament definition of sin: "Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the Law; for sin is the transgression of the Law." [4]

     One of the things that makes Torah unpopular is the unfortunate translation. It is usually translated as "Law," and I occasionally use that same mistranslation, because that is what most people are familiar with. However, a more accurate translation would be "Instructions." Torah doesn't save anybody. We are not "redeemed" by Torah. Instead, Torah is God's instructions to us for how a redeemed person is supposed to live.

     The so-called Judaizers (I hate that term!) were very wrong in demanding Gentiles to get circumcised. It is impossible for circumcision to save anybody, Jew or Gentile. Also, circumcision is commanded only to the physical seed of Abraham, to be done on the 8th day, as well as for the men who were in Abraham's household.[5] In no place in scripture are Gentiles commanded to get circumcised. In the Greek, Rav Sha'ul would be saying, "Would that those who are troubling you would even castrate themselves." [6] Clearly, scripture does not require Gentiles to get circumcised. That would have been a major impediment to the Besorah (Good News) of Messiah Yeshua going forth to the Gentiles, particularly in a time before anesthetics. However, that in no way means that Torah is irrelevant to Gentiles. "The same Law (Torah) shall apply to the native as to the stranger (Gentile) who sojourns among you." [7]

     A common assumption is that the Believers in Galatia were in danger of "backsliding" back into Judaism. Then Paul had to write them a letter to get them on the right path and repudiate these Jewish tendencies. This also ties in with the belief that Yeshua came to establish a new religion called Christianity, which was supposed to replace Judaism. It also ties in to Dispensational Theology, whereby the Dispensation of Law is replaced by the Dispensation of Grace.

     These assumptions are all false. Yeshua didn't come to establish a new religion. Instead, He came as the Messiah of the old religion - Judaism. During His time on Planet Earth, nobody ever converted to Christianity. The very first reference to Christians comes almost half-way through the Newer Testament, when you find some Gentile Believers being called Christians for the first time. And you never find the word Christianity in the entire Newer Testament. Christianity as a religion separate from Judaism was a development that took place decades after the Newer Testament was written.

     Dispensational Theology basically "dispenses" with Torah, which is directly contrary to Yeshua's words in Matthew 5:17-19.

     The Galatians were in no danger of backsliding into Judaism, because they weren't Jews to begin with! As most sources will tell you, Galatia was settled by Celts - yes, the same people who eventually settled in Scotland and Ireland lived in Galatia, in northern Asia Minor (what is today called Turkey). The Celts were a warlike people that were also spread throughout much of Europe, including central Europe, the Balkan Peninsula, and what is today France and Spain.

     A website called "Britain Express" describes the Celts (pronounced Kelts) as follows:

The Celts loved war. If one wasn't happening, they'd be sure to start one. They were scrappers from the word go. They arrayed themselves as fiercely as possible, sometimes charging into battle fully naked, dyed blue from head to toe, and screaming like banshees to terrify their enemies....

They beheaded their opponents in battle and it was considered a sign of prowess to have a goodly number of (preserved) heads to display. The main problem with the Celts was that they couldn't stop fighting among themselves long enough to put up a united front. Each tribe was out for itself, and in the long run cost them control of Britain.

The head-hunting Celts eventually felt confident enough to conquer Rome, which they were actually able to do for several years. Eventually, the Romans were able to regroup, and chase the Celts out of Rome. From there, they chased the Celts farther north, until they entered the British Isles, where the Romans allowed them to remain. The Celts were fully pagan. Many of the traditions surrounding Halloween come to us from the Celts.


"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Messiah has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." [8] These opening words of Galatians 5 have been used for centuries as a foundation to attack God's holy commandments as "bondage." The curious thing is that this epistle was written to Gentiles who came to believe in the Jewish Messiah. They had never been in "bondage" to Torah. It is unlikely that they had ever heard of most of God's Instructions in their pagan days. It is blasphemous (in my humble opinion) to consider obedience to God as being "bondage." Yes, the Galatians had been in bondage, but not to the commandments of Scripture; they were in bondage to their pagan traditions. Rav Sha'ul (Paul) wrote to them:

"However, at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are not gods. But now, after that you have known God, or rather are known by God, why do you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days, and months, and times, and years. I fear for you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain." [9]

It is utter blasphemy to consider God's commandments, Sabbaths, and holy days to be "weak and beggarly elements." But this is exactly what many churches and denominations teach! Incredible! Instead, Paul was warning these new Believers in Galatia to not return to their former Celtic pagan traditions. Yeshua the Messiah sets us from bondage to sin, unbelief, and all the lies of HaSatan. Yeshua did not come to set us from HaShem's Instruction Book - the Torah. He didn't die a barbaric death on the Cross to abolish the Law; He suffered that awful punishment to pay the penalty for our transgression of Torah. He who knew no sin became sin for us, on our behalf.[10]

     In Galatians 5:2-7, Rav Sha'ul again speaks strongly against the Pharisaic Messianic Jews who were telling the Gentile Believers to get circumcised. Those seeking to be justified on the basis of their own righteousness instead of the imputed righteousness of Messiah Yeshua have totally missed the point.

     As Rav Sha'ul said, "A little chametz[11] leavens the whole lump." [12] It takes only a tiny bit of yeast. You add it to the raw bread dough, and in a few hours the entire loaf is permeated with yeast, causing the dough to rise significantly. Likewise, error also has the bad habit of multiplying itself. This is one of the reasons that Paul wrote so strongly against certain errors that were creeping into the congregations even in the First Century. He spoke strongly against such errors, lest they multiply themselves, resulting in various "cults" splitting off from the true bodies of Believers.

     Galatians 5:13 contains the warning to "not use freedom for an opportunity for the flesh, but by love serve one another." Once you have been delivered from sin (made free), you don't want to become re-entangled in it again. Also, he said, "by love, serve one another." Too many times, the very soulish person is willing to serve, but only after first asking the question, "What's in it for me?" Love should be the first and primary motivation. If you serve only for selfish reasons, then you already have your reward in this world, rather than in the Olam HaBa (the World to Come). The pleasures of this world are temporary, whereas the heavenly treasures (and pleasures) are eternal. Use your ministry gifts for Him out of a motivation of love. As he says in the following verse: "For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word: Love your neighbor as yourself." This is a quote from Leviticus 19:18. In Mark 12:28, Yeshua was asked which commandments were foremost of all. He replied by quoting the Sh'ma (Deut. 6:4-5), as well as the above quote from Leviticus.

     Let me point out one very important aspect of love. In the Greek mindset, love is a passive thing, of nice, warm, mushy feelings. However, in the Hebrew mindset, ahavah (love) is an active word. Love isn't mere feelings, but involves action. Perhaps you have seen Fiddler on the Roof. Reb Tevya asks his wife, "Golda, do you love me?" She answers something like this, "For 25 years I've washed your clothes, cooked your meals, milked your cow, raised your children," etc. He is asking if she loves him, and basically she is saying yes, by the things she does for him. In the Greek mindset, you can "love" someone, and still treat them badly, because it is based on nice mushy feelings. Yeshua expressed His love for us verbally. However, He also did something about it. He was willing to die a horrible death on the cross to pay the penalty for our transgressions of the Law, purchasing our salvation. Certainly such love is far more than nice mushy feelings.

     In the First Century, there were two primary schools of thought in Pharisaic Judaism: The School of Hillel and the School of Shammai. The story is told about a young Gentile. He went to the great scholar Shammai, telling him that he would like to convert to Judaism, but only if Shammai could tell him all he needed to know while he stood on one foot. Shammai chased him away. Then this Gentile went to the great scholar Hillel, again saying that he would convert to Judaism, but only if Hillel could teach him all he needed to know about Judaism while he stood on one foot. Hillel told him, "Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. All the rest is commentary." [13] This Gentile then decided to convert to Judaism. Yeshua said basically the same thing, but in a more positive sense: "Do unto others as you would have them do to you." Both sayings are based on Leviticus 19:18, which is one of the foremost commandments of Scripture.

     Rav Sha'ul added a little commentary on this very important commandment saying, "But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you not be consumed by one another." [14] I've heard it said that the Church is the only army that shoots its wounded. Unfortunately, this often applies to Messianic Judaism as well. We have seen Messianic Jews (including leaders) fall down with major moral failures. I don't believe in sweeping everything under the rug. But at the same time, I wonder if we always do enough to restore such individuals. Occasionally, there are also major splits and divisions over relatively minor differences in vision, theology, or direction. This is an area in which we have seen much improvement, with Messianic Jewish organizations and congregations reconciling themselves with each other. As Yeshua said, "By your love, they shall know that you are my talmidim (disciples)."

     Rav Sha'ul said, "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you cannot do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law." [15]

     We are basically dualistic beings, and are often confronted with "doing well" or "doing evil." The Rabbis call these impulses the yetzer hara (the evil impulse) and the yetzer hatov (the good impulse). Jewish cartoonists several decades ago personified these impulses, with a tiny angel standing on one shoulder, and a tiny devil standing on the other shoulder, each whispering in the ear of the person, one trying to get him to do evil, and the other trying to get him to do good. As Rav Sha'ul said, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities, against the rulers and darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12)." When we "entertain" the yetzer hara, we often open the door to the enemies of our soul, and it makes it more difficult to "walk in the spirit." The concept of demonic beings might not be popular, but it would be difficult to explain the horrendous evil that we see in the world, if not for these demonic beings. Setting our hearts on the things of the flesh does indeed make it harder to do what we should do. Again, quoting Paul: "For I delight in the Law of God after the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." [16] We need to die to self daily!


I would like to comment on Paul's statement in Galatians 5:18: "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law." Regretfully, many Christians interpret this to mean that God's holy Torah is somehow in opposition to the Spirit. Nothing could be further from the truth! Ezekiel (36:27) wrote, "And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments, and do them." It is the Spirit of Adonai that enables us to keep His mitzvot. God's Spirit and God's Torah are buddies, not mortal enemies. (Am I the Judaizer that your pastor warned you about? Perhaps. But you might have been sold a bill of goods. It is time to go by the Word of God, and not necessarily what your pastor has been telling you.)

     In any event, Paul is right when he said, "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law (Gal. 5:18)." Here is the primary difference between the "Old" Covenant and the New Covenant: The Old Covenant was the Torah written on tablets of stone, whereas in the New Covenant, the Torah is written on our hearts, as described in Jeremiah 31:31-33:

""Behold, the days come," saith Adonai, "that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of Egypt; my covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them... But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days... I will put My Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people."


In Acts 5:32, we read, "And we are His witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him," not a popular concept in this relatively lawless age. If the Holy Spirit (Ruakh HaKodesh) is given to those who obey God, I wonder what spirit some of my anti-Torah Charismatic friends have been filled with? It might not be the Holy Spirit.

     In the Old Covenant, we might have been primarily motivated out of fear, knowing the consequences of disobedience. However, in the New Covenant, our primary motivation to keep His commandments is as a demonstration of our love for Him. Basically, the New Covenant is the Old Covenant written on our hearts. In the same way, children often obey their parents out of fear of punishment. As they internalize their parents' instructions, they behave themselves as a demonstration of their love and respect for their parents, or simply because it is the "right thing to do." If you are a New Covenant Believer, it means that you are not under the Law, but that the Law is internalized, written on your heart. And if you reject Torah, it is a demonstration of the fact that you are not a New Covenant Believer. By the way, in order to get the Torah written on our hearts, we first must get it into our brains. We must read or listen to the words of Torah.


Rav Sha'ul continues: "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, sensuality, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, jealousy, murders, drunkenness, carousing, and such like, of which I told you in times past, that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." [17] Yes, we are saved by faith, and by faith alone. But if you practice the above sins, you "shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Not my words! Those are the words of Paul, the Apostle of Liberty. Having said the Sinner's Prayer 20 years ago does not guarantee your salvation today.

     I don't have time to comment on all the works of the flesh. I would like to comment on a couple of them. The word that the KJV translates as fornication is the Greek word porneia, which can also mean harlotry or simply sexual immorality, as it is sometimes translated. This is well and good.

     However, quite often certain Hebraic concepts and words do not translate into other languages. For instance, the King James Bible says, "A bastard shall not enter the congregation of the LORD (Dt. 25:2)." In English, a bastard is someone whose parents are not married. However, the Hebrew word that is translated is mamzer, which has nothing to do with whether or not the parents are married or not. A mamzer is not a bastard. Instead, a mamzer is someone who is born of the forbidden relationships mentioned in Leviticus 18 and 20.

     Rav Sha'ul spoke and wrote in Greek to Greek-speaking people. However, his mindset was thoroughly Hebraic. If he were to speak to a Jewish audience, he probably would have used the word zenah, which is normally a word applied to harlotry, as it does in 2 Chron. 21:11 and Isaiah 23:17. However, in this term is also used for adultery in Lev. 20:11. I would suggest that porneia (in Galatians 5:19 and throughout the Newer Testament) refers to the forbidden sexual relationships mentioned in Leviticus 18 and 20, which of course includes adultery.

     Sin is transgression of Torah, per 1 John 3:4. While the world today winks at sexual immorality, it is apparent that God takes this very seriously.

     The other word that I would like to comment on is idolatry. I don't know too many who actually bow down and worship statues. However, there are many other 'gods' that people worship: Money, Possessions, Entertainment, Sports, Cars, Sex, Power, Prestige, Fame, Career, Education, Rock Stars, and a host of other 'gods.' Something that is more important to you than the Almighty might qualify as a 'god' that you worship. "Thou shalt not have any other gods before Me."

     Of course, the Scriptures are far more than a list of things you should not do. Paul also tells us of things that should be evident in our lives: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Messiah's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25)."

     There is, of course, a side benefit to all of this: We have a peace that the world cannot give to us. We can sleep better at night without a troubled conscience. And the world is a little better place, because we have passed through. Also, we have the assurance of our salvation. We have a choice to make between heaven or hell. May we all make the right choices! Where will you spend eternity?


Dr. Daniel Botkin

Of all the articles, pamphlets, and booklets I have written, The Ghost of Marcion is probably the most widely read item. The article first appeared in Petah Tikvah in two parts in 1992. Some years later, I made it into a small booklet. (Send $3 to Gates of Eden, PO Box 2257, East Peoria IL 61611-0257.)

     In The Ghost of Marcion, I stated that in the Christian world, Paul's epistles (which make up only about 5% of the Bible) receive an undue amount of emphasis (as compared to the other 95% of the Bible), and that some Christians seem more intent on being disciples of Paul than on being disciples of Jesus.

     If a man is truly following Jesus, he will also follow Paul's teachings, because Jesus authorized Paul. And if a man is truly following Paul, he will also follow Jesus, because Paul told people to follow Jesus. Nevertheless, Christians sometimes seem to forget who is built upon whom.

     Paul's teachings build upon the foundation of Jesus; Jesus' teachings are not built upon the foundation of Paul. Paul's teachings should not be viewed as the foundation of our faith. Unfortunately, Paul's teachings are often viewed this way. I was recently reminded of this fact when I was reading a Christian magazine. In the magazine, the editor makes this statement: "Paul's writings form the foundation of Christianity."

     This brief remark reveals the foundational problem that exists in many good Christian's minds. They base their theology more on Paul's writings than on Jesus' teachings.

     Paul's writings are inspired, and are precious when properly understood. But Paul's writings are not the foundation of the faith. Jesus Christ, not Paul, is the true foundation, as Paul himself said, "For other foundation can no man lay than that (which) is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:11).

Editor's Note:  I believe that Rav Sha'ul (Paul) remained a Torah-observant Jew. Paul's writings do not contradict the words of Yeshua. However, if Paul were to say anything contrary to Yeshua's words, I would go with Yeshua, and reject anything that Paul said that was in disagreement with Yeshua. Check out the cartoon below by Daniel Botkin. He has a bimonthly publication, Gates of Eden. For a sample issue, send $3 to PO Box 2257, Peoria IL 61611-0257.

[1] Acts 10:28.

[2] Mark 7:6-9. (See also Isaiah 29:13)

[3] Mattityahu (Matthew) 5:17-19.

[4] 1 Yochanan (John) 3:4.

[5] B'reisheet (Genesis) 17:17:10-14, 27.

[6] Galatians 5:12.

[7] Sh'mot (Exodus) 12:49 (See also Lev. 24:22)

[8] Galatians 5:1.

[9] Galatians 4:8-10.

[10] 2 Corinthians 5:21.

[11] Hebrew word for anything that has yeast.

[12] Galatians 5:9.

[13] Shab. 31a.

[14] Galatians 5:15.

[15] Galatians 5:16-18.

[16] Romans 7:22-23.

[17] Galatians 5:19-21.