Strongholds to “The Way”
It is of great importance for us to consider why some early converts to “The Way” had strongholds that Paul needed to address. Moving from one dogmatic belief towards a new standard certainly was cause for their apprehensive behavior, which is not easily dismissed, especially during a time when new doctrine was being presented within Christianity’s most youthful and impressionable state. Before Christ arrived on the scene, a majority of the early Jewish converts viewed the law as a way to know and draw nearer to Yahweh. The law was to be celebrated and upheld. It was something to obtain in order to be counted as righteous and faithful. It was their way of life and faith in the law equated to faith in God. They didn’t view it as entangling, or restraining. Let’s have a look at some versus to back this up.
- Psalm 119:92 [ESV] If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction
- Psalm 119:103 [ESV] How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.
- Psalm 119:113 [ESV] I hate the double minded, but I love your law
Now, after reading those verses (and there are many more) – Imagine being a first century Jew trying to protect the law. Take a look a Psalm 119:113 again. Paul may have been seen as “double minded” to the first century Jew.
Tradition of the Elders – Oral Law
The focus should have remained on Yahweh, something that Israel, with the exception of certain individuals, lost site of. Here is an excerpt taken from the Hill & Walton “Survey on the Old Testament” on the matter of the “tradition of the elders” or “oral law.”
The zealous but misguided appeal to Mosaic law for community rule eventually led to pharisaical legalism that tithed “pepper seeds” with ruthless calculation but ignored the very essence of Torah – faith, justice, and mercy (Matt. 23:23). To ensure community obedience to covenant stipulations related to personal purity, the Mosaic code was “fenced in” or supplemented by a legal hedge called the oral law, or “tradition of the elders” (cf. Matt. 15:1-9). Gradually the supplemental code displaced the primary code of Moses, prompting Jesus to decry a religion that neglected the law of God to cling to the traditions of men (cf. Mark 7:1-9).
The Frontline of Spiritual Warfare
In conclusion – Paul was quite aware that the followers in Galatia had significant strongholds when it came to Law versus Grace. They struggled with “new covenant Christianity”. The “Judaizers” were quite aware of this as well. In a sense, when we read Galatians, we are witnessing the unfolding of spiritual warfare in which it is now Christ’s turn to move Paul into place in order to combat the false brothers. Ephesians 6:17 [ESV] and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. The battle is not over, the question now is – Where is Christ placing each one of us?
. Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, ©2009), 343.