" From: Sha'ul, an emissary - I received my commission not from human beings or through human mediation but through Yeshua the Messiah and God the Father, who raised him from the dead . . . " Galatians 1:1

Paul / Saul / Sha'ul

St Paul preaching in Athens by Raphael (1515) - Victoria and Albert Museum UK

St Paul preaching in Athens by Raphael (1515) - Victoria and Albert Museum UK

Wildolive starts out from the question of the status of Jews and Gentiles in God's body of believers - particularly Paul's discourse on the matter in Romans; especially chapter 11 and v17. The importance of this teaching, and several others on this matter contained in his letters, is widely overlooked or misunderstood.

If you do a Google search on "Paul, Jesus" you will get many web pages debating whether Paul was corrupting what Jesus taught.

"No sooner had Jesus knocked over the dragon of superstition than Paul boldly set it on its legs again in the name of Jesus." said George Bernard Shaw. But a look at GBS' religious outlook suggests why he had not grasped what Paul did. As a child Shaw attended the Church of Ireland, an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion. Until, at about thirty years old, Shaw identified himself as an Atheist. Then, in the 1890s, Shaw renounced Atheism and began identifying himself as a mystic.

Some have made a theological argument that Saul changed his name to Paul because he became a Christian and ceased to be a Jew. This is an unjustified assumption; incorrect and misleading. Saul did not become a Christian and cease to be a Jew. He continued to be a Jew, but accepted Yeshua as the (Jewish) Messiah. Because Sha'ul was a Jew born in Greek lands, he would have had a Greek name as well as the Hebrew name given at his Brith Millah. (circumcision) He merely used his Greek name when in the Gentile world.

But there is much more that we need to understand about Paul / Saul / Sha'ul than just what name he used.

Why did Jesus say he had come, "only to the lost sheep of Israel" when we know he had come to save the world? (light to the Gentiles).

Why did God call an extra emissary/apostle to take the Gospel to the Gentiles after Peter had been used to make the first engagements with Gentiles ?

Why did Jesus call fishermen to take the Gospel to the Jews, but a pharisee to take it to the Gentiles?

If Paul's call was not part God's plan, surely we should not be following his teaching. But Peter clearly accepted Paul's letters as Holy Spirit teaching.

2 Peter 3:15 And think of our Lord's patience as deliverance, just as our dear brother Sha'ul also wrote you, following the wisdom God gave him. Indeed, he speaks about these things in all his letters. They contain some things that are hard to understand, things which the uninstructed and unstable distort, to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

Paul's place in God's scheme of salvation

Paul and the Gospel to the Gentiles

In Acts we have the record of Saul / Paul telling the story of his conversion from persecutor of the Messianic community to a most ardent preacher of the faith he had tried to suppress. (Acts 22:6)

"As I was traveling and approaching Dammesek (Damascus), around noon, suddenly a brilliant light from heaven flashed all around me! I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Sha'ul! Sha'ul! Why do you keep persecuting me?' I answered, 'Sir, who are you?' 'I am Yeshua from Natzeret,' he said to me, 'and you are persecuting me!' Those who were with me did see the light, but they didn't hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. I said 'What should I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, 'Get up, and go into Dammesek, and there you will be told about everything that has been laid out for you to do.' I had been blinded by the brightness of the light, so my companions led me by the hand into Dammesek. "

A man named Hananyah, an observant follower of the Torah who was highly regarded by the entire Jewish community there, came to me, stood by me and said, 'Brother Sha'ul, see again!' And at that very moment, I recovered my sight and saw him. He said, 'The God of our fathers determined in advance that you should know his will, see the Tzaddik and hear his voice; because you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. So now, what are you waiting for? Get up, immerse yourself and have your sins washed away as you call on his name.'
"After I had returned to Yerushalayim, it happened that as I was praying in the Temple, I went into a trance, and I saw Yeshua. 'Hurry!' he said to me, 'Get out of Yerushalayim immediately, because they will not accept what you have to say about me.' I said, 'Lord, they know themselves that in every synagogue I used to imprison and flog those who trusted in you; also that when the blood of your witness Stephen was being shed, I was standing there too, in full agreement; I was even looking after the clothes of the ones who were killing him!'
But he said, 'Get going! For I am going to send you far away - to the Goyim!' "

Since this web site is dedicated to understanding how Gentiles fit into God's salvation plan (Olive tree) as explained in Paul's letter to the believers in Rome, a deeper understanding of Paul is required.

Wildolive now has a series of podcasts studying the whole letter of Paul to the church in Rome, following the thread of Paul's concern about the church's attitude to Jews.

Firstly, we must accept that Jesus came as God's final word to the World and that subsequent "prophets" bringing a new revelation are not from God and any other gospel is not from God. So, if Paul brought a different Gospel we should shun his teachings, but he clearly had no intention of bringing any other gospel

1 Corinthians 2:2 "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified."

Once we have learned to read the Bible with Jewish spectacles, instead of replacement theology or supercessionist spectacles, Paul's writings explain that he came with a special role of not only preaching the Gospel to Gentiles but working out the theology needed to connect Gentiles to the Jewish scriptures.

(If this is a problem for you the series that David Pawson taught at the ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles, looking at Israel in the New Testament, starting with ROMANS is highly recommended)

Romans explores how God sees the process by which Gentiles are welcomed into His household of faith - likened to an olive tree.

Ephesians starts off by establishing the Gentile's redeemed position before God by first looking at where they had stood prior to Jesus death for all.

In Philipians Paul considers the benefits of being Jewish, but the overwhelming worth of our trust in Jesus.

In Galatians, Paul gives us an insight into the process by which God prepared him for ministry to the Gentiles.

Scriptures quoted from the Complete Jewish Bible.

Jews and Gentiles - diagramatically

1 - God's olive tree of faithful Jewish believers, looking for the coming of Messiah

2 - Jews, since the time of Yeshua, who have sought to manage without Messiah Yeshua.

3 - Jews who believe in Yeshua as Messiah

4 - Gentiles who believed in the Jewish Messiah through the preaching of Paul; and others

5 - The Gentile Church as it grew from 4 and lost its roots in the olive tree

3 & 4 are the one new man - but retaining their identities as Jews and Gentiles.

Something to ponder. Please don't worry too much about the scale or proportions of the segments.

Paul in Galatians

Galatians 1:1 From: Sha'ul, an emissary - I received my commission not from human beings or through human mediation but through Yeshua the Messiah and God the Father, who raised him from the dead - also from all the brothers with me.

Paul had to write this letter to resolve confusion and error that had been introduced into the church by those who believed that Gentiles had to become Jews before they could become followers of Jesus. The Gospel was under attack!

Galatians 1:6 I am astounded that you are so quick to remove yourselves from me, the one who called you by the Messiah's grace, and turn to some other supposedly "Good News," which is not good news at all! What is really happening is that certain people are pestering you and trying to pervert the genuine Good News of the Messiah. But even if we - or, for that matter, an angel from heaven! - were to announce to you some so-called "Good News" contrary to the Good News we did announce to you, let him be under a curse forever! We said it before, and I say it again: if anyone announces "Good News" contrary to what you received, let him be under a curse forever!

Paul had been forced to clarify and emphasize his authority as preacher of the Gospel to Gentiles. He also had to explain how his ministry came about.

Gal 1:11 Furthermore, let me make clear to you, brothers, that the Good News as I proclaim it is not a human product; because neither did I receive it from someone else nor was I taught it - it came through a direct revelation from Yeshua the Messiah.

Gal 1:15 But when God, who picked me out before I was born and called me by his grace, chose to reveal his Son to me, so that I might announce him to the Gentiles, I did not consult anyone; and I did not go up to Yerushalayim to see those who were emissaries before me. Instead, I immediately went off to Arabia and afterwards returned to Dammesek. Not until three years later did I go up to Yerushalayim to make Kefa's acquaintance, and I stayed with him for two weeks,

Gal 2:7 On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the Good News for the Uncircumcised, just as Kefa had been for the Circumcised; since the One working in Kefa to make him an emissary to the Circumcised had worked in me to make me an emissary to the Gentiles.

Not least among the issues was guarding the new Gentile believers from the work of those who sought to bring them under the inadequacy of Judaism as it was widely practiced -

Gal 2:16 even so, we have come to realize that a person is not declared righteous by God on the ground of his legalistic observance of Torah commands, but through the Messiah Yeshua's trusting faithfulness. Therefore, we too have put our trust in Messiah Yeshua and become faithful to him, in order that we might be declared righteous on the ground of the Messiah's trusting faithfulness and not on the ground of our legalistic observance of Torah commands. For on the ground of legalistic observance of Torah commands, no one will be declared righteous.

Note the care with which David Stern translated this passage to show that Paul was not abolishing the first five books of the Bible as "the LAW"

Paul's letter to the Galatians has important warnings to us all about falling into legalism and religious observances - (Christian as well as Jewish legalism) This is not a Jew bashing letter; we can be just as religiously enslaved by "Christian" holy days and prohibitions.

David Stern's commentary on the beginning of Galatians gives a thorough explanation of the ministry of Paul / Saul/ Sha'ul. See Jewish New Testament Commentary .

But here are some key points.

On Galatians 1:17 - David Stern says,
I believe that during his time in Arabia, away from the company of others and guided by the Holy Spirit, Sha'ul put together the outline of how the Gospel, hitherto confined within an ethnically Jewish Framework, could be made independent of Jewish culture and thus fully available not only to Jews but also to Gentiles without their having to convert to Judaism.

Sha'ul did not merely add belief in Yeshua being the promised messiah on to his Jewish faith, as most Jews had, and he was not in the same position as Gentiles who accepted a new religion in place of their paganism. He put in the work to see how much of the old could be retained, how much needed to be discarded (for the Gentiles) and how much needed revision in order to communicate this Jewish truth to the non-Jewish world.

Thus Sha'ul was the perfect example of what Yeshua was talking about when he said,

"Every Torah teacher who has been made into a talmid (disciple) for the Kingdom of Heaven is like the owner of a home who brings out of his storage room both new things and old."

In Galatians chapter 2, Paul insists that his Gospel is the same as that of the other apostles. The only distinctive is that Gentiles are not required to become Jews - to leave one culture and join another. The conflict this caused with the Judaizers forced him to explain that making Gentiles become Jews would put them under legalism - of looking to obeying Torah rules (and possibly even the oral Torah too) to attain salvation, whereas they had been granted salvation by trusting in Jesus, his death and resurrection. What more can we add to the salvation we have through trusting?

Christian Zionists can be tempted to wish they were Jewish or even convince themselves that they are, like the Ephraimites.

In v16-19

even so, we have come to realize that a person is not declared righteous by God on the ground of his legalistic observance of Torah commands, but through the Messiah Yeshua's trusting faithfulness. Therefore, we too have put our trust in Messiah Yeshua and become faithful to him, in order that we might be declared righteous on the ground of the Messiah's trusting faithfulness and not on the ground of our legalistic observance of Torah commands. For on the ground of legalistic observance of Torah commands, no one will be declared righteous. But if, in seeking to be declared righteous by God through our union with the Messiah, we ourselves are indeed found to be sinners, then is the Messiah an aider and abettor of sin? Heaven forbid!
Indeed, if I build up again the legalistic bondage which I destroyed, I really do make myself a transgressor. For it was through letting the Torah speak for itself that I died to its traditional legalistic misinterpretation, so that I might live in direct relationship with God.

Paul points out to us that the elders of the messianic community had approved his Gospel preaching to the Gentiles.

Gal 2:7 On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the Good News for the Uncircumcised, just as Kefa had been for the Circumcised; since the One working in Kefa to make him an emissary to the Circumcised had worked in me to make me an emissary to the Gentiles.
So, having perceived what grace had been given to me, Ya`akov, Kefa and Yochanan, the acknowledged pillars of the community, extended to me and Bar-Nabba the right hand of fellowship; so that we might go to the Gentiles, and they to the Circumcised.

The discussion of circumcision in this letter is not a criticism of Jews as being under the Law, but part of Paul's drive to ensure that Gentile converts were not led into trusting in Jewish rites to add anything to their salvation and justification. For a Jew, circumcision is a Torah commandment and a sign of God's covenant with the Jewish people - their ethnic identity.

This touches another question from Gentile believers, "Do I have to obey the Torah commandments since I am a New Testament believer?" One might ask, "Which of the ten commandments are you planning to break?"

The Gentile Christian must look at which commandments apply solely to Jewish ethnicity and are therefore not applicable for Gentiles. For example, the prohibition on having mixed fibres in one's garments. Remember that the Kosher food laws would be a major problem, but the elders settled this matter.

Acts 15:20 Instead, we should write them a letter telling them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from fornication, from what is strangled and from blood.

How much thought do we give this minimal instruction?

David Stern points out that the Judaisers that dogged Paul had three characteristic approaches

1 - The circumcision Faction - wanted (male) Gentiles to be circumcised

2 - The assimilationists - wanted Gentile believers to become part of the Jewish community

3 - The Legalizers - wanted the Gentile believers to become part of the Jewish community that was trusting in following rules rather than simply trusting in Jesus.

He also pointed out that Christians can fall into these categories in their own way - especially insisting that Jewish converts become Gentiles. David Stern points out...

Paul's objective of making the Gospel independent of ethnicity raises an interesting issue of western missionary endeavour being criticised as "tools of western imperialism" because they failed to distinguish the transcultural Good News from their own cultural baggage.

Paul in Philipians

Philipians 3:3 For it is we who are the Circumcised, we who worship by the Spirit of God and make our boast in the Messiah Yeshua! We do not put confidence in human qualifications,
even though I certainly have grounds for putting confidence in such things. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for putting confidence in human qualifications, I have better grounds: b'rit-milah on the eighth day, by birth belonging to the people of Isra'el, from the tribe of Binyamin, a Hebrew-speaker, with Hebrew-speaking parents, in regard to the Torah, a Parush, in regard to zeal, a persecutor of the Messianic Community, in regard to the righteousness demanded by legalism, blameless. But the things that used to be advantages for me, I have, because of the Messiah, come to consider a disadvantage. Not only that, but I consider everything a disadvantage in comparison with the supreme value of knowing the Messiah Yeshua as my Lord. It was because of him that I gave up everything and regard it all as garbage, in order to gain the Messiah and be found in union with him, not having any righteousness of my own based on legalism, but having that righteousness which comes through the Messiah's faithfulness, the righteousness from God based on trust.

Paul in Romans

On Circumcision - again refuting any teaching that Gentiles should get themselves circumcised.

Romans 2:25 For circumcision is indeed of value if you do what Torah says. But if you are a transgressor of Torah, your circumcision has become uncircumcision! Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the Torah, won't his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?
See JNTC 336
See JNTC on who is not a Jew
Romans 3:1 Then what advantage has the Jew? What is the value of being circumcised? Much in every way! In the first place, the Jews were entrusted with the very words of God. For in his sight no one alive will be considered righteous on the ground of legalistic observance of Torah commands, because what Torah really does is show people how sinful they are. (CJB)
Notice how much easier to understand is this than the KJV and many others, that appear to condemn "the LAW" as an evil Jewish thing.
Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

See JNTC 344 - also p 345 in which Paul says Torah obedience is not impossible.

What about Abraham ? He is our father in trusting...

Romans 4:1 Then what should we say Avraham, our forefather, obtained by his own efforts? For if Avraham came to be considered righteous by God because of legalistic observances, then he has something to boast about. But this is not how it is before God! For what does the Tanakh say? "Avraham put his trust in God, and it was credited to his account as righteousness."
In Romans 7, Paul discusses the way we can see ourselves as dead to the Torah.
Romans 7:1 Surely you know, brothers - for I am speaking to those who understand Torah - that the Torah has authority over a person only so long as he lives? For example, a married woman is bound by Torah to her husband while he is alive; but if the husband dies, she is released from the part of the Torah that deals with husbands. Therefore, while the husband is alive, she will be called an adulteress if she marries another man; but if the husband dies, she is free from that part of the Torah; so that if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress. Thus, my brothers, you have been made dead with regard to the Torah through the Messiah's body, so that you may belong to someone else, namely, the one who has been raised from the dead, in order for us to bear fruit for God. For when we were living according to our old nature, the passions connected with sins worked through the Torah in our various parts, with the result that we bore fruit for death. But now we have been released from this aspect of the Torah, because we have died to that which had us in its clutches, so that we are serving in the new way provided by the Spirit and not in the old way of outwardly following the letter of the law.
He goes on to discuss the possible objection that the Torah might be sinful.

Romans 9 to 11
The heart, or climax, of Romans - please read JNTC p 385 and note particularly Paul's continuing heart for his own people. Even though he was called as apostle to the Gentiles, and he wants his Gentile converts to understand the roots of their standing before God.

I am speaking the truth - as one who belongs to the Messiah, I do not lie; and also bearing witness is my conscience, governed by the Ruach HaKodesh: my grief is so great, the pain in my heart so constant, that I could wish myself actually under God's curse and separated from the Messiah, if it would help my brothers, my own flesh and blood, the people of Isra'el! They were made God's children, the Sh'khinah has been with them, the covenants are theirs, likewise the giving of the Torah, the Temple service and the promises; the Patriarchs are theirs; and from them, as far as his physical descent is concerned, came the Messiah, who is over all. Praised be Adonai for ever! Amen.

He then goes on to discuss the "But" of the present condition of Israel (which is not the final condition, as he explains later)

Romans 10 starts with similar anguish for the Jews

Brothers, my heart's deepest desire and my prayer to God for Isra'el is for their salvation; for I can testify to their zeal for God. But it is not based on correct understanding; for, since they are unaware of God's way of making people righteous and instead seek to set up their own, they have not submitted themselves to God's way of making people righteous. For the goal at which the Torah aims is the Messiah, who offers righteousness to everyone who trusts.
Note the use of the word "goal"; much better than the more common "end" which implies termination where it originally conveyed the meaning of objective or goal. (as in the saying, " the end justifies the means")

Romans 11 starts with,

"In that case, I say, isn't it that God has repudiated his people?" Heaven forbid! For I myself am a son of Isra'el, from the seed of Avraham, of the tribe of Binyamin. God has not repudiated his people, whom he chose in advance.

His argument develops through the amazing reason for Israel's present position - Rom 11:11

"In that case, I say, isn't it that they have stumbled with the result that they have permanently fallen away?" Heaven forbid! Quite the contrary, it is by means of their stumbling that the deliverance has come to the Gentiles, in order to provoke them to jealousy. Moreover, if their stumbling is bringing riches to the world - that is, if Isra'el's being placed temporarily in a condition less favored than that of the Gentiles is bringing riches to the latter - how much greater riches will Isra'el in its fullness bring them!

He takes us through another misunderstood concept - it is not the Jews that have been cast aside as Replacement theologians would have us believe. - Romans 11:15 - It is the Jews' casting aside of Jesus! See JNTC p 412 for the explanation of the CJB translation.

For if their casting Yeshua aside means reconciliation for the world, what will their accepting him mean? It will be life from the dead! (CJB)

For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? (KJV)

Paul then takes us to the "wild olive shoot" picture of how we Gentiles are "grafted in" to God's body of faith.

Romans 11:17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you - a wild olive - were grafted in among them and have become equal sharers in the rich root of the olive tree, then don't boast as if you were better than the branches! However, if you do boast, remember that you are not supporting the root, the root is supporting you. So you will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." True, but so what? They were broken off because of their lack of trust. However, you keep your place only because of your trust. So don't be arrogant; on the contrary, be terrified! For if God did not spare the natural branches, he certainly won't spare you! So take a good look at God's kindness and his severity: on the one hand, severity toward those who fell off; but, on the other hand, God's kindness toward you - provided you maintain yourself in that kindness! Otherwise, you too will be cut off! Moreover, the others, if they do not persist in their lack of trust, will be grafted in; because God is able to graft them back in. For if you were cut out of what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree! For, brothers, I want you to understand this truth which God formerly concealed but has now revealed, so that you won't imagine you know more than you actually do. It is that stoniness, to a degree, has come upon Isra'el, until the Gentile world enters in its fullness; and that it is in this way that all Isra'el will be saved. As the Tanakh says, "Out of Tziyon will come the Redeemer; he will turn away ungodliness from Ya`akov and this will be my covenant with them, . . . when I take away their sins."
With respect to the Good News they are hated for your sake. But with respect to being chosen they are loved for the Patriarchs' sake, for God's free gifts and his calling are irrevocable.
Just as you yourselves were disobedient to God before but have received mercy now because of Isra'el's disobedience; so also Isra'el has been disobedient now, so that by your showing them the same mercy that God has shown you, they too may now receive God's mercy. For God has shut up all mankind together in disobedience, in order that he might show mercy to all.
O the depth of the riches and the wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments! How unsearchable are his ways!

O the depth of the riches and the wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments! How unsearchable are his ways!


Posted 28/10/14

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