Judaizers! Part Two:
What was Paul's problem with the Judaizers? Was he anti-Semitic?
The suggestion that Paul was anti-Semitic is – of course – ridiculous. Paul himself was a Jew. And his love for his countrymen is well known through his writings.
1 I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh - Rom 9:1-3 (NASB)
Paul loved his Jewish brethren so much that he'd have been willing – if it had been effectual – to forfeit his own salvation for theirs. Immediately following this solemn statement he speaks of his nation's past glories, naming no less than seven ways in which they had been historically blessed and glorified.
4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. - Rom 9:4-5 (NASB)
The tragedy was that though the Jews had brought Christ into the world many of the Jews had rejected Him. Salvation was from the Jews. They brought us the Lord Jesus. They brought us salvation. But this salvation was for the Jews, also. Paul's heart was broken because – while many had received Him – many others refused.
His love for the Jews questioned
There is no question that Paul loved his countrymen. Of course, many of Paul's countrymen were convinced otherwise, considering him a traitor to his nation and seeking his death – Acts 22:22; 2 Corinthians 11:24ff.
Seeing that Paul was thought to be a traitor against the nation that he loved, it should not be surprising that some of us – who question that the Jews remain the apple of God's eye – would be thought anti-Semitic. The fact some might believe this, does not make it true, though. Paul's problem with the Judaizers had nothing to do with whether or not he loved the Jewish people; nor does ours.
Paul loved his countrymen but despised the Judaizers' teaching:
Please consider the following remark, reflecting as you do so, that this is taken from the book of Philippians
3 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; 3 for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,. - Philippians 3:2-3 (NASB)
Philippians is – for good reason – known as "the epistle of joy". But when Paul takes a moment to warn against "the false circumcision", no joy at all is evident. Instead there is a seething undercurrent of outrage concerning their evil works.
The True Circumcision / True Jews
It is worth noting that Paul's writing – just quoted - identifies "the true circumcision" quite plainly. The true circumcision is made up of those who:
…worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh – Philippians 3:3 (NASB)
This leaves no doubt at all, as to who "the false circumcision" were. The Jews of that day often referred to themselves as "the circumcision" (see, for example, Romans 15:8 and Gal 2:12). But once they rejected Christ, they were not "the circumcision" (truly Jews) anymore. Not according to scripture. Christians were. And from the coming of Christ's gospel until this day Christians are still the true circumcision and true Jews.
It seems, then, that those who suppose the Jews remain the apple of God's eye are correct. But they'd do well to understand the difference between the "true circumcision" (those who truly are Jews) and "the false circumcision" (those who are Jews in the flesh only).
Paul's opposition to the Judaizers' teaching was based in the fact he was a faithful and inspired apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ. As such he fully understood these words, recorded for us in the gospels and spoken by none other than our Lord Jesus Christ.
36 And He was also telling them a parable: "No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 "And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. 38 "But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 "And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, 'The old is good enough.'" - Luke 5:36-39 (NASB)
This parable was spoken to illustrate the folly of trying to mix old things with new. The Mosaic Law was the old covenant. Jesus was ushering in the new. The new covenant was not going to be a patch-up job to the old garment of Mosaic Law. It was to be a full replacement. Nor did Christ intend that the new gospel wine" be used for filling up the old Jewish wineskins. He supplies the new wine and brand new wineskins, as well.
Christ's new covenant of grace was not to be an upgrade, facelift, or remodeling of the Mosaic Law. It was to be altogether new. The parable also makes a couple of additional points:
- Attempts to intermingle the old Law and new gospel together would lead to ruination. The old garment would be torn and ruined and the new patch would not match. New wine in old wineskins is spilt and the skins are ruined. Both would be lost.
- Those who've developed a taste for old wine don't often want new. The old wine was the Mosaic Law and those with a taste for that old wine referred to many of the Jews. Jesus' teaching in this part of the parable anticipated that many of the Jews would prefer to hold to the old Law.
Torn Garments, Burst skins and spilt wine:
These words describe the ruination that comes of intermingling the Law and gospel. Virtually every denomination of Christendom has attempted to do so and – as a result - the Lord's Church is compromised and undermined. The world has rarely seen Christ's church in its full glory as God intended. Christendom's failure to let go of the old Mosaic law it is among the main reasons why. There is more to come.
I am, by God's grace,
Rich In Christ