In Galatians, Paul teaches his disciples, “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law” (Gal 5:18; cf. Rom 6:14-15; 1 Cor 9:20-21). What does Paul mean by “not under the Law”? The traditional answer is that Paul (Shaul) abandoned Torah for an alternative way of living—not a life of legal observance, but a life under “grace” and “faith.” This supposed shift in Paul’s lifestyle assumes that grace and faith are in opposition to God’s Law, but Paul himself denied such an opposition many times over (e.g., Rom 3:31; 4:16; 7:7-16; 10:5). A closer examination of Gal 5:18 shows that Paul does not disdain the Law (far from it), but rather he qualifies the Law’s scope in light of the Messiah’s arrival. I have to warn you, my explanation of the apostle’s words will take you far from the traditional path of reading Galatians.

Shaul’s notion of not being “under the Law” begins earlier in Galatians when he asks, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” (Gal 3:2-3). Clearly, the Spirit works through faith! Paul adds, “But before faith came, we were protected under the law, being enclosed together to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore, the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” (Gal 3:23-25).

First, Paul frequently uses the term “faith” (πίστις; pistis) in Galatians as a shorthand for “faith in Messiah,” and the term “promise” (ἐπαγγελία; epangelía) for the promised inheritance given to Abraham (cf. Gen 12:1-3; 15:18-20). The inheritance or promise is something an heir receives once the child matures. According to Paul, his Galatian disciples already received the “Abrahamic promise/inheritance” by the Spirit, without the involvement of Torah (Gal 3:26-29). Jews can receive the same “promise/inheritance of the covenant” through the Spirit in the process of being guided by the Torah.

Second, Shaul compares the custody of a caretaker or tutor (Greek: παιδαγωγός; paidagogós) over a minor to the custody of Torah over Israel. This is not a perfect illustration (because it highlights only one side of Torah), but Paul introduces an idea of “tutor” as an example from the Roman life his audience would understand. In English, a tutor or pedagogue may imply academic instruction, but in Greek or Hebrew, the terms imply practical training in life skills. In Hebrew (מוֹרֶה; moreh) “teacher” or “instructor”, “someone who points to right direction” is related to the word Torah (תּוֹרָה; torah). Greek “law” (νόμος; nomos) is not the best translation for such relationship but translations are rarely perfect or precise. The issue of Torah comes up because Paul addresses his letter to non-Jews who are contemplating circumcision and formal conversion, which would obligate them to live by the Torah’s commandments.

So, keeping this in mind, what does Paul mean by not being “under the Law” or “under a tutor” in his illustration? The answer can be surprisingly straightforward. Mature heirs know how their father wants them to act and do not require the enforcement of rules by a caretaker who already taught them how to live well in society. Galatians are non-Jews, and technically, they were never “under the law” and thus do not require emancipation from it. So applying this scenario to non-Jews is not entirely proper. Paul merely says there are two paths to the inheritance, one through the Spirit and another through Torah which leads one to Christ. (Gal 3:24). But Galatians did not know Torah. They did not even know God before Paul introduced them to Jesus (Gal 4:8; cf. Eph 2:12) so what law could they be under before Messiah?

Indeed, throughout Israel’s history, Torah served as a guide, as a teacher, and custodian who instructs, corrects and even disciplines. Torah preserved Israel as a people living among pagan nations for many generations, allowing them to finally see the days of the Messiah. Now that Messiah has come, those who embrace him are “mature heirs”, they are ready to receive their inheritance/promise. They are guided by the Spirit and thus not “under the tutor”. Yet this does not mean that Israel as a mature heir can now ignore everything she was taught since childhood and now can live however she pleases without any consequences. Torah’s teaching never ceases to be valid and true. Paul’s illustration should not be pressed too far. Illustrations are rarely perfect and simply exist to clarify an idea. In fact, illustrations are not meant to be scrutinized or made into theology. Paul’s original point is that Galatians, who are Gentiles are not supposed get circumcised and quickly acquire a tutor for themselves. Their journey to the “promise” (ἐπαγγελία; epangelía) is different, according to their teacher (Gal 5:18) and that is why they are “not under the law”.

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    • I can name several… For most non-Jews, the revelation of God begins with Jesus. Typically non-Jews do not discover the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob on their own or by listening to Jews. Thus what they know of God and faith begins at a completely different point. People embrace a Messiah who was revealed to them through his death, burial, and resurrection. The fact that he was promised through the prophets to Israel long, long ago is realized later at some point. The identity of Messiah, his power, his teachings are revealed in the Gospels plainly. Yeshua is an instant life example. This is not an experience of most Jews when they consider the topic of Messiah. Abraham, Moses, David are examples and maybe later Yeshua.

      • The Law cannot save anyone it only shows us our sin, shows us we need a Savior. Jesus came to save Jew and Gentile alike, bringing us both into a new covenant with Him. By His Spirit, He writes the law on our hearts, bringing us into His image.

        • The Law was not intended to save lives. Only God saves. It was given to those who knew God to preserve lives. The Law teaches us how to be more like the one who gave it.

          • “Jesus answered, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

          • Exactly….it never was supposed to save us…there are still billions of people who are disciplined and guided by the Law….untill they come to faith in Jesus. It has not suddenly stopped because of the new covenant because people still need to be guided by the law.The Law is good. What is bad about believing you should not murder or steal or lie etc.?

          • That was a great reply!! “The Law was not intended to save lives. Only God saves.” “The law teaches.” I believe that is what Paul was saying. The law was “our” teacher. However as you stated previously the “our” was not necessarily inclusive of non-jews.

          • Torah teaches everyone, but in different ways. We can all learn divine truths, but we are meant to apply them a bit differently. I can learn about space exploration and may want to go to the moon, but alas, I am probably not in shape to handle the journey. I am not an austranaught, so the NASA manual applies differently to me than to people who are actually going intp space. I know, goofy example, but I hope it makes sense.

        • BE HOLY FOR I AM HOLY. God said that to Israel. The LAW is all about drawing closer to God through a state of holiness given in Instructions. Perhaps one day people will understand the difference between salvation and blessings in life from obedience.

        • The Law is not the opposite of grace lawlessness is. Not under the law means agreeing with the law ( 10 commandments.) That is why you will not break it. The Law is inside your heart, therefore you love it because it still protects you today.

      • The only reason why this is true is because for 1700+ years, YHWH has not first been presented as the God of Israel, which causes confusion among the hearers, and ultimately leads to a breakdown of the Gospel message and an anti-Jewish bias.

    • I agree! Amen.we once was Gentiles but Now we’re merged into Jesus Christ through our faith through Jesus Christ only.(Galatians 3:28) there’s no Jew nor Gentiles! No slaves nor free No male nor females.we are all one in Christ Jesus.Thank you Jesus.

  1. Does this also imply that Christians should not tithe as it is not instructed in the new covenant as compared to tge the old one

  2. Dear Prof. Pinchas, What is the inheritance or promise? Was Isaac the fulfillment of the promise? What about the seed? What about Jacob, Moses and David? What about the son of David? Isaac is the son (only son in Gen 22) and the Mesiah is also the only son?

    • I think you answered your own question, Fernando. In Galatians Messiah is the seed something that stood beyond the promise to Abraham. Besides the greatness and posterity, God promised Abraham that in him (in his seed) all the families of the earth will be blessed. Those of us who believe in Yeshua connect the dots and see that promise truly fulfilled in Messiah. Redemption, life with God, closeness to God is the inheritance/promise.

      • We have been moved from being under the law’s obligation and placed in the custody of the Spirit, where the requirements of the Torah are met through Christ, perfectly expressing the law and its fulfilment; which points to the law as a whole and not certain aspects of it;

        • Continue… something that has not been realised before the mission of Christ and the gift of the Spirit because the law was incapable of meeting its own requirements, isn’t that so Prof Pinchas, is my understanding flawed?

          • There is a common misunderstanding among Christians on the purpose of Torah. This may be why things do not line up. Understand what Torah was not meant to do and what it was meant to accomplish and it starts to make more sense.

        • Was the Law not given by the same God, embued by the same very Spirit in grace, mercy and power? Or are we worshipping a different God in NT?

  3. For both Jew and gentile, salvation is by faith in Jesus the Christ. For all, a life pleasing to God is by obedience to His Word in Old and New Covenants.

  4. Professor, I am a little bit confused on this issue, since in the Old Testament there were three aspects of Laws the Jews were observing, those are: Civil Law, moral law and ceremonial law. In what aspect of law the Galatians were not under with?

    • Actually, traditionally Jews do not separate commandments along such lines. This is something Christian theologians came up with. Jewish tradition believes that some basic laws are universal and should be upheld by everyone. They are self-evident such as an idea of one God, the prohibition of idol-worship, murder, theft, sexual immorality and etc.

      • The Ceremonial Laws were put in a pocket outside of the Ark of the Covenant. The 10 commandments were placed inside the Ark of the Covenant. These 10 were given at Creation as the Moral Law. Thus continue after the Ceremonial Laws as they were nailed to the cross.

        • Now, this is a new one for me! I am literally smiling and I write this. No disrespect… But I have never heard of any pockets on the ark of the covenant. I will tell you a secret: Jewish people who have been observing God’s laws for thousands of years do not divide the commandments into “ceremonial” and “moral”. That is something Christian theologians came up with. If you would have asked Jesus or his disciples about ceremonial laws they would be confused.

  5. “The inheritance or promise” in Gen 12, 13 and 15 are promises. They are “land”, descendants and blessings. The “land and blessings” are for all Christians as well as “Jews”. Non-Jew Christians are not blood descendants. Please elaborate and explain.

    • Yes, you are right not blood-descendants… But adopted sons can be called sons of promise (in you all the families of the earth will be blessed) are they are heirs according to Paul in Galatians.

      • The Gentiles are heirs to the spiritual blessings of the Abrahamic covenant and the New Covenant but not entitled to the physical blessings such as the Land of Israel.

        • You can look at New Covenant as an expression of one specific promise to Abraham – In you all the families of the earth will be blessed. The rest of the blessings he received are separate from that. Same with the land. You can look at Sinai covenant as the provision of the Land promise (which originally was given to Abraham).

  6. Thank you pinchas , do you think the modern church has westernized the gospels and to some degree to their own detriment made the faith only movement, rejecting torah , far to easy to be saved, thusly creating or in danger off luke warmness Christianity.

  7. Many protestants overtly use Galatians 3:23ff to create guilt, to guide Christian living and for civil (social) purposes in Gentile societies! I believe “us” & “we” refer only to Israel. The narrative does not address subjective pschyo/emotional responses for anyone. It’s purely historical. Any comments? Thank you.

    • I think Galatians is a strong rhetorical letter with very peculiar content and has been misused in a variety of ways by ignoring that context.

  8. Clarified some things. Thank you Prof Shir. I agree with what you have explained and what Paul actually meant. I suspected something similar, but not completely. I will join a class once I am able to afford it.

  9. Prof. Thanks for such a great revelation of Apostle Paul. I believe those who still reject Messiah reject God and those who acknowledges God through Abraham still reject God, Abraham and Messiah. Our believe should be more in Christ so that we can receive the Promises of Abraham by faith.

    • Dear Anton, a bit of wisdom I learned in life, is to think less of where other people are and how wrong they are and to focus more on my own life. I think this is the attitude God wants me to live out. Messiah is hidden to many today just as he was hidden to me at some point in my life. But these things can change, until then God is a righteous judge.

      • Studying with IBC becomes more relevant as the dividing of the Word is flawed by translation. I cannot study online as that requires having data to access the internet. Even though the method is ideal because space, time and location, it truly does put a huddle in my path, Prof.

  10. Our Saviour is THE FULFILLMENT OF THE LAW I understand – Jesus Christ Messiah as shown in Hebrews 9 and 10 became THE PERFECT FINAL SACRIFICE for GOD ONCE FOR ALL TIME! Hebrews 10:4 onwards shows 7: HE offered HIMSELF to do FATHERS WILL….as written of HIM in The Law!

    • I am not sure what Heb 9 and 10 have to do with Galatians. Different book, different point. Sorry, do not see the connection. Everything I do in obedience to God is the “fulfillment of the law”. This means I fulfilled the law too (not competing with Jesus, just making a point) So what? Just because Jesus obeyed the Father, does that excuse me from being obedient?. Is this what you are suggesting? I don’t’ get your logic, Margi.

  11. Galatians 3:24 Very interesting to note that the words ‘to bring us’ are in italics which mean they are not in the Greek. The law can never bring us to Christ – only the Holy Spirit can. So we could say ‘until’ rather than ‘to bring us’.

    • Yes, you are right, Kieth. These words are often in cursive for a reason! Greek says – εἰς (for/in/into/to) Χριστόν. Christ is in the accusative, which means he is the object, and thus εἰς is “to” Literally: “the law has become our pedagogue to Christ” and that is why “to lead” is added, to express the movement implied by the accusative case. The phrase is not really there, but the meaning is absolutely accurate. The Pedagogue guides one into a particular direction.

    • Thank you for sharing your insights about the law. I always saw the commands of the Torah included in the instructions in the New Testament. We receive salvation through faith. We learn to live as Adonai wants us to live by loving G-d and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.

  12. I would think a new believer would still need the law as a tutor. So how would a new believer know which of God’s commands to ignore? Churches are of no help, they believe the law is ended.

    • In my opinion, every new believer needs a mentor (or a copuple), who models the lifestyle and a community where examples can be observed and learned. Most people would not be able to derive spiritual principles from biblical texts without seeing how they are applied.

      • This point is magnificent! Discipleship is really necessary to lead new believers into all this huge complexity of meanings the Scripture can have. The examples of mature Christians are vital for let new believers discern how to apply the biblical principles to concrete issues in real life matters.

  13. Yes, we need to know “the letter” to figure out its spiritual meaning, as Jesus explains in “Sermon on the mountain”. Good mentor (without religious bias) is hard to find though. I will recommend Holy Spirit, He’s role is to be our mentor (parakletos). Takes longer but is safer.
    Ed

  14. I believe God’s Word is literal truth, and I can trust it. God promises that He will bring us completion in Christ, not because of who I am, (law or no law) but because of who God is and what He has accomplished and will complete through Jesus.

  15. “According to Paul, his Galatian disciples already received the “Abrahamic promise/inheritance” by the Spirit, without the involvement of Torah (Gal 3:26-29). Jews can receive the same “promise/inheritance of the covenant” through the Spirit in the process of being guided by the Torah.” Can you expand on this dichotomy? Separate article?

    • I do not know what exactly what you seek to resolve in this statement. This is not a dichotomy because there is no conflict here. Maybe an analogy will work… Imagine a boy (from a poverty-stricken land) who gets adopted by a rich family, gets the best of everything, and a brand new sports car for graduation because his brother got one too. Only his brother was not adopted at 15 and had to work hard through entire school life (with tutors) and show good grades the whole time to get this gift. The adopted one did not have that opportunity, so the parents simply give it to him. The benefit is the same. How they got there is not.

      • Pinchas, doesn’t the adopted son get tutored after the adoption so he will learn the ways of his new family so they can live as one? The adopted son wouldn’t continue in his old ways and deny the the ways of the new family would he?

  16. Hi Prof. 2 scenarios here: Galatians, just like Cornelius, did not receive the Spirit by obeying the Torah, but by having faith in Yeshua. Simply because Galatians were now led by the Spirit, the Spirit led them not live sinful lives but to love neighbors and God.

  17. 2nd scenario. The Jews which Gal 3:25 refers to them, were always protected by the caretaker until Yeshua came. Now that Yeshua had come, the tutor is no longer necessary. Their maturity and faith in Yeshua will make them live righteously without contradicting the former lessons of the tutor.

  18. I am uncomfortable with the idea that there are 2 pathways to salvation: the Jewish path via the Torah observance ( including circumcision observance) and the Gentile path via promise. If this bifurcation is indeed implied in your article, i will have trouble reading the rest of Galatians that says clearly: it’s not about Torah observance but it’s about the New Creation that comes by πιστις εν Χριστω (faith in Christ) . And because those of us follow Yeshuah are a New Creation in Christ, we’re One Community of Faith, regardless of our ethnic background. There is one promise, one family of Abraham ( not two).

    • Sorry if I somehow communicated to you that are two paths to salvation, Theresa. My article does not deal with the salvation issue. I do believe there are two ways of living faithfully before the Lord (with and without Torah), but salvation is different from that in my mind. That is not the Torah’s purpose. Torah is for maintaining one’s already existing relationship.

  19. Orthodox Jews recognize a path for gentiles called the Laws of Noah or Noahide path. This seems to relate to the basic rules given to gentiles in Acts 15. How do you see this relating to the topic you are covering in Galatians?

    • I explain the theology of “righteous from the nations” or Benei Noach if we want to use the rabbinic terminology in Jewish Paul II course quite a bit where I tackle some of the Galatians texts. Take a peek there. Acts 15 is a precursor to Benei Noach idea, but that theology already existed in Judaism long before Acts. Acts 15 text mirrors the laws of sojourners in Deuteronomy.

    • I can’t do a commentary on Galatians here, but basically, Torah contains curses and blessings. Obey- a blessing, do not obey – curses. Yeshua takes the punishment upon himself, that is Shaul’s point. Not that Torah is a curse. That is nonsense. God’s commandments are good, but there are consequences for breaking them.

  20. Thanks for the discussion, but did you mention I Cor 9:20 where Paul as a Christian says he is “not under the Law.” Paul contrasts the law of Moses with the Law of Messiah. They are not the same. Can you define that difference, please.

  21. I noticed in all the verses (Gal 5:18; cf. Rom 6:14-15; 1 Cor 9:20-21)using the phrase “under the Law” the definite article is missing.(Ὁ) νόμος) (The law) Should it be translated better as not “under law”. Would that give us a different understanding of the verses?

    • Good point, Joel. I did not think of that. One one side it makes a big difference – “the law” vs “a law” on the other hand the absence of an article can be ascribed to everyone understanding that this thing “law” is a specific thing, not indefinite by the virtue being familiar and understood as something specific via the context. Still, a nice contribution to thinking on this matter!

  22. This was an encouraging article, however, based on Paul’s confrontation with Peter and some local Jews, it appears the Galatian Church was populated by many of each group. So far as multiple pathways, any pathway, Torah or nature (Cf. Rom. 11:20), both lead to the ultimate solution, serving God/Jesus.

  23. As a pastor, I cannot thank you and your colleagues enough for your intelligent and insightful comments on the Scriptures of the New Testament, and I speak as one who, had I gone to seminary twenty years earlier than I did, would probably be teaching Hebrew Bible at a seminary.

  24. Saint Paul refers to ritual law (e.g. slaughtering a lamb). No more of that. Instead… loving the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

  25. Hello,

    WHAT is considered LAW for Christians?

    The 10 commandments? Than: what about the Sabbath, already in Genesis?

    What about Acts 15?

    What about the cross, christmas, easter, sunday, which the roman catholics (pop)s have changed?
    The first Christians have had no cross but a fish

    • All good questions, but this is somethign people have to work out for themselves. I image people will answer this differently, usually depending on their theology and church affiliation.

  26. My understanding has always been that “not under the law” means not under the penalty of the law. It in no way negates God’s commandments.
    There were penalties for violating the ten commandments.

  27. Everything is explained by Jesus’s saying ” Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil:”, Matthew 5:17-20. Jesus, the Christ, is the fulfilment of the law and the prophecies There is NO contradiction anywhere.

  28. So love the insights we are given through these short articles (studies). So often we know instinctively that something doesn’t fit quite right as upheld and these help so much to begin to make for the beginning of deeper insights into our own personal feelings and comprehension. Thank you.

  29. shalom Prof. Pinchas Shir Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh to sin .2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are become new.law 4 old man.

  30. WHEN I go to a Messianic Synagauge- I love that they worship the Godhead, they have the Messianic Liturgy and Sidurs- but I find that they don’t make enough about Messiah Yeshua,they don’t teach much about the New Testament and they don’t make altar calls. They don’t seem to be interested in proactively bringing the gospel and the saving knowledge of Yeshua neither to Jew nor Gentile. One time I approached the rabbi about this and he said altar calls are useless and that only 20% of those stay in the faith. As a true disciple of Yeshua, your job is to share the gospel. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts and the rest is between the individual and the Lord.
    On the other side of the coin, when I go to a Christian church, there is much to do about Yeshua-which is wonderful, but not enough about all ties in with the Tnk and especially Torah. There is no balance wherever I go.
    As for me, I am a Gentile, raised in a Jewish Conservative home and follower of Yeshua. My spirit is calling for a balance-or better a continuity of the 2. Haven’t found it yet I would love for both Jew and Gentile believers could just worship together in balance before Messiah comes! Even now come Lord Jesus!

  31. At one extreme are the Jewish adherents who deny that the Messiah has come. At the other extreme are the so-called “New Testament Christians” who refuse to read the Old Testament because they think the Old Covenant has been superseded! Oy! (I love both testaments!)

  32. Thank you Prof. Shir for all the insights from you and other teachers. I really appreciate the interpretations and understanding from Jewish teachers as the new and old testaments came from Jewish thinkers/people who either wrote in Hebrew or Judeo-Greek. Who better to teach and translate these languages. Thank you

    • Thank you, Mike. I am glad you see the value of these articles. We do put a lot of time in showing somethign most people cannot see.

  33. Peace be with you all. How is it in your household? Are there certain rules and regulations your children have to live by. When their friends come over, do they have to live by the house rules. Same with God in his household.

  34. There is so much talk these days about our Jewish roots. I’m wondering as gentile followers of Yeshua are we supposed to keep Shabbat as well as the holidays? Also as Christians should we keep kosher? I’m asking because I was raised Seventh Day Adventist.

    • The matters of practice are best advised on by the leaders of the spiritual community to which you belong. Please consult them on the appropriate practice. I personally, do not see anything wrong with the nations of the world taking on most teachings of the Torah, as long as people understand that those practices are “optional” for them. For are stipulations of the covenant for Israel. Mere observance does not make the nations Jewish or Israelites. God loves us all the same though his expectations may be different.

  35. I cant understand the purpose of the ba’al names god,jesus etc Our Messiahs name was Yahshua not Jesus who is the false messiah.Look how Jesus believers are being misled in churches.God and Lord are not names but titles.We are forbid to use the false ba’al names like Jesus.

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