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I’ve heard repeatedly that the teaching Paul got in trouble for over and over about was preaching that Jesus was the Messiah and that Paul never preached freedom from the Law. And I have heard it was that teaching, not teaching freedom from the Law, that had the Jewish leaders angry with him. However, Galatians would say otherwise.

1 Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. 2 It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. 3 But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. 5 But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.

-Galatians 2:1-5

If in place of the gospel teaching you insert “Jesus as the Messiah”, it makes no sense. What does Jesus being the Messiah have to do with Titus’ decision not to be circumcised. And all the talk about liberty in Christ vs. being brought back into bondage: none of that makes any sense if the topic of heated debate was Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah.

What makes sense, however, is to insert the “freedom from the Law” as what was being taught. That fits perfectly.

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?

-Galatians 2:11-14a

Similarly, in this passage above, Peter (Cephas) eating with Gentiles is so far removed from a debate of Jesus being the Messiah and so closely linked with freedom from the Law (specifically food laws).

11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” 12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.”

-Galatians 3:11-12

6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him…

-Hebrews 11:6a

The Law is “not of faith” and “without faith” we cannot please God.

These passages speak clearly of freedom from the Law being taught by Paul. He also taught Jesus as Messiah. But he did not stop there. He clarified what it means to live under the new covenant under the constraints of a living Spirit instead of a written Law. Following the Law will lead you into bondage. Follow the Spirit where He leads, and in faith, and you will please God.

Jesus the Messiah or Freedom from the Law?


Why did God allow Ananias & Sapphira to fall dead after lying & keeping back some money from the church?

First of all, the Bible does not tell us what God was thinking, so anything we can come up with is conjecture or at best hypothesis.

But, here’s some possible reasons:

1.  Maybe their greed & deceit would have spread within the new, young church and God wanted to rid his church of that at its infancy until it was better established and could maturely handle those types of actions

2.  To lie to the Holy Spirit indicates a severe misunderstanding about the nature of God, i.e. his omniscience & omnipresence, the fact that he knows all and is present everywhere.  Maybe, Ananias & Sapphira in a quiet corner somewhere stood counting their profits from the sale of their land.  Maybe, they grinned to each other thinking that they could keep part of it and present their gift like it was all they had.  Who would know?  If they truly didn’t understand that God could know, they may have planned to lie to him and try to appear generous before him expecting to be rewarded.  What happens in the soul of someone who believes this?  Maybe they think they are superior to God, able to outsmart him, master of their own fortunes & fates.  Sounds like pride to the nth degree, similar to Satan in his quest to be like God.  And Peter nailed it when he identified that Satan had filled Ananias’ heart.  It’s uglier to look at the scene like this.  So, why did God punish so severely?  Obviously, God thought it necessary and just.

3.  Maybe it was merciful.  Maybe, if A & S had been permitted to live, they would have continued in such blatant sin & dark deeds that they would have totally walked away from God and caused many others to turn away also.  Maybe their spiritual growth was finished and their purpose on this earth had come to a complete halt. So, God, in his mercy, took them away before they could further damage their own souls & before they could harm others.

4.  Maybe A & S had never even been true believers.  And maybe God knew they never would.

5.  Maybe God’s reasons are unknowable in this instance.  Maybe he chose for multiple reasons, ones that we have no ability to reason out.  That is one of the beautiful things about him, fearfully unpredictable.  He is who He is.  I am that I am.   So, what do we do with this?  Do we cower in fear not knowing what he might choose to do with us?  In my experience, no.  We can trust him to be faithful and kind and loving.  So, what of A & S?  Where’s the love?  Maybe the love is further down the road?  Linked to #3 about mercy.  Moses was a faithful servant, even friend, of God for a long, long time.  However, one very small act of hitting a rock instead of speaking to it cost him the entire Promised Land.  There was no pleading with God at this point.  Moses had crossed some line that God had set up.  Killing the Egyptian wasn’t as bad.  Doubting God as he stood on His holy ground wasn’t as bad.  Smashing the tablets God had just written on was not as bad.  None of those things cost Moses the Promised Land.  But hitting a rock instead of speaking to it did.  Maybe it was pride.  Maybe Moses thought however briefly that he could command water and that it was within his realm of power to provide it, and so he chose to hit instead of speak.  Regardless, what a harsh punishment.  The culmination of all Moses had done was taken away from him.  He would never step foot into the Promised Land.  How could he even bear that?  To be able to look across and see it, but never go to the very place he had so faithfully and patiently pushed the Israelites toward.  Was God unloving and harsh in his judgement?  Or was his love just further down the road?  Fast forward to the New Testament.  Jesus is transfigured with two other people, Moses & Elijah.  MOSES!  After his harsh punishment, God did not forget or disregard Moses.  He had to punish him, why so severely, I don’t know.  But, he did not leave Moses behind.  Not really.  He gave Moses a glorified moment with the Son of God in front of the future leaders of his bride.  So, maybe Ananias & Sapphira also had a severe punishment, but further down the road, invisible to us at this time, they were welcomed into the realm of the forgiven & told “well done.”

Maybe.  Or maybe, it’s something even more wonderful and complex than my wildest imagination.

Ananias & Sapphira