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Deacon Jim said,

I am familiar with these passages from Galatians, but have always understood Paul’s objections in Galatians to be toward Gentile believers who were considering circumcision as a means of making them fully acceptable to God (implying that God was the God of the Jews only, a perversion of the Gospel) and that Paul’s comments concerning “weak and beggarly rudiments” etc. was really a reference to their former works-based pagan religion. By submitting to circumcision, they were reverting to a works-based righteousness that was really no different than their former paganism.

But supposing I am mistaken, and the Mosaic Law represented the “beggarly rudiments” and a return to “bondage” of Galatians 4:9-11 for all believers (Jew or Gentile), then why did the Apostles themselves apparently continue to observe it? Please consider the following:
The Galatians were mostly Gentile heathen. However, the Judaizers were attempting to bring them under the Mosaic law (the law is the law no matter its audience, Romans 3:19 ( everybody, the whole world. Greijdanus, op. cit., p. 177; and Murray, op. cit., p. 106)). As Paul states in Gal. 3:1-2, “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” As Kistemaker states,

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Neither in Greek, however, nor in modern English does the word bewitch always have reference to literal witchcraft. In the interpretation of this passage much has been made of “the evil eye” (cf. Deut. 28:54, 56; Prov. 23:6; 28:22; Matt. 20:15; Mark 7:22). But Paul was probably not thinking about the sorcerer who had brought the Galatians under the baleful influence of his evil eye, but rather of the Judaizer who had cast a spell upon them not by means of his eyes but by means of his words, his teaching; specifically, by telling them that faith in Christ must be supplemented by Mosaic ritualism. And the Galatians, by yielding to this influence, had failed to understand that a Christ supplemented is a Christ supplanted.

William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, vol. 8, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Galatians, Accompanying biblical text is author's translation., New Testament Commentary, 112 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001).
Thus, in light of this, chapter 4 should be translated in the light of chapter 3. We could add to this the context of Galatians 4:1-7: Kistemaker again,

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The altruistic nature of Christ’s coming is stressed in the purpose clause: 5. in order that he might redeem them (who were) under law. Essentially we have here the same thought that was expressed previously in 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.” Even the verb—redeem—is the same. Hence, see the explanation of 3:13, and for the thought compare II Cor. 5:21. Yet, there is a difference, for here in Gal. 4:5 emphasis is placed on the fact that we (Gentiles, Jews; the addressed, the addressor, everybody destined to be redeemed) were “under law,” and this not only in the sense of being subject to the moral law, which by nature we were unable to fulfill and whose curse we were unable to carry so as to get out from under it; but also (in the present context; see verses 3, 8–10; cf. Col. 2:8, 14, 20–23) in the sense that “we” regarded strict obedience to the ceremonial law and all its man-made additions to be necessary for salvation. Accordingly, the Father’s object in commissioning his Son was that, in the most comprehensive sense, the latter might purchase those free that were under law; and not only that but also: that we might receive the adoption as sons. Cf. Rom. 8:15, 23; 9:4; Eph. 1:5.
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Deacon Jim said,

How do we interpret the controversy that led to the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 and the apostles resulting decree to the Gentiles? The implication is clear that the Jewish believers were still circumcising their children and keeping the Law. If this was the same perversion of the gospel that was happening in Galatians, then why didn’t Peter, and James, and the other Apostles instruct these Jewish believers rightly, rather than debating over the Gentiles?
Yes, “some” (Acts 15:1) were still circumcising their children according to the law. However, this does not make it – the Gospel. At the JC, some Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses" (Acts 15:6). However, note that Peter and the rest of the apostles did not respond immediately. They gathered together and met (Acts 15:7). After MUCH debate (Acts 15:7), Peter stood up and said,

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“…"Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. "And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith (Acts 15:7-9).
Peter and others were originally messed up on the issue of the Gentiles. It is at the JC that Peter and the other Jews get straighten out (and as would be expected it takes time for this to be circulated and accepted by the church). As Galatians 2 (most scholars contend that Gal. 2 and Acts 15 speak of the same event), says,

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…But when Cephas came to Antioch, I resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned. For before that certain came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing them that were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that even Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Cephas before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest as do the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, how compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We being Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed on Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law: because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we sought to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also were found sinners, is Christ a minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build up again those things which I destroyed, I prove myself a transgressor. For I through the law died unto the law, that I might live unto God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me. I do not make void the grace of God: for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nought.
Thus, we see that not everyone had immediate understanding on this issue. Paul did; he corrected the church accordingly – even the infallible first Pope. <img src="/forum/images/graemlins/drop.gif" alt="" />

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Deacon Jim said,

2) How do we interpret Paul’s actions in Acts 18:18 where he (apparently) had taken a Nazirite vow?
Have you read 1 Corinthians 9:19-23?

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For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
In your text, Paul demonstrated that he was a law-abiding Jew. At other times he stresses his Roman citizenship (Acts 22:25 ff). In the above situation (Nazirite vow), a discernible display of his integrity as a Jew would be much more effective than an extended explanation. He applied the old adage: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” What did he do after his shaving" Verse 19 says, "he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews." His methodology had a divine purpose – “so that I might win those who are under the Law.”

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Deacon Jim said,

3) Finally, there is Irenaeus of Lyons. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John. Here we have a compelling bit of historical evidence. According to Irenaeus, the Apostles were keeping the Law. In about 180 A.D. Irenaeus recorded in “Against Heresies,” (Book III, Chapter 12, Paragraph 15):

“Thus did the Apostles, whom the Lord made witnesses of every action and of every doctrine—for upon all occasions do we find Peter, and James, and John present with Him—scrupulously act according to the dispensation of the Mosaic law, showing that it was from one and the same God; which they certainly never would have done, as I have already said, if they had learned from the Lord [that there existed] another Father besides Him who appointed the dispensation of the law.”
I wasn’t aware Irenaeus interpretation of events is considered infallible? He also affirms that Mary is the Coredemptrix of humanity saying,

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In accordance with this design, Mary the Virgin is found obedient... But Eve was disobedient; for she did not obey when as yet she was a virgin. And even as she... having become disobedient, was made the cause of death, both to herself and to the entire human race; so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race... And thus also it was that the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith. (Against Heresies, 3:22:4))
We may add to this his statements on "free-will" and the nature of evil (somewhat Platonic). His writtings also clearly state that Christ lived to be 50 yoa. Clearly, Irenaeus is not always right!

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Deacon Jim said,

So then, if the Apostles were continuing to practice Judaism, were they in spiritual darkness on this matter? I have also never felt that either dispensational or covenant theology has adequately addressed this issue. But I would like to figure this out, so please let me know how you understand these things.
Yes (as seen above), the apostles and other Christians mentioned in Scripture were not completely right all the time -- they were all were sinners (Paul withstood Peter, the problem of Paul, John-Mark, and Barnabas (Acts 15:36 f), Paul's intentions (Acts 16:6), etc.). Covenantal theology – the scripture – is pretty straight forward on this issue.


Reformed and Always Reforming,