In talk 11 (24 mins) we'll see how Romans and Galatians refute the premises of Messianic Judaism. And yet disagreement about how much Christians need to follow Torah is not just a 20th-century issue; there was a similar controversy in the 1st century. Last, we will see that "the Israel of God" (Gal 6:16) refers not to Israel, or Messianic Judaism (despite claims to the contrary), but to the Christian church.

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Main ideas

The Jew-Gentile Controversy

  • Just how “Jewish” do Christians need to be?
  • The answer: Not at all, although it is okay for actual Jews to hold on to cultural markers—provided they do not force these on others.
  • This was the broadest dispute in the first century church, from 30-70 AD. Later centuries had their own hot topics.


  • Paul writes this letter not only to secure mission funding (chapter 15), but also to "inoculate" the Roman believers against the Galatian controversy.
  • Chapters 1-3: No ethnic group enjoys a privileged status in the eyes of God.
  • Chapters 4-8:  God displays covenant faithfulness to all Abraham’s descendants on the basis of faith, not Torah. (4:11-13).
  • Chapter 5: The new distinction is between “in Adam” and “in Christ,” not Gentiles v. Jews.
  • Chapters 12-15: 13:10 – We fulfill the law by loving our neighbor (13:10). These chapters show how we are to fulfill the Law. Note that there is no mention of a need for circumcision, Sabbath, etc…


  • Law = Law of Moses
  • Paul is a prime example of someone who knows Torah, and is zealous for Torah—and yet does not rely on Torah for justification in God's sight.
  • What was dismantled (system of Torah) must not be rebuilt (2:21).
  • Passages read: 1:6, 13-14; 2:11-14, 16, 21; 3:2-3, 23-28; 4:1, 3-11; 16-17, 21-26, 31; 5:1-4, 6-8, 11; 6:15-16.

"The Israel of God"

  • We have already seen that Jewish-sounding passages, like Micah 4:1-2 and Amos 9:11, were interpreted as fulfilled in Christ and his church. Now let’s look at passages supporting the interpretation that "the Israel of God" simply means the church.
  • Review: Matt 3:9; Rom 2:28-29; 9:6-7; Gal 3:28-29.
  • Further: Gal 4:24-31; Rev 3:9; 1 Pet 1:1; 2:4-10.
  • Patristic documents: Epistle of Barnabas (Alexandria, Syria, or Asia Minor), 2 Clement (unsure), Justin Martyr (Rome), Irenaeus (Lyon), Origen (Alexandria), Cyprian (Carthage), Lactantius (Rome)
  • Gal 6:15-16 refers to the new covenant people of God—not to Israel, Jewish Christians, or followers of Messianic Judaism. All true Christians are the Israel of God.

Next (the final talk): Shadow & Substance, Resources, & a Challenge