Sorry, if this trip through Galatians is becoming tedious, but imagine that moment when a new reader drops in and has no idea of what we are talking. It happens.
We are working our way through Paul’s letter to the Jewish/Messianic converts, in the region of Galatia, an area that entails most of Southern Turkey today. There was no particular church, so we can easily assume that letter was meant to be read to anyone who would listen. With every village, Saul/Paul entered, he and those with him looked for the Synagogue. They would not have been elaborate structures, probably more like the buildings we have seen in Iraq or Afghanistan. Because Paul was a scholar in the law and the prophets (The Torah and Tanakh,) he was the perfect man to be an apologist for the gospel of Yahshua, the crucified and risen Son of God. He could take his audience directly to the passages that identified Jesus as the Messiah for which they longed. Some were hungry for this hope and promise. While others, acted like Saul, the Pharisee and zealot he used to be known as when he persecuted the church, looking for ways to harm, or if necessary kill the Apostle, the man we come to recognize as the Apostle Paul.
We left off with Galatians 3:22, which according to the Complete Jewish Bible tells us:
“the Tanakh shuts up everything under sin; so that what had been promised might be given, on the basis of Yeshua the Messiah’s trusting faithfulness.”
It is not so dissimilar to what we will see in verse 23.
Galatians 3:23 NASB But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.
“Before faith came.”
Didn’t Abraham show faith? What about Moses, and the prophets? Apparently, they did, then this has more do with a person or event.
What then would that event have been? The Cross, but not just the cross; it was all that encompassed those three days.
If it was a person, who would that person be? Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
“we were kept in custody under the law,”
Within the Jewish community, they were kept in check, to some degree, by the law. The law originated with ten simple commands. In the desert, under the guidance of Moses, the portable temple was set up, along with ordinances of worship – the distinct methods associated with righteousness. As a result, the priesthood added over six hundred laws; this too, kept Israel, the Jews, and strangely the Gentiles, in custody under the law.
“being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.”
Galatians 3:22 told us that everyone subject to the law was shut up under sin, but now in Galatians 3:23, we learn that we all were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.
G4788 sugkleio From G4862 and G2808; to shut together, that is, include or (figuratively) embrace in a common subjection to: – conclude, enclose, shut up.
So, the Jews/Israel were embraced in a common subjection to the law; and incapable of having faith.
Is that true, they were incapable of having faith?
Let’s use Christ’s birth as an example of Israel’s incapacity to have faith?
The Magi from the East (Matthew chapter two,) seeing His star in the east, gathered together – complete with entourage, and came to Jerusalem looking for the Child that was born the King of the Jews. What is so dramatic about this event is that Herod called all the chief priests and scribes of the people to him, demanding who is this king and where is he. The priesthood knew the answer but had no faith in Yahshua as the Messiah and king of the Jews.
Within that same story, we find Jewish shepherds; men who were not held so tightly to the man inserted laws, by which the Jews gained their righteousness. These shepherds sought out the child who was born the king of the Jews when directed to do so by the angels. Those shepherds could have chosen to ignore the angel voices, much like the majority of the priesthood had done.
In opposition to the idea that ALL of Israel had no capacity for faith, there is:
Anna – Luke 2:36-38 NASB And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Simeon – Luke 2:25-32 NASB And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, 28 then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation, 31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Your people Israel.”
And – Hebrews chapter eleven takes up several verses defining characters from the Old Testament, whom, by faith, did things ranging from the simple to the amazing. Indeed many had faith, but they were not in the majority amongst their peers.
Now, apply this same thought to the Gentiles that lived in and among the Jews.
One of the dominant Gentile characters is the Roman Centurion Cornelius that invited Peter to his home so that they could hear the gospel. (Read this in Acts chapter ten.) Now, God had alerted Peter that He was about to do something radically different, through a vision, in which a blanket was lowered having clean and unclean animals in it. Peter was told to take and eat. Appalled at the thought of eating pork and a few of the others, Peter begins to tell God that there is not a chance because I am a Jew and I don’t eat unclean things. God replies to that with, don’t call unclean what I have made clean. Now that made little sense to Peter at the moment, but it would soon. No sooner did the vision end when a messenger summons Peter to the Centurion’s home. Imagine that, being summoned to the home of someone who could have you imprisoned. But there is an addendum, this man Cornelius is “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household.” Peter knew what it meant for a Jew to be devout, but what about a Greek, and, how did this come to be? So Peter went.
Upon learning about the Centurion’s desire to hear the gospel more fully, Peter begins giving them his best sermon. However, right in the middle of that discourse, God extends His hand of mercy and fills the entire family with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and they all spoke in other tongues.Evidently, the Gentiles could have faith as well.
So, is the statement that all were shut and incapable of having faith true? No, but it is true when applied to the majority.
“the faith which was later to be revealed.”
Jesus was buried, and the disciples (all 120+ of them) mourned like puppies without a mother, for they still did not understand. On the third day, the two women went to the tomb. But what did they find? The stone rolled away, the guards gone, and an angel sitting on the stone. That angel spoke to them, saying, He is not here. Read this in Luke 23:54-56 and Luke 24:1-9.
I use these two women and the disciples in general because they all demonstrated little faith in Jesus words which informed them that, He was the Messiah; the Son of God; that he would rise again, and that He would have tremendous power bestowed upon Him by the Father. Not to mention the ability that He was going to confer upon them.
After that morning at the empty tomb, Yahshua began appearing to them. Think the impact these sightings, signs, and His words would and should have on the disciples – a rather large number of people. First, He appeared to the two ladies at the tomb. Then, he appeared to the two on the Emmaus road. Later, he walked through the locked door and into the upper room where over 120 disciples, including the women, were gathered; Thomas, the one who said, I will not believe unless I can put my hand into His wounds, was invited by Jesus to touch those same wounds. Jesus walked among them for forty days, eating, drinking, and elaborating on the scriptures, from Moses through the prophets, about the things that they witnessed. On the road to Emmaus He had spent the day with them, and yet, they did not realize who it was until later that evening at dinner.
It is in this room in which they had gathered, that He entered even though they had locked the door, that the Holy Spirit, which could only be described as cloven tongues of fire, lit upon them all and they all spoke in utterances that they did not know. While it may have been mere sounds to them, others heard these so-called unlearned people, speaking in a multitude of dialects, and attesting to the glory of God.
What held them together, both mentally and physically, to the point that the overwhelming sadness and lack of faith were overcome? They followed Jesus instructions and stayed firmly knit together. We see this in Acts 1:14 NASB. The faith came.
“These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”
We call this fellowship. Simplistic as it seemed, there was a purpose involved, whether they understood it or not, for It fought off the depression and sadness, while helping to maintain unity and purpose.
Once the Holy Spirit fell upon them with power, they were changed, people. Peter preached before thousands that Pentecost day; Philip, ran alongside the eunuch’s chariot, and explained the portion of Isaiah’s prophecy, which the eunuch was reading.
Every one of these so-called faithless disciples eventually had a tremendous impact on the world.
Could we then say that faith came in the course of time? Absolutely, and it will come to us as we pursue Him.