Days, Months, Seasons and Years – Paul in the Book of Galatians

This is the first entry in the ‘Apostle Paul’ series that deals with what Paul wrote.  The earlier entries are some background information.

The apostle Paul wrote,

“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.  But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?  You observe days and months and seasons and years!  I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.”  Galatians 4:8-11 (ESV)

The above verse is often used to support a doctrine that basically states that Paul taught against keeping any of God’s “appointed times” (Sabbath, Passover, day of Atonement, Tabernacles, and other feast days or times.)  But is that really what he is saying?

Galatians is a great book – but keep it in the context with which Paul wrote it. He wrote it ‘to the churches of Galatia.’ Galatians 1:2 (ESV). In other words, gentiles. When he speaks of ‘days and months and seasons and years,’ why assume he is talking about God’s times when he is talking to gentiles who knew nothing of any times God had given?

The world in the time of Paul was full of all sorts of gods and goddesses, and they all had their special days and months and seasons and years.  It is these things that Paul is calling the ‘worthless elemental principles of the world.’  There is even a clue in the verses above where Paul says, ‘how can you turn back again.’

The gentiles never knew God or Yeshua (Jesus) prior to hearing the gospel message. They weren’t ‘turning back’ to God’s times, but to the pagan days, months, seasons and years.  The beginning of the verses above states from what the Gentiles are coming from.

Throughout Paul’s writings he has nothing but good to say about God’s law. He does, however, try to caution all the gentile believers from thinking that following the law leads to salvation. It was never meant for that purpose and Paul is trying to make that point over and over.

So, if you think that Paul is, in Galatians, telling us that God’s days, months, seasons, and years aren’t important, please do an overview of Paul’s life, teachings, and his relationship to God’s law. You will see him over and over upholding the law in his actions and words, yet also pointing to Messiah Yeshua as the one through whom salvation is given.

If, in light of the context of all his letters, he is (here in Galatians) stating that God’s times, sabbath included, are not important, then we have a schizophrenic Paul, being one thing in one letter and another thing in another. Such a person wouldn’t be worth listening to.

But he isn’t schizophrenic. 

And he is worth ‘listening’ to. 

But keep all his sayings both in the context of all his letters, and in the context of the cultures he is writing to!

Shalom

  • Yosef

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The Apostle Paul’s Background – Is He Jewish or Christian or ???

Was the apostle Paul Jewish or Christian?  If you go by the section headings in your Bible, it is clearly stated that Paul converted [to Christianity].  But did he?  Did he ever quit being a Pharisee or a Jew?  Also, what was Paul’s general attitude towards the Law of God?

Before we jump into Paul’s letters, we need to get a quick overview of who he was.  Most people know that he was a Pharisee (he calls himself the Pharisee of Pharisees).  Consider these two scriptures:

“Brothers [he is addressing the Jewish council],  I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees.  It is with respect to the hope and resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.”  Acts 22:6 (ESV)

“Brothers [he is addressing fellow Jews in Rome] though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers…”  Acts 28:17 (ESV)

Near the end of his life he is maintaining that he is still both a Pharisee and following the customs of his people.  He also makes the very important comment that highlights what is behind the hatred towards him: his hope and belief in the resurrection of the dead.

In other words, he was still Jewish, but believed God had raised Yeshua (Jesus) from the dead and through him, everyone has this hope, as given forth in the scriptures (which was only the Tanakh, or “Old Testament”, at that time.)

A couple more scriptures:

“…stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us…” 2.Thess. 2:15 (ESV)

“Now I commend you because you…maintain the traditions…” 1.Corinthians 11:2 (ESV)

Not only did Paul remain Jewish, he even taught Gentiles some of the traditions!

[A quick side comment.  Paul did not change his name from “Saul” to “Paul”.  He was born in a Gentile city and, even today, a Jew born outside of Israel will have both a Hebrew name and a Gentile name.  Paul simply started using his Gentile name as he realized his main focus was to be Gentiles.]

Did Paul have a negative view of “the Law”?  Here are a couple scriptures to remember:

“…but the doers of the law will be justified.”  Romans 2:13 (ESV)

“So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” Romans 7:12 (ESV)

The point of all the scriptures that I have shared is to show a broad overview of Paul.  I’m not trying to form a theology with these quotes.  If, as many Christians claim, Paul renounced Judaism and the Law, then he must have been a schizophrenic, and I certainly would not want to give heed to his writings in that case.  But he isn’t schizophrenic, and his words are relevant, challenging, and at times hard to understand.  We need to understand this background of Paul to be able to understand all his writings.

Here is a last thought about Paul.  Of all the people God could have chosen as an apostle to the Gentiles, God chose a highly educated Pharisee!  Have you ever asked, ‘why?’  Why didn’t God choose someone like a fisherman or tax collector, as many of the other apostles were?  Because God knew that the person going to the gentiles would need a solid understanding of the Law in order to counter all the weird ideas that the Gentiles would bring in, as well as countering false ideas that other Jews would bring in.

And we need to remember that above all else: Paul had to address a wide-ranging, often eclectic set of views, opinions, traditions, and mind-sets.   He did this well, but, in the words of the apostle Peter, “There are some things in them [Paul’s writings] that are hard to understand…”  2.Peter.3:16 (ESV)

  • Yosef

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