Paul’s View of the Law: Romans (8:1-39)

Romans 8:1-39

This is the fourth, and final, major section of the probatio of Romans (Rom 1:18-8:39). The first three sections were:

This last section (chapter 8) I would divide as follows:

  • Rom 8:1-30: Announcement of Life in the Spirit (Exhortation)
    8:1-11: The conflict (for believers) between the Spirit and the Flesh
    8:12-17: Believers are sons (of God) and heirs (with Christ) through the Spirit
    8:18-25: Believers have the hope of future glory (new creation) through the Spirit
    8:26-30: Believers experience the work of salvation through the Spirit
  • Rom 8:31-39: Doxology: The Love of God (in Christ)

Having just worked intensively through the relation between Law and Sin (see the article on Rom 7:7-25), with the emphasis on the believer’s freedom (in Christ) from both, Paul now proceeds to discuss the life of the believer in the Spirit (of God and Christ). This thematic emphasis is, in some ways, parallel to the exhortation in Galatians 5:16-25—believers who are freed from the binding force of the Law (and Sin), now live according to the power and guidance of the Spirit.

Verses 1-11

The theme of this section is the conflict for believers between the Spirit and the Flesh, introduced by Paul in Rom 7:14, but which is more familiar from the famous discussion in Gal 5:16ff. In Rom 7:7-25, human beings were dramatized as struggling with the flesh, but under the enslaving power of sin and the Law; now, having been delivered from the Law and sin, the struggle with the “flesh” (sa/rc) remains. This deliverance is defined according to two principal declarations:

  1. “Now there is not any [ou)de/n] judgment against [kata/krima] the (one)s (who are) in (the) Anointed Yeshua” (v. 1)—addressed collectively to all believers, this describes the elimination of judgment (by God) against human beings (announced in Rom 1:18ff); this judgment was the result of violation of the Law by human beings, under the power of sin. This removal of judgment is the product of “justification”, of God “making (things) right” again for humankind, and, in particular, of making believers right and just in His eyes.
  2. “For the Law of the Spirit of life, in (the) Anointed Yeshua, has set me free from the Law of Sin and of Death” (v. 2)—here Paul personalizes the matter “set me free”, much as he does in 7:7-25; however, other manuscripts read “set you free”, and this is preferred by some commentators—either way, the personal pronoun is representative of all believers. Here we find also a new use of the word no/mo$ (“law”) in the expression o( no/mo$ tou= pneu/mato$ th=$ zwh=$ (“the Law of the Spirit of Life”)—pneu=ma here certainly referring to the (Holy) Spirit. In Galatians, the Spirit is seen as taking the place of the Law for believers (cf. Gal 5:16ff), and should be understood in this way here, but with the added emphasis on its sanctifying and life-bestowing power—Life contrasted with Death. The expression “the Law of Sin and Death” is an expansion of “the Law of Sin” in Rom 7:23-25; it reflects the dynamic of Sin and the Law at work, both against each other, and also working together according to God’s purpose (see esp. Rom 11:32). The expression should not be reduced simply to the “principle of sin”.

In verses 3 and 4, this deliverance is described in terms of Christ’s sacrificial death:

“For the powerless (thing) of the Law [i.e. what the Law lacked power to do], in which [i.e. in that] it was weak through the flesh, God (has done), sending his own Son in (the) likeness of flesh of sin [i.e. sinful flesh] and about [i.e. for the sake of] sin, judged against sin in the flesh, (so) that the just/right (thing) of the Law should be filled up [i.e. fulfilled] in us—the (one)s not walking about according to (the) flesh, but according to (the) Spirit.”

This is a complex sentence and rather difficult to translate, but it effectively summarizes Paul’s view of the Law and “Justification”:

Because the “flesh” of human beings was enslaved under the power of sin, the Law of God (as expressed in the commands of the Torah) only served to increase and reinforce humanity’s bondage—it resulted in death, not life. As such, the Law (Torah) did not have the power to make human beings right before God, because human beings lacked the power to fulfill the requirements of the Law. The requirements of the Law were fulfilled for us (lit. “in us”) through God’s work in Christ, i.e. his death. The reality of this deliverance for believers should be reflected by their “walking according to the Spirit”, and not “according to the flesh” (cf. Gal 5:16ff).

In Rom 7:7ff, Paul described the presence and work of Sin “in the flesh” (e)n th=| sarki/, v. 18), now he describes the presence and work of the Favor/Grace of God “in the flesh”. His view of this is incarnational—Christ is sent (and is born, Gal 4:4) “in the likeness of flesh of sin” (cf. also Phil 2:7), and this becomes the location where the power of sin is removed (God literally “judges against” sin, pronouncing sentence against it). For more on Rom 8:4, in comparison with the similar passage in 2 Cor 5:21, see the supplemental daily note.

The remainder of this section, vv. 5-11, follows very much in line with Galatians 5:16-25, contrasting the Spirit with the flesh. Paul’s use of the word translated “flesh” (sa/rc) is complex and highly nuanced; it primarily refers to the human body, and its parts, but especially in the sense that it is affected and influenced by the impulse (e)piqumi/a) to sin. Paul clearly believed that this impulse to sin still remained in the “flesh”, even for Christians (Gal 5:17), but the enslaving power of sin had been removed—believers now have the freedom and ability to choose to follow God’s will. This choosing is expressed by use of the word fro/nhma (vv. 6-7, also in v. 27), rather difficult to translate, but which indicates the exercise of the mind, both in terms of understanding and the will. In typically dualistic fashion, Paul contrasts the fro/nhma th=$ sarko/$ (“mind[edness] of the flesh”) with the fro/nhma tou= pneu/mato$ (“mind[edness] of the Spirit”). In verses 9-11, Paul gives a threefold qualification of the Spirit:

    • the “Spirit of God” (pneu=ma Qeou=) which dwells (“houses”) in [e)n] believers (v. 9a)
    • the “Spirit of [the] Anointed {Christ}” (pneu=ma Xristou=), which likewise is in [e)n] believers (v. 10), but believers are also said to “hold” it (v. 9b)
    • the “Spirit of the (one) raising Yeshua from the dead” (i.e. of God), which also dwells in [e)n] believers, and gives life to our mortal (lit. “dying”) bodies just as Christ was raised from the dead (v. 11)

Verse 10 will be discussed further in a separate daily note.

Verses 12-17

The contrast between the Spirit and the flesh continues in these verses, which likewise have strong parallels with Galatians:

    • V. 12: An exhortation not to live “according to the flesh” (kata\ sa/rka)—cf. Gal 5:16-17
    • V. 13: A reminder that living/acting according to the flesh leads to death, while the opposite leads to life—cf. Gal 6:7-8; for the idea of “putting to death the deeds of the body”, see Gal 5:24 (also 6:14)
    • V. 14-16: Declaration that through the Spirit believers are made sons/offspring of God—cf. Gal 3:26; 4:1-6
      —in particular, verse 15 is extremely close to Gal 4:5-6
    • V. 17: The declaration follows that, if we are sons of God, then we are also his heirs—cf. Gal 3:29; 4:1ff (esp. verse 7); Paul adds here the detail that we are co-heirs (“ones receiving the lot together”) with Christ (see Rom 8:29)

Verses 18-25

The theme of believers as sons (and heirs) of God continues in this section with the hope (and promise) of future glory (new creation) that we have through the Spirit. In a truly beautiful, if somewhat enigmatic, passage, Paul describes all of creation as currently in the process of giving birth to something new—”the glory of the offspring of God” (v. 21). Believers are the “firstfruits” of this new creation, a process of our being realized as sons/children of God which will only be completed with our final resurrection and glorification—”the loosing of our bodies from (the bondage of death)” (v. 23). This also is ultimately the realization of salvation (“by [this] hope we are saved”, v. 24).

It is important to note the way Paul extends the idea of slavery (doulei/a) and freedom (e)leuqeri/a), which he applied specifically to the human condition in Rom 6-7, to all of creation in 8:21-22. Certainly he is drawing here upon the same Genesis 3 narrative that inspired him in Rom 5:12ff. The implied actor of the verb u(pota/ssw (“put [in order] under”, i.e. place under authority) in 8:20 is not entirely certain; based on the context elsewhere in Romans, there are only two possibilities—(a) God, or (b) Sin—the former being more likely. Even if it is Sin (through the sin of Adam, Gen 3:17-19) that subjects creation to bondage, ultimately God is the one controlling this process. The idea that creation was enslaved, it would seem, for the purpose of being freed (by God), correlates well with the declaration in Rom 11:32.

Verses 26-30

This section emphasizes that believers experience the work of salvation through the Spirit, which Paul describes in two ways:

    • Vv. 26-27—The Spirit works on our behalf before God, described according to two richly detailed, compound verbs:
      sunantilamba/netai, “he takes (hold) together opposite (us)”, i.e. he helps and assists us “in our lack of strength”
      u(perentugxa/nei, “he reaches in (and) over (us)”, i.e. he meets us and intercedes on our behalf, specifically in the context of prayer, of “speaking out toward” God
    • Vv. 29-30—God works on our behalf; here Paul presents a schematic or chain of what could be called an “order of salvation”:
      proe/gnw, “he knew before(hand)”
      prow/risen, “he marked out before(hand)”
      e)ka/lesen, “he called”
      e)dikai/wsen, “he made right”, or “he made/declared just”
      e)do/casen, “he esteemed/honored [i.e. granted honor/glory]”
      Between verses 29 and 30, Paul inserts a specific theological/Christological statement: “…with the shape of the image of His Son, unto his being [i.e. that he should be] the first produced [i.e. first-born] among many brothers”—that is to say, believers are marked out (chosen) to take on the form and image of Christ, to be children (and heirs) together with him (cf. verse 17).

In verse 28, in between his description of the work of the Spirit (vv. 26-27) and the work of God (vv. 29-30), Paul adds the following (and justly famous) declaration:

“…to the (one)s loving God all things work together unto good—to the (one)s being called according to (what He has) set forth before(hand).”

Rom 8:31-39: Doxology: The Love of God (in Christ)

The final section of 1:18-8:39 is a doxology, in praise of God’s love, so beautiful and remarkable that it virtually defies analysis. I will make not attempt here to comment upon it in this short space, other than to highlight briefly several points in the text which are relevant to Paul’s view of the Law:

      • Verse 32—the use of the verb xari/zomai, “show favor, give/grant as a favor”: pw=$ ou)xi\xari/setai “how shall he not…show favor”? The related noun xa/ri$ is used frequently by Paul, especially here in Romans (Rom 3:24; 4:4, 16; 5:2, 15ff; 6:1, etc), where it is set directly in contrast with both the Law and Sin, esp. in Rom 5:15ff; 6:14-15. God takes delight in his people and shows favor to them, and all the more so for believers in Christ—he demonstrates his favor by (freely) granting to them “all things” (ta\ pa/nta).
      • Verses 33-34—the legal/judicial language in these verses reflects Paul’s statements and arguments about the Law and “justification” in Galatians and Romans:
        • katakri/nw (“judge against”), here personified under a substantive (verbal noun) form, “the (one) judging against (us)”. This is associated in v. 33 with the verb e)gkale/w (“call in”, i.e. call someone in to answer charges or to give account).
        • dikaio/w (“make right, declare just/right”); note the parallel form “the (one) making/declaring (us) right”, contrasted with “the one judging against (us)”. This verb, along with related words of the dik-/dikaio- group, are used frequently by Paul. Note also the associated verb e)ntugxa/nw, parallel with e)gkale/w—the one making right (God) comes in to meet and help us, as opposed to the one calling us in to be judged.
      • Verses 35ffxwri/zw (“to separate, set apart”) and a)ga/ph (“love”): “who will separate us from the love of God?”. These two words dominate verses 35-39.
        • The first (xwri/zw) is related to xwri/$ (“separate, apart from”), which Paul uses in Rom 3:21, 28; 4:6; 7:8-9 in relation to the Law—”apart from (works of) the Law”, i.e. believers experience the favor and righteousness of God entirely apart from observing the Law (Torah). Here in 8:35ff, Paul makes a declaration in the opposite direction: nothing can put believers apart from the love and favor of God. Sometimes this “separation” is thought of as a wall or barrier, but the Greek word properly refers to space between—in Christ there is no space between us and God.
        • The second (a)ga/ph) is, of course, the most widely used word in the New Testament indicating love—the love which God has for us, and which we have toward God (and each other). God’s love (a)ga/ph) and the favor (xa/ri$) he shows to human beings are closely related, especially as described by Paul here in Romans. In particular, God demonstrates both his love and favor in the person and work of Christ on behalf of sinful humanity, cf. especially in Rom 3:24; 5:1-11, 15-17.

July 30: Romans 6:14

Romans 6:14

Today’s note on Rom 6:14 is supplemental to the series on “Paul’s View of the Law” (cf. the article on Rom 6:1-7:25). Verse 14 is the concluding declaration of the sub-section Rom 6:1-14, which defines the believer’s freedom from sin in terms of death to sin. It will be useful to illustrate again how these three sections relate:

    • 6:1-14—believers die to sin through participation in the death (and resurrection) of Christ
    • 6:15-23—believers are freed from slavery, from bondage to sin (as a ruling power)
    • 7:1-6—believers are freed from the binding force of the Law, through death (as in 6:1-14)

The final verses of the first section (vv. 12-14) function as an exhortation to believers:

“Do not let sin rule as king in your dying [i.e. mortal] body (so as) to hear under [i.e. obey] its impulses…” (v. 12)

Verse 14a contains a parallel exhortation—

“For sin shall not rule as your lord…”

after which comes the concluding declaration in 14b:

“…for you are not under (the) Law but under (the) Favor (of God)”
ou) ga\r e)ste u(po\ no/mon a)lla\ u(po\ xa/rin

It will be helpful to look at each word and element of this statement in more detail.

ou) (“not”)—the negative particle ou) governs the statement. This is significant, since, throughout Galatians and Romans, Paul has been discussing the Old Testament/Jewish Law (Torah) in negative terms. Believers are made/declared just or right before God not by observing the Law (“works of the Law”), but by trust/faith in Christ (Gal 2:16; Rom 3:20-22, et al). Believers have also died to the Law (Gal 2:19; Rom 7:4, etc), and no longer are in bondage to it (Rom 7:6), and so forth.

ga/r (“for”)—the particle ga/r is conjunctive and coordinative, i.e. joining with what was just stated (“sin shall not rule…”), and serving to explain it further. In other words, this is the reason why sin shall not (and should not) rule over you any more.

e)ste (“you are”)—the verb is in the present indicative, which means that it reflects a situation for believers that is presently (currently) real and true. It need not wait for some future time, it may (and should) be realized now. The “you” implied in the verbal form represents all believers, Jews and Gentiles alike.

u(po\ no/mon (“under [the] Law”)—Paul uses this expression numerous times, in Gal 3:23; 4:4-5, 21; 5:19; 1 Cor 9:20; Rom 6:15, along with the parallel (and largely synonymous) phrases u(po\ [th\n] a(marti/an (“under sin”, Gal 3:22; Rom 3:9; 7:14), u(po\ kata/ran (“under the curse”, Gal 3:10), u(po\ ta\ stoixei=a tou= ko/smou (“under the elements of the world”, Gal 4:3), and the illustrative expressions in Gal 3:25; 4:2. The preposition u(po/ (“under”) here has the meaning “under the power/authority of”, “under the rule/domain of”, etc. The word no/mo$ (“law, custom”) for Paul usually has the specific sense of the Old Testament Law (Torah); however, through the arguments in Galatians, and especially in Romans, the word does seem to take on a somewhat wider meaning. It is clear that Gentiles, in their own way, are “under the Law”, and will be judged equally before God (cf. Gal 4:1-11; Rom 2:12-29). Note also his use of the qualified expression “the Law of God” in 1 Cor 9:21; 7:22, 25; Rom 8:7—in these verses he means something more than the Torah.

a)lla/ (“but”)—the conjunctive particle a)lla/ is adversative (“but, rather/instead…”), creating a clear contrast with the prior expression (“under the Law”).

u(po\ xa/rin (“under [the] Favor”)—this is a precise, but contrastive, parallel with u(po\ no/mon (“under the Law”), reflecting a completely opposite or separate situation (note Paul’s use of xwri\$ no/mou, “separate/apart from the Law” in Rom 3:21; 7:9, also 3:28; 4:6). The preposition u(po/ (“under”) has the same meaning here as in the prior expression. i.e., “under the power/authority/rule of”. Recall in Rom 5:12-21, how the Favor (of God) functions as a personified and active, ruling power, just like Sin—they both are lords over a particular domain, to which human beings become enslaved. The word xa/ri$ is typically translated “grace”, but “favor” better captures its essential meaning. One who takes pleasure/delight/joy in another person, shows favor to the person, often by bestowing benefits or gifts; the person, in turn, finds and experiences favor from the one bestowing the gifts, etc. God demonstrates His favor through the person and work of Christ—especially in his sacrificial, atoning death on behalf of sinful, enslaved humanity (Rom 3:24-25; 5:6-11, 15-17, 20-21; 7:25a, etc).

This powerful statement declares, in no uncertain terms, that believers in Christ are no longer under the ruling authority of the Law. He has already made this point numerous times throughout Galatians and Romans, but this is one of the most explicit statements. Some commentators would like to limit all such declarations regarding the Law to its role as a means of salvation; according to such an interpretive view, the Torah would continue to be in force (at least for Jewish believers) in other respects. However, Paul makes no such qualification, and certainly not here in Rom 6:14—believers in Christ are, simply, “not under the Law”.

July 5: Gal 2:21

This is the last of four daily notes on Galatians 2:15-21 (for the first three notes see #1, 2, 3). Today’s concluding note is on verse 21, which I have summarized as a concluding argument regarding justice/righteousness.

Galatians 2:21

The sentence in this verse is made up of two statements or clauses, the first by way of a bold declaration:

ou)k a)qetw= th\n xa/rin tou= qeou=
“I do not displace [i.e. set aside] the favor of God”

From a rhetorical standpoint, this a refutation (refutatio) by Paul of a charge (real or hypothetical). The verb a)qete/w, “unset, displace, set aside”, is often used in a legal context, i.e., of “setting aside” (invalidating, nullifying) an agreement; it can also be used in the more general sense of “disregard, deny, repudiate”, even to “act unfaithfully, be disloyal”, etc. For other occurrences of the verb, cf. Gal 3:15; 1 Cor 1:19; 1 Thess 4:8; 1 Tim 5:12. Here Paul probably has the legal sense in mind, related to the Israelite/Jewish covenant (agreement) with God. Paul’s Jewish (and Jewish Christian) opponents might well have accused him of annulling the Covenant by his particular view of the Old Testament Law, as expressed here in Galatians (on this, cf. the previous note). According to the basic Jewish view, salvation (and the establishment of the Covenant) is the result of God’s gracious election of Israel; and observing the commands, ordinances and precepts of God, as revealed in the Torah (Law of Moses), represents the terms whereby Israel fulfills (and adheres) to the agreement. By effectively abrogating the Law, Paul invalidates the Covenant, and, in turn, disregards the favor (grace, xa/ri$) of God. This last is the argument that Paul refutes. It is actually a clever bit of substitution—he does not frame the charge in terms of setting aside the covenant, but rather of setting aside the favor/grace of God. This is important to his rhetorical argument as a whole, as we shall see in the second clause that follows:

ei) ga\r dia\ no/mou dikaiosu/nh, a&ra Xristo\$ dwrea\n a)pe/qanen
“for if justice/righteousness (is) through (the) Law, then (the) Anointed (One) died away dwrea\n

The word dwrea/n (dœreán), which I left untranslated above, properly means “(as) a gift”, and so Paul uses it in a similar context in Romans 3:24; however, this translation can be misleading in English, since often the emphasis is rather on being “free of charge” or “without payment”, either in a positive (2 Cor 11:7) or negative (2 Thess 3:8) sense. It can even carry the harsher connotation of “in vain, for no purpose”; the English expression “for nothing” captures this ambiguity—it can mean something done “for free, as a gift” or “for no purpose”. It is this latter sense that Paul plays on here, juxtaposing xa/ri$ and dwrea/n, as he does in Rom 3:24; there the parallelism is synonymous (both words can mean “[as a] gift”), here it is rather antithetical (or better, ironical). I will return to this in a moment.

The key portion of this conditional statement is the unreal or false (indicative) clause: “if justice/righteousness (is, or comes) through the Law…” Paul has already stated that this is false in verse 16, effectively as a (rhetorical) point of agreement with his (Jewish Christian) opponents, implying however that their viewpoint and behavior actually (if unintentionally) contradicts the ‘agreed-upon’ doctrine in v. 16. Now, he goes on to say that, if they are correct, and one is justified by observing the Law, then this “sets aside” the very work of Christ on the cross! The final irony is that the false/hypothetical charge (against Paul) in v. 21a turns into a real charge against Paul’s opponents—by requiring believers to observe the Old Testament Law, they set aside the grace of God. Usually when Paul speaks of something being “in vain”, he uses the adverb ei)kh= or the expression ei)$ keno\n, as in Gal 2:2; 3:4; 4:11; so the use of dwrea/n here is most distinctive (and intentional), reflecting a powerful irony—by disregarding the central teaching that salvation/justification is entirely by trust (or faith) as a free gift from God (i.e. “for nothing”), Paul’s opponents have made Christ’s sacrificial death to be “for nothing”. Ultimately, of course, this entire argument is intended as a warning and exhortation for the Galatian believers (see Gal 1:6ff; 5:2-4ff; 6:12ff).

It also demonstrates again how important the mystical, participatory language and symbolism of dying with Christ was for Paul. Salvation “by grace” was not simply a matter of God overlooking or forgiving human sinfulness, it was centered in the idea of God “giving” his Son (and Christ “giving himself”) as a sacrificial offering for us. Our faith/trust is “into” Christ and places us “in” Him; this entry is focused—spirtually and sacramentally—upon our participation in His Death and Resurrection.

January 31: Galatians 1:6-11ff

In the previous note, I discussed Paul’s use of the eu)agge/l- word group in 1 Thessalonians (often considered the earliest of his surviving letters). We saw that, for the noun eu)agge/lion at least, by the late 40’s A.D. it had already come to have a definite technical meaning for early Christians—as the message regarding Jesus Christ, which ministers (such as Paul) were proclaiming to audiences, and which, through acceptance of it, people were led to become believers in Christ. At the same time, there is also evidence, we may say, of a distinctive Pauline development in the use and significance of the term. Among the points of emphasis appear to have been:

  • God as the source of the “good message”, who entrusted it specially to chosen ministers (such as Paul)
  • The content of the “good message” centered on what God has done through the person and work of Jesus.
  • The proclamation of the “good message” entails sacrificial service by the messengers (i.e. missionaries such as Paul), the two going hand in hand.
  • The effect of the proclamation is achieved through the power and work of the Spirit.

These defining aspects of the “good message” may not be original to Paul’s thought and expression, but there is no certain evidence for them prior to Paul’s (earliest) letters, with the possible exception of two or three Synoptic sayings of Jesus (to be discussed in an upcoming note).

The eu)aggel- word group is even more prominent in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, with the noun (eu)agge/lion) and verb (eu)aggeli/zomai) occurring 7 times each. The dating of Galatians remains disputed, with some commentators treating it as the earliest of his letters (mid/late-40s). This view is held primarily by traditional-conservative commentators, with an eye toward harmonizing the accounts in Galatians 2 and Acts 15. In terms of the subject matter, style, and rhetorical/polemic thrust of the letter, I find much in common with Romans and 2 Corinthians, and tend to think that it was probably written around the same time as those two letters. In any event, it may be argued that, in Galatians, we have Paul’s clearest (and most forceful) expression of what he means when he uses the eu)aggel- word group. The polemic character of the letter has much to do with this, since Paul is arguing against certain Jewish Christians who have a different sense of the religious identity for believers in Christ, and what that entails. Paul addresses this matter through his use of eu)agge/lion/eu)aggeli/zomai.

The bulk of occurrences in Galatians are found in the introductory section (exordium) of the letter (1:6-11), where the noun is used three times (vv. 6-7, 11) and the verb four (vv. 8-9, 11)—half (7) of all occurrences in the letter. Through this specific language, Paul establishes the importance of the terminology in relation to the conflict he addresses—eu)aggel- becomes a theological and rhetorical keyword. See, for example, how the exordium begins:

“I wonder that you (have) thus (so) quickly set (yourselves) over [metati/sesqe], (away) from the (one) calling you in (the) favor [of the Anointed], (and) into a different good message…” (v. 6)

The words in square brackets may not be original (e)n xa/riti instead of e)n xa/riti Xristou=); in that case, the reading would presumably be “the (one) calling you in (his) favor”—i.e. God calling believers in/through his own favor. The emphasis on believers’ identity in terms of the favor [i.e. grace] of God (rather than observance of the Torah) is, of course, developed strongly throughout the letter; however, note here how this is framed—the Galatians have, or are in danger of, setting themselves “into a different good message” (ei)$ e%teron eu)agge/lion). This rather neatly, and concisely, indicates that the religious views of those Paul is arguing against represent “a different Gospel” entirely. The prefix meta/ in the verb metati/qhmi indicates a change in position; as a political term, it can refer (in a negative sense) to a partisan viewpoint. The implication is that those who heed the message of these other Jewish Christians would be separating themselves from Paul and the Gospel message he preached to them. The line of rhetorical argument used by Paul, and beginning here in this verse, is meant to prevent that from happening.

Similar language is employed in verse 7, when Paul shifts from the Galatian believers, to the Jewish Christians who were proclaiming this “different Gospel”, stating that they are ones “wishing to turn over [metastre/yai] the good message of the Anointed”. The verb used (metastre/fw, “turn over/across”, i.e. pervert, change) is parallel to that used in v. 6 (metati/qhmi, “set over/across”), with its common prefix meta/ (indicating change of position or transferal). We already saw the expression “good message of the Anointed” (i.e. Gospel of Christ) used by Paul in 1 Thess 3:2; it also occurs in Rom 15:19; 1 Cor 9:12; 2 Cor 2:12; 10:14; Phil 1:27, etc. It is best understood as an objective genitive indicating the content of the message—i.e. being about, or regarding, Jesus Christ.

The falsity of the “different Gospel” (of these Jewish Christians) is emphasized by Paul’s aside here in v. 7 that, in reality, there is no “other” Gospel besides the one he has proclaimed to the Galatians. In verses 8-9, Paul uses the verb (eu)aggeli/zomai, 3 times) to say much the same thing, even more forcefully, emphasizing that is the message that is proclaimed, not the pedigree of the messenger doing the proclamation, which is at issue. Noun and verb are used together, for special emphasis, at the conclusion of the exordium, in a declaration that also transitions into the narrative section (narratio) of the letter:

“For I (would) make known to you, brothers, the good message [to\ eu)agge/lion] th(at was) being given as a good message [to\ eu)aggelisqe/n] under [i.e. by] me, that it is not according to man…” (v. 11)
Note the effective wordplay in this emphatic doubling—to euangelion / to euangelisthen.

The narratio (1:12-2:14) which follows brings out clearly two points outlined above: (1) that the good message comes from God as its source, and (2) Paul is one of the ministers specially entrusted with the good message (by God). These two points serve to confirm the truth of the (version of) the message proclaimed by Paul, and, by implication, the falseness of anything different. Paul’s situation is all the more unique because of his commission by Jesus himself through a special revelation (v. 12). The remaining four occurrences of the noun eu)agge/lion are all here in the narratio (2:2, 5, 7, 14 [along with the verb in 1:23]), beginning with verse 2:

“…the good message which I proclaim among the nations”

The context (i.e. second half of the narratio) is a meeting in Jerusalem (usually identified with that of Acts 15), in which Paul’s role as an (apostolic) missionary to the Gentiles (non-Jews) in Syria, Asia Minor and Greece, etc, was confirmed (cf. also v. 7). The statement in verse 5 is especially significant, in relation to the conflict regarding believers and observance of the Torah, whereby the expression “the truth of the good message” is essentially identified with “the freedom which we hold in the Anointed Yeshua”—i.e., freedom not be ‘enslaved’ again by any requirement to observe the Torah (v. 4). The same expression, “truth of the good message” occurs again at the close of the narratio (v. 14), where the point of conflict is stated most clearly, and, in rather practical religious terms.

The final occurrence (of the verb) is in 4:13; interestingly, it is the only instance where the eu)aggel- word group is used (directly) in the main body (probatio) of the letter, an indication, perhaps, of how powerfully Paul had already established the association—i.e., the truth of his position with the Gospel itself—so that there was really no need to clarify this point further. However, the rhetorical emphasis in 4:13 is interesting to note, as it stresses again that it is the content of the message, and not the messenger himself (i.e., Paul) that is important. Paul proclaimed the good message “through weakness [lit. lack of strength] in the flesh”, and yet, through faith/trust, the Galatian believers accepted him “as a messenger [a&ggelo$] of God”, even “as the Anointed Yeshua” himself (v. 14). Again, this is due, not to Paul’s own character, but to the power of the message of Christ which comes from God.

If the “good message” is not tied to observance of the Old Testament / Jewish Law (Torah), then, in terms of the religious identity of believers, it must be centered upon something else. This is not specified directly in connection with the term eu)agge/lion in Galatians (or 1 Thessalonians), but is implied throughout the letter, especially in the lengthy main section (the probatio) of chapters 3-4, where it is expounded in detail. The content of the “good message”, quite apart from the Torah and the (Old) Covenant, is based entirely on the person and work of Jesus—establishing a New Covenant with God’s people. Paul brings this theological matrix of meaning more directly in line with his use of the eu)aggel- word group in other letters, such as that to the Romans, which we will examine in the next note.