N. T. Wright is a dangerous wolf whose influence has infected the church with several false doctrines. One especially influential view held by Wright, and those within a movement he is part of called the “New Perspective on Paul,” is that the focus of Galatians is not about personal salvation, but Jewish identity markers.
The following by Brian Schwertley is a refutation of this view. Here Schwertley is particularly addressing the Federal Vision (Auburn Avenue theology), a heresy with much in common with N.T. Wright’s theology:
- “(10) A passage of Scripture which explicitly refutes the “Jewish identity markers” theory is Galatians 3:10, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” Here Paul follows the Septuagint rendering of Deuteronomy 27:36 with some slight changes.
- “Instead of the Septuagint’s “all the words of this law” (Mt. also has “this law”) Paul writes “everything that is written in the Book of the law. The apostle is emphasizing that every law in the whole written Torah in all of its details (i.e., every jot and tittle) must be perfectly obeyed to avoid being under the curse of the law.
- “This is the sword of Damocles which hangs over the head of all workers with law.” Further, Deuteronomy 27 itself completely ignores the ceremonial law and focuses upon violations of the ten commandments (idolatry, v. 15; dishonoring parents, v. 16; theft, v. 17; adultery v. 20; murder, v. 25) and specific applications of the ten commandments (injustice, v. 19; cruelty, v. 18; bestiality, v. 21; incest, vs. 22, 23; unlawful violence, v. 24).
- Paul, writing under divine inspiration, makes it crystal clear that his phrase “the works of the law” refers to the whole law of God whether ceremonial (i.e. the identity markers) or moral (the ten commandments and moral case laws).
- “… (11) Paul’s condemnation of the Judaizers in Galatians 4:21-31 implies much more than a mere hanging on to Jewish identity markers or exclusivity. Paul uses the symbol of two mothers to represent two different systems of doctrine.
- Hagar the slave woman and the Jerusalem which now is, corresponds not to the Mosaic law as it was intended by God; which pointed to Jesus Christ and not to a system of works salvation; but, to the slavish doctrine and worship that the Old Covenant religion had degenerated into under the Pharisees.
- “Although the ceremonial ordinances were weak and beggarly elements for an immature church, the faithful saints of the Old Covenant were not spiritual Ishmaelites who were slaves under bondage. “This is a heavy reproach against the Jews, whose real mother was not Sarah, but the spurious Jerusalem, twin sister of Hagar; who were therefore slaves born a slave, thought they haughtily boasted that they were the sons of Abraham.”
- The Jews placed themselves under the yoke of bondage because they believed that a strict obedience to the ceremonial regulations and moral laws, as well as their own man-made laws, could bring them into the kingdom of heaven. Paul says they were damnable heretics who were dead wrong. If the Jewish identity markers theory were true then Paul was engaging in incredible overkill in his statements.
- “(12) A section of Scripture that is especially fatal to the Auburn Avenue doctrine is Galatians 5:1-4, where Paul warns believers not to be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. The apostle says that the man who becomes circumcised is a debtor to keep the whole law.
- Is Paul saying that anyone who becomes circumcised cannot be saved without exception? No. We know that that cannot be the apostle’s meaning for late in his ministry he circumcised Timothy (Ac. 16:3) to make it easier to minister in Jewish communities. Clearly then, the apostle’s argument is not against a love of Jewish identity markers or even exclusivity as bad as that may be (1 Cor. 3:3ff.).
- “The thing that stirred up Paul and caused him to use such strong language was the doctrine behind circumcision. Although the false teachers acknowledged Christ, they in addition taught the necessity of circumcision as a commitment to follow another mode of justification. The Judaizers were teaching another gospel. They required obedience to the law in addition to faith in Christ.
- Paul responded to this doctrine by pointing out that if you depend on the law in addition to Christ, then you must perfectly and perpetually obey the whole law (ceremonial and moral) in exhaustive detail. In other words, if people look to anything besides Jesus for salvation they have no hope of ever being saved. John Stott writes:
- The slogan of the false teacher was: “unless you are circumcised and keep the law, you cannot be saved” (cf. Acts 15:1, 5). They were thus declaring that faith in Christ was insufficient for salvation.Circumcision and law-obedience must be added to it. This was tantamount to saying that Moses must be allowed to finish what Christ had begun.
- See how Paul describes their position in these verses. They are those who “receive circumcision” (verses 2, 3), who are therefore “bound to keep the whole law” (verse 3), since this is what their circumcision commits them to, and who are seeking to “be justified by the law” (verse 4).
- “What does Paul say to them? He does not mince his words. On the contrary, he makes a most solemn assertion, beginning Now I, Paul, say to you (verse 2). He warns them in three sentences of the serious results of their receiving circumcision; Christ will be of no advantage to you (verse 2), you are severed from Christ and you have fallen away from grace (verse 4).
- More simply, to add circumcision is to lose Christ, to seek to be justified by the law is fall from grace. You cannot have it both ways.
- “It is impossible to receive Christ, thereby acknowledging that you cannot save yourself, and then receive circumcision, thereby claiming that you can.
- You have got to choose between a religion of law and a religion of grace, between Christ and circumcision. You cannot add circumcision (or anything else, for that matter) to Christ as necessary to salvation, because Christ is sufficient for salvation in Himself. If you add anything to Christ, you lose Christ. Salvation is in Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone.” (Brian Schwertley, A Refutation of the Auburn Avenue Theology’s Rejection of Justification by Faith Alone.)