Catholic Judaizers

There's a reason why Martin Luther, a Catholic Monk in the early 1500's reputed to have started the Protestant revolution, was taken by the book of Galatians. In Galatians Paul was dealing with a Christian cult which had infiltrated the churches. That cult, the cult of the Judaizers, had much the same attributes as Catholicism has become.

In chapter 2 of Galatians he goes through the origin of that cult and his prior dealings with the matter. It started in the church of Jerusalem - the church that Catholics consider headquarters - but not Paul. In Galatians chapter 1 Paul distanced himself from the church at Jerusalem which was led by Peter, James and John. He made sure people understood that he did not get his marching orders from those guys or from that church.
Gal 1:1 "Paul, an apostle— sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father"

Gal 1:11,12 "I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ."

Gal 1:15-19 "When God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles— only James, the Lord’s brother."
In Chapter 2 he alludes back to the events of Acts 15 in which "Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question." Acts 15:1,2

When he arrived at the church this is what he encountered. "Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses." The apostles and elders met to consider this question." Acts 15:5,6

In discussing this matter with Catholics, they interpret the events in Acts from a Catholic viewpoint, but neglect to take into account Paul's view of the events he records in Galatians chapter 2. For what Paul says of these matter are so contrary to Catholicism that they just turn a blind eye to it.

In Galatians chapter 2 Paul says that upon his arrival, along with Barnabus and Titus he writes that "not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. As for those who seemed to be important— whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance— those men added nothing to my message." Gal 2:4-6

The church of Jerusalem, which catholics repute as headquarters at the time, led by Peter whom Catholics repute as the first Pope, had unbelievers in it, false brothers who were setting the agenda, they not only were outspoken in that church concerning their false doctrine, but were sending missionaries to other churches to spread their false doctrine right under the noses of Peter, James and John, who were acting irresponsibly in letting this go on. And Paul was upset with these guys for being so irresponsible. Thus he says, "As for those who seemed to be important— whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance— those men added nothing to my message." And he goes on in that chapter to mention how he had to rebuke Peter. "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong." Gal 2:11

There's no sense in Galatians that Paul viewed Peter as some kind of a "pope" let alone taking marching orders from Jerusalem. It was Paul who set them straight. The church at Jerusalem was a sectarian church composed exclusively of Jews, due to the prejudice that even the other apostles held towards Gentiles.

Peter grew up in a culture of prejudice. The Lord had to give him a special vision just to get him to speak with a Gentile. And when he arrived at Cornelius.'s house he said, "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him." Acts 10:28 Yet in fact it was not against the Law of Moses. Peter was still caught up in following man-made Jewish regulations. And when Peter came back to the church what reception did he get? "When Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them."" Where do you think Cornelius went to church? Certainly not in Peter's church. Imagine that, Gentile Christians were not allowed in "pope" Peter's church.

And this is further seen in Acts 6 where "In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food." Acts 6:1 These Jewish widows who had been married to Gentiles were being neglected. Prejudice! How did Peter respond?  "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables." That's not what Jesus taught them. For at the last supper he waited upon them, washing their feet and told them to do likewise. Could they not both do the ministry of the word and service? That's when I think God had enough of them. And just after this the book of Acts turns to what you may call "lay ministry". Stephen and Philip were assigned to deal with this issue of the distribution of bread. Could they do both service and the ministry of the word? Yes they did. And the chapters that follow are about them. In fact fron this point on, other than the event with Cornelius, the book of Acts turns its attention away from the Eleven and focuses on those non-prejudicial ministries of Stephen and Philip and primarily Paul. And while Jesus had commanded the Eleven, "go and make disciples of all nations" they were reluctant to do so. "At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles." Acts 8:1 Not even persecution by the very man whom God would later call to be the Twelfth apostle would overcome their prejudice against Gentiles allowing them to minister among them.

The church of Jerusalem was corrupted by prejudice ("A little leaven leavens the whole lump" Gal 5:9) which resulted in the the propagation of a false gospel right under the noses of the apostles who had turned a blind eye to it due to their fear of men and their contempt for Gentiles. And Paul was outraged. "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" Gal 1:6-8  He's saying that even if he, as an apostle of Jesus Christ, were to preach a false gospel, then he should be eternally condemned. This is an indirect way of saying that "even if Peter, James or John were to preach a false gospel, let them be eternally condemned."

And he continues, "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." He goes on to show that his message and ministry did not come from man - that is, not from the other apostles, nor from the church at Jerusalem, and goes on to show that while he didn't fear man, Peter did. "Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group." Gal 2:12

What can we make of this:
"If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." Gal 1:10
"Peter was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group." Gal 2:12
What is he saying about Peter?

Most of the New Testament epistles to the churches were written by Paul for good reason. Peter had largely relinquished his responsibilities with regards to ministry to Gentiles. This officially occurred in that meeting mentioned in Acts 15 and Galatians 2 "James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews." Acts 2:9

It's ironic that Catholics view that meeting as the first Catholic council. For it's at that meeting that Peter officially relinquishes his role of ministry to non-Jewish Christians. And as for the phrase "reputed to be pillars", notice the context:
"As for those who seemed to be important— whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance— those men added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews." Gal 2:6-9
As such Paul is speaking in a derogatory manner with regards to the apostles. By "reputed to be pillars" he's insulting their pride of appearance. Their "importance" mattered not to Paul. Paul was not a man pleaser.

The Decree

Concerning this meeting in Acts 15 Luke further records that the church at Jerusalem conceded to Paul's point of view, that Gentiles are not required to become Jews to become Christians. Peter himself stated, ""Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are." Acts 15:7-11

Peter's alluded back to his preaching to Cornelius. What restrictions did the Lord place on Cornelius. Only faith in the word preached. In fact Cornelius and his believing household received the Spirit before even getting water baptized. For it is not a ceremony that saves. It is faith in the gospel. Furthermore with regards to that incident it is written,
"I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air.Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’"Acts 11:5-9
Yet these Jerusalem apostles refused to give up their dietary restrictions. James even decrees, "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood."

While this excluded any other ceremony required of the Gentiles, if this were taken as a salvation requirement, as Catholics view this decree, then salvation is indeed of works. But when we compare scripture with scripture we end up with a different view not of the gospel which Paul preached, but of this decree.

For example James decreed, "Telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols". What does Paul say about that?
Paul writes, "Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God. So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall." 1Cor 8:1-13
The issue with regards to eating meats sacrificed to idols is not about salvation. This issue has to do with not offending the potential scruples of other Christians.

Does the decree make eating meats sacrificed to idols illegal? NO!
Paul writes, "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience’ sake;FOR THE EARTH IS THE LORD’S, AND ALL IT CONTAINS.  If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience’ sake. But if anyone says to you, "This is meat sacrificed to idols," do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’ sake; I mean not your own conscience, but the other man’s; for why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks? Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God" 1Cor 10:23-32
And likewise with regards to strangled animals and blood. The decree is not giving a list of legal requirements for salvation, but rather regulations regarding fellowship between Jewish and Gentile Christians.Viewed as legal requirements for salvation not only contradicts Paul's writing on the particular points of these regulations, but more importantly it would contradict the gospel itself, as Peter himself states and more important as Paul extensively covers in Galatians.

Catholics use their misconstrued view of this decree as a precedent for Catholicism arbitrarily adding all kinds of legal requirements for salvation. And again not only do the individual Catholic decrees contradict scripture, but the whole idea of remaking the gospel in the image of a legalistic Catholic theology is exactly the kind of thing that Paul opposed in that very first council. It's the very reason why he wrote Galatians. And its the very reason why Catholics turn a blind eye to the content of Galatians.

Making salvation a matter of following legal regulations, whether it be from the perspective of the Judaizers or Catholics, is exactly contrary to the gospel. They seek salvation by works. In contrast Paul warns the Galatians, "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" Gal 3:1-3

He gives the example of Abraham,  Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them."  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit." Gal 3:6-14

Like for those who rely up Canon Law for their salvation. It's the same thing - salvation by human effort. He makes this same argument against sacramental, ceremonial, works based salvation in Romans 4, again alluding to Abraham. "What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about— but not before God. What does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but believes God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him." Rom 4:1-8

Paul sees a significant contrast between working for your salvation and simply believing God's promise which saves you. Just as the Judaizers of Paul's day, so also today Catholicism is a works based salvation. Their answer to Paul's objection to the Judiazers is simply that they interpret this as being simply about a disagreement as to which regulations are required for a person to be saved, ignoring the actual content of Paul's letters where he indicates that salvation is not a matter of following regulations but rather simply believing God's promise. And so Catholic councils, just like the Judaizers, go on to add all kinds of requirements for salvation, as kinds of ceremonial works rather than recognizing what Peter and Paul actually said about the matter - that salvation is not of works but of the grace of God through faith.

What was the purpose of the Law?  "If a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. The Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.  Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" Gal 3:21-26 No one was ever saved by following regulations. And no one will be saved by following regulations or by their participation in religious ceremonies.

If you view your salvation as contingent upon following regulations, you have been misled. You have yet to come to faith in Christ.

Consider, for example, the Catholic obsession over the observance of "holy days". Paul writes, "But now that you know God— or rather are known by God— how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you." Gal 4:9,10

Final Exhortation

One of Paul's final exhortations to the Galatians with regards to the sacramental theology of the Judaizers is this, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope." Gal 5:1-5

Likewise to Catholics one could say, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I tell you that if you let yourselves be converted to Catholicism, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be duped by  Catholic sacramental theology that he is obligated to obey the whole Canon law. You who are trying to be justified by Canon law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus religious ceremonies don’t have any value in and of themselves. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources