In a nutshell—which is where many Jews probably felt Paul belonged—Paul essentially argued in Galatians 4 that God had a two-part plan for saving people from sin. Part 1: Obey the laws of Moses until Jesus comes. Part 2: Obey the laws that the Spirit impresses on your heart. But if Jewish Christians argued that there’s no reason why Part 1 and Part 2 can’t co-exist, what are some of the key points, questions, or criticisms you think Paul probably heard and fought against?
Here are some arguments Paul might have heard.
“Jesus was a circumcised Jew, from a family of observant Jews.” (Counterpoint: Jesus certainly seemed to honor the Ten Commandments, but he clashed with those rule-obsessed Pharisees over other rules, such as what a Jew can and can’t do on the Sabbath, and whether or not self-respecting Jews should mingle with non-Jews, tax-collectors, and prostitutes, whom Pharisees considered ritually unclean).
“If Moses delivered Part 1 of God’s plan and Paul is the main mouth delivering Part 2, then Paul is saying he’s at least as important as Moses. That’s not the kind of message you’d want to preach about yourself, unless you’re a self-absorbed jerk.” (Counterpoint: Paul wasn’t the star of Part 2. Jesus was.)
“You’re telling us to give up more than a thousand years of tradition just because you said so?” (Counterpoint: Prophets predicted an end to the first contract. One of the most famous prophecies: “Look,” says the LORD, “the day is coming when I’m going to make a new agreement with my people, Israel in the north and Judah in the south. This agreement won’t look anything like the one I set up with their ancestors back when I took them by the hand and walked them out of Egypt. They broke that contract…Here’s the new deal I’m going to make with all of my people everywhere,” says the LORD. “I’m going to put my law inside them. I’m going to write it on their hearts…They won’t have to teach the law to anyone. Not ever again. Not to their neighbors. Not to their relatives. They won’t need to go around saying, ‘You really need to get to know the LORD.’ Everyone’s going to know me already. That includes society’s bottom dwellers and the top dogs—with everyone in between,” says the LORD. “I’ll forgive them for all the hurtful things they’ve done. Not just forgive. I’ll forget it, too” (Jeremiah 31:31-34 Casual English Bible).