The mission of the Judaizers who were persecuting the apostle Paul and opposing his ministry to the Gentiles wasn’t simply to make converts to keep the Law of Moses in a “legalistic sense.” It was much more than that. The mission of the Judaizers was to make Jewish proselytes, something Paul rigorously opposed.
Throughout Israel’s history under the Old Testament, Gentiles joined themselves to the nation of Israel and became Jews through circumcision and observances of the Law given through Moses (example Esther 8:17; Ezekiel 47:21-23) .
In Luke 16 Jesus says, “Until John the Baptist, the law of Moses and the messages of the prophets were your guides. But now the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is eager to get in” (Luke 16:16).
The message of the kingdom of God is not a message that caters to Jewish supremacy, but is good news for the whole world.
During the earthly ministry of Jesus, the Jewish leaders who hated Jesus and eventually had Him murdered, feared that their place as a nation was under threat of being lost.
Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and THE ROMANS SHALL COME AND TAKE AWAY BOTH OUR PLACE AND NATION (John 11:47-48).
Throughout the book of Acts, much of the persecution against Christians was inflicted by Jews who felt their supremacy as the people of God was being threatened (example Acts 6:12-14; Acts 21:21, 27-28).
In his letter to the Galatians, it is this sense of Jewish supremacy that Paul is countering. At the beginning of the letter he tells of his confrontation with the apostle Peter over this very thing.
When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For 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. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? (Galatians 2:11-14).
When we embrace a theology that caters towards Jewish supremacy in the sight of God we set ourselves in opposition to the truth of the gospel as Paul implies above and against the message of the cross as he later says in the letter to the Galatians (Galatians 5:11; 6:12-16).
Because of the cross, there is no privilege of one ethnic group above another in the sight of God. Paul expounds on this throughout Romans but it is often missed because many have been conditioned to read Romans through the lens of Calvin or Luther. The book of Romans was written by Paul, who was a Jew, who thought through the scriptures as a Jewish scholar having found his identity in Jesus the Messiah. Paul was a reformed Jew and his view of scripture revolved round Jesus the Messiah and the Holy Spirit.
Throughout his epistles, Paul takes the language of the Torah and finds Jesus in it and expounds on it so that not only the Jew but the Gentile as well can understand the mystery of God hidden in Christ. That which God had promised to do, He has done in and through Jesus the Messiah. The mystery which was hidden in Christ was that the promised blessing belongs to the whole world and not to one race of people only.
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 3:1-6)