NUGGETS OF WISDOM

__nature3

BELIEVING WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE

David recollected that as a young lad, with long unruly hair and a ruddy complexion, sleeping out in an open pasture under a starry sky after watching his father’s sheep all day long; how he would take his little harp and sing to the God above all gods. Looking up, he saw the sky as a huge tent with the sparkling stars as lights that lit up the night. He may have even tried to count them once or twice. But what really impressed him was that each night every star was in exactly the same place, not one of them was missing. He was so overcome with awe that he penned a hymn to the creator of that starry universe.

O my LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius, as You display Your grandeur all over the heavens for all the world to see. For through these small and tiny dots of light You communicate as a way of countering those who don’t take You seriously; yes, You do this to silence the doubter and unbeliever. When I look up into the sky and see the galaxies Your hands created, the stars and the moon You put into orbit I ask, “What role do humans play in this vast universe; why do You care and fuss over them?” Then I realized, You created them a little short of being angels; endowing them with attributes of honor and dignity; making them the smartest and most influential creatures on earth; putting them in charge to being stewards of Your handiwork, even taking care of the animals, both domestic and wild, including the birds that fill the sky and the fish that fill the sea. O LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius for all the world to see.” Psalm 8:1-9

Reflection: Back in the days of the hippy movement I sat in a coffee house in Stuttgart, Germany talking with a long-haired flower-child about God. The young man was respectful but adamant about his doubts concerning God’s existence because he couldn’t see Him or talk to Him. At that moment the Holy Spirit gave me an inspiration, so I pointed to a picture hanging on the wall beside our table and asked the young man if he believed that picture came into being due to an accidental collision of paint and paper. He laughed and said, “That’s ridiculous; that picture was painted by an artist.” I responded that I wasn’t convinced because I couldn’t see the artist in the picture; how did I know that maybe one day it just appeared on the wall by accident. The young fellow looked at me for a moment and then admitted that even though I couldn’t see the artist in the painting, I had to accept the fact that an artist painted the picture because it just makes sense. I told him that in the same way, one must exercise faith to believe an unseen talented artist created such a beautiful portrait, we can also believe an unseen God created the beauty of the universe. The magnificence of God’s creation shows His responsibility for man’s existence, and man’s responsibility to acknowledge God’s handiwork. The young man smiled somewhat embarrassingly as he bowed his head and said, “Okay, you got me on that one.” I asked him if we could have prayer for him to have faith, but he wasn’t sure. As he went away I asked the Holy Spirit to go with him and open his eyes to the truth.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XXXIV)

As mentioned earlier in comments on verse fifteen, Martin Luther uses an illustration to make his point here on becoming a joint-heir with the Anointed One by faith, not by works. He tells of a very wealthy landowner who adopts a young lad he did not know as his son. Keep in mind, he does not owe this to the boy. After some time, he appoints the young fellow as heir to his entire fortune. Several years later, the old man asks the lad to do something for him. And the young man does it. Now, can that adopted son then go around and bragging that he deserved the inheritance by doing what the old man asked him to do? Absolutely not! Therefore, how can anybody say that righteousness is obtained by obedience to the Law when the Law was given four hundred and thirty years after God’s promise of the blessings to Abraham and to all the world through his descendants?[1] In other words, doing good things for our Heavenly Father who adopted us is done out of thankfulness and gratitude, not to pressure Him to share His wealth with us.

Adam Clarke reveals an interesting idea in order to gain insight from a different angle into what Paul is saying here. Instead of reading verse seventeen this way, “…the covenant that was confirmed before of God in the Anointed One” (KJV) could be read as, “…the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christians.” Clarke explains that the promise of justification was made to believers in union with the Anointed One Jesus, who are the spiritual seed of the Anointed One, just as they are children of Abraham by the similarities of their faith. Abraham believed in God, and it was credited to him for justification; the Gentiles believed in the Anointed One and received the same justification.

Therefore, by using the word “Christian” instead of the Anointed One seems natural because you can’t possess one without the other. The promise of salvation must necessarily be to them who believe in the Anointed One, for He is the promised seed,[2] through whom every blessing is received; and through His spiritual seed – true Christians, the victories won by the cross are daily spreading over the face of the earth. The present unparalleled distribution of the sacred scriptures, in all the known languages of the universe, is full proof that all the nations of the earth will be blessed through them, if nothing gets added or taken away from that received from the Holy Spirit through the Anointed One.[3]

John Brown (1784-1858) points out that the word “covenant” used here in verse fifteen, and in other places, must not always be understood based solely upon its English meaning. He points out that making a covenant in his day meant “coming to an agreement” or “the result of bargaining” for the moment. That’s how it is used here in verse fifteen. But that’s not how we should take it throughout the Scriptures, either in the First Covenant or Final Covenant. He suggests that we understand the Greek noun diathēkē that is translated as “covenant,” meaning to “agree to make a compact or settlement” that cannot be altered or changed either by the signers or their descendants. That is the way it is used here in verse seventeen.[4]

By Paul saying that the covenant that was made between God and Abraham, and confirmed as valid before God in the Anointed One, Walter Adeney (1849-1920) believes we should understand that this means the covenant of grace was meant to be eternal. It goes without saying that once a truth is proven to be true, it will remain true for eternity. For instance, the theory of gravity is a proven fact, and that will remain so forever. Gravity was even detected on the moon and planet Mars. In like manner, a declaration of God will be eternal. God is not always changing His mind like an unstable, unpredictable tyrant. He is changelessness itself. What He wills now He wills forever. Also, a pledge of God’s honor is eternal. It is an infinite condescension of love and mercy in recognition of our weakness that God makes such a promise. We ought to be able to rely on His love and goodness alone. But since He mercifully came down to earth in order to encourage us in our poor faith by promise and pledge. Once this is realized, we all can appreciate His blessed assurance to us of His changeless grace.[5]

3:18 Can following the Law give us the blessing God promised? If we could receive it by following the Law, then it would not be God’s promise that brings it to us. But God freely gave His blessings to Abraham through the promise He made.

The Complete Jewish Bible renders this verse as follows: “For if the inheritance could come from the legal part of the Torah, it no longer comes from a promise.” In other words, as a son, if your father promised you a car when you graduated from High School or College, why go out and try to buy one on credit? If your dad was known for keeping his promises, then buying a car with your own money would make his promise unnecessary. So, when graduation day came, your father might say to you, looks like I don’t need to give you a car, you already own one. As a consequence, he gives it to your sister. Now she’s driving a car even nicer than yours and does not owe a dime since it was a gift. Meanwhile, you are trying your best to keep your car payments up to date, and it seems to get harder and harder every month.

In the same way, everything God gave to Abraham came by way of a promise. Now, if God could predict to Abram how many years Jacob and his sons and daughters and their sons and daughters would end up in Egypt 190-200 years ahead of time, don’t you think that when the Israelites were told that this happened just the way God said it would, that they could trust Him to be accurate in every prediction? The same with the coming of the Messiah. That’s why Paul uses this promise to Abraham to tell the Romans that Abraham was given a promise because he trusted in God. In like manner, God’s promise is given to us because we put our trust in Him. We can be sure of it. It is because of His loving-favor to us. It is for all the family of Abraham. It is for those who put their trust in God, as Abraham did. In this way, Abraham is the father of all believers, Jews, and Gentiles.[6] Therefore, as God’s children, we will receive everything He promised. We will share with the Anointed One all the things God gave to Him. But we must share His suffering if we are to share His shining-greatness.[7] So why would the Galatians give all this up on the speculation that maybe they were fully qualified by obeying the Anointed One, and this could happen by adding obedience to the Law?

So, when the Psalmist said, O children of His servant Abraham, O sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God. He decides what is for everyone on earth, that literally is a message to all of Israel, and spiritually to all who come to believe in the Anointed One.[8] And toward the end of the First Covenant period, the prophet Micah extolled God by asking, Who is a God like You, Who forgives sin and the wrong-doing of Your chosen people who are left? You will be true to Jacob and show loving-kindness to Abraham, as You promised our fathers in days long ago.[9] If God was willing to keep a promise to the children of Israel just because of Abraham’s obedience, wouldn’t He be just as likely to keep His promise to all believers because of Jesus’ obedience? So why should the Galatians go back to leaning on the promise God gave to Abraham when they already leaned on the promise God made to His Son. Was Abraham more important to God, or was Jesus? The point is, that everything God promised to Abraham was now available only through His Son.

To show how the Jews apparently understood all of this, Rabbi Avraham Saba comments on what he sees in Genesis 12:2-3. He notes the three promises of God to Abram: I will make you a great nation; I will bring blessings to you; and, I will make your name great, so you will be a blessing to others. For Rabbi Saba, all three of these promises depended upon three demands God required Abram to do in verse one: Leave your homeland; leave your father’s house and relatives and go to the land I will show you. That makes sense, for why would God promise Abram all these honorable things if Abram did nothing to show he deserved them? Rabbi Saba says these promises were an encouragement for Abram to move from where he was well-known as part of a prominent family, to a place where he would be treated as a stranger and be socially isolated from those already living there. But, not to fear, he would overcome all of that to be the founder of a great nation, with riches and an international reputation.[10]

While all of this seems logical, there is one thing that Paul knew that the Judaizers and misled Galatians were missing. All that God promised Abram appears to be a reward, something earned, and something Abram worked hard for, even suffered for. Paul is saying that what God planned to do for Abram was a gift. It wouldn’t be done only after Abram proved himself worthy. Abram took these promises as a gift when he willingly did what God asked him to do.

So again, how could these Judaizers ever convinced any Galatian that God would annul His last will and testament with Abraham, by requiring a new set of laws written that did not alter or change His promise to Abraham in the first place, nor have anything to do with it in the future? That’s ridiculous! Who would believe that? No wonder he calls the Galatians who believed such nonsense, bewitched fools.

Paul sees some light at the end of the tunnel, however, and summarizes what he was attempting to say all along.  His comparison of our inheritance coming by way of a promise instead of by way of the Mosaic Law reaches its conclusion.  How can you make someone a promise and then tell them they have to earn it?  After all, God’s plan of salvation through the Anointed One is received by grace, not by one’s own efforts; therefore, these two can never be made to reconcile and coexist together.  If by grace, God made a promise of eternal life, then those under Mosaic Law cannot demand it.

On the other hand, if it can be acquired by following Mosaic Law, then it is no longer a promise given by grace.  The bottom line here is either you trust God to keep His promise that He took out and paid for an eternal life insurance policy on you, or you don’t!  If you don’t, then try to buy it by making daily payments keeping all the rituals and regulations under Mosaic Law.  But Paul is the bearer of bad news for you, that eternal death insurance company called “God’s Law,” went out of business over 2,000 years ago. In its place, we now have the eternal life insurance company called “God’s Grace.”

[1] Martin Luther: On Galatians, op. cit., loc, cit., p. 79

[2] Genesis 3:15

[3] Adam Clarke: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[4] John Brown: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 140-141

[5] Walter Adeney: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[6] Romans 4:16

[7] Ibid. 8:17

[8] Psalm 105:6

[9] Micah 7:18, 20

[10] Tzror Hamor: op. cit., Vol. 1, Genesis 12:2, p. 182

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XXXIII)

 

In George W. Clark’s (1831-1911) comments here on verse sixteen, when delineating between the use of the Hebrew noun zera` as a single seed or multiple seeds, in light of Paul’s definition of the Greek noun sperma (“seed”) as meaning “seed” not “seeds.” From what Rendall says, we might see this word used to denote the many “seeds” taken from an apple or orange, or we can envision it as referring to the one “seed” we take from a peach or prune. Yes, this promise of God to Abraham of inheriting the Land of Canaan was intended for all his “seeds” through Isaac, but among all those seeds there would be one “seed” to whom this promise would go to Him and from then on only those “seeds” found in Him would be considered the children of God, and that includes those seeds from Abraham.[1]

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) makes a good point when in one of his sermons he said: Knowing what we need, the next business is to find out if the Lord promised us this particular blessing, for then we can go to God with the utmost confidence, and look for the fulfillment of His word. For this very purpose, we should diligently search the Scriptures, looking for cases involving other believers who are like ourselves and endeavoring to find that particular gift by divine grace, which is suitable to ourselves in our present circumstances. The more exact the agreement of the promise to the need, the greater the assurance it will yield. In this school, the believer will learn the value of complete verbal inspiration; for in their own instance, they may have to dwell upon so slight a matter as a plural or singular noun, as Paul did when quoting the promise made to Abraham here in verse sixteen.[2]

Augustus H. Strong (1836-1921), touches on the Final Covenant writers in their use of the phrase, “It is written,” or, “the Scriptures says,” or, “does not say,” as Paul does here in verse sixteen. For Strong, the adoption of Jewish methods of reasoning would not indicate an error on the part of the Scripture writers, but rather an acceptance of the method as applied to that particular case. Here it is convincingly suggested that the very form of the expression found in Genesis 22:18, which denotes unity, was selected by the Holy Spirit as significant of one person, the Anointed One, who was the true seed of Abraham and in whom all nations were to be blessed. So, Paul basing his argument on the form of a single word, in this case, is correct, although the Rabbis often put more emphasis on singular nouns than the Holy Spirit ever intended.[3]

English clergyman Cyril W. Emmet (1875-1924), shares an interesting thought concerning Paul’s idea of God’s covenant, or last will and testament, with Abraham in verse fifteen. When the Apostle says in verse seventeen that the covenant was confirmed by God in the Anointed One, it is another way of saying that the death of the testator stands confirmed. But here’s the problem, God is the testator, and He does not die. The covenant stated that all God promised Abraham and his descendants would be given to them if that happened. However, Paul says the promise was not to everyone, but to just one, the Promised Seed. So, it was then that Promised Seed, the Messiah, who was the heir of the promise would die, then it would include all those who became the spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham through Him that would become heirs and joint-heirs of the promise. This could never happen if the Promised heir did not come to earth and died to make that possible.[4] However, keep in mind, the human part of the Anointed One died and was put into the tomb, but the divine part came out alive.

Grant Osborne makes an important point here in verse sixteen. The emphasis in this verse is the seed of Abraham. The phrase “Abraham and his seed” stems from Genesis 13:15; 15:18; and 17:8, where the Promise Land guarantees can be found. In Genesis, the “seed” is a collective singular noun referring to Abraham’s innumerable offspring, but Paul uses rabbinic logic to argue that “seed” is a singular noun. Such an argument was fairly common in Jewish interpretation. This prepares Paul’s readers for 3:29 (“If you belong to the Anointed One, then you are Abraham’s seed”). It was common in Judaism to refer to the Messiah as “the seed of David”[5], so Paul is using common Jewish forms of Scriptural interpretation to make his point that all of the Abrahamic promises are fulfilled in the Anointed One.

Osborne also points out that Paul, more than once, spoke of the promises God made in His covenant with Abraham. But here in 3:2–5, 14 it was the Spirit who was the promise of the Abrahamic covenant; his point here focuses on the primary commitment, namely the gift of the Anointed One. Multiple promises flowed from the Abrahamic covenant: innumerable descendants that would become a great nation, the inheritance of the land, and the blessing of the Gentiles. All the nations were intended to share in those blessings, but they were especially given to “Abraham’s seed.” When linked with verse fifteen above, the emphasis is on the irrevocable nature of these promises. The covenant God made is guaranteeing these blessings, and they will not be revoked. The one making and fulfilling the promise is the God who never changes, and so the promise is connected to faith in God rather than to human works.

To sum it up, Osborne says that the main point made in this verse is that all of these promises to Abraham were fulfilled in Jesus the Anointed One and channeled through Him to those who by faith are united “in the Anointed One” and thus became the new seed of Abraham. Several interpreters noted that this sums up the basic narrative of Scripture itself: The promises to Abraham resound throughout the history of Israel, from the patriarchs to Moses to David and the prophets, as the successive stages of the people of God remain an integral part of Abraham’s family and the divine promises for his seed. These all narrow down to the seed of David, as fulfilled in the son of David. Jesus is both the son of Abraham and the son of David, the “seed” in whom, as the Son of God, all the promises are realized in the spiritual family of God – the Church[6]

Andrew G. Roth also shares some insight on Paul’s wording here in verse sixteen. In a stunning bit of Aramaic cleverness, Paul here actually lines up two Aramaic (words in a row, aytmelekh, and molkana, (Combined in Greek as epaggelia – “promises” – KJV) that both mean “promise.” This double meaning lines up in a way that heightens the intensity, much in the way we might say in English, “he was a man’s man.” Here we see something more like, “and we have a promise on top of a promise.” There is also another wordplay in that both words also contain the root of the word “king” in them.[7]

3:17 Here is what I am trying to say: The contract God made with Abraham could not be arbitrarily canceled 430 years later when God gave Moses the Law. Had God done so, He would have broken His promise.

The covenant, pledge, agreement, and alliance Paul is talking about here is the one mentioned in the Torah.[8] And centuries later, when Zacharias, the father of John the Baptizer, rejoiced over the birth of his son, in his song of thanksgiving, he mentioned this same covenant as though it was signed only yesterday.[9] And later, Jesus confirmed this agreement with Abraham and said it was about Him.[10] We can see in the Hebrew noun bĕriyth that is translated as “covenant” (KJV) in Genesis 15:18 that it means something “between two people.” It is illustrated earlier in that same chapter by what God told Abraham to do before the covenant was made. After it got dark, a burning pot with smoke billowing up from it passed between these parts of animals. The Lord then made an agreement with Abram on that day.[11]

So just as the Lord’s presence that looked like a smoldering pot filled with smoke passed between the halves of the animals, God was saying that one side represented Abram’s sacrifice and the other side God’s sacrifice. Later we know, that this was reenacted when God told Abram to take his only son and sacrifice him on Mount Moriah, where the Temple would one day stand, to prove his obedience to God’s will, so it was that God sent His only Son to be sacrificed on Mount Calvary, where the cross would be planted, to show His obedience to God’s will. Why not let both be sacrificed on the same hill? Because Jesus’ sacrifice was not a replication of Isaac’s sacrifice. Rather, Isaac’s sacrifice was a prefigure of the future crucifixion of the Anointed One. Isaac did not die, but Jesus did. In Isaac’s case, the blood of a ram was substituted for Isaac’s blood, but it did not possess the power to forgive, only to make amends. But the blood of the Lamb of God was shed, and the power in that blood was strong enough to forgive all sins. The Law was the governing factor in the blood of the ram, but Grace is the governing factor in the blood of the Lamb.

Furthermore, a myriad of debates existed between Jews and other Jews, Jews and Christians, Christians, and other Christians about how to account for the 430 years mentioned here in verse sixteen. For instance, Rabbi Abraham Zacuto (1452-1514) compiled from numerous different sources their efforts to try and account for these 430 years mentioned by God to Abram.[12] Some try to reckon it from the birth of certain prestigious Israelite leaders, and others add up all the generations and then subtract some to arrive at the 430-year mark. Well-known Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, who lived in Israel during the time of the Anointed One, offered his equation: The Children of Israel left Egypt in the month Xanthippe,[13] on the fifteenth day of the lunar month; four hundred and thirty years after their forefather Abraham came into Canaan, but only two hundred and fifteen years after Jacob moved into Egypt. It was the eightieth year of the age of Moses, and of that of Aaron plus three more. They also carried out the bones of Joseph with them, as he charged his sons to do.[14]

Likewise, it is safe to say that from the time of Jesus’ ascension into heaven, generation after generation has vainly tried to predict His promised return. Just during my lifetime, Rudolf Steiner predicted our Lord’s return between 1930-1939; Herbert W. Armstrong said it would happen in 1935, then in 1943, then in 1972, and then in 1976; Benjamin Crème placed the Lord’s return on June 21, 1982; Edgar C. Whisenant in 1988; Harold Camping on September 6, 1994; Jerry Falwell said between 1999-2009; Ed Dobson and Timothy Dwight IV predicted it in the year 2000, and James Harmston said it would occur on June 6, 2000. Then, Harold Camping jumped in again with a prophecy of March 21, 2011, then changed it to October 21, 2011. Ronald Weinland put the date at September 29, 2011, then May 27, 2012, and then May 18, 2013. Jack Van Impe 2012; Mark Biltz September 28, 2015; and Ronald Weinland again June 9, 2019. As Jesus said, “only the Father knows,” because with Him time does not exist.

[1] George W. Clark: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 87

[2] Charles Spurgeon: According to Promise, Sermon “Searching out the Promise

[3] August H. Strong: Systematic Theology, Vol. 1,  Part 3, Ch. 3, Objections to the Doctrine of Inspiration, pp. 425-426

[4] Cyril W. Emmet: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 33

[5] 2 Samuel 7:12

[6] Osborne, G. R. On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 99–100

[7] Andrew G. Roth: Aramaic Translation, op. cit., loc. cit.

[8] Genesis 15:18. See 17:7-8, 19

[9] Luke 1:72

[10] John 8:56-58

[11] Genesis 15:9-18

[12] Zacuto (1452-1514), Abraham b. Samuel. The Book of Lineage (pp. 33-35). Zacuto Foundation. Kindle Edition.

[13] Xanthicus is the name of the sixth month of the Macedonian calendar of the Seleucid Syrians. It corresponds with Nisan in the Jewish calendar or April in the Gregorian calendar. See 2 Maccabees 11:30, 33, 38

[14] Antiquities of the Jews, Flavius Josephus, Bk. 2, Ch. 15, sect. 2

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XXXII)

If you are a serious Bible student and read various commentaries, you’ll know that Paul’s argument is subject to many tests of interpretation and clarification. But keep this thought in mind. Abraham fathered two sons, but the promise only went through Isaac, not Ishmael. Isaac fathered two sons, but the promise only went through Jacob, not Esau. Jacob fathered twelve sons, but Judah was chosen as the tribe to produce the promised Seed. Paul wanted to make the point that in the past, God focused on individuals to ensure His promise to Abraham stayed alive. Therefore, when you read the genealogy of Jesus listed in Matthew, Chapter one, you can see how, out of many, the spiritual Seed of Abraham, through whom the promise would be fulfilled, is Jesus of Nazareth the Anointed One.  And now, Jesus’ spiritual brothers and sisters are being sent out as spiritual lights and sanctified salt into the world; so that through them the faithfulness of Abraham and the faithfulness of the Anointed One, all the nations of the earth are blessed.

Paul might want this question asked today of you and other Christians you may know: did you save yourselves? Did you die on the cross for your own salvation? Was it your blood that was shed for the cleansing of your own sin? Did God appoint you as your own savior?  No! No! No! No! God said, I will send you a Savior, and you must believe that He fulfilled all My requirements in Mosaic Law. So, by accepting His work on your behalf, I will save you from certain annihilation. And since the Anointed One is the Seed spoken of by God to Abraham, then how can the Judaizers claim the promises for themselves only or those Gentiles who become like them. Does this still sound complicated? It appears the Apostle Paul thought so himself, so he’s trying once again to make this clear to the Galatians.

We don’t know how much influence Greek thinking impacted Jewish thought, but we find a similar topic being discussed in one of Plato’s Dialogues entitled “Euthyphro.”  Socrates and Euthyphro are having an argument over the virtue of being devoted. In the dialogue, we find this exchange: SOCRATES: “I want you to tell me what part living right or dedication play in justice, so I can tell Meletus not to do me an injustice, or indict me for not being a good enough person. In the past, you gave me such great instructions on the nature of living right and dedication, and their opposites.” EUTHYPHRO: “Living right or dedication…hum? Socrates, the way I see it, there is a part of justice which applies to what the gods require, as there is the other part of justice that applies to what men require.” So even the Greeks believed in good works to please their gods so that their gods would do something to please them.

How acquainted Paul was of these writings can only be judged by the fact that he grew up and was educated in an area of the world where Greek writings were often debated and discussed. Paul finds himself in a similar argument with the Judaizers. They felt that dedication was the good deeds on man’s part that pleased God, which He then equated to them as righteousness and thereby justified their salvation. But Paul tries to get them to see that it was the good work the Anointed One did on the cross that pleased God, which God then equated to Him as righteousness and thereby would justify salvation to any who believed in Him.

So, Paul wonders why the Judaizers were willing to take what God accepts as the only thing worthy of salvation and amend it with something that only leads to extinction and force it on the Gentiles?  If you really want to please God then accept those, He chose through Abraham, to be equal with you in His sight.  Don’t make them feel inferior by telling them to add these acts of dedication in religious rituals and regulations so they will be on your level.

Theodore of Mopsuestia (350-428 AD) notes that the words “and to his offspring” are found to be strictly fulfilled in the Anointed One in the clearest sense, since He is Abraham’s offspring by nature, as are all those who derive their stock from that source. We who believe in Him are, therefore, enrolled as spiritual children of Abraham and thereby receive His fellowship in the blessing. The result is that what appears to be said to one can, in fact, be understood as belonging to many, insofar as all who derive from that source through the Anointed One are spiritual children of Abraham. This promise is completely fulfilled in the Anointed One in the light of actual events.[1]

Then Theodoret of Cyrus (393-466 AD) makes a good point here on how a contract cannot be changed by just one signee, both must agree to any changes. And that’s why God’s promise to Abraham is called a “Covenant.” Therefore, it too cannot permit any additions, subtractions or erasures through the imposition of the Mosaic Law since God’s promise was given a long time before the Law arrived. Now the promise was that the God of all would bless the nations through the promised offspring of Abraham. And this promised offspring is the Anointed One the Lord since the promise found its destination in Him through the cross and His resurrection. But all the others, such as Moses, Samuel, Elijah, and, in a word, all who traced their descent from Israel, were called his offspring according to nature, but this genetic fact is not what brought the fountain of blessings to the nations. The fact even those who trace their race to Abraham does not mean that they are rightly called his offspring. But the Anointed One does give the privilege to all those who believe in Him as the promised son of Abraham, the Messiah. Only through Him, the Promised One will God bestow His blessing on the nations.[2]

Reformer John Calvin wonders why the Israelites did not see the obvious truth about the Anointed One in their own Scriptures. As Calvin sees it, God never offered grace and mercy and salvation and eternal life to His ancient people, nor did He give them any hope of grace without a Mediator. There is no reason to look for this in the myriad sacrifices made to Him because God required them so that His people were plainly and openly taught that salvation was not to be found anywhere but in the atonement which the Messiah alone could complete. That’s why the blessed and joyful state of the Church was always founded in the person of the Anointed One, the Lamb of God. That’s what Paul is driving at here in verse sixteen. For although God embraced all the descendants of Abraham in His covenant, yet Paul properly argues that Jesus the Anointed One was truly the Promised Seed in which all the nations of the earth were to be blessed with the knowledge of Him and His plan of salvation.

Although it is not expressed in very distinct terms in the Torah, it does, however, appear that it was common knowledge among the godly. For before a king was appointed over the Israelites, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, describing the happiness of the righteous, includes this in her prayer, “Adonai will strengthen His king and enhance the power of His anointed.”[3] And later on in that same chapter, God speaks to Hannah’s son, Samuel, and tells him, “I will raise up for myself a faithful priest who will do what I want and what I intend. I will make his family faithful, and he will serve in the presence of my anointed one forever.”[4] But here is why this verse is taken as a prelude to the coming of the Messiah. In the end, we read these words that this Anointed One would serve, “forever.”

And Calvin also thinks that this anointed one would be King David, a man after God’s own heart. But what about serving God forever? This is found in God’s promise that all future kings of Judah would come from the line of David. That’s why it was so important that Jesus could trace his lineage back to King David. Calvin goes on to point out that because of this, the righteous were exhorted to reverence Him, and that they should “Kiss the Son.[5]” Corresponding to this is the passage in the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus states that the Son can do nothing by Himself. He does what He sees the Father doing; in other words, He was sent to carry out His Father’s will, not His own. Then come these sobering words from the mouth of Jesus: “The Father does not say who is guilty. He gives this to the Son to do. He does this so that all people will honor the Son as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father Who sent Him.” So, this anointed one spoken of to Samuel was in the line of successors to King David, and that’s where it stops because the Anointed One will serve forever. It can’t get much clearer than that.[6]

Philip Schaff (1819-1893) feels that here in verse sixteen, Paul introduces a new idea that the covenant of promise was not made with Abram only, but with all of his descendants which centers in the coming of Messiah to finish what God started with Abram and extended with Moses. That means, some believed that the giving of the Law was the fulfillment of that covenant between God and Abram, that was only the second step in the process. God wanted to make sure that the convent could not be abolished by the Law. So, the keywords here are: Now to Abraham, and his seed were the promises made. Not to seeds, but to one Seed, and that Seed is Messiah, Jesus the Son of God.[7]

Therefore, the inheritance that God vowed to give His children through Abraham would have their own Promised Land. Of course, this referred to the land of Canaan. But in a deeper sense, it refers to the Kingdom of God as promised to the Seed – the Messiah. And, of course, those who become part of the kingdom are then joint-heirs with Him. That’s why, when Jesus left this earth to go back into heaven to be at the right hand of the Father, no doubt the disciples were sad to see Him go, but He left them with this Promise: There are many rooms in my Father’s house. I would not tell you this if it wasn’t true. I am going there to prepare a place for you. After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back. Then I will take you with me so that you can be where I am.[8] It is with this same hope that we, to this day and those yet in the future, will close their eyes in peace as they await His return.

English clergyman Emilius Bayley (1823-1917), later known as Reverend Sir John Laurie, spoke on how the curse of the Law was finally removed. He illustrates it by noting that all are born under the Law, and are bound to observe it. But all have broken it, and their guilt remains. There is no question of mercy here. Law, viewed in and of itself, knows no mercy. It pronounces a person righteous only on condition of perfect obedience. The chain is severed, though only one link is broken. Bayley then points out that the telephone cable, which joined two continents together in his day, fails to convey the electric current if but a single flaw exists in it. Every other part may be perfect, but one fault mars the whole. So, it is with the Law. That’s why all are under condemnation.[9] Bayley then goes on to say that the Anointed One came to replace that missing link, and that severed part of the cable. His outstretched arms on the cross, connected them again so that all the Law required was fulfilled in Him and do what the Law could not do without Him, it was now capable of connecting lost mankind with God whose greatest desire was to save them and make eternal life their gift from Him.

[1] Theodore of Mopsuestia: On Galatians, op. cit., Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). p. 44

[2] Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 44)..

[3] 1 Samuel 2:10 – Complete Jewish Bible

[4] Ibid. 2:35

[5] Psalm 2:12

[6] John Calvin, Institutes, Vol. 2, Ch. 6, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 360-361

[7] Philip Schaff: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 320

[8] John 14:2-3

[9] The Biblical Illustrator: op. cit., Vol. 48, (Kindle Location 7324)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XXXI)

In a sermon by Reverend Frances Keyes Aglionby, vicar of Christ’s Church, Westminster, London, published around 1906, tells the story of a well-known clergyman in the Church of England who passed away toward the close of the 1800s, who often told of meeting Charles Simeon, of Cambridge, whom he met at the house of a friend. Aglionby was asked to conduct the family worship session, as was the custom in those days, and he expounded on what Paul’s says here in Galatians 3:15.  Sometime afterward Mr. Simeon took him aside and said to him, “My young friend, you don’t seem to understand the purposes of the Law. There are three: For one, it convinces people of sin; and two, it leads them to the Anointed One; and three, it becomes their rule of life.” So, says Aglionby, when we look at it this way, the Law of God is magnified and made honorable when it fulfills these true functions in their proper order.[1]

William Ramsay shines a light on an important factor that involves God’s covenant with Abraham and the covenant initiated by the Anointed One at the Last Supper.[2] Even though God indicated to Abraham that through him all the world would come to know and worship the God of Abraham. But as Paul points out here, once that covenant was signed by Abraham’s faith and stamped with God’s promise, nothing in it could be altered, changed, or erased. So, God could not pencil in “Christians” as part of the agreement. But since the Jews were reluctant, even dismissive of allowing the Gentiles to become part of the Chosen People of Israel, then God knew that a New Covenant was needed. Just as the blood of a lamb was needed to initiate the First Covenant,[3] so that meant the blood of a new Lamb of God needed to be shed to initiate the Final Covenant.[4]

3:16 Now notice, the Scripture does not say to his “seeds,” implying all of his children and their children.  Rather, it says to his “seed” – and that, of course, can only mean the Anointed One.

 Here Paul is referring to God’s promised son of Abraham. But he would not be just a son, but he is the son who would inherit the Land of Canaan as his land, which he would then pass on to his children and their children.[5] So in gratitude, Abraham built an altar to ADONAI in gratitude to commemorate ADONAI’S visit to him.[6] But Paul was applying this to the spiritual family of Abraham, and that Promised Seed was Jesus the Messiah. And when He would be born to the Virgin Mary, through Him all of those who become part of the Family of God would also receive His inheritance of eternal life and heavenly riches.

This was not a new thought to Paul, for he also wrote to the Corinthians about the family, or body, of the Anointed One, showing how we all represent certain individual parts of the body but each one is just as important as the other.[7] And to the Romans Paul points out that many, many people now belong to the Anointed One by virtue of redemption and calling, nevertheless, they all form one body, which is the Anointed One’s Body.[8] Also when writing the Colossians, Paul uses the same word-picture.[9] Then he points out to the Galatians that even though there were many Jewish and Gentile converts who were raised in different cultures, in the Anointed One they were one and the same because the Anointed One is the same thing to everyone.[10] He is in all of us to the same degree.[11] Paul uses that same metaphor when writing to the Ephesians, and there he likens the Body of the Anointed One in a fashion that can be seen in the Church. [12] In fact, later on in Ephesians Paul would say that the Body of the Anointed One is the Church.[13]

Paul continues in verse sixteen by narrowing his focus on one word.  On this one word, says Paul, hang all the benefits of all the promises God made with Abraham and intended for his spiritual heirs. Paul recalls God’s words in Gen 22:17 and emphasized the singular noun “seed.” In other words, all of God’s promises to Abraham were not given to his descendants en-mass for them to claim and interpret as they wished, but to one descendant, and only one, and that One is Jesus the Messiah.

Now not all Jews down through the centuries agreed with Paul in his application of Abraham’s seed as the Anointed One. In fact, Rabbi Isaac ben Abraham of Troki opined that Paul, who was fluent in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and the local language of Tarsus, among others, was ignorant of the Hebrew and that led him to come to a wrong conclusion about the “seed” here in verse sixteen as being a reference to the Messiah – who by the way, was not prophesied to engender children of His own. Rabbi Abraham points to Genesis 13:15, where it says that this promise would be to this “seed” and to the “seeds” of the “seed.” Furthermore, in Genesis 13:16, that those “seeds” would be like the dust of the earth. This, of course, relates to the numbers of individuals, and not to a single individual.

Again, we find in Genesis 15:5 that Yahweh invited Abraham out of his tent to look up into the night sky and count the stars, God said to Abraham, that’s how many your “seed” will end up producing through his “seeds.” Added to that, Rabbi Abraham adds that upon further examination, these “seeds” would become strangers in a country that did not belong to them. and they would be there for four hundred years.[14] Says Rabbi Abraham, these examples should be sufficient because they match similar ones found in various parts of Scripture. So, it is clear that this gives ample proof that the term “seed,” in the promise given to Abraham, refers to an entire nation, not to just one person.[15]

There are other places where Rabbi Abraham disputes the claims made by Paul and Christians down through time about the Anointed One is the seed that God promised him.[16] But our dear Rabbi is making the same mistake that Jesus accused the Pharisees and Sadducees of making. For instance, when the Sadducees came to talk about marriage in heaven, Jesus told them they were wrong because they did not know the Holy Scriptures or the power of God.[17] And here in Galatians, Paul was frustrated by the fact that the believers in Galatia tossed away his spiritual explanation of many sayings by the Torah and Prophets and went back to the legal explanation that fit the Law, not Grace. To put this another way, if we let the Torah be represented by the Tablets on which the Commandments were written, Paul was saying that they only saw the writing on the surface but not that which was below the surface. The reason being is because the under-surface portion can only be seen by the spiritual eyes of faith. I wouldn’t say that Rabbi Abraham was any less intelligent than Nicodemus, but when he came to Jesus to get the Kingdom of God explained to him, Jesus told him that he wouldn’t be able to understand until his spiritual eyes were opened by being born again.

I thank God for Paul’s insistence in trying to get these Judaizers and misguided Gentile believers to see the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Once again, he brings Abraham in as the focal point so they can see that Gentile and Jewish believers enjoy equal spiritual rights in God’s family.  The main issue Paul kept addressing over and over, involved the totally mistaken view of the Judaizers that Gentiles can only obtain such equality by keeping the religious rituals and regulations of Judaism passed on by Moses, and passed down by their Jewish Patriarchs. The truth is, however, that God gave them these rights through Abraham, before Moses and the Patriarchs ever existed, in response to Abraham’s obedience to His Word; which the Gentiles now receive by their faith and obedience to Jesus the Anointed One.

Underlying Paul’s basic argument here is another aspect of man’s relationship with God and what the Almighty hopes everyone will know in order to understand their place in His kingdom. Through His promise to Abraham, God initiated a method for people who were not His children by way of the flesh (the Gentiles), to become His people by way of the spirit (Christians), without becoming Jews. It addresses the problem between Paul and the Jewish community on how to treat Gentile believers.

Paul knew that nowhere in the Torah does it say that a man is justified by his own good deeds under Mosaic Law, rather, he is considered righteous. So, all of the religious rituals and regulations that the Judaizers were wanting to impose on the Gentile believers was their version of sanctification; a way to make oneself holy and acceptable to God by their own efforts. What really got Paul’s riled up was the fact these Judaizers also tried to make this mandatory as a way of validating the Gentile’s salvation through the Anointed One.

Paul initiates his presentation by making a legal point from civil law on how one person enters an agreement with another person: that once a contract is signed, sealed and delivered, the person who sent it cannot change their copy on their own, and the person who received it cannot one-sidedly alter their copy either. But Paul raises it to a higher level with his illustration of Abraham because the Greek word Paul uses for “contract,” is the same word used in Latin or “Last Will and Testament.”

Can you imagine the impact on Christianity if the apostles insisted after John wrote his Gospel, that he rewrite 3:16 this way: “For God so loved the world that all those who show faith in His only begotten Son by observing all the Jewish religious rituals and regulations can avoid sure condemnation by earning everlasting life?” That clearly violated the accepted principle that after the author of a last will and testament dies the beneficiaries cannot change it to suit their expectations or wants. But that’s what the Judaizers were trying to do with God’s promise to Abraham.

[1] Thomas Arnold, F. D. Maurice, John Burgon: Church Pulpit Commentary (12 vol. Now In One) (Kindle Location 79102-79112). Delmarva Publications, Kindle Edition.

[2] Matthew 26:28

[3] Exodus 15:1-8; cf. Hebrews 9:18-20

[4] William M. Ramsay: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 351-352

[5] Genesis 13:15-16. Cf. 15:5; 17:7-8; 21:12; 22:17-18; 26”3-4; 28:13-14

[6] Ibid. 12:7

[7] 1 Corinthians 12. 27

[8] Romans 12:5

[9] Colossians 2:19

[10] Galatians 3:28

[11] Ibid. 3:11

[12] Ephesians 4:15-16

[13] Ibid. 5:32

[14] Genesis 15:13

[15] Chizzuk Emuna: by Rabbi Isaac ben Abraham, Part 2, Ch. 90,  p.111

[16] Ibid. Part 1, Ch. 13, p. 39

[17] Matthew 22:29

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

POINTS TO PONDER!

silhouette-man-top-mountain-sunset-conceptual-sce-scene-48015806

Why do some people place more value on something they have but seldom use, rather than on something they could use but don’t yet possess? Can it be they cherish the object they rarely use and don’t want to give it up, and are unwilling to invest the time and effort needed to acquire what they don’t have but really need? A friend of an elderly man was visiting him and noticed an old clock on the wall. It was pretty and decorative but the pendulum was not moving for it to keep time. The old man told his friend that it broke down years ago and he hasn’t taken the time to get it fixed. “But,” said the senior citizen, “at least it gives the correct time twice a day!”

The same goes for how and why we do things. A young girl was watching her mother put a pork loin roast into a kettle and then in the oven. Even though the pot was large, her mother still cut off a portion before placing it in the container. So, she asked, “Mom, why do you cut off a part of the roast before you put it in the oven?” Her mother replied, “Because that’s the way my Mom always did it.” “But why,” inquired the girl? The mother said, “You’ll have to ask your grandmother.” So, the girl called up here grandmother and was told that she did the same thing because her mother did it. But she asked “Why?” the grandmother did know. It just so happened that the great-grandmother was still around, so the girl called her and asked the same question. The great-grandmother replied, “Because my roasting pan was too small so I cut off what was needed to make it fit.”

It isn’t a matter of not being up-to-date, it involves not being out-of-date. This is especially true of God’s Word. The world’s morals have sunk to an incredibly low standard if we can even call it a standard. When they are directed to the Bible and told what God said, they brush it off as being unrealistic and unnecessary. What they don’t know is that God did not give those instructions just to keep you out of trouble, but to get you into heaven.[1] Jesus made it clear when He said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,”[2] and “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!”[3] So never think the Bible is outdated or irrelevant, it is a living document.[4] – Dr. Robert R Seyda

[1] Matthew 7:21-23

[2] John 14:15

[3] Luke 11:28

[4] 1 John  1:1-2

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

christian-love-symbol-vector-drawing-represents-design-30448883

IN HIS TIME

Decades ago, whenever world-renown infidel Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll would deliver one of his lectures against religion and the Bible, his fame and oratorical ability always assured him of large crowds of both admirers and skeptics.  Although he was the son of a Congregational minister, his father’s own liberal thinking clashed with those of the conservative congregation and this ignited the flame of doubt in young Ingersol’s mind. Even though he was a civil war veteran and trained as a lawyer, he found his most popular forum was that of bashing politics, the clergy, and the Bible.

Sometimes he attracted crowds numbering over 50,000. After one very inflammatory speech in which he severely attacked people’s faith in God, he dramatically took out his pocket watch and said loudly, “I’ll give God a chance to prove that He exists and is almighty; I challenge Him to strike me dead within 5 minutes!” A dead silence came over the stunned audience; as the time ticked away people began to grow uneasy. Some left the hall, unable to take the nervous strain, and the increasing suspense caused one woman to faint. At the end of the allotted time, the atheist exclaimed derisively, “See!  There is no God. Look, I’m still alive!” After the lecture, a young fellow saw a Christian lady he knew and said to her, “Well, Ingersoll certainly proved something tonight!” Her reply was memorable. “Yes, he did,” she said. “He proved God isn’t taking orders from atheists.”

When my father told this story as part of a sermon, he ended it this way, “The Christian lady replied, ‘Yes, he did.  He proved you cannot exhaust God’s patience in 5 minutes.’”  Either way, God’s patience proves to be more powerful than any weapon the enemy might throw at His people. Miracles may happen in a second, but that moment has been in preparation for years before the hand of God brings it into reality. Some consider childbirth to be a miracle, but it takes as much as nine months before it comes to pass.

So often believers want God to act or react within seconds after the ungodly make their threat. But it helps to remember how God chose to wait over 400 years before bringing His children out of Egypt; Moses had to herd sheep in Midian before God sent him back down into Egypt to lead them out. He allowed David to run for years from Saul before letting him become king; He caused Hezekiah to experience tremendous fear and anxiety before bringing the threat of invasion against him to an end. It all worked out according to God’s will and purpose, and that’s what counts in the long run.

We all may become frustrated with God’s method of dealing with our enemies, but never make the mistake of trying to outguess our Heavenly Father. He only acts at His own appointed time as part of His plan for this world, its inhabitants, and His children. So, if something doesn’t happen as you want it to when you want it to, don’t get discouraged, it wasn’t part of His plan. Remember, all things work together for good to those who love God, and are called according to His purpose.[1] – Dr. Robert R Seyda

[1] Romans 8:28

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XXX)

The Contextual Bible goes on to say that the way of Faith is very different from the way of the Law. The Law does not require faith or dependence on God, and in fact, does not involve faith. It requires total human strength and conscientious effort, for it says in Leviticus that a person will be given life forever if they obey every single law of God, without one slip. This, of course, is a humanly impossible task. But the Anointed One brought us out from under the doom of that impossible system, by taking God’s curse against lawbreakers upon Himself. He could never be cursed of God because He kept the Law perfectly and earned the life and blessings that come from the Law – and yet God’s curse did come upon Him when He was hung upon the wooden torture stake.

This should not be surprising because in the same Law in Deuteronomy it says: “Anyone who is hanged on a tree is under God’s curse.[1] The purpose was to pacify the Law’s demand for the curse to be lifted from off the heads of lawbreakers and to pay its penalty, to pay for all its claims against lawbreakers and give the bill to the Anointed One so He could pay the ransom for those who put their faith in Him, to remove the distinction of being God’s chosen people that the Jewish nation alone possessed, so that God can now bless the non-Jews too with the blessing He promised to Abraham. And because of their faith in the Anointed One Jesus, therefore, all of us, Jews and non-Jews, can now receive God’s powerful life-giving Spirit which He promised for all those having faith.[2]

3:15 My dear brothers and sisters let me draw an analogy from everyday life in everyday language. Once someone signs a binding contract with another person, they cannot individually amend it or void it. The same is true in this case. God made a promise to Abraham and to his child.

Paul now takes an example from everyday life and applies it to the Galatians’ spiritual life. He points out that a signed contract between two entities cannot be altered or amended by any one of them without the other party’s approval. Then the Apostle Paul points out that since God gave a promise to Abraham and Isaac, God was not going to change anything without Abraham’s approval and vice versâ. Paul was not questioning this principle, he was only using it as an example for the Galatians to understand that God stands by His word.

The term: “language of men,” a compound phrase of the Greek verb legō (“to speak”), the preposition kata (“according to”), and the noun anthrōpos (“ordinary people”). Putting something this way was not new to Jewish Rabbis (Masters) and Ravs (Teachers). When Paul was taught the oral teachings of Judaism, he no doubt heard this phrase, “The Torah uses the language of men.”[3] And in another place, Rabbis were talking about contracts between owners and those hiring animals for farming, milking, etc. When trying to explain certain policies, one listener to the Rabbi asked: “Now, if what you say agrees with our view, we do not say that the Torah employs human phraseology; but, on the other hand, when we do agree that the Torah is employing human phraseology, what do you say”?[4]

Then again, Rabbis were discussing the resurrection and that the Holy One, blessed be He, knows the future of those whom He resurrects. The Rabbi points out that it was taught by Rabbi Eliezer, son of Rabbi Jose, that resurrection cannot be reasoned as a fact from reading the Torah. In fact, Rabbi Eliezer misinterpreted his Torah and that his theory got no closer to finding the truth by maintaining that resurrection is not a Biblical doctrine. However, it is written that any individual who does something wrong intentionally, that person will be cut off from this world and the world-to-come because of their contempt for the Word of Adonai.[5] That’s when Rabbi Papa inquired if they really understood whether or not individuals cut off from this world were also cut off from the world-to-come? They might then reply that “The Torah employs human phraseology.”[6]

And on one other occasion, the Rabbis were discussing where murderers should be caught and executed in the city where they went for refuge or when they purposely or accidentally left the city of refuge? The delineation was between those who committed murder and those who were guilty of manslaughter. One of the Rabbis said that he didn’t find any difficulty here. For him, the statute applied equally except for the fact that slaying the murderer was in order but not for someone banishment from their country as punishment for being found guilty of manslaughter. That’s because the view found in the Torah occasionally used popular “figures of speech.”[7]

When put all together, I get the impression that what the terms language of men, human phraseology, and popular figures of speech – terms that the English translators of the Babylonian Talmud used, might be phrased as “street language” today in the Modern American English vernacular. In other words, how people on the street would say something in everyday lingo to ordinary people. That, of course, opens the door to any listener to understand it the way they perceive it.

This would not be the first or last time Paul would use this phrase when it came to explaining or drawing an analogy of every life explained in everyday language to make a spiritual point. In fact, he would write to the Roman believers about how they were freed from the bondage of sin, and he told them, “I speak with words easy to understand because your human thinking is shallow.”[8] The Complete Jewish Bible renders it: “I am using popular language because your human nature is so weak.” I would prefer the following, based on Paul’s use of the Greek noun asthenia: “Because it’s hard for you to understand,” even though Thayer in his Greek lexicon chose the “weakness of human nature.”

And on the subject of the resurrection, Paul told the Corinthians. It’s a fact that every day I feel like dying just as much as I’m thrilled at your growth in the Lord. And what value was there in fighting wild beasts – those people in Ephesus – if it was only for what I gain in this life down here? If we will never live again after we die, then we might as well go and give ourselves a good time: let us eat, drink, and be merry. What’s the difference? Who knows, tomorrow it might all come to an end and they are right we’ll find out that living right all this time meant nothing![9] Paul’s reference to those people in Ephesus was a backhanded compliment to people who were so carnally-minded they didn’t understand a thing when he spoke to them about spiritual matters. That was not a language they were familiar with. Believe me, things have not changed in the 21st century.

Martin Luther shares his thoughts on verse fifteen. He notes that after what Paul said in the previous verses of a well-accepted argument, Paul now offers another based on the similarity between a person’s testament and God’s Testament. Luther admits that a human’s testament seems too weak a premise for the Apostle to argue from in confirmation of so important a matter as justification. I believe, says Luther, we ought to prove earthly things by heavenly things, and not heavenly things by earthly things. However, where the earthly thing is a regulation of God, we may use it to prove divine matters. For instance, in Matthew the Anointed One Himself argued from earthly to heavenly things when He said: “If you who are earthly know how to give good things to your children. How much more will your Heavenly Father give good things to those who ask Him?”[10] [11] Today, this practice of using everyday occurrences in making a frame fitted for the word-picture being painted from Scripture for the listeners is well documented. Illustrations have become part of many sermons and teachings.

John Trapp (1601-1669), an English Anglican Bible commentator who became identified with the Puritan movement, tells us a story about an incident that illustrated what Paul said about how no one on their own can change a contract sign by another. There was an attorney named William Tracy, Esquire, high sheriff of Gloucestershire, England, during the 22nd and 23rd years King Henry VI’s reign, who wrote in his will, that neither his funeral or interment was to be the cause of making a spectacle out of the situation. He also says he would forego any Mass at the Church. And further, that he trusted in God only, and hoped by Him to be saved, and not by any saint. When this gentleman died, his son as executor brought the will to the Bishop of Canterbury to be validated, which was then shown to the Assembly. Upon reading the will, they declared that he be taken out of the ground and be burned as a heretic.[12] That was ridiculous! Even Williams’ son knew that he possessed no such authority to change his father’s will. The same is true of our heavenly Father’s will in which we are included.

George B. Stevens (1854-1906) comments on Paul claiming no divine inspiration in verse fifteen as he tries to define how people enter into a covenant with each other. Apparently, it was a commonplace occurrence in Paul’s day, otherwise, he would not have said it came from everyday life.[13] Paul is intending to show the superiority of the covenant of promise with Abraham to which the Law was subordinate. This would be what is called an “a fortiori” argument, meaning that if a covenant made between two people is so binding, then how much more will a covenant between God and people be even more binding.

Then Stevens notes that the Greek noun diathēkē is a proper translation of the Hebrew noun bĕriyth which both signify a solemn compact or agreement. Only twice in the King James Version is diathēkē translated as “testament.”[14] This came about because, in the Latin Vulgate, it was translated as “Testamentum” and thereby passed into common usage as an English equivalent. But the Revised Standard Version corrects this by translating it “will” as in “Living Will” or “Last Will.” The New American Standard Bible renders it, “covenant.” But Dr. Stevens, with whom I agree, calls this an inaccuracy when applied to what is now called “The New Testament.” This Final Covenant is more than just a will or testament, it is a binding, unchangeable, agreement that neither time, conditions, religion, mankind, or God will ever change. Furthermore, a last will or testament can only be probated by the executor when the testator of the will dies. As far as we know, God is not dead.[15]

[1] Deuteronomy 21:23 – NIV

[2] Aiyer, Ramsey. On Galatians, Kindle Locations 252-264

[3] Babylonian Talmud: Seder Kodashim, Masekhet Kerithoth, folio 11a

[4] Ibid. Seder Nezikin, Masekhet Baba Mezi’s, folio 94b

[5] Numbers 15:30-31

[6] Ibid. Masekhet Sanhedrin, folio 90b

[7] Ibid. Masekhet Makkoth, folio 12a

[8] Romans 6:19

[9] 1 Corinthians 15:31-32

[10] Matthew 7:11

[11] Martin Luther: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 78

[12] John Trapp: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 581

[13] Translated as such by the New International Version (NIV), New Living Translation (NLT), New Century Version (NCV), New English Translation (NET), and Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

[14] Hebrews 9:16,17

[15] George B. Stevens: Shorter Exposition of Galatians, op. cit., pp. 132-133

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment