NUGGETS OF WISDOM

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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.

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS

 CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XIII)

When speaking of God doing miracles in one’s life, Paul collected plenty of facts to prove his point. All he needed to do was point to his ministry with Barnabas in Iconium, and then over in Lystra.[1] And how about what happened in Ephesus?[2] In fact, Paul convinced the Romans of this same miracle power in his travels from Jerusalem to the province of Illyricum.[3] [4] But why should Paul expect any better treatment than Jesus, the One who called and sent him, received among the Jews when He was still here on earth? In spite of all the miracles and wonders He performed, they still ended up killing Him just because He claimed to be sent by God. The same thing was happening to Paul. This should be a lesson to us all. It is not miracles and wonders that will win the sinner to the Anointed One, but only the power of the Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Just in case the Galatians and the Judaizers were still unable to focus, Paul throws them another question that proved too hot to handle. While perhaps shaking his head, Paul says: Listen, does God the Father work miracles in your midst by healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind; making the lame to walk; and saving many from their wretched lives in sin all because you Jews are still abiding by your laws and rituals, or you Gentiles still worshiping your Greek and Roman gods?”  “Tell me,” says Paul, “If God used to do it for those reasons, then why, after you heard the Gospel of Jesus the Anointed One, did you fall on your knees in repentance and give your heart to God; be filled with the Spirit and started living for Him and sharing His Word?  Think about it!

Paul was certainly dealing with mixed emotions. He and Barnabas, along with other ministers, traveled throughout Galatia bringing the Gospel to the people there.  And God honored their labor with miracles and powerful works to wake up that part of the world to the reality of the Gospel and saving work of Jesus the Anointed One.  But now it looked like they were turning inward and concentrating on following the rituals and practical teachings of the past.

There are even Christian churches today that take it upon themselves to celebrate the Jewish Feasts because they think it will please God and make their Christianity more authentic. When I taught Jewish Feasts in seminary, I was able to show my students how Jesus fulfilled the intent and purpose of all the feasts. So, when we celebrate Jesus, we celebrate the real Passover Lamb; the real Yeast-free Bread; the real First Fruit of the Resurrection; the real Day of Pentecost; and await the real sound of the Trumpets; the real Day of Atonement; and the real Harvest.

Scottish theologian John Eadie (1810-1876 AD) discusses where Paul reminds the Galatians that it was God who gave them the Holy Spirit and did powerful works among them. He already asked this question back in verse two, now he’s asking it again. And all Paul wants to know is did God give them the Holy Spirit because they were dutifully doing what the Law said they should do or was it because they heard, believed, and started following the truth of the Gospel? Eadie says that the mighty works God did should not be restricted to miracles, but may encompass other works of divine energy. Certainly, the Galatian believers were conscious of the indwelling Spirit’s presence working within them; they felt the surge of the new life and could speak with tongues, and they were, and, therefore, were prepared to answer the question Paul put to them. Certainly, the Apostle Paul was not attempting to characterize himself as though he’s taking God’s place in seeing that they received the Holy Spirit. But he certainly could say that he furnished the Holy Spirit as an instrument of communication, or that he assisted in these miracles among, and in, them when the Spirit used his hands simply to conveyed the divine energy?[5]

George W. Clark (1831-1911) takes what Paul says here about the Spirit working miracles among the Galatians, and explains that the word rendered “miracles” may refer to miraculous works or miraculous powers. The Greek verb energeō Paul uses here is the root word from which we get our English word “energy.” When used in the intransitive tense it means “be operative, be working.”[6] But when used in the transitive tense it means to “put into operation, to make work.”[7] And then when used in the present tense it means to display one’s “operation or workmanship.”[8] Thayer in his Greek Lexicon says that it is used here in verse five in the transitive tense.[9]

So, this will help us understand whether to see this as “works of the Spirit” or “power of the Spirit.” If we decide on “works” then the verse should read “among you,” but if we see it as “power,” then the rendering should be “within you.” The Greek preposition en that the KJV translates as “among,” can mean “in”, “by”, or “with.” Later on, here in chapter three, Paul uses the same Greek preposition en by speaking of that which is written IN the Book of the Law. So, I agree with Rendall that the Spirit worked “within” the believers in Galatia because of the miracles that resulted from their ministry.[10] But when we apply this same preposition to the “works of the Law,” then it would be used in the present tense.

Wesleyan scholar and college professor G. G. Findlay (1849-1919) summarizes that when the Apostle Paul dealt with what we find in verses one to five, and that was the Galatians’ folly in forgetting the Gospel; the Galatians’ folly in forgetting the Cross; and the folly in forgetting the Spirit. It was all about “knowing.” Says, Findlay, these are the first three steps in backsliding. Without the light of the Messiah shining like a lighthouse, we are sinners lost on a never-ending dark night on the sea of sin. When people forget to look at the Gospel for guidance, and at the Cross as the magnetic north for their spiritual compass, and at the Holy Spirit as their pilot, then being lost is not only a possibility but a probability.[11]

Ernest DeWitt Burton (1856-1925) offers his commentary on Paul’s question in verse two about whether or not the Galatians received the Holy Spirit through the Law or the hearing of God’s Word. In verse five Paul talks about how the Holy Spirit subsequently did mighty deeds among the believers. These “deed” could easily be understood as the Gifts of the Spirit at work, not some healing or deliverance ministry. Burton calls them “charismatic manifestations of the Spirit,” such as speaking in tongues and prophesying. He also points out that it is the same Spirit that produces the inward Fruit of the Spirit, which are inward, as well as the Gifts of the Spirit, which are outward.[12]

Kenneth Wuest (1893-1961) notes that the word “suffer,” therefore, continues the thought of verses two and three which is further emphasized. In verse two, Paul is speaking of the initial entrance of the Spirit into the hearts of the Galatians at the moment they placed their faith in the Lord Jesus. In verse three, he refers to the sanctifying work of the Spirit in the believer’s life. In this verse, the subject of the charismatic manifestations of the Spirit is introduced, namely, the anointing of the Holy Spirit in endowing certain members of the Galatian churches with special gifts of the Spirit. All these Paul brings to bear upon his contention that the grace-way of salvation must be God’s-way since it is accompanied by the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit.[13]

Richard Longenecker agrees with Burton that when Paul spoke of the Holy Spirit working miracles among the Galatians, he was thinking, and expanding on the allusion, he gave in verse four, and the ongoing spiritual experiences beyond the time of their conversion. It refers to outward manifestations of the Spirit’s presence such as enumerated in 1 Corinthians 12:7–11 and 2 Corinthians 12:12. It identifies the Galatians themselves as the recipients of the Spirit’s charismatic activities. It is true, of course, that 2 Corinthians 12:12 speaks of miracles as one of the signs of an Apostle.[14] Since these were outward manifestations of the Holy Spirit working among the Galatians long after they were converted, it seems logical to take that as a reference to the outward Gifts of the Spirit with inward results, not Fruit of the Spirit which was inward manifestations with outward results.

3:6-7 That’s how it worked for Abraham. The scriptures say, “He believed God, and because of his faith God credited him with doing things right.” So, remember then, the real children of Abraham are those who put their faith in God.

Paul expounds on this same issue with the Romans of whether Abraham was credited to his right standing with God as the result of works or faith. For if Abraham came to be considered right with God because of legalistic observances, that’s something to boast about. But this is not how things are done by God! Opening the Torah, Paul read: “Abraham put his trust in God, and it was credited to him as doing the right thing.”[15] We all know, Paul says, that someone who is working is paid on the basis of their work, it is not a gift to them, they earned it. However, in the case of someone who does their work voluntarily as a favor, if they receive compensation it is a gift, not a salary. Abraham did do what he did not to be rewarded, but because he trusted in God to do what He promised only on the basis of hope and faithfulness.

Even though the Galatians didn’t seem to get the point, Paul says that King David did. Listen to what David said. “How happy and blessed it is when a person’s wrong-doing is forgiven, and whose sin is covered!” The Hebrew verb kacah is translated as “covered” (KJV & NIV). This verb may be used to describe something that is covered, concealed, clothed, draped over, covered with a spread, or overwhelmed. Thayer in his Hebrew Lexicon says that the verb kacah is used here to denote something that is “hidden” or “concealed,” not just covered. We see this expressed more fully in Hebrews concerning how the blood of the Anointed One does such covering and concealing.[16] Just remember, any sins you committed before being born again are gone from the record and you are justified to stand before God as being right with Him, they cannot be returned to God’s inbox. But any sin you’ve committed since then must be dealt with according to sanctification where you are made clean and holy again in God’s eyes. After all, you are His vessel, the Temple of His Holy Spirit. You never become unborn again, it’s not possible. Disobedient and prodigal children of God are still His children. Like my mother used to tell us, wash your hands before you come to the table or you won’t be allowed to eat.

[1] Acts of the Apostles 14:3, 10

[2] Ibid. 19:11-12

[3] Illyricum lies just north of Macedonia along the Adriatic Sea

[4] Romans 15:19

[5] John Eadie: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 225-226

[6] See Matthew 14:2; Mark 6:14; Ephesians 2:2

[7] See 1 Corinthians 12:11; Ephesians 1:11, 19

[8] Romans 7:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:7

[9] George W. Clark: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 81

[10] 1 Corinthians 12:11; Philippians 2:13

[11] Expositor’s Bible: On Galatians, G. G. Findlay, op. cit., p. 165ff

[12] Ernest DeWitt Burton: On Galatians. op. cit., pp. 147, 151; See also Acts of the Apostles 8:14-17; 10:44-47; 11:16, 17; 19:1-6; 1 Corinthians 12:4-10; 2 Corinthians 12:12

[13] Kenneth Wuest: Word Studies in the New Testament, op. cit., loc. cit.

[14] Longenecker, Richard N. On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Locations 8609-8617

[15] Genesis 15:6

[16] Hebrews 9:22, 14; I John 1:7

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS

 CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XI)

The Apostle Paul was not the only one with this stern warning. The Apostle Peter wrote his followers to remind them that anyone pulled out of the polluted cesspool of worldly desires through the knowledge of our Lord and Deliverer, Yeshua the Messiah, and yet through carelessness become reentangled in the trap of sinful desires, are worse off than they were before. They would be better off never knowing the Way of Righteous Living than to know it and then wittingly or unwittingly abandon the truth of the Gospel given to them. Peter then borrows from the Book of Proverbs and compares them to a dog who threw-up and then goes back to eat its own vomit.[1] Peter no doubt learned this proverb while ministering among the Gentiles who said, “The pig who was washed, went back and wallowed again in the mud.”[2] Peter couldn’t have said it much better.

Thomas Aquinas makes a good point here in verse four, that Paul was trying to get the Galatians to see that while they did not get right with God through the Law and good works, it was their good works after they were converted to give thanks, glory, and honor to God and the Anointed One, with none thrown away as though they were meaningless, that pleased God. This same thought would haunt the Apostle Paul and lead him to say in the fourth chapter that he bemoans the possibility that all the work he did among them may all be in vain. It also appears that what Paul taught them about how hardships develop patience and patience withstands trials, giving rise to a hope which will never make us feel ashamed we chose faith over works.[3] [4]

Baptist theologian and teacher Alvah Hovey (1820-1903 AD), Professor and President of Newton Theological Institution (later the Andover Newton Theological School) for fifty-four years, asked: Just what sufferings for the Anointed One’s sake did these Galatians endure? Perhaps we may never know. But the relevance and force of the Apostle Paul’s question depend upon the severity of those sufferings. If they were light afflictions, it would not require such an appeal.[5] So it seems that their liberty in the Anointed One was endured at no small cost of hardships.

Since the Judaizing contingent came specifically to persuade the Jewish converts to revert back to ensuring their salvation the legal way by rites, rituals, and regulations under the Law, it was well-known in those days that anyone forsaking the Law of Moses and Jewish Temple worship was an infidel and were to be shunned by all other Jews. No doubt that’s why the Apostle Paul calls on them to consider the question of whether they are ready to look back and remember how they underwent all the wrongs done to them in the past to see if it still counted for something? Hovey asks, could it also be that they were following a “will-o’ the-wisp”[6] in wading through the marsh mud of persecution and maltreatment by former friends and family all for the sake of the Anointed One and the Gospel was now considered done for no reason?

Hovey tells us that many scholars find the Greek verb paschō translated as “have suffered” (KJV), to mean “have experienced,” and the Greek adjective tosoutos translated as “many things” to signify blessings. This interpretation seems to suit the context perfectly, and paschō certainly contains this meaning even in classical Greek literature. But it is also important to note that except for this passage, it does not display that meaning anywhere in the Final Covenant, and that’s enough reason not to accept that interpretation here. If, says Paul to the Galatians, you now consider all of this suffering and hardship in following the Anointed One to have been in vain – which their return to Judaism now seems affirmed, still there is also suggested by this clause a half-hidden hope that the fruit of their sufferings will not be lost by their actual adoption of the Judaic error. Paul leaves the path open to a return to the way of life which they formerly entered with joy in the Lord.[7]

I like the way George B. Stevens (1854-1906) paraphrases these first four verses into a compact message that Paul wanted to get across to the Galatians. I want to use it here as a summation of these opening verses of chapter three.

You Galatians have been drawn away as if by magic from the truth so plainly taught you, that you were saved through Messiah’s death. Reflect whether, when you were converted, you received the gift of the Spirit by doing of meritorious works, or by obeying the call simply to believe on Messiah. Will you then, after having begun the life of the Spirit, fall back upon the lower plane where the flesh is the ruling element of life, – a power from which the Law is unable to deliver you?

What folly to endure persecution for the Gospel’s sake, when you do not really remain true to it! Have you not all your spiritual gifts come to you in the line of faith, and not of works? Be true, then, to this principle, and renounce the rival and futile principle of legal works of merit.

Cyril W. Emmet tells us that German Protestant theologian Hans Lietzmann (1875-1942) also translates the Greek verb paschō (“suffer” – KJV) as “experience,” referring to the spiritual experiences listed in verse two. But, as we have seen pointed out by other scholars, the word has never been used that way in the Final Covenant to imply “good experiences.” As others have explained, when used alone it always means “suffer.” No doubt Paul was referring to their persecutions both by the extreme Jewish faction of the Jews who became converts, and the pagan Gentiles who were jealous of their many gods and could not understand why their fellow Gentiles switched to one God.[8]

There are many believers who are being treated today with such disdain and harshness in many Muslim countries around the world when they switch from Islam to Christianity, and in other places when they leave the church they were raised in and become part of another church that may have some opposing views on doctrine or practices. But what would you think of a person sitting on a sinking boat who refuses a lifejacket because they prefer remaining on the sinking vessel, just because that’s the one they trusted to take them to their destination? Perhaps some who are on the sinking ship might think they had lost their faith in the boat to still make it all the way. But since it is “your” life that’s at stake, you must decide between those who don’t approve and the One who is offering you the life vest.

3:5 Let me ask another question, does God work miracles in your midst through the power of the Holy Spirit or does He do it through religious rituals, rites, and regulations, or, does He do it because you trust in what you heard from me and are faithful to what you heard?

Kenneth Wuest gives us an idea for another translation: “Therefore, the One who is constantly supplying the Spirit to you in bountiful measure, and constantly working miracles among you, is He doing these things by means of Law’s work, or by means of the message which proclaims faith [in the Anointed One’s work]?”

Paul sheds some light on another side of the Galatians’ experience. Apparently, when he arrived there as a teacher of the Gospel bringing many Jews and Gentiles into the fold, those who responded were harassed both by their own cultures and opposing cultures. If you read the fourteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles you get a glimpse of what occurred. Not only did Paul and his fellow ministers face persecution, but also those who joined them. Now Paul wants to know if they realize what they are doing. They were not mistreated before while following the Jewish Law; they were not made fun of because of the way they washed their hands. Instead, they suffered because of their faith in Jesus the Anointed One as the Messiah, their Lord, and Savior.

So, are they now giving up all they gained through their suffering because they’ve been convinced it offers no such benefit? How ridiculous is that! Were all the gifts given to them by the Spirit and all their victories over sin and evil of no value? So rather than letting these things promote their growth in the Spirit and solidify their faith in the Anointed One, are they now opting to replace these things God did for them, for something they themselves will try to do? Paul says that’s hard for him to believe!

Didn’t they know along with being given new hope for eternal salvation they were also made competent to be His workers under a Final Covenant? What changed? The essence of the old way of service was based on physically following a written text, but the new way of service is based on spiritually following the leading of the Holy Spirit. The old way of service got you nowhere, the new way of service gets you to heaven; the old way was repetitious with little emotion, the new way is lively and full of joy.

So, in Paul’s mind, it made no sense to go back to the old way of serving God. Now if the old way of living came from observing a written text engraved on stone tablets, and it was delivered with such glory that the people of Israel could not stand to look at Moses’ face because of its brightness, even though that brightness was already beginning to fade away, would not this new way of life through the Holy Spirit come with much more shining-greatness?[9] The shine on Moses’ face not only faded but turned into a frown and disbelief and anger. However, the glow on the face of the Messiah on the mountain[10] is now brighter than ever.[11]

[1] Proverbs 26:11

[2] 2 Peter 2:20-22

[3] Romans 5:3-5

[4] Thomas Aquinas: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[5] 2 Corinthians 4:17

[6] The will-o’-the-wisp is a flame-like phosphorescence caused by gases from decaying plants in marshy areas.  The light was first known, and still also is, as ignis fatuus, which in Latin means “foolish fire.” Eventually, the name will-o’-the-wisp was extended to any impractical or unattainable goal.

[7] Hovey, Alvah: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 38

[8] Cyril W. Emmet: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 29

[9] 2 Corinthians 3:6-8

[10] Matthew 17:7

[11] Revelation 1:13-15

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POINTS TO PONDER

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WORLD pulse

Global News Impacting Christianity

 

 CHRISTIANITY GROWING IN CHINA

 Although China is under the rule of the atheistic Chinese Communist Party, and there is increasing persecution of Christians, there has been a rapid growth (10% annually) of its Christian population. If that rate continues, China will have more Christians than the United States by 2030. Government raids on churches and imprisonment of some of their members have not caused the churches to disappear. One arrested pastor made this comment: “Rulers have chosen an enemy that can never be imprisoned – the soul of man. Therefore, they are doomed to lose this war.”

THE VATICAN AND GENDER THEORY IDEOLOGY

The Vatican released a publication entitled “Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education.” The document rejects gender ideology that denies biological differences between men and women or treats gender as something people choose for themselves. This may have surprised those who thought the Catholic Church would begin to liberalize policy on sexuality. According to Pose Francis, Gender Theory “denies the differences and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisions a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis for the family.”

SING HALLELUJAH

A Christian worship song has become the unofficial anthem of the “Hong Kong” protestors who have been demonstrating their opposition to a Beijing-backed extradition bill. It is thought to have begun on June 11 when a prayer meeting outside the government complex ended with the singing of “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” (© 1974. Linda Stassen-Benjamin). Since that time, it has been sung by millions who continue the protest, and leaders in this democracy movement, including Christian pastors, trying to buffer protestors and the police and use the song to keep both sides calm.

INCREASED ROLE FOR RELIGION IN SOCIETY

 According to Pew Research, around half of Americans favor religion playing a greater role in U. S. society while 18% oppose that idea. The study involved 27 countries with representative samples of at least 1,000 people per country. Among those countries, France (20%), and Japan (20%) had the lowest percentage of those favoring strengthening religion’s role in society while Indonesia (85%), Kenya (74%), and Tunisia (69%) had the highest percentage. The study did not make a distinction between different religions, but Indonesia is 87% Muslim and Tunisia is 99% Muslim. However, both Indonesia and Tunisia are not considered radical Islamist States.

You won’t find this in the New York Times or USA Today, but it is headline news in heaven. Remember, we only see the visible world around us while the Holy Spirit is working in the invisible world. I never thought I’d see the fall of the Communist Soviet Union in my lifetime but I did. It may take longer for China, but after all, Jesus is Lord over heaven and earth. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

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ACTIVATE! DO NOT PROCRASTINATE!

In his controversy with Aristotle over the principles involved in the creation, Moses Maimonides made an insightful statement.  He said Aristotle assumed that “…a transition from potentiality to actuality would take place in Deity itself if He produced anything at a certain fixed time” (Part II, Prop. xxvi, Chap. xviii).  It is a very complicated argument and involves the basic concept of creation out of nothing.  But it also sparks a very interesting idea.  How long does “potential” exist, and will it stop being a potential if not put into actuality at the appropriate time?  We know that Scripture teaches us that “When the fullness of time came, God sent His Son” (Gal. 4:4). In other words, the potential was always there, but only for the moment when His Son was sent to earth, to be born of a woman, according to the plan already laid out.  So had the Son of God not acted at the appropriate time, then Christmas would have never happened.

We see this repeated several times throughout Scripture. Noah building the Ark just at the right time. Abraham responding to the call of God at the right time. Moses agrees to go back to Egypt at the right opportunity.  The disciples fishing on the right day. The Samaritan woman going to the well on the right day at the right time. Jesus arriving in Jerusalem at the right Festival as the Lamb of God.  And now we await the exact time for the potential of Christ’s return, that the Father already scheduled.

So often we think that these potentials within us have no expiration date; that we can carry them around as long as we want, and they will always be there when we finally decide to activate them. But that goes against the argument, that for each potential there is a moment of actuality, and unless the two are combined at the right time then that potentiality is lost. If it was possible to interview Bible characters of the past, I’m sure that Esau, Jonah, Saul, Esther, the rich young ruler, the rich man and Lazarus, Joshua giving the children of Israel the right moment to choose whom they would serve, among others, could tell you how it feels to trigger or lose one’s spot in God’s timeline because they failed to activate their potentiality at the appropriate time.

I knew for a long time that I would be called to preach. But the door never opened, and so I chose my own career path. That was, until one night in 1962, while kneeling in prayer in a former Nazi SS barracks in Dachau, Germany, the door opened. Had I not, with the Holy Spirit’s urging, activated my potentiality, I would not be sharing this Serendipity with you. So, the next time the Spirit tells you to do something, do it! So, the question, when your inactivated potentialities die, do your opportunities die with it? – Dr. Robert R Seyda

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS

 CHAPTER THREE (Lesson X)

Dutch Bible scholar Alfred E. Bouter (born 1943) raises an interesting question about when do we receive the Holy Spirit. How do we rectify what Jesus said and did to His disciples when He “breathed on them and said, ‘receive the Holy Spirit‘,”[1] and what did He mean when He said to them, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised, but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high?”[2] So the question is, “Did the disciples receive the Holy Spirit twice?”

In John’s Gospel, the Lord spoke about the coming of the Spirit.[3] To the Romans, Paul said that the love of God is spread abroad in our hearts through the Spirit whom He gave to us.[4] The point is the reception of the Spirit. Now here in verse two, Paul asked the Galatians were they given the Holy Spirit because of the good works the Law demanded? Obviously not. It was because of the hearing the Gospel by faith as Paul explained in Romans. For example, faith comes by hearing of the Word of God, a result of preaching.[5]

And so, we see here that what Paul preached made a real impact, it was not just superficial, but those believers received the Holy Spirit. When you are born again you receive the Spirit at the same time, says Bouter, but Scripture makes a distinction because the First Covenant believers who were born again did not receive the Holy Spirit to dwell in them, although they were born again. So, the moment one is born again they also received the Holy Spirit to regenerate and sanctify them and produce the Fruit of the Spirit. But when the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost it was another distinct experience. It was then that they received the Holy Spirit empowering them to preach the Gospel to the whole world along with the Gifts of the Spirit. And besides that, the Holy Spirit the seal on our hearts which shows us to be God’s property. [6] [7] So, to put make it easier to understand, we can look at it this way: When a person is born again, God’s indwelling Spirit is given to them for Salvation; when they are baptized with the Spirit, the Spirit comes upon them as an anointing oil for Service.

Philip Ryken makes a good point when the Galatians were forced to admit that they received the Holy Spirit by faith alone. This truth, that the Holy Spirit comes by faith alone has a profound implication for the Christian life. It means that the Christian life begins with the Spirit and continues on in the Spirit. No wonder Paul thought they were being fools. How could they believe the Judaizes who were telling them that faith was fine as far as it went, but justification might be started by faith but it is completed through works of the Law. It’s almost as though the Anointed One did not finish the work for justification on the cross, so it is up to the new believer to finish the work for Him through works of the Law.[8]

3:3 How irrational you’ve become; after being saved through the Spirit’s help you are now trying to stay saved by way of your own efforts?

Kenneth Wuest translates this verse as: “Are you so unreflecting? Having begun by means of the Spirit, now are you being brought to maturity by the flesh?” He points out that the words “made perfect” is from the Greek verb epiteleō which means “to bring something to the place where it is complete.”[9]

We all should ask ourselves, which was it for me? Did I receive salvation after hearing a message on the Anointed One’s love, suffering, crucifixion, death, resurrection and salvation; then confessing my sins and receiving Him as my Lord and Savior; or did I get saved through christening in infant baptism, going through catechism, confirmation, and following all the practical teachings of my church? Whichever way you answer will indicate which one you are depending on to assure your eternal salvation?

The writer of Hebrews, who many Bible scholars believe to be the Apostle Paul, makes it clear, that the Messiah did not come as a Rabbi from the family of Levi as the Law said it must be. He became a Rabbi by virtue of having the power of an indestructible life. This is what the Psalmist David exclaimed about the Messiah centuries ago, “You are a Priest forever like Melchizedek.”[10] God set aside the Law of Moses. It was weak and ineffective when it came to salvation. The Law of Moses could not make people right with God. Now there is a better hope through which we come near to God.[11] So Paul preached Jesus Messiah as God’s powerful answer to a feeble and impotent Law. How could they even imagine to turn back to such a pitiful thing as the Law to save them?

In presenting the life of Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa (modern-day Turkey), Philip Schaff tells us that the ministry of Gregory extended far beyond what his brother Basil enjoyed. He stepped into the place vacated by the death of Basil in 372 AD and takes the foremost rank among the defenders of the Faith of Nicaea. He was not, however, without trouble from the heretical groups that plagued the Galatian churches since the days of the Apostle Paul. Certain Galatians were busy in sowing the seeds of their own heresy among their own people. So, it appears, that despite Paul’s efforts with this letter to curb and even eradicate the false doctrine of the Judaizers, it was still going on after 300 years.[12]

Jonathan Edwards says that pride, above all things, promotes this degeneracy because it grieves and quenches the Spirit of the Lamb of God; and so, it kills the spiritual part, cherishes the sinful part, inflames the carnal affections, and fires up the imagination. The unhappy subject of such degeneracy, for the most part, is not aware of their pending calamity, but because they find themselves still strongly moved, showing greater flames of zeal, and more passionate motions of their animal spirits, think of themselves as being fuller of the Spirit of God than ever. But indeed, as the Apostle says here in verse three, they started out in the Spirit to serve God but now have replaced the Spirit with good works.

Here Paul is speaking of a spiritually mature Christian, one who is living a well-rounded, well-balanced, mature life. By the word “flesh,” he refers to all that a person is as the product of natural generation apart from the morally transforming power of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. The word speaks of the unsaved person’s body, soul, mind, and spirit, controlled by his or her totally depraved nature, along with all their human accomplishments, positions, capabilities, and philosophies.[13] [14]

3:4:  And let me ask you something else, has everything you’ve suffered because of the Gospel up until now been meaningless? Did you go through all of this for nothing? Are you now going to throw it away as worthless?

We must remember, Paul did not carry a copy of the Final Covenant around with him to preach from. The only thing in his hand was the Torah scrolls, scrolls of the Prophets, and scrolls of Wisdom literature such as the Psalms which he studied from his youth on up to become a Pharisee. So, I’m sure he was acquainted with what the prophet Ezekiel said about a person trying to save themselves. When a right living and good person turns away from doing what is right and good and starts sinning by doing all the bad things that a sinful person does, will they live to enjoy eternal life? No! None of the right and good things they did before will be remembered because they were not faithful to what they know and heard from God’s Word and went back into sin. No, they will not live spiritually, they will die.[15]

No doubt this is what inspired the writer of Hebrews to point out that there are those who knew the truth; they received the gift of a new life from heaven. So, the Holy Spirit now dwells within them. They know how good the Word of God is. They know of the promises of the world to come but nevertheless feel rejected. Just being sorry for their sins and deciding to quit is not enough to restore them to right standing with God. Don’t they know that by living in sin they were nailing the Son of God to a cross again? Don’t they realize they are shaming Him in front of everyone?[16] That’s why, when a well-known Christian leader falls into sin, it is not so much that they are embarrassing themselves, but even more pitiful, they are humiliating the Anointed One before the world.

No doubt Paul was hoping they would think back to the days after they first became aware of who Jesus of Nazareth really is. Would they recall how they were publicly disgraced and persecuted, while at other times they stood loyally in support of fellow believers who were treated the same way?  Perhaps they could recollect how they felt such compassion for those in prison. Not only that but when the officials came and seized all their possessions, they accepted it gladly for Jesus’ sake. That’s because they knew far greater and more enduring possessions waiting for them in heaven.

What was the Apostle Paul trying to get them to do? He was pleading with them not to abandon their confidence in the Anointed One to save them which will lead to inheriting rich rewards. He calls on them to endure to the end, for when they do all that God expects of them, they will receive the promise of eternal life. Paul implores them to listen to what the prophet Habakkuk says: “In a little while, only a little longer, the One coming will come without delay. But the person living right must live right by faith. For if they give up, the One who is coming will not be pleased with them.[17] So, says Paul, don’t be the kind that gives up hope. There’s no future in giving up. We are the kind of believers who live by faith in the One who redeemed us to save us.[18] Giving up is for spiritual weaklings; for those who failed in trying to live their lives for God’s approval instead of letting the Anointed One within them live His life through them; for those who were more interested in the world below than the world above. They gave up living their spiritual life by faith and started living it by works. This principle was not only prevalent in Paul’s day among the congregation of believers, but it is alive today in many churches.

[1] John 20:22

[2] Luke 24:49

[3] John 16:7-11

[4] Romans 5:5

[5] Ibid. 9:30-32

[6] 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13

[7] Alfred E. Bouter: Outline to Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[8] Ryken, Philip Graham: On Galatians, op. cit., (Kindle Location 1599)

[9] Kenneth Wuest: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[10] Psalm 110:4

[11] Hebrews 7:16-19

[12] The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series, Vol. 5 By Philip Schaff, Editor, Ch. 1, p. 25

[13] See these scriptures that illustrate this use: John 3:6; Philippians 3:3, 4; Romans 6:19, 7:5, 18, 25, 8:3; 2 Corinthians 1:17

[14] Jonathan Edwards: Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, op. cit., Letter II, Part IV, Sect III, (Kindle Location 22393)

[15] Ezekiel 18:24

[16] Hebrews 6:4-6

[17] Habakkuk 2:3-4

[18] Hebrews 10:32-39

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS

 CHAPTER THREE (Lesson IX)

C. I. Scofield (1843-1921), American theologian, minister, writer, and author of the Scofield Reference Bible, tells us that the Spirit is shown in Galatians in a marvelous way. Paul says here in verse two He is received by the hearing of faith. When the Galatians believed they received the Spirit. To what end? The legalists give it little importance. Though they talk much of “power” in connection with the Spirit, it really is the power for service which chiefly needs their attention. Of God’s sovereign rights, of His blessed empowering the spiritual life, there is little worry. But it is precisely there that the Biblical emphasis falls. In Romans, for example, the Spirit is not even mentioned until we have a justified sinner trying to keep the law, utterly defeated in that attempt by the flesh, the “law in his members,” and crying out, not for help, but for deliverance.[1] Then the Spirit is brought within, Oh, what marvelous results![2]

George B. Stevens (1854-1906) agrees with Professor Lightfoot that “active hearing” is necessary for faith to be activated in receiving the Spirit for salvation. This is then contrasted with doing the works of the Law and hearing by faith what good works believers should do as God’s children.  It is a difference between the principles of hearing and the methods of doing. In the end, we could say that “hearing” is no more effective than “doing.” Stevens says that God is not asking for “favors” but for “faith.” But faith is just as much a thing of action as is doing. Faith leads to works done out of gratitude, not an obligation. Remember, the Messiah did not die on the cross out of obligation, but out of love.[3]

Says Benjamin W. Bacon (1860-1932), Paul knows that he can “rest his case” on this single issue. He did so with complete success at Jerusalem.[4] There was no escape from it; for the mother church itself dated its own foundation on the Day of Pentecost. The fundamental confession which made Christianity a true religion was: “Jesus is Lord.” It rested upon Moses’ experience on Mount Horeb, and among the Ephesians.[5] as its proof. Jewish messianism anticipated the “outpouring of the Spirit” in the last days as the token of the Redeemer’s return. For “legalists,” this was the spirit of obedience to the law; for the “wisdom writers,” it is the spirit of wisdom; for “prophecy advocates,” the spirit of prophecy.[6] The appearance of these “gifts of the Spirit” upon “faith in the Anointed One Jesus,” including the “signs and wonders”[7] was the proof on which the Church itself rested its assurance that “God made this Jesus … both Lord and Messiah.” If the Gentiles also had “the gifts of the Spirit” there was no more to be said. The only point to be made clear was when the gifts came, that is, not upon this attempt to supplement their justification in Grace with works of the Law, but before it, at the time of their hearing of faith.[8]

Arno C. Gaebelein (1861-1945), a Methodist minister in the United States, and a prominent teacher and conference speaker noted that as Christians, the Galatians possessed the Holy Spirit, as all true Christians receive Him and are sealed by the Spirit. They also enjoyed the ministry of the Spirit through the different gifts. And now he asks the question “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by your faith upon hearing the Gospel?” There is no promise in the Law that if it is kept in obedience, that God would send His Spirit to the heart of a person to be the indwelling guest and make them obedient keepers of the Law as the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Law does not have the authority to promise the Holy Spirit. In Ezekiel we read that the promise is made, “I will put My Spirit within you,”[9] but, as the context shows, this promise refers to the future when the remnant of Israel will turn to the Lord and the promised spiritual and national blessings are given to them through grace.

The Gentile Galatians knew nothing of the Law and were not under the Law, for they were, by nature, idolaters. They received the Spirit by hearing of faith. But, before this great gift could ever be bestowed the Son of God must die on the cross and be glorified.[10] And all who receive the Lord Jesus the Anointed One by faith, also receive the great gift of grace, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Sonship. The Galatians Gentiles received the Holy Spirit simply by believing. They were sealed by that Spirit and knew thereby that they were redeemed and the sons of God. If they possessed this seal of divine righteousness why should they add to it the works of the Law? In doing so, they would be acting very foolishly.[11] Today we might liken it to someone who changes the electricity going to their house from the power grid and replace it with batteries instead. (By the way, how will they charge their batteries?)

However, Gaebelein adds a somewhat disconcerting footnote that reads: “Strange, unscriptural doctrines concerning the Holy Spirit are taught in different sects and parties. Some teach that the Christian should earnestly seek this gift and the baptism with the Spirit. They claim that each individual must make a definite experience of receiving the baptism with the Spirit. This seeking includes, what they term, a full surrender, etc., and after enough seeking, surrender, giving up and praying, they claim to have received the power of the Holy Spirit. The argument here refutes this teaching. The Holy Spirit is given to every believer in Christ.”[12]

It seems obvious that Gaebelein was influenced by the struggle that existed among Methodists who taught that sanctification was a second work of grace. The Methodists were also first to coin the phrase baptism of the Holy Spirit as applied to a second and sanctifying grace of God.[13] The Methodists meant by their “baptism” something different from the Pentecostals, but the view that this is an experience of grace separate from and after salvation was the same. Also, that Pentecostalism had roots in the holiness movement of the late nineteenth century. The holiness movement embraced the Wesleyan doctrine of “sanctification” or the second work of grace, subsequent to conversion. Pentecostalism added a third work of grace, called the baptism of the Holy Ghost, which is accompanied by glossolalia.[14]

With all due respect to brother Gaebelein, such a view would put the Apostles, Cornelius’ household,[15] and the disciples of John the Baptizer that Paul met in the city of Ephesus[16] in a difficult position. Did the Apostles already receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when they believed in Jesus as the Messiah as His disciples or not? If so, why did Jesus then tell them to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the Father to send the Holy Spirit? There is no record of the disciples speaking in tongues before the Day of Pentecost, only after they were all filled with the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room. And a study of Paul’s writings in Corinthians it is clear that Paul made a distinction between having the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and His accompanying gifts.[17] I’m sure that such differing interpretations will not keep either one of us out of heaven, but I believe in giving the Holy Spirit all the credit He deserves as our Comforter with His works and gifts.

Cyril W. Emmet (1874-1924) gives his explanation of what Paul means by the phrase: “by the hearing of faith.” Says Emmet, it does not imply “listening to the faith,” but “the hearing which comes from faith.[18] The Spirit came, not because they were especially obedient to the Law, but because they opened their hearts to a new influence.[19] Kenneth Wuest (1893-1963) adds his interpretation by saying that The Greek noun akoes translated “hearing” refers either to the act of hearing a message or to the message that is heard. The second meaning agrees more with the context since Paul is contrasting his message of grace with the teachings of the Judaizers. The phrase “of faith” defines or describes the message. It is a message that announces faith as the means whereby one receives salvation. The only answer the Galatians could give to this question was that they received the Spirit, not by obedience to the law, but through their faith in Paul’s message of grace.[20]

Another Jewish writer, Ariel HaNaviy, feels that no other chapter of the Bible caused more theological misunderstandings between Jewish and Christian believers than Chapter Three of Galatians! We would do well to tread cautiously when seeking to unlock its meanings, he says. As he sees it, Paul returns to his ironic way of speaking with a rhetorical question about the origins of the giving of the Holy Spirit among the Galatian believers. Surely Paul knows firsthand that the Spirit flows from God to an individual believer. However, in this portion of his letter, he is attempting to shock the readers back into some semblance of spiritual reality. Having begun with the truth of Yeshua’s atoning death, how could they possibly be considering going back on such a revelation? To the Apostle, such a notion was preposterous!

We must remember that among the Judaism Party of Paul’s day, the Greek word for law, nomos, could include references to the verbal teachings of the Rabbis, and more specifically to the rule that governed a Gentile’s conversion to Judaism. It appears that Paul is challenging the validity of these ethnically restricted views of the Torah still be held and observed among genuine First Covenant members to Christianity. Surely, maintaining their covenant relationship with God was not acquired by human effort, that is, works of the Law, but rather by placing one’s trust in the Ultimate Son of the Covenant, Yeshua Himself.

So, we understand why the Apostle Paul begins by demanding from these mixed-up Galatians, please explain something to me, did you receive the Spirit by simply becoming members of a new Jewish sect called “The Way,” but still under the Torah, or by believing what you heard me preach when I shared the Gospel with you? Paul did not wait for the answer, he immediately provides his answer, a resounding, “You were acting like fools, weren’t you? That’s the only way you could come to the conclusion that moral human achievements could in some way exceed the grace of God as afforded by His Only Son. What an exercise in futility!”[21] It’s obvious that it takes a Jewish believer like Paul to tell us what these Jews in Galatia were really thinking. That should help us understand the situation even better.

[1] Romans 7:15-24

[2] C. I. Scofield: The Fundamentals – A Testimony to the Truth, Vol. 3, op. cit., Ch. 7, p. 91

[3] George B. Stevens: Shorter Exposition of Galatians, op. cit.,

[4] See Acts 15:8, 12; cf. 10:44–47; 11:15–18).

[5] Acts of the Apostles 2:33; Ephesians 4:7–10

[6] Joel 2:28–32; cf. Num. 11:29

[7] Joel 2:30

[8] Benjamin W. Bacon, On Galatians, op. cit., p. 74

[9] Ezekiel 36:27

[10] John 7:39

[11] Arno Gaebelein: Annotated Bible, op. cit., p. 214

[12] Ibid. p. 215

[13] Cf. John Fletcher of Madeley, Methodism’s earliest formal theologian.

[14] The West Tennessee Historical Society Papers – Issue 56. West Tennessee Historical Society. 2002. p. 41.

[15] Acts of the Apostles 10:44-48

[16] Ibid. 19:1-7

[17] 1 Corinthian 12; note 12:7-13

[18] “Obedience of faith,” Romans 1:5; 14:26

[19] Cyril W. Emmet: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 28

[20] Kenneth Wuest: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[21] Ariel HaNaviy: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p.104

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS

 CHAPTER THREE (Lesson VIII)

Revival preacher Charles Finney (1792-1875) in one of his lectures, spoke on justification by faith. In his lecture, he makes the point that when it comes to the doctrine of justification, we cannot overlook the distinction between sin and sinning. When our bodily appetites and built-in tendencies of body and mind are strongly tempted they often become an uninvited occasion of sin. So, it was with Adam. We cannot say that Adam was created with a sinful nature. But he possessed, by his natural instincts, an appetite for food and a desire for knowledge. These in themselves are not sinful, but were part of their human nature which made them suitable to live in this world as a subject of God’s moral government. But the temptation by the serpent was enough to persuade Adam and Eve to disobey and thereby sin against God. They were innocent in themselves but yielded to unlawful action, and that was their sin.

Now, while each of these sins may be forgiven when confessed and compassion from God is sought, those sinful tendencies, however,  are never washed away. They are within all of us constantly. Nevertheless, they are severely restricted by sanctification and with the help of the indwelling Spirit of God. When a sinner tries to use their sinful nature as a justification for sin, they get their natural appetites and sinful tendencies mixed up. By so doing, they, in fact, accuse God foolishly and incriminate Him for giving them a sinful nature, when in fact their nature, in all its elements, is essential to moral conduct, and God made it as well as it could be made, and perfectly adapted to the circumstances in which they lived in this world. The truth is, mankind’s nature is all right and is as well-fitted to love and obey God as it is to hate and disobey Him. So, says Finney, the day is not far away when it will be known whether your excuse is valid or not! Then you will find out when you stand face to face with your Maker, and He charges you with sin, will you be able to throw the blame back in His face.[1]

Philip Schaff (1819-1893) comments on verse two where Paul appeals to their own experience at the time of their conversion, which alone should be sufficient to convince them of the error of their present position on crediting the Law with bringing the Holy Spirit into their lives. By Paul saying, to know the truth a person must hear what God gave Him to say, and that would be the only source they needed. Was it by works of the Law that they received the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the greatest of gifts? The Spirit is communicated to believers through the Gospel in order for them to be regenerated, sanctified, and made children of God and heirs of eternal life.

Schaff believes that during the time of the Apostles, the Spirit manifested Himself in extraordinary gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophesying, working of miracles.[2] That means that from hearing the preaching (not just listening), faith comes from preaching,[3] and preaching the Word of God. The Greek noun akoē (“hearing” KJV) is used in two ways: “active hearing” that involves intense listening that leads to the reception of the Gospel message by faith.[4] Then it can also imply “passive hearing,” that provides the faith needed for the reception of the Gospel message. Schaff says that Professor Lightfoot adopts the first, but the second is preferable on account of the usual meaning of the word in the Final Covenant because the contrast is between the two principles, “law and faith,” not between two actions, “doing and hearing.”

The emphasis must be placed on “law” and “faith,” says Schaff. In the Final Covenant, “faith” is used mostly in the subjective sense of the act and exercise of faith,[5] not in the objective sense of the doctrine or creed.[6] Faith is the organ by which we receive the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel.[7] So for the Jews, their subjective faith was that by obeying the Law they were saving themselves. while Christians put their objective faith in the Messiah to save them because neither the Law nor they can save themselves. That’s why any sinner seeking forgiveness and cleansing should be encouraged to pray and ask the Messiah to save them because He is the only Way, Truth, and Life.

W. A. O’Conor (1820-1887) points out that here in verse two Paul passes from using logical to experimental evidence, which by itself should be conclusive. Was it from Law or Faith they derived their present spiritual attainments? After all, the Jewish Law was meant to mature a principle for all mankind, but not all mankind for the principle. Once the Anointed One appeared, and divine truth was unfolded as a living, breathing document, and made transmittable by verbal exposition, the Law was no longer needed but rather became a hindrance. If the Galatians received the Spirit from hearing by faith, of course, it was evident that the works of the Law for that purpose were not required. Then O’Conor goes on to say that the works of the law are uncommunicative, unconscious, unmoral, and unauthorized results of a principle that resides in the Law rather than in the minds of those who perform them. They do not warm the heart or enlighten the understanding. All the grand moral and spiritual truths which are the subject-matter of faith, enlarge man’s soul and render it a fit receptacle for heavenly impulses and illuminations.[8] No wonder the Judaizers were so out of touch with reality.

Edward Huxtable (1833-1893) hears a frustrated Apostle Paul telling the Galatians, in disbelief, that they so quickly became traitors to him and the Gospel he brought them. He told them, when I came to where you are as an Apostle sent by God to preach the Gospel, once you were baptized in water I laid my hands on you; and the Holy Spirit came down upon you, proving the reality of His presence, not only by signs and miracles and powers, but also by the love, joy, peace, and all the Fruit of the Spirit, which fills your hearts; instantaneously sealing the truth of his doctrine and their own individual position as recognized heirs of the kingdom of God.

Surely, says Paul, you must still remember those great times. Do you recall back then whether I spent any time speaking about the proper kosher diet of food or drink, or washing your hands and bodies as part of some purification process, or the requirement of circumcision, or being careful to obey the dictates of Ceremonial Law? Did you attend one session where I taught on all the points contained in the ordinances found in Leviticus? Were any of you even thinking about such things? The “works of the Law” were never mentioned and the merit of performing the ceremonies rites and rituals to obtain repentance did not come up. No! I preached about dying to sin, surrendering you souls to God and to the Messiah in faithful, loyal obedience, developing the characteristics of being God’s servants, and the plan and purpose of good works as a reasonable service to the One who called you, redeemed you, and chose you to be one of His own children, all of which were in compliance with moral Law. That’s why the gift of the indwelling Spirit and the gifts and endowment of power by the same Spirit became quickly evident by the wonders and miracles you were given the power to perform for God’s glory.

It is clear that Huxtable defined the indwelling of the Spirit as the source for regeneration and sanctification and Fruit of the Spirit, and the baptism of the Spirit as the source for the Gifts of the Spirit. So where in the world did the Galatians get the idea all of this was subordinate to following the Law in order to stand right before God, ready to do all the works required to maintain that status? So Huxtable was just as confused as the Apostle Paul was over such a contradictory stance on their part to the Gospel Paul preached to them upon his arrival.

Professor Thomas Croskery (1830-1886) gives a homiletical treatment of this exposition by Huxtable in which he offers five Principles to argue against the controversial teachings of the Judaizers. First: The “Principle of Experience.” They did not receive the Spirit by faith in works but by faith in Jesus the Messiah. Second: the “Principle of Grace in receiving the Spirit.” Since the Holy Spirit is not under the power of the Law it cannot be given by the Law. Grace is the only source for Pentecostal power and abundance. Third: the “Principle of Grace in the workings of the Spirit.” When the Spirit empowered them to do miracles among the people, the Spirit does not operate through the Law but through faith. Fourth: the “Principle of Grace in finishing what the Spirit started.” Since they began their believing and receiving of the Spirit by faith, it cannot now be transferred to the Law for completion.[9] And fifth: the “Principle of Grace in persevering to the end in order to be saved.” To show sincerity by enduring any suffering or attempts to shame; to establish that their obedience to the Gospel is the reason for what they suffer for the sake of Messiah; to never allow yourself to be persuaded that all you’ve gone through for the Messiah was a useless effort.[10]

For Joseph Beet (1840-1924), any suggestion that Christ died in vain, as would be the case if the teaching of the Judaizers were correct, reveals to Paul the spiritual blindness of the Galatian Christians as he turns to discuss the teaching these false apostles contradict. A single argument seems to him sufficient to settle the matter at hand. His Galatian readers’ journey by faith began with the reception of the Holy Spirit indwelling them as the stirring principle of a new life in union with the Anointed One. Paul asks whether they obtained the Spirit by means of obedience to legal prescriptions or by hearing with faith the preached Word of God. In thinking back, the only possibility open is that obedience to the Law may have led them to a richer and higher Christian life. But the legal prescriptions of which the Judaizers prescribed reach only to the material part of human life.

For Beet, that leads to more questions. For instance, can mere bodily obedience to laws and ceremonies develop a life begun by receiving a life-giving Spirit? Of course, the thought is absurd! Again, for the teaching of Justification by Faith apart from works of the Law, the Galatian Christians have already suffered persecution. Are they now prepared to admit that these sufferings were needless and profitless? These questions enabled Paul to ask again in stronger form his first question. Can the Spirit whom day by day dwells in the Galatian believers, and who reveals His presence by working miracles among them, be received by works of Law or by faith? Thus, not only their past but their present experience confirms the Apostle’s teaching. Grace wins! The Law loses![11]

[1] Charles Finney: Lectures to Professing Christians, Lecture 16, pp. 233-252

[2] Cf. Acts of the Apostles 8:17; 10:44-46; 19:6; 1 Corinthians 12-14

[3] 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 4:2; and Romans 10:17

[4] Cf. (“obedience of faith);” Romans 1:5; 16:26

[5] The subjective sense means that one’s faith is in themselves rather than in the object before them.

[6] The objective sense means that one’s faith is in the object before them rather than in they themselves.

[7] Philip Schaff: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 317

[8] W. A. O’Conor: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 44

[9] Philippians 1:6

[10] The Pulpit Commentary: On Galatians, op. cit., Homiletics by Thomas Croskery, p. 148-

[11] Joseph Beet: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 77

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