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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POINTS TO PONDER

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Irish playwright George Barnard Shaw (1856-1950) once said: “People become attached to their burdens sometimes more than the burdens are attached to them.” The truth is when we get so attached to doing everything the way we’ve always done it because of our handicaps, or so absorbed in only looking at things from one perspective because of our lack of exploring new ideas, it limits our growth and maturity. That means we’re holding on tight to excuses that keep us from doing new things, remaining in places we’re familiar with, and to things and the people present in our lives as we grew up, not knowing that all of our attachments will only bring us anguish, sorrow, and suffering. Many can’t seem to grasp the notion that you can love anything without becoming attached to everything.

In my university studies, I was introduced to the writings of the ancient Chinese philosopher and poet, Lao Tzu. In his work titled “Tao Te Ching,” he asked: Can you deal with the most vital matters by letting events take their course? Can you step back from your own biases in order to understand all things? If you can do that, says Lao Tzu, you give birth to new ideas to nourish them, things you can use without owning them, with no expectations, leading and not trying to control: this is the supreme virtue.1

This is a hard lesson for anyone to learn. But there are some good points about letting up and letting go of things that don’t give us excuses anymore to who we really are, where we need to be, what we should be, and what ought to be trying to do: First, being emotionally attached to your problems leads to cloudy decision making. You’re afraid to try, because it may make matters worse than better. You end up refusing opportunities because you’re afraid the problems you have may get in the way. It’s like a pastor who doesn’t want to offer counseling to couples having difficulty in their marriage because he too is having problems in the same area. He doesn’t realize that the best person to talk to is someone who’s been through, or going through, the same problem.

Secondly, being emotionally attached to your problems leads to unnecessary stress. What would you think of someone who is frustrated because they can’t get the job they want or become involved in some activity because they think that their physical, or mental or emotional status will result in their being turned down? Just think! How many contestants on “Dancing With the Stars” were told that because they were blind, deaf, had an artificial limb, or were overweight that they would not be accepted? Yet they were accepted because they applied. Listen to this. Army veteran J. R. Martinez, who sustained third-degree burns on 37 percent of his body, won the Mirrorball Trophy in Season 13 with his partner Karina Smirnoff. Also, Nyle DiMarco, a deaf model won the Mirrorball Trophy in Season 22 with partner Peta Murgatroyd.

Thirdly, being emotionally attached to your problems causes stunted growth in what you’re trying to do or trying to be. Shark Tank investor Barbra Corcoran also spoke openly about her dyslexia. “It made me more creative, more social and more competitive,” Corcoran said in an interview with Entrepreneur Magazine. “There’s great freedom to being dyslexic… if you can avoid labeling yourself as a loser in a school system that measures people by the As and Bs on their report card.” And double-amputee Paralympic Amy Purdy, who lost her legs to Meningitis at the age of 19, wowed the judges and audience members when partnered with five-time returning champion Derek Hough in Season 18.

Life is a process. We should enjoy the process. Not many people can change the way other people feel. However don’t let your own handicaps or problems get in the way of working together with your spouse, family, workmates, fellow churchgoers, or society in general, it makes life much more enjoyable. So take pride in the battle and grind as you work together to create better experiences for yourself and others. Help your family and friends by becoming more cooperative and make the process fun, for everyone.

The Bible is certainly not silent on this subject. In fact, there is a fabulous story about a young boy who was entrusted by his father to watch their flock of sheep while the older sons conducted other parts of the family business. But then a war broke out when one of their countries arch enemies decided to take over their land. They gathered in a valley between the two countries and it became a standoff because their enemy would parade out their champion warrior who was some nine feet tall and whose helmet, coat of armor, javelin, and shield all together weighed over 200 pounds.

Daily they taunted this boy’s king and army, which included three of his brothers. Their father got worried about them not having enough to eat, so he chose his young son to carry a basket filled with roasted grain, loaves of bread, and cheese to them. Since it was not too far from the village where they lived, this boy would make trips back and forth so he could still watch out for his father’s sheep. On one of these occasions, the boy arrived it looked like a battle was about to begin. So the boy left the basket with the one who kept such supplies and hurried up to the front to see what was happening.

It was at that moment that this champion of the enemy strode out and began to challenge and shame them for being cowards. This is the first time the boy heard such blasphemy against his people. So he turned to some of the soldiers around him and asked, “What would a person get for killing this pagan warrior who is defying the armies of God? Soon word got around about the young boy’s question, and when it reached the ears of his brothers, they got angry. They told him that he had no business being there. “Go back to your sheep,” they told him. We all know how much you brag about defending the sheep against some supposed lion and invisible bear. Get out of here!”

But when word reached the king, he had them bring the boy to him. He looked at the small lad because the king himself was quite tall. He asked the boy sarcastically how he expected to fight this giant when he wasn’t even trained as a soldier? David told him about the lion and the bear and the king felt like there wasn’t much to lose by sending the boy out to battle with the giant. He tried to dress the lad in his own armor, but the boy couldn’t move because the armor was too heavy.

So the boy went back over to where the giant was still ranting and raving. He looked around and found five smooth stones that fit nicely into his sling. Instead of being dissuaded by all the things his brother and others said, and in spite of being untrained and small of stature, he put his shoulders back as everyone on both sides watched as this tiny lad marched toward this huge giant. Their enemies started laughing while his brothers and other soldiers stood watching in horror. But with an accurate shot with his sling and a smooth stone he put it right between the giant’s eyes. This huge monster fell to the ground stunned. The boy quickly ran to the sprawling warrior, with all his might he pulled out the heavy sword, and with one fell swoop cut off the giant’s head. Pandemonium broke out with their enemies turning and fleeing from the scene while the soldiers on the boy’s side started running after them with a great shout.2

The victory was theirs! And all because a little boy refused to let his limitations of being young, untrained, inexperienced in war, whose only weapon was a sling, keep him from doing what he knew in his heart needed to be done. So you must decide whether you are going to be like his brothers and only watch what’s going on because you don’t think you have what it takes to get the job done. You are so hung up on your limitations that you’re afraid to try anything new? Or, do you have the heart of this boy, and in spite of what others think of you, you are still willing to try! – Dr. Robert R Seyda

1 The Tao Te Ching was written by Lao-Tzu, translation by S. Mitchell, Chapter Ten

2 Read 1 Samuel, Chapter 17

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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 GALATIAN CHURCH

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson III)

Paul finishes his awaited response to Nero by telling him that he also taught the assemblies of believers everywhere to reverence the one almighty, invisible, and incomprehensible God. And that this teaching was not something he devised on his own nor was it given to him by men, nor through men, but through Jesus the Anointed One who spoke to him out of heaven, and was the One who also sent him out to preach by sending Ananias of Damascus to tell him what God told him to say, namely, “I have chosen Saul for an important work. I want him to tell other nations, their rulers, and the people of Israel about me.12

According to the History of the Eastern Orthodox Church, it traces its beginnings back to Jesus the Anointed One and the Apostles. The original church or community of the East before the Great Schism comprised the following:

  • the Greek churches were founded by Saint Paul.

  • the Antiochian and Asia Minor churches were founded by Saint Peter.

  • the Coptic (or Egyptian) churches were founded by Saint Mark (including, at the time, the Ethiopian Empire historically known as Abyssinia.

  • the Syriac (or Assyrian) churches in Upper Mesopotamia grew out of the church in Antioch.

  • the Georgian church, traditionally founded by Saint Andrew and Saint Nino.3

  • the Armenian church, traditionally founded by Saint Jude and Saint Bartholomew.

  • the church of Jerusalem, founded by Saint James, as well as the churches of Samaria and Judea, together comprising “the Holy Land.”

  • The church of Rome by tradition was founded by both Saint Peter and Saint Paul.4

We also have John Cassian (360-435 AD), a Roman Catholic monk and theologian, in one of the books he wrote against the teachings of Nestorius, the Greek Orthodox Church’s Archbishop of Constantinople and talks about Paul’s writings and how Rome interpreted them one way and Constantinople interpreted them another way. This schism began when the Church began to grow out of the Church in Antioch, the branch that developed in Rome to the west was thought by them as being the official seat of Christianity, and the branch that developed in Constantinople to the east considered itself an equal seat of Christianity. So because of this impasse, they never came to an amicable agreement. It appears that there were some things coming out of Constantinople that were unacceptable to Rome.

Cassian began by comparing the church and heresy to the Greek mythical serpent-like creature known as Hydra. If one of Hydra’s heads was cut off, another one grew in its place. The same seemed to be the case with false teachings in the church. As soon as one was stopped, another false doctrine grew in its place. It was only when a fiery sword was used to cut out its inwards that it finally died. So, says Cassian, it will take the fiery sword of the Holy Spirit to cut out the inward parts of these dangerous heresy’s to end their reproduction power.

But Cassian was not shocked by this any more than a farmer is shocked to find weeds growing in among the seeds he sowed to produce good grains. But he can’t leave them alone to grow because they will take nutrients away from the good grain. He points to the Ebionites who flourished in the earliest part of Christianity. They were so over-anxious to prove the Anointed One’s humanity that they robbed Him of His divinity. Then along came the Roman priest Sabellius who began to teach against the plurality of three persons in the Godhead, followed by Pelagius who taught that Adam’s original sin was not passed on to his children; that the human will as created with its abilities by God, and that it was sufficient to live a sinless life, although he believed that God’s grace assisted every good work necessary to achieve it. So the difficulty Cassian confronted already proved to be a problem with a long history in the church.

But there was good news as well. It seems that a French monk named Leporius, who was one of Pelagius’ staunchest supporters and propagators of his doctrine on original sin and salvation by works and not by grace, finally came under the instruction of Augustine and Aurelius in Alexandria, Egypt. He was enlightened by them to see the error in the doctrine he believed and recanted all that he taught. He was accepted by the church and became a church elder under the guidance of Augustine. Cassian’s point was that while it is not good to be fooled by such erroneous teaching, it is even worse not to convert back to the real faith once you know the truth. So Cassian then makes his statement that true faith believes that Jesus the Anointed One is the Only Begotten Son of the Father and that with the help of the Holy Spirit He took on Himself human flesh to become the Savior of humans. As a result, He died on the cross but was raised back to life by God the Father and ascended into heaven where He now sits waiting for His return and gathers all those who believed in Him to have everlasting life. So we can see that long after the Galatian debacle, false theories still plagued the Church for centuries to follow.

So regardless of other things such as how to conduct baptism, serve communion, and other things, this one doctrine must be accepted by all Christians everywhere in the world. He bases this statement not only on what he is saying or what the Church believes, but he appeals to the Apostle Paul for confirmation of what he said. It appears that Cassian is hinting that one of the heresies he was dealing with was that Jesus the Anointed One was not God, therefore, Mary was only the mother of Jesus, not the mother of God in the flesh. He quotes Paul’s words to Titus, “…while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus the Anointed One.

No wonder Paul was so shocked that the Galatians turned so quickly away from the Gospel he brought them. How could they see Jesus as only an anointed prophet and not the Son of God? How could they be fed the same garbage fed to them by the Judaizers that, like the head of Hydra, grew back again and again until it was still staring at believers up until Cassian’s time? The idea that salvation can be gained by good works with the Anointed One’s help was still alive. How could they reject the Gospel brought to them by an Apostle who was not sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus the Anointed One and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead.5 So if it was God who sent His Son into the world to preach the Gospel, and it was His Son who called Paul and sent him out with the blessing of the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel. The Gospel he preached was not from him or anyone else but God.6

That’s why Paul could tell the Corinthians that God was reconciling the world to Himself in the Anointed One, and not that, Paul was also said that the life he now lived in the flesh was the Anointed One living in him. That’s why we all who teach, preach, or witness to others the Word of God and the message that the Holy Spirit gives us is God and the Anointed One speaking through us. That’s why it is so important to be sure that we say what we believe and believe what we say.

One of the earliest commentaries on Galatians (366-384 AD) by Ambrosiaster is quick to point out that Paul quickly inform those who said that since he was not chosen and sent out, like other Apostles who were selected by the original Apostles and sent to churches in order to strengthen them, nor was he like others who were sent by the Jews in order to upset the churches, whom he calls false apostles. Rather, he was sent by the Son of God. By this means, he indicated that he was a good, solid preacher because a person whom God chose was much better than one chosen by men.7 This commentator makes a note that by Paul speaking about the Anointed One in this fashion, it’s almost as though Paul did not recognize Jesus as a man, but as God, because He issued His command in God-like fashion and not as a man, and chose whom He wanted by divine assessment, not human reasoning.

This same writer then addresses some errors in his own day. He goes on to note that another reason why Paul insisted that people understand that he was not ordained by some church council, is because some heretics went to Galatia with such a claim and forced the Galatians to be circumcised because they thought that Jesus the Anointed One was only a man. But Paul was sent by Jesus the Anointed One, that is to say, by the one who is both God and man. That is clear from what follows, namely, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. In saying this he condemned two heresies, that of Mani8 and that of Photinus.9 Mani denied that Jesus was a man but did not deny that he was crucified. Photinus, on the other hand, did not accept that the Anointed One was God and yet did not dare deny that he came back to life from the dead.10 So we can see it did not take long after the church began for these false doctrines to spread. It is quite likely that the root of all these heresies can be traced back here to what was being taught to Paul’s converts throughout Galatia by these dubious teachers from Jerusalem.

Early church Bishop Theodoret (393-466 AD) focuses on Paul’s statement that his appointment came from God the Father “through” Jesus the Anointed One, His Son. Paul was not making the Anointed One simply some assistant who was carrying God’s work for Him, but rather that it was the Anointed One who appointed him with the full support of His Father. Paul applied the word “through” to both divine deities, teaching that this usage does not imply any difference of nature or essence. And the phrase “the One who raised Him from the dead” does not hint at any defect in the Son’s divinity, for the suffering happened to the Godhead as a whole, which illustrates the harmony of the Gospel. It was not the Son who bestowed the mystery of His divine incarnation, but the Father Himself is a sharer in this dispensation, as well as the Holy Spirit who came upon Him at His baptism by John the Baptizer.11

1 Cf. Ibid. 9:15

Acts of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul: Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Saint Nino was a Russian woman who preached Christianity in the country of Georgia resulted in the Christianization of Spain.

Eastern Orthodox Christianity: Supplemental Texts by Bryn Geffert and Theofanis G. Stavrou, A Companion to Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the Essential Texts, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2016

Galatians 1:1

6 John Cassian: Incarnation of the Lord, Against Nestorius, Bk. 3, Ch. 4. pp. 1133-1134

Ancient Christian Texts, Commentary on Galatians by Ambrosiaster, Translated by Gerald L. Bray, InterVarsity Press, 2009, p.2

Mani was a Persian Christian who lived in the mid-third century and preached a dualistic doctrine which claimed that good and evil were equal forces battling one another for supremacy.

Photinus was a Christian bishop of Sirmium in Pannonia (today the town Sremska Mitrovica in Serbia), who is best known for denying the incarnation of the Anointed One.

10 Ambrosiaster: Ancient Christian Texts, ibid, p. 2

11 Theodoret of Cyr: On Galatians, Edwards, M. J. (Ed.), ibid, p. 2.

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

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EASTER BUNNY IN THE WRONG PLACE

The church door was open at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Carmichael, California, with people going in and out, when a young man walked up awkwardly to entrance and handed a piece of paper with a number on it to the person there, “Excuse me,” he said somewhat hesitantly, “I’m here to pick up an Easter basket for my daughter. Am I at the right place?” “Oh, I’m so sorry,” said the person, “but these are not Easter baskets for kids; they’re food baskets for families so that they may have a happier Easter.”

The person who wrote this story was an associate minister who was helping to distribute the baskets to needy families. So to make sure everyone was taken care of they handed out numbers to the recipients that matched the basket they were supposed to receive. Each one contained a full Easter dinner – a whole ham, potatoes, bread, vegetables, and a pie – plus enough staples to help feed a family for a week.

So he asked the young man, “Why don’t you step inside and let me see what I can do?” He looked somewhat disappointed. He shook his head “no,” as he peered over his shoulder. “I can’t…my daughter is waiting for me in the car,” he said. He gave her a little wave and turned back toward the associate minister. “I’m grateful for the food, but when I heard you were giving away baskets for Easter…well, I thought they would be Easter baskets for children,” he continued. “I promised my daughter one.” He glanced over his shoulder again. “I left her in the car because I wanted to surprise her.”

The minister felt the young single father’s disappointment but there was nothing he could do. Volunteers put the food baskets together, not Easter ones. So the young man turned to leave. But the minister asked him to wait just a moment, and I walked inside where the baskets were waiting for pick up. He started looking around for the basket with the number on it that matched the one the young father handed him.

Before he could start looking at the numbers, a bulge in one of the baskets caught his eye. What is that? he wondered. Leaning in and looking more closely, he could see, unmistakably, an Easter basket – filled with an assortment of candy and Easter eggs – wrapped with ribbons and tucked inside with the food. One of the volunteers must have added this by mistake! he thought. Then I looked at the man’s number in my hand. Well, I’ll be! The minister said to himself.

As he walked back to the door, he handed the young Happy Easter,” he said to the man, handing him the only bigger food basket with a smaller Easter basket inside – the very basket with his number on it. He smiled and said to the young father, “Someone knew just what you needed.” Yes, someone sure did.

That’s the way life is sometimes. We go to God for something we need and God tells us He didn’t prepare the thing we are asking for. But because we have faith in the One who never fails, sure enough, he not only gives us what we need but also the very thing we were asking for. Why? Does He want to spoil us! No! When we get something from God we were hoping for but that God said it’s not really what He wanted to give us, it’s because He’s trying to teach us a lesson. His Son Jesus told us to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and all these other things will be given to us.

That’s why Jesus’ coming out of the grave alive was a surprise to all His followers and disciples. They had been wanting a Prince Warrior who would free them from Roman rule and make Israel a free place again. What they got was a wonderful miracle-worker with great compassion for the needy. But when they saw Him alive, they knew that now had a Risen Savior to rescue those who were lost in their sins. But he was that Prince Warrior who conquered sin, satan, death, and the grave.

So on this Easter Sunday, we should not only sing praises to Jesus as our Risen Lord and Savior but also as our Prince of Peace and Royal King or overcoming death and the grave and pay honor to Him for His passion and courage! – 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 GALATIAN CHURCH

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson II)

There were others who spent time examining these citizens of the Roman province of Galatia to learn more about them. For instance, Lucius Lactantius (250-326 AD), a Christian writer and adviser to Roman Emperor Constantine (306-337 AD) on religious policies, in his third volume to former Roman Emperor Probus (232-282 AD) on the subject of the Gauls shares what his investigation found. From his research, the inhabitants of this area were from ancient times called Galatians, because of their “white skin.” In fact, an early Greek writer of oracles named Sibyl cited the Galatians and told how gold collars decked “their milk-white necks.” It is plain that from this the province became known as Galatia, in which, on their arrival, the Gauls united themselves with Greeks which led to that region being called “Gallogræcia,” and afterward Galatia. In fact, some Roman historians believe that the forefathers of the Galatians were Celts from the north who moved to that area to get away from the harsh winters.1 So it was their descendants to whom Paul came to preach the Gospel of Jesus the Anointed One. But it does not mean that all Galatians where direct descendants of the Celts. This should help us better understand what Paul dealt with concerning Gomer’s descendants.

In light of what Paul said about being sent as an ambassador to the Gentiles to proclaim the Good News that the Messiah, Yeshua of Nazareth, already arrived, Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, makes note of an incident that is very relevant to what Paul did as an ambassador of Jesus the Anointed One. He points to the treatment of Jews, as well as Gentiles, by Arabs of his day, and calls it “an instance of the grossest wickedness.” It involved Jewish ambassadors being beheaded by the Arabs while the Gentiles protested, calling them sacred emissaries that should never be assaulted.2 And for ourselves, says Josephus, we learned from God our most outstanding doctrines and the most holy part of our Law. They were brought to us by angels (or ambassadors). This name “ambassador” brings the knowledge of God to all mankind and has enough respect to reconciling enemies one to another.3 In other words, messenger bringing the Gospel should be treated as an ambassador from God.

Early church scholar, Ignatius of Antioch (50-117 AD), who may have known Paul personally, says of the Apostle that this ministry was given to him for the benefit of many, “not from himself, neither by men, nor through boastfulness,” but by the love of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus the Anointed One. Ignatius was also struck with admiration by Paul’s ability to accomplish more by saying little than those who were unable to do anything in spite of their conceited talk. He found Paul in harmony with the commandments of God, even as the harp is with its strings. That impressed Ignatius so much that he became convinced that Paul’s thinking was completely in harmony with God’s will, knowing that what Paul said he meant, and that he believed what he said. That Paul could be trusted to remain calm despite what he faced, followed the example of the infinite meekness of the Living God.4 The wording makes it clear that Ignatius must have read this epistle of Paul to the Galatians.

Another early church scholar, Polycarp (69-156 AD), a disciple of the Apostle John and the Bishop of Smyrna, used Paul’s epistle to the Galatians in his own epistle to the Philippians by writing: May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One, and Jesus the Anointed One Himself, who is the Son of God, and our everlasting High Priest, build you up in faith and truth, and in all meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, faithfulness, and purity;5 and may He bless you with a place among His saints, including all of us and on all that are under heaven, who believe in our Lord Jesus the Anointed One, and in His Father, who raised Him from the dead.6 So what Paul is writing here was known early on in the church and respected as the writings of a revered and respected Apostle.

Also, early church writer Tertullian (155-240 AD), follows the same theme by noting that when Paul wrote to the Roman Church, he gave thanks to God through our Lord Jesus the Anointed One. This is consistent with Paul’s joining Jesus the Anointed One and God the Father together in a mutual mission. This comes after Tertullian pointed out that the Apostle Peter used these same words for the same effect.7 The Apostle John also calls anyone a liar who denies that Jesus is the Anointed One. By doing so, they reveal the spirit of antichrist in denying the Father and the Son.8 That’s why he exhorts us to believe in the name of the Father’s Son, Jesus the Anointed One. John’s effort involved encouraging all believers to develop the same spirit of fellowship among themselves that the Father enjoys with His Son Jesus the Anointed One.9

Later on, early church African scholar Marius Victorinus (280-355 AD) believes that not only did Paul insist that his call to the ministry came “through” the Anointed One with the full consent of His Father in heaven, but that it was the Anointed One whom the Father “raised from the dead.” Paul knew that people were being told that he was not a follower of Jesus the Anointed One while He lived on earth, in fact, he persecuted the followers of the Anointed One. So he expected the question, “How did you learn from the Anointed One that He was calling you?” To this, he stood ready to reply that he spoke to the Anointed One after His resurrection. And since God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, this proves that God is also involved in his calling.10

Early church preacher Chrysostom (349-407 AD), envisions a dialogue between himself and the Apostle Paul about his message in Galatians. “Why is it,” Chrysostom asks Paul, “if it was your wish to convert the Judaizers to the true faith you did not bring it up in those great and illustrious topics which occurred in your Epistle to the Philippians, such as, ‘Who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equal basis with God?’11 Or what you declared afterward to the Hebrews, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being?”12 Or how about what John, one of the sons of thunder,13 thundered forth in the opening of his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God?”14 Why didn’t you repeat what Jesus Himself oftentimes declared to the Jews “that His power and authority was equal to the Father’s?”15 Why did you omit all these, and only make mention of His incarnation, and emphasizing His cross and dying?

Chrysostom imagines that Paul answered him this way: Were I to have addressed my letter to the Judaizers, whom I considered as having blasphemous conceptions of the Anointed One, that way, it would have been a good idea to mention those things. But, since the problem lies with those who fear being punished if they abandon the Law, I thought it best to point out that the Law is no longer needed for salvation. By that I mean, the benefit conferred on every believer through the Cross and the Resurrection is sufficient. If I would have said with the Apostle John that in the beginning was the Word and included what I told the Philippians that even though He shared the same nature with God, He did not consider that something to hold on to, certainly then, says Paul, I would have declared that He was the Divine Word of God in the flesh. But it would have not addressed the problem at hand. The reason I included the statement that God raised Him from the dead was to show the importance of believing in Him that much clearer. That way they now know that the Law can only condemn, it cannot save and promise everlasting life.

Chrysostom imagines Paul also saying to him that people, in general, are less interested in hearing about the majesty of God’s person than learning about the mystery of God’s promise. Certainly, the reverence that comes by recognizing God’s majesty will inspire us to heap praise and worship on Him. But what is there about God that will be of benefit to us humans? I wanted the Galatians to know that their sudden turn away from Grace as the means of salvation in order to earn it, was of no benefit to God. But by doing so, they were removing themselves from receiving all the benefits God promised to those who believe on His Son for salvation.16

Bible historians also tell us that somewhere between 300-400 AD, a manuscript appeared titled, “Acts of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul,” also known as “The Passion of Peter and Paul.” In the text of this apocryphal document, we find that Paul appeared before Emperor Nero and was asked to answer the charges being brought against him by Simon the Magician. Nero wanted to know who was Paul’s teacher or by whose authority he taught in the cities and what happened as a result of his teachings? Since Paul remained silent up until then, Nero said, “I have the impression that you are not a person with great wisdom and that you were not able to accomplish any work of great consequence.

Now Paul felt free to respond. Paul explained that he never intended to defend himself against a desperate magician like Simon. After all, he was on his way to hell in a hurry. Who wants to listen to someone pretending to be something they are not. Claiming to have the power of the Holy Spirit to explain his magic tricks.17 Paul recalled how the Egyptian magicians Jannes and Jambres led Pharaoh and his army astray until they were swallowed up in the Red Sea, so Nero should be aware of this deceiver.

Paul then goes on to tell Nero about the teachings of his Master, Jesus the Messiah. Things that pertained to peace and love, those were the things Paul taught from Jerusalem over to Illyricum. His message always was one of peace. For instance, he taught that in honor they should prefer one another; that those that are rich and famous should not be idolized; not to put their hope in the uncertainty of riches, but to place their hope in God. He taught those who have what the need to be content with the food and covering they already have instead of being envious of those who have more. He taught fathers to teach their children to reverence the Lord God, and to obey their parents. He taught wives to love their own husbands and to respect them as husbands and heads of the house. He also taught masters to treat their slaves with leniency, and slaves to serve their own masters faithfully.

Lactantius: Nicene Fathers, op. cit., Fragments of Lactantius: pp. 678-679

2  Josephus, Bk. 15, Ch. 5.3, p. 2033, footnote 491, “Herod says here, that as ambassadors were sacred when they carried messages to others, so did the laws of the Jews derive a sacred authority by being delivered from God by angels [or divine ambassadors]; which is St. Paul’s expression about the same laws Galatians 3:16.”

3 Flavius Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, Bk. 15, Ch. 5.3, p. 938

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, Ch. 1

See Galatians 5:22-23

Polycarp: Epistle to the Philippians, Ch. 12

Acts of the Apostles 2:36

1 John 2:22

Tertullian: The Ante-Nicene Fathers, “Against Praxæs,” Ch. 28, p. 1134

10 Marius Victorinus: On Galatians, Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999, p. 2

11 Philippians 2:6

12 Hebrews 1:3

13 Mark 3:17

14 John 1:1

15 Ibid 5:19, 27

16 Commentary of St. John Chrysostom on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians, pp. 19, 20, loc. cit.

17 See Acts of the Apostle 8:9-25

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCH

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson I)

BACKGROUND:History of the Christian Church” writer Phillip Schaff, tells us that the date of the Epistle to the Galatians was being written by Paul between 56–58 AD.1 Some other scholars believe, however, it was written as early as 49 AD, not long after his visit with the Jerusalem Council and confrontation with Peter in Antioch. He goes on to inform us that his letter to the Galatians, with its sequel, the Epistle to the Romans, discusses the doctrines of sin and redemption and the relationship of the Law and the Gospel. It teaches salvation by free grace and justification by faith, Christian universalism – that all who believe may come, in opposition to Jewish particularism – only those of Jewish ethnicity were allowed in the family of God, and evangelical freedom versus legalistic bondage. Galatians is a rapid sketch written by an Apostle with deep emotions.2

Schaff also summarizes the Epistle to the Galatians in comparison to Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Romans an elaborate treatise and the mature product of calm reflection. Galatians is an argument against foreign intruders and seducers. Romans is ironical and composed in a serene frame of mind. Galatians rushes along like a mountain torrent and foaming rapids, Romans flows like a majestic river through a boundless prairie and the same river in Galatians that flows along slowly until it reaches a tremendous waterfall.3

Schaff also points out that in verse one we find the main point of the text for the first two chapters: namely, the divine mission and independent apostolic authority of Paul which the Judaizers told the Galatians not to accept, but which is clearly proven by the following narrative and testimony of the older Apostles themselves. One of the criticisms by the Judaizers was that no one possessed independent authority to preach or teach outside the original Apostles. Paul did not have such apostolic limitations and was, therefore, an intruder who did not belong in the presence of such Apostles as Peter and John. But Paul is not intimidated. The One who is over the Church and all Apostles is the One who called and commissioned him to preach the Gospel to the Jews first, and then also to the Gentiles.4

1:1-2 This letter is from the Apostle Paul, appointed directly by God the Father who raised Jesus the Messiah from the dead, and not by any one person or by any one group of men, and all the brothers who are with me send their greetings to the congregations throughout the province of Galatia.

So, who are these inhabitants of the southern portion of the Roman province of Galatia? Were they native people to that area? Or did they immigrate to this region from some other country? What racial and ethnic customs did they share with their homeland? And were there any physical or psychological characteristics that made easy to identify? The Apostle Paul most certainly knew most of the answers to these questions. He was born and grew up in the neighboring province of Cilicia in the city of Tarsus. One of the major trade routes of that day ran right through Cilicia and on into Galatia on its way toward Greece. As an apprentice tent maker with his father, he may even have visited this area to sell their products.

We can detect some of this familiarity in Paul’s opening remarks. First, He addresses himself as an Apostle in almost all of his epistles. The only other one to do the same is Peter.5 And in the Acts of the Apostles, the original disciples are also called Apostles.6 But the writer of Hebrews, who many think was Paul, also calls Jesus an Apostle and High Priest.7 So it was not a title to throw around lightly.

We should observe that this opening salutation does not follow the common decorum of starting out with a word of greeting to the recipients of a letter, something he frequently did in his other letters. Rather, he offers his credentials as being the one in authority to write this letter. As such, one can almost hear the stern sound in Paul’s voice as he dictates the letter. Even his greeting from himself and those with him is a very formal one. It’s almost like getting a letter from a council or board who have been examining charges against you. By separating himself from the Apostles in Jerusalem, Paul is saying that there would be no need to consult them as to his authority as an Apostle. His appointment by God did not require their approval. But he also implicates those Judaizers who came from Jerusalem as being false prophets because they, no doubt, claimed they were sent by the Apostle James and not directly from God.8

We should also notice that the letter is addressed to the ekklēsia in the province of Galatia. This Greek noun (“Churches” in KJV) does not mean buildings or converted synagogues, but rather an assembly of believers which may have been in homes, upper rooms, synagogues, etc.9 So not only is this letter addressed to several such assemblies, but it thereby indicates that most of them, if not all, were being misled by these false Jewish teachers. Some of these cities were Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Furthermore, Paul’s greeting to them makes the point that he and the persons with him are fellow believers in Jesus the Anointed One. This is important because of the many times he makes reference to those intruders who came to mislead them should not be thought of as fellow believers10.11

Furthermore, Marvin Vincent in his word studies says that the churches of Galatia which Paul addresses here in verse two are most probably meant the churches in the southern Roman province of Galatia; those namely in Iconium, Pisidian Antioch, Lystra, and Derbe; and not the Christians living in the Galatian district lying to the north and east of Lycaonia and Phrygia, which formed only a part of the Roman province, and the chief cities of which were Ancyra, Tavium, and Pessinus. Historians tell us that Cæsar Augustus, (25 BC) formed this Roman province, and included the provinces of Lycaonia, Isauria, southeastern Phrygia, and a portion of Pisidia. All part of modern Turkey today. The churches in this province were founded by Paul in his first missionary tour, sent out by the assembly in Antioch12.13

As to Paul’s claim of having been appointed by God as an Apostle, some say that he may not have necessarily been referring to what happened to him on the road to Damascus, but what took place in the church at Antioch.14 However, in the very next breath he points out that this appointment was not done by any one person or group of persons but by God the Father and Jesus the Anointed One. So what happened in Antioch caused him to be a missionary and what happened in Damascus made him an Apostle.

While Paul does not name those who are with him at the time of this writing, it is safe to say that he spoke of those who accompanied him on his journeys such as Barnabas, Silas, Luke, Mark, etc. If Paul was on his way back to Jerusalem for his first visit with the council, then he may have stopped in Antioch for a rest. And upon hearing about the trouble brewing in the churches in Galatia, for which he expressed surprise that it happened so soon after his visit there, he may be including those in the church in Antioch as part of those who were with him. Could it be that those who followed Paul into Galatia with their insistence on adoption of Jewish customs and manners were the same converted Pharisees that sneaked into Paul’s visit with the Council in Jerusalem?15

Another thing Paul reveals is that he is not writing to just one assembly, but many located in the Province of Galatia. What makes this so interesting is that some of what he has to say may apply to one assembly more than to another. It is also informative that we know these Galatians were referred to in history as far back at 124 BC.16 Jewish insurgent Judas Maccabee heard of how mighty, valiant, and noble the Romans were, and one of the things that convinced him was what he learned about their wars and noble acts done among the Galatians, and how they conquered them and brought them under their control, even forcing them to pay taxes. And later on, stories were told of a battle that 8,000 Jewish militants fought in Babylon with the Galatians and 4,000 Macedonians. When the battle concluded, the Jewish militants destroyed 120,000 of the enemy with the help they received from heaven and plundered much treasure.17

Needless to say, the Galatians did not seem to put up much of a fight when confronted. So no wonder these few Judaizers from Jerusalem were able to take control over the assemblies in such little time. But Jewish historian Flavius Josephus adds another bit of information that may help us focus more sharply on where the Galatians got their character and world view. Josephus says that Gomer, the first son of Japheth, Noah’s son, whose descendants inhabited what would become Europe, settled in the land the Greeks called Galatia [Galls], but who were also called Gomerites.

From Roman history, we see that the Galls (Gauls) were a constant source of aggravation for the Emperors of Rome. So the characteristics of Gomer were already well embedded in the Galatians. Many of these Galls moved further east and settled in what we know today as France.18 Josephus also tells us that when King Herod went down to Egypt to meet Caesar, and as a present gave him four hundred Galatians who were Cleopatra’s guards.19 Also, when Herod died, during the funeral procession, representatives from various countries marched ahead of the ornate golden bier. First were Herod’s guards, then came the Thracians (Greeks), followed by the Germans, and then the Galatians. Seems like they never were in first place.20

Schaff, Philip: History of the Christian Church, Vol. 1, p. 191. See also, pp. 176-177

2 Ibid. p. 602

Schaff, Philip: op. cit., Commentary on Galatians, p. 602

A Popular Commentary on the New Testament, edited by Schaff, Philip, T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1882, Vol. III, p. 293

5 1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1

Thirty times in the Acts of the Apostles, beginning in Acts 1:2

Hebrews 3:1

Mark D. Nanos: The Irony of Galatians, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2002, pp. 32, 112, 126-127, 151-152

9 See Matthew 18:20

10 See Galatians 1:9, 13; 3:1; 5:3, 21

11 Mark D. Nanos: ibid., pp. 19,43,75,145

12 See Acts of the Apostles, Chapters 13 & 15

13 Vincent, Marvin R: Word Studies in the New Testament by Marvin R. Vincent, The Epistle to the Galatians, Introduction, p.75, Charles Schribner’s Sons, New York, 1900

14 Acts of the Apostles 13:2-4

15 See Jewish Mishnah: Division Kadshim, Tractate Menachot, Ch. 10:3; and Division Mo’ed, Tractate Yoma, Ch. 1:5

16 Apocrypha: First Maccabees: Books for the Ages, AGES Software, Albany, Oregon, Chapter 8:2, p. 164

17  Second Maccabees, Ibid., Chapter 8:20, p. 237

18  Flavius Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, The Ages Digital Library, 1999, Bk. 1, Ch. 6:1, p. 84

19 Ibid., Josephus, Bk. 16: Ch. 7:3, p. 951; Ch. 20:3, p. 1336

20 Ibid., Josephus, Bk.16, Ch 8:3, p. 1080

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCH

INTRODUCTION

There has been a certain amount of controversy over how the Epistle to the Galatians became the book that launched Martin Luther into a reformation in order to bring out the truth that those we become right with God, do so by faith, not by works. The fact that it took so long for this to happen is at the center of this debate. The Roman church in Europe during the Middle Ages offers one explanation:

The Bible was on scrolls and parchments during the early centuries of Christianity. No one possessed an individual “Bible”. In the Middle Ages, each Bible was copied by hand. Most people were, at best, only functionally literate. That is partially why they used stained glass windows and art to tell the Bible story. The printing press was not invented until 1436 by Johann Gutenberg.

So prior to 1436, the idea of everybody having a Bible was out of the question, even if they could read. It’s hard to imagine a world without photocopiers, printing presses, email, and websites. After the invention of the printing press, prior to Luther’s Bible being published in German, there were over 20 versions of the whole Bible translated into the various German dialects (High and Low) by Catholics. Similarly, there were several vernacular versions of the Bible published in other languages both before and after the Reformation. The Church did condemn certain vernacular translations because of what it felt were bad translations and anti-Catholic notes.

This is certainly understandable and logical. But there is another side to this story. It is on record that at the Council of Toulouse (1229 AD), a decree was issued that said: “We prohibit also that the laity should be permitted to have the books of the Old or New Testament, but we most strictly forbid their having any translation of these books.

This was followed by the Council of Tarragona (1234 AD) in with the following Ruling was made: “No one may possess the books of the Old and New Testaments in the Romance language, and if anyone possesses them he must turn them over to the local bishop within eight days after promulgation of this decree, so that they may be burned…

Then at the Ecumenical Council of Constance (1415 AD), a Proclamation was published: “Oxford professor, and theologian John Wycliffe, was the first (1380 AD) to translate the New Testament into English to “…help Christian men to study the Gospel in that tongue in which they know best Christ’s wording.” For this “heresy” Wycliffe was posthumously condemned by Arundel, the archbishop of Canterbury. By the Council’s decree “Wycliffe’s bones were exhumed and publicly burned and the ashes were thrown into the Swift River.

And this led to a similar fate for William Tyndale (1536 AD), who was burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English. According to Tyndale, the Church forbid owning or reading the Bible to control and restrict the teachings and to enhance their own power and importance.

All of this is provided here, not to point fingers at anyone nor make unnecessary accusations, but to give a backdrop the Martin Luther’s emergence from such a state of secrecy that held the truth to what true salvation was by faith. To that end, I encourage you to read the preface to his commentary on Galatians published in 1539 AD.

Martin Luther’s Preface to Galatians (Excerpt)

First of all, we speak of the argument of this epistle: in it, Paul is seeking to establish the doctrine of faith, grace, the forgiveness of sins, or Christian righteousness in order that we may know the difference between Christian righteousness and all other kinds of righteousness. There are many other kinds of righteousness. There is civil or political righteousness, which kings, princes of the world, magistrates and lawyers deal with. There is also ceremonial righteousness, which the traditions of men teach. Besides these, there is another righteousness, called the righteousness of the law, or the Ten Commandments.

Above all these, there is yet another righteousness: the righteousness of faith or Christian righteousness, which we must diligently discern from the others. The others are quite contrary to this righteousness, both because they flow out of the laws of kings and rulers, religious traditions, and the commandments of God; and because they consist in our works, and may be worked by us either in our natural strength, or else by the gift of God. These kind of righteousness are also the gift of God, like all other good things which we enjoy.

But the most excellent righteousness of faith, which God through the Anointed One, without any works, imputes to us, is neither political, nor ceremonial, nor the righteousness of God’s Law, nor consists of works, but is contrary to these; that is to say, it is a mere passive righteousness, as the others are active. For in the righteousness of faith, we work nothing, we render nothing to God, but we only receive and allow another to work in us, that is to say, God. This is righteousness hidden in a mystery, which the world does not know. Indeed, Christians themselves do not thoroughly understand it, and can hardly take hold of it in their temptations. Therefore, it must be diligently taught and continually practiced.

The troubled conscience, in view of God’s judgment, has no remedy against desperation and eternal death, unless it takes hold of the forgiveness of sins by free grace, freely offered in the Anointed One Jesus, which if it can apprehend, it may then be at rest. Then I can boldly say: I seek not active or working righteousness, for if I had it, I could not trust it, neither dare I make it a barrier against the judgment of God. Then I abandon myself from all active righteousness, both of my own and of God’s law, and embrace only that passive righteousness, which is the righteousness of grace, mercy, and forgiveness of sins. I rest only upon that righteousness, which is the righteousness of the Anointed One and the Holy Spirit. The highest wisdom of Christians is not to know the law and be ignorant of works, especially when the conscience is wrestling with God. But among those who are not God’s people, the greatest wisdom is to know the law and is assuredly persuaded in his heart there is now no law, nor wrath of God, but only grace and mercy for the Anointed One’s sake, he cannot be saved; for by the law comes the knowledge of sin. Conversely, works and the keeping of the law is strictly required in the world, as if there were no promise or grace.

A wise and faithful practitioner of the Word of God must so moderate the law that it may be kept within its bounds. He that teaches that men are justified before God by the observation of the law, passes the bounds of the law and confounds these two kinds of righteousness, active and passive. Conversely, he presents the law and works to the old self, and the promise and forgiveness of sins and God’s mercy to the new self divides the Word well. For the flesh or the old self must be coupled with the law and works; the spirit or the new self must be joined with the promise of God and His mercy.

When I see a person oppressed with the law, terrified with sin, and thirsting for comfort, it is time that I remove out of their sight the law and active righteousness, and set before them the gospel, the Christian or passive righteousness, which offers the promise made in the Anointed One, who came for afflicted and sinners.

We teach the difference between these two kinds of righteousness, active and passive, to the end that manners and faith, works and grace, political and religious, should not be confounded, or taken the one for the other. Both are necessary, but each must be kept within its bounds: Christian righteousness pertains to the new self, and the righteousness of the law pertains to the old self, which is born of flesh and blood. Upon this old self, as upon a donkey, there must be laid a burden that may press self down, and they must not enjoy the freedom of the spirit of grace, except they first put upon self the new self, by faith in the Anointed One. Then may they enjoy the kingdom and inestimable gift of grace. This I say so that no man should think we reject or forbid good works.

We imagine two worlds, the one heavenly, the other earthly. In these, we place these two kinds of righteousness, the one far different from the other. The righteousness of the law is earthly and deals with earthly things. But Christian righteousness is heavenly, which we have not of ourselves, but receive from heaven; we work not for it, but by grace, it is worked in us and is realized by faith.

Do we then do nothing? Do we do nothing at all for the obtaining of this righteousness? I answer, Nothing at all! For this is perfect righteousness, to do nothing, to hear nothing, to know nothing of the law, or of works, but to know and believe this only, that the Anointed One is gone to the Father, and is not now seen; that He sits in heaven at the right hand of His Father, not as a judge, but made unto us of God, wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption — briefly, that He is our high priest entreating for us, and reigning over us, and in us, by grace. In this heavenly righteousness, sin can have no place, for there is no law; and where there is no law, there can be no transgression.1 Seeing then that here sin has no place, there can be no anguish of conscience, no fear, no heaviness. Therefore, John says: “He that is born of God cannot sin.”2

But if there is any fear or grief of conscience, it is a token that this righteousness is withdrawn, that grace is hidden, and that the Anointed One is hidden out of sight. But where the Anointed One is truly seen, there must be full and perfect joy in the Lord, with peace of conscience, which thinks this way: Although I am a sinner by the law and under condemnation of the law, yet I do not despair, yet I do not die, because the Anointed One lives, who is both my righteousness and my everlasting life. In that righteousness and life, I have no sin, no fear, no sting of conscience, no care of death. I am indeed a sinner as applied to this present life, and its righteousness, as a child of Adam. But I have another righteousness and life eternal; by whom this my body, being dead and brought to dust, shall be raised up again, and delivered from the bondage of the law and sin, and shall be sanctified together with my spirit.

So both these continue while we live here. The flesh is accused, exercised with temptations, oppressed with heaviness and sorrow, bruised by the active righteousness of the law; but the spirit reigns, rejoices, and is saved by this passive and Christian righteousness, because it knows that it has a Lord in Heaven, at the right hand of His Father, who abolished the law, sin, death, and has trodden under His feet all evils, led them captive, and triumphed over them in Himself3.4

Martin Luther

1 Romans 4:15

1 John 5:18

3 Colossians 2:15

Redacted by RRS to modernize the vocabulary

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

Image result for apostle paul

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

How it all began. . .

Back in 1966, I was given the privilege of becoming a faculty member at the European Bible Seminary in Wienacht, Switzerland. At that time, besides the King James Version of the English Bible, there were three other English Translations in my library. Each year I read the whole Bible through once and the Final Covenant twice. I noticed by reading different translations it forced me to pay closer attention to the text because I was so familiar with the KJV that the words and phrases became common to me.

This started me on the path that led to collecting almost two hundred English translations, some of the whole Bible, some with just the First Covenant (O.T.), some with only the Final Covenant (N.T.), and some with just the Gospels, Epistles, and some with only one particular book. As I read through the Scriptures in this manner, I began to jot down the various thoughts and revelations that the Holy Spirit flashed in my mind as I read familiar stories in unfamiliar translations, including German. I wrote each comment in whatever color ink I assigned to that particular translation. For instance, when I read using the New American Standard Bible, all my comments were in blue. That way I knew which translation I was reading when the thought occurred to me. It was then that a dream formed in my mind and ended up in my heart. I wanted to write a commentary using all these new items of inspiration.

For over the next eight years, my little notebook became thicker and thicker until the widest binder I found in the Swiss stationary store became crammed full of handwritten notes. When I returned to the United States, I often consulted my comments on the Final Covenant for sermon preparation when I pastored at Calvary Temple in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Then as Dean of Students at Northwest Bible College in Minot, North Dakota, I used it for some of my classes on Homiletics. I consulted it again when I pastored in Lemon, South Dakota. Then after being sent to Asia to help open the Asian Center for Christian Ministries in Makati, Metro Manila, again I found a use for my notebook for the classes I taught there as President and Professor for the Asian Seminary for Christian Ministries. When I left Asia, instead of the sponsoring Mission Department paying the cost of shipping my library back to the USA, I agreed to donate my two thousand book library to ASCM for their library and keep the shipping cost.

After returning to America in 1994, my career path changed when I was given the opportunity to join a Clinical Pastoral Education Group and Chaplain resident at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida. I would later earn my Board Certification as a Hospice Chaplain. I kept my notebook on my library shelf and never knew if I’d ever use it again. After retiring from the Chaplaincy, I ended up in New Orleans, Louisiana as Director of the American Cancer Society’s Patrick F. Taylor Hope Lodge. It was during my tour there that I received a request from my sister Joan living in Maryland to do a Bible Study on the internet. That’s when I reached for my notebook that was now forty years old. This drove me to do more research and I went on the internet looking to buy my best commentaries.

That’s when the Spirit opened my eyes to the fact that most of the commentaries I once possessed were now available online and through the Logos Bible Study Application. That made it even better because now I was able to employ the search engine to find the exact word or theme I was looking for. It wasn’t until I retired from the Hope Lodge and moved to Houston, Texas, that one day while looking at my commentary notebook, it was as if the Spirit spoke to me and said now you have time to do what you’ve always wanted to do: write a commentary. So I decided to choose two of my favorite books: Romans and Galatians. For the last seven years, I’ve enjoyed and felt privileged to see my dream come true.

Through all of this another concept was conceived with the Spirit’s help: to write a commentary that took into account the following factors: In my research, I decided to look for the earliest comments made on Romans and Galatians by ancient and early church writers. After all, Paul wrote his Epistles only some twenty years after meeting and talking with the Anointed One, Jesus of Nazareth, on the road to Damascus. There’s no one better to tell us what Jesus told him than Paul himself? Then I wanted to see what any disciples of the first Apostles wrote as a commentary on what the Apostles taught them. I wanted to trace these comments down through the centuries until today so that the reader would be able to see what was said back then and what was being said today. I was also blessed to have a book I published on the Fruit of the Spirit that came from my doctoral thesis to enhance Chapter Five.

The next thing I wanted to do was be conscious of the world these writers lived in, what were the things they felt forced to deal with and how it affected the tone and content of their works. I took this from my own practice after reading a text to my congregation or audience, I’d tell them before I started my sermon or teaching: Who wrote it? Who did they write it to? What was their reason for writing it? What were they writing it for? What issues were addressed in their letter? And finally, what effect does what they wrote have on us today? That’s the context I wanted the readers to know in writing this commentary here.

So for his letter to the Galatians, in answer to these questions: Paul wrote this letter; he wrote it to the churches in Galatia, just north of his hometown of Tarsus; he wrote it because he learned they were tricked into believing that he did not tell them the whole truth on how to be justified in believing that they were right with God. He left out the requirements of the Jewish Torah, Oral Traditions, and ceremonial laws that Jews believed were necessary for completing their salvation. In doing so, he attempted to persuade them to change their minds and stay in the grace of God. One of the main problems was that the Church consisted of converted Jews and Gentiles to Christianity; and one of the main issues was that some false teachers came from Jerusalem, claiming to be sent by James, the brother of our Lord, to make sure that the Gentiles became followers of the ceremonial laws of the First Covenant, especially the rite of circumcision for the male members. They were afraid that by accepting the Final Covenant from the Anointed One, they were opting out of the First Covenant that made them part of the spiritual family of Abraham as part of the Anointed One’s church.

In doing research on the older commentaries and other writings, I noticed that most of them were translated into English from Latin, Greek, and Hebrew manuscripts. The English vocabulary and grammar used by these centuries-old translators was much different than our English words and sentence structure today. Furthermore, they followed Latin grammar and made reading the English text more difficult. My thought was, that since these were English translations, I would be doing no harm in choosing the English vocabulary we use today. I did not want my readers to constantly stumble over unfamiliar antique words thereby causing them to lose interest.

My precious wife Aurora was a great help to me. Since English is her second language, she knew better than I what vocabulary made reading the text easier and more interesting to people like her. So she did the proofreading, giving me the opportunity of changing the language to make it clearer and more engrossing. Also, after teaching in Bible Schools and a Seminary I developed the language of the classroom which most laypeople do not understand without an explanation. So I rebaptized them in the pool of simplicity to make them easier to comprehend. For instance, I once spoke of an early church exegete. She was unfamiliar with that term, so I baptized it and gave him a new title: early church interpreter of the Scriptures.

And lastly, most of the over one hundred commentaries in my former library were written for Bible students, pastors, and teachers. I wanted mine to be for those who were not given the opportunity to attend a Bible College or Seminary. I wanted to make those whom I quoted from the past and from my own comments as though they and I were speaking directly to the reader in a language they understood. No, this is not dumbing down, it is exhorting and lifting up their Biblical understanding to a new, higher level.

The Scriptural text used predominantly throughout this commentary is mostly my paraphrase aided with the help of the New Life Translation, New Living Translation, Living Bible, Easy-to-Read Version, and The Complete Jewish Bible. There is one more factor I considered, I wanted the reader to know whether any Hebrew or Greek words used were nouns, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs. Whether or not they were used in the past, present, future, or continuous tense. This would help in seeing how these apply to the meaning and intent of the sentence. Are the verbs used in the Indicative Mood – stating an actuality or fact such as “I will go;” the Imperative Mood – making a request such as “I must go;” or the Subjunctive Mood – expressing a doubtful condition, contrary to a fact such as “If I were going.” Furthermore, to choose the right meaning for such words since they are often applied to many different English words and definitions. Sometimes parsing1 of words can be used as an excuse, but in Scripture, they help immensely in grammatically identifying an important part of the speech and how certain words are to be understood in their tense and mood.

In addition, I faced the choice of either using the common “past perfect tense of verbs” to indicate action completed at some point in the past before anything else happened. I chose rather to use the “imperfect past tense” instead. For example, instead of saying that the Jews had rejected Yeshua as the Messiah to say that the Jews rejected Yeshua the Messiah because they still reject Him today. Also, instead of saying that because of faith we were saved, I chose rather to say that because of faith we are saved. In other words, that is not something in the past but it is ongoing until the end when we are taken out of this world. The past participle “had” is one of the worst culprits.

Any and all resources quoted or alluded to in this commentary are meant to enlighten the reader as to the comments on Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians as close as possible to the earliest disciples following the original twelve Apostles. By sharing what they said does not indicate that I necessarily agree with anything or everything they wrote in sharing their interpretation of Paul’s writings. This required including some who were no doubt diametrically opposed to some of Paul’s points of view.

This is meant to alert the reader to what was being said at that time so they can look to see who among their contemporaries agreed or disputed their point of view. This is how we learn to decipher and discern those in harmony and those out of harmony with traditional understanding. This will make it easier to do the same as part of today’s exposition of Paul’s letter. Let the Holy Spirit, your conscience, and your learning be your guide.

In addition, I agree with those Bible scholars who feel that the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” do not reflect the real property of these two covenants. First of all, they are neither old or new since they were in God’s mind from eternity. It is only that one was given before the other. But there’s another factor. There were no other covenants before them nor will there be any after them. That’s why I have chosen to use the term “First Covenant” instead of Old Testament, and “Final Covenant” in place of New Testament. I hope you can get used to it instead of it causing confusion. If it does, forgive me.

Furthermore, we have become so accustomed to saying “Jesus Christ” in English that we do not know exactly what we are calling Him. Yes, His name was “Yeshua” (a proper masculine noun – Jesus, but His name was never “Christ” (an adjective) because He was the Christ, the Messiah – a title. In Greek, Christos literally means, “anointed.” I have no argument against calling him “Christos” with the Greek understanding that He is Jesus the “Anointed One,” it’s just the misunderstanding of calling Him “Christ” in English as though that was His last name. So here in Galatians, I have chosen to designate Him as, “Jesus the Anointed One.

1 Parsing a word means to analyze the word as part of a component that links it with meaning or function

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