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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I once read an article by Scott Ashley, managing editor of Beyond Today magazine, on his top 10 reasons why he didn’t celebrate Christmas.

One, because it is driven by commercialism.

Two, Christmas is nowhere mentioned in the Bible. In fact, the disciples never celebrated Jesus’ birth.

Three, Jesus wasn’t born on or near December 25. Some scholar suggests He was born in the same month in which He died.

Four, the Christmas holiday we celebrate now is mostly a recycled pagan celebration invented by the Romans. The Church in Rome decided to replace the pagan festival of Mithra, the Persian god of light that was practiced by the Romans on December the 25th.

Five, in Deuteronomy 12:30-32, God condemns using pagan customs to worship Him. The Apostle Paul reiterates this same thing in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 7:1.

Six, Christmas is worshipping God in vain. This is what Jesus said in Mark 7:6-7

Seven, it’s impossible to “Put Christ back into Christmas.” It sounds nice, but it’s only an attempt to replace Santa Claus and his flying reindeer, the Christmas tree, and mistletoe. If you want to put Christ back into Christmas, then you must return to the manger in Bethlehem and hear the angels sing to the shepherds. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill to all.”

Eight, the Bible nowhere tells us to observe a holiday celebrating Jesus Christ’s birth, but it clearly does tell us to commemorate His death. The Apostle Paul passed this along to the Jews and Gentiles in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11:23-28).

Nine, Christmas obscures God’s plan for mankind. Passover, mentioned above, has enormous significance in God’s plan for humanity. The Old Testament Passover, described in Exodus 12, was symbolic of Jesus Christ’s future role and sacrifice. As the blood of the slain Passover lambs on the Israelites’ houses spared them while the firstborns of the Egyptians were killed, so does Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf save us from death— eternal death.

Ten, instead, he’d rather celebrate the Holy Days Jesus Christ and the apostles observed. The first known use of the term “XMAS” was back in 1551 AD. That’s because “X” is the symbol for Christ, from the Greek letter “chi” – (X), which is the first letter in ΧριστόςChristós. So “Xmas” is shorthand for Christ (X)mas. When the Roman church decided to replace the pagan holiday celebrated by the Romans, they planned to celebrate a Mass on December 25th to honor the birth of Christ, not the Persian god of light, Mithra.

It appears to me that Scott is really saying is that he refuses to take the Christmas holiday celebrated by the world as the real expression of the birth of Christ. So we, too, can delineate between Christmas and Xmas. But when it is all boiled down to a simple principle. Jesus wants us to celebrate His death in honor of His death in our place on the cross. But I’m sure He doesn’t mind when we celebrate a seasonal holiday that all came about because of His birth as long as our celebration is not construed with worship. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY!

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INTELLIGENT DESIGN THEORY IS NOT NEW

If you think the universe was formed in the big bang theory as the prevailing cosmological model for the birth of the universe, stars, and planets began in 1927, or the theory of evolution developed after the first edition of “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin in 1859, here is a little primer on what was being said over 800 years ago. When Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), medieval Jewish philosopher and theologian wrote his “Guide for the Perplexed,” this was already being discussed. Here is an excerpt for your perusal, and something you can use on those who believe this is a modern concept.

According to Aristotle, none of the products of nature are due to chance. His proof is this: That which is due to chance does not reappear constantly nor frequently, but all products of nature reappear either constantly or at least frequently. The heavens, with all that they contain, are constant; they never change, as has been explained, either as regards their essence nor as regards their place. But on planet earth, we find both things which are constant and things which reappear frequently [though not constantly]. Thus, for example, the heat of the fire and the erosion of stone are constant properties, while the form and life of the individuals in each species are the same in most cases.  If the parts of the universe are not accidental, how can the whole universe be considered as the result of chance? Therefore, the existence of the universe is not due to chance.

The following is, in short, the objection which Aristotle raises against one of the earlier philosophers who assumed that the universe is the result of chance and that it came into existence by itself, without any cause or effect. Some assume that the heavens and the whole universe came into existence spontaneously, as well as the rotation and motion [of the planets], which has produced a variety of things and established their present order. This opinion contains a great absurdity. They admit that animals and plants do not owe their existence or production to chance, but to a certain cause, be that cause nature, or reason, or the like. For example, they do not assume that everything might be formed by chance of a certain seed or semen, but that of a certain seed only an olive-tree is produced, and of certain semen, only a human being is developed.

Having thus examined this theory, Aristotle then proceeds to refute it at greater length. It is, therefore, clear that Aristotle believes and proves that things in real existence are not accidental; they cannot be accidental, because they are essential, namely, there is an unseen cause which necessitates that they should be in their actual condition, and on account of that cause they are just as they really are. This has been proven, and it is the opinion of Aristotle. But I do not think that, according to Aristotle, the rejection of the spontaneous origin of things implies the admission of Design and Will.

For as it is impossible to reconcile two opposites, so it is impossible to reconcile the two theories, that of necessary existence by causality, and that of Creation by the desire and will of a Creator. For the necessary existence assumed by Aristotle must be understood in this sense, that for everything that is not the product of work there must be a certain cause that produces it with its properties; for this cause, there is another cause, and for the second a third, and so on. The series of causes ends with the Prime Cause, from which everything derives existence since it is impossible that the series should continue ad infinitum. He nevertheless does not mean to say that the existence of the universe is the necessary product of the Creator, such as the Prime Cause, in the same manner as the shadow is caused by a body, or heat by fire, or light by the sun.

Even Aristotle holds that the Prime Cause is the highest and most perfect Intellect. He, therefore, says that the First Cause is pleased, satisfied, and delighted with that which necessarily derives existence from Him, and it is impossible that He should wish it to be different. But we do not call this “[evolutionary] design,” and it has nothing in common with [evolutionary] design.  Mankind is pleased, satisfied, and delighted that they are endowed with eyes and hands, and it is impossible that they should desire it to be otherwise, and yet the eyes and hands which a human has are not the results of their [own] design, and it is not by their own determination that they have certain properties and is able to perform certain actions.

The notion of design and determination applies only to things not yet in existence, when there is still the possibility of their being in accordance with the design or not. I do not know whether the modern Aristotelians understood his words to imply that the existence of the universe presupposes some cause in the sense of design and determination, or whether, in opposition to Aristotle, they assumed his idea of determining the outcome by design does not conflict with the theory of the Eternity of the Universe. There doesn’t seem to be a year that goes by without which we read the words, “Astronomers were astounded….” at some new discovery in space. The most recent being that the universe is larger than they ever thought it would be. They will never discover God in the universe because He is bigger than the universe. But they certainly have found His fingerprints, and that should be enough for them to finally accept the first verse of Genesis as real. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

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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

SUMMARY OF CHAPTER THREE

Paul begins chapter three with his personal argument about how the Galatians were justified by faith in the God-man Jesus. He asked them to remember how they received the blessing of the Holy Spirit and who brought it to them. It was Paul’s greatest concern that they were being misled into believing that they received the Spirit by their own adherence to the Law’s demands.

In a continuation of his argument based on justification by faith, Paul then points to Abraham as an example. It was his faith that was credited to him as being right with God. Also, he stressed that God would justify the nations by faith, and those who put their faith in Him would be blessed like Abraham.

Paul felt led to remind the Galatians that whoever lived by the works of the Law would suffer its curse. However, through the Anointed One, they were redeemed from such a curse. The priority of the promise over the Law was quite evident, according to Paul, given that the law was received 430 years after God made His promises to Abraham.

That promise was spoken to Abraham, but it was carried out through his Seed.  In essence, it was made by God to Himself; it was a one-party agreement between God and the God-man – the promised Seed, with Abraham as a witness. The God-man would be free to pour out His Spirit (the promise) on whomsoever He chose to receive it.

The Jews mistakenly saw the promise as being made by God to them, Abraham’s seeds. They saw the Law as an amendment to the original promise, a condition added to the covenant 430 years after it was first spoken to Abraham. If they would keep the Law, then the promise would be fulfilled. Paul is saying, “No!”  The Law is an entirely separate matter. It has nothing to do with the promise. It was simply a tutor to teach people that God cannot enter into a direct relationship with mankind; because of sin, there must be a mediator. Moses was simply a type of the true mediator, the God-man, the Anointed One Jesus. The proof that the Law has nothing to do with the fulfillment of the promise is that the promise involved one party (God and Himself), whereas the Law involves two (God and mankind). They are two separate matters.

And just because they are two separate matters doesn’t mean that they are in conflict with each other. In point of fact, the Law helps point us to the God-man so that we can participate in the blessing of the promise through faith in Him as our Mediator. We learned from the Law that we need a mediator, and we find the Anointed One to be the only mediator between God and mankind. And since the Anointed One is God, there is no need for an in-between mediator. God, through the Anointed One, is His own Mediator.

Paul also begins a discussion about the purpose of the Law. He informed the Galatians that the Law was added because of the transgressions of His people. But that ended when the Anointed One came with His message of grace and forgiveness. It served the purpose of confining everyone under sin until the promise by faith in the Anointed One could be fulfilled.

Now we enjoy the fulfillment of the promise, for we have all received the indwelling Holy Spirit; we are all “children of God through faith in the Anointed One Jesus.”  It was granted to Abraham that the inheritance of the promise to the God-man may be enjoyed by his descendants: “in him, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”[1]  Therefore, if you belong to the Anointed One, then you are Abraham’s spiritual descendants as heirs to the promise. Paul finally reminded them that they were all one in union with the Anointed One, and there were no restrictions based on race, gender, or class.

In conclusion, the whole point Paul is making in the book of Galatians is that grace works, not that works are grace!  Paul made it clear to the Corinthians that God was in Himself, reconciling the world to Himself.[2]  That’s what Paul was saying about the promise by God to the God-man.  It was a one-party deal.  Mankind had nothing to do with either its conception or its implementation so that no one could boast of having achieved it on their own.[3]

The Law, on the other hand, was a two-party deal requiring a mediator. It taught us that we need to come to God based on faith. The practical application of all this is grace, not works! Paul made it abundantly clear that having begun by the Spirit, you cannot now be perfected by rites, rituals, and regulations. Sanctification, just like salvation, is an inside-out process by the Holy Spirit, not outside-in by external works. As Jesus said, speaking of the Spirit: “Whoever believes in me…from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.[4] – Dr. Robert R Seyda

[1] Genesis 18:18

[2] 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

[3] See Ephesians 2:8,9

[4] John 7:38,39

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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 XLIX)

Yes indeed, remarks Chrysostom. From the beginning, God made special provisions for this union between Himself and mankind, teaching that the two were to be one.[1] So it is no surprise that here in verse twenty-eight Paul would openly declare that God does not see us as Jews or as Gentiles; He does not see us as a servant or as a person free to work; He does not see us as a man or as a woman but as one in Him through the Anointed One. So for Chrysostom, the emphasis here is unity, being of one mind and one accord in dealing with everyday issues, and he draws that analogy from the union between husband and wife – the Anointed One and the Church.[2] And in another place, Chrysostom offers that just as God first created Adam and then from one of his ribs he created his companion Eve, likewise, the Anointed One was in existence before the world began but God, so to speak, took one of His ribs to create the Church, His bride.[3]

Wesleyan scholar G. G. Findlay (1849-1919) explains what Paul concludes here in verses twenty-four through twenty-nine in a very clear and poetic way.  He writes, “The Anointed One never stands alone.” He stands in the midst of the Church – “Firstborn of many believers.”[4] He presents Himself, “standing in the presence of God for us.”[5] He has secured for mankind and keeps safe all its glorious heritage. In Him, we hold the ages past and those to come. The children of God are heirs to the universe.[6]

George B. Stevens (1854-1906) sees these last six verses as one of Paul’s motivation messages as he preached to the Galatians, here’s how Stevens imagines it was heard:

The Preparatory Office of the Law

Text: Galatians 3:23-29

I.  It was the office of the Law that imprisoned us by its condemnation until we were to be set free by believing in the Messiah. The Law may be called our tutor who, by his strict requirements and stern discipline, prepared us for Messiah and made us glad to find freedom and peace in Him by faith. But now, as believers, we are no longer subject to this severe master but possess the sense of liberty and sonship through Messiah. For truly, all believers have entered into a unique relationship with the Anointed One, which affects their whole attitude and standing. [7]

II.  The distinctions of nationality, condition, and gender are as nothing in the presence of that deeper unity which binds together all believers in the Messiah, so that all who believe, regardless of these distinctions, are really Abraham’s seed – since Abraham’s great significance was not in the fact that he was a Jew but in the fact that he was a man of faith, and therefore inherited the blessings promised to him and to his seed in the covenant which God made with him.

Archibald Robertson, in his Word Pictures, makes note of the grammar involved in calling the believers in Galatia “sons [offspring] of God.” For you are all sons of God, both Jews, and Gentiles[8] and in the same way “through faith in the Anointed One Jesus.” There is no other way to become “sons [offspring] of God” in the full ethical and spiritual sense that Paul means, not mere physical descendants of Abraham, but “sons [offspring] of Abraham,” “those by faith.”[9] The Jews are called by Jesus “the sons [offspring] of the Kingdom,”[10] in privilege, but not in fact. God is the Father of all mankind as Creator, but the spiritual Father only of those who by faith in the Anointed One Jesus receive “adoption” into His family.[11] Consequently, those led by the Spirit are sons [offspring] of God.[12] [13]

As Bible scholar Grant Osborne sees it, the message of chapter three is that the Law was a temporary instrument meant to point out the need for sinful people to get right with God, but never able to reconcile them to God. Rather, it served as a schoolmaster, keeping the Israelites locked up in the classroom, and unable to graduate until they completely fulfilled every Law on the books. Of course, that never happened. But the end was still in sight because a Messiah was promised who would do that task for them and then give them credit for having passed the course, as long as they believed it was only by Him, they were set free. When the Anointed One came and brought with Him the new era of salvation, He fulfilled the law and completed its purpose in Himself. Under the old system, Israel maintained its covenant relationship with God by performing the works of the Law. Now all peoples, Jews, and Gentiles alike are declared right with God by faith in the Anointed One. This passage specifies the results – that those who believe become the children of God and join His spiritual family.[14]

THE END OF CHAPTER THREE

[1] Genesis 1:27

[2] Chrysostom: Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, Homily 20, Text Ephesians 5:22-24, p. 302

[3] Chrysostom: Ibid. Homily 6, Text Colossians 2:6, 7, p. 596

[4] Romans 8:29

[5] See Exodus 25:8; Cf. Hebrews 9:24

[6] Expositor’s Commentary: On Galatians, G. G. Findlay, op. cit, loc., cit., p. 241

[7] George B. Stevens: Messages of Paul, On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 75-76

[8] See verse fourteen

[9] See verse seven

[10] Matthew 8:12

[11] See verse five; Cf. Romans 8:15, 23

[12] Romans 8:14

[13] Archibald Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament, op. cit., p. 1458

[14] Osborne, Grant R. On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 112–113

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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 XLVIII)

Cyril W. Emmet (1875-1924) delineates the terms “baptized into Christ” and “put on Christ.” Emmet says that the preposition “into” is very important.[1] The spiritual and, therefore, the absolutely real and vital union of the believer with the Anointed One is facilitated by Baptism.[2] As long as we look at Baptism as merely the entrance into a new family or the symbol of an inward change of heart, we cannot do justice to Paul’s thought. It meant to him real incorporation of the believer into union with the Anointed One, or from the opposite point of view, a filling of their spirit with the Spirit of the Anointed One. Paul’s teaching raising all of the rites of initiation among other religions, accompanied by water and blood, to a level that was readily understood and eagerly accepted.

Emmet then goes on to address “put on Christ.” The metaphor of putting on, or putting off a quality or character, like a robe, is common in the First Covenant and among Greek writers, and we find it used in other Epistles.[3] But here in verse twenty-seven,[4], the further step is taken by speaking of putting on a person. It was a common phrase also used by Greek writers to express love and close interaction between two persons. For example, in a narrative about the Pythagorean revolt, the emphasis is “put on ” Pythagoras’ escape and his subsequent wanderings that led to his death.” It means to emulate his example. In that sense, this expression emphasizes the closeness of the union between the Anointed One and the baptized convert. It must be connected with phrases such as the terms “the Anointed One in you,” and “in union with the Anointed One Jesus.”[5]

3:28-29 Furthermore, we no longer identify each other as Jews or non-Jews, slaves or free, male or female. We all have one origin as members of the one spiritual body of the Anointed One And now that we are one with the Anointed One, that makes us the real spiritual children and true heirs of Abraham. Yes, all the promises God made to Abraham now belong to us.

The Apostle Paul felt free and empowered to say this because, as he told the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”[6] In other words, this transfer from being a Gentile or Jew unbeliever into becoming a believer was not the result of some ritual or ceremony, it was by the transforming power of God.[7] There is neither those still tied to another religion nor those with no religion. In the Anointed One, we are all of ONE religion. That’s why Paul tells the Ephesians, “Strive to live together as one with the help of the Holy Spirit. Then there will be peace. There is one body and one Spirit. There is one hope in which you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. There is one God. He is the Father of us all. He is over us all. He is the One working through us all. He is the One living in us all.”[8]

Now Paul erases all trace of identity other than being like the Anointed One. Of course, there are Christian women, and Christian men, and Christians from nations all over the earth, from every category: wealthy, poor, educated, uneducated, strong, weak, and so on. Being a Christian does not change our race, color, gender, or ethnicity. Those will not change. But when it comes to being cleansed by the Anointed One’s blood and receiving the gift of eternal life with God’s favor being passed along, there is no discrimination.  He does not bless men more than women or the educated more than the uneducated. The Holy Spirit does not do any less for one than the other. No matter what a person’s station in life or claim to fame, when they sit down on the pew or kneel at the altar, they are no more or any less than the person sitting or kneeling beside them.

Paul told the Corinthians that they belong to the Anointed One, and the Anointed One belongs to God. That is a very high position to be given. This is important to know because Paul goes on to say that the Anointed One was raised from the dead first. Then all those who belong to the Anointed One will be raised from the dead when He returns.[9] So it is important that we don’t see our relationship with our heavenly Father in the same way we view our relationship with our earthly father. We cannot look at those from other families, nations, ethnic and racial groups as being descendants from our earthly father, but as Christians, we can view any person from every one of these as a spiritual brother or sister in the Anointed One.[10]

That’s why Paul told the Roman believers that while Abraham became the early father of all those who went through the rite of circumcision to become identified as God’s children, it wasn’t because they were circumcised but that they put their trust in God the same way as Abraham did. After all, he was declared right with God before he was circumcised. In the same way, we are declared right with God before we are baptized. So, that same promise was given to us because we put our trust in God. We can be sure of it. It is because of His Grace. It is for all the family of Abraham. It is for those who obey the Law. It is for those who put their trust in God, as Abraham did. In this way, he is the father of all Christians.

It cannot be denied, the Torah tells us that God told Abram, “I made you a father of many nations.”[11] This promise is good because of who God is. He makes the dead live again. He speaks, and something is made out of nothing. Abraham believed he would be the father of many nations. He found no reason to hope for this, but, nevertheless, he was told, “Your children will become many nations.”[12] Abraham was about one hundred years old. His body was not strong, but his faith in God was not weak when he thought of his body. His faith was not weak when he thought of his wife, Sarah, being past the age of having children. Abraham did not doubt God’s promise. His faith in God was strong, and he gave thanks to God. He was sure God could do all He promised to do.

But the Apostle Paul’s reason for making this statement of equal rights for all in the Anointed One was well-founded. In his work, “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers,” Greek writer Diogenes Laërtius states that Hermippus of Smyrna, in his work called Bioi (Lives), quotes the philosopher Thales from Miletus as saying – what some believe actually came from Socrates; that he used to say he thanked fortune for three things: – first of all, that he was born a (hu)man and not a beast; secondly, that he was a man and not a woman; and thirdly, that he was a Greek and not a barbarian. [13]

Later in Jewish history, Jewish men gave benedictions to end each Morning Prayer. According to the Talmud, it was taught that Rabbi Judah said, “A man is bound to say the following three blessings daily: ‘Blessed art Thou, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who has made me an Israelite and not a heathen; who has made me a man and not a woman; and who has made me an Israelite and not a slave.’”  Legends tell us that Rabbi Aha ben Jacob once overhead his son saying, “Blessed art Thou, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe…who hast made me an Israelite and not an uncivilized man.” The Rabbi quickly objected and told his son to say, “Who has not made me a slave.”  The son replied, “Isn’t that on the same level as a woman?”  The Rabbi quickly retorted, “No, a slave is just more contemptible.”[14]

Often when our great Church father Augustine would find himself involved in controversy over differing points of theological view, he would remark to his friends: “Remember, we are washed in the same blood.”  It would be very easy to add that we are all saved at the same cross; we are all redeemed by the same Savior; we are all washed of our sins by the same blood; our names are all written in the same Book of Life, and we will all rise up on the same resurrection day.

So, says the Apostle Paul, if you belong to the Anointed One, then you’re a spiritual descendant of Abraham. And since you are a spiritual descendant of Abraham, then you are included in God’s last will and testament as an heir. Paul would write to the Romans later: “For His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are His children, we are His heirs.  In fact, joined together with the Anointed One we are heirs of God’s glory…”[15]

We do not belong to God because of our race, color, ethnicity, gender, wealth, or education; we were all purchased by the same blood of Jesus the Anointed One. We are not children of God because we bargained with Him or proved worthy by completing difficult challenges or proved ourselves to be part of an elite class in society. We were granted that privilege by His amazing grace. We did not become His because we courted Him or got His attention with our talents and abilities, or caught His eye because we demonstrated our uniqueness. While we were yet worthless sinners, the Anointed One died for us.

So, here’s the word to the Judaizers who want the Gentile believers to vacate their position obtained by grace in the Anointed One, and try to achieve the same through Mosaic Law with all its complexities: it can’t be done; it is a lose-lose situation. What would you think of someone who by the generosity of a wealthy benefactor received an inheritance that set them free to pursue their life’s dream of becoming an inspiration to all people drowning in misery and unable to help themselves, who then refused to accept that gift because they wanted to earn the same amount of money needed, by going from door to door begging for donations, all because they wanted to get the credit for the money raised!  “My LORD!” I can hear the Apostle Paul say as he exhales in frustration, “will the Galatians ever get the point! This is God’s plan, and God doesn’t make mistakes.”

Chrysostom pens several comments on verse twenty-eight. In one sermon, he is addressing what Paul said to the Ephesians that a wife should be in subjection to her husband in the same way that the Anointed One is head of the Church, His bride.[16] Chrysostom bases this on several Scriptures in the First Covenant. For instance, a certain wise man says Chrysostom, wrote down a number of things considered to be a blessing and included this: “I take pleasure in three things, and they are beautiful in the sight of God and of mortals: agreement among brothers and sisters, friendship among neighbors, and a wife and a husband who live in harmony.”[17] And elsewhere again, he puts it in with blessings that a friend or companion is always welcome, but a sensible wife is better than either.[18]

[1] Matthew 28:19 – Revised Version

[2] Cf. Romans 6:3-11

[3] See Romans 13:12; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10, et al.

[4] See also Romans 13:14

[5] Cyril W. Emmet: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 37

[6] Romans 1:16

[7] See 1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 3:11

[8] Ephesians 4:2-6

[9] 1 Corinthians 15:23

[10] 2 Corinthians 7

[11] Genesis 17:5

[12] Ibid. 15:5

[13] The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laërtius, translated by C. D. Yong, London, George Bell & Sons, 1901, p. 18

[14] See: Jewish Talmudic Quotes – Facts Are Facts

[15] Romans 8:16-17a

[16] Ephesians 5:22-24

[17] Ecclesiasticus (Sirach): 25:1 – New Revised Standard Version

[18] Ibid. 40:23

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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 XLVII)

Concerning the Trinity, Poitiers stated that the following are not his own ideas, nor did he put them together in order to confuse those reading them by manipulating the language used. Rather, sticking with sound teaching, we preach the things which are true. For the Apostle shows that this unity of the faithful arises from the nature of the sacraments when he writes to the Galatians. All of you who were baptized into union with the Anointed One put on the Anointed One like a robe. There is now neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female; all are now one in the Anointed One Jesus. And this happened amid such a great diversity of races, ethnicities, colors, and genders. So the question is, was such unity achieved because everyone decided to have unity, or did it come through the sacrament of baptism that everyone submitted too and became one in the Anointed One? The second question is, will that unity remain unbroken simply because they are of one mind, or can it only remain unbroken because they are one in the Anointed One?[1]

For William Burkitt (1650-1703), there are three things we must take note of here in verse twenty-six. First: a glorious Gospel privilege is discovered for our benefit, namely, adoption into God’s family. We are no longer servants, but children of God. God’s church operating under the Final Covenant offers the special status of kinship through adoption to whomever such privileges and guarantees, that normally belong only to those born into the family once they grow up to maturity as adults are given.

Second: the universality of this privilege is offered to both Jews and Gentiles, the weak and the strong, young, and old believers alike. Each child’s relationship with the Father is not what Burkitt refers to in Latin, “recipere majus et minus” (“receive major or minor”). In other words, when God draws sinners to Him, and they arrive at the cross, they are neither greater or lesser. All come to Him on the same level. God is not more of a Father to one child than to another: the young one in the cradle may call the parent daddy, as well as when they are grown into manhood. We are all the children equal in God’s sight.

Third: The same instrumental cause of this blessed privilege is the same for all – faith in the Messiah, Jesus. Through the Messiah, God invests every believer, those weak in faith as well as those strong in faith, this glorious privilege of adoption. Burkitt points out that faith in the Messiah to come, entitled believers under the First Covenant the dignity of being His spiritual children; and faith in the Messiah who came, add some this particular dignity to believers under the Final Covenant. However, now that the Messiah has returned back into heaven, they along with us are all the spiritual children of God, through faith in the Messiah, Jesus; the Messiah who as God’s only Son became a servant, that we slaves might become God’s sons and daughters as well.[2] Apparently, this reality was lost on the Galatians.

Justin Edwards (1787-1816), in examining what the Apostle Paul says here in verse twenty-seven that as many as are baptized into the Anointed One since they believe in Him with all their heart to become right with God, and testify and profess their faith in Him, have put on the Anointed One. In other words, they exchanged their own self-righteousness for the Anointed One’s righteousness to gain salvation and sanctification. Now they enjoy unity with Him, and as a consequence, are being conformed to Him. This means they can now think with the mind that is in Him, and live as He lived. It reminded Edwards of a saying he read in James McKnight’s commentary of an allusion to the symbolical rite, which usually accompanied baptism in England long ago. The person to be baptized took off their old clothes before they went into the water, and then put on their new or clean clothes when they came out of the water. This was to signify that they put off their old corrupt nature, with all its former bad principles and unethical practices, and was now a new creature in the Anointed One.[3] Hence the expressions, putting off the old man and putting on the new.[4] [5]

In one of his morning devotions, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) comments on what Paul says here in verse twenty-six that we are all children of God by faith in the Anointed One. We need to look at it this way, says Spurgeon, the fatherhood of God is the same for all His children. You may criticize yourself for having too little faith, wishing you could be like those who are courageous, like Great-Heart (in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress), a Christian pilgrim with his sword, helmet, and shield, to whom another pilgrim named “Interpreter,” gave his daughters for safekeeping so he could protect them on their way to the house called Beautiful.[6] But, sadly, we stumble over straws and even shadows that make us afraid.” But wait a minute, oh you of little faith, just as Great-heart is God’s child, we are God’s children too, Great-heart is not one scintilla more God’s child than we are. Peter and Paul, the highly-favored Apostles, part of the family of the Most High God, and so are we. A weak Christian is just as much a child of God as the strongest one.[7]

Spurgeon then finishes, as he often did, by quoting from some hymn or poem. Here he chooses the second stanza from John Kent’s (1766-1843) hymn that reads.

“This covenant stands secure,

Though earth’s old pillars bow;

The strong, the feeble, and the weak,

Are one in Jesus now.”[8]

August H. Strong (1836-1921) feel that we should not regard the figures of speech or word-pictures used by Paul as merely Oriental metaphors, the fact of the believer’s union with the Anointed One is asserted in the most direct and matter-of-fact manner throughout Scripture.[9] That’s why the believer is said to live in the Anointed One who serves as the element or atmosphere which surrounds them with its perpetual presence and which represents their vital breath. In fact, this phrase “in” the Anointed One means “united” with the Anointed One, is the very key to Paul’s epistles and to the whole Final Covenant. The fact, that’s what Paul says here that the believer is one with the Anointed One and symbolized when they are immersed in water baptism, they are “baptized into the Anointed One.”[10]

Frederic Rendall (1840-1906) reminds us of a cultural event that took place among the Roman youth when they exchanged their toga prætexta (“white toga with a broad purple hem”) for a toga virilis (“solid white toga”), signifying their transition as adults into the rank of citizens.[11] Before this transition, they were under the control of rules and regulations, as a child should be in their father’s house. But once they put on the white toga, they possessed the independence of a grown-up child. This recalls what was said to Joshua about removing his filthy clothes and putting on clean clothes in order to take his place as the high priest.[12] But we can also relate it to what Paul says about laying aside the garments of darkness and putting on the armor of light, which is Jesus Messiah.[13] [14]

Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918) highlights a little-known fact by pointing to the Anointed One’s Sermon on the Mount, where the Lord seems to say that by loving their enemy’s people may become “children of God.” But this is utterly opposed to Christian doctrine. It is by birth, and only by birth that the relationship between father and child can be created. Moreover, the Lord was there addressing His disciples.[15] Again, the KJV., reads, “As many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the “sons of God,” even to them that believe on His name, which was born…of God.”[16] But this is also inaccurate. Thus, it is indeed that we become children of God, and “children” is the word here used, but sonship connotes what children ought to be. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons [and daughters] of God.”[17]

To many, says Anderson, this statement may seem startling, but its truth can be easily tested. In the Final Covenant believers in union with the Anointed One are never designated “sons of God.” In other words, that phrase never occurs as a mere synonym for “children of God.” The words here in verse twenty-six may seem to be an exception to this, but in fact, they afford a striking illustration of it. For when the Apostle writes, “You are all the sons of God, through faith, in the Anointed One Jesus,” he uses the word “sons” in a peculiar sense, his purpose being to mark the difference between the position of children under age, and of those who have attained adulthood. In this Christian dispensation, the people of God are no longer treated as minors, “under tutors and governors,” but are now deemed to be of full age, and take rank as adults.[18] This is fully supported in the next two verses.

Benjamin W. Bacon (1860-1932) responds to verse twenty-seven. He says that baptism, which all alike have undergone, by its very symbolism of immersion, and its accompaniment of gifts of the Spirit, is the proof of this unity “in Christ.” The thought is more fully developed in his letter to the Romans,[19] where the fundamental significance of the rite, as viewed by Paul, is made apparent. Paul’s ruling principle is that for redemption, a new infusion of “spirit” is indispensable to emancipate our flesh from the dominion of sin, and this divine operation of grace is absolutely conditioned upon the renunciation of all attempts at self-justification in a spirit of family trust.

In accordance with this principle, baptism always symbolizes death and resurrection for Paul. The elements of this change are the cessation of life conceived as a self-centered activity, and the beginning of eternal life, which is “hidden with Christ in God,” and this is not one’s own life, either in origin or direction.[20] The most essential “teaching of baptisms,” therefore, is “repentance from dead works and faith toward God,”[21] since by this means we “put on Christ,[22] whose all-surrounding, all-pervading Spirit is a “Red Sea” of grace in which all believers are baptized into mystic union with Christ, as the fathers “were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and the sea.”[23] [24]

[1] Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Bk. 8, Para 8, p. 414

[2] William Burkitt: On Galatians, op., cit., p. 320

[3] See Ephesians 4:22, 24

[4] James Macknight: A New Literal Translation from the Original Greek of all the Apostolical Epistles with Commentary and Notes, New Edition, Vol. III, Published by Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown, Edinburgh, 1821, p. 160

[5] John Edwards: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[6] Great-heart is a character in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, From This World to That Which Is to Come: In the Similitude of a Dream, The Third Stage, p. 237

[7] Charles Spurgeon:  Morning and Evening Daily Readings, March 18, p. 157

[8] Grove Chapel Pulpit, Twenty-Four Sermons by Thomas Bradbury, Vol IV, Robert Banks, London, 1880, p. 96

[9] See John 14:20; Romans 6:11; 8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 1:4; 2:13

[10] August H. Strong: Systematic Theology, op. cit., Vol. 3, Sec. 2, p.40

[11] This occurred at age fifteen

[12] Zechariah 3:3-4

[13] Romans 13:12-14; see Ephesians 6:11

[14] Frederic Rendall: On Galatians, op., cit., loc., cit., p. 174

[15] Matthew 5:44, 45

[16] John 1:12,13

[17] Romans 8:14; 2 Corinthians 6:17,18

[18] Sir Robert Anderson: The Lord from Heaven, Ch. 2.

[19] Romans 6:3-11

[20] Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians. 5:15; Colossians. 2:12, 20; 3:1; Philippians. 2:13;

[21] Hebrews 6:1-2

[22] Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:9-11

[23] 1 Corinthians 10:2

[24] Benjamin W. Bacon: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 83–84

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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 XLVI)

So, there is more than one way that gives one the right to be called a child of God, other than baptism. First, Paul explained this clearly to the Romans when he talked about how children of God after baptism are then led by the Spirit of God.[1] Furthermore, becoming a child of God is not by chance or some form of self-denial. We are all children of God because it was in His plans for us from the beginning.[2] For the Gentiles in Galatia who were hardly considered human by Jewish standards, and for the Jewish believers who believed that their standing before God depended on their complete obedience to Mosaic Law,  now being told they were both children of the Most High was incomprehensible. Jews were at best only children of Israel and descendants of their father, Abraham. But for Gentiles and converted Jews to be called “God’s children,” even though they no longer needed to be circumcised or observe religious rituals and regulations devoutly, it was unthinkable. This implied that their unique relationship with God directly, not as a grandchild or great-grandchild, but His immediate family. And it all came about because of their complete faith in Jesus the Anointed One and His obedience to God rather than their perfect obedience to Mosaic Law.

As such, God no longer existed as a deep, thunderous voice in the sky that looked for people to judge and condemn because they failed to meet His standards, but as a loving, caring, forgiving Father who carried them in His arms, close to His heart.  In the words of John: “To all those who accepted Him, He gave the right for them to be declared children of God; a guarantee to all who truly believed that He was who He said He was.”[3]

Secondly, Paul tells the Galatian believers that they were baptized into the Anointed One. There’s little reason to suspect that any of these believers were not baptized in water in obedience to the Anointed One’s mandate. After all, as His disciples went out into the world, they were to preach the Gospel to everyone and then baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But Paul adds that their baptism into water symbolized their baptism into union with the Anointed One. Water baptism typifies two main aspects of a believer’s experience in becoming a new creation in the Anointed One Jesus. Going down into the water and coming back up illustrates their cleansing from sin. “Go down dirty, come up clean.” Also, going down into the water and coming back up exemplifies their new birth. “Go down dead, come up alive.”

Since Paul did not emphasize “water” in his reference to baptism, many theologians believe that Paul saw an additional embodiment of the believer’s position in the Anointed One.  It not only signifies their union with the Anointed One but their communion with Him.  When Jesus commissioned His disciples to baptize in the Name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Matthew used the Greek noun onoma, translated as “name” that encompasses everything that name stands for; every thought or feeling aroused in the mind when that name is mentioned, heard, or remembered; involving the rank, authority, interests, pleasure, command, character, and accomplishments that name represents.

Therefore, when the Galatians were baptized into union with the Anointed One, they received everything His name represents. It was a testimony that they received the fullness of His grace and the benefits of His sufferings, of His death and resurrection from the dead; by faith, they accepted the reality of their soul’s cleansing and the remission of their sins by His blood, and their justification by His righteousness; how He was delivered for their offenses, died for their sins, was buried in the grave taking their wrongdoings with Him and rose again for their justification; all of which baptism, performed primarily by immersion, is a powerful emblem of His redemption. For the Jews, circumcision served as God’s mark of ownership to set them apart from the heathen; now, Paul tells them that baptism is the new mark God wants all His children to wear as a sign of His ownership.

After you study this letter to the Galatians and then read Paul’s letter to the Romans, you’ll find many of these same points reiterated, only with more depth.  For instance, on being baptized into union with the Anointed One Paul said to the Roman believers, “Have you forgotten that when we were joined with the Anointed One Jesus in baptism, we joined Him in His death? For we died and were buried with the Anointed One by baptism; and just as the Anointed One was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with Him in His death, we will also be raised to life as He was.[4]

Since Paul received his teaching from Jesus directly, we can assume that on this subject the Anointed One reiterated what He said before to Nicodemus: “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water as a human and again of the Spirit as a believer.  Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to the spiritual life[5] Here, we see an engaging metaphor. A human’s first birth occurs as they emerge out of water in the womb, but they are only flesh and blood. However, to signify being born again, a person is returned to the water in baptism – representing the womb, but when they come up out of the water this time, it represents their emergence as a new spiritual creature in union with the Anointed One; born again in the spirit and of the Spirit.

It also serves as a public declaration that the believer is now a committed follower of Jesus the Anointed One. It served notice that God’s interests are their interests; that His manners are their manners; that His teachings are their teachings; that His will is their will; that His purpose is their purpose; that His goals are their goals; that His worldview is their worldview, and that His future is their future.

Thirdly, Paul tells the Galatians that all this becomes the same as putting on the Anointed One like a cloak. In other words, we wear Him daily as we go into the world. There’s a strong possibility that Paul was alluding to the necessity of changing out of wet clothes and putting on dry clothes after baptism; changing the dirty garb of the old creature for the pure robe of the new creature. To put on clothes that bear a strong identity with someone or something is to assume the person and character of that someone or something, and they who do so are bound to act the part, and sustain the character which they adopted.

For instance, I am proud that my cousin and one of my nephews were both in law enforcement at one time. Seeing them in their everyday clothes, they looked like average citizens. But when they put on the uniform of a police officer and state trooper, it radically changed their appearance. The same transformation takes place when a sinner is cleansed and then dons the garment of the Anointed One’s righteousness that marks them as one of His dedicated followers. People will notice the difference right away. If you’ve ever been to Thailand, you will recognize the Buddhist monks immediately by their dress. Paul was talking here about our being identified just as quickly as we go throughout the world, only he was referring to inner, not outer attire.

But it’s more profound than just appearance. When one wears a police uniform or armed forces uniform or fireman’s uniform, they display the attitude, characteristics, traits, and conduct identified with that uniform. But it becomes even more profound. They embody the heart and soul and spirit and nature of the uniform they wear. They are what they are not just on the outside, but through and through. The same is said of those who put on the Anointed One. You don’t just look like a Christian, you ARE a Christian. You don’t merely talk, act, think, perform, or live like a Christian; you ARE a Christian who speaks acts, thinks, performs, and lives like the Anointed One.

We all know what it feels like to dress up for an occasion, and how it makes us feel when we’re all decked out in our finery. Life also teaches us to dress appropriately for each occasion.  Paul is telling the Galatians that they need to dress appropriately when they go out into the world so people will recognize them as followers of Jesus. He was not referring to external clothing, but inner garments, even though outerwear will be affected by our spiritual fashion consciousness. That way, people can recognize your spiritual culture without asking. Oh yes, some skeptics may wonder if this may be nothing more than “dressing-up” or “putting on airs,” as some say, especially when you are trying to act holy.

Paul certainly did not suggest that Galatian believers try to create an illusion by the way they talked and acted; in other words, to imitate the Anointed One. No! He was speaking about the reality of being so dedicated to the Anointed One and everything He stood for and taught that it proved itself real and genuine. As the old saying goes: you can fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. Sinners can spot hypocrisy and false Christianity sooner than some Christians can.

People do more than simply associate us with Jesus; they look for our Christian characteristics to identify us as being true children of God. That is not something one can fake. For when you pray, He answers; when you speak the truth, He anoints it; when you lay on hands, He heals; when you tell the devil to get behind you, he flees. And for sure, when we die, we will be raised to life again to meet Jesus in the air.

Hilary of Poitiers (310-367 AD) was a staunch defender of the divinity of the Anointed One, although he was a gentle and courteous man. He devoted his time to writing some of the most significant theological treatises on the Trinity, and was like his Lord and Master in being labeled a “disturber of the peace.” In a very troubled period in the Church, he expressed openly both in debate and argument the things that were troubling the Church. Raised as a pagan, he was converted to Christianity when he met the God portrayed in the Holy Scriptures. He became the Bishop of Poitiers in France. His wife was still living when he was chosen, against his will, to be Bishop. He was soon taken up with battling what became the scourge of the fourth century, Arianism, which denied the divinity of the Anointed One.

Marius Victorinus adds his thoughts here. For him, the metaphor of inheritance refers to receiving eternal life. But how does this come about? By faith in Jesus the Anointed One, when we believe in Him, that He is the Son of God and that He Himself saves us and that He accomplished every requirement of the Law on our behalf. All these things are reported in the Gospel. But what should be noticed here is that, while Paul is stating this fact, he addresses it to them personally, offering incentives to persuade them more eagerly. “You all,” he says, “are children of God.” Before, he had said, “We are under a custodian.” Now, as it were, he repeats them anew, saying, “You are children of God” – but children only through faith in the Anointed One Jesus as the only one who can save them.[6]

[1] Romans 8:14-17

[2] Ephesians 1:5

[3] John 1:12

[4] Romans 6:4

[5] John 5:3-6

[6] Marius Victorinus: On Galatians, op. cit., Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). p. 50

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