CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XVII)

Simeon goes on to say that when Paul perceived that some of the Corinthian believers were lax in their opinions and conduct, he told them plainly if any person destroys their body which is God’s dwelling place, God will not stop the destruction. God’s dwelling place is holy, and you are the place where He dwells.[1] That’s why, in the passage before us, he, who on other occasions “was like a mother caring for children,”[2] was also filled with indignation against those who perverted the “Gospel of the Anointed One,” and denounced every one of them, even though they were an angel from heaven, with the most awful anathemas.[3] [4]

James Haldane took time to point out that in ten places Peter’s name is placed first before James and John.[5] But here, James is mentioned first. This may be because James was always in Jerusalem while Peter was still traveling. In fact, When the Lord delivered Peter from prison, his first words were that they go and tell James.[6] And at this meeting Paul attended in Jerusalem, Luke tells us that everyone kept quiet except James who stood up and asked them to listen to what he said.[7] Then when another visit was made, it says that Paul took everyone to see James.[8] And when Paul tells the Corinthians about this visit, he mentions that he saw James first before meeting the other Apostles.[9] So it appears that sometime between the days written of in the Gospels and those written after the Anointed One’s ascension, James replaced Peter as the recognized head of the mother congregation in Jerusalem.[10]

Catholic scholar George Haydock tries to argue against Calvin’s attempt to prove that Peter and his successors are not the overseers of all the congregations because Peter was the Apostle only to the Jews. But, says Haydock, Paul is not speaking not here of the power and jurisdiction that was given to Peter, but only the manner that he was used by God to spread the Gospel to the Jews first. It was judged proper that Peter should preach chiefly to the Jews, called the elect people of God, and that Paul should be sent to the Gentiles; yet both of them preached both to Jews and Gentiles. After all, it was Peter, by receiving Cornelius, who first opened the gate of salvation to the Gentiles, as he told the assembly, “Brothers, you know in the early days God was pleased to use me to preach the Good News to the people who are not Jews so they might put their trust in the Anointed One.[11] Yet Haydock agrees that with James, Cephas (Peter), and John named in that order, is proof enough that Paul did this because of the Jewish converts’ great respect for the Apostle James, Bishop of Jerusalem, where the ceremonies of the law of Moses were still being observed by many Christians.[12]

Scottish theologian John Eadie does not believe that there was a problem with two Gospels, one that was approved by the Apostles and Paul, and one by the Judaizers, nor does he think it was a matter of two distinct types of one Gospel. It was all about circumcision. The Jewish Christians led by Peter and John still practiced it as a national rite, while the Gentile Christians led by Paul did not need to practice it because it was never a Gentile ritual. So, the problem and controversy were settled by stating that the Gentiles would not look on the Jews with any contempt because they still practiced circumcision, and the Jews would not look on the Gentiles with disparagement because they didn’t practice it.  The problem with the Judaizers was the fact that they said it was required of all believers as part of their salvation.[13]

Charles Spurgeon felt inspired to write a devotional on verse ten. He begins by asking why God allows so many of His children to be poor? He could make them all rich if He wanted to; He could lay bags of gold at their doors; He could send them a large annual income; or fill their yards with an abundance of provisions, as He made the quails lie in heaps around the camp of Israel, and rained bread out of heaven to feed them. Did not the Psalmist say that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills?[14] With that He could supply them; He could make them the richest, the greatest, and the mightiest by bringing all their power and riches to the feet of His children. Even though there is no necessity that they should be poor, He chooses to do what He sees as the best for them.

Why is this? There are many reasons: one is, to give us, who are favored with enough, an opportunity of showing our love to Jesus. We show our love to the Anointed One when we sing of Him and when we pray to Him; but if there were none of His children in need in this world, we would lose the sweet privilege of demonstrating our love, by ministering in charitable giving to His poorer children. He ordained that through this we prove that our love stands not in word only, but in deed and in truth. If we truly love the Anointed One, we will care for those who are loved by Him. Those who are dear to Him will be dear to us. Let’s not look on it as a duty but as a privilege to relieve the poor of the Lord’s flock-remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.[15] Surely this assurance is sweet enough, and this motive strong enough to lead us to help others with a willing hand and a loving heart-recollecting that all we do for His people is graciously accepted by the Anointed One as done to Himself.[16]

J. N. Darby (1800-1882), was an Anglo-Irish Bible teacher and active among the original Plymouth Brethren. He was somewhat annoyed at how the congregation in his day elevated Peter’s position in the congregation to exceed that of Paul when it came to the ministry among the Gentiles. He points out that we do not hear very often of Peter being spoken of as overseer of all the congregations. That Peter, ardent and full of zeal, began the work at Jerusalem, the Lord working mightily through him, is certain; we see it plainly in Scripture that there’s no record of Peter involved in work among the Gentiles outside Palestine. That work was done by Paul, who was sent by the Lord Himself, and Paul entirely rejected the authority of Peter. For him, Peter was but a man; and he, sent by the Anointed One, was independent of men. The congregations among the Gentiles, is the fruit of Paul’s, not of Peter’s work: it owed its origin to Paul. and to his labors, and in no way to Peter, whom Paul resisted with all his strength, in order to keep the congregations among the Gentiles free from the influence of that Mosaic legality which ruled Christians who were the fruit of Peter’s work. God maintained unity by His grace. So, the congregations faced being divided into two parts, even in the days of the Apostles themselves.[17]

Greek scholar Frederic Rendall suggests that the Greek verb energeō used here in verse eight (“wrought effectively” KJV), when applied to the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers, the preposition “in” shows the object of the Spirit’s work. So the absence of “in” before Peter’s name in the Greek text makes it clear that this work of grace is not directed toward the hearts of Peter and Paul, but the work of God “for” them to do for the promotion of the Gospel which they were called to preach to the Jews and Gentiles.[18] So the verse should read like this: “For the Spirit who was at work in Peter sent as an Apostle to the Jews, was also at work in Paul who was sent as an Apostles to the Gentiles.”

Grant Osborne believes that Paul’s Gospel and ministry were no challenge to the leaders of the congregation in Jerusalem. In fact, they were a God-ordained extension of their own ministry, the natural outgrowth of the Final Covenant reality in the Anointed One that God’s salvation is intended for Gentiles as well as Jews. The Greek verb pisteuō (“was committed unto” KJV; “had been entrusted” NIV), is a divine passive, meaning God was the One who acted in giving Paul his commission. So, it was not the Apostles but God who approved Paul; they simply recognized and endorsed what God already did. They did so because they recognized God’s hand on Paul, acknowledging that “the task of preaching the Gospel to the uncircumcised” (a common Jewish term for Gentiles), a divine commission he received from the Anointed One Himself.[19]

Messianic pastor Thomas Lancaster feels that the congregation, in general, made a tactical, as well as a theological, error in dismissing the Torah as a necessary part of the Gospel.  He points out that it is clear here that Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles was accepted, but it did not replace Peter’s ministry to the messianic Jews.  He reminds us that Paul’s Gospel was distinct from the Gospel of the rest of the Apostles and that his mission was an outgrowth of the mission of the Messiah to redeem Israel. Therefore, when Paul speaks of not being “under the law” and free from the obligation of circumcision, having freedom in the Spirit, and all of that, he was speaking to Gentiles – not to Jewish believers. Christianity overlooked that important detail, and Christian theology became a Gentile theology positioned against the Torah observance that taught (and still teaches today) that if a Jewish person becomes a Christian believer, they should be compelled to set aside the Torah and leave Judaism. What happened here? The theology of the Final Covenant is dominant over the First Covenant.[20]

With all respect to Brother Lancaster, who states emphatically that if faith in Yeshua means that Jewish people should be exempt from circumcision or the other commandments and distinctions imposed upon them by the Torah, then faith in Yeshua, for a Jewish person, is a sin against God. As Lancaster sees it, according to the Bible’s own testimony, Jesus must be scolded as a false prophet, and the Gospel message should be rejected, I would strongly disagree. For any Jew who comes to believe in Yeshua, first of all they are no longer Jewish believers, they are now Christian believers.  And as Christians, the old passed away and all things become new for them as a new creation in the Anointed One Jesus. As a Jew, they certainly continue to honor non-religious Jewish manners and customs. But to insist on circumcision as a needed sign to support their claim as natural children of Abraham as opposed to baptism as evidence that they are now spiritual children of Abraham, is to lessen the importance of the Anointed One’s death on the cross as the final sacrifice for sin, and to dismiss His claim that in Him all the words and requirements of the Torah and the Prophets are fulfilled. So, to follow Yeshua is to follow the Law.

[1] 1 Corinthians 3:17

[2] 1 Thessalonians 2:7

[3] Galatians 1:8-9

[4] Charles Simeon: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[5] See Matthew 10:2; 17:1; Mark 5:37; 9:2; 13:3; 14:33; Luke 6:14; 8:51; 9:28; Acts of the Apostles 1:13

[6] Acts of the Apostle 12:17

[7] Ibid. 15:13

[8] Ibid. 21:18

[9] 1 Corinthians 15:7

[10] James Haldane: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit. p. 74

[11] Acts of the Apostles 15:7

[12] George Haydock: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.,

[13] John Eadie: A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, Published by T & T Clarke, Edinburgh, 1869, p.124

[14] Psalm 50:10

[15] Matthew 25:40

[16] Charles Spurgeon: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[17] J. N. Darby: Notes on Galatians, Collected Writings of J. N. Darby

[18] Frederic Rendall: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 160

[19] Osborne, G. R: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 55

[20] D. Thomas Lancaster: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 73-74

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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