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 XL)

Arno Gaebelein (1859-1952) takes what Paul says here in verse eighteen as Peter’s possible response after he refused to eat with the Gentiles and went back to the Ceremonial Laws and was thereby attempting to be justified by works. It was he, not Paul, who was rebuilding the judicial mechanism of the Law. Previously, he abandoned the Law as a means of justification before God and believed in Jesus the Anointed One to be justified by faith in Him, not by the works of the Law but by faith. He found out that “by the works of the Law no one can be justified.” By building again the moral system of the law, which he gave up as unable to justify him, he made himself look like a Jewish backslider returning to his original faith. Inasmuch as it was the Anointed One who led him to do this, the question is, does this make the Anointed One a minister of sin? God forbid! It was the doctrine of the Anointed One which made him give up the Law which was powerless to forgive. Now, by going back he acknowledges that he was wrong when he rejected it, to begin with, as a means of justification.[1] That’s why Paul was so against what Peter was doing, even though he didn’t mean to project that image of giving up the Anointed One and returning to the Law for salvation.

The Contextual Bible gives us an excellent paraphrase of verses 17-18 that offers quite a bit of clarity to what Paul is saying here. It reads, “Now if we hold that our faith in the Anointed One and His death alone makes us guiltless, righteous, and holy before God, and not the keeping of the His Law, and then we find that just like the non-Jews, we’re judged guilty as sinners because we didn’t keep the requirements of God’s Law, wouldn’t we need to say that faith in the Anointed One is not only useless but has, in fact, ruined us, encouraging us not to live by God’s Law? That’s impossible. Obviously then, there is only one conclusion: God’s Law has been abolished for us who put our faith in the Anointed One, and there is no sin involved anymore in not keeping its requirements. The whole business of the Law has become irrelevant for us. Rather, we actually become lawbreakers if we now start insisting on being under the framework of the Law to find acceptance before God, going against the very intent of His Law.”[2]

Maybe Paul’s questioning was inspired by one of Plato’s dialogues entitled; “Euthydemus” in which a young boy is asked if when he and his classmates were in school learning grammar, did they consider themselves “students?”  The young lad said, “of course.”  Then Euthydemus continued by asking the young man, “As a student, do you admit that you did not know the things you were about to learn?”  “Of course,” he replied.  “So then,” continued Euthydemus, “did that make you “educated?”  “Of course not,” the student replied.  “In other words,” said Euthydemus, you were not a ‘student’ who was already ‘educated’ but an ‘uninformed student’?”  “For sure,” responded the lad.  Euthydemus went on, “Let me ask again since you were learning something you did not know, you still considered yourself an ‘uninformed student,’ right?” The youth nodded assent.  “So, we can conclude then,” mused Euthydemus, “it is the uninformed who learn, not those already educated?”

Are you shaking your head trying to understand this form of logic? Let’s look at it again. These philosophers were taking advantage of a young student in order to show how complicated their arguments could be. If you are a student and submit yourself to be taught, that is certainly a wise decision, even though you may not be educated in the subject being taught. Therefore, you cannot yet be considered educated until you learn the subject as a student. The Judaizers were like the boy in the story. Paul was telling them they needed to learn more about Jesus in order to be more submissive to the Gospel and the will of God through the Anointed One. The Judaizers were telling Paul and the Galatians they were already educated because they mastered the Mosaic Law and needed to learn nothing further.

Remember, Paul was talking to believers, and in today’s world people are often judged as sinful because they did not meet their church demands in order to maintain salvation. However, since we are in union with the Anointed One, such laws possess no jurisdiction over our salvation. Being in union with the Anointed One means it’s what He says that determines if we are following His will or not. Since the Anointed One reigns in our hearts and lives in our spirit, we seek to be obedient to Him first, not the religious rituals and regulations of the church. Therefore, if we become disobedient, we are noncompliant to the Anointed One not the church, even if the church supports what Jesus taught. That’s why, if we confess our sin to Him, not the church, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and cleanse us from all wrongdoing.

This should help us understand that no church can save you; no denomination guarantees your salvation.  The church is the redeemed gather in one mind and of one accord to follow the teachings of the Anointed One. They support each other as they mature in the Word and in the Spirit. The stronger and more mature among them become pastors and teachers, apostles and evangelists. Those whom the Holy Spirit anoints with gifts are used to guide the believers and become a resource of the gifts of the Spirit in the body of the Anointed One. Their goal is to proclaim the kingdom of God and His righteousness so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but receive everlasting life.

Let’s go through this again. Paul is answering criticism by the Judaizers that if we forsake Mosaic Law to follow Jesus, then by following Him He leads us further into sin since obeying Mosaic Law is a requirement from God. Paul answers this way: if we say that we are going to accept forgiveness for our sins by faith in the atonement of the Anointed One on the cross, which does away with Mosaic Law, but then turn around and demand that believers observe the old religious rituals and regulations required under Mosaic Law aren’t we making the Anointed One’s death on the cross meaningless? Yes! But at the same time, if we accept the Anointed One’s atonement on the cross to be forgiven of our sins but then ignore His teachings and continue the life we were living, will that qualify us for heaven? No! We aren’t saved in sin; we are saved from sin.

Henry David Thoreau in his work “Walden” said, that the person with faith in God will apply that faith to everything they do. If, however, they put no faith in God they might continue living like they always lived by imitating those with real faith. We would call this a case of pretending; playing “make-believe,” saying something is yours that doesn’t exist. The Judaizers seem to be asking the Galatians to pretend. In other words, obey all the religious rituals and regulations under Mosaic Law, but make-believe that they were Christians by professing faith in the Anointed One, it can’t hurt anything.

It’s clear they showed no respect for Paul or his message; they did not want to change what they were already accustomed to. They insisted that the only way to be forgiven and stand before God pure and holy was by complying with the Law given to Moses. However, they refused to accept the fact that the Mosaic Law was written to prove the existence of sin. Didn’t they realize that through the Anointed One God wanted to provide a way out of sin into His forgiveness?

Paul arrived in Galatia preaching that you don’t need to follow the Law of Moses anymore because the work of the Anointed One completely fulfilled and answered all of God’s requirements, thereby becoming the true way to salvation. But the Judaizers responded by claiming that even though you believe in the Anointed One, by not following Mosaic Law anymore you remain a sinner. They insinuated that Paul’s teaching of salvation through faith in the Anointed One without Mosaic Law promoted sinful living.  “Absolutely untrue!” declares Paul. The Hammer was trying everything he could to help these stubborn know-it-alls to understand the truth.

Many of these various opinions and interpretations are confusing at times. But if we condense this down to its simplest terms it becomes clearer to those not versed in Jewish Law. For centuries it was taught that in order for someone to be counted among the children of God, they must obey Him by obeying all the laws given to them through Moses. But did that stop them from sinning? No! Even if they followed all the rules, participated in all the rituals, underwent all the rites, and joined in all the ceremonies, they still needed to bring sacrifices to the Temple to receive forgiveness for their sins. That was the Law. That was their creed of faith.

Now here comes Paul, a converted Pharisee to Christianity. He’s going around teaching the Jews that this adherence to the Law is no longer needed or valid. That the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth came. He was the only one who was able to perfectly obey the Law. So, God put all their sins on Him, and He became the sacrifice that provided forgiveness. Now, a person is called a child of God through union with the Anointed One, not the Law. Jews always considered themselves as children of God by birth, all the rest that they did was try to be good children. But Paul is not only teaching that the Anointed One is now the only way to God, but he’s also telling the Gentiles that they became children of God too without first becoming Jews through conversion. All they must do is believe in the Anointed One. All the demands of the Law are now unnecessary for both them and the Jews. The Jews resented that those born as sinners could so easily be born as children of God without having to go through all the rites, rituals, ceremonies, and sacrifices as they did.

So, some dissident Jews began a campaign to disprove Paul’s doctrine of being justified as a child of God without adherence to the Law. They began by pointing out that they were always warned not to abandon the Law because it made them sinners. So how could Paul persuade people to abandon the Law and then not call them sinners but true believers because they put their faith in the Anointed One, not the law? They accused Paul of teaching that sinners could be called children of God because of the Anointed One. Therefore, the Anointed One must be a minister of sin and sinners. Paul was quick to rebuke such thinking. He based his doctrine on the fact that Jesus the Messiah fulfilled the Law by completing its demands, therefore, to believe in Him is to fulfill the Law, not abandon it. He became their sacrifice for sin, so they didn’t need to bring any to God on their own. But there were those who were still not convinced. They argued that without the Law to guide them how were these children of God through faith going to be taught how to live an upright, moral life? Again, Paul answered. He told them they no longer lived because of their adherence to the Law; it was the Anointed One living in them. So, He was their teacher spiritually and the Holy Spirit was their guide.

But even today there are many believers who were never taught that once you are made clean through the blood of Jesus and born again, those sins do not need to be forgiven a second or third time. Do Christians still experience trouble with sinful tendencies? Yes! But it is not the original sin with its death sentence, that is already forgiven and under the blood of Jesus. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of something that is not pleasing to God, we are promised that if we confess our sins, He is fair-minded enough to forgive us of our sins each and every time. Does that mean we go on a sinning-streak because we know He’ll forgive us? No! Who would want to do that to the one who saved us from certain damnation and gave us timeless life?

[1] Arno Gaebelein: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[2] Aiyer, Ramsey. The Contextual Bible Galatians, Kindle Location 214

About drbob76

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