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 XLII)

When Paul found out that his friends in Ephesus were downhearted over his being in prison, he wrote and told them how he prayed every day for their strength to remain faithful with the help of the Holy Spirit. He also prayed that they would discover the enormous width and length, height and depth of the Anointed One’s love for them.[1] That’s because Paul credited the power of God being in his life as the reason why he was able to keep going.[2] And this was not a short-term factor. It was something he could count on not only as long as he was alive but also long after he went to his rest in the Anointed One.[3] That’s why the Apostle Peter told his readers that if we are going to live like the Anointed One, we should be ready to die like the Anointed One.[4]

So, it is not that we live now just to enjoy life from a new perspective on our own. Although we still occupy the same physical body, we are alive spiritually and living spiritually because of our decision to accept the Anointed One as our Lord and Master. As Paul would tell the Romans, the same faith that brought us into union with the Anointed One kept us in union with Him. So this new life we live is based on our trust in Him.[5] Paul made sure the Corinthians understood that he was not telling anyone how they should live, that goes to the Anointed One who is living in them.[6] That’s because our lives must be lived by faith not by what we see.[7] However, don’t be afraid to live by faith. Paul said he learned that he could do anything the Anointed One asked him to do because the Lord would give him the strength to do it.[8]

No one should doubt their faith in the Anointed One because of His faith and loyalty to them. Jesus’s message to His disciples is the same for us today, “I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give My life as a ransom for many.[9] With His promises and His commitment to us, there is nothing we may face in life that we are unable to overcome with His power abiding in us.[10] After all, He gave His all for us so why can’t we give our all for Him?[11] Jesus never told something that wasn’t true, and God thereby gave Him all power over all things.[12] This then will make us not only winners but undefeated winners for the Anointed One’s sake to the Glory of God the Father.[13]

Early church scholar Marius Victorinus focuses on the fact that now it is possible to see Paul as speaking of two laws – one of Moses, the other of the Anointed One – so he points out how for him as a Christian the Law of Moses is a dead manuscript while the Law of the Anointed One is a living document. But Paul may also be seen as doing what both he and the Savior Himself often did so that he speaks of two laws because it is in itself, as it were, twofold: one thing when it is understood morally and another when it is understood spiritually. It was Paul’s way of saying that only the spiritual part of the Law of Moses is alive to him. The part containing instructions on rites, rituals, ceremonies, circumcision, and holy days no longer applies. Now, instead of living just to perform the good works the Law requires, he is alive in the Anointed One who is the fulfillment of all that the Law demanded for salvation. As Victorinus sees it, in order for someone to live for God is that they understand those precepts contained in the law not as ceremonial but as spiritual, that is, what it means to be circumcised of the heart and what the true Sabbath is.[14]

Ambrose Bishop of Milan takes Paul’s words here about being crucified in the Anointed One which means that he no longer lives but the Anointed One lives in him, puts it this way: “It is not I, who once ate from the earth [like Adam]. Not I who was once grass, as all flesh is grass, but the Anointed One who lives in me. That is, there lives that living bread which came from heaven, there lives wisdom, there lives righteousness, and there lives the resurrection.[15]

Then, early church preacher Chrysostom in his insightful homily on this section tells us that what Paul is saying here may be viewed in two ways: either we follow the law of grace which Paul speaks of, or we follow the law of works, of which he says, that this part of the Law no longer applies to him. In other words, it is no longer valid as a guide to salvation. So, there is no need for him to fear being in violation of the Law of Works. How is this so? Moses says, speaking of the Anointed One, “Adonai will raise up for you a prophet like me from among yourselves, from your own kinsmen. You are to pay attention to Him.”[16]  Therefore, those who do not obey Him, transgress the Law because He is the fulfillment and completion of the Law. But Chrysostom notes how Paul refers to his relationship to the Law of Works, He does not say, “the Law is dead to me,” but, “I am dead to the Law.” This means, that his old-self is like a dead corpse which cannot obey the commandments of the Law. So, it doesn’t make sense to require anyone that is dead to obey the law?[17]

Jerome, one of the earliest scholars and translators, makes an interesting comment on verse twenty. He states that Judas Iscariot and the priests, with the princes, handed Jesus over, and Pilate, to whom He was finally handed over, handed Him over again. But the Father handed Him over that He might save the abandoned world. Jesus gave Himself, that he might do the Father’s will. But Judas and the priests and elders of the people and Pilate unwittingly handed over their lives to death.[18]

Then Augustine of Hippo takes Paul’s words as saying that he is happy not to be where he once was. Like the human spirit, holding tight to the Spirit of God, struggles against the sinful tendencies of the flesh that is, against itself and on its own behalf, exhibit impulses that are natural to humanity, whether in the body or in the soul. These continue in the believer because their inherent feebleness does not allow them to practice the discipline necessary for the sake of obtaining salvation on their own. So, the believer who does not live according to their inherited human nature says with Paul, “I live, yet not I, but the Anointed One lives in me.” For where I am not, I am happier to be where I am.  Consequently, when any immoral impulse arises according to one’s old sinful nature, to which they who serve the law of God with their mind do not consent, they may now say this: “Now I am not the one doing that.”[19] [20]

Ambrosiaster, whom we referenced earlier, responds to what Paul is saying here about dying to the law this way: The person who dies is set free from the law, allowing them to live for God. They go from being a slave to the Law to become a servant of the Anointed One.[21]  And when Paul talks about being crucified with the Anointed One, Ambrosiaster sees this dying to the Law as Paul being nailed to the cross of the Anointed One because by walking in His footsteps he is not bound by any desire of the world.  By living for God, he appears to be dead to the world, for whoever does not do worldly things is dead to the world. There is nothing unclear in saying that the Anointed One lives in the person delivered from death by faith. By granting a pardon for sin to someone who is worthy of death, the Anointed One dwells in them, for it is by His help that such a person is rescued from death.[22]  As profound as these statements are, I wonder if the average churchgoer today would understand what this astute Catholic scholar said back in 366 AD?

Haimo of Auxerre draws these insights out of Paul’s words, “It is no longer I who live.” He was surely alive in a very basic physical sense, yet sinful tendencies no longer controlled him. Instead, that most savage persecutor in him was annihilated and put to death, while the most devout preacher was living within him. That’s why Paul could say with joy, truly the Anointed One lives and reigns in me through faith and through all the virtues of the Anointed One. So why would he want to nullify the grace of God, that is to say, why would he spurn faith of the Anointed One, the Gospel, and the remission of sins? They were all given freely. For if righteousness comes through the Law, that is, if the Law was able to justify, then the Anointed One died in vain and His passion was neither advantageous nor detrimental to any cause.[23]

Later in church history, Bruno the Carthusian offers this insight: We should note that Paul is not saying that he “abandoned” but rather that he “died” to the Law. In other words, the Law’s power over him was destroyed because it is impossible for him, a dead man, to ever return to obeying the Law because the Law offers no return from death to life. The reason he died to the Law was so that he might live for God through Grace. Paul could say that the Law abandoned him. But now he lives for God through faith since he does not depend on the Law to guide him. That is why Paul says I was crucified upon the cross of the Anointed One, that is, I focus my mind through the power of the Anointed One’s cross so that I will refuse any opportunity to be guilty of any violation of the Law by allowing my sinful tendencies to take control of my life again.

For Bruno, Paul is announcing to the Romans that he died on the cross of the Anointed One for the glory of God who crucified the Anointed One for him. Through the power of this cross, we are able to say “No” to sin. If the Anointed One so willed, He might choose some other form of death, but He wanted it this way so that His very manner of death would not lack sacred meaning. He signified this by affixing His own body, in keeping with being a human to the cross so that through His suffering and death it would give power to those following Him to endure the same. For just as He chose not to extend His crucified members to perform certain actions, so on that cross He crucified His humanity to obtain full righteousness before the Father. This means, that as long as one does not defy the faith of the Anointed One, they cannot fall away into acts of unrighteousness.[24]

[1] Ephesians 3:14-19

[2] Colossians 1:29

[3] 1 Thessalonians 5:10-11

[4] 1 Peter 4:1-2

[5] Romans 1:17

[6] 2 Corinthians 1:24

[7] Ibid. 5:7

[8] Philippians 4:13

[9] Matthew 20:28 – The Living Bible

[10] Romans 8:37

[11] Titus 2:14

[12] Matthew 28:18-20

[13] Romans 8:37

[14] Marius Victorinus: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 32

[15] Ambrose: On Paradise 76, in Galatians op. cit., p. 32

[16] Deuteronomy 18:15 – In his Tzror Hamor, Abraham Saba contends that this reference is to Jeremiah, p.1913

[17] Chrysostom: On Galatians, Homily 2:21

[18] Jerome: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 33

[19] Romans 7:17

[20] Augustine: On Continence 29, In Galatians, op. cit., p. 32

[21] Ambrosiaster: On Galatians, Ancient Christian Texts, op. cit., p. 13

[22] Ibid. pp. 14ff

[23] Haimo of Auxerre, Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

[24] Bruno the Carthusian, Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

About drbob76

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