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 XLIII)

Peter Lombard reads this nineteenth verse as indicating Paul’s declaration that he died to the Law by the power of the Gospel. Therefore, he is no longer required to attempt earning any justification to stand before God as right with Him through the Law. Lombard also emphasizes that Paul is not speaking about dying physically, but morally dying to the law because the Anointed One gives him the power to live his spiritual life. And just as the Anointed One was nailed to the cross, so Paul nailed to the cross his ambitions and faith in the Law to save him.[1]

Then Robert of Melun poses this question on what Paul is saying here: How is this demonstrated through the Law that a person must not keep the Law once they are made free in union with the Anointed One? He believes there are three ways a good case is made. First, the Law says that we are to love our friends but hate our enemies.[2] Since those who hate their enemies cannot be justified, this seems to prove that no one could be justified through the Law. Secondly, the Law addresses only external things by promising rewards when it says that you must do this and that, then you will enjoy the good things of earth.[3] Since nobody could be justified by desiring the things of the world, it is clear that no righteousness will come by way of the Law. And thirdly, the Law itself places all its worshipers under a curse who do not follow the Law to the letter.[4] This makes it clear that to be free from the Law’s demands for justification, we must place our faith in the Gospel so that the blessing of Grace might be fulfilled instead of the curse of the Law.[5]

Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas points out that the only way to change, alter, or void a law is by the law itself. That means, the law is either totally changed or it is amended. What Paul seems to be saying here is that the old Law was amended by adding a new portion. Before, the Law only pointed out guilt and condemnation to the lawbreaker, but it possessed no power to forgive or remove the sentence. Then the Anointed One came, not to do away with the Law but to amend the Law. That’s why we were given the First Covenant and the Final Covenant. Under this new amendment, there is now forgiveness of sin and the death sentence removed. But not by the Law itself, but by God through the Anointed One who is the new personification of the Law. It’s what He says, not what the old Law said, that counts. The old Law was known as the Law of Moses, now the revised Law is known as the Law of the Anointed One – the Gospel.  And the process by which Paul was no longer subject to the old Law is that he died with the Anointed One on the cross where the price was paid for mankind’s ransom and redemption. And just as the Anointed One rose from the dead, so Paul rose from being spiritually dead to being alive for God with the Anointed One living within him.[6]

Thomas Aquinas then offers an explanation of what Paul intends to say here in verse twenty. It is clear that Paul identifies himself as being dead to the Law. As such, having been resurrected in the Anointed One he now lives for God, namely, that he is guided in his behavior according to the teachings of the Anointed One by being ordained to His honor and glory. The Law was handed down in writing so that the Israelites could practice what was spoken by the giver of the Law for all the world to see. But now, the Gospel is laid down in writing so that the new Israelites could preach what was spoken by the giver of Grace for all the world to hear. For in the beginning, people were weak and unable to approach God, that’s why it was necessary for the precepts of the Law to be given to them in writing, so that by the Law, as by an educator, they were to be led by the hand to the point where they might hear the things He commands. That means the law was our teacher about the Anointed One so that we can be justified by faith.  But after we gain access to the Father through the Anointed One, we are not instructed about the commands of God through the Law, but by God Himself through Grace.  In other words, Paul is saying that the Law was leading him by the hand until he died trying to work out salvation by good works. It was then that the maker of the Law sent His Son so that he could be resurrected to a new life in order that he might live for God.[7]

And in another writing, Aquinas answers the question of whether God became incarnate in order to take away actual sin, rather than to take away original sin?[8] He quotes Chrysostom saying: “This must be the mind of faithful servants, to account for the benefits their Lord bestowed on all alike, to know they were not bestowed on them alone.”[9] When it comes to speaking of himself alone, Paul tells us here in verse twenty, that He [the Son of God], was the One that loved him and gave Himself for him. But our individual sins are our actual sins; for original sin is the common sin affecting all mankind. Therefore, the conclusion seems to be that to acquire this conviction, we must believe that the Son of God became incarnate in human flesh to take away actual sins.[10] I agree with Aquinas to a point. Original sin passed on to all human beings the penalty of death when their sinful tendencies cause them to sin. Jesus’ death on the cross removed that curse of spiritual death and through the new birth, the human spirit is revived to live again. Once a person sins after being born again, those individual sins are handled by Grace, not the Law. There is forgiveness in Grace.

Then comes the inquiry, did the Anointed One die out of obedience?[11] Aquinas begins with Jesus’ own words, “No one takes my life from Me. I give it by Myself. I possess the right and the power to take it back again. My Father gave Me this right and power.”[12] The First Covenant ended by the Anointed One’s death, according to his dying words, “It is consummated.”[13] He fulfilled those moral laws which for the most part were founded on the precepts of loving others, inasmuch as He suffered for us both out of love for us and for His heavenly Father.[14] The Anointed One likewise by His suffering fulfilled the ceremonial precepts of the Law, which are chiefly ordained for sacrifices and offerings, in so far as all the ancient sacrifices were figures of that true sacrifice which the dying the Anointed One offered for us. No doubt that’s why Paul wrote the Colossians about one believer judging another believer on what they ate and holy days they observed.[15] The Anointed One also by His suffering fulfilled the judicial precepts of the Law, which are chiefly ordained for making compensation to them who suffered wrong.[16] This was all done through His suffering out of love for others, and according to what Paul says here in verse twenty:  “He loved me, and delivered Himself up for me,” the Anointed One paid a heavy price for each one of us.[17]

Jakob Arminius looks at the impact that verses 16-21 of this second chapter make on the subject Paul is teaching both to the Jews and Gentiles that no one becomes right with God just by obeying the Law. Only by putting one’s faith in Jesus as the Messiah is anyone made right with God. So, it isn’t what we do for the Anointed One but what the Anointed One does for us. And part of this is done by the Holy Spirit using the preaching of the Word of God so that a person is first convicted of their sin. So, don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that you did it on your own, no matter how generous, compassionate, and caring deeds there may be that were done to convince Him. Neither the Law nor the deeds one performs in compliance with the Law can turn a sinner into a saint. The sinful nature must be put to death so that the spiritual nature comes alive. The old nature served the desires of the flesh, the new nature serves the desires of the spirit. When the sinful nature is pronounced dead, then the Anointed One comes to dwell in the new believer’s heart. If what Paul was saying here could be proven to be false or flawed, then Jesus the Anointed One died in vain.[18]

Arminius then goes on to deal with the question: whether or not sin cohabits with the Anointed One in those who are regenerated? This is further complicated especially when the regenerate person is called a Temple of the Holy Spirit.[19] Therefore, sin cannot dwell in the heart of a believer whose Lord of his life is Jesus the Anointed One. Sin will only attempt to enter if the one inside is too weak to resist. Jesus used an excellent illustration on this when He said that no man enters a strong man’s house and takes away his belongings unless he first ties up the strong man. Only then will he be able to take things from his house.[20] Arminius states that sin does not dwell in those who are “dead to sin,”[21] and “in whom the Anointed One is alive” in their hearts. That’s why Paul could say here in verse twenty, “I was put up on the cross to die with the Anointed One. I no longer live. the Anointed One lives in me. The life I now live in this body, I live by putting my trust in the Son of God. He was the One Who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Yet Arminius goes on to say that for him, the Apostle Paul was not been speaking about himself, but took upon himself the personality of a man who lives to sin, and in whom sin lives, dwells, and operates. And even when the Anointed One and the Holy Spirit come in to dwell, sin does not voluntarily move out and take up residence somewhere else. So, no one says that no sin is in the regenerate believer; it’s already on the record that to be secure in one’s position, but not secure enough in order to reign supreme. They are two different things. It’s the one who rises up and takes command and rules and reigns in one’s life that will be the victor over other spirits trying to live there. That’s why it is so important to surrender one’s will, heart, mind, body, and spirit to the Lordship of the Anointed One and the controlling power of the Holy Spirit in order to defeat sin.[22] That’s why when the Son of God came down in human form to live on earth, the devil was not forced to leave and occupy another planet. He remained in order to the world to see who had power over whom. So, when Jesus rose from the dead it was clear who the victor was.

[1] Peter Lombard: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[2] Matthew 5:43; See Leviticus 19:18

[3] Deuteronomy 28:9-12

[4] Ibid. 27:26

[5] Robert of Melun: On Galatians, op. cit., loc cit.

[6] Thomas Aquinas: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[7] Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

[8] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theological, Vol. 5, Part (3)-Question (1)-Article (4), 15

[9] Chrysostom: De Compunctione Cordis, ii, 3 in Latin

[10] Thomas Aquinas, op. cit., Part (3)-Question (1)-Article (4)-Objection (3), p. 15

[11] Ibid. Part (3)-Question (47)-Article (2), p. 639

[12] John 10:18

[13] Ibid. 19:30

[14] Ibid. 14:31

[15] Colossians 2:16-17

[16] See Psalm 68:5

[17] Ibid. Part (3)-Question (47)-Article (2)-Response/Objection (1), p. 640

[18] Jakob Arminius: op. cit., Vol. 2. para 11, p. 280

[19] 1 Corinthians 6:19

[20] Mark 3:27

[21] Romans 6:2

[22] Jakob Arminius: op. cit., Vol. 2, pp. 265-266

About drbob76

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