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 XLVI)

Charles Simeon, in one of his discourses, says that the knowledge of the Law is indispensably necessary to the knowledge of the Gospel. Even persons who espouse some views of the Anointed One as a Savior, in general, do not possess an adequate idea of the extent to which they need a Savior. This becomes known only by considering the requirements of the law, and the measure of guilt which we contracted by our violation of the Law. In unfolding to us this subject, the Epistle to the Galatians stands, perhaps, preeminent above all others, not excepting even that to the Romans.

Simeon then points out the use of the Law in relation to the hope a person gets from it; governed by the extent of its commandments; by the relentlessness of its threatenings, and by its incapacity to afford any remedy whatsoever. However, on the other side of the coin, a person may also view the Law from a sense of gratitude; from a sense of duty, and from a sense of interest. This should then motivate a person to understand its nature; to fulfill its purposes, and to honor its requirement. But in the end, none of this will qualify a person to be justified before God as worthy for sins to be forgiven and the sentence of death removed. In that respect, a believer is dead to the Law. All their expectation that the Law might save them through self-righteousness is now abandoned. In its place, a person finds themselves in a better place, standing on the solid ground of hope with blessed assurance by faith in the Anointed One’s obedience to the cross. There was no hope in the Law. As the old hymn goes, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus the Anointed One and righteousness.”[1] [2]

Wesleyan theologian Adam Clarke offers his thoughts on this teaching by Paul about depending on religious rites and rituals for justification. He hears Paul saying that if he was to act like a Jew and force the observance of the Law on the Gentiles, which he repeatedly asserted and proved to be abolished by the death of the Anointed One, then he would rebuild what the Lord destroyed by His sacrifice. This would then make him a transgressor by observing the Law in such a way that it would appear to order the observance of it upon others. Paul made it clear that when it comes to properly consider the nature and requisitions of the law, He would find himself dead to all hope and expectation of help or salvation from the Law, thereby being obliged to take refuge in the Gospel of the Anointed One. Paul’s message was that the Law condemns to death, and he embraced the Gospel that he might be saved from death, and live for God.[3]

James Haldane finds that is a mystery why so many Christians are unaware that a person is not only justified in the Anointed One but sanctified as well. Not by anything they did, it is all the work of God through the Anointed One and the Holy Spirit. That’s why some feel that at any time they could fall back into sin, and the Law would take dominion over them once more. It comes from not being sure how to live a holy life. They were told that they are no longer under the Law when it comes to their justification for being called a child of God, they are now living under grace. That’s why they must now understand that if they do sin, it’s not against the Law but the Grace of God. The Law contained no provisions to forgive such a trespass, but Grace contains not only forgiveness but cleansing from any stain of sin that may still be on their character.[4] As Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, neither do I condemn you.[5] The Anointed One came to save, not to condemn.[6] [7]

Catholic theologian John Haydock from the 19th century gives his view of what Paul says here and it applies to believers in his day.  Paul expresses here the change that was wrought in him. The law to which he was attached passed away. Now he was so united in the Anointed One and His cross, that he says: Not I, but the Anointed One lives in me. The strong expressions made use of by St. Paul with regard to the Jewish law in this chapter, may appear strange, and very capable of a wrong interpretation. But we must always bear in mind that St. Paul speaks exclusively of the ceremonial part of the law, and not of the moral part contained in the Ten Commandments. Of this latter law, Haydock says that in Paul’s epistle to the Romans that the doers of the Law will be justified.[8] But this can only happen when the grace which Jesus the Anointed One merited and obtained for us all, the grace which God poured out on us all, is first applied.[9]  So it is obvious that in this Catholic scholar’s mind, salvation by grace and faith alone is still insufficient unless joined with the moral ethics as outlined in the Ten Commandments.

Justin Edwards sees this as Paul’s message to Peter and the Galatians: Instead of my going back to the Law for justification, says Paul, I learned through the Law itself to renounce the Law as the means for my salvation. True knowledge of God’s holy and spiritual law taught me, that to a sinner, like me, it works death.[10] And because the Anointed One now lives in me by His Spirit, He is the cause of everything right and good in me. The author and sustainer of divine life in the soul are the Anointed One, and what the thing that makes so robust, is the faith in him that formed between my soul and His Spirit. Because of this I received His fullness which is helping me grow in conformity to His image and thereby shines with His glory. So why should I go back to the Law? I’m dead to the Law so there’s no reason for it to visit my grave.[11]

German theologian Heinrich Meyer chooses an interesting way of encapsulating what he feels Paul is saying here about the life he is living is not his, but the Anointed One. The first thing Meyer asks is this, “What did the Anointed One achieve on the cross that affects all of us?” He begins with this: The Anointed One broke down and removed the partition between Jews and Gentile so that out of two He could make one people. Then, by His shed blood, the Anointed One blotted out the Law of Moses so that it neither applies to the Jews or the Gentiles. This then means that if Gentiles are incorporated with the Anointed One, they become eligible for all the blessings previously promised only to the Jews, even though they do not live according to the Law of Moses. They were accepted by God into the family of God for the Anointed One’s sake.

Meyer then goes on to talk about what he calls the “handwriting that was against all of us.”[12] First, it was nailed to the cross and the blood of the Anointed One washed the parchment clean. This handwriting included our legal indebtedness to the Law. It was the basis for our becoming aware of sin and was etched into our hearts where it sparked our sinful tendencies that brought us under condemnation. But, once we are in union with the Anointed One and become one with Him, then this handwriting no longer applies to us because it’s been erased. I like the way Meyer expresses it: It no longer exerts any authority or strength because its seals were removed by the Anointed One’s work on the cross, and its letters erased by the Anointed One’s blood. This then verifies that we all been crucified with the Anointed One.[13]

Johann Peter Lange puts it succinctly this way: I came into fellowship with the Anointed One’s death on the cross, through faith, so that what happened to the Anointed One also happened to me.[14] Isn’t it wonderful that we say the same about the resurrection! That what happened to the Anointed One will also happen to me! John Eadie then adds his feelings of joy by saying, “I’ve been crucified with the Anointed One,” those are Wondrous Words! By being so closely identified with the Anointed One, His death is our death. When He was crucified, we were crucified with Him. We became so much a part of Him under the Law’s curse of suffering and death, that when He died to the Law, we died to the Law with Him. By being in union with the Anointed One we satisfied the Law by yielding to it in obedience which it claimed, suffered its curse, died to it, and because of this, I am now released from it – from its accusations and its penalty and from its claim on us to obey it as the means of receiving timeless life.[15]

William O’Conor says that the law indirectly made us sinners, and then condemned us to death before we broke the first law. But when we heard that the Anointed One took that punishment of death upon Himself for our sake, so when we accepted what the Anointed One did for us by faith, that same faith now makes it possible for us to hate the sin that imposed death upon us.[16] When we consider that we were all sinners and liable to both death of the body and the soul as a punishment, then the Anointed One who was without sin underwent the punishment of sin so that those who believe in Him do not suffer death as a punishment. Being born again down here is just a prelude to everlasting life up above. So we were punished for our sins in the death of the Anointed One, in order that we may immediately enter into a new life of righteousness.[17] Should we not then do as Paul urges us to do, live our lives daily in honor of the One who died for us and the One who sent Him to pay that price? In fact, we cannot do any less.

Alvah Hovey remarked that nothing is deeper in the writings of Paul than his conception of the believer’s union with the Anointed One. He dies to the law and to sin by trusting in the Anointed One. His legal standing and his spiritual condition are reversed in a moment by that act and the union which depends upon it. Paul’s crucifixion with the Anointed One was first realized at his conversion, but the continuance of that crucifixion he experienced all along from that hour to the present. Essentially the same thought is repeated by the Apostle in his letter to the Romans.[18]

Certainly, this gave Paul the freedom to declare any life given to him he dedicated totally to living for the Anointed One. In fact, the Anointed One’s Spirit that now lives in him makes that possible. As Hovey goes on to say that faith was the main element in which Paul was living and breathing and that faith focused on its object, the Son of God. This faith no longer trusted in his own righteousness, as he did under the Law, but in the Son of God. Gone are the legal observances, or holy resolutions, or attempt at perfecting his character through good works. Here we see how tender and personal Paul’s relationship with Jesus became. How blessed must this sorely-tried servant of the Anointed One be when he uttered these words and believed that it would be as dear to the heart of Peter as it was to his own![19]

[1] “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less,” by Edward Mote (1834)

[2] Charles Simeon; On Galatians, op. cit., Discourse 2057

[3] Adam Clarke: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit

[4] 1 John 1:9

[5] John 8:11

[6] Ibid. 3:17

[7] James A Haldane: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 84-87

[8] Romans 2:13

[9] George Haydock: Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

[10] See Galatians 3:24; Romans 3:20; 4:15; 7:10.

[11] Justine Edwards: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[12] Colossians 2:13-14

[13] Heinrich A. W. Meyer: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 98

[14] John Peter Lange: On Galatians, op. cit., loc., cit., Volume 8, Kindle Locations 3683-3684

[15] John Eadie: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 184

[16] See Romans 6:1

[17] O’Conor, W. A: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 39–40

[18] Romans 6:6

[19] Alvah Hovey: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 34

About drbob76

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