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 XLVIII)

Joseph Beet asks us to notice that here in verse twenty Paul says that it is the crucified Savior who lives in those who share in His crucifixion. By that, we assume that only those whose former lives came to an end on the cross with the Anointed One living in them. That’s because union with Him implies not only union with His life but also with His death.[1] Now, this life that we live in the Anointed One is not something we earned, merited, competed for, or bought. It was a gift from God through His Son Jesus the Anointed One. Certainly, we should appreciate so valuable a gift as not lose it or let it sit in a closet untouched. As part of this gift of salvation, there is another gift called “timeless life”. Who would throw that away? But very few are going to believe that we possess such a gift unless they see the Anointed One living in us. To love and serve Him in such a way that His grandeur is revealed in all its beauty through the Gifts of the Spirit. This should be enough to cause those who are just like we used to be to notice and want to find the same joy and peace we enjoy in the Anointed One we enjoy now.[2]

James Denny shares some enlightening thoughts about Paul’s statement here in verse nineteen about how letting go of the Torah and dying to its empty promises of salvation and timeless life allowed him to reach out to the Anointed One so he maintained a direct relationship with God. But the source that gave him the power to make this change came with the Anointed One’s death on the cross in which He dealt with sin by putting it to death in Him. More specifically, that His death involved His body in which a person’s sinful nature resides. So, by having faith in His death as being done on our behalf, that faith then gives us the power to say “No” to sin. That’s, says Denney, the death involving faith that Paul experienced is repeatedly defined by Paul was his death to the Law. Why the Law? Because the Law was designed to identify sin but could do nothing about forgiveness, it was already lifeless. So why not treat it as a dead thing?[3]

Just like in the Book of Psalms, wisdom and knowledge are expressed in poetry with much more passion than in prose. John Wilbur Chapman (1859-1918), an American Presbyterian evangelist who evangelized across America with noted gospel singer Charles Alexander, expresses his passion on what Paul says here in verse twenty about the joy of being one with the Anointed One this way:

Wonderful! glorious! past comprehension!

I, so unworthy, once ruined and lost,

Am now one with the Anointed One, through his grace and his mercy,

Purchased by blood, at an infinite cost.

In the beloved accepted, forgiven,

God, looking at me, sees only his Son;

That blessed one, who, for me, has been smitten,

And not what I, a poor sinner, done

I have been crucified with my redeemer,

So, I am dead to the law and to sin;

We have been quickened together, forever,

So, I am bearing the new life within:

Risen with the Anointed One, yea, and sitting together,

With my beloved in places above;

So doth the father behold me forever-

Oh! how amazing, what wonderful love!

Suffering together in fellowship holy,

Sharing his sorrows, his treatment, his shame;

Though man despise me because I am lowly,

Mine is an honor which no one can name.

I am an heir to all treasures immortal,

Heir to the Father, joint heir with the Son;

And just beyond, where I stand on the portal,

I shall reign with him because we are one.

Glorified with him, forever and ever,

Oh, what a future in-store through his grace!

Naught from his love can my soul ever sever

I shall be like him when I see his face.[4]

Benjamin Bacon paints a picture to convey that Paul is saying in verse twenty about how the Anointed One loved him and gave Himself up for him. This is the case where a simple story of Jesus, the Friend of Sinners, the traveling prophet who spent His whole life in the small area of Galilee and Judea in Israel, because of His undaunted championship fighting for the right of the outcast class called Gentiles to gain full “sonship” in God’s kingdom. However, it took His crucifixion outside Jerusalem’s walls to lift His efforts to its highest plane. His tragic death is no longer viewed as a local folk story, it is now being played out on the world stage so that “every sinner” may come to know the love of God through the Anointed One. It involves more than Jesus setting His face steadfastly to go up to Jerusalem,[5] assuming a much larger dimension. The Redeemer descended from the highest heaven to the lowest hell in order to conquer all powers and put them under His control. The powers of sin, sickness, hell, death, and the grave are not subject to Him.[6]

Arno Gaebelein reminds us that the principle which governs this new life in the Anointed One is not the Law-principle, but it is a Life-principle lived by faith in the Son of God and what He did on the cross. God gave a purpose to every one of His creations. There would be no reason to exist without one. Therefore, if the Lord Jesus is our life, He is also, personally, our purpose for living, and we live by faith in Him. Our heart sees Him, looks to Him, feeds upon Him, is assured of His love, for He gave Himself for us. What a happy certainty! Blessed assurance! It is a new life, the old self is crucified, dead, and gone. Now the Anointed One, whose perfect love we know, is the sole object of our faith and of our heart.[7]

Cyril Emmet tells us that the idea of a spirit living in a person and taking control of their emotions and actions was not new in Paul’s day. It was already believed in Egypt, Greece, Africa, Asia, and other far-flung places. Especially among those who practiced what is called “mystery” religions.[8] For instance, in 1775 a traveler to Greece named Richard Chandler observed what he described as a “frenzy of rapture” and called it Nympholepsy. It was the rapture supposedly that took hold of a man upon gazing on a nymph. The word “nymph” originates from the Greek word nymphe, meaning “bride.” It was often applied to beautiful young women, then to a “semi-divine being in the form of a beautiful maiden.” It featured seizures such as those seen in epilepsy. According to Socrates, as presented in the writings of Plato, a person could experience nympholepsy without any “tearing of clothes, the biting of lips, or convulsions, or frenzies.” Plato implies in his writings that nympholepsy showed itself in others by “heightened awareness and eloquence.” Something similar, but holy, is seen in Pentecostal congregations when the Holy Spirit falls on a believer and they dance, shout, and speak in tongues, even falling under the power of the Spirit.

Arthur W. Pink gives us thought for a great illustration of what Paul is trying to communicate by saying that the Law exercised no more power over him. Pink calls the Gospel, “the Believer’s Emancipation from the Law” signed by God. When American President Abraham Lincoln wanted to free the slaves in the south from any further humiliation as unpaid farm laborers, he signed such an Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. But it wasn’t accepted everywhere. In fact, it resulted in a civil war between the North and the South. Many died trying to defend it and even more died trying to annul it. But in the end, it was made Law. And the good news, when it was all over the slaves were now free to be what God made them be. So it was when Jesus the Anointed One the Son of God came to earth to proclaim the Emancipation Proclamation freeing sinners from the bondage of sin. Yes, there was a war and Jesus gave His life defending it. But in the end, it became God’s Law.[9]

Messianic writer Daniel Lancaster finds trouble with what Paul says here about dispensing with the Torah. From his perspective, most of Christendom the meaning of what Paul says here is self-evident. He distinguishes between his former life as a Jewish Pharisee and his new life as a Jewish Christian. Formerly, he tried to live according to the Torah, for the Torah and keeping the Torah in order to earn salvation. But ultimately, he realized that he could not earn salvation because his sinful tendencies prevented him from meeting the Torah’s impossible standards. So, his choice was to either keep up his futile attempt at salvation by works, or die to the Torah, much like a husband dies to his wife, and become a Christian through new birth. He made the choice to quit trying to keep the Torah and learned to simply live for God by grace through faith without practicing Judaism any longer – that religion of dead and lifeless works. Lancaster hears Paul saying, “I was a Jew, but now I’m a Christian.  I once was under the law, but now I’m under grace.” Lancaster says that from his experience this explanation works for most Christians because for two thousand years the Book of Galatians was read and revered by Christians. However, it does not work for the Messianic Jewish movement.”[10]

[1] See Romans 6:3

[2] Joseph Beet: On Galatians, op. cit., loc., 55-56

[3] James Denny, The Death of the Anointed One, Ch 3, pp. 125-126

[4] J. Wilbur Chapman, Present Day Parables, Oneness with the Anointed One, p. 129

[5] Luke 9:51

[6] Benjamin W. Bacon: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 70–71

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

[8] Cyril W. Emmet: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 25

[9] Arthur W. Pink: The Law and the Saint, op. cit., p. 19

[10] D. Thomas Lancaster: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 97-98

About drbob76

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