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 LI)

I like the Contextual Bible’s paraphrase of these verses: “For it was through the Law of God that I came to realize my impotence, that I could never keep God’s Law in my human strength, and thus be guiltless and righteous before God. It condemned me to my death and when my death penalty was paid by the Anointed One, dying in my place, the Law released me from its condemnation and authority. Released from its power, I am now under God’s power, infused with his life-giving spirit, and therefore alive and enabled to live up to his will for me.  I’ve been nailed to the torture stake with the Anointed One, my “self” has been put to death: now it is not me that is living, but the Anointed One is living in me, taking care of all of God’s requirements for me. Indeed, the life that I now live, with its power to live up to God’s will for me, is a result of my complete and absolute surrender to the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me, and not a result of my own conscientious efforts to live by God’s Law.”[1]

That’s the point Paul was trying to get across to the Galatians. He said when I gave up following those religious rituals and regulations, they became invalid for me; I cannot, therefore, return to following those legalistic forms of religious servitude, they are of no benefit to me. Remember, the baby did not leave the womb voluntarily; it was ejected from the womb.  It was the womb itself that expelled the baby and, therefore, put an end to its relationship with the child.

That fit Paul’s explanation. These religious rituals and regulations were like the womb, but it was impossible to attain spiritual life until they left the womb through faith in the Anointed One. Jesus made it possible to live outside the womb of Mosaic Law by providing the spiritual environment of salvation through grace. So, by being in union with the Anointed One, a person receives the kind of spiritual life that all these religious rituals and regulations combined could not provide. No wonder Jesus said He came that we might not only be given life but full and abundant life.

Why did the Judaizers claim that Paul became a sinner by giving up these religious rituals and regulations? Fact is, he left because as long as he tried to gain salvation by obeying them, he actually remained a sinner. How then could these Judaizers ever think that just because Jesus led us away from these religious rituals and regulations, He ended up at the head of a long line of sinners headed for hell? Fact is, if Jesus left us where He found us, we would all still be sinners, trying to get saved by obeying religious rituals and regulations that could not save us and we’d still end up in hell.

But to make matters worse, these Judaizers wanted to put everybody back into the womb where it would be impossible to live because they thought everyone only keeps themselves spiritually alive by being tied to the legalistic umbilical cord of the Law. Everyone knows what happens to the umbilical cord after the birth of the child. When the baby is born, most hospitals will immediately clamp and cut the cord. Other options include a “lotus birth” in which the cord is never cut, but the placenta is placed in a bag and carried with the baby until the cord dries up and falls off.  Regardless, after several hours the cord begins to gel internally, cutting off the blood supply to and from the placenta because the baby doesn’t need it anymore.

What the Judaizers were doing to the Galatian believers broke Paul’s heart; how could they completely dishonor the work of the Anointed One; what were they thinking in attempting to label all Jesus did on the cross as a futile, irrational act of love?  Did they really believe that the feeble works of their own hands and their futile attempt at trying to comply with all the religious rituals and regulations were so much better? No wonder it almost drove Paul to tears.

I hear Paul yelling, “Don’t you get it you misled Galatian believers? The outcome of staying with the old system is certain death; no matter how hard I tried to keep it, I fell short. But the Anointed One said, let me pay the price so you may die with Me and I can bring you back to life as a new creation. Then you will live for Me and My Father without trying to fulfill all the religious rituals and regulations that don’t apply to you anymore. I’m not talking about the laws of right and wrong, good and bad, proper and improper, but those religious rituals and regulations that supposedly brought you salvation if you kept them without ever making a mistake. Those are gone!”

At this point, Augustine of Hippo felt obligated to establish some guidelines for believers in his day, so that they were not confused between what must be held onto under the law, and what to let go of. As he saw it, from this point on the Apostle Paul begins to show how the Grace of Faith is sufficient for justification apart from works of the law, just in case anyone was saying that while they do not attribute a person’s entire justification to works of the law alone, neither do they attribute it to the Grace of Faith alone, but rather claims that salvation is accomplished by both.[2]

Here we clearly see the beginning of the Roman Catholic doctrine of salvation by way of good works by faith, allowed by, if not demanded by, God’s grace. But in order to treat this question carefully and avoid being misled by ambiguity, Augustine says that we must first realize that the works of the law are in two divisions. Some come under sacraments, others under morals. Under sacraments is circumcision of the flesh, the weekly Sabbath, new moons, sacrifices, and all the countless observances of this kind. Under morals are: You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not bear false witness and the like. Augustine is sure that it is impossible that the Apostle Paul did not care whether a Christian was a murderer and an adulterer, or celibate and innocent, in the same way, that he didn’t care whether a man was circumcised or uncircumcised in the flesh. At present, therefore, he is dealing mainly with these sacramental works. When we examine the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church, we find the following: Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Anointing of the sick, Marriage, and Holy Orders (ordained bishops, priests, and deacons).

Matthew Henry (1662-1714) says that Paul wants the Galatians and the Judaizers to know that he was dead to the Law. He knew that the Moral Law branded all those who did not faithfully follow everything written there. So instead of the Moral Law pronouncing the death sentence on him, he decided to just go ahead and die to the Moral Law so that it couldn’t touch him as a dead man. After all, the Moral Law offered no hope of justification or salvation, even when obeyed. And as for the Ceremonial Law, he also knew that it was now antiquated and superseded by the coming of the Anointed One, and, therefore, the essence of what the Ceremonial Law represented came in human form to the world, he no longer needed to pay attention to the Anointed One’s shadow in the Ceremonial Law now that the Anointed One came to fulfill the Law. And when considering the Torah itself, he saw that justification was never possible by the works it demanded, since no one was able to perform them in perfect obedience. That he also understood there was now no further need of the sacrifices and purifications it prescribed since they were done away in the Anointed One’s sacrifice and resurrection. To make it sweet and short, following the Law’s demands in order to obtain forgiveness and justification was all a mirage, like an illusionary lake in the desert.

But that was only half the story. Though Paul was dead to the Law he was alive to God through the Anointed One – Jesus. As he says in verse twenty, I’m not the one living now – it is the Anointed One living in me. I still live in my body, but I live by faith in the Son of God. He’s the One who loved me and gave Himself to save me. My old man is gone, a new man has moved in. Whereas I depended on the Law to be my source of strength and hope, now I depend solely upon God’s grace and promises. Before says Paul, I was independently trying to survive spiritually because of the harness that kept me attached to the Law yet gave me no assistance, but now I’m co-dependent with the Anointed One because we are united together as one in the Spirit.[3] I may still be living in the flesh, remarks Paul, but I no longer live by what I see and try to imitate, now I live by faith by that which I cannot see but find it’s real when I truly believe.[4] So, says Henry, those who have true faith live by that faith and the great thing which faith fastens upon is the Anointed One’s loving us. The great evidence of the Anointed One’s loving us is His giving Himself for us and this is what we join with faith with in order to live for Him to God’s glory and honor, not ourselves.[5]

George W. Clark (1831-1911) sees a different side of the Law in that the Law prepared the way to reach the Anointed One by cutting off all hope of right standing with God and salvation through the works of the Law. Therefore, despairing of all help from the Law in holy living and a new spiritual life, desperate sinners were driven to seek a Savior who could lift them to a higher plane of spirituality as explained in the Gospel in order to gain timeless life through a right standing with God only available through faith in Jesus the Anointed One.[6]

But some contended that this made the Anointed One a promoter of sin because we must all be sinners in order to become saints. They also accused Paul that by advocating justification through faith apart from works that it led to, or at least encouraged the sin of laziness rather than holiness and consecration to God as His servants. But Paul assured them that because the Gospel provides a righteousness in justification and a life of holiness in sanctification through the Holy Spirit, that no such attitude existed because of the internal changes that took place making those who believe into a new creation with the indwelling Spirit of the Anointed One there to guide and motivate them to live and work with an attitude of giving all glory, honor, and praise to God through the Anointed One.[7]

[1]Aiyer, Ramsey, The Contextual Bible Galatians, loc. cit.

[2] Augustine of Hippo: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[3] See Matthew 11:29

[4] 2 Corinthians 5:7

[5] Matthew Henry: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[6] Romans 6:11; Philippians 3:9

[7] George W. Clark: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 76

About drbob76

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