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 LII)

British Sunday school teacher J. L. Nye (1881-1965) was looking for a story or illustration to put a frame around what Paul says in verse twenty about his being crucified with the Anointed One yet he is still alive. Only, it was the Anointed One alive in him and gave him the faith to live for the God who loved him and gave Himself for him. Here’s the story he selected:

 

Reverend Charles Deems (1820-1893), an American Methodist minister who pastored the Church of the Strangers in New York City from 1868 to 1893. In one of his sermons, he said that just suppose he was called to His Heavenly Father so He could say to him: I just created a system of ten thousand worlds, each as capable of development as the planet upon which you were born. You are to be a ruler, prince, god of that system for ten million years. You shall wisely direct its best possible issues and a capability of drawing into yourself all the delights which the worlds themselves and the populations thereof can afford. I will say nothing of what will follow the close of that long era; only this: “That neither then or at any time during your brilliant autocracy will I love you. Your myriads of people will love you – every one of them – but not I.

Reverend Deems then asks, “What should I say?” I should fall at His feet and cry aloud and say, “O God, O God, take them all, roll the worlds back into your arms – but love me! Send me back to my planet; down to New York – down to trouble and want and wandering and beggary; smite me, like Job, from head to foot with boils; turn the dogs of the rich man out to lick my sores; and when I crawl to my cellar to lie down on my bed of straw, look at me and say: “Son, I love you,” and the knowledge of your love will be sweeter, better, grander there than all rule and dominion and power among the stars without your love. [1] [2]

Also, when Charles Spurgeon read verse twenty, as part of his evening devotions, the thought of how the Lord Jesus the Anointed One was conducting Himself before the world as a representative of all mankind by dying on the cross as though they were dying there. But for the Apostle Paul, there was more to understand in the death of the Anointed One which he believed and trusted in for his salvation. As far as Spurgeon is concerned, Paul actually felt its power in himself in causing the crucifixion of his old corrupt nature. When he saw the pleasures of sin, he said, “I cannot enjoy these: I am dead to them.” Such should be the experience of every true Christian. Having received the Anointed One, they are to this world as one who is dead and buried. Yet, while conscious of death to the world, they will be able at the same time, exclaim with the Apostle, “Nevertheless I live.” They are fully alive to God in the Anointed One. The Christian’s life is an unmatched riddle. No worldly person comprehends it; even the believers themselves cannot understand it. Dead, yet alive! Crucified with the Anointed One, and yet at the same time risen with the Anointed One in newness of life! In union with the suffering, bleeding Savior, and dead to the world and sin, are soul-cheering things.[3]

Bible scholar Walter Adeney gives us a similar shocking concept of the death of self we go through by being born again. For him, the crucifixion with the Anointed One is no figure of speech, meaning only that, inasmuch as the Anointed One died for us, we may be said to be crucified representatively in Him. The passionate earnestness of the Apostle Paul in describing his own spiritual renewal goes far beyond any such shallow conception. He is plainly describing what he really endured. This is death and dying! The old-self is put to death. The passions, lusts, habits, and immoral associations of life in sin, self, and worldliness are truly crucified.

We must remember, says Adeney, Christianity is not simply an educational process. It is first and foremost a militant, purging, scourging, and killing the enemy of sin religion. This is crucifixion – a painful, violent, merciless death. For it is no small thing to destroy one’s old sin life, so full of pleasant attractions, and so deeply rooted in our inmost nature. We are undertaking a judicial execution, brought on ourselves by the unforgiving powers of our own treacherous passions once we turn from them to faith in the Anointed One. Our union with the Anointed One necessitates this death of the old life and causes it to happen. If the new wine of the indwelling Spirit were poured into our old wineskins of selfish desires it would cause them to burst wide open. But we were given new wineskins for the wine of the Holy Spirit. As long as those old wineskins are not destroyed, we will be tempted from time to time to drink their putrid wine. Conscience and Law failed to destroy the old life, though they revealed its hideous deformity. But when we came to Calvary and reach out to the dying Anointed One, we joined Him in His experience by faith and hope. The old self received its mortal wounds. We no longer live in the abode of our former sinful self.[4]

Earlier, we commented on what Alfred E. Bouter wrote concerning making the Anointed One our role model.[5] So here in verse twenty, he repeats the same concept through the words of Paul. He hears Paul saying: But I am still in the flesh. So how do I live this new life? The answer is: by faith, with the Anointed One as the Object, He is my life. The life I have is characterized by the Anointed One, and further, it is by faith not by works of the law. He is the focus of my life.  In other words, when Paul says the life I live, the responsible “I” is the overcomer in us, the one who gives over the reins of their will to the Anointed One. Peter in this incident did not live by faith, but the one who lives like Paul did here live by faith, the faith of the Son of God. Paul was totally focus on Him because He lives in him, He controls him through His Spirit.[6]

So why do so many in their sinner’s prayer say, “Jesus, I receive you as my Lord and Savior,” but do not visualize Him moving in and living in their hearts? They still think of Him standing at the right hand of the Father to whom they go when they need help or guidance, instead of looking inside their heart for His instructions. Finally, and so beautifully at the end of verse twenty, who is this person? Who is this Son of God? He is the One who loves us and gave Himself for us. Should we not then live for Him who lives in us? Should we not do everything to please Him so that He is pleased with us? He gave Himself for us, can we not do the same for Him?

Hans Dieter Betz has a good summation of these verses by pointing out the Abraham was justified by faith, not works. But by the time Yeshua came into the world, they turned that completely around and now justification came by way of works, not faith. Then when Paul began his ministry to the Gentiles, the converted Jews objected because Paul also put faith before works while they wanted to keep it in line with their theological ceremonial tradition. However, Paul refused to back down. Not only to protect the Gentiles but for the education of the Jews. Yet, by the early fourth century of the Christian Church, they fell back into this misleading concept of works before faith which was instituted despite what the Apostle Paul preached. It took the Reformation to turn it back around again.[7] So the question for us is where is the church today?

2:21 So don’t ask me to treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping all the religious rituals and regulations could make us right with God, there would have been no need for the Anointed One to die.

Paul was clear from the beginning of his letter that by turning so quickly away from the Gospel he taught them, the Galatians apparently considered these Judaizers as being so important that they could not bring themselves to categorically dismiss their teaching as harmful to their faith as believers in Yeshua the Messiah. Instead, they responded to them as trusted guides by internalizing their message but perhaps not actualizing what they were being told as being beneficial to them as new believers in the Anointed One. No doubt Paul knew that once they went down that path, there would be no way of turning them back. So, he wanted to catch them now before it was too late.[8]

Paul was driven to do this because their actions meant they failed to realize that vowing allegiance to this other message was an act of turning their backs on the Grace of God. Did they forget that His grace was given to them while they were yet heathens? If He was so merciful to them as uninformed Gentiles who knew nothing of the Mosaic Law and never participated in the rites, rituals, and ceremonies of the Jews, especially circumcision, how could they now be made to feel that they were unworthy of such grace? Furthermore, they were nullifying the whole purpose for the Anointed One’s death on the cross on their behalf while they were yet sinners.[9] It could only be seen as their admitting that when Paul came and preached the Good News to them, he misled them. How could they implicitly deny the reality of their decision to believe in the Anointed One, as well as their experience of the Holy Spirit and seeing miracles performed in their midst?[10] How could they be so blind and ignorant? And would God ever forgive them?[11]

We might all wonder how Peter was taking all this assertion by Paul that the senior Apostle failed miserably in keeping his commitment to the truth that both Jews and Gentiles were to receive the Gospel and be treated equally in the body of the Anointed One. But an out-of-the-way source exists that might give us some idea. It is contained in a letter from Peter to the Apostle James contained in the Clementine Homilies. There we read where Peter tells James he would prefer that James not share anything Peter sent to him with any Gentile believers unless they are found worthy of his trust. He seems to be referencing an incident in the past and indicates that it involves opposition to his way of interpreting the Gospel. As a sort of back-handed slap to his critics, Peter mentions a long-held Jewish tradition that no one should be considered worthy to teach if they don’t understand what the Prophets were saying and learned how to interpret Scripture. And that among these Scriptures it tells us that there is one God, one Law, and one Hope.

[1] Dr. Deems’ Sermons: Published by Funk & Wagnalls, New York, 1885, The Great Truth, Ch. XII, p. 75

[2] J. L. Nye: op. cit., p. 112

[3] Charles Spurgeon: Morning and Evening Daily Readings, December 14, p. 701

[4] Walter Adeney: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[5] See commentary on 2:6-7 above

[6] Alfred E. Bouter: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[7] Hans Dieter Betz: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 115-127

[8] Mark A. Nanos: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 30

[9] Galatians 5:2-4

[10] Ibid. 3:2-5

[11] Mark A. Nanos: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 52-53

About drbob76

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