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 LIII)

Peter then goes on and tells James that in order to address any matter where a similar thing is happening to those who were considered part of the seventy-two disciples Jesus ordained to preach the Gospel,[1] that he is free to share with them any copies of his sermons as a form of initiating them into the ministry of indoctrinating those who wish to take part in teaching. Peter warns, if this is not done, the word of truth will fracture into different interpretations. And this he knew, not as being a prophet, but as already seeing the beginning of this very evil.

Now here comes a telling piece of information, says Clementine. Peter says he experienced this coming from the Gentile believers who rejected his legal preaching, attaching themselves to certain lawless and trivial preaching of a man who is my opponent.[2] And these things have happened while I am still alive, to transform my words by various interpretations in order to do away with the Law; as though I also myself were of such a mind, but did not freely proclaim it, which God forbid! For such a thing were to act in opposition to the Law of God which was given to Moses and confirmed by our Lord with respect to its timelessness. That’s why he said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.[3] And He said this so that all things spoken about might come to pass. But these men, professing, to somehow know my mind, undertook to explain my words which they heard me say, in a more intelligent manner than I spoke them, telling their students that this is what I meant, which indeed I never thought of. But if, while I am still alive, they dare to misrepresent my words, how much more will those who will come after me dare to do the same![4]

Paul seems to be answering such a charge that he misinterpreted what Peter said by noting that anyone who thinks that disregarding the grace of God is necessary just to remain in compliance with the Law of Moses is promoting a ridiculous thought. This is what Jesus accused the Pharisees of doing with the written Law in order to enforce their oral laws.[5] They preferred their man-made righteousness to God’s righteousness. This is the same point Paul made when he wrote the Roman believers.[6] But it was all in vain because if they do end up being justified before God and the death sentence for sinners is removed, it does not include anything they did, it is the consequence of God’s free love, grace, and mercy.[7]

That’s why it was necessary for God to send a new high priest with the authority of the new Law of Grace so that a proper sacrifice could be made that would eternally satisfy God’s demand for justice.[8] This was the message that Paul carried abroad, and reminded the Corinthians of its importance: “Now let me remind you, brothers, of what the Gospel really is, for it has not changed—it is the same Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is squarely built upon this wonderful message, and it is this Good News that saves you if you still firmly believe it, unless of course you never really believed it in the first place.[9] And Paul repeats the same refrain here he used in his letter to the Corinthians when he said, “If the Anointed One was not raised from the dead, then what we preach to you is worth nothing. Your faith in the Anointed One is worth nothing.”[10] If that turned out to be the case, then Paul said, “If the Anointed One was not raised from the dead, your faith is worth nothing and you are still living in your sins.”[11]

This sense of futility that Paul projects on the Anointed One, and which he himself said would be the case if those he delivered the Gospel to did not stay with their conversion but went back to their old Jewish or Gentile ways, was expressed by Isaiah. In spite of God’s call designating him as His servant and messenger to Israel and the promise that God’s glory would be seen through him, Isaiah confessed: “My work has been for nothing. I spent My strength for nothing. Yet for sure what should come to Me is with the Lord, and My reward is with My God.”[12]

The Prophet Jeremiah felt the same sense of letdown. After all, he did try and get the Israelites to listen to the message from the Lord, claiming that they already knew all that was needed, Jeremiah told them this: “How can you say, ‘We are wise because we have the word of the Lord,’ when your teachers have twisted it by writing lies? These wise teachers will fall into the trap of their own foolishness, for they have rejected the word of the Lord.  Are they that wise after all?”[13]

The only way we live by faith in union with the Anointed One, says Paul, is when we are dead to the old system, just as the only way a baby lives and grows older is outside the womb.  The grace of God cannot be considered just one of many options for getting saved.  It is the only option, the only way, the only truth, the only life. If you insist on requiring observance of the old rituals, ceremonies, and customs practiced under Mosaic Law for it to work, then you are implying that the Anointed One’s death on the cross was not much more than a suicidal act of a misguided Zealot.

In other words, if we could gain salvation for us by strict adherence to the rules and regulations of the religious law that regulates admission and acceptance by our congregation, then why did God go to all the trouble of sending His Son to suffer and die to accomplish the same thing?  It wouldn’t be necessary.  But that won’t work, says Paul! There is no one who satisfies each and every dot and title of the law – which must be done to gain complete righteousness through the law – nor continue in such perfection the rest of their lives.  Therefore, salvation through rites, rituals, and religiosity is impossible.

No wonder Paul felt exasperated by those who insisted on adding the burden of the law’s requirements to the gift of salvation by grace through Jesus the Anointed One. Some might suggest getting rid of the ordinances and teachings of the church because the people of God don’t need such directives. This question is redundant because all true teachings and ordinances of the church must be based on the Word of God, and this is how the Word gives direction to the believer. Then some may question the rules and regulations of discipleship and discipline put forth in the church’s doctrine as a burden. Once again, such discipleship and discipline must also conform with the teachings of Jesus the Anointed One. There is a big difference between being a servant of God through love, and a being a slave of God through law.

Church historian Philip Schaff agrees that there existed much earnest controversy in these young congregations, not necessarily about the great facts on which their faith was based, and which were fully admitted to by both Messianic Jews and synagogue Jews in the Galatian congregations. It was about doctrinal and ritual inferences from these facts, especially the question of the continued obligation of circumcision and the Mosaic law, and the personal question of the apostolic authority of Paul. The Judaizers maintained the superior claims of the older apostles and charged Paul with a radical departure from the venerable religion of their forefathers; while Paul used against them the argument that the sacrificial death of the Anointed One and His resurrection was needless and useless if justification came from the good deed done in order to obey the law.[14]

In 529 AD the Bishops of the churches met in the city of Orange, located in southeast France, about 13 miles north of the city of Avignon. This was one of the most important councils of the early church and was often pointed to by Reformers as evidence that 900 years later the Roman Catholic Church abandoned the theology of its own Council Fathers and church Theologians. All persons of faith should take the time to get to know it.

The content of the Council itself naturally grew out of the public dispute between Augustine and Pelagius. This critical dispute involved the extent to which the natural man is responsible for his or her own regeneration, namely, whether the work of God in regeneration was “monergistic” – (by God alone) or was it “synergistic” – (cooperation of man with God)? The Council of Orange condemned the Semi-Pelagian doctrine that fallen creatures, although sinful, were given an island of righteousness which made them morally competent enough to contribute toward their salvation by taking hold of the offer of the grace of God through an act of their unregenerate natural will.

As a result of the Synod in Orange, a number of Canons (doctrines) were written to be sent to all the churches throughout the known world. One of those Canon’s reads as follows: “No person will be justified by what they’ve done on their own as though it were not a gift, or suppose that it will be given to them because a message was delivered to them either by word of mouth or in writing. For the Apostle Paul speaks said this: ‘For if justification were through the Law, then the Anointed One died for no purpose.[15] Paul also quoted the Psalmist[16] when he wrote to the Ephesians that when the Anointed One ascended on high He took those who were with Him, thereby making gifts available to humankind’.”[17] It is from this source that each believer is guaranteed what they possess. And whoever denies that they received it from this either does not truly possess it or else “even what they have will be taken away.”[18] [19] So the question remains today, is the Roman Catholic Church following the doctrines of the Synod of Orange or have the composed doctrines of their own?

[1] Luke 10:1-24

[2] Many believe that this is a clear reference to the Apostle Paul

[3] Matthew 24:35

[4] The Twelve Patriarchs, Excerpts and Epistles: Clementia, Apocrypha, Decretals, Memoirs of Edessa and Syriac Documents, Remains of the First Age, Phillip Schaff, ed. Intro. by the Rev. Thomas Smith, Chapters. I & II, pp. 365-366

[5] Mark 7:9

[6] Romans 10:3

[7] Ibid. 11:6

[8] Hebrews 7:11-12

[9] 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

[10] Ibid. 15:14

[11] Ibid. 15:17

[12] Isaiah 49:3-4

[13] Jeremiah 8:8-9

[14] Philip Schaff: History of the Christian congregation, Vol. 1, The Middle Ages, Apostolic Christianity, AD 1-100 para. 22, p. 188

[15] Galatians 2:21

[16] Psalm 68:18

[17] Ephesians 4:8

[18] Matthew 25:29

[19] The Canons of the Council of Orange, (529 AD) Canon 16, p. 18. (Redacted for better understanding in modern English – RRS). See also Canon 21.

About drbob76

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