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 LV)

One of the leaders of the Puritan Movement in the Church of England and a Cambridge theologian, William Perkins, writes that when we see “Grace” in the Scriptures, it signifies two things: the free favor of God, and the free gifts of God in us. And while the Holy Spirit is the witness to our justification, it all starts with Grace. For we are first the recipients of God’s goodwill and favor by His pardoning of our sins, and granting us timeless life, all on the merits of the Anointed One, not our own.[1] Perkins then writes that when Paul states emphatically that he is not pushing aside the grace of God, he is implying that he would never frustrate the work of God’s grace with respect to his own life nor in respect to the lives of his fellow Jews when emphasizing that justification of a sinner is by faith alone. It must be remembered that the Anointed One died freely to satisfy the will of His Father in heaven. So why couldn’t the Jews understand that they too must die freely to the Law because it was the will of God for them to receive salvation through the Anointed One?[2]

Catholic scholar Cornelius à Lapide prefers the translation by St. Ambrose that reads, “I am not ungrateful to the grace of God.” This was Ambrose’ way of saying that anyone who frustrates the Grace of God does so by seeking to be justified through the Mosaic Law, as well as those who after baptism become polluted by sin. Lapide admits that this second cause is a moral interpretation, while the first must be taken literally. He goes on to say that anyone, therefore, who seeks to gain justification through the Law of Moses does so in vain. Lapide can’t imagine anyone being so insane as to say that the Anointed One suffered in vain. Our Lord did suffer for our justification; therefore, we are justified by the Anointed One not by Moses – by faith, not by Law.[3]

Matthew Poole sees Paul making it clear to the Galatians that he would never think of despising, rejecting, or making void the Grace of God. Poole points out that the Greek verb atheteō (“frustrate” KJV) Paul uses here is translated elsewhere in the Scriptures as “reject(s),”[4]despises,”[5]bring to nothing,”[6]nullify,”[7] and “throws away.[8] Not only does Poole feel that Paul is pointing to those who put the Law above Grace, but anyone today who responds to the free love of God in giving His Son to die for their sins then continues to live a loose life and exercise their liberty to sin shows contempt and despise their justification through God’s free grace in the Anointed One. This is another way of describing sinning against God.

Poole goes on to say that if there was a way to stand before God as being righteous through obedience to the Law of Moses, then the Anointed One did die for no reason. This conclusion is reached because it was the main principal purpose for which Christs died was to procure righteousness for those who could not find their way to be righteous through the Law. So, if His death is proven to be for no just cause and no real purpose, then it was all for nothing. But the opposite is true. There are none justified by obedience to the Law. God’s grace is the only factor that possesses the power to bring a sinner before Him so that because of their faith in the work that the Anointed One did on the cross they be made right with the Father.[9]

John Bengel hears Paul refusing to be lumped together with the Judaizers who manipulated their understanding of the grace of God and wanted everyone to know that he fully embraced God’s grace, apart from the Law, with all his heart and soul. Moses didn’t die for us; it was the Anointed One and the Anointed One alone who was worthy to die as a sacrifice to pay for our redemption. We need not worry about the Law anymore because living in the Anointed One fulfills the Law. The Law proved to be incapable of offering forgiveness and thereby justifying us to be called the children of God. To allow the Law of Moses to influence our justification and salvation is the make the Anointed One’s death as the Lamb of God an unnecessary and pointless event.[10]

Puritan preacher Johnathan Edwards suggest that anyone who uses their good works as the basis for being right with God, in spite of the fact that it was the Anointed One who died for them to buy their redemption, then they are saying that all God did for humanity in preparing the only way to God’s grace was all in vain. Such self-righteousness charges God with the greatest act of foolishness ever committed since eternity past. Edward is not finished, anyone thinks they get to God on their own to stand right before Him are the ones who are foolish, thinking that their poor polluted prayers and the little pains they take in following their religion is enough to do for oneself what the Anointed One did on the cross. Who would even think that they could appease God’s anger against sin through their own method of salvation is the same as telling Him that they didn’t need His Son the Anointed One, Jesus? Those who do so will be sinners in the hands of an angry God.[11] As Joseph Benson hints, if we live so that there exists no need for the Anointed One to die, then no reason existed for Him to die so that we might live.[12]

Adam Clarke summarizes his thoughts on what Paul is teaching here. As he sees it, no other well-grounded hope of timeless life exists but what comes through the Gospel. From the time of Adam down through the last 6000 years,[13] humanity sought to find a way of mending their broken heart: none discovered even came close to being effective. The Gospel of the Anointed One not only mend but completely cure and makes whole our infected human nature. Clarke wants to know if anyone fully understands the infinite excellency and importance of the Gospel? What was the world before its appearance? What will happen to sinners if this light is ever extinguished? Clarke prays, “Blessed Lord! let neither unfaithfulness nor false doctrine rises up to obscure this heavenly splendor!”[14]

James Haldane makes an interesting observation by noting that if a sinner could be justified by the Law of Sinai, then when the Anointed One raised the cup at the last supper with His disciples, He need not drink it, but rather, put it down still full of its contents. Why pretend that what He was about to do on the cross was of any consequence? Why go through with such a vain act in delusion? But Paul was guided by the Holy Spirit and saw a different picture. The Anointed One was the grand link of the chain by which God’s timeless purpose for salvation was secured. But to many, this truth was hidden in the treasures of wisdom and knowledge found only in the Scriptures. That’s why the Apostle Paul harbored no intention of lowering the importance of God’s grace and the Anointed One’s work on the cross, thereby setting aside infallible proof of Divine love – God purchasing believers with His own blood.

In addition, Haldane also points out that this conclusion to chapter 2 corresponds exactly with Romans, chapters 6 and 7. He says much more, but the essence of which I’ve summarized as follows: Not only was the Anointed One’s death the basis for the immediate work of redemption, but also the foundation for the progressive work of sanctification. We must remember, the Anointed One died a lingering death on the cross. He lived in pain for hours before bowing His head and surrendered His soul to God. So it is that the Anointed One’s pain, as with the pain of Adam’s sin continues to live in us.  Thus, our sinful tendencies are at war with our spiritual needs – the mind against the soul. Only when our Adamic nature is given a burial in baptism do believers receive the power to overcome such tendencies. It’s like being raised from the dead! This is so much better than yielding to the demands of the Law and continue to serve as slaves in its bondage.[15]

Johann Lange advises that we should never let our practice of self-devotion become more important than our faith in the work of the Anointed One on the cross when it comes to our justification and sanctification. He also includes five-fold reasons on how we may knowingly or unknowingly reject the grace of God as the all-sufficient means to justification and salvation. First, by a denial of the perfect satisfaction of the Law provided by the Anointed One. Secondly, by setting alongside Grace our own merits, worthiness, and righteousness. Thirdly, by abusing this Grace to favor any presumptions we may make of our own worthiness and, thereby, supersede sanctification. Fourthly, when even sincere souls, in feeling unworthy, are much too timid upon conviction to accept God’s grace because they think they must first on their own arrive at some degree of holiness before grace offers them salvation. Fifthly, when one is tempted to lean more upon feelings rather than the facts of God’s Word, they conclude that they somehow fell out of grace again and must start all over, again![16]

John Eadie wants his readers to know that the “Grace” of God is not to be confused with the “Gospel,” nor the “Work of the Anointed One” on the cross. The fact that the Anointed One died for sinners is proof positive God’s Grace preexisted, and His sovereign kindness was manifested in the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus the Anointed One. All of this was spontaneous on God’s part and was not based on any merit we may think we earned by good works.[17]

Eadie goes on to say that Paul’s realization of being in union with the Anointed One, dying with Him, and rising with Him, and his conscious possession of the Anointed One as his life within him that was put into motion and sustained by faith in the Son of God were proof enough for him that he was not being ungrateful for the grace of God. By trusting in the Anointed One, and in Him alone, he was magnifying the grace of God. This no doubt was why Paul was frustrated with Peter’s conduct in Antioch in which he seemed to be setting aside the grace of God. Paul wanted the Galatians, and all believers, to know that if anyone puts their faith in good works in any way, either completely or in part, as a way of affirming their place in justification before God as His child, is either opposed to faith or supplementing it. Grace is a gift from God, not a wage or earned merit. To do anything apart from the grace of God to secure salvation is making a mockery of the Anointed One’s work and death on the cross.[18]

[1] See 2 Timothy1:9; Ephesians 2:8

[2] William Perkins: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 219

[3] Cornelius à Lapide: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 257

[4] Mark 6:26, 7:9; Luke 7:30; John 12:48

[5] Luke 10:16; 1 Thessalonians 4:8; Hebrews 10:28; Jude 1:8

[6] 1 Corinthians 1:19

[7] Galatians 3:15

[8] 1 Thessalonians 6:12

[9] Matthew Poole: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Location 720-731

[10] Johann Bengel: On Galatians, op, cit., p. 583

[11] Jonathan Edwards: op. cit., On Galatians 2:21, History of the Work of Redemption, Containing the Outlines of a Body of Divinity, Including a View of the congregation History, in a Method Entirely New, Period I, Part III, Sec. I, Kindle Location 7759-7763

[12] Joseph Benson: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[13] Clarke’s Commentary was first published in 1810.

[14] Adam Clarke: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[15] James Haldane: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 99-101

[16] Peter Lange: On Galatians, op. cit., a quote from Starke, Volume 8, Kindle Location 4187-4192.

[17] See Ephesians 2:4-9

[18] John Eadie: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 194-195

About drbob76

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