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 LVI)

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.[1] I would be more inclined to say that all of this was preplanned when it happened instead of spontaneous. But, in its preplanned stage, it was spontaneous.

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.[2]

William O’Conor makes the point that after refuting suggestions that the Anointed One might be the minister of sin if we were justified by faith, and not by the works of the law, Paul now establishes the doctrine of justification by faith by showing that the rival doctrine would leave the leading principle of the Christian religion without a motive or end. There is no alternative to fulfilling the Law outside of the Anointed One who was the complete fulfillment of the law. This was something our Lord did far better than even the most dedicated saint could accomplish. So, it is clear, the Anointed One did not die without a cause. But if righteousness, and consequent justification and sanctification, were attainable by the Law, the Anointed One risked being put to death for no reason or cause. Righteousness is, therefore, not attainable by the Law, and consequently, we must seek it through faith in the Anointed One’s death. The attainment of righteousness is the end of all that God did for us. The superiority of the Gospel to the Law is that the Law failed to make anyone righteous while God’s grace made that possible to even the lowest sinner. The Law fails because it knows no mercy, and produces a disposition also lacking in mercy. The Gospel succeeds because it presents to us a Savior who, by faith, becomes our Inward Life perfected in righteousness because of the Anointed One.[3]

Then Alvah Hovey concludes it is worthwhile to remember that God’s providence is a factor of history. A man named Paul was present in Antioch by the will of God who could meet the emergency in such a way that even Peter’s misrepresentation of grace was overruled for good. Humanly speaking, it was just the place and the time for this occurrence. A great and heretofore unsettled question could now be answered in such a manner as to satisfy the Gentiles, if not the Jews. It was answered in strict agreement with the spirit and genius of Christianity. If the divine hand is ever discernible in human affairs, it is in this sad but important transaction in front of the congregation at Antioch. And it was a transaction, the recital of which could not fail but to impress the Galatians the high authority of Paul as an Apostolic Christian teacher, and the perfect clearness and truth of the Gospel he preached. It introduced, therefore, in a most effective manner the argument which he was about to make in support of the doctrine of salvation by the grace of God through faith in the Anointed One.[4]

Charles Spurgeon, in a sermon on this twenty-first verse which he titles, “Salvation by Works, A Criminal Doctrine,” says that no one was more explicit than Paul in conveying the doctrine that we are not justified before God by works of any kind, but solely by the Grace of God. This loud trumpet alert does not go out with an uncertain sound, it is a clear and recognizable note: “By Grace, you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.[5] We should never tolerate any tampering with this matter of Grace over Works, no should there be any redaction of its true meaning. When this is detected, there should be a call to war, to pull out our sword of the Spirit,[6] and never yield to the enemy’s attack.

Spurgeon goes on to define what he calls the two great crimes committed by those trying to replace Grace with the Law. First, is the crime of frustrating the Grace of God, and the second is that such self-justification makes a mockery of the death of the Anointed One. Spurgeon also admits that there are some who think that they are too great a sinner to be saved at all. That their sins are indelible and cannot be washed away. Without knowing it they are voiding the Grace of God by making its power and limiting its might. It’s another way of saying that our Redeemer’s blood and our Father’s grace are not enough. Spurgeon then quotes from a song sung in his day that goes: “Who is a pardoning God like Thee? Or who has grace so rich and free?”[7] [8]

Vincent in his Word Studies points out that the Greek noun charis used by Paul and translated as “grace” (KJV), is that which brings us “joy.” As used in Scripture it reveals a higher meaning as something based on the fact that it is a free gift or a gracious favor. It cannot be earned. It is free, spontaneous, and signifies the absolute loving-kindness of God toward humanity. As such, it is in contrast to the ideas of debt, law, works, and sin. This free gift of Grace is given to us through God’s gracious gift of His Son who died to redeem us.[9] This was also something no other person could do.[10]

Jewish writer David Stern writes about how God’s Grace is a gift. First, the death of the Messiah Yeshua on our behalf was a gift from He and the Father. It provided the believer with a proper righteous standing before God. Secondly, the Messiah living in the believer allows them to be righteous in their behavior. This is also a gift in that it cannot be manufactured by the believer on their own. This was especially true of the Jews who through a legalistic following of the Torah tried to be right with God based on their obedience to the Law. Stein finishes by saying that having the Anointed One in us helps in our progress toward holiness. But this does not result from putting one’s trust in God followed by a lifetime of legalism. Rather, it results from trusting God through a growing faith that endures until death.[11]

Another Jewish writer, Adriaan Liebenberg, hears Paul talking to the Judaizers who infiltrated the congregation in Galatia, as well as to the Galatians themselves, that if being right with God involved some adherence to the Torah, the possibility existed for them to declare themselves righteous without needing the help of a Messiah a long time ago. So, Yeshua died on the cross for no reason. However, even those who believed in Yeshua as the Messiah was told by the Judaizers that they were not completely saved until they learned to obey the Torah by being circumcised. But Paul is telling them that they were all saved the moment they chose to repent and put their faith in Yeshua. And what good news that is! Their hearts were purified by faith the moment they repented and believed. It is just as Peter said on the Day of Pentecost.[12] Even the prophet Ezekiel prophesied what happened on Pentecost.[13] So what the Judaizers were telling the Galatians was a contradiction of what happened in the Upper Room in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost.[14]

Then, Avi ben Mordechai presents the Jewish perspective on what Paul is talking about here. He begins by pointing out that long ago, Yahweh chose to show mercy to Israel for their adultery with idols.[15] It’s part of God’s plan to reconcile after their divorce and capital crime, pay what they owed to the Law, and forgive their sins.[16] It was all designed to prevent the punishment that God decreed in their being exiled, leaving the door open for the nation as a whole to repent[17] and be restored.[18] However, if anyone should rebuild a path back to the very things that caused judgment in the first place,[19] then they would, of course, be guilty of frustrating the Grace of God. It would be their way of saying, “No thank you, God. We don’t want Your Law or Your Mercy. We prefer doing it our own way instead of Yours.” To say this, would be to trample upon Divine Grace and open ourselves to an even greater timeless judgment.[20] [21]

Dr. Philip Ryken, President of Wheaton College, begins by asking, “What does it mean to ‘die to the Law.‘” He wants us to notice that it is not the Law that does the dying. Rather, it was Paul who died to the Law. Considering the fact that Paul was a staunch Pharisee at one time, this no doubt proved particularly hard for him to do. As a Pharisee, he lived for the Law and by the Law. But now that he is a Christian, he no longer shares any relationship with the Law. In other words, Paul is no longer under contract to the Law. Ryken quotes John Calvin who said: “To die to the law is to renounce it and be freed from its dominion so that we put no confidence in it and it does not hold us captive under the yoke of slavery.”[22] [23]

[1] See Ephesians 2:4-9

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

[3] W. A. O’Conor: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 41–42

[4] Alvah Hovey: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 36

[5] Ephesians 2:8-9

[6] Ibid. 6:17

[7] Great God of Wonders: by Samuel Davies, 1884

[8] Charles H. Spurgeon’s Sermons on Galatians: Book by Book Sermons, Kindle Edition, Location 2348-2550

[9] See 1 Corinthians 16:3; 2 Corinthians 8:6, 19; 1 Peter 1:10, 13

[10] Vincent, Marvin. Word Studies in Galatians (Kindle Location (519-522).  Kindle Edition.

[11] David H. Stern: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Location (15464-15473), Kindle Edition.

[12] Acts of the Apostles 2:38-39

[13] Ezekiel 36:27

[14] W. Adriaan Liebenberg: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 46

[15] Hosea 1-2; Ezekiel 39:25-29

[16] Jeremiah 31:34

[17] Deuteronomy 30:14

[18] Jeremiah 29:11-14

[19] Ezekiel 20:23-25

[20] Hebrews 20:28-31

[21] Avi ben Mordechai: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 26

[22] John Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, trans. T. H. L. Parked, editors, David W., and Thomas F. Torrance, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996, p. 42

[23] Ryken, Philip Graham: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Location 1436, Kindle Edition.

About drbob76

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