CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

GALATIANS

SUMMARY OF CHAPTER TWO

Galatians Chapter 2 shows how the Apostles accepted Paul’s gospel message concluding he had been sent by God to preach to the Gentiles. Paul opposes Peter and the brethren who had distanced themselves from the Gentiles and fell back into Jewish customs and laws. He cites that no one will be justified by observing the law and concludes that if righteousness could be obtained by the law, Christ died for nothing.

In this chapter, we also get to perhaps the very heart of Paul’s mission to the Gentiles. It comes as a result of the question of whether a Gentile must first become a Jew, and follow Jewish law–dietary and other–to be a real follower of Jesus.  According to Paul, James, brother of Jesus said yes, and Paul said no. Paul won the argument.

Then we run across this issue in Mark 7:5-15, in which the Pharisees ask Jesus why his disciples eat with unclean hands. Jesus’ response is that ‘it’s not what goes into a person that makes him unclean, but what comes out.’ Jewish dietary laws are not necessary.

But, ask yourself, did Jesus really say that?  If He did, why did Paul and James have to have an argument over it? Why didn’t the James Gang in Jerusalem follow the teaching of Jesus on this point? The answer, because Jesus didn’t say that. It was Paul who made it OK for new members of the Jesus community not to follow Jewish dietary laws, but, more importantly, that adult males would not have to submit to circumcision. This was a huge development. It removed a major barrier to getting non-Jews to accept the word of Jesus.

There is a reason for taking the following in chronological order in which they were written. What came first?

  • The ideas encountered: A revelation tells Paul to go to Jerusalem after 14 years.
  • The revelation may be the reason he’s able to stand up to the controversy he encounters there
  • A significant rift between Paul and James about remaining Jewish.  It seems that James sent agents to spy on both Paul and Peter, to undermine the freedom these two had. Freedom, presumably, from maintaining all the Jewish dietary and other laws.
  • They reach an agreement: Paul is the Apostle to the uncircumcised, while Peter is the Apostle to the circumcised
  • Peter liked to live like a Gentile until James’ agents caught him. Paul uses this to push his point that if Jews can’t live like Jews, how can Gentiles be expected to do so?
  • What is this about Justification by Faith!!!
  • The Law vs Faith
  • Christ living in Paul. Rather a novel concept, don’t you believe
  • If we are justified by the Law, why did Christ die?

So the confrontation between Paul and Peter and between Paul and the Gang from Jerusalem was more than just ethics. Salvation by faith hung in the balance. Had Peter and James won, Christianity would be nothing more than an extreme Jewish sect. But because Paul won, Christianity is a separate vine on the holy olive tree. Thank God for giving Paul the courage to stand firm with the help of the Holy Spirit.

But Paul is far from finished with admonishing, instructing, and motivating the Galatians. Next in line will be his discourse on “God’s Righteousness by Being Faithful,” “Mankind’s Unrighteousness by Being Unfaithful,” and “Real Righteousness by Faith.” It will be an exciting time of discovering more nuggets of spiritual wisdom and spiritual nutrition in order to grow stronger and more in the image of the Anointed One.

So, one Monday, October 7, we will begin our journey through Galatians Chapter Three. I am so proud of all of you who are God-loving, Bible-loving, and faithful readers of God’s Word. I’m sure that if I feel that way, God must also feel the same, the Holy Spirit is overjoyed at your willingness to take time out of your day to hear from the Lord. So we will see you on Monday! God bless you! – Dr. Robert R Seyda

About drbob76

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