CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS

 CHAPTER THREE (Lesson V)

Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918), evinces a skilled writer’s way of expressing what Paul’s word-picture of the Anointed One on the cross really meant to the Galatians. Through Paul’s efforts, faith that was unseen became real; and to those who believe in the cross, they saw His marred and agonized face. They were witnesses to the reproach that broke His heart, the scorn, the derision, and the hate, of the screaming mob. They heard Emmanuel’s orphan cry asking, “My God, My God why have You forsaken Me!”[1] And by gazing on that painful scene, their inmost being underwent a transformation. Only yesterday worldly pleasure and selfishness held their hearts hostage and filled the whole horizon of their lives.

But now, says Anderson, the cross gave them the power to rid themselves of selfishness and to separate themselves from the world which crucified their Lord. O, says Anderson, for power to preach the cross of the Anointed One so that it will become a reality to all, whether they accept it or despise it. And those who despise the cross see what priests and soldiers saw, and the rabble crowd that mocked His agonies exclaiming, “It is impossible that this can be the Son of God!” But for those who cherish the old rugged cross, they will see what the Apostle John and Jesus’ mother Mary witnessed, and will cry out, with broken hearts mingled with love and grief, “My God, My God, why did You do this for me?” and turn to live devoted lives for Him who died in their place and rose again for their glory.”[2]

And in another of his writings Anderson sees an additional aspect in the passion of the Anointed One and how it impacted God’s people. He notes that within the era of sacred Hebrew history the periods of deepest gloom were enlightened by prophetic testimony, for the prophets were accredited ambassadors of heaven. And yet there were intervals during which there was “no open vision” – times when the twilight of that age was darkened by clouds due to idolatry and exile that covered all the sky. And throughout the centuries between the last of the Hebrew prophets and the preaching of John the Baptizer, the silence of heaven remained unbroken. And in those times of deepest gloom, it was that faith achieved some of its noblest victories. For the faith that suffers is greater than the faith that can boast of open triumph and has this no voice for us today?

Anderson goes on to question, is it not appalling that in the full light of the Christian revelation, we “before whose eyes Jesus the Anointed One was openly hanged and crucified,” as Paul says here in verse one, should still require spirit manifestations, or even individual experiences, to confirm the truth of the promises of God? And yet tidings reach us from all lands that earnest and spiritual Christians are somehow being deluded, and thrown into a frenzy of exultation, by meaningless mutterings of what is called the “gift of tongues,” or by other proofs of a spiritual presence from the unseen world. During the last century, there were many religious movements of this character, and there was not one of them that did not end in disaster.

Anderson continues. If real spiritual power, bringing ecstatic joy and peace to its adherents, could accredit a religious movement as divine, the Irvingite apostasy[3] had credentials incomparably superior to any that can be appealed to by similar revivals today.[4] History suggests that Sir Robert received these reports from persons who were obviously against the renewal of Pentecost. Today there are approximately 280 million Pentecostals around the world, and it is the fastest-growing segment of Christianity.

Bible teacher Walter Adeney (1849-1920), makes a good point on Paul’s word-picture to the Galatians of a Savior dying for their salvation. Paul does not try to hide the awfulness of the cross and the bloody crucifixion of the Son of God. This suggests a vivid, pictorial style of language joined to an energetic, almost dramatic, force of expression. The whole effort of the Apostle was to make his hearers not only see the Anointed One but feel His pain. No doubt Paul’s method was in some respects especially adapted to the Celtic responsiveness to their semi-barbarous past.

It certainly and was in a form very different from the Apostle’s manner of speaking to the cultured Athenians on the Areopagus. Yet to the Greeks at Corinth he says he determined to know nothing among them “save Jesus the Anointed One, and Him crucified.” Then laments Adeney, he is afraid that lately, the pulpit lost its influence by abandoning the argumentative type of preaching with respect to the supposed higher intelligence of the current age (early 1900s), using as a defense that the average believer doesn’t like confrontational preaching. Therefore, it must be curtailed because they are so susceptible to visual images. Whatever they may say as to the best method of presenting the Gospel, it is plain that what is most needed for the well-informed person, as well as, the least informed individual is that in order to understand Christian theology, they must see the Anointed One through the preaching of the Word.[5]

Cyril W. Emmet (1875-1924), English clergyman and Scholar of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, offers an interesting insight into the discussion of the “evil eye.” We learn that since ancient times it was supposed to have a disastrous magical effect. But as used here by Paul it probably was only said as a metaphor. So Emmet goes on to say that if the Galatians had kept their eyes fixed on the painting in Paul’s preaching of Jesus being crucified in their place, they would have been immune to any influence of the “evil eye” which could only take effect if the victim met the gaze of the sorcerer.[6] No wonder the writer of Hebrews gave them explicit instructions to keep their eyes fixed on the Lord.[7]

Kenneth S. Wuest (1893-1961), Evangelical Biblical Greek scholar, looks at Paul’s words here in verse one from a grammarian’s point of view. He tells us that the people of the province of Galatia were those who were able to overcome the degrading influence of their native magic and superstition. They were able to judge for themselves as to the real values in life and lay claim to insight and wisdom. However, Paul accuses them with failing to use that insight and wisdom, that appreciation of the better things, when he uses the Greek adjective anoētos translated as “foolish” (KJV).

The word anoētos, says Wuest, denotes the stupidity that arises when one’s intellect becomes unresponsive to stimuli and no longer functions as it should. It means “lacking in the power of perception.” It refers to one who does not reflect. The word speaks of failure to use one’s powers of conceptualization. The Galatians, Paul says, were certainly not using their heads. This word is used with an ethical reference as the faculty of moral judgment. Thus, the word indicates a failure to use one’s powers of perception to detect right from wrong, the good from the bad. In this case, such a failure revealed a serious moral defect. It is always true, as it was with the Galatians, that the act of a Christian who embraces false doctrine, is often due in an attempt to excuse sin in their life. The Galatian defection was not due to any fickleness of their French ancestors. Don’t blame it on them. Paul sends this stinging rebuke: O Galatians, you failed in living up to one of the first characteristics of the Galatian people, namely, the ability to use their heads and to appreciate the finer values of life.[8]

Grant Osborne, an American theologian, and professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School says that the reason the Galatians’ actions were so foolish was that Paul’s teaching of the Gospel was so unmistakably evident. That’s why Paul told them that before their very eyes Jesus the Anointed One was clearly portrayed as crucified. The truth was openly proclaimed and publicly understood. Osborne asks us to note the play on words: The Galatians’ opponents used an “evil eye” to bewitch them, but they earlier saw the truth with their “own eyes” and not be taken in by such legalistic logic as what the Judaizers were teaching. There is no way for them to miss the truth, and yet these heretics managed to pull the wool over their eyes, so to speak. Paul is in effect asking “How could you be so gullible?” Jesus the Anointed One crucified is the heart and soul of the Gospel, and to replace the cross with the works of the law is unimaginable.[9] In other words, until you see the Anointed One, you cannot see the Truth, the Way, and the Life as revealed by the Gospel.

Mark D. Nanos, who contributed much time to investigating the implications for Jewish – Christian relations of his reading of Paul as a Torah-observant Messianic Jew, talks about what we understand from verse one as Paul’s surprise or astonishment over the Galatians failing to live up to the standards of faith in the Anointed One he gave them from the Gospel, and be deceived into following someone else’s ideas of living by works instead of faith. He said it reminded of a parent scolding their wayward child who ended up with the wrong crowd and started doing things they were told they shouldn’t do. He senses the embarrassment that a parent often feels because their child’s behavior makes them look bad and suggests that didn’t do a very good job raising them.[10] If Paul felt that way about the Galatians, no doubt he was only expressing his Father in heaven’s disappointment as well.

Another Christian Jewish writer, Avi ben Mordechai, focuses on the faith in the Anointed One that the Gentiles strayed from. In the First Covenant, “faith” always meant trust in YaHWeH,[11] and “faithfulness” in having and doing what YaHWeH told them to do.[12] This is what demonstrated Abraham’s faith and faithfulness.[13] However, by the time Yeshua came, Abraham’s descendants ceased following his example. When it came to religious life and practice, the teachings of the Pharisees and scribes replaced the Torah teachings that Yeshua was reminding them of. They caused the Galatians’ minds to experience shipwreck because living by Pharisaic law requires faith in the rabbis, not in YaHWeH. This is the sourdough that Jesus warned about[14].[15] Unfortunately, in many churches, the same thing has happened. The philosophy of “positive thinking” and “super-abounding grace” replaced the words of Yeshua so that faith is now in the minister and not the Messiah.

[1] Matthew 27:46; cf. Psalm 22:1

[2] Sir Robert Anderson: The Gospel and It’s Ministry, op. cit., Ch. 3, p. 26

[3] Founded by Edward Irving and others in the early 1830’s England. The Irvingate movement was originally involved with the great advent awakening. Edward believed his preaching of the coming of JESUS became more effective by calling on the Spirit and gift of tongues and interpretation. He died before he could be tried by a London court for heresy. In 1863 the Germans split from the U.K. parent church and did very well in growth. The origin of the secret rapture theory can be traced back to a vision by Miss Margaret McDonald of the same movement. Both Edward Irving and Miss McDonald were Scottish.

[4] Sir Robert Anderson: Types in Hebrews, Ch. 11, p. 57

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

[6] Cyril W. Emmet: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 27-28

[7] Hebrews 12:2

[8] Kenneth Wuest: Word Studies, op. cit., loc. cit.

[9] Osborne, G. R: On Galatians, op. cit., loc., cit., p. 83

[10] Mark D. Nanos: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 48-49

[11] 2 Chronicles 20:20

[12] Exodus 24:1-7; Nehemiah 9:13; Psalms 119:42

[13] Genesis 26:5

[14] Matthew 16:11-12

[15] Avi ben Mordechai, On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 27

About drbob76

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