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 XII)

When speaking of God doing miracles in one’s life, Paul collected plenty of facts to prove his point. All he needed to do was point to his ministry with Barnabas in Iconium, and then over in Lystra.[1] And how about what happened in Ephesus?[2] In fact, Paul convinced the Romans of this same miracle power in his travels from Jerusalem to the province of Illyricum.[3] [4] But why should Paul expect any better treatment than Jesus, the One who called and sent him, received among the Jews when He was still here on earth? In spite of all the miracles and wonders He performed, they still ended up killing Him just because He claimed to be sent by God. The same thing was happening to Paul. This should be a lesson to us all. It is not miracles and wonders that will win the sinner to the Anointed One, but only the power of the Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Just in case the Galatians and the Judaizers were still unable to focus, Paul throws them another question that proved too hot to handle. While perhaps shaking his head, Paul says: Listen, does God the Father work miracles in your midst by healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind; making the lame to walk; and saving many from their wretched lives in sin all because you Jews are still abiding by your laws and rituals, or you Gentiles still worshiping your Greek and Roman gods?”  “Tell me,” says Paul, “If God used to do it for those reasons, then why, after you heard the Gospel of Jesus the Anointed One, did you fall on your knees in repentance and give your heart to God; be filled with the Spirit and started living for Him and sharing His Word?  Think about it!

Paul was certainly dealing with mixed emotions. He and Barnabas, along with other ministers, traveled throughout Galatia bringing the Gospel to the people there.  And God honored their labor with miracles and powerful works to wake up that part of the world to the reality of the Gospel and saving work of Jesus the Anointed One.  But now it looked like they were turning inward and concentrating on following the rituals and practical teachings of the past.

There are even Christian churches today that take it upon themselves to celebrate the Jewish Feasts because they think it will please God and make their Christianity more authentic. When I taught Jewish Feasts in seminary, I was able to show my students how Jesus fulfilled the intent and purpose of all the feasts. So, when we celebrate Jesus, we celebrate the real Passover Lamb; the real Yeast-free Bread; the real First Fruit of the Resurrection; the real Day of Pentecost; and await the real sound of the Trumpets; the real Day of Atonement; and the real Harvest.

Scottish theologian John Eadie (1810-1876 AD) discusses where Paul reminds the Galatians that it was God who gave them the Holy Spirit and did powerful works among them. He already asked this question back in verse two, now he’s asking it again. And all Paul wants to know is did God give them the Holy Spirit because they were dutifully doing what the Law said they should do or was it because they heard, believed, and started following the truth of the Gospel? Eadie says that the mighty works God did should not be restricted to miracles, but may encompass other works of divine energy. Certainly, the Galatian believers were conscious of the indwelling Spirit’s presence working within them; they felt the surge of the new life and could speak with tongues, and they were, and, therefore, were prepared to answer the question Paul put to them. Certainly, the Apostle Paul was not attempting to characterize himself as though he’s taking God’s place in seeing that they received the Holy Spirit. But he certainly could say that he furnished the Holy Spirit as an instrument of communication, or that he assisted in these miracles among, and in, them when the Spirit used his hands simply to conveyed the divine energy?[5]

George W. Clark (1831-1911) takes what Paul says here about the Spirit working miracles among the Galatians, and explains that the word rendered “miracles” may refer to miraculous works or miraculous powers. The Greek verb energeō Paul uses here is the root word from which we get our English word “energy.” When used in the intransitive tense it means “be operative, be working.”[6] But when used in the transitive tense it means to “put into operation, to make work.”[7] And then when used in the present tense it means to display one’s “operation or workmanship.”[8] Thayer in his Greek Lexicon says that it is used here in verse five in the transitive tense.[9]

So, this will help us understand whether to see this as “works of the Spirit” or “power of the Spirit.” If we decide on “works” then the verse should read “among you,” but if we see it as “power,” then the rendering should be “within you.” The Greek preposition en that the KJV translates as “among,” can mean “in”, “by”, or “with.” Later on, here in chapter three, Paul uses the same Greek preposition en by speaking of that which is written IN the Book of the Law. So, I agree with Rendall that the Spirit worked “within” the believers in Galatia because of the miracles that resulted from their ministry.[10] But when we apply this same preposition to the “works of the Law,” then it would be used in the present tense.

Wesleyan scholar and college professor G. G. Findlay (1849-1919) summarizes that when the Apostle Paul dealt with what we find in verses one to five, and that was the Galatians’ folly in forgetting the Gospel; the Galatians’ folly in forgetting the Cross; and the folly in forgetting the Spirit. It was all about “knowing.” Says, Findlay, these are the first three steps in backsliding. Without the light of the Messiah shining like a lighthouse, we are sinners lost on a never-ending dark night on the sea of sin. When people forget to look at the Gospel for guidance, and at the Cross as the magnetic north for their spiritual compass, and at the Holy Spirit as their pilot, then being lost is not only a possibility but a probability.[11]

Ernest DeWitt Burton (1856-1925) offers his commentary on Paul’s question in verse two about whether or not the Galatians received the Holy Spirit through the Law or the hearing of God’s Word. In verse five Paul talks about how the Holy Spirit subsequently did mighty deeds among the believers. These “deed” could easily be understood as the Gifts of the Spirit at work, not some healing or deliverance ministry. Burton calls them “charismatic manifestations of the Spirit,” such as speaking in tongues and prophesying. He also points out that it is the same Spirit that produces the inward Fruit of the Spirit, which are inward, as well as the Gifts of the Spirit, which are outward.[12]

Kenneth Wuest (1893-1961) notes that the word “suffer,” therefore, continues the thought of verses two and three which is further emphasized. In verse two, Paul is speaking of the initial entrance of the Spirit into the hearts of the Galatians at the moment they placed their faith in the Lord Jesus. In verse three, he refers to the sanctifying work of the Spirit in the believer’s life. In this verse, the subject of the charismatic manifestations of the Spirit is introduced, namely, the anointing of the Holy Spirit in endowing certain members of the Galatian churches with special gifts of the Spirit. All these Paul brings to bear upon his contention that the grace-way of salvation must be God’s-way since it is accompanied by the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit.[13]

Richard Longenecker agrees with Burton that when Paul spoke of the Holy Spirit working miracles among the Galatians, he was thinking, and expanding on the allusion, he gave in verse four, and the ongoing spiritual experiences beyond the time of their conversion. It refers to outward manifestations of the Spirit’s presence such as enumerated in 1 Corinthians 12:7–11 and 2 Corinthians 12:12. It identifies the Galatians themselves as the recipients of the Spirit’s charismatic activities. It is true, of course, that 2 Corinthians 12:12 speaks of miracles as one of the signs of an Apostle.[14] Since these were outward manifestations of the Holy Spirit working among the Galatians long after they were converted, it seems logical to take that as a reference to the outward Gifts of the Spirit with inward results, not Fruit of the Spirit which was inward manifestations with outward results.

3:6-7 That’s how it worked for Abraham. The scriptures say, “He believed God, and because of his faith God credited him with doing things right.” So, remember then, the real children of Abraham are those who put their faith in God.

Paul expounds on this same issue with the Romans of whether Abraham was credited to his right standing with God as the result of works or faith. For if Abraham came to be considered right with God because of legalistic observances, that’s something to boast about. But this is not how things are done by God! Opening the Torah, Paul read: “Abraham put his trust in God, and it was credited to him as doing the right thing.”[15] We all know, Paul says, that someone who is working is paid on the basis of their work, it is not a gift to them, they earned it. However, in the case of someone who does their work voluntarily as a favor, if they receive compensation it is a gift, not a salary. Abraham did do what he did not to be rewarded, but because he trusted in God to do what He promised only on the basis of hope and faithfulness.

Even though the Galatians didn’t seem to get the point, Paul says that King David did. Listen to what David said. “How happy and blessed it is when a person’s wrong-doing is forgiven, and whose sin is covered!” The Hebrew verb kacah is translated as “covered” (KJV & NIV). This verb may be used to describe something that is covered, concealed, clothed, draped over, covered with a spread, or overwhelmed. Thayer in his Hebrew Lexicon says that the verb kacah is used here to denote something that is “hidden” or “concealed,” not just covered. We see this expressed more fully in Hebrews concerning how the blood of the Anointed One does such covering and concealing.[16] Just remember, any sins you committed before being born again are gone from the record and you are justified to stand before God as being right with Him, they cannot be returned to God’s inbox. But any sin you’ve committed since then must be dealt with according to sanctification where you are made clean and holy again in God’s eyes. After all, you are His vessel, the Temple of His Holy Spirit. You never become unborn again, it’s not possible. Disobedient and prodigal children of God are still His children. Like my mother used to tell us, wash your hands before you come to the table or you won’t be allowed to eat.

[1] Acts of the Apostles 14:3, 10

[2] Ibid. 19:11-12

[3] Illyricum lies just north of Macedonia along the Adriatic Sea

[4] Romans 15:19

[5] John Eadie: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 225-226

[6] See Matthew 14:2; Mark 6:14; Ephesians 2:2

[7] See 1 Corinthians 12:11; Ephesians 1:11, 19

[8] Romans 7:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:7

[9] George W. Clark: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 81

[10] 1 Corinthians 12:11; Philippians 2:13

[11] Expositor’s Bible: On Galatians, G. G. Findlay, op. cit., p. 165ff

[12] Ernest DeWitt Burton: On Galatians. op. cit., pp. 147, 151; See also Acts of the Apostles 8:14-17; 10:44-47; 11:16, 17; 19:1-6; 1 Corinthians 12:4-10; 2 Corinthians 12:12

[13] Kenneth Wuest: Word Studies in the New Testament, op. cit., loc. cit.

[14] Longenecker, Richard N. On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Locations 8609-8617

[15] Genesis 15:6

[16] Hebrews 9:22, 14; I John 1:7

About drbob76

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