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 XV)

Kenneth Wuest has an excellent study on both the Greek and lexiconic treatment of the Greek noun dikaiosune, translated as “righteousness,” and the adjective dikaios, translated as “righteous,” both having the same root. That’s why it is vital that every Christian, especially preachers and teachers, understand the Biblical definition of both “righteousness” [noun] and “righteous.” [adjective] The first has to do with status (the Anointed one is our righteousness),[1] and the last with service.[2] Otherwise, your message on the theology of salvation will be mixed and possibly confusing.

In the Biblico-Theological Lexicon,[3] it has the following to say on these important words: Dikaios is: “what is right, conformable to what is right, answers the claims of being right.” The fundamental idea is that of a state or condition conformable to things orderly, apart from the consideration whether usage or custom or other factors determine the order of direction. Thus, dikaios is synonymous with agathos (“good”) only that dikaios is a conception of a relationship and presupposes a standard, whereas the subject of agathos is its own rule. It is important to know the difference between its use in the moral sense and spiritual sense. Obviously, there is a decisive difference between what is not good or right.

Righteousness in the biblical sense is a condition of rightness the standard of which is God’s own divine standard which shows itself in behavior conformable to God and has to do above all thing with its relationship to God, and with our walk before His eyes. It is, and it is called dikaiosune theou (righteousness of God),[4] righteousness, as it belongs to God, is of value only to Him. In other words, Godlike righteousness.[5] With this righteousness thus defined, the Gospel comes into the world of nations whose morality was measured by a different standard. Righteousness in the Scripture sense is a thoroughly religious conception, designating the normal relation of mankind and their acts and behavior before God.

In its scriptural sense, in both the First Covenant and Final Covenant being, righteous is the state commanded by God and passing the test of His judgment,[6] the character and acts of a person approved by Him, by virtue of which that person corresponds with Him and His will as their own ideal and standard; or more generally it denotes the sum-total of all that God commands, of all that He appoints, should be done. As God Himself is righteous, therefore, it is the standard of this righteousness. It is dikaiosune theou (righteousness as it belongs to God), which is well-pleasing to Him – Godlike righteousness. Just such a righteousness that ought to be the goal of every human effort and desire, Paul insists upon as, strictly speaking, the Scripture conception of dikaiosune (righteousness), and as the result of the Final Covenant salvation is realized in mankind.

This righteousness is a state of the subject who stands justified by God’s judgment, who has fulfilled all obligations, has no guilt to hide. The righteousness of God is a state called forth by God’s act of justification, namely, by judicial disconnection or release from all that stands in the way of being righteous, a liberation of which a person becomes a partaker by means of faith. We see, therefore, that the Pauline conception of righteousness – which as always expresses a relationship to the judgment of God – includes this special feature, namely, it denotes the state of the believing man or woman called to serve God by way of a divine acquittal. So, the question is, does one become righteous because of their righteousness, or does their righteousness prove that they are righteous? Obviously, it is the latter.

We can understand this better when we realize that justification is the act of God removing the sinner’s guilt and the penalty incurred by that guilt for them to be righteous, and bestowing positive righteousness upon them. The Anointed One Jesus Himself in whom the believer stands, was not only innocent and uncondemned but actually righteous in point of law for time and for eternity. This is what God did for Abraham when he believed Him. This is what the Judaizers were attempting to merit for themselves by their own good works. Now we can see more clearly why Paul was so upset. It’s like asking if a person is saved because they believed, or that because they believed they are saved.

So, the first reason why the Galatians were so foolish is that they allowed themselves to be made fools who took the truth and twisted it into disobeying what God told them through Paul. How odd is that? Being taught not to obey the truth? Paul told them that, like being in a Marathon, they were running the race so well by following the true path to remain right with God, but they allowed themselves to be led off course by false promises. It turned out that the shortcut to a righteous standing with God was a long and arduous way and instead of directing them to the proper finish line, they were being led further and further away.

The next reason why they were being so foolish is that they were being told that Jesus dying for their sins was not needed for the righteousness, they would be able to attain that through the Law. Paul made it so clear to them about the meaning and purpose of Messiah’s death, that with even the smallest amount of imagination they were able to see the whole scene on Calvary played out before their very eyes. And just as in the sacrifices practiced in the Temple, it was the blood that made the difference. So how could they be so foolish as to let the precious blood of the Lamb of God be poured out as worthless? Were they really willing to accept the blood of animals instead of the blood of God’s Son?

And the final reason why Paul rightly called them as being foolish is that they were blinded by these false teachers from seeing that Jesus just didn’t die, He was crucified on a cross. This kind of execution was reserved for the worst of criminals. So, our Lord was not put to death in some humane way for the sake of the morally righteous, but for the vilest of sinners. That’s why the Messiah did not merely shed His blood, but he willingly gave it as a sacrifice on our behalf. The glory of the cross is that while it points to mankind’s worse shame it also points to God’s greatest love.

There is nothing, says Kelly, the world counts more foolish than the cross. Philosophers scorned the notion that a divine person should die this way: it makes the Son of God’s death seemed so weak and pointless. These Judaizers did not understand the horribleness of sin, of mankind’s open hostility to the God of love, and how through the cross He offered a sure way to escape eternal judgment. The cross was the means of making all this possible. But more than that; the cross not only shows mankind’s weakness but God’s power. It also proves the hopelessness of looking to the Law to bring in the blessing of forgiveness and salvation. There is such a thing as the power of the Law to kill, but it cannot make alive. The Anointed One alone has the power to do this.[7]

After reading Genesis 15:6, most people do not continue on reading about Abraham’s life. In that context, there are two compelling statements we must look at. After Sarah laughed at the divine messengers and their prophecy that she would bear a son, we are told that Adonai spoke reflectively by asking Himself if He should keep it a secret from Abraham on what He was about to do. Especially since Abraham would become the father of a great and strong nation through whom all the other nations of the earth would be blessed. After all, Adonai got acquainted with Abraham so that he could pass on what he being taught to his children and their children. And that was, “To keep the way of Adonai and to do what is right and just, so that Adonai may bring about for Abraham what He promised him.”[8]

And then again, later on after Abraham died a famine engulfed the land. So, Isaac went over to see Abimelech, king of the Philistines in Gerar.[9] And that’s where Adonai appeared to him and told him, don’t go down into Egypt, but live where I tell you. Stay here in Gerar, and I will be with you and bless you so that I can fulfill the oath which I swore to your father Abraham. That is: I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, I will give all these lands to your descendants, and by your descendants, all the nations of the earth will bless themselves. All this is because Abraham heeded what I said and did what he was told to do – he did what I taught him to do by following my Word and my teachings, said Adonai.[10]

Now, the faith of Abraham was not just a case of belief, but acting on that belief. Therefore, the spiritual children of Abraham will exhibit two characteristics. First, they will trust in Yahweh by trusting in Yeshua[11]. And secondly, they will remain faithful in performing His commandments, statutes, and laws. Yeshua confirms this when speaking to religious leaders who questioned His claims of being the Son of His Father in heaven, but to those who did believe in Him, He told them, “If you keep and obey My Word, then you are My followers for sure. You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”[12]

But those who doubted Jesus said, “We are children of Abraham. We never were servants to anyone. What do you mean when You say, ‘You will be free’?” Jesus answered them, “For sure, I tell you, everyone who sins is the servant of sin because sin has a hold on him. And the servant does not belong in the house. The son belongs in the house. So, if the Son makes you free, you will be free for sure. I know that you are the children of Abraham. But you want to kill Me because My Word is not in your hearts. I speak of what I saw when I was with My Father. You do what you saw your father do.” They said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said, “If you were children of Abraham, you would do what he did.”[13] [14]

Archibald Robertson (1863-1934) is sure that Paul’s words about the Gentile believers in Galatia now being sons of Abraham. This is Paul’s astounding doctrine to Jews that the real sons of Abraham are those who believe in Jesus the Anointed One as he did,[15] Such spiritual sonship springs out of faith, not out of a genealogical bloodline. John the Baptist denounced the Pharisees and Sadducees as vipers though descendants of Abraham[16] Furthermore, Jesus termed the Pharisees children of the devil and not spiritual children of Abraham.[17] Of course we know that they did not become the children of God and spiritual children of Abraham just by repeating it. They could only make that claim once they were born again of the Spirit and by becoming new creations in Jesus the Anointed One.[18]

[1] See Romans 1:17; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21

[2] Cf. Matthew 3:18; Luke 1:6; Romans 3:10; 5:7, 19; 1 John 2:1, 29; 3:7

[3] Biblico-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek: by Hermann Cremer, Trans. By William Urwick, T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1881, pp. 183-184

[4] Romans 1:17; 3:21

[5] See Ephesians 4:24

[6] Cf. 2 Corinthians 3:9

[7] William Kelly: On Galatians, op. cit., pp.55-57

[8] Ibid. 18:17-19

[9] Gerar is known today as Wadi el-Jerdr in south central Israel

[10] Genesis 26:1-5

[11] Ibid. 26:5

[12] John 8:32

[13] Ibid. 8:33-39

[14] Avi ben Mordechai: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 30-31

[15] Romans 3:26; 4:16; 14:23

[16] Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7

[17] John 8:37-44

[18] Archibald Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament, op. cit., p. 1453

About drbob76

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