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 XXV)

In commenting here on verse thirteen where Paul says, “the Anointed One redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every man that hangs on a tree,[1] ben Abraham came to the conclusion it was an extraordinary thing that the humiliating death suffered by Yeshua of Nazareth was selected as the only means of releasing His followers from their adherence to the ancient Law of God, in order not to be subjected to the curse of the Law. Surely, thought Rabbi Abraham, submission to, and not an abandonment of, the Law should have been recommended. So, the Apostle Paul, as a teacher, whose object it was to establish a new faith, it appears unbecoming to mention humans first as witnesses, and secondly, God. Any open and honest study of the writings of Paul reveals this peculiarity in arranging his ideas. The Rabbi felt that Paul impresses on the reader the suspicion that he was guided by his religious feelings to call for a speedy understanding of what the Torah and Prophets said, instead of by the influence of higher assurances in being right.[2]

With all due respect to the Rabbi, Paul, by his own admission, was a fanatic Pharisee in his efforts to stamp out the very religion he later became a convert too. He probably understood the Torah and Prophets, as well as Rabbi Abraham, did. They were equal in many ways. But one thing that Rabbi Abraham never experienced that Paul gave as the reason for his sudden change from a persecutor of the Gospel to the preacher of the Gospel was his personal encounter with Yeshua on the road to Damascus. In the many writings that I have read by today’s Messianic Jewish Rabbis, they all say that it was their encounter with Yeshua and the awakening in their hearts by the Holy Spirit that caused them to become converts of Christianity instead of critics of Christianity.

Haimo of Auxerre understands Paul’s use of the term “curse” is what God said to Adam and Eve that on the day they eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would die.[3] So this was a double punishment, because we read where God not only expelled them from the Garden of Eden and block any attempted return on their own, and told them that for women, childbirth would be accompanied by great pain, and for men, work would be so hard it would make them sweat profusely to provide food for their families and deal with thorns and thistles during harvest them. It was only when the Messiah came to pay the ransom price so humankind could be freed from a promised death that the curse was lifted off those who believed in Him.[4] [5]

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) adds some historical perspective to this quote by Paul from the Torah. Here in verse thirteen, Paul gives the testimony of Scripture when he says, for it is written: “Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree.”[6] Here it should be noted, says Aquinas, that according to a footnote in the Hebrew version and the Vetus Latina version[7] he was using, it says, ”Cursed by God is every one that hangs on a tree.” However, the phrase “by God” is not found in the ancient Hebrew scrolls. Therefore, it is believed “God” was added to Deuteronomy by the Jews after the passion of the Anointed One in order to defame Him.[8]

Jakob Arminius (1560-1609) proposes that God’s Will is either “commanding” precise obedience or with “conditions” that are allowed. First, he points out that God’s Commanding Will is that which strictly and rigidly applies, such as the words of the Gospel which contain the last revelation of God: “The wrath of God abides on him who does not believe;”[9]He that believes will be saved;”[10] also the words of Samuel to Saul: “The Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.”[11] Then secondly, Arminius explains that God’s Commanding Will comes with conditions. That is, that to which conditions are fixed, whether it be an implicit one, such as, “In forty days Nineveh will be overthrown.”[12]Cursed is every one that continues not do all things which are written in the book of the law to be done,”[13] that is unless they are delivered from this curse as expressed here in verse thirteen.[14] [15]

Cornelius à Lápide (1567-1637) shares St. Jerome’s remarks on this passage: “The Lord’s shame is our glory. He died that we might live. He descended into hell that we might ascend into heaven. He was made foolishness that we might become wise. He emptied Himself of His fulness, and put off the form of God, and put on the form of a servant, that the fulness of the Godhead might dwell in us, and that we might be changed from slaves into sons. He hung on the Cross, that the tree of shame might destroy the sin which we committed through the tree of knowledge. His Cross made the bitter waters sweet and made the lost axe swim in Jordan. Finally, He was made a curse – made, not born – that the blessings which were promised to Abraham, with Him as author and herald, might be transferred to the Gentiles, and the promise of His Spirit might by faith be fulfilled in us.”[16]

John Owen (1616-1683) has a very graphic way of describing the fact that God “laid on the Anointed One the iniquities of us all,” that “by His stripes we might be healed,”[17] Our iniquity was laid on Him, and He carried it, see verse eleven; and by His carrying it we are freed from it. His stripes are our healing. Our sin became His when transferred to Him; His merit is ours, transferred to us. “He was made sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”[18] This is where He was made sin for us; we are made right before God in Him. God no longer attributes sin to us, see verse nineteen, but accredits righteousness to us on this basis alone that “He was made sin for us.”[19]

And if by His being made sin for us, says Owen, His being made a sacrifice for our sin is intended. The official reason for Him being made an atonement sacrifice was the imputation of our sin by a divine act. The same is expressed by the Apostle to the Romans when he wrote, “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.”[20] Our sin was made His, He answered for it, and the righteousness which God required by the Law is made ours: the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us, not by our doing it, but by His. This is that blessed exchange wherein alone the soul of a convicted sinner can find rest and peace. So, He “redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us, that the blessing of Abraham might come on us,”

Owen goes on to point out that the curse of the Law contained all that was due to sin. This belonged to us, but it was transferred to Him. He was made a curse for which His hanging on a tree was the sign and token of His payment. That’s why He is said to “bear our sins in His own body on the tree,”[21] because His hanging on the tree was the symbol of His bearing the curse: “For he that is hanged is the curse of God,”[22] And in the blessing of faithful Abraham all righteousness and acceptation with God is included; for Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness.[23]

John Bunyan (1628-1688) sees the spiritual side of what Paul is saying here. Since the Anointed One did all the work needed to redeem and save us, He is not only our Savior from sin but also our Advocate before God.[24] So it is not necessary when our Advocate pleads against our Adversary – Satan – to appeal to the Law for mercy because His pleading is with His Father in heaven. The saint by sinning owes Satan nothing; no law of his was been broken; why then should the Anointed One beg for mercy for those who follow Him because they’ve met the requirements of the Law, the Anointed One did all that, so He bases His plan on His own righteousness. The Anointed One, when He died, died not to satisfy Satan but His Father in heaven. There was no need to appease the devil, but to answer the demands of the justice of God: nor did He designed when He hung on the tree, to triumph over His Father’s will but over Satan’s intent. As Paul says here in verse thirteen, He redeemed us from the curse of the Law by His blood, and from the power of Satan by His resurrection.[25] He thereby delivered us from God’s righteous judgment by commitment and contract, and from the rage of hell by courage and conquest.[26]

Then Bunyan uses an illustration from everyday life to make his point. He asks us to imagine there is a widow, that owes a sum of money to a creditor, and she is threatened to be sued for the debt. So, what does she do, she gets remarried? So, when the lawsuit is initiated against her as a widow, the law finds her now to be a married woman. What can be done? Nothing to her; she is not what she was; she is delivered from that state by her marriage. So, if anything can be done, it must be done to her dead husband. In the same manner, if Satan were to sue the Anointed One for my debt, He owes him nothing; and as for what the Law can claim from us while we were under it, the Anointed One delivered us by redemption from that curse, “being made a curse for us.”[27]

[1] Deuteronomy 21:23

[2] Ch. 89, Chizzuk Emunah (Faith Strengthened): by Isaac Ben Abraham of Troki, Formatted by Vaughn Seward, 2007, Ch. 89, pp. 111-112

[3] Genesis 2:15-17

[4] Ibid 3:16-19

[5] Haimo of Auxerre: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle location 1316, Kindle Edition

[6] Deuteronomy 21:23

[7] Usage of the Vetus Latina as the backbone of the Roman Catholic church and liturgy continued well into the Twelfth Century AD. As Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire in the first centuries after the Anointed One, it became necessary to produce Latin versions of the Bible for those not able to understand the Greek of the New Testament or Septuagint. The first translations were made by individual Christians for use within their own community. These are known as the Old Latin or Vetus Latina. Towards the end of the fourth century, Pope Damasus asked the scholar Hieronymus (St. Jerome) to produce a revised version of the Gospels. Along with Jerome’s translation of the Old Testament, an anonymous revision of the rest of the New Testament, and a handful of books from other sources, these later became the standard version, the Latin Vulgate. The Vulgate took many years to become established as the principal Latin Bible. In the meanwhile, the Old Latin versions continued to be used. Some of these translations are preserved in Bible manuscripts, in the writings of the Church Fathers and in early Christian liturgies. This was also in the text of Deuteronomy 21:23 in the Catholic Douay-Rheims English Version of 1899.

[8] Thomas Aquinas: Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

[9] John 3:36

[10] Mark 16:16

[11] 1 Samuel 15:26

[12] Jonah 3:4

[13] Deuteronomy 27:26

[14] See also Jeremiah 18:7-10

[15] Jakob Arminius: op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 41

[16] Cornelius à Lápide: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 270-271

[17] Isaiah 53, 5-6

[18] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[19] Ibid.

[20] Romans 8:3-4

[21] 1 Peter 2:24

[22] Deuteronomy 21:23

[23] John Owens: Doctrine of Justification by Faith, Vol. 1, op. cit., p. 72

[24] 1 Timothy 2:5

[25] Hebrews 2:14

[26] John Bunyan: Israel’s Hope Encouraged, The Work of Jesus the Anointed One as an Advocate Explained, Ch. 3, p. 129

[27] John Bunyan: The Reason of Hope Fruitful in Results, Ch. 5, p. 165-166

About drbob76

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