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 XXVIII)

So, how could anyone think they could add any worth to God’s salvation for which the highest price was paid? Paul states emphatically: The Anointed One redeemed us, meaning: “Paid the ransom,” or paid the “price of recovery” so we were no longer held hostage under the curse of Mosaic Law. Did He do it with money?  Did He do it with good deeds? Did He do it by bargaining with God? No! He traded places with us; then suffered the consequences of the death sentence meant for us. He paid with His life. There is no higher price.

In making his point Paul again quotes from the Scriptures by citing Deuteronomy: “If someone committed a crime worthy of death and is executed and hung on a tree, the body must not remain hanging from the tree overnight. You must bury the body that same day, for anyone who is hung is under condemnation from God.”[1] I can hear the Apostle Paul saying under his breath as he writes, Don’t you realize that God already planned the death of His Son on the cross when He inspired Moses to write these words?  Did Jesus’ body not come down off the cross before the day was over and buried? Yes! What crimes did Jesus commit? None! They all belonged to you and me! How in the world do you expect to add anything to make that better? Good Lord! If you Galatians don’t get it now, you never will! What Jesus did for us is priceless!

I’m sure the Jews picked up on the hidden truth existing in Paul’s use of the word “redeemed.”  This word owes its origin to the practices of ancient warfare. After a battle, the victors took captives from the defeated foe. From among the defeated, they sold the poorer ones to their own people as slaves, but those privileged members of society who were captured; those who mattered most to their home country, they held for ransom. After people in their homeland raised the required price, they paid it to the victors and freed the captives. They called the process “redemption” and called the price “ransom.

But just in case the misled Gentiles didn’t get it, Paul points out that God included them in His redemption, so that the blessing of Abraham extended to Gentiles as well. So, both the poor (Gentiles) and privileged (Jews) received identical treatment. That’s why in Paul’s letter to the believers in Colossæ he said: “In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. the Anointed One is all that matters and He lives in all of us”[2]

But that’s not all, you hardheaded Galatians, while there exists no way to improve on nor add value to the Anointed One’s ransom for our redemption – something no other heavenly or earthly being was qualified to pay, it opened the door for an added promise. Paul describes it as something God promised to Abraham, which is only available from Him through His Holy Spirit.

This portion of verse fourteen gave rise to many different interpretations by translators and theologians.  But to save time and a lot of head-scratching, putting it in context and tuning in to Paul’s streaming thought up to this point, it appears that Paul repeats the same concept he shared here later in chapter three, verses two and three. Mosaic Law offered them nothing but slavery and an impossible task trying to avoid the inevitable sentence of death. But through Jesus the Anointed One alone, the Spirit brings them everything God promised to Abraham and all those who follow his example of faithful obedience to God’s Word.

Since we cannot add anything to the price the Anointed One paid for our salvation, that means it is paid in full; and since we cannot improve on the work of salvation to make ourselves more presentable and of higher value to God; and since everything we are, and everything we do, and everything we accomplish, and everything we bring to Him He receives through the Anointed One, what motivates us then to live for Him? Why should we let our light shine for Him? What good does it do to be the salt of the earth for Him? And what do we accomplish by glorifying Him before the world around us to give Him honor? We do it all in love and out of love for His Love in gratitude for His loving redemption that freed us from the prison of sin.

John Calvin touches on a point that confuses some people but not on purpose. He raises the first question by asking, how could the spotless Lamb of God take our sins upon Himself and become a sinner so that He could pay the price for our redemption? Not only that but how could God’s beloved Son be cursed by His Heavenly Father? Calvin believes there are two things to consider when we examine His divine nature and His human nature. How could the Anointed One the Son of God take our place as sinners on the cross and yet remain the spotless Lamb of God who was dying so that His blood could remove the stains of all the things, we did wrong? Furthermore, how could He reconcile His Father with us since He endured God’s wrath and displeasure because of sin?

These are tough questions to answer, but Calvin believes the answer can be found in that the Anointed One did all the things that pleased His Father in heaven.[3] It was necessary for Him to redirect the wrath of God meant for us to be focused on Him instead. If He failed to do this, there would be no shield to protect us from God’s wrath. It needed to be Him, none of us would survive such a test. That’s why Isaiah the prophet proclaimed that He was wounded for our transgressions.[4] Only the Anointed One could deal with an angry Judge who felt no urge to show us any mercy. It doesn’t seem to make sense. That’s why Paul said that to the world the Anointed One’s death on the cross was “foolishness” [an absurdity],[5] but admired by the angels.[6] Not only does this exceed, but it swallows up all the wisdom of the world.[7]

William Burkitt (1650-1703) makes a very outstanding point here about the Messiah taking sin’s curse meant for us upon Himself, and paying the full price for our release. Once the Messiah completed His task of redeeming us, He didn’t just walk away and tell us to go and sin no more. He not only intended to appease the wrath of God and tell us to then enjoy life. No! Because of what Jesus the Anointed One did the blessing God promised to Abraham was given to all people. The Messiah died so that by believing in Him we could receive the Spirit that God promised. And, furthermore, that Spirit was not just on-call but took up residence in our hearts to be with us constantly to guide, promote, provide, and protect us as we travel through the minefield of sin. So, we not only must thank Jesus for what He did for us on the cross and by coming out of the grave, but what He does for us each and every day we live for Him.[8]

British theologian John Owen wrote on May 30, 1677, that he just finished writing his work on the doctrine of justification being by faith. He talks about how the Anointed One took our sins upon Himself so that He might be our sacrifice. Owen is quick to point out that we should not understand this as the Anointed One becoming a sinner like us. How can a sinner save a sinner? Owen believes we should interpret this as the Anointed One willing taking responsibility for paying the debt owed to God for your sins. So, the Anointed One did two things by taking such responsibility. First, He met the ransom price the Law required, so the Law’s demands were met. Not for just one time, but paid in full for all time. Secondly, He was able then to reconcile us with God. No, we were no longer His enemies, but His friends. But when God declared us a righteous in His sight, He wasn’t looking at us; it is by His righteousness through the Anointed One that we are saved and sanctified as holy to the Lord.

The Apostle Peter also saw it this way when he quoted from the Torah that we are to be holy because He is holy.[9] This provides that blessed assurance we need to comfort us on our difficult Christian journey. It is derived from the fact that a convicted sinner became a convinced sinner who then was transformed into a converted sinner. Jesus said we would find peace and rest for our souls.[10] It was all possible because as Paul says here in verses thirteen and fourteen, God’s Son redeemed us from the curse of the Law by being a curse for us. Our joy also comes from the fact that we are heirs to God’s promises to Abraham’s and joint-heirs with the Anointed One and His eternal riches. Remember, all those sins and the penalty of death belonged to us. We were helpless to pay our debt to God. Then Jesus came, not only did He pay our debt, but the debt of every sinner on earth. With that responsibility in His possession, He was then ordered to pay the debt which He did on the cross of Calvary. Peter was there when it happened and this is why he said Jesus carried our sins in His own body when He died on a cross.[11] Now we can stand right before God because of Jesus.[12]

Jonathan Edwards sees in verses thirteen and fourteen an important factor for all Christians to be aware of. He starts by saying that each person of the Trinity is exceedingly glorified in this work of redemption. That’s why this work is distinguished from all the other works of the triune God. The attributes of our triune God are glorious in other works, the three persons of the Trinity are distinctly glorified in no other work as in redemption. In this work, each distinct person of the triune God performs their distinct part and office assigned to them. Each one shows their particular and distinct concern as part of it, in harmony with their distinct personal characteristics, inter-Trinity relationships, and ministries. The redeemed express an equal concern with and dependence upon each Person of the triune Godhead in this redemption and we owe equal honor and praise to each of them.

The Father appoints and provides the Redeemer, and accepts the price of redemption. The Son is the Redeemer and the One who pays the price. He redeems us by offering up Himself in our place. The Holy Spirit immediately communicates to us that we were purchased. So, the sum of what the Anointed One purchased for us is holiness and joy. But the Holy Spirit is the essential principle in holiness and joy. The Holy Spirit is the sum of all that the Anointed One purchased for humanity. That’s why Paul says that the Anointed One bought us with His blood and made us free from the Law. In that way, the Law could not punish us. the Anointed One did this by carrying the load and by being punished instead of us. And because of the price the Anointed One Jesus paid, the good things that came to Abraham might come to the people who are not Jews. And by putting our trust in the Anointed One, we receive the Holy Spirit He promised as our divine Comforter, Counselor, and Companion.

[1] Deuteronomy21:22-23

[2] Colossians 3:11

[3] John 8:29

[4] Isaiah 53:5

[5] 1 Corinthians 1:18

[6] 1 Peter 1:12

[7] John Calvin: Biblical Cabinet, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 71-72

[8] William Burkitt: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 316

[9] 1 Peter 1:16; See Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7

[10] Matthew 11:28-30

[11] 1 Peter 2:24

[12] John Owen: The Doctrine of Justification by Faith, Vol. 1, p. 72

About drbob76

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