CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XXXI)

In a sermon by Reverend Frances Keyes Aglionby, vicar of Christ’s Church, Westminster, London, published around 1906, tells the story of a well-known clergyman in the Church of England who passed away toward the close of the 1800s, who often told of meeting Charles Simeon, of Cambridge, whom he met at the house of a friend. Aglionby was asked to conduct the family worship session, as was the custom in those days, and he expounded on what Paul’s says here in Galatians 3:15.  Sometime afterward Mr. Simeon took him aside and said to him, “My young friend, you don’t seem to understand the purposes of the Law. There are three: For one, it convinces people of sin; and two, it leads them to the Anointed One; and three, it becomes their rule of life.” So, says Aglionby, when we look at it this way, the Law of God is magnified and made honorable when it fulfills these true functions in their proper order.[1]

William Ramsay shines a light on an important factor that involves God’s covenant with Abraham and the covenant initiated by the Anointed One at the Last Supper.[2] Even though God indicated to Abraham that through him all the world would come to know and worship the God of Abraham. But as Paul points out here, once that covenant was signed by Abraham’s faith and stamped with God’s promise, nothing in it could be altered, changed, or erased. So, God could not pencil in “Christians” as part of the agreement. But since the Jews were reluctant, even dismissive of allowing the Gentiles to become part of the Chosen People of Israel, then God knew that a New Covenant was needed. Just as the blood of a lamb was needed to initiate the First Covenant,[3] so that meant the blood of a new Lamb of God needed to be shed to initiate the Final Covenant.[4]

3:16 Now notice, the Scripture does not say to his “seeds,” implying all of his children and their children.  Rather, it says to his “seed” – and that, of course, can only mean the Anointed One.

 Here Paul is referring to God’s promised son of Abraham. But he would not be just a son, but he is the son who would inherit the Land of Canaan as his land, which he would then pass on to his children and their children.[5] So in gratitude, Abraham built an altar to ADONAI in gratitude to commemorate ADONAI’S visit to him.[6] But Paul was applying this to the spiritual family of Abraham, and that Promised Seed was Jesus the Messiah. And when He would be born to the Virgin Mary, through Him all of those who become part of the Family of God would also receive His inheritance of eternal life and heavenly riches.

This was not a new thought to Paul, for he also wrote to the Corinthians about the family, or body, of the Anointed One, showing how we all represent certain individual parts of the body but each one is just as important as the other.[7] And to the Romans Paul points out that many, many people now belong to the Anointed One by virtue of redemption and calling, nevertheless, they all form one body, which is the Anointed One’s Body.[8] Also when writing the Colossians, Paul uses the same word-picture.[9] Then he points out to the Galatians that even though there were many Jewish and Gentile converts who were raised in different cultures, in the Anointed One they were one and the same because the Anointed One is the same thing to everyone.[10] He is in all of us to the same degree.[11] Paul uses that same metaphor when writing to the Ephesians, and there he likens the Body of the Anointed One in a fashion that can be seen in the Church. [12] In fact, later on in Ephesians Paul would say that the Body of the Anointed One is the Church.[13]

Paul continues in verse sixteen by narrowing his focus on one word.  On this one word, says Paul, hang all the benefits of all the promises God made with Abraham and intended for his spiritual heirs. Paul recalls God’s words in Gen 22:17 and emphasized the singular noun “seed.” In other words, all of God’s promises to Abraham were not given to his descendants en-mass for them to claim and interpret as they wished, but to one descendant, and only one, and that One is Jesus the Messiah.

Now not all Jews down through the centuries agreed with Paul in his application of Abraham’s seed as the Anointed One. In fact, Rabbi Isaac ben Abraham of Troki opined that Paul, who was fluent in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and the local language of Tarsus, among others, was ignorant of the Hebrew and that led him to come to a wrong conclusion about the “seed” here in verse sixteen as being a reference to the Messiah – who by the way, was not prophesied to engender children of His own. Rabbi Abraham points to Genesis 13:15, where it says that this promise would be to this “seed” and to the “seeds” of the “seed.” Furthermore, in Genesis 13:16, that those “seeds” would be like the dust of the earth. This, of course, relates to the numbers of individuals, and not to a single individual.

Again, we find in Genesis 15:5 that Yahweh invited Abraham out of his tent to look up into the night sky and count the stars, God said to Abraham, that’s how many your “seed” will end up producing through his “seeds.” Added to that, Rabbi Abraham adds that upon further examination, these “seeds” would become strangers in a country that did not belong to them. and they would be there for four hundred years.[14] Says Rabbi Abraham, these examples should be sufficient because they match similar ones found in various parts of Scripture. So, it is clear that this gives ample proof that the term “seed,” in the promise given to Abraham, refers to an entire nation, not to just one person.[15]

There are other places where Rabbi Abraham disputes the claims made by Paul and Christians down through time about the Anointed One is the seed that God promised him.[16] But our dear Rabbi is making the same mistake that Jesus accused the Pharisees and Sadducees of making. For instance, when the Sadducees came to talk about marriage in heaven, Jesus told them they were wrong because they did not know the Holy Scriptures or the power of God.[17] And here in Galatians, Paul was frustrated by the fact that the believers in Galatia tossed away his spiritual explanation of many sayings by the Torah and Prophets and went back to the legal explanation that fit the Law, not Grace. To put this another way, if we let the Torah be represented by the Tablets on which the Commandments were written, Paul was saying that they only saw the writing on the surface but not that which was below the surface. The reason being is because the under-surface portion can only be seen by the spiritual eyes of faith. I wouldn’t say that Rabbi Abraham was any less intelligent than Nicodemus, but when he came to Jesus to get the Kingdom of God explained to him, Jesus told him that he wouldn’t be able to understand until his spiritual eyes were opened by being born again.

I thank God for Paul’s insistence in trying to get these Judaizers and misguided Gentile believers to see the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Once again, he brings Abraham in as the focal point so they can see that Gentile and Jewish believers enjoy equal spiritual rights in God’s family.  The main issue Paul kept addressing over and over, involved the totally mistaken view of the Judaizers that Gentiles can only obtain such equality by keeping the religious rituals and regulations of Judaism passed on by Moses, and passed down by their Jewish Patriarchs. The truth is, however, that God gave them these rights through Abraham, before Moses and the Patriarchs ever existed, in response to Abraham’s obedience to His Word; which the Gentiles now receive by their faith and obedience to Jesus the Anointed One.

Underlying Paul’s basic argument here is another aspect of man’s relationship with God and what the Almighty hopes everyone will know in order to understand their place in His kingdom. Through His promise to Abraham, God initiated a method for people who were not His children by way of the flesh (the Gentiles), to become His people by way of the spirit (Christians), without becoming Jews. It addresses the problem between Paul and the Jewish community on how to treat Gentile believers.

Paul knew that nowhere in the Torah does it say that a man is justified by his own good deeds under Mosaic Law, rather, he is considered righteous. So, all of the religious rituals and regulations that the Judaizers were wanting to impose on the Gentile believers was their version of sanctification; a way to make oneself holy and acceptable to God by their own efforts. What really got Paul’s riled up was the fact these Judaizers also tried to make this mandatory as a way of validating the Gentile’s salvation through the Anointed One.

Paul initiates his presentation by making a legal point from civil law on how one person enters an agreement with another person: that once a contract is signed, sealed and delivered, the person who sent it cannot change their copy on their own, and the person who received it cannot one-sidedly alter their copy either. But Paul raises it to a higher level with his illustration of Abraham because the Greek word Paul uses for “contract,” is the same word used in Latin or “Last Will and Testament.”

Can you imagine the impact on Christianity if the apostles insisted after John wrote his Gospel, that he rewrite 3:16 this way: “For God so loved the world that all those who show faith in His only begotten Son by observing all the Jewish religious rituals and regulations can avoid sure condemnation by earning everlasting life?” That clearly violated the accepted principle that after the author of a last will and testament dies the beneficiaries cannot change it to suit their expectations or wants. But that’s what the Judaizers were trying to do with God’s promise to Abraham.

[1] Thomas Arnold, F. D. Maurice, John Burgon: Church Pulpit Commentary (12 vol. Now In One) (Kindle Location 79102-79112). Delmarva Publications, Kindle Edition.

[2] Matthew 26:28

[3] Exodus 15:1-8; cf. Hebrews 9:18-20

[4] William M. Ramsay: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 351-352

[5] Genesis 13:15-16. Cf. 15:5; 17:7-8; 21:12; 22:17-18; 26”3-4; 28:13-14

[6] Ibid. 12:7

[7] 1 Corinthians 12. 27

[8] Romans 12:5

[9] Colossians 2:19

[10] Galatians 3:28

[11] Ibid. 3:11

[12] Ephesians 4:15-16

[13] Ibid. 5:32

[14] Genesis 15:13

[15] Chizzuk Emuna: by Rabbi Isaac ben Abraham, Part 2, Ch. 90,  p.111

[16] Ibid. Part 1, Ch. 13, p. 39

[17] Matthew 22:29

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s