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 XXXII)

If you are a serious Bible student and read various commentaries, you’ll know that Paul’s argument is subject to many tests of interpretation and clarification. But keep this thought in mind. Abraham fathered two sons, but the promise only went through Isaac, not Ishmael. Isaac fathered two sons, but the promise only went through Jacob, not Esau. Jacob fathered twelve sons, but Judah was chosen as the tribe to produce the promised Seed. Paul wanted to make the point that in the past, God focused on individuals to ensure His promise to Abraham stayed alive. Therefore, when you read the genealogy of Jesus listed in Matthew, Chapter one, you can see how, out of many, the spiritual Seed of Abraham, through whom the promise would be fulfilled, is Jesus of Nazareth the Anointed One.  And now, Jesus’ spiritual brothers and sisters are being sent out as spiritual lights and sanctified salt into the world; so that through them the faithfulness of Abraham and the faithfulness of the Anointed One, all the nations of the earth are blessed.

Paul might want this question asked today of you and other Christians you may know: did you save yourselves? Did you die on the cross for your own salvation? Was it your blood that was shed for the cleansing of your own sin? Did God appoint you as your own savior?  No! No! No! No! God said, I will send you a Savior, and you must believe that He fulfilled all My requirements in Mosaic Law. So, by accepting His work on your behalf, I will save you from certain annihilation. And since the Anointed One is the Seed spoken of by God to Abraham, then how can the Judaizers claim the promises for themselves only or those Gentiles who become like them. Does this still sound complicated? It appears the Apostle Paul thought so himself, so he’s trying once again to make this clear to the Galatians.

We don’t know how much influence Greek thinking impacted Jewish thought, but we find a similar topic being discussed in one of Plato’s Dialogues entitled “Euthyphro.”  Socrates and Euthyphro are having an argument over the virtue of being devoted. In the dialogue, we find this exchange: SOCRATES: “I want you to tell me what part living right or dedication play in justice, so I can tell Meletus not to do me an injustice, or indict me for not being a good enough person. In the past, you gave me such great instructions on the nature of living right and dedication, and their opposites.” EUTHYPHRO: “Living right or dedication…hum? Socrates, the way I see it, there is a part of justice which applies to what the gods require, as there is the other part of justice that applies to what men require.” So even the Greeks believed in good works to please their gods so that their gods would do something to please them.

How acquainted Paul was of these writings can only be judged by the fact that he grew up and was educated in an area of the world where Greek writings were often debated and discussed. Paul finds himself in a similar argument with the Judaizers. They felt that dedication was the good deeds on man’s part that pleased God, which He then equated to them as righteousness and thereby justified their salvation. But Paul tries to get them to see that it was the good work the Anointed One did on the cross that pleased God, which God then equated to Him as righteousness and thereby would justify salvation to any who believed in Him.

So, Paul wonders why the Judaizers were willing to take what God accepts as the only thing worthy of salvation and amend it with something that only leads to extinction and force it on the Gentiles?  If you really want to please God then accept those, He chose through Abraham, to be equal with you in His sight.  Don’t make them feel inferior by telling them to add these acts of dedication in religious rituals and regulations so they will be on your level.

Theodore of Mopsuestia (350-428 AD) notes that the words “and to his offspring” are found to be strictly fulfilled in the Anointed One in the clearest sense, since He is Abraham’s offspring by nature, as are all those who derive their stock from that source. We who believe in Him are, therefore, enrolled as spiritual children of Abraham and thereby receive His fellowship in the blessing. The result is that what appears to be said to one can, in fact, be understood as belonging to many, insofar as all who derive from that source through the Anointed One are spiritual children of Abraham. This promise is completely fulfilled in the Anointed One in the light of actual events.[1]

Then Theodoret of Cyrus (393-466 AD) makes a good point here on how a contract cannot be changed by just one signee, both must agree to any changes. And that’s why God’s promise to Abraham is called a “Covenant.” Therefore, it too cannot permit any additions, subtractions or erasures through the imposition of the Mosaic Law since God’s promise was given a long time before the Law arrived. Now the promise was that the God of all would bless the nations through the promised offspring of Abraham. And this promised offspring is the Anointed One the Lord since the promise found its destination in Him through the cross and His resurrection. But all the others, such as Moses, Samuel, Elijah, and, in a word, all who traced their descent from Israel, were called his offspring according to nature, but this genetic fact is not what brought the fountain of blessings to the nations. The fact even those who trace their race to Abraham does not mean that they are rightly called his offspring. But the Anointed One does give the privilege to all those who believe in Him as the promised son of Abraham, the Messiah. Only through Him, the Promised One will God bestow His blessing on the nations.[2]

Reformer John Calvin wonders why the Israelites did not see the obvious truth about the Anointed One in their own Scriptures. As Calvin sees it, God never offered grace and mercy and salvation and eternal life to His ancient people, nor did He give them any hope of grace without a Mediator. There is no reason to look for this in the myriad sacrifices made to Him because God required them so that His people were plainly and openly taught that salvation was not to be found anywhere but in the atonement which the Messiah alone could complete. That’s why the blessed and joyful state of the Church was always founded in the person of the Anointed One, the Lamb of God. That’s what Paul is driving at here in verse sixteen. For although God embraced all the descendants of Abraham in His covenant, yet Paul properly argues that Jesus the Anointed One was truly the Promised Seed in which all the nations of the earth were to be blessed with the knowledge of Him and His plan of salvation.

Although it is not expressed in very distinct terms in the Torah, it does, however, appear that it was common knowledge among the godly. For before a king was appointed over the Israelites, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, describing the happiness of the righteous, includes this in her prayer, “Adonai will strengthen His king and enhance the power of His anointed.”[3] And later on in that same chapter, God speaks to Hannah’s son, Samuel, and tells him, “I will raise up for myself a faithful priest who will do what I want and what I intend. I will make his family faithful, and he will serve in the presence of my anointed one forever.”[4] But here is why this verse is taken as a prelude to the coming of the Messiah. In the end, we read these words that this Anointed One would serve, “forever.”

And Calvin also thinks that this anointed one would be King David, a man after God’s own heart. But what about serving God forever? This is found in God’s promise that all future kings of Judah would come from the line of David. That’s why it was so important that Jesus could trace his lineage back to King David. Calvin goes on to point out that because of this, the righteous were exhorted to reverence Him, and that they should “Kiss the Son.[5]” Corresponding to this is the passage in the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus states that the Son can do nothing by Himself. He does what He sees the Father doing; in other words, He was sent to carry out His Father’s will, not His own. Then come these sobering words from the mouth of Jesus: “The Father does not say who is guilty. He gives this to the Son to do. He does this so that all people will honor the Son as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father Who sent Him.” So, this anointed one spoken of to Samuel was in the line of successors to King David, and that’s where it stops because the Anointed One will serve forever. It can’t get much clearer than that.[6]

Philip Schaff (1819-1893) feels that here in verse sixteen, Paul introduces a new idea that the covenant of promise was not made with Abram only, but with all of his descendants which centers in the coming of Messiah to finish what God started with Abram and extended with Moses. That means, some believed that the giving of the Law was the fulfillment of that covenant between God and Abram, that was only the second step in the process. God wanted to make sure that the convent could not be abolished by the Law. So, the keywords here are: Now to Abraham, and his seed were the promises made. Not to seeds, but to one Seed, and that Seed is Messiah, Jesus the Son of God.[7]

Therefore, the inheritance that God vowed to give His children through Abraham would have their own Promised Land. Of course, this referred to the land of Canaan. But in a deeper sense, it refers to the Kingdom of God as promised to the Seed – the Messiah. And, of course, those who become part of the kingdom are then joint-heirs with Him. That’s why, when Jesus left this earth to go back into heaven to be at the right hand of the Father, no doubt the disciples were sad to see Him go, but He left them with this Promise: There are many rooms in my Father’s house. I would not tell you this if it wasn’t true. I am going there to prepare a place for you. After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back. Then I will take you with me so that you can be where I am.[8] It is with this same hope that we, to this day and those yet in the future, will close their eyes in peace as they await His return.

English clergyman Emilius Bayley (1823-1917), later known as Reverend Sir John Laurie, spoke on how the curse of the Law was finally removed. He illustrates it by noting that all are born under the Law, and are bound to observe it. But all have broken it, and their guilt remains. There is no question of mercy here. Law, viewed in and of itself, knows no mercy. It pronounces a person righteous only on condition of perfect obedience. The chain is severed, though only one link is broken. Bayley then points out that the telephone cable, which joined two continents together in his day, fails to convey the electric current if but a single flaw exists in it. Every other part may be perfect, but one fault mars the whole. So, it is with the Law. That’s why all are under condemnation.[9] Bayley then goes on to say that the Anointed One came to replace that missing link, and that severed part of the cable. His outstretched arms on the cross, connected them again so that all the Law required was fulfilled in Him and do what the Law could not do without Him, it was now capable of connecting lost mankind with God whose greatest desire was to save them and make eternal life their gift from Him.

[1] Theodore of Mopsuestia: On Galatians, op. cit., Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). p. 44

[2] Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 44)..

[3] 1 Samuel 2:10 – Complete Jewish Bible

[4] Ibid. 2:35

[5] Psalm 2:12

[6] John Calvin, Institutes, Vol. 2, Ch. 6, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 360-361

[7] Philip Schaff: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 320

[8] John 14:2-3

[9] The Biblical Illustrator: op. cit., Vol. 48, (Kindle Location 7324)

About drbob76

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