CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

 

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XXXVI)

Paul, like Jesus with the Jews, was feeling the same sense of rejection by the Galatians. All he preached to them was what he received by revelation from the Anointed One. So, if they wouldn’t believe and abide by the Gospel of the Anointed One, he stood little chance they would pay any attention to what he said. The sad thing was, they were now trusting again in the Law to put them in right standing with God. It didn’t work before and it wouldn’t work now.[1] They already knew that the Law was only relevant to those who live by its dictates. And anyone who lives by what the Law says will certainly know what sin is. That means, that everyone who judges themselves by the Law knows for sure that they stand guilty before God, not righteous before God. Therefore, it is impossible to get right with God through the Law. It shows how sinful we are, not how saintly we think we are.[2]

Then Paul makes another point when comparing Jesus, whom they trust through grace, and Moses, whom they trust through the Law. If they would not be able to accept the Torah, which they believed was delivered to Moses by angels, why should God expect them to accept the Word which was delivered in person by the Word Himself?[3] On one occasion when Moses was serving as a mediator, ADONAI told him, “Here is what you are to say to the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves saw that I spoke with you from heaven.’”[4] This was to confirm to the people that the Commandments Moses brought down from Mount Horeb in Sinai were from Him through Moses. Then again, God summoned Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy elders to come and worship Him from a distance. Only Moses was allowed to go up onto the mountain to meet with ADONAI. When God sent Moses back down the mountain, he told the group that stayed below worshiping what God said and the Laws that He gave them. When they told the people they all shouted with one voice, “We will do all that ADONAI said we should do.”[5]

British Bible and Hebraic scholar John Gill tells us that in a Jewish Targum[6] commentary on 1 Chronicles 29:11 YaHWeH came to Mount Sinai, and ADONAI was also present, and so the Jews say that ADONAI appeared on Mount Sinai in glory “with companies,” or “troops of angels,” to give the Law to His people. Thus, it may be said to have been “ordained” by them, inasmuch as it might be written and spoken by them, as the instruments and ministers of God. For although the tablets are said to be the work of God, and the writing of God, and written with the finger of God, and that He spoke all the words on it, yet this does not hinder the idea that there was a lot of work for the angels to do in getting and carving the tablets in the form they were, and in writing the Law upon them. That’s why it is said that angels were employed in giving the Law to Moses.[7] It is also suggested that it was reported by the witnesses on the mountainside below that the number of angels and power of their wings made the sound of thunder fill the air,[8] as well as in the lightning and the blowing of the trumpet, that grew louder and louder at that time.[9]

Now here we see the mystery revealed. When the Word Himself came and told the Jews that His Father in Heaven sent Him down to earth to share with them a new covenant easier than the old one because all they must do now was have faith that God will save them, but they outright rejected Him. Now this same incident was being repeated in Galatia. the Anointed One sent Paul to preach the Gospel to the Jews and Gentiles, especially the Gentiles. And the Gentiles received the Good News openly and enthusiastically while the Jews said, “No thank you,” what Moses told us was enough. Once again ADONAI called Moses to meet with Him. For forty days and nights, Moses was in the presence of ADONAI and neither ate nor drank anything. After His baptism by John the Baptizer, Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days and nights without food or water. And when He was finished, He went out to call disciples to follow Him to learn all that the Father sent Him to teach them.[10]

The big difference, however, was that Moses informed them about all the sacrifices to be made over and over again as a way of repenting and making amends for all that they did wrong after breaking any one of these commandments, but Jesus said He was the sacrifice, and once His sacrifice was made no further sacrifices would be needed. That’s why the Apostle John could say with confidence that the Law and its requirements were given through Moses, but Grace and Truth came through Yeshua the Messiah.[11] And the first Christian martyr, Stephen, as he was being stoned with Saul of Tarsus looking on, holding the coats of the stone-throwers, heard him say that Moses himself said that God already chose his replacement, someone just like him to bring the living word to them.[12] So if the Jews accepted Moses, why couldn’t they accept the one Moses said would take his place?

Martin Luther makes a valid point here that we can apply to our day and age. He notes that the Jews believed that if they kept the Law to perfection they would be saved. But, when they heard that the Gospel proclaimed that the Anointed One came into the world to save sinners and not the righteous; when they heard that sinners were to enter the kingdom of heaven before the righteous, the Jews were very much upset. They murmured as some of those hired to work in a vineyard did when they saw receiving the same pay, they were getting. So, they exclaimed: “These latecomers worked only one hour, while we’ve been working hard all day under the hot sun, yet you put them on an equal footing with us![13]

They complained that the heathen who at one time worshiped idols now obtained grace without the drudgery of the Law that was theirs.[14] I’m afraid the same would be said today by some members of a church when a former homeless person or a released prisoner is suddenly given a position in the church that should only be given to long-term elders. I can hear it now: “I’ve paid my tithes faithfully for the last 35 years, and yet, I haven’t seen this person even put a dime in the offering plate. I’ve been faithful to the rules of this church all my life, and this individual doesn’t even know what the rules are!”

John Owen (1616-1683) takes what Paul says here in verse nineteen to mean that the Law was given to the assembly under the First Covenant by the hand of a mediator; that is, of Moses. It had an original power of obliging all mankind to obedience, from its first institution or prescription in our creation; which was never nor faded away. However, the Church was obliged to have respect for it, as it was given to them, “ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.”[15] Based on that, many things hard and difficult did ensue, which we are now freed from. We are not obliged to observe the moral law itself, as given in the hand of that mediator, which gave it the formal reason of a covenant to that people and had other statutes and judgments inseparable from it. But the same law continues still in its original authority and power, which it had from the beginning, to oblige all indispensably to obedience.[16]

Joseph Benson (1749-1821), makes a good point here that we should all remember, and that is: since the inheritance God promised to Abraham was not by the Law, but by the promise, as a free gift, it must be asked: for what purpose the Law was given, or what significance did it have? It was added to restrain the Israelites from transgressions, particularly idolatry, and the vices connected with idolatry, the evil of which the Law pointed out to them by its prohibitions and curse. It is, therefore, clearly stated by the Law that idolatry, and all the abominations practiced by the Canaanites, and the other heathen nations who surrounded the Israelites, were forbidden in the Law, and enforced by the severest penalties.[17] Since we also are heirs of the same promise, then we too must turn away from the idolization of anyone or anything that would take God’s place in our lives. Be it a habit, a fascination, wealth, popularity, or some famous individual. Why should we risk losing a promise that will never fail and be there for eternity for something that will grow old, change, and become worthless?

Philip Schaff (1819-1893) notes that with what Paul said back in verse sixteen, it almost demanded an answer to the question of why was the Law needed at all? Since it did not affect the Gentile believers at all, then for what purpose did it serve even to the Jewish believers. Schaff paraphrases verse nineteen here to read: “It was superadded because of the transgressions.” Despite all that God did for them from the time of Abraham, including their being saved as a nation by Joseph’s position in Egypt, and then led out of bondage by Moses with the parting of the Red Sea, they still did not accept God’s gift of a Promised Land because they must fight for it. So, when the twelve spies returned from scouting out the land, they believed the ten who said it was impossible instead of believing Joshua and Caleb who said it was not only possible, but it was flowing with milk and honey.[18] So, until Messiah came, it was the Law who would serve as the schoolmaster and tutor.[19] [20]

So, God sent them a list of commandments to follow, and the first one was quite explicit: You will put no other gods ahead of Me. You will not make any carved images to represent anything in heaven or on earth, You will not worship them or serve them.[21] He is the only one they were to worship.[22] Jesus Himself emphasized this when He rebuked Satan who came to tempt Him in the wilderness.[23] The Israelites were off track, so God put them back on track because it was through them, the tribe of Judah, that the Messiah would come. And so, it is today that for His children God superadded the Final Covenant with the Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, and Epistles to help guide them and keep them on the path of holiness until the Messiah returns to take them to His Promised Land.

[1] Romans 2:13

[2] Ibid. 3:19-20

[3] Acts of the Apostles 7:53. See Hebrews 2:2-5

[4] Exodus 20:22

[5] Ibid. 24:1-3

[6] A Targum is an explanation or interpretation of Scripture.

[7] Acts of the Apostles 7:53

[8] Hebrews 2:2

[9] Targum on 1 Chronicles 29:11

[10] Ibid. 34:27-28

[11] John 1:17

[12] Acts of the Apostles 7:38

[13] Matthew 20:9-12

[14] Martin Luther: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 80-81

[15] See Malachi 4:4

[16] John Owen: Christologia, p. 183

[17] Joseph Benson, On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.,

[18] Number 13-14

[19] See verse twenty-four

[20] Philip Schaff: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 321

[21] Exodus 20:1-5

[22] Deuteronomy 6:13

[23] Luke 4:8

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