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 XLV)

On the subject of the Law being our schoolmaster, Martin Luther gives us an interesting example that not only illustrates the relationship between the pupil and the teacher but lets us see into the ethics and morals of education in his day from 1483-1546. Luther starts by saying that this image of the Law being our schoolmaster is striking. A school educates young students, making schoolmasters indispensable. But show me, says Luther, in the context of his era, a pupil who loves a stern and cruel schoolmaster. Likewise, little love existed between the Israelites and Moses in the wilderness. Their murmuring and complaining about Moses are proof enough. It would have made them happy to stone Moses to death.[1]

You cannot expect anything else. How can a pupil love a teacher who frustrates their desire to learn? And if the pupil disobeys, the schoolmaster applies a rod to their back or bottom, and the pupil must accept it and even kiss the rod with which they were beaten. Do you think the schoolboy feels good about it? As soon as the teacher turns their back, the pupil breaks the rod and throws it into the fire. And if they were bigger and stronger than the teacher, they would not take the beatings at all, but beat up the teacher. Nevertheless, teachers are indispensable; otherwise, children would grow up without any discipline, instruction, and training.[2] So it is with the Law and those who must obey the Law; otherwise, they will be severely disciplined. But God replaced the schoolmaster with a Good Shepherd who is patient with His sheep, even those who go astray.[3]

John Calvin adds another thought to this schoolmaster and pupil concept of the Law and the Jew. First of all, the schoolmaster is not appointed for the pupil’s whole life, but only for their childhood. We see this in Paul’s use of the Greek noun paidagōgos suggests this idea since it means “tutor, guardian, and guide.” They are with us for only a limited period. Besides, in training a child, the object is to prepare them through instruction for mature years. The comparison applies in both respects to the Law, for its authority was limited to a particular age, and its whole object was to prepare its scholars in such a manner, that, when its elementary instructions were over, they might make significant progress toward adulthood.

So, says Calvin, the Law was our schoolmaster leading and introducing us to the Anointed One. After the Elementary School teacher is finished, they place them in the hands of the Middle School faculty. And when they complete that phase, they graduate to High School, then College, and so on to finish their education. In a similar manner, the Law was the schoolmaster for teaching the Jews theology, which, after carrying its scholars a short way, handed them over to lessons in faith to be completed. In that sense, Paul would be presenting the Jews as children, and Christians as advanced youth, ready to face the world and its challenges.[4]

Dutch theologian Jakob Arminius (1558-1602), in speaking about when Jesus said if you see me you have seen the Father,[5] concludes that in this theology, God truly appears in the highest degree, the best and the greatest of beings. The greatest, because He not only produced all things from nothing, but because He has also effected a triumph over sin, (which is far more poisonous than nothing, and conquered with greater difficulty), by graciously pardoning and powerfully putting it away. And because He “delivered everlasting righteousness,” by means of the second creation, and regeneration, which far exceeded the capacity of “the Law that acted only as a schoolmaster.”[6]

3:25 Consequently, now that we are set free through our faith in the Anointed One, we are no longer in custody under Mosaic Law.

Here comes the critical point Paul’s been trying to make for most of this letter. I’m sure he’s hoping that this will finally help the Galatian believers see how wrong the Judaizers were in trying to put them back under Mosaic Law custodianship. Wasn’t the work of the Anointed One on the cross enough? If the Son sets you free, aren’t you completely free? When you pick up your cross to follow Jesus, do you still need to pull a stone altar and a long line of animals behind you for sacrifice? No! No! No! Now that you are free in the Anointed One to live the kind of life He wants you to live, the Mosaic Law no longer possesses any authority over your spiritual life.

So, true believers are no longer trying to atone for their sins by performing good deeds in the flesh in order to gain God’s favor. They are now living by faith and no longer under Mosaic Law as their schoolmaster; not needing its instructions or its discipline, the Anointed One came as a prophet to teach and instruct; as a priest to make atonement for sin, and make intercession for transgressors, and as a King to rule and govern. We are now in the Anointed One’s loving hands, not under the rod of Moses. And instead of giving us a lifeless stone tablet to guide us in everyday conduct, He gave the living Holy Spirit to dwell in us as a Guide for daily positive living.

For Paul, the rulings of Mosaic Law are replaced by the teachings of the Anointed One. Sacrifices are no longer needed because He is the supreme sacrifice for all sin. A lamb’s blood no longer needs to be spilled because the Lamb’s blood cleanses every stain. The Holy of Holies is no longer functioning; the veil was torn in two; the mercy seat on top of the Ark of the Covenant is no longer sprinkled with animal blood.  It’s all been replaced by the Anointed One’s cross on Calvary, and God’s throne room of grace is our Holy of Holies. There we receive His mercy and find grace to help us when we need it most.[7]  We don’t need priests interceding for us because our Jesus stands at the right hand of the Father and is, therefore, able once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.[8] I can hear Paul now moaning over his parchment as though agonizing for the Galatian believers to finally see the truth and the light.

But that’s not all Luther wanted to say about this subject of being under the tutelage of the Law, says Johann Michael Reu (1869-1943) of Wartburg Seminary. Luther’s argument must have appeared to all thoughtful and earnest souls as a revelation when he so clearly amplified the proposition that only those works are to be regarded as good works which God commanded, and that, therefore, not the abandoning of one’s earthly calling, but the faithful keeping of the Ten Commandments in the course of one’s calling. This is the work that God requires of us. This is in direct contrast to a wide-spread opinion that God’s will, as declared in the Ten Commandments, refers only to the outward work mentioned. Remember, the Law is now written on our hearts.[9]

Luther’s argument must have called to mind the explanation of the Law which the Lord gave in the Sermon on the Mount, when He taught people to not rest in the keeping of the literal requirement of each Commandment, but from this vantage point to inquire into the whole depth and breadth of God’s will – positively and negatively – and to do His will in its full extent as the heart perceives it. Though this thought may have been occasionally expressed in the expositions of the Ten Commandments, which appeared at the dawn of the Reformation. Over against the deep-rooted view that the works of love must bestow upon faith its form, its content, and its worth before God, it must have appeared at the dawn of a new era when Luther declared, and with victorious certainty carried out the thought, that it is true faith which invests the works, even the best and greatest of works, with their content and worth before God.[10]

Vincent Cheung gives us a very clear and succinct point on justification by faith. There is a qualification to keep in mind. Since no one can save themselves by good works, nor can they justify themselves by faith, in a “name it and claim it,” fashion. Just as a sinner must depend on someone else to save them, they must rely on someone else to make them right with God. No person can depend on themselves alone to do either one. Therefore, the doctrine is teaching justification not by faith as such or by itself, but it is teaching that justification is by the Anointed One alone. It is the Anointed One who saves us, and not faith itself. Faith plays a role because it is the Anointed One who saves us by means of giving Himself in our place so that we might be made right with God through our faith in what He did on Calvary.[11]

3:26-27 So, as a result of putting your faith in the Anointed One, you are all now children of God; and, since your immersion into the Anointed One can be compared to water baptism. Then when you got dressed, you put on the Anointed One as clean clothes, so you look just like Him.

By their human nature, the believers in Galatia were Jews and Gentiles. But now Paul excitedly tells them that by their spiritual oneness with the Anointed One, they are all children of God because of their new birth through Jesus the Anointed One. He uses three metaphors (new birth, immersion, and clothed) to describe their transition from sinners to saints. he tells them that their becoming children of God came about through faith in the Anointed One Jesus. The Greek noun pistis for “faith” as used here, means “to be convicted of the truth of something.” So, in other words, they were convinced that Jesus the Anointed One was the Son of God, the Messiah; that He was who He said He was; that He was who God said He was; and that He was who the Gospels said He was; opened the door for them to receive eternal salvation, thereby being freed from condemnation under Mosaic Law, and setting them free to serve God as His children in the way He wants them to.

What Paul was telling them echoed the words of the Apostle John, who said, the Anointed One gave the right and the power to become children of God to those who received Him. He gave this to those who put their trust in His name. These children of God were not born of blood and of flesh and of man’s desires, but they were born of God.[12] How ironic that the days were not short in coming when the church through infant baptism could make a baby child of God through the flesh. Some even went to far as to say that if you are born into a Christian family, you are automatically a child of God, and base it on the Scripture that tells how the jailer in Philippi was covered by Paul and Silas’ after they were freed due to an earthquake. They believe that the words in Acts of the Apostles 16:33 mean that his conversion and baptism brought his whole family into the family of God.

[1] Exodus 17:4

[2] Martin Luther: On Galatians, op. cit., p 92

[3] Luke 15:3-7

[4] John Calvin: Biblical Cabinet, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 87-88

[5] John 14:9

[6] Jakob Arminius: Vol. 1, Oration 2, Object of Theology, p. 55 (Also see Vol. 2, p. 336)

[7] Hebrews 14:6

[8] Ibid. 7:25

[9] See Jeremiah 31:33; Romans 2:15; Hebrews 10:16

[10] Martin Luther: Treatise on Good Works, The Importance of the Work, pp. 11-12

[11] Vincent Cheung: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Location 1470-1481

[12] John 1:12-13

About drbob76

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