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 XLVI)

So, there is more than one way that gives one the right to be called a child of God, other than baptism. First, Paul explained this clearly to the Romans when he talked about how children of God after baptism are then led by the Spirit of God.[1] Furthermore, becoming a child of God is not by chance or some form of self-denial. We are all children of God because it was in His plans for us from the beginning.[2] For the Gentiles in Galatia who were hardly considered human by Jewish standards, and for the Jewish believers who believed that their standing before God depended on their complete obedience to Mosaic Law,  now being told they were both children of the Most High was incomprehensible. Jews were at best only children of Israel and descendants of their father, Abraham. But for Gentiles and converted Jews to be called “God’s children,” even though they no longer needed to be circumcised or observe religious rituals and regulations devoutly, it was unthinkable. This implied that their unique relationship with God directly, not as a grandchild or great-grandchild, but His immediate family. And it all came about because of their complete faith in Jesus the Anointed One and His obedience to God rather than their perfect obedience to Mosaic Law.

As such, God no longer existed as a deep, thunderous voice in the sky that looked for people to judge and condemn because they failed to meet His standards, but as a loving, caring, forgiving Father who carried them in His arms, close to His heart.  In the words of John: “To all those who accepted Him, He gave the right for them to be declared children of God; a guarantee to all who truly believed that He was who He said He was.”[3]

Secondly, Paul tells the Galatian believers that they were baptized into the Anointed One. There’s little reason to suspect that any of these believers were not baptized in water in obedience to the Anointed One’s mandate. After all, as His disciples went out into the world, they were to preach the Gospel to everyone and then baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But Paul adds that their baptism into water symbolized their baptism into union with the Anointed One. Water baptism typifies two main aspects of a believer’s experience in becoming a new creation in the Anointed One Jesus. Going down into the water and coming back up illustrates their cleansing from sin. “Go down dirty, come up clean.” Also, going down into the water and coming back up exemplifies their new birth. “Go down dead, come up alive.”

Since Paul did not emphasize “water” in his reference to baptism, many theologians believe that Paul saw an additional embodiment of the believer’s position in the Anointed One.  It not only signifies their union with the Anointed One but their communion with Him.  When Jesus commissioned His disciples to baptize in the Name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Matthew used the Greek noun onoma, translated as “name” that encompasses everything that name stands for; every thought or feeling aroused in the mind when that name is mentioned, heard, or remembered; involving the rank, authority, interests, pleasure, command, character, and accomplishments that name represents.

Therefore, when the Galatians were baptized into union with the Anointed One, they received everything His name represents. It was a testimony that they received the fullness of His grace and the benefits of His sufferings, of His death and resurrection from the dead; by faith, they accepted the reality of their soul’s cleansing and the remission of their sins by His blood, and their justification by His righteousness; how He was delivered for their offenses, died for their sins, was buried in the grave taking their wrongdoings with Him and rose again for their justification; all of which baptism, performed primarily by immersion, is a powerful emblem of His redemption. For the Jews, circumcision served as God’s mark of ownership to set them apart from the heathen; now, Paul tells them that baptism is the new mark God wants all His children to wear as a sign of His ownership.

After you study this letter to the Galatians and then read Paul’s letter to the Romans, you’ll find many of these same points reiterated, only with more depth.  For instance, on being baptized into union with the Anointed One Paul said to the Roman believers, “Have you forgotten that when we were joined with the Anointed One Jesus in baptism, we joined Him in His death? For we died and were buried with the Anointed One by baptism; and just as the Anointed One was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with Him in His death, we will also be raised to life as He was.[4]

Since Paul received his teaching from Jesus directly, we can assume that on this subject the Anointed One reiterated what He said before to Nicodemus: “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water as a human and again of the Spirit as a believer.  Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to the spiritual life[5] Here, we see an engaging metaphor. A human’s first birth occurs as they emerge out of water in the womb, but they are only flesh and blood. However, to signify being born again, a person is returned to the water in baptism – representing the womb, but when they come up out of the water this time, it represents their emergence as a new spiritual creature in union with the Anointed One; born again in the spirit and of the Spirit.

It also serves as a public declaration that the believer is now a committed follower of Jesus the Anointed One. It served notice that God’s interests are their interests; that His manners are their manners; that His teachings are their teachings; that His will is their will; that His purpose is their purpose; that His goals are their goals; that His worldview is their worldview, and that His future is their future.

Thirdly, Paul tells the Galatians that all this becomes the same as putting on the Anointed One like a cloak. In other words, we wear Him daily as we go into the world. There’s a strong possibility that Paul was alluding to the necessity of changing out of wet clothes and putting on dry clothes after baptism; changing the dirty garb of the old creature for the pure robe of the new creature. To put on clothes that bear a strong identity with someone or something is to assume the person and character of that someone or something, and they who do so are bound to act the part, and sustain the character which they adopted.

For instance, I am proud that my cousin and one of my nephews were both in law enforcement at one time. Seeing them in their everyday clothes, they looked like average citizens. But when they put on the uniform of a police officer and state trooper, it radically changed their appearance. The same transformation takes place when a sinner is cleansed and then dons the garment of the Anointed One’s righteousness that marks them as one of His dedicated followers. People will notice the difference right away. If you’ve ever been to Thailand, you will recognize the Buddhist monks immediately by their dress. Paul was talking here about our being identified just as quickly as we go throughout the world, only he was referring to inner, not outer attire.

But it’s more profound than just appearance. When one wears a police uniform or armed forces uniform or fireman’s uniform, they display the attitude, characteristics, traits, and conduct identified with that uniform. But it becomes even more profound. They embody the heart and soul and spirit and nature of the uniform they wear. They are what they are not just on the outside, but through and through. The same is said of those who put on the Anointed One. You don’t just look like a Christian, you ARE a Christian. You don’t merely talk, act, think, perform, or live like a Christian; you ARE a Christian who speaks acts, thinks, performs, and lives like the Anointed One.

We all know what it feels like to dress up for an occasion, and how it makes us feel when we’re all decked out in our finery. Life also teaches us to dress appropriately for each occasion.  Paul is telling the Galatians that they need to dress appropriately when they go out into the world so people will recognize them as followers of Jesus. He was not referring to external clothing, but inner garments, even though outerwear will be affected by our spiritual fashion consciousness. That way, people can recognize your spiritual culture without asking. Oh yes, some skeptics may wonder if this may be nothing more than “dressing-up” or “putting on airs,” as some say, especially when you are trying to act holy.

Paul certainly did not suggest that Galatian believers try to create an illusion by the way they talked and acted; in other words, to imitate the Anointed One. No! He was speaking about the reality of being so dedicated to the Anointed One and everything He stood for and taught that it proved itself real and genuine. As the old saying goes: you can fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. Sinners can spot hypocrisy and false Christianity sooner than some Christians can.

People do more than simply associate us with Jesus; they look for our Christian characteristics to identify us as being true children of God. That is not something one can fake. For when you pray, He answers; when you speak the truth, He anoints it; when you lay on hands, He heals; when you tell the devil to get behind you, he flees. And for sure, when we die, we will be raised to life again to meet Jesus in the air.

Hilary of Poitiers (310-367 AD) was a staunch defender of the divinity of the Anointed One, although he was a gentle and courteous man. He devoted his time to writing some of the most significant theological treatises on the Trinity, and was like his Lord and Master in being labeled a “disturber of the peace.” In a very troubled period in the Church, he expressed openly both in debate and argument the things that were troubling the Church. Raised as a pagan, he was converted to Christianity when he met the God portrayed in the Holy Scriptures. He became the Bishop of Poitiers in France. His wife was still living when he was chosen, against his will, to be Bishop. He was soon taken up with battling what became the scourge of the fourth century, Arianism, which denied the divinity of the Anointed One.

Marius Victorinus adds his thoughts here. For him, the metaphor of inheritance refers to receiving eternal life. But how does this come about? By faith in Jesus the Anointed One, when we believe in Him, that He is the Son of God and that He Himself saves us and that He accomplished every requirement of the Law on our behalf. All these things are reported in the Gospel. But what should be noticed here is that, while Paul is stating this fact, he addresses it to them personally, offering incentives to persuade them more eagerly. “You all,” he says, “are children of God.” Before, he had said, “We are under a custodian.” Now, as it were, he repeats them anew, saying, “You are children of God” – but children only through faith in the Anointed One Jesus as the only one who can save them.[6]

[1] Romans 8:14-17

[2] Ephesians 1:5

[3] John 1:12

[4] Romans 6:4

[5] John 5:3-6

[6] Marius Victorinus: On Galatians, op. cit., Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). p. 50

About drbob76

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