CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XLVII)

Concerning the Trinity, Poitiers stated that the following are not his own ideas, nor did he put them together in order to confuse those reading them by manipulating the language used. Rather, sticking with sound teaching, we preach the things which are true. For the Apostle shows that this unity of the faithful arises from the nature of the sacraments when he writes to the Galatians. All of you who were baptized into union with the Anointed One put on the Anointed One like a robe. There is now neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female; all are now one in the Anointed One Jesus. And this happened amid such a great diversity of races, ethnicities, colors, and genders. So the question is, was such unity achieved because everyone decided to have unity, or did it come through the sacrament of baptism that everyone submitted too and became one in the Anointed One? The second question is, will that unity remain unbroken simply because they are of one mind, or can it only remain unbroken because they are one in the Anointed One?[1]

For William Burkitt (1650-1703), there are three things we must take note of here in verse twenty-six. First: a glorious Gospel privilege is discovered for our benefit, namely, adoption into God’s family. We are no longer servants, but children of God. God’s church operating under the Final Covenant offers the special status of kinship through adoption to whomever such privileges and guarantees, that normally belong only to those born into the family once they grow up to maturity as adults are given.

Second: the universality of this privilege is offered to both Jews and Gentiles, the weak and the strong, young, and old believers alike. Each child’s relationship with the Father is not what Burkitt refers to in Latin, “recipere majus et minus” (“receive major or minor”). In other words, when God draws sinners to Him, and they arrive at the cross, they are neither greater or lesser. All come to Him on the same level. God is not more of a Father to one child than to another: the young one in the cradle may call the parent daddy, as well as when they are grown into manhood. We are all the children equal in God’s sight.

Third: The same instrumental cause of this blessed privilege is the same for all – faith in the Messiah, Jesus. Through the Messiah, God invests every believer, those weak in faith as well as those strong in faith, this glorious privilege of adoption. Burkitt points out that faith in the Messiah to come, entitled believers under the First Covenant the dignity of being His spiritual children; and faith in the Messiah who came, add some this particular dignity to believers under the Final Covenant. However, now that the Messiah has returned back into heaven, they along with us are all the spiritual children of God, through faith in the Messiah, Jesus; the Messiah who as God’s only Son became a servant, that we slaves might become God’s sons and daughters as well.[2] Apparently, this reality was lost on the Galatians.

Justin Edwards (1787-1816), in examining what the Apostle Paul says here in verse twenty-seven that as many as are baptized into the Anointed One since they believe in Him with all their heart to become right with God, and testify and profess their faith in Him, have put on the Anointed One. In other words, they exchanged their own self-righteousness for the Anointed One’s righteousness to gain salvation and sanctification. Now they enjoy unity with Him, and as a consequence, are being conformed to Him. This means they can now think with the mind that is in Him, and live as He lived. It reminded Edwards of a saying he read in James McKnight’s commentary of an allusion to the symbolical rite, which usually accompanied baptism in England long ago. The person to be baptized took off their old clothes before they went into the water, and then put on their new or clean clothes when they came out of the water. This was to signify that they put off their old corrupt nature, with all its former bad principles and unethical practices, and was now a new creature in the Anointed One.[3] Hence the expressions, putting off the old man and putting on the new.[4] [5]

In one of his morning devotions, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) comments on what Paul says here in verse twenty-six that we are all children of God by faith in the Anointed One. We need to look at it this way, says Spurgeon, the fatherhood of God is the same for all His children. You may criticize yourself for having too little faith, wishing you could be like those who are courageous, like Great-Heart (in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress), a Christian pilgrim with his sword, helmet, and shield, to whom another pilgrim named “Interpreter,” gave his daughters for safekeeping so he could protect them on their way to the house called Beautiful.[6] But, sadly, we stumble over straws and even shadows that make us afraid.” But wait a minute, oh you of little faith, just as Great-heart is God’s child, we are God’s children too, Great-heart is not one scintilla more God’s child than we are. Peter and Paul, the highly-favored Apostles, part of the family of the Most High God, and so are we. A weak Christian is just as much a child of God as the strongest one.[7]

Spurgeon then finishes, as he often did, by quoting from some hymn or poem. Here he chooses the second stanza from John Kent’s (1766-1843) hymn that reads.

“This covenant stands secure,

Though earth’s old pillars bow;

The strong, the feeble, and the weak,

Are one in Jesus now.”[8]

August H. Strong (1836-1921) feel that we should not regard the figures of speech or word-pictures used by Paul as merely Oriental metaphors, the fact of the believer’s union with the Anointed One is asserted in the most direct and matter-of-fact manner throughout Scripture.[9] That’s why the believer is said to live in the Anointed One who serves as the element or atmosphere which surrounds them with its perpetual presence and which represents their vital breath. In fact, this phrase “in” the Anointed One means “united” with the Anointed One, is the very key to Paul’s epistles and to the whole Final Covenant. The fact, that’s what Paul says here that the believer is one with the Anointed One and symbolized when they are immersed in water baptism, they are “baptized into the Anointed One.”[10]

Frederic Rendall (1840-1906) reminds us of a cultural event that took place among the Roman youth when they exchanged their toga prætexta (“white toga with a broad purple hem”) for a toga virilis (“solid white toga”), signifying their transition as adults into the rank of citizens.[11] Before this transition, they were under the control of rules and regulations, as a child should be in their father’s house. But once they put on the white toga, they possessed the independence of a grown-up child. This recalls what was said to Joshua about removing his filthy clothes and putting on clean clothes in order to take his place as the high priest.[12] But we can also relate it to what Paul says about laying aside the garments of darkness and putting on the armor of light, which is Jesus Messiah.[13] [14]

Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918) highlights a little-known fact by pointing to the Anointed One’s Sermon on the Mount, where the Lord seems to say that by loving their enemy’s people may become “children of God.” But this is utterly opposed to Christian doctrine. It is by birth, and only by birth that the relationship between father and child can be created. Moreover, the Lord was there addressing His disciples.[15] Again, the KJV., reads, “As many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the “sons of God,” even to them that believe on His name, which was born…of God.”[16] But this is also inaccurate. Thus, it is indeed that we become children of God, and “children” is the word here used, but sonship connotes what children ought to be. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons [and daughters] of God.”[17]

To many, says Anderson, this statement may seem startling, but its truth can be easily tested. In the Final Covenant believers in union with the Anointed One are never designated “sons of God.” In other words, that phrase never occurs as a mere synonym for “children of God.” The words here in verse twenty-six may seem to be an exception to this, but in fact, they afford a striking illustration of it. For when the Apostle writes, “You are all the sons of God, through faith, in the Anointed One Jesus,” he uses the word “sons” in a peculiar sense, his purpose being to mark the difference between the position of children under age, and of those who have attained adulthood. In this Christian dispensation, the people of God are no longer treated as minors, “under tutors and governors,” but are now deemed to be of full age, and take rank as adults.[18] This is fully supported in the next two verses.

Benjamin W. Bacon (1860-1932) responds to verse twenty-seven. He says that baptism, which all alike have undergone, by its very symbolism of immersion, and its accompaniment of gifts of the Spirit, is the proof of this unity “in Christ.” The thought is more fully developed in his letter to the Romans,[19] where the fundamental significance of the rite, as viewed by Paul, is made apparent. Paul’s ruling principle is that for redemption, a new infusion of “spirit” is indispensable to emancipate our flesh from the dominion of sin, and this divine operation of grace is absolutely conditioned upon the renunciation of all attempts at self-justification in a spirit of family trust.

In accordance with this principle, baptism always symbolizes death and resurrection for Paul. The elements of this change are the cessation of life conceived as a self-centered activity, and the beginning of eternal life, which is “hidden with Christ in God,” and this is not one’s own life, either in origin or direction.[20] The most essential “teaching of baptisms,” therefore, is “repentance from dead works and faith toward God,”[21] since by this means we “put on Christ,[22] whose all-surrounding, all-pervading Spirit is a “Red Sea” of grace in which all believers are baptized into mystic union with Christ, as the fathers “were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and the sea.”[23] [24]

[1] Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Bk. 8, Para 8, p. 414

[2] William Burkitt: On Galatians, op., cit., p. 320

[3] See Ephesians 4:22, 24

[4] James Macknight: A New Literal Translation from the Original Greek of all the Apostolical Epistles with Commentary and Notes, New Edition, Vol. III, Published by Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown, Edinburgh, 1821, p. 160

[5] John Edwards: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[6] Great-heart is a character in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, From This World to That Which Is to Come: In the Similitude of a Dream, The Third Stage, p. 237

[7] Charles Spurgeon:  Morning and Evening Daily Readings, March 18, p. 157

[8] Grove Chapel Pulpit, Twenty-Four Sermons by Thomas Bradbury, Vol IV, Robert Banks, London, 1880, p. 96

[9] See John 14:20; Romans 6:11; 8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 1:4; 2:13

[10] August H. Strong: Systematic Theology, op. cit., Vol. 3, Sec. 2, p.40

[11] This occurred at age fifteen

[12] Zechariah 3:3-4

[13] Romans 13:12-14; see Ephesians 6:11

[14] Frederic Rendall: On Galatians, op., cit., loc., cit., p. 174

[15] Matthew 5:44, 45

[16] John 1:12,13

[17] Romans 8:14; 2 Corinthians 6:17,18

[18] Sir Robert Anderson: The Lord from Heaven, Ch. 2.

[19] Romans 6:3-11

[20] Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians. 5:15; Colossians. 2:12, 20; 3:1; Philippians. 2:13;

[21] Hebrews 6:1-2

[22] Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:9-11

[23] 1 Corinthians 10:2

[24] Benjamin W. Bacon: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 83–84

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