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 XLVIII)

Cyril W. Emmet (1875-1924) delineates the terms “baptized into Christ” and “put on Christ.” Emmet says that the preposition “into” is very important.[1] The spiritual and, therefore, the absolutely real and vital union of the believer with the Anointed One is facilitated by Baptism.[2] As long as we look at Baptism as merely the entrance into a new family or the symbol of an inward change of heart, we cannot do justice to Paul’s thought. It meant to him real incorporation of the believer into union with the Anointed One, or from the opposite point of view, a filling of their spirit with the Spirit of the Anointed One. Paul’s teaching raising all of the rites of initiation among other religions, accompanied by water and blood, to a level that was readily understood and eagerly accepted.

Emmet then goes on to address “put on Christ.” The metaphor of putting on, or putting off a quality or character, like a robe, is common in the First Covenant and among Greek writers, and we find it used in other Epistles.[3] But here in verse twenty-seven,[4], the further step is taken by speaking of putting on a person. It was a common phrase also used by Greek writers to express love and close interaction between two persons. For example, in a narrative about the Pythagorean revolt, the emphasis is “put on ” Pythagoras’ escape and his subsequent wanderings that led to his death.” It means to emulate his example. In that sense, this expression emphasizes the closeness of the union between the Anointed One and the baptized convert. It must be connected with phrases such as the terms “the Anointed One in you,” and “in union with the Anointed One Jesus.”[5]

3:28-29 Furthermore, we no longer identify each other as Jews or non-Jews, slaves or free, male or female. We all have one origin as members of the one spiritual body of the Anointed One And now that we are one with the Anointed One, that makes us the real spiritual children and true heirs of Abraham. Yes, all the promises God made to Abraham now belong to us.

The Apostle Paul felt free and empowered to say this because, as he told the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”[6] In other words, this transfer from being a Gentile or Jew unbeliever into becoming a believer was not the result of some ritual or ceremony, it was by the transforming power of God.[7] There is neither those still tied to another religion nor those with no religion. In the Anointed One, we are all of ONE religion. That’s why Paul tells the Ephesians, “Strive to live together as one with the help of the Holy Spirit. Then there will be peace. There is one body and one Spirit. There is one hope in which you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. There is one God. He is the Father of us all. He is over us all. He is the One working through us all. He is the One living in us all.”[8]

Now Paul erases all trace of identity other than being like the Anointed One. Of course, there are Christian women, and Christian men, and Christians from nations all over the earth, from every category: wealthy, poor, educated, uneducated, strong, weak, and so on. Being a Christian does not change our race, color, gender, or ethnicity. Those will not change. But when it comes to being cleansed by the Anointed One’s blood and receiving the gift of eternal life with God’s favor being passed along, there is no discrimination.  He does not bless men more than women or the educated more than the uneducated. The Holy Spirit does not do any less for one than the other. No matter what a person’s station in life or claim to fame, when they sit down on the pew or kneel at the altar, they are no more or any less than the person sitting or kneeling beside them.

Paul told the Corinthians that they belong to the Anointed One, and the Anointed One belongs to God. That is a very high position to be given. This is important to know because Paul goes on to say that the Anointed One was raised from the dead first. Then all those who belong to the Anointed One will be raised from the dead when He returns.[9] So it is important that we don’t see our relationship with our heavenly Father in the same way we view our relationship with our earthly father. We cannot look at those from other families, nations, ethnic and racial groups as being descendants from our earthly father, but as Christians, we can view any person from every one of these as a spiritual brother or sister in the Anointed One.[10]

That’s why Paul told the Roman believers that while Abraham became the early father of all those who went through the rite of circumcision to become identified as God’s children, it wasn’t because they were circumcised but that they put their trust in God the same way as Abraham did. After all, he was declared right with God before he was circumcised. In the same way, we are declared right with God before we are baptized. So, that same promise was given to us because we put our trust in God. We can be sure of it. It is because of His Grace. It is for all the family of Abraham. It is for those who obey the Law. It is for those who put their trust in God, as Abraham did. In this way, he is the father of all Christians.

It cannot be denied, the Torah tells us that God told Abram, “I made you a father of many nations.”[11] This promise is good because of who God is. He makes the dead live again. He speaks, and something is made out of nothing. Abraham believed he would be the father of many nations. He found no reason to hope for this, but, nevertheless, he was told, “Your children will become many nations.”[12] Abraham was about one hundred years old. His body was not strong, but his faith in God was not weak when he thought of his body. His faith was not weak when he thought of his wife, Sarah, being past the age of having children. Abraham did not doubt God’s promise. His faith in God was strong, and he gave thanks to God. He was sure God could do all He promised to do.

But the Apostle Paul’s reason for making this statement of equal rights for all in the Anointed One was well-founded. In his work, “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers,” Greek writer Diogenes Laërtius states that Hermippus of Smyrna, in his work called Bioi (Lives), quotes the philosopher Thales from Miletus as saying – what some believe actually came from Socrates; that he used to say he thanked fortune for three things: – first of all, that he was born a (hu)man and not a beast; secondly, that he was a man and not a woman; and thirdly, that he was a Greek and not a barbarian. [13]

Later in Jewish history, Jewish men gave benedictions to end each Morning Prayer. According to the Talmud, it was taught that Rabbi Judah said, “A man is bound to say the following three blessings daily: ‘Blessed art Thou, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who has made me an Israelite and not a heathen; who has made me a man and not a woman; and who has made me an Israelite and not a slave.’”  Legends tell us that Rabbi Aha ben Jacob once overhead his son saying, “Blessed art Thou, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe…who hast made me an Israelite and not an uncivilized man.” The Rabbi quickly objected and told his son to say, “Who has not made me a slave.”  The son replied, “Isn’t that on the same level as a woman?”  The Rabbi quickly retorted, “No, a slave is just more contemptible.”[14]

Often when our great Church father Augustine would find himself involved in controversy over differing points of theological view, he would remark to his friends: “Remember, we are washed in the same blood.”  It would be very easy to add that we are all saved at the same cross; we are all redeemed by the same Savior; we are all washed of our sins by the same blood; our names are all written in the same Book of Life, and we will all rise up on the same resurrection day.

So, says the Apostle Paul, if you belong to the Anointed One, then you’re a spiritual descendant of Abraham. And since you are a spiritual descendant of Abraham, then you are included in God’s last will and testament as an heir. Paul would write to the Romans later: “For His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are His children, we are His heirs.  In fact, joined together with the Anointed One we are heirs of God’s glory…”[15]

We do not belong to God because of our race, color, ethnicity, gender, wealth, or education; we were all purchased by the same blood of Jesus the Anointed One. We are not children of God because we bargained with Him or proved worthy by completing difficult challenges or proved ourselves to be part of an elite class in society. We were granted that privilege by His amazing grace. We did not become His because we courted Him or got His attention with our talents and abilities, or caught His eye because we demonstrated our uniqueness. While we were yet worthless sinners, the Anointed One died for us.

So, here’s the word to the Judaizers who want the Gentile believers to vacate their position obtained by grace in the Anointed One, and try to achieve the same through Mosaic Law with all its complexities: it can’t be done; it is a lose-lose situation. What would you think of someone who by the generosity of a wealthy benefactor received an inheritance that set them free to pursue their life’s dream of becoming an inspiration to all people drowning in misery and unable to help themselves, who then refused to accept that gift because they wanted to earn the same amount of money needed, by going from door to door begging for donations, all because they wanted to get the credit for the money raised!  “My LORD!” I can hear the Apostle Paul say as he exhales in frustration, “will the Galatians ever get the point! This is God’s plan, and God doesn’t make mistakes.”

Chrysostom pens several comments on verse twenty-eight. In one sermon, he is addressing what Paul said to the Ephesians that a wife should be in subjection to her husband in the same way that the Anointed One is head of the Church, His bride.[16] Chrysostom bases this on several Scriptures in the First Covenant. For instance, a certain wise man says Chrysostom, wrote down a number of things considered to be a blessing and included this: “I take pleasure in three things, and they are beautiful in the sight of God and of mortals: agreement among brothers and sisters, friendship among neighbors, and a wife and a husband who live in harmony.”[17] And elsewhere again, he puts it in with blessings that a friend or companion is always welcome, but a sensible wife is better than either.[18]

[1] Matthew 28:19 – Revised Version

[2] Cf. Romans 6:3-11

[3] See Romans 13:12; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10, et al.

[4] See also Romans 13:14

[5] Cyril W. Emmet: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 37

[6] Romans 1:16

[7] See 1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 3:11

[8] Ephesians 4:2-6

[9] 1 Corinthians 15:23

[10] 2 Corinthians 7

[11] Genesis 17:5

[12] Ibid. 15:5

[13] The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laërtius, translated by C. D. Yong, London, George Bell & Sons, 1901, p. 18

[14] See: Jewish Talmudic Quotes – Facts Are Facts

[15] Romans 8:16-17a

[16] Ephesians 5:22-24

[17] Ecclesiasticus (Sirach): 25:1 – New Revised Standard Version

[18] Ibid. 40:23

About drbob76

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