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 XLIX)

Yes indeed, remarks Chrysostom. From the beginning, God made special provisions for this union between Himself and mankind, teaching that the two were to be one.[1] So it is no surprise that here in verse twenty-eight Paul would openly declare that God does not see us as Jews or as Gentiles; He does not see us as a servant or as a person free to work; He does not see us as a man or as a woman but as one in Him through the Anointed One. So for Chrysostom, the emphasis here is unity, being of one mind and one accord in dealing with everyday issues, and he draws that analogy from the union between husband and wife – the Anointed One and the Church.[2] And in another place, Chrysostom offers that just as God first created Adam and then from one of his ribs he created his companion Eve, likewise, the Anointed One was in existence before the world began but God, so to speak, took one of His ribs to create the Church, His bride.[3]

Wesleyan scholar G. G. Findlay (1849-1919) explains what Paul concludes here in verses twenty-four through twenty-nine in a very clear and poetic way.  He writes, “The Anointed One never stands alone.” He stands in the midst of the Church – “Firstborn of many believers.”[4] He presents Himself, “standing in the presence of God for us.”[5] He has secured for mankind and keeps safe all its glorious heritage. In Him, we hold the ages past and those to come. The children of God are heirs to the universe.[6]

George B. Stevens (1854-1906) sees these last six verses as one of Paul’s motivation messages as he preached to the Galatians, here’s how Stevens imagines it was heard:

The Preparatory Office of the Law

Text: Galatians 3:23-29

I.  It was the office of the Law that imprisoned us by its condemnation until we were to be set free by believing in the Messiah. The Law may be called our tutor who, by his strict requirements and stern discipline, prepared us for Messiah and made us glad to find freedom and peace in Him by faith. But now, as believers, we are no longer subject to this severe master but possess the sense of liberty and sonship through Messiah. For truly, all believers have entered into a unique relationship with the Anointed One, which affects their whole attitude and standing. [7]

II.  The distinctions of nationality, condition, and gender are as nothing in the presence of that deeper unity which binds together all believers in the Messiah, so that all who believe, regardless of these distinctions, are really Abraham’s seed – since Abraham’s great significance was not in the fact that he was a Jew but in the fact that he was a man of faith, and therefore inherited the blessings promised to him and to his seed in the covenant which God made with him.

Archibald Robertson, in his Word Pictures, makes note of the grammar involved in calling the believers in Galatia “sons [offspring] of God.” For you are all sons of God, both Jews, and Gentiles[8] and in the same way “through faith in the Anointed One Jesus.” There is no other way to become “sons [offspring] of God” in the full ethical and spiritual sense that Paul means, not mere physical descendants of Abraham, but “sons [offspring] of Abraham,” “those by faith.”[9] The Jews are called by Jesus “the sons [offspring] of the Kingdom,”[10] in privilege, but not in fact. God is the Father of all mankind as Creator, but the spiritual Father only of those who by faith in the Anointed One Jesus receive “adoption” into His family.[11] Consequently, those led by the Spirit are sons [offspring] of God.[12] [13]

As Bible scholar Grant Osborne sees it, the message of chapter three is that the Law was a temporary instrument meant to point out the need for sinful people to get right with God, but never able to reconcile them to God. Rather, it served as a schoolmaster, keeping the Israelites locked up in the classroom, and unable to graduate until they completely fulfilled every Law on the books. Of course, that never happened. But the end was still in sight because a Messiah was promised who would do that task for them and then give them credit for having passed the course, as long as they believed it was only by Him, they were set free. When the Anointed One came and brought with Him the new era of salvation, He fulfilled the law and completed its purpose in Himself. Under the old system, Israel maintained its covenant relationship with God by performing the works of the Law. Now all peoples, Jews, and Gentiles alike are declared right with God by faith in the Anointed One. This passage specifies the results – that those who believe become the children of God and join His spiritual family.[14]

THE END OF CHAPTER THREE

[1] Genesis 1:27

[2] Chrysostom: Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, Homily 20, Text Ephesians 5:22-24, p. 302

[3] Chrysostom: Ibid. Homily 6, Text Colossians 2:6, 7, p. 596

[4] Romans 8:29

[5] See Exodus 25:8; Cf. Hebrews 9:24

[6] Expositor’s Commentary: On Galatians, G. G. Findlay, op. cit, loc., cit., p. 241

[7] George B. Stevens: Messages of Paul, On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 75-76

[8] See verse fourteen

[9] See verse seven

[10] Matthew 8:12

[11] See verse five; Cf. Romans 8:15, 23

[12] Romans 8:14

[13] Archibald Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament, op. cit., p. 1458

[14] Osborne, Grant R. On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 112–113

About drbob76

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