CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CRITICAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson VIII)

And there was one more factor to consider, Jesus Himself says that no one should think that He came to do away with the Law of Moses or the writings of the early prophets. He did not come to do away with them but to complete them. He said, “I tell you, as long as heaven and earth last, not one small mark or part of a word will pass away of the Law of Moses until it has all been done.[1] That’s why Paul was able to tell the Roman believers that the Anointed One came to help the Jews. This proved that God told the truth to their early fathers. This showed that God would do what He promised.[2] And he told the Colossians that the Anointed One wiped away the list of charges brought against all of us. Because of the Law, they stood as a warning of condemnation; but He removed them by paying the price for redemption when He Himself was nailed to the execution-stake on our behalf.[3]

It’s clear that the Jews themselves were aware that the time of the Messiah’s coming was fixed, and that at that time He would come, as planned, whether they deserved it or not it was possible for them to read this in their own Talmud what the Rabbis said about the coming of the Son of David and the conditions that will exist to herald His coming.[4] There are many times in Jewish writings that the state of the Jewish world is described that will exist when the Messiah comes. Unfortunately, they are not the times that come from Scripture but from people’s imaginations. But Christians need not smirk or shake their heads because they’ve done the same with the second coming of the Messiah.

The first time He came to redeem the unbelievers, the next time will be to resurrect the believers. As Paul told the Ephesians, because of the blood of the Anointed One, we are bought and made free from the punishment of sin. And because of His blood, our sins are forgiven. His loving-favor to us is so rich.[5] And it’s all because He gave Himself on our behalf, a gift on the altar to God, which was a sweet aroma to God.[6] And because of the Anointed One’s willingness to be sacrificed as payment for our sins, Paul tells the Colossians that God took us out of living in sin’s darkness. He put us in the holy nation of His much-loved Son. We were bought by His blood and made free. Our sins are forgiven through Him.[7]

But the Anointed One did not pay for our ransom to free us from sin’s slave camp so that we might roam freely without any responsibilities, we must never forget that in the past, the way we were living was useless. It was a way of life we learned from those who lived before us. But we were able to escape from that way of living. We were bought, but not with things that decay or corrode. We were bought with the precious blood of the Anointed One in His death. He was a pure and perfect sacrificial Lamb. Long before the world was made, God chose the Anointed One to be sent to save us.[8]

Paul’s important message for the Roman was that everything God created awaits with great excitement for the time when He will show the world who His children are. The whole creation wants very much for that to happen. Everything God made was allowed to become like something that cannot fulfill its purpose. That was not its choice, but God made it happen with this hope in view: That creation will be made free from ruin – that everything God made will have the same freedom and glory that belong to God’s children.[9] And this was not just for the moment or our short stay here on earth, even as the Jewish Book of Enlightenment states clearly: “The enlightened will shine like sunshine in the sky, and those who make many right with God will shine like the stars forever and ever.”[10] [11]

When we look back over human history, some may ask why He didn’t come sooner; why not right after Adam’s fall in order to save mankind all the pain and suffering they went through including Noah’s flood and the tower of Babel that tore the human race apart with different languages? Did God need four thousand years to get His plan figured out? The only way to come up with an answer to these questions is to have the mind of God; to see what He saw; know what He knew; understand what He understood. After all, how long did it take mankind to invent printing, to discover vaccines, and to come up with the radio and television? God is never behind time or ahead of time; He’s always right on time. If Paul were writing today, he might use the phrase, “just at the right moment.

But He didn’t come as an angel, exempt from the laws that govern mankind, nor immune from the requirements of the religious rituals and regulations practiced by the Jews. He did not tread the earth as a celestial being unaffected by human needs or tendencies. Rather, He was born subject to Mosaic Law as a Jew and made subject to Mosaic rites and rituals by His Father’s appointment. He was to keep all the ceremonial and moral requirements perfectly for us as our Representative and to suffer and absorb the full penalty of our violation of it as the human race. This constitutes the significance of His circumcision, His being presented in the Temple for dedication, and His baptism by John, after which Jesus said, “It’s the right thing to do so that all the requirements of righteousness are fulfilled.”[12] And He did it all so that He, the only Son of God, might make it possible for the Father to adopt all of us as His full-fledged children.

Whenever we read the genealogy of Jesus in the scripture, especially the King James Version, it always follows the method using the word “begat,” such as in Matthew, Chapter One. But here, it does not say, “and Joseph begat Jesus.”  If by the time Paul wrote this letter any doubts arose or any evidence uncovered by the followers of Jesus that His birth occurred some other way than by virgin birth through Mary, Paul would have been forced to admit so. But the Apostle is quite clear and convinced that Jesus was conceived by Mary through the Holy Spirit. As such, He was already God/man at birth; He did not need to work His way into that status through His prayer and fasting, those were meant for other purposes. Prayer and fasting were not fashioned to impress or flatter God, they were designed to enhance our ability at increasing self-discipline. Jesus did not need to obey the Law for His own salvation, He did so to qualify as our Savior.

Interestingly, Paul uses the concept of adoption when discussing the new relationship between the Galatian believers and God. Adoption was already a well-known practice even in Paul’s day. If one brother died, it was common for another brother to adopt his brother’s children. Even estate owners were known to adopt the children of beloved slaves to give them a better chance of becoming free and successful. Paul spent quite a bit of time telling the Galatians about how they grew up as children under the tutelage and custody of Mosaic Law; but through Jesus, the Anointed One God adopted those who believed in Him as true sons and daughters, fully invested in the promise He made to Abraham.  This was not acquired through any other way or by any other means; it was all because of the Anointed One.

Tertullian (155-225 AD) makes reference to what Paul says here in verse four how, when the right time arrived, God sent His Son to be born of a woman through natural childbirth. He wants to know whether the Apostle understood the standard of the term “woman” in accordance with Genesis attributing this to her gender. By calling the virgin Mary a woman, he follows Scripture that calls Eve, as a virgin upon her creation, a woman.[13] It is also important to note that the Archangel Gabriel was sent to the virgin Mary, blessed her as a woman among women.[14] Gabriel understood that even a virgin is called a woman. This also has a double meaning. When does a girl become a woman? In the culture of that day, it is said to be at the age of twelve or upon her first menstrual period. So, we see that the phrase “woman” here to mean a “female human being,” capable of bearing a child. But the real argument here is to counter the growing idea that Jesus was some celestial being who appeared on earth as a human being. No! He was born of a woman like any other human being.

Tertullian goes on to point out that Mary was also referred to as being “betrothed” (meaning engaged to be married – KJV “espoused”),[15] therefore, it is that both by angel and Apostle she is pronounced a woman becoming a bride. However, says Tertullian, it is not to be understood that being betrothed meant they were already married. Even though engaged to Joseph, she still qualified being called a “woman.” Yes, said Tertullian, this does not depend on simply being a female but on the grounds that she was promised to a man as his bride. Some apparently claimed that because she was engaged, she was no longer a virgin; therefore, Jesus was not born of a virgin. But that is ridiculous, she is still a virgin until the marriage is consummated by intimacy. The fact that Joseph was never intimate with Mary means that she remained a virgin woman even after being married. [16]

I’ve added what Tertullian says, not because it makes what Paul said any clearer, but to show how that early in Christian history such subjects were being debated. Are these types of disagreements now in the past? The obvious answer is, “No!” During my lifetime, I’ve heard about debates among Christians if women qualify to be ordained as ministers and bishops. Today we have discussions on whether or not homosexuals and lesbians should be ordained as ministers and bishops. Who knows what the next dispute will be related to women’s roles in the Church?

Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem (313-396 AD) addresses the concept of adoption as sons and daughters in the spiritual family of God that Paul speaks of in verse five. Paul clearly distinguishes two things, “the adoption” itself, and the witness of it by “the Spirit of adoption.” For Cyril, the adoption itself belongs to Baptism in which we are made children of God and joint-heirs with the Anointed One: the witness of the indwelling Spirit of adoption is the special grace ascribed to the Sacrament of Chrismation in the Eastern Church,[17] and to Confirmation in the Western. There are many other passages in which Cyril ascribes it to Baptism itself, as distinct from Chrismation – a gift of the Spirit. As Bishop Cyril sees it, men may baptize you with water to make you a member of the church, but the Spirit will not baptize you to make you a child of God. First, you must be born again.[18]

[1] Matthew 5:17-18

[2] Romans 15:8

[3] Colossians 2:14 – Complete Jewish Bible

[4] Babylonian Talmud: Seder Nezikin, Masekhet Sanhedrin, folio 98a

[5] Ephesians 1:7

[6] Ibid. 5:2b

[7] Colossians 1:13-14; Cf. Titus 2:14

[8] See 1 Peter 1:18-20

[9] Romans 8:19-23; See Ephesians 1:5

[10] See Daniel 12:3

[11] Zohar on Genesis: The Creation of Elohim

[12] Matthew 4:15

[13] Genesis 2:22

[14] Luke 1:42

[15] Matthew 1:18

[16] The Ante-Nicene Fathers, op. cit., loc. cit. Vol. 4, Tertullian: On the Unveiling of Virgins, Ch. 6, pp. 61-62

[17] The Sacrament of Chrismation, also called Confirmation, is always done in the Orthodox Church together with baptism.

[18] The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: op cit., Second Series, Vol. 7, Eucharistic Rites, Ch. 6, p.60

About drbob76

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