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 IX)

Early church writer Ambrosiaster (335 -397 AD), feels that the term “fullness of time” also refers to the cessation of all the requirements such as circumcision and the sacrifices in the Temple, as well as the other rites and rituals. The reason for this is because the Anointed One was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, and Abraham was justified and considered as righteous before he and his son Isaac were circumcised. Therefore, these things served their purpose, now it was time to move on and let what the Anointed One did on the cross become the source of the believer’s justification and righteousness. Paul was amazed that the Galatians forgot what he told them and annulled their baptism and went back to advising new converts that they must be circumcised and accept all the legal laws and ceremonial laws it brings with it into their lives.[1]

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153 AD) earned a mixed reputation. On the one hand, he is called the “honey-tongued educator” for his eloquent writings on the love of God. On the other hand, he rallied soldiers to kill Muslims. He wrote eloquently on humility; then again, he loved being close to the seat of power and was an adviser to five popes. But not all opinions are to be taken without factoring in a certain amount of bias. In writing on the theme of what greater incentive do the Christians need to go out and preach the Gospel other than the desire for the unsaved to love God, he quotes what Paul says here in verse four about God sending His own Son when the right time came. Looking at the past as a garden, he speaks of blossoms of the Anointed One’s passion as the fruit of ages past, growing, and blooming during the epidemic of sin and death.

But for Bernard, it is the glory of the Resurrection that causes a springtime of regenerating grace, that the fresh flowers of the coming ages to spring forth, whose fruit is to be given without measure at the general resurrection, when time will be no more. And so, as it is written, “The flowers are coming through the ground. The time for singing has come. The voice of the turtle-dove has been heard in our land. [2] That means, summer is back with Him who dissolves icy death into the spring of a new life and says, “Look, I am making everything new![3] His Body sown in the grave blossomed in the Resurrection as Paul told the Corinthians, “Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever![4] and in a similar fashion, our valleys and fields which lay barren or frozen, as if dead, now glow with reviving life and warmth.[5] And just as the Anointed One died and was buried when the right time came so we will rise to meet Him in the air at precisely the right time.

Medieval scholar Nicholas of Lyra (1210-1270) we quoted earlier, believes that the reason Jesus was born of a woman and made subject to the Jewish legalistic rituals prevalent at the time, such as His circumcision, dedication, and study of the Torah and Mishnah, is because He wanted to abide by all the requirements of the Law so that He is allowed to point to Himself as their complete fulfillment, showing that they no longer needed to be freed from the penalty of sin in order to inherit everlasting life. He took all that upon Himself, so we could believe in what He did for us.[6]

Catholic scholar Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) offers this exposition on that part of the passage that says the Anointed One was born of a woman. As he sees it, two errors must be avoided: Namely, that of Photinus,[7] who said that the Anointed One was solely man and received the beginning of His existence from the Virgin; in other words, that the Anointed One was made of a woman as though He owed His beginning entirely to her. But this is false because it contradicts what Paul says: “Who was born as a person in the flesh.”[8] he does not say, “according to His person,” which exists from eternity, namely, the hypostasis[9] of the Son of God. In the same way, when you put a loaf of bread in the oven for baking when it begins to turn brown, it is not proper to say that the browning made the bread. It is simply a case of the browning being added to the bread. In the same way, the fact that the Son of God became flesh in Mary’s womb, it is not proper to say that the person of the Anointed One came into being. Rather, that the human nature newly given to the Anointed One did not change His original essence of divinity.

 Aquinas goes on to say that certain items affect a thing and change it, such as forms and qualities, but certain other items affect it without changing it. For instance, dipping a stick in water makes it wet but does so without changing its essence of being wood. This sort of thing indicates a relationship. That’s why our adaptation to the Word of God in us does not change the Word, but we are changed by it. That is why, in spiritual matters, we employ in temporal sense terms that signify a relationship. That way, we can say, “Lord, You are my refuge.”[10] Or we say, God, became human. But we do not use forms and qualities so as to say: God was turned into a human.[11]

Aquinas also made note of how the Anointed One fulfilled the precepts of the Old Law both in His works and in His teaching. In His works, because He was willing to be circumcised and to fulfill the other legal observances, which were binding for the time being; As Paul says here in verse four, the Anointed One was “made under the Law.” In His teaching, He fulfilled the precepts of the Law in three ways. First, by explaining the essence of the Law. This is clear in the case of murder and adultery, the prohibition of which the Scribes and Pharisees thought to refer only to the actual physical act. However, our Lord fulfilled the Law by showing that the prohibition extended to the thoughtful acts of sins. Secondly, our Lord fulfilled the precepts of the Law by prescribing the safest way of complying with the statutes of the Old Law. Thus, the Old Law forbade perjury: and this is safely avoided by abstaining altogether from taking an oath unless required by law. Thirdly, our Lord fulfilled the precepts of the Law, by taking aim at perfection. This is seen in what He said to the man wanting to follow Him. After the man affirmed that he kept all the precepts of the Old Law, Jesus told him, “There is one thing for you to do yet, if you want to be perfect, go and sell everything you have and give the money to poor people.”[12] [13]

Dutch theologian James Arminius (1558-1609), was speaking on the Priesthood of the Anointed One and how this applied to our becoming sons and daughter of God. He is commenting on, what he calls, “The Second Fruit” of the Anointed One’s Priestly Office. This involves the asking, obtaining, and application of all the blessings available to those who are part of God’s covenant administered by the Anointed One of salvation for both the soul and the body.

This necessary blessing, says Arminius, is succeeded by adoption into sons and daughters by their right to the heavenly inheritance. We owe it to the Priesthood of the Anointed One that this blessing was requested and obtained for us by the Anointed One, as well as communicated to us by the Holy Spirit. For He being the proper and only begotten Son of the Father, and the sole heir of all His Father’s blessings, was unwilling to enjoy such surpassing benefits alone, and desired to have co-heirs and partners, whom He might anoint with the oil of His gladness, and invited to join in the glory and blessings of that inheritance. To do this, He became an offering by willfully sacrificing His life for sin, that, the painful endurance of His soul being finished, He might see His seed continue to grow in their days – the new seeds of God, so they might come into possession with Him both of name and inheritance. That’s why, says Arminius, Paul tells us here in verse five that the Anointed One was made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive “THE ADOPTION OF SONS.”[14]

Puritan English Presbyterian minister and author John Flavel (1627-1691), preaching on the Doctrine – the death of Jesus the Anointed One, not only satisfied our debts but over and above purchased a rich inheritance for the children of God. This he called the second effect or fruit of our Lord’s priesthood. This involved our adoption as sons and daughters because born again believers received the spiritual nature of the Anointed One to be within them, so they lived because He now lived in them.

Flavel draws a comparison between “civil adoption” and “sacred adoption.” There exist a twofold agreement and disagreement between them. They agree in this that both are enacted at the pleasure and good-will of the adopter; and in this, that both procedures confer privileges on the adopted individual that was not theirs by nature. But where they disagree is that one is an act imitating nature, the other transcends nature; the one is initiated by those without any natural children; the other for the comfort of them that were without a spiritual Father.

This divine adoption is, in scripture, either taken appropriately for that act of God by which we are made sons and daughters or, seen correctly, for the privileges with which the adopted are invested. This is what Paul also wrote the Romans.[15] We lost our inheritance by the fall of Adam; we receive it, as Paul says here in verses four and five, by the death of the Anointed One, which restores it again to us by a new and better title.[16] It’s one thing to be born into a family and thereby expect all that the family offers to come freely to the new child. But to be forsaken as unwanted by a family and then be adopted as wanted into a family should make the new family member forever grateful.

[1] Ambrosiaster, op. cit., p. 21

[2] Song of Solomon 2:12

[3] Revelation 21:5

[4] 1 Corinthians 15:42

[5] Bernard of Clairvaux: On Loving God Ch. 3, p. 11

[6] Nicholas of Lyra, op. cit., loc. cit.

[7] Photinus was the bishop of Samnium in Pannonia (today the town of Sremska Mitrovica in Serbia) who was best known for denying the incarnation of the Anointed One.  Photinus grew up in Ancyra in Galatia.  He died in 376 AD.

[8] Romans 1:3

[9] Hypostasis is a philosophical term that identifies an underlying reality or substance not seen on the surface

[10] Psalm 89:1

[11] Thomas Aquinas, op. cit., loc. cit

[12] Aquinas combines Mark 10:21 with Matthew 19:21

[13] Ibid., Summa Theologica, op. cit. Part 2-Question 107-Answer 2, p. 1290

[14] James Arminius: Orations of Arminius, Vol. 1, Oration 1, The Priesthood of The Anointed One, Delivered on July 11, 1603, p. 31

[15] Romans 8:23

[16] John Flavel: The Fountain of Life, Sermon 15, p. 177

About drbob76

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