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 XII)

Jewish Christian writer W. A. Liebenberg notes that some people take Paul’s statement here about Yeshua being under the Law even as all Jews were. These are those who believe that the phrase “under the Law” is a metaphor for a person committing a sin. But this isn’t true because while Yeshua was born under the Law, He did not commit sin. Yeshua was born under the Law and kept the Law to absolute perfection. Something no other Jew was able to do. For this reason, He is the Righteous One who is able to redeem those who were under the Law but condemned as sinners, held in bondage to the rudimentary moral rules of the world.[1] The most critical factor was that they could not bring themselves to give up the rites, rituals, regulations, and ceremonies of Judaism’s salvation by works, and embrace the crucifixion of the Messiah whose sacrifice covers all sin.

In one commentary, the writers deal with the concept of adoption in a very real and stark way. They point out that parents initiate the search for a child to adopt. They believe that it was God’s pleasure and will before creation to set His affections on us. He sought us out, we did not seek Him out. But there’s a big difference between what we know as physical adoption in our society and spiritual adoption in God’s economy. Earthly adoptions are often filled with emotion and often glamorized as selfless acts on the part of those who are well-off taking in an underprivileged child to enjoy the abundance of good things, they will offer them. As such, those being adopted are thought of as sweet, precious, innocent children from all over the world just waiting to be adopted by a loving family.

However, they say in the commentary, that when we look at what Paul said to the Ephesians about the people being adopted by God, how they were objects destined for His wrath because they followed the ruler of this world, Satan, gratifying the cravings of their sinful nature. Is that the kind of child, any of us, would want to adopt? Yet, says Paul, God was rich in mercy, and He loved us very much in spite of our pitiful condition. We were spiritually dead because of all we did against Him. But He gave us new life together with the Anointed One. And it was all because of God’s love, mercy, and grace.[2] [3]

In a book about adoption by Russell Moore, he gives a graphic scenario to consider when comparing earthly adoption to heavenly adoption. He says that we should imagine for a moment that we are adopting a child. We meet with the social worker in the last stage of the process, we’re told that this twelve-year-old kid has been in and out of psychotherapy since he was three. He persists in burning things and attempting repeatedly to skin kittens alive. The social worker gives a little family history. The boy’s family on his father’s side, going all the way back three generations, all compiled a history of violence, ranging from spousal abuse to serial murder. Each of them ended their life the same way, death by suicide – each found hanging from a rope of blankets in their respective prison cells.

Now ask yourself, says Moore, would you still want to adopt this boy? And if you adopted him, wouldn’t you keep your eye constantly as he played with your other children? Wouldn’t you watch enviously as he looks at the butcher knife on the kitchen counter? Would you dare leave the room as he watched a movie on television with your daughter, with the lights on low? Well, as Paul describes it, that’s how many believers were before they were rescued by adopting. As we can see again, that was only possible by the love, mercy, and grace of God through the death of the Anointed One who paid the price for our sins.[4] Is there any reason then that anyone would need to ask us, “Do you love God the Father? Do you love Jesus, His Son? Do you love God’s Holy Spirit?” Never, we should put everyone at ease by willingly declaring openly and loud how much we love them because they first loved us.

Don Garlington makes an interesting remark on the phrase “the fullness of time” here in verse four. As it relates to the minor child expecting the inheritance, he ties the child’s coming of age in verse two, with the coming of faith in chapter three, verses twenty-three through twenty-five. But rather than thinking of the container of time having been filled to the brim, we should think of it as being filled up to a particular mark and that it is still being steadily filled until one day it is completely filled.[5] And since it reached the mark where God sent His Son to be the Messiah and Savior of sinners, there is another line when God will send back His Son to resurrect all those who died in faith that He would return and those still living who also believe He is coming back to meet Him in the air. But there are other marks still left – the Millennial Reign of Messiah here on earth,[6] and the final destruction of all that is evil, including Satan and his hordes. Then a new heaven and new earth will appear for eternity.[7]

In a Final Covenant commentary from a Jewish perspective, we find the phrase “fullness of time” used as implying the coming of the Messiah.[8] They note that this did not come to the Apostle Paul by way of some new revelation. In fact, it was part of what he learned from his rabbinical teachers during his growing years and bar mitzvah. In one place, Rabbi Judah taught that whoever lived in Babylon during the exile will be accounted as living in Israel because of the promise in Zechariah.[9] But Rabbi Abaye states that they that live in Babylon recalled their traditional teaching that they would not endure the sufferings that would precede the coming of the Messiah.[10] And more is said about this in the Talmud concerning the times and conditions preceding the arrival of the Messiah.[11]

4:6-7 And now that we are His children, God sent the Spirit of the Anointed One, His Son, into our hearts. That’s why we now address Him as Father because He really is our Father. As a result, we are no longer under guardianship but free; no longer slaves but children, God’s own children. And since we are now His children, we stand to inherit everything that belongs to Him.

 The Aramaic Version of verse six reads, “God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, who cries, Father, our Father,” for us. So, it is not we who call God “our Father,” but the Son’s Spirit within us. For without that Spirit, no person can call Him “Father.” We must keep in mind that in light of what Paul said in the previous verses, he is still speaking primarily to the Jewish contingent in the churches in Galatia. But as Paul closes this part of his discourse by emphasizing the benefits believers enjoy because of their elevated relationship with God the Father, it is aimed at the non-Jewish members as well.

It was more than just a judicial act or a legal matter that changed their status; it was a significant and critical change that took place in the heart. Under Mosaic Law, the vital principle of cooperation with Mosaic Law came from the person’s own carnal spirit. That’s why many of the original religious rituals and regulations became more and more complex as the human spirit tried to improve on their effectiveness and guaranteed outcome. You were looked at as a more pious and holy believer through Mosaic Law by carrying out even the smallest detail with precision.

Even today, some Christians attempt the same thing. Some are known to crawl on their knees from the church door to the altar, some even on shattered glass to show their utmost devotion, or taking communion every day, or using their prayer beads and prayer book to earn God’s grace. How might the Apostle Paul respond today to this salvation-by-one’s-own-efforts approach to God? But God effected a critical change. He replaced the carnal spirit with the Spirit of His Son. Since Paul mentions Father, Son, and Spirit, He spoke to the Gentiles concerning the Trinity. Since the Jews only accepted the Father and Spirit, Paul made sure they understood that the Spirit of the Father is also one with the Son, so they are three-in-One. Paul also clearly implies that the Spirit cannot be received from the Father until and unless one is already one with the Son.

So, you Judaizers, now do you get it? Since God gave you the same Spirit the Son is in union with, it allows you to approach God as His children, and use the reverent, tender, and affectionate language of which a child addressing their father with, why would you trade that for communicating with the Father through animal sacrifices, religious rituals, and ceremonies? What a joy to use the title “Father” that clearly identifies one as a child of God, a term that expresses warmth and togetherness, allowing us to confidently approach our God and address Him as a divine parent. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He used the same term, “Our Father.” Again, Paul’s inspiration speaks volumes when he indicates that we use this affectionate title when “calling out” to God.

Paul seems to follow the Aramaic text by telling the Romans that our hope never makes us ashamed because the love of God came into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who was gracefully given to us.[12] That allows the Spirit to call out to the Father for us. Whose voice will He listen to first, ours, or the Holy Spirit’s? Paul adds more to this by telling the Romans that they should not act like people who are owned by someone that is always afraid. Instead, the Holy Spirit makes us God’s children, so each of us can call out to Him,Father, my Father.” The Holy Spirit speaks to us and tells our spirit that we are children of the Most High God. If we are children of God, we will receive everything He promised us. We will share with the Anointed One all the things God gave to Him. But we must share His suffering if we are to share in His glory.[13]

Paul writes the Corinthians and gives them a similar message, only he refers to the indwelling Holy Spirit as God’s Mark or Seal on us as His property.[14] He tells the Ephesians the same thing.[15] But he also warns them, don’t make the Holy Spirit sad. God gave you His Spirit as proof that you belong to Him and that He will keep you safe until the day He makes you eternally free.[16] And the way believers cause the Holy Spirit grief is that they start lying to each other when they ought to tell their fellow Christians the truth. After all, we all belong to the same body. So, if you get angry, don’t let it become sinful hate. Get over your anger before the day is finished. Don’t let the devil start working in your life. Anyone who steals must stop it! They must work for what they expect to earn so they will obtain what they need and can still give to those who need help. Watch your talk! No curse words should be coming from your lips. Speak positive words. Your words will help others to grow as strong believers.[17]

[1] W. A. Liebenberg: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 74

[2] Ephesians 2:1-5

[3] Platt, David; Merida, Tony. Exalting Jesus in Galatians, op. cit., p. 77)

[4] Russell Moore: Adopted for Life, Published by Crossway, 2009, p. 27

[5] Don Garlington: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 118

[6] See Isaiah 2:2-3; 30:20-21; Zechariah 8:4; 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Peter 5:17; 2 Peter 3:9; Revelation 5:10

[7] Isaiah 65:17, 20; 66:22; Hebrews 12:26-27; 2 Peter 3:12-13; Revelation 21:1-4

[8] Cf. Mark 1:15; Ephesians 1:10

[9] Zechariah 2:11

[10] Babylonian Talmud: Seder Nashim, Masekhet Ketuboth, folio 111a

[11] Ibid. Masekhet Sanhedrin, folio 97a-97b

[12] Romans 5:5

[13] Ibid. 8:15-17

[14] 2 Corinthians 1:22

[15] Ephesians 1:13

[16] Ibid. 4:30

[17] Ibid. 4:25-29

About drbob76

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