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 XIII)

What the Apostle Paul wrote the Ephesians sure sounds a lot like what he said to the Romans when he scolded them by saying, don’t let your old sinful tendencies get a hold of you and tell you what to do. You are supposed to be doing what the Holy Spirit tells you to do if He is living in you. No person belongs to the Anointed One if His Spirit is not dwelling in them. You should not act like people who are owned by someone other than God. They are always afraid of failing. Instead, the Holy Spirit makes us God’s sons and daughters, we can call Him, “Papa, my Father.”[1]

Paul is able to say this because he believes in what the Scriptures say about how the first man, Adam, became a living soul.[2] But the last Adam (the Anointed One) is a life-giving Spirit.[3] In fact, the Apostle Peter says that the prophets tried to find out how to be saved. They told of the loving-favor that comes to mankind and wondered at what time and to what person this may happen. The Spirit of the Anointed One dwelling in them talked to them and told them to write about how the Anointed One will suffer, and about the grace that comes to all who believe.[4]

No doubt, the Apostle Paul got a hint of this when reading the scroll of Isaiah, where it is said: I will pour out My Spirit on your children and will bring good to your children’s children. They will grow like grass in the fields, and like poplar trees by the rivers. They will say, “I am the LORD’S.”[5] And God showed some frustration when He talked to Israel and Judah and said to them: you just call out to Me, saying, “Papa, our Father?” Didn’t you tell me that you’ve been my friend since you were a child?[6] The Lord reminded them of a time when He told them that He wanted to treat them as His own children. He wanted to give them a fertile land, a land more beautiful than any other nation, and then He thought they would call Him their “Father.[7] That’s why Paul was able to tell the Romans that now all of us can go to the Father through the Anointed One by way of the one Spirit.[8] And they do that by praying at all times as the Holy Spirit leads them to pray. Pray for the things that are needed, not wanted. So, they must watch and keep on praying. Not just for themselves, but all believers.[9]

That certainly opened the door for the writer of Hebrews to say that we now have a great high priest who went to live with God in heaven. He is Jesus, the Son of God. So let us continue to express our faith in Him. Jesus, as our high priest, is able to understand our weaknesses. When Jesus lived on earth, He was tempted in every way. He was tempted in the same ways we are tempted, but He never sinned. With Jesus as our high priest, we are free to come before God’s throne, where there is grace. There we receive mercy and kindness to help us when we need it.[10] Even the Apostle Jude echoed this truth by telling his readers to use their most holy faith to build themselves up even stronger. Pray with the help of the Holy Spirit.[11]

One thing the Jews were very particular about was inheritances. There were many rules governing how estates were distributed among the heirs. And none were more important to them than what God promised to Abraham and his children and their children. It all started when Yahweh spoke to Abram and told him, “Don’t be fearful, Abram, for I will defend you. And I will give you great blessings.”[12] Yahweh went on and told him that He was establishing His covenant between Himself and them, along with their descendants after them. Yes, generation after generation, as an everlasting covenant, to be their God and God for their descendants who follow them. He will give them and their descendants the land in which they now live as foreigners, all the land of Canaan, as their permanent possession.[13]

King David found a reason to say with confidence and assurance, the LORD Himself is my inheritance.[14] That’s why later on, the Psalmist and musician Asaph confidently sang, “My mind and body may fail, but God is the Rock for my mind and my portion forever.”[15] But when things did not go as well as expected, and they were invaded and conquered by the king of Babylon, God sent them good news when He said He would bring them back to this very city, so they may live in peace and safety. And they will still be His people, and He will be their God. And He will give them one heart and one mind to worship Him forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants. And He will make an everlasting covenant with them, promising never again to desert them but only to do them good. He will put a desire into their hearts to worship Him, and they will never leave Him. It will make Him happy to do good things for them and will replant them in the land He gave them great joy.[16]

These things may be running through Paul’s mind when he wrote to the Corinthians and told them, “You belong to the Anointed One, and the Anointed One belongs to God.”[17] And when he wrote them a second time he warned them against becoming too familiar with the world and their way of life. He asked why should God’s Temple and the temples of idols share anything in common? They are God’s temple, the home of the living God, because God said of them, “I will live in you and walk among you, and I will be your God, and you will be my people.” That is why the Lord told them to leave the heathens and their idols; have nothing to do with them; don’t get involved in their filthy activities, and I will welcome you and be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters.”[18]

Rabbi Moises Maimonides (1135-1204) gave a clearer interpretation of this restriction when he said that a person should not call a servant Papa Joe or a maidservant Mama Sarah lest this lead to an undesirable outcome and a blemish be placed on their lineage. Therefore, if some servants or maidservants were very distinguished personages, their reputations are well-known, and everyone in the community recognizes them and the children and servants of their master. For example, for the servants of the nasi[19] – it is permitted for the children of that household to refer to the servants by their names.[20] It is said that in Rabbi Gamaliel’s house, he and his family referred to the head servant as Father Tabi, and his wife as Mother Tabiatha. However, in the Mishnah, we read where possible referred to those by name who were what were called “freed servants” who decided to stay on and serve as part of the extended family.[21]

In examining what Paul says here in verse six about God sending the Spirit of His Son into our hearts to enable us to call Him Papa, Father, Thomas Aquinas is answering the specific question of whether each of the Divine Persons of the Trinity was able to assume human nature as Jesus did? Aquinas notes that a spiritual adoptive sonship is a peculiar form of natural sonship, but it takes place in us, by being chosen for such a relationship with the Father. The principle involved is seen as a gift of the Holy Spirit, who has the same love for us as He does His Only Son. It’s done by God sending the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, allowing us to call Him Papa, Father. And, therefore, even as by the Incarnation of the Son in becoming one of us, we receive adoption in the likeness of His Son. So, Aquinas sees all members of the Trinity involved in granting us this family relationship with God the Father. In so doing, all three become incarnate in us.[22]

John Gill tells us that the very learned Rabbi John Selden (1584-1654), England’s Chief Rabbi during the renaissance, thinks the Apostle Paul alludes to a custom among the Jews who allowed only those who were freed from servanthood, not ordinary servants nor handmaids, to call anyone Papa – Father or Imma – Mother.[23] This seems to be based upon a mistaken interpretation and rendering of a passage in the Talmud, where it says: It’s been taught elsewhere that male and female slaves are not called “Father so-and-so” or “Mother so-and-so,” even though in Rabban Gamaliel’s house, however, they were called “Father so-and-so” and “Mother so-and-so.”[24]

So when Paul said that only those who were freed from the slavery of the Law by the sacrifice and blood of the Lamb of God and offered to serve God out of love and dedication were allowed to do something that even the freed slave of a city mayor or head of the local council were given permission to do, they call God in heaven their Papa or Father, which is the reverse of the Jewish custom mentioned here.

Ambrosiaster feels that Paul is trying his best to get the Jewish believers to go from being known as the children of Israel and began to accept their status as children of God. As such, instead of finding synonyms or euphemisms to address God by calling Him LORD (Adonai) or HaShem (The Name), they called Him Father. And we can call Him Father as adults because that’s what Jesus told His disciples to do when they prayed to God. Ambrosiaster goes on to say that for the non-Jews, the same privilege applies because although they were never part of the children of Israel, they too are now the children of God through adoption, and therefore, are eligible as heirs through the Anointed One to all that God promised to Abraham.

But most of all, says Ambrosiaster, “It shows that the Father will give His children what He wants to give them out of His own possessions, and calls this gift their inheritance.”[25] And this was also at the heart of the Judaizers’ argument that salvation is earned, not given, while Paul made it clear that salvation is a gift from God that cannot be earned by man’s good works. So the next time you encounter someone who believes that salvation must be earned, asked them if they believe their eyesight was a gift or did they earn it, is their heartbeat a gift or did they earn it, and you can go on and on. Just as our sight, hearing, breathing, heartbeat, touch, taste, and feel are instilled in our being during conception and incubation in the womb, so our spiritual relationship with God is instilled in our hearts and minds at the moment of our new birth, made possible through the Anointed One.

[1] Romans 8:9, 15

[2]  Genesis 2:7

[3] 1 Corinthians 15:45

[4] 1 Peter 1:10-11

[5] Isaiah 44:3b-5a

[6] Jeremiah 3:4

[7] Ibid. 3:19

[8] Ephesians 2:18

[9] Ibid. 6:18

[10] Hebrews 4:14-16

[11] Jude 1:20

[12] Genesis 15:1

[13] Ibid. 17:7-8

[14] Psalm 16:5

[15] Ibid. 73:26 – Complete Jewish Bible

[16] Jeremiah 32:37b-41

[17] 1 Corinthians 3:23

[18] 2 Corinthians 6:16-18

[19] In the Jewish communities, an important person such as a town mayor or head of the local council or any such high official was referred to as a nasi.

[20] Moises Maimonides: Mishneh Torah, Sefer Mishpatim, Nachalot, Ch. 4, Sect. 5

[21] Mishnah: Nashim, Gittin, Ch. 4, sect. 4

[22] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, op. cit., Vol. 5, Of the Mode of Union on the Part of the Person assuming, Part 3-Question 3- Article 5-Responses and Objections-2, p. 60

[23] Ioannis Seldeni (John Seldon): de Successionibus ad Leges Ebraeorum in Bona Defunctorum Liber Singularis in Pontificatum, Ex Officina Elfeviriorum, 1808, Ch. 4, p. 33

[24] Babylonian Talmud: Seder Zera’im, Masekhet Berakoth, folio 16b.

[25] Ambrosiaster, op. cit., loc, cit., p. 22

About drbob76

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