CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XVI)

David Worthington Simon (1830-1909), states that it’s one thing to just be called “father,” but it is quite another to discharge all the expected fatherly functions. Human fathers sometimes fail to behave like fathers for reasons lying solely in themselves or sometimes because of hindrances in the conduct or character of their children. No father can regularly discharge his fatherly functions toward children who are unchildlike. Yet, a rebellious son or daughter are still his children, even though they don’t act like it.”[1] Simon is telling us that even those who do become children of God do not receive all the benefits of being God’s child because of their erratic and irreverent behavior. Therefore, they miss out on many blessings God holds in reserve for them. But worst of all, they miss out on the blessings meant to make their life as God’s children more exciting and joyful here on earth.

Methodist minister, evangelist, and writer of holiness material Aaron Merritt Hills (1847-1935) discusses the importance of not confounding “consecration” with “sanctification” since one occurs before the other. After their soul is “convicted of their spiritual need,” and knows the importance of having had the “old sinful self” crucified, and accepted the fact that the promise of the Holy Spirit is to them, and to obey and surrender and consecrate everything to Him, it becomes both their privilege and duty to believe that God hears their cry and accepts their consecrated heart.[2] Hills is saying that although a person is a sanctified new believer of God’s own choosing, they still must do their part in consecrating themselves to the service of the Lord.

Dr. A. J. Gordon (1836-1895) states the same truth. It seems clear from the Scriptures that it is still the duty and privilege of believers to receive the Holy Spirit by a conscious, definite act of appropriating faith, just as they received Jesus the Anointed One. This conclusion is based on several grounds. Presumably, if the Paraclete is a person,[3] coming down at a certain definite time to make His abode in the believer for guiding, teaching, and sanctifying the body of the Anointed One, there is the same reason for accepting Paul for his special ministry in the same way we accept the Lord Jesus for His special ministry. To say that in receiving the Anointed One we necessarily received in the same act the gift of the Spirit seems to confound what the Scriptures make distinct. For it is as SINNERS that we accept the Anointed One for our justification, but then as SAINTS, we accept the Spirit for our sanctification. And as Paul says here in verse six, because we are His children, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts.

So, says Gordon, the gift of the Holy Spirit is grounded on the fact that we are children by faith in union with the Anointed One. The Scriptures show that we are required to appropriate the Spirit as His children, in the same way, that we appropriated the Anointed One as sinners. Let the believer receive the Holy Spirit by a definite act of faith for their consecration, as they received the Anointed One by faith for their justification. So, can they not then be sure that they are in a safe and Scriptural way of acting? We know, says Gordon, of no plainer form of stating the matter than to speak of it as a simple acceptance by faith, which is an affirmation and an act which bids eternal truth to be a fact.[4] It is important to understand that sanctification comes before consecration. Otherwise, by putting consecration first, we are saying that sanctification can be earned through works. Rather, we are sanctified in order to qualify for consecration so that we are ready to do the work the Holy Spirit has planned for us. But we will still need the power of the Spirit to use the Gifts that He brings, and for that, we are baptized in the Spirit just as the disciples were on the Day of Pentecost.

R. A. Torrey (1856-1928), commenting on the Holy Spirit praying on our behalf, mentions that Paul told the Corinthians that the Spirit of God searches the deep things of God,[5] by which He then reveals to us the things which He discovers. Then John in his Revelation[6] and many other passages, says the Holy Spirit is represented as speaking. Paul made this clear to the Romans by pointing out that the Spirit helps us because when we are weak, He helps us with our weakness. We don’t know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself speaks to God on our behalf. He petitions God on our behalf, speaking to Him with feelings too deep for human expression.[7]

And now in verse six, by the Holy Spirit dwelling in us we can say with certainty that we are His children. As a result, we may not only address Him as our Father in heaven, but we can also run to Him when we need His help and like a child we can say, Daddy, Daddy I need Your help! As Torrey sees it, here the Holy Spirit is represented to us as praying, not merely as an influence that leads us to pray, or an illumination that teaches us how to pray, but as a Person who Himself prays in and through us. There is immeasurable comfort in the thought that for every regenerate man or woman, two Divine Persons are praying for them, Jesus the Anointed One the Son of God up there at the right hand of the Father, praying for them;[8] and the Holy Spirit praying through us down here. How secure and how blessed is the position of the believer with these two Divine Persons, whom the Father always hears, praying for them.[9]

Ernest DeWitt Burton (1856-1925) makes it clear that here in verse seven that Paul’s statement that the believer is no longer a slave but a son, is not to be taken simply as someone having confessed their sins and asked forgiveness. Paul is assuming the possession of the Spirit of God’s Son is already a known fact to them,[10] and the Apostle finds confirmation of this as expressed in verses five and six. Not only that but being God’s child is also contingent on being set free from the bondage of the Law since those still under the Law are servants, not sons or daughters.[11] So having the indwelling Spirit of the Son (not to be confused with the baptism of the Holy Spirit) is necessary before we can call ourselves children of God. Many stand or go to the altar to repeat the sinner’s prayer but leave with only the preacher’s promise that they are now a child of God. That’s like calling a fetus a living being before its brain begins to function and its heart begins to beat.

Rather than this being seen as a fracturing of the Trinity, it only proves its unity – three-in-one. It’s what binds them inseparably together. God is Spirit,[12] so without the Spirit, there is no God. He is the Spirit that came upon Jesus at His baptism, led Him into the wilderness to be tempted, so without the Spirit there would be no Messiah. To human logic, this seems impossible and contradictory. Think of it this way, there is air all around us and in us. Without air, we cease to be alive. If you go beyond the boundary of the earth’s atmosphere, there is no air to breathe. We also fill our automobile tires with air; scuba divers must take air in tanks with them to survive, even the whales must come up for air. So it is with God’s Holy Spirit. Without Him dwelling in us, we are spiritually dead. He is the one who gives us His fruit and gifts. He is just as indispensable to believers as He is to the Godhead. That’s what ties us so closely together as believers and as children of God. And when the trumpet sounds, the same Spirit that raised the Messiah from the grave will be the same one to resurrect us to meet Him in the air.[13]

Cyril W. Emmet (1875-1924), says it is very instructive how the Apostle Paul passes nimbly from this metaphor of the coming age of the young heir to having been adopted as children, and the emancipation of a slave here in verses five through seven. One reason may be that he is dealing with the position of both Jews and Gentiles in the congregation. The Jews were known as God’s children from the time of Jacob, and the Gentiles were redeemed and then adopted from slavery through Jesus the Anointed One. However, Paul does not mention this at all as part of his narrative.

As Emmet sees it, the real fact is that all metaphors are inadequate to define or describe the facts of the spiritual life in the Messiah. Paul cannot be accused of constructing his word pictures in such a way that they fit nicely into his theological system. Rather, he uses each one to suit his purpose illustrating his point as being some aspect of the truth. From the time of Adam, we are all children of our Creator, waiting for our complete emancipation from the slavery of our sinful tendencies. On the other hand, we are also strangers that He adopted into His family by setting us free as slaves and then adopting us as sons and daughters. You will only know that your liberation is complete once you finally realize that you are now a child of God.

Emmet believes that many of the mistakes of theologians and Bible scholars in their theology are that they show a tendency to take a single metaphor and then disassemble it into pieces which they then interpret literally to reach what they call a logical conclusion. Spiritual things are not meant to be logical but understood by faith. When they try to put the metaphor back together with each piece marked as literal and logical they see that the whole word picture becomes distorted.[14] When someone tries to understand a parable with human logic, they become like the disciples of Jesus who needed a full explanation in order to comprehend the spiritual truths being illustrated.[15]

Messianic Jewish writer Thomas Lancaster spots several difficulties with the traditional Christian scholarly view of what Paul is saying here in verse seven about being freed from the Law, especially the understanding that the Anointed One came to fulfill the Law and thereby redeem Jews under the iron fist of Law, and for that to mean they no longer are required to respect the Torah, the Sabbath, or any of the Jewish festivals and feasts. He points out that a literal translation of Galatians 4:5 does not use the Greek verb exagorazō in the past-tense. It literally says “that those under the Law He may redeem.” They are still under the Law. To be under the Law is just Paul’s way of saying “legally Jewish” and obligated to observe the Torah as part of their salvation process. The Messiah did not redeem the Jewish people from observing the Torah. He rescued them from the sentence of condemnation for not being able to perfectly fulfill the Law to acquire salvation, not from the obligation to obey the commandments

[1] David Worthington Simon: Reconciliation by Incarnation, Published by T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1898, p. 81

[2] Aaron Merritt Hills: Holiness and Power, Part III, Ch. 15, pp. 196-197

[3] Paraclete is the Greek word translated as “Comforter,” referring to the Holy Spirit

[4] A. J. Gordon: The Ministry of the Spirit, American Baptist Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1894, pp. 68-69

[5] 1 Corinthians 2:10

[6] Revelation 2:7

[7] Romans 8:26

[8] Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1

[9] The Fundamentals – A Testimony to the Truth, Ch. 15, The Personality and Deity of the Holy Spirit by R. A. Torrey, pp. 278-279

[10] Cf. Galatians 3:2

[11] Ernest DeWitt Burton: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 224

[12] John 4:24

[13] Romans 8:11

[14] Cyril W Emmet: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 39

[15] Matthew 13:36ff

About drbob76

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