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 XVII)

While Lancaster’s point of using the rendition of the Greek taken from Robert Young’s Literal Translation is correct, he fails to provide the rest of the text: “that the adoption of sons we may receive, and because you are sons, God did send forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’”[1] It is clear that Paul is pointing back to his discussion about minors living under the Law who cannot inherit until they reach adulthood, which is a direct reference to the Law being the guardian under whom they were kept. So, it does not refer to redemption from sin or exile, because no sin existed without the Law, they go hand in hand. Therefore, when Jesus came, He did not die on the cross to free one hand of those who were under Law from sin and leave the other hand, still gripping onto the Law. Both hands must be released, or they are not free at all. And as Jesus said, “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed![2]

Let me illustrate: “Okay,” says the father of a large successful billion-dollar company to his youngest son, “Your older brother died in combat, but he left word that he wants you to take his place as the next owner and President of our company.”  “But Dad,” says the younger son, “I want to start at the bottom and work my way to the top as he did.”  “Your brother did all that for you, and everything he learned he wrote down for you to read and study, so you’ll know what he knew in a much shorter time,” says the father.  “But Dad, I want to do it on my own; I want to get credit for climbing to the top,” replies the boy. “Well, son, anyone can try that. But I must tell you, even if they went as high as possible, they still wouldn’t be allowed into this office or sit in this chair or inherit this company as owner and CEO when I retire unless they were there under the conditions offered by my first son.” I can hear Paul hollering now: You foolish Galatians, can’t you understand this? You can’t merit this position; you can’t compete for this; you can’t buy this! It’s a gift! If you don’t accept it on God’s terms, you can’t receive it any other way!

So, now all of God’s children can say to their former guardian, the Mosaic Law: I’m through with you!  Your position and power have been transferred to the Messiah. He’s on the throne of my heart as LORD and Savior. I’m free now, a child of God. You can’t restrict my movements anymore; I don’t need you to approve everything. I now serve God as He wills, and don’t need your permission. Yes, I submit myself to those over me in the LORD for guidance, instruction, and discipline. But they do not possess any power, nor did God give them any latitude to deny me my inheritance just because I failed one or two of their tests or do not measure up to one of their standards. Let them rebuke me if they want, I want my words and actions to correspond with God’s Word, not one of their pet peeves. We are all on the same level and same footing as children of God. Therefore, let us respect each other, love each other, prefer one another, and rejoice over each other’s gifts and talents, all meant to glorify and praise our Father in heaven.

Grant Osborne notes what Paul says about God sending the Spirit of His Son into the believer’s heart. He says that the sending of the Spirit builds on several First Covenant passages, such as “I will give you a new heart … and put my Spirit in you;”[3]And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me, endowed with His Spirit;[4] and, of course, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.[5] Here, as often in Paul’s other writings;[6] as well as the Acts of the Apostles and the Apostle Peter’s first letter,[7] the Spirit is described as the “Spirit of His Son” to emphasize his connection with the Messiah, as well as with God the Father. Each member of the Trinity is involved in our salvation. When we speak of the Spirit as “Jesus in our heart,” it is actually the Spirit of Jesus who enters believers. He represents the Messiah in this world. He empowers and guides us as we engage in the Christian way of behaving, enabling us to live according to the will of the Triune God.[8] So the Apostle Paul was not making up some new doctrine that just came to him in the dark of night. It is from the established, infallible, Word of God.

Bible Chinese scholar and writer Vincent Cheung points out that the Apostle Paul introduced the idea of sonship to Abraham back in chapter three, verse seven. No doubt, this was because the Judaizers who came over from Jerusalem were teaching that before anyone could become children of God to inherit God’s promises to Abraham, they first needed to become children of Abraham. If you were a Gentile, that meant you must submit yourself to the Law, if a male, be circumcised, and practice all the Jewish rites, rituals, customs, and ceremonial laws. But Paul destroyed this argument by showing the Abraham was considered right with God before any of these things were put into practice.

Cheung goes on to note that one becomes a child of God through grace and faith, this is what Abraham did, so it would qualify them as heirs of the promises God made to Abraham. As far as circumcision is concerned, some say that this is done through water baptism. But since Paul was stressing that a person is justified by faith alone, he certainly wouldn’t contradict himself by making water baptism a requirement for justification. Think of the thief on the cross next to Jesus. He was crucified along with the Messiah before he was given a chance to do good works or be baptized in water. And yet, Jesus said to him: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise.”[9]

The point Cheung is making is that it is normal for any person who professes Jesus as their Lord and Savior to then be baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In fact, there is no reason to refuse it. But we must keep this in mind, one can profess faith in the Messiah without baptism and still be justified as right before God. But no one can be baptized without faith in the Messiah and be justified.[10] Remember, it’s all about becoming an adopted child of God, having their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, with the promise of full salvation, and everlasting joy.

Writer Duncan Heaster comments on what Paul says here in verse seven about the children of God being heirs to His promises through the Messiah. First of all, God, as our Father, did not die in order to leave His estate to His children. Rather, He passed that on to His Son, Yeshua,[11] who did die so that those who believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. But God in His love, grace, and mercy fulfilled the prophecies He gave to the First Covenant prophets that the Messiah would live again, and raised Him from the tomb to live forever. But that inheritance will not be given to us as long as we are in the development stage of preparing for His return. The key to understanding this is what Paul told Timothy that if we suffer with Him, we will also reign with Him.[12] The Greek verb hypomenō (“suffer” KJV) that Paul uses in his letter to Timothy can be used in two ways: It can either be taken as “to remain faithful,” or “to persevere under misfortunes and trials and hold fast to one’s faith in the Messiah.” Thayer, in his Greek Lexicon, says that Paul uses this verb in Timothy 2:12, meaning “to persevere and endure through trials and tribulations as we wait for His return.” One of the first guarantees that the Father gave us as heirs of this inheritance is that He sent the Spirit of His Son to dwell in us. This identifies us as children of God who came to Him through the Messiah and, therefore, are joint-heirs with Him.[13]

4:8 Remember, in the past, you did not know anything about God. You were slaves to false gods with nothing of the one true God in them.

 When Moses was sent by God back down into Egypt to free His children enslaved there, and he went to see Pharaoh and told him that ADONAI sent him, Pharaoh said, who is Adonai, that I should obey when He says to let Israel go? I don’t know Adonai, and I also won’t let Israel go.”[14] And the Prophet Jeremiah once prayed, “Pour out your anger on the nations that do not acknowledge You, also on the families that do not call out to you in prayer.”[15]

But things didn’t change much by the time Paul’s day came around. On his visit to Corinth, he told some of the religious leaders and members of the Areopagus on Mar’s hill, as I was walking around and looking at the things you worship, I found an altar, where you worship, with the words: TO THE GOD WHO IS NOT KNOWN etched on it. You are worshiping Him without knowing Him. He is the One I will tell you about.[16] And Paul told the Corinthians that the main reason so many heathens who think they know God indirectly aren’t the way He wants to be known. He did not allow people to come to know Him through the philosophical teachings of this world. God wanted to save people from the punishment of their sins through the preaching of the Gospel. But they found such sermons as foolish talk.[17] That would be like throwing a lifesaver to a drowning person, but they refused to grab hold of it because it didn’t look like any lifesaver they’d ever seen.

The believers in Ephesus knew what Paul was talking about because he once told them that at one time, they did not understand who God was either. The Jews, who went through the religious act of becoming a Jew by being circumcised, concluded that if you were not circumcised that you didn’t know God.[18] But then Paul told the Ephesians he was so glad they were not like the people of the world living around them who are still existing in ignorance, and they know nothing about a living Yahweh. This is because such ignorance keeps them from opening their minds, and so they resist knowing His will for their lives.[19] So they end up only doing the things that please them because they don’t know there is a God higher than their gods.[20] But they must be warned that when the ADONAI Yeshua is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in a fiery flame. Then He will punish those who don’t know the Father in heaven,[21] that is, those who didn’t listen to the Gospel of our Lord Yeshua and obey it.[22]

[1] Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible by Robert Young, Author of the Analytical Concordance to the Bible, Revised Edition, Edinburgh, 1898, loc. cit.

[2] John 8:36

[3] Ezekiel 36:26-27

[4] Isaiah 48:16

[5] Joel 2:28-29

[6] Romans 8:9; Philippians 1:19

[7] Acts of the Apostles 16:7; 1 Peter 1:11

[8] Osborne, G. R. On Galatians: Verse by Verse, op. cit., p. 129

[9] Luke 23:43

[10] Cheung, Vincent. On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit. Location 2282-2295, Kindle Edition.

[11] See Romans 4:13-14, Hebrews 1:2

[12] 2 Timothy 2:12

[13] Heaster, Duncan. On Galatians, op cit., Location 1047-1071, Kindle Edition.

[14] Exodus 5:2 – Complete Jewish Bible

[15] Jeremiah 10:25

[16] Acts of the Apostles 17:23

[17] 1 Corinthians 1:21

[18] Ephesians 2:11; See 1 John 3:1

[19] Ibid. 4:18

[20] 1 Thessalonians 4:5

[21] See Isaiah 66:15; Jeremiah 10:25; Psalm 79:6

[22] 2 Thessalonians 1:7b-8 – Complete Jewish Bible

About drbob76

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