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 XXXII)

Don Garlington gives us a different view of what Paul meant here in verse fifteen when he asked the Galatians, “Where, then, is your blessing of me now?[1] As the New Living Translation puts it, “Where is that joyful and grateful spirit you felt then?” The New Century Version renders it, “You were very happy then, but where is that joy now?” And the New American Standard Bible puts it this way, “Where then is that sense of blessing you had?” Garlington accepts the NASB‘s version paraphrases it as follows: “Where, then, is your blessedness?” In other words, they blessed Paul for coming and giving them the Good News about the Messiah, and he received a blessing by their accepting what he said by faith.[2] The reason for Paul’s question seems to be that they no longer honored him for his service because they did not feel that blessed by what they experienced upon embracing the Gospel that he delivered to them.

Duncan Heaster writes about the circumstances under which Paul feels that his once good friends in Galatia now saw him as an adversary. He notes that in society and human existence, it is all about what others think of us, more than what we think of ourselves. We may envision ourselves as looking good, confident, and successful, but if those we work with and live around do not share that view of us, it can be very debilitative to our egos. When that happened in Paul’s day, and even today, it causes loss of face before the community and friends, a fate some considered worse than death itself.

For some people, having the honor of one’s family and the community is crucial. That means always being polite, say what was right in the ears of one’s hearers rather than what was true, never shame those in one’s group by telling inconvenient truths; just say what the others wanted to hear. Today we call this “being politically correct.” So, it was against this background that the Apostle Paul decided to be truthful, even if it meant becoming the enemy of some because he stuck with the truth. This would also give us a new challenge every day.[3] But Paul was, just as we must be, more interested in his standing with God, knowing he told the truth rather than fearing he was laying the groundwork for martyrdom because he would not lie to those he cherished with the love of God.

4:17-18 I understand that these teachers are excited about winning you over to their side, but I can tell you their motives are disgraceful. All they want to do is come between us so that you will turn to them instead of to me. It’s a good thing when people care about you and love you, but why did they wait until I was gone to do this?

 Reading Paul’s assessment of the Judaizers here sounds eerily familiar to what he said to the Romans when he told them of his desire for the Jews to recognize Yeshua as the Messiah and convert to Christianity so that the Family of God is finally united. Paul said, “I know about them. They have a strong desire for God, but they do not know what they should know about Him.”[4] Paul then goes on to say that people like that are not serving our Lord the Anointed One. They are only interested in pleasing themselves. They use fancy talk and say nice things to fool those who don’t know that much about what they are saying.[5]

That’s also why Paul worried about the Corinthians. He was afraid that their minds might be led away from the truth concerning what it means to really follow the Anointed One. This could happen to them just as Eve was tricked by the serpent with his clever lies.[6] He told them that these are dishonest missionaries with a false gospel. They don’t let anyone know what’s really going on with their efforts. But they make themselves look like true ministers of the Anointed One. And that’s no surprise because the devil can make himself look like an angel of enlightenment,[7] and a ravenous wolf disguised as a harmless sheep.[8] So, no one should be amazed when those who do his bidding try to make themselves look like preachers of the Gospel. They and their pretensions will end up getting them what they deserve.[9]

 Both the Corinthians and the Galatians will find out what the Philippians learned. These people all put their own interests ahead of Yeshua, the Messiah. They couldn’t care less what He gets out of their work, they’re only concerned about what they benefit from it. In like manner, the Apostle Peter was telling it like it is when he wrote that these false teachers only want other people’s money. They’ll use every scheme they can to try and convince you that what they are telling you about salvation and the future is true, when in fact it’s an outright lie. But the judgment against these imposters was included in God’s schedule a long time ago. And they will not escape God’s plan for them.[10]

 Paul is very clear about the underlying motive of these Judaizers. They want to get the Galatians to stop looking at the Anointed One and looking at Paul for instructions and guidance, and get their eyes on these false prophets from hell. But Paul bears some bad news if the Galatians are fooled into doing so. He tells them that they are being fooled into thinking they’ve got everything they need. To make them think they are rich. Convince them that without any help from Paul, they might become kings. He told them he wished they really were kings. Then they could join forces to combat evil and promote the Gospel. Unfortunately, some of them were so full of pride; they did not think Paul would dare to come and visit them.[11]

Paul is not opposed to someone helping his ministry team out and supporting them in every way. It’s just that he is upset that the Judaizers are in it for fame and fortune. That way, they would be able to go back to Jerusalem and brag how they wrestled away this special project from this traitor to Judaism and got the Galatians on the right path again. What Paul is going through here sounds a lot like what Phinehas, Aaron’s grandson, was going through trying to get the children of Israel to remain faithful to Yahweh on their way to the promised land. God told Moses; I was so angry with the Israelites I wanted to get rid of them. But Phinehas stepped in and saved them from my anger. He did this by showing that he feels strongly, just as I do, that my people must worship only me.[12]

This is not the first time Paul needed to write a church he became an intimate part of to be careful about losing their place in God’s plan for winning the world to the Anointed One. He also wrote the Corinthians and told them to stand strong. Not to let anything change them. Keep busy doing God’s work because no one who works hard for the Lord is wasting their time.[13] After all, the Anointed One willingly gave Himself up to die for us. He died to ransom us from our slavery in sin. The pure Lamb of God died to make us pure, a people who belong only to Him and who always want to be doing His will.[14] Paul wants them to conduct their lives the right way by doing what the Gospel tells them to do. So, if Paul gets to visit Galatia once more or not, he wants to hear that they are standing steadfast in the truth. He desires to be told that they are working together as one, preaching the Gospel everywhere they go.[15]

Several psychologists infer that after Paul became a Christian, despite his critical attitude of those who relied on their own abilities and talents to outdo others, he continued to strive to be the best of the best. They say he did this so unconsciously that he became inconsistent in his instructions. In their opinion, without knowing it, Paul turned out to be the very sort of person he preached against by relying on his own abilities and talents to outdo everyone else. They say that Paul excused this by identifying it as God and the Anointed One working through him with their truth and power.  Furthermore, they believe this created tension between his spiritual philosophy of not wanting to rely on his own abilities and talents to be better than others, and his carnal ego’s desire to succeed.  However, these psychologists agree that it was just such inner tension and inconsistency that gave him the competitive element he needed to carry on despite his critics.[16]

I tried to simplify the wording of some psychological assessments I read, but they still make things hard to understand sometimes.  So, let me put it in layman’s language.  Before Paul was converted, he was a Jewish zealot of the highest degree.  He looked to no one for approval and saw no challenge too great for him.  He was determined to be the best anti-Christian Pharisee who ever lived.  After he was born again, he looked only to God and the Anointed One for approval and was willing to accept whatever circumstances he found himself in as part of God’s will and plan for his life. But, say the psychologists, Paul didn’t realize he was doing the same thing for Christianity that he once did for Judaism. Except that now he’s passing it off by claiming that God the Father and the Anointed One the Messiah put him up to it; so, he’s doing it for them! In reality, Paul was contrasting the love he showed to the Galatians with the zeal of the Judaizers, whose goal it was to win them away from him. Paul loved the Galatians in order to win them over to the Anointed One, but the Judaizers’ enthusiasm was to turn them away from the Anointed One back to ceremonial laws.

As a personal example, while growing up, I only attended the church of one specific denomination where my father was the pastor. But I learned a lot about other denominations through the sermons I heard other ministers preach. Unfortunately, I only perceived what was wrong with them, why their belief system was incorrect; why their theology was mistaken; why their teachings on holiness and sanctification were in error; and why they were bound to miss going to the same heaven we were. So, I began to believe that only people who belonged to my denomination would go in the rapture and gather around the throne of God. Can you imagine my shock when later on, I found out that many preachers in my church used commentaries written by theologians from all these other denominations they questioned!  I will politely say it was a case of mistaken identity. This is the approach the Judaizers took in trying to persuade the Galatians to enhance and guarantee their salvation by adding the requirements of Jewish ceremonial laws. In other words, they could not trust this missionary Paul to tell them the whole truth.

[1] New International Version

[2] Don Garlington: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 125-126

[3] Heaster, Duncan. On Galatians, op. cit., Location 1187-1192, Kindle Edition.

[4] Romans 10:2

[5] Ibid. 16:18

[6] Genesis 3:1-4

[7] 2 Corinthians 11:3

[8] See Matthew 7:15

[9] Ibid. 11:13-15

[10] 2 Peter 2:3

[11] 1 Corinthians 4:8, 18

[12] Numbers 25:11

[13] 1 Corinthians 15:58

[14] Titus 2:14

[15] Philippians 1:27

[16] Wayne G. Rollins; D. Andrew Kille. Psychological Insight into the Bible, op. cit., (Kindle Location 1668-1704)

 

About drbob76

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