CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson LX)

To lose hold of the precious truths of grace affects every believer’s Christian living and can lead to severe consequences. While nothing can destroy the believer’s relationship with God if they have genuinely been born again – once His child always His child – much can injure their fellowship with God and cripple their usefulness for God. Believers must not lose hold of the Doctrine of Grace so that progress in Sanctification before the LORD, and with the LORD comes to a dead stop. The streetcar will not move an inch until the operator connects the trolley’s arm with the electric wire. To fall from the truth in the Anointed One is to fail in one’s life mission for Him.  In Jesus’ parable, it was the faithful servant invited into eternal rest, not the one who neglected to invest what the Master gave him.

It is true that after a person is genuinely born again through the Anointed One, they can do nothing to reduce what He did on the cross no more than they can add to it. For instance, a son may deny any emotional relationship with his biological father, but cannot change his DNA. Paul’s position is that no born-again believer can cut their spiritual umbilical cord through the Anointed One to the Father. They can drop out as heirs of His covenant and the promise of eternal life, but only by their denial and refusal to allow God to take control of their lives.

Adam could never deny that God created him, but was, nevertheless, thrown out of the garden of Eden because of disobedience. Moses was a great man called by God but was denied entry into the Promised Land because of violations of His will. The Prodigal Son was still the son of the gracious father who looked for him each day, but had he not come back of his own accord, he would have died in a pig pen instead of having a banquet thrown in his honor. Did not Jesus say, “Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers? They gather such branches into a pile for burning?” [1]

Mid-medieval scholar Bruno the Carthusian gives his view of what the Galatians were trying to get Paul to see. They were saying, “We prefer being removed from the Anointed One than not to be circumcised as God commanded.” But Paul already had a rebuttal, not only were they removed from union with the Anointed One, but “they had fallen from God’s grace.” So, says Paul, all of you who seek to be justified by the Law to avoid sin’s death penalty, that is, trying to be right with God through the Law, is no longer justified to stand before Him as righteous. Here the Apostle offers a good explanation of why he would forbid circumcision, namely, because they should not misuse it to become right with God. For, although he allowed Timothy to be circumcised to remove suspicion, both Paul and Timothy understood that circumcision contributed nothing to his right standing with the heavenly Father.[2]

The Roman Catholic Church’s Council of Trent, in a 1545 decree, condemned what they saw as errors in the Protestant Revolt. Their ruling said, no one can say that Jesus our Lord, the Anointed One did not institute these sacraments. Nor can they say there are more, or there are less than seven. These are Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Orders, and Matrimony. Nor can they claim that any one of these seven is not truly and properly a holy sacrament. Let those who do so be accursed.[3]  The Catholic Church then instituted these seven sacraments through which grace is applied to a sinner. They claimed that these seven graces were bestowed on the Church by the Anointed One and cannot be added to or deleted from. They are Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, and Reconciliation through confession or penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.

Examining both the perception of grace by the Roman Catholic Church and some Protestant churches teaches us that if we do the best we can, God won’t fail us because His grace will make up where we fall short.  In other words, do your best because God helps those who help themselves. However, as Paul points out, through grace, God invalidated the blessings once earned by one’s own efforts under the demands of Mosaic Law so that He might freely pour out on us those blessings of goodness, kindness, joy, peace, etc. So, falling away from grace infers that one has decided not to accept God’s free salvation and eternal life in favor of personally fulfilling Mosaic Law, thereby forfeiting the provisions and blessings of grace.

John Bunyan (1628-1688), while looking around at the church during his lifetime, felt that what Paul says here in verse four fit his day as well. Many believe that all they need to do is perform these rites, rituals, and regulations offered by the Church for their souls to gain salvation. What Bunyan saw was that some came no further than to partake of the sacraments, and there they stayed. They did come to participate in them through Jesus the Anointed One. And this will undoubtedly mean that on the day of judgment, He will not be interested in them either.[4]

That means, says Bunyan, a person may come to and go from a place of worship and yet not be remembered by the Anointed One as being there, nor will they be able to offer it as proof of their justification for eternal life when they stand before His throne. It’s like what King Solomon described when he said; I also saw ornate and beautiful funerals for evil people. While the people were going home after the funeral services, they said good things about the evil people who died. It happened even in the same towns where these evil people did many bad things. It makes no sense.[5]

Bunyan said that for him, the words of Jesus the Anointed One are sufficient: “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.[6] Consequently, since they were spoken by Jesus, they will serve as caution and encouragement. For caution, lest we continue to fall short of actually coming to the Anointed One to partake of worship and the elements of communion and baptism on our own without the invitation of the Holy Spirit. For encouragement to those that continue to come despite all the obstacles in their way until they meet Jesus the Anointed One and are received by Him as their Lord and Savior.[7]

Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) taught on what Paul says here in verse four about the effect of turning to rites, rituals, and ceremonies and away from Jesus the Anointed One. He points out that it was the Anointed One’s choice to be our Savior, and the way He became our Savior. Therefore, if it was by His obedience to the Father’s will that we are justified in not dying for our sins, then it cannot be credited to our obedience to any rite or ritual. This clearly shows that salvation is not given as a direct result of our willingness to hear a message or read the Scriptures. It is a gift based on God’s satisfaction in what Jesus did on the cross.

However, says Edwards, any interest we may have in what the Anointed One did for us on the cross is a benefit of our obedience to the call of the Holy Spirit. But this in itself cannot be credited to our account as having earned our justification before God. Salvation is not attributed to our actions without the intervention of what the Anointed One did on our behalf. It would be great a thing, points our Edwards, for God to give us Jesus the Anointed One and His satisfaction in Jesus’ work on the cross as a reward for our obedience. That would be like taking us to heaven immediately after finishing all the obligatory rites, rituals, and good deeds done to earn salvation. In theory, that would be a great reward and significant testimony to the power of our obedience.

However, says Edwards, if God were to give us salvation for our obedient participation in such rites, rituals, and ceremonies, why could He not offer salvation to us directly? That way, there would be no need for the Anointed One’s work on the cross. But God did indeed give us the Anointed One to die on our behalf, and His Spirit brought us an interest in what Jesus did, so, in effect, He does give us salvation in reward for our obedience to His call.[8]

What Edwards is saying is that you cannot have one without the other. But they must come in the order listed: God gave us the Anointed One to die on our behalf without us even asking or knowing. Then when His Spirit revealed that to us, and we felt drawn to the cross to receive salvation. At the cross, we received salvation as a result of our submission to His call. That means there is no salvation without Jesus the Anointed One, no matter how much we try to be obedient to what we see or hear. Our work doesn’t count, only the work of the Anointed One on the cross.

English evangelical preacher Charles Simeon (1759-1836) makes an interesting point. When compared to our day and age, it seems to have been reversed. He says that on matters of morals, people will permit ministers to speak with the utmost freedom, but, on points of faith, they would have them use none but the mildest possible expressions just to keep from appearing dogmatic and harsh. On the other hand, where moral offenses were committed, Paul was very lenient.[9] But when the fundamentals of faith were endangered, his energy rose even to intolerance. That doesn’t mean that he disregarded morality, or that we should think lightly of it.

Simeon says that we ought to entertain far different thoughts about the leading doctrines of religion, than those which generally prevail. Once the Apostle Paul found out that some in the Galatian congregations were being drawn away from the pure Gospel to a reliance on the observances of Jewish rituals and ceremonies, he states emphatically: Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel to you than that which we preached unto you, let them be accursed.[10]

Granted, Paul was inspired and authorized to speak in terms that would be inappropriate for anyone who is not under the divine guidance and anointing of the Holy Spirit. So long as our doctrines are in accord with those of the Apostle, we may, yes, and must maintain them with a measure of the firmness which he uses in his proclamation of them.[11] But in our day and age, it seems like ministers fear to tread on matters related to morality and faith – no strong preaching of the Gospel and no stern warning against immorality. But why should people turn and run from the fire of hell if we only whisper in their ear that what they are doing is a little out of place? They need to hear the alarm bells of the Gospel! And how do we keep them from drowning in the sea of sin? We need to throw them the life preserver of Grace and tell them to grasp it by faith and hold on until rescued!

[1] John 15:6

[2] Bruno the Carthusian: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[3] The Council of Trent, Edited and Translated by J. Waterworth, London, Dolman 1848, The Bull of Indiction of the Sacred Ecumenical and General Council of Trent under the Sovereign Pontiff, Paul III, Seventh Session, Decree on the Sacraments, Canon I, p. 54

[4] Matthew 7:21-23

[5] Ecclesiastes 8:10

[6] John 6:37 – NIV

[7] Bunyan, John: Bunyan’s Practical Works, op. cit., Vol. 2, pp. 163-164

[8] Edwards, Jonathan: Soul’s Eternal Salvation, Discourse 1, Justification by Faith Alone, op. cit., p. 374

[9] See 2 Corinthians 2:7; Galatians 6:1

[10] Galatians 1:8-9

[11] Simeon, Charles: On Galatians, op. cit., Sermon MMXLIX (2049), p. 1

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s