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 FIVE (Lesson LXXXIV)

Duncan Heaster points to the Greek verb agō (translated as “led” KJV) and suggests that we shouldn’t take this to mean that the Spirit goes ahead, and we follow. Instead, agō also means “to be brought.” In other words, the Spirit “brings” us to and through to salvation, as long as we are willing to be taken. We see agō used in the Acts of the Apostles, where Paul is “brought” to various places,[1] which means that he was motivated in his ministry by the Spirit’s directions.

Heaster goes on to note that there are many connections between Galatians and Romans, where Paul uses this word to indicate how the grace of God leads us to repentance.[2] This is very similar to how agō is used here in Galatians. Our identification as God’s children is because God brought the Spirit of His Son into our hearts.[3] This gift of God’s Spirit makes us part of God’s family; we think and act as does the Father and the Son. The Lord Jesus was made of our nature precisely so that He could bring (lead) us into His glory.[4] God’s Son came into the world, born as a human, to join the human family so that the Spirit might bring us, humans, into the family of God. So instead of using “led,” we can see that by replacing it with “brought,” it emphasizes that the Spirit, not ourselves, is in control of our transformation.[5]

David A. Brondos makes an interesting point here by noting that the conflict between what the Judaizers were saying and what Paul said, which made the Galatians strive harder to obey the Law, shows the “Torah-intensification” of the Galatians believers. They needed to know that the Law cannot produce a right standing before God, only before the Law. There is no way for them to overcome their sinful tendencies since the Law does not have the power of salvation through good works and to obey God’s will at the same time. Anyone attempting to simultaneously do all that the Rabbis taught and what Jesus taught was impossible. They could not serve two masters at the same time. If you’re going to live according to the Law, then you will always be dealing with sinful passions and desires of the flesh. But by living according to the Gospel, you will daily be dealing with spiritual needs and the right aspirations of the heart with the Holy Spirit’s help. So, get your mind on precious things above and not on worthless things here below.[6] [7]

Brondos also comments on Paul’s repeated references to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on believers.[8] For Paul, the Holy Spirit is a gift of God’s grace given to believers through faith.[9] Their reborn-spirit enables believers to accept Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law’s requirements,[10] guides them and gives them wisdom and new life,[11] pours God’s love into their hearts,[12] transforms them,[13] and produces spiritual fruit in them.[14] Above all, the Holy Spirit is associated with power, since that Spirit empowers the believer’s new-born spirit to live a new life according to God’s will.[15]

Furthermore, while they are “motivated by their new-born spirit,” they are not “following the Law” to be awarded salvation.[16] Jesus the Anointed fulfilled the requirements of the Law, so by being led by His Spirit, they receive the spiritual power and wisdom needed to live according to God’s purpose and plan for their lives. The Law cannot provide or even promise such blessings.

In this new condition, sin no longer holds dominion over them; they are “set free from sin and have become servants of God,” having the power to do His will and practice righteousness.[17] Those who were disobedient become obedient.[18] Paul stresses that this new life of obedience and devotion is from start to finish a work of God, who begins the “good work” in believers and will bring it to completion.[19] Everything, therefore, depends on the grace of God, rather than being the fruit of human efforts.[20]

Reuben A. (Uncle Bud) Robinson (1860-1942) was a Methodist itinerant preacher and was outspoken about those claiming to be “led by the Spirit.” He said the Apostle Paul tells us that we are to be led by the Spirit, but don’t let any person imagine that the Spirit can lead them until after several things have taken place in their life. First, this person must be convicted by the Holy Spirit until they realize that they are a sinner, and in the next place must repent of their sins, and in the next place they must confess their sins, and then must forsake their sins, and then he must believe on the Lord Jesus the Anointed. These things all must take place in the life of an individual before he or she can be born of the Spirit. Upon being reborn in the Spirit, they join the family of God. Now, as a son or daughter of the Almighty, they can consecrate themselves entirely to God’s service. It begins by laying themselves on the altar of sanctification, yield everything to the Spirit and believe as Abraham did, “what God promised He would perform.” [21] Then, and only then, will they be filled with the Spirit. This indwelling of the Spirit must take place before the Spirit can lead a person.[22]

5:19-21 Look at the evil things into which our sinful tendencies lead us. We find them clearly stated in God’s Word. They are: committing sexual sins, being morally corrupt, doing all kinds of shameful things, anger, selfishness, causing people to argue and divide into separate groups, being filled with envy, getting drunk, having wild parties, and doing other things like these.  I warn you now as I warned you before: The people who do these things will not have a part in God’s kingdom.

It would not be unreasonable to believe that Paul made up this list ahead of time, rather than thinking it simply came spontaneously out of his mind while dictating. And as we will see, they were written as a scrambled list, but fall into predetermined categories. I think it would be helpful to qualify the following sinful acts of the body so we can understand what they intend to do and what the outcome is.

The KJV interprets the Greek noun erga as “Works,” and the NIV renders it as “acts.” Thayer tells us in his Greek Lexicon that it has three primary references. One is to business and employment; the next is to a product or thing accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind. And the third is to acts, deeds, something done. So, it is evident that the last reference is the one that applies here. But there’s more. It involves committed involvement. It is not given, nor awarded, but is something one does with a particular goal in mind. Therefore, such works or acts are not performed to get paid, but to gain something that has a specific purpose of meeting an exceptional desire. So, when we look at the acts of the flesh, let us make sure we understand the intent for which a person commits them with intensity. One proper English term that we could apply here is “sinful efforts.”

King David face similar trials to join in with the crowd, and on one occasion, he told that someone offered him a bribe to get involved, but he said that it was God’s Word that kept him from joining them.[23] That same precise action is what Paul tells the Romans to do, only with a different twist. He mentioned to them that in the past, their sinful tendencies were in control. The Law forbade them the very things they wanted to bring them happiness and satisfaction. So, it was those sinful tendencies controlling their senses, as it was where the bribe came in. These sinful tendencies would lead them into immoral efforts to satisfy their desires. They did not think that was too bad. After all, it was only natural, and it would feel so good that it was worth the risk.[24]

Now Paul begins his list of the sinful efforts of uncontrolled sinful tendencies. And while the first, adultery (KJV), seems quite simple to explain, it is not. Since the First Covenant was Paul’s Bible, we see that the first mention of adultery is in the Ten Words (Ten Commandments).[25] The Hebrew uses the verb na’aph with the explanation coming later in the Levitical Law. There it states clearly, “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, that is, with the wife of a fellow countryman, both the adulterer and the adulteress must face death.” [26] Both the man and the woman are stoned as adulterers. Then the wise man Job puts the adulterers in the same category as murderers and thieves who reject the idea that it will ever come light. The adulterer thinks that no one will see him, yet, “he still covers his face.” [27]

The Greek noun moicheia defines a married man having sexual relations with some married woman other than his lawful wife. Ezekiel found it to be a plague among the people of Israel.[28] Jesus told his listeners that it all started in the heart with thoughts.[29] We find that the Babylonian Talmud[30] deals with a divorce from a husband’s point of view. However, Jesus made his rulings from a woman’s point of view who charges her husband with adultery. Before, everything ruled against the woman. The man could ask for divorce out of suspicion, while the woman needed several witnesses.

[1] Acts of the Apostles 8:27; 11:26; 17:15, 19; 18:12

[2] Romans 8:14

[3] Galatians 4:5

[4] Hebrews 2:10

[5] Heaster, Duncan: On Galatians (Kindle Location 1524-1532)

[6] Colossians 3:2

[7] Brondos, David A., Paul on the Cross: op. cit., (Location 1260-1270)

[8] Romans 8:1-17; Galatians 3:1-5; 5:16-25

[9] Romans 8:15-16; Galatians 3:14; 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 4:8

[10] Romans 8:4

[11] Romans 7:6; 8:14; Galatians 5:18

[12] Romans 5:5

[13] 2 Corinthians 3:18

[14] Galatians 5:22

[15] Romans 1:4; 15:13, 19; 1 Corinthians 2:4, 12; 1 Thessalonians1:5

[16] Galatians 5:18

[17] Romans 6:13-22

[18] Ibid. 11:30; 16:25

[19] Philippians 1:6

[20] Brondos, David A., Paul on the Cross: op. cit., (Kindle Locations 1301-1310)

[21] Romans 4:21

[22] Robinson, Reuben A. (Bud). The Collected Works of “Uncle Bud” Robinson, Bees in  Clover, Chap. 20, (Kindle Locations, 3090-3097). Jawbone Digital. Kindle Edition.

[23] Psalm 17:4

[24] Romans 7:5

[25] Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18

[26] Leviticus 20:10 – Complete Jewish Bible

[27] Job 24:13-17

[28] Ezekiel 22:10-11

[29] Matthew 15:19; see Mark 7:21:21-23

[30] Babylonian Talmud: Division Nashim, Masekhet Sotah

About drbob76

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