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 XCI)

Let’s see how these secondary, tertiary, and quaternary responses fit with Paul’s list of manifested sinful tendencies. In my years as a minister, the most common reasons why some preachers fell from grace in the ministry involved immorality, pornography, dishonesty, or corruption. When this happened, and to maintain some form of dignity, the ministers often seek guidance and counseling offered by resources more secular than spiritual. Why is this? Because many spiritual counselors from their denomination are not mentors to recovery but advisors for graceful ways out of the ministry.

Unfortunately, the hurt of losing their position and the injury to their reputation continued to haunt them. As a result, a weakened spirituality gave rise to holding grudges, getting into arguments, becoming jealous, having fits of anger, taking sides against those who opposed them, and looking for ways to get back at those who pointed out their shortcomings. But it doesn’t end there; this spiritual and emotional warfare continued their decline into becoming envious of what others had, then seeking relief in medications, intoxicants, narcotics, and even joining the other side.

Paul wanted the Galatian believers to see that with the love of the Father, the peace of Jesus the Anointed, and the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, the believer has full control over their responses. If the boss denies you a raise, instead of getting angry, you say God is my paymaster, and I’ll wait for Him to give me the increase I need.  However, even if you do begin to feel upset, you can channel that anger into saying; I’ll work harder and become even more dependable, so my boss will see I’m not a quitter or a slacker just because I didn’t get what I wanted. And if the unhappiness intensifies and the anger seethes, instead of giving in you say to yourself, since I can’t alter the company or the way it’s run, I’ll modify my work ethic, so I fit in better with the company’s mission and goals. That way, you are always dealing with the original cause, not the domino effect caused by a reaction to their replies to your responses.

When Paul wrote the believers in Rome, he expounded on this internal conflict in Chapter seven. He experienced the battle that goes on between the spiritual unity with the Anointed and the sinful-self. Let Paul’s words speak for themselves. “Sometimes, I don’t understand myself. I know the right thing to do, but I don’t always do it. Instead, I end up doing the very thing I hate. The reason I know that what I am doing is wrong is that God is opposed to what I’m doing, and I need to obey God. I think I’ve figured it out, my spiritual oneness with the Anointed is not the one doing wrong; it’s the sinful-self, living in me that’s doing it. It’s clear to me now; there is nothing good about my sinful-self. Talk about confusing, although I want to do what is right; I don’t do it. Even when I want to do what is right, I still fail.”

Paul goes on. “In my heart, I don’t want to do anything wrong, but I end up doing it anyway. So, I’ve concluded, I’m not the one doing all these wrong things, it’s my sinful-self that makes me do what I don’t want to do. Here’s what I’ve discovered, no matter how hard I try to do what is right, I end up doing the exact opposite. God knows I love Him with all my heart. But He also knows there is another force living within me that is at war with my mind. Consequently, this force that still lives in me ends up compelling me to respond in sinful ways. I can’t tell you how miserable I feel inside! Is there anyone who can free me from this life so dominated by my sinful-self that leads to certain death? Praise God! The answer is, “Yes!” It is Jesus the Anointed, our Lord. I hope you understand now: It’s a matter of my mind wanting to obey God while my sinful-self intends to keep me enslaved to sin.” [1]

Protestant Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius (1560-1609), in his writings on what we should call “Actual Sins,” looks at the effects of humanity’s sinful tendencies and notes that we must add a discussion on separating sin from its causes. It regards the real object that perpetuates wrongdoing. This object is either “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life.” Either pleasure, greed, or arrogance are involved. These all flow from a single fountain of self-love or excessive self-attention, which tend to crave the pleasurable things of the present life. A particular type of egotism develops after receiving the world’s honors. It is intensified by greed for worldly fame and fortune and a never-satisfied desire for those things by which the external senses may experience self-gratification.

All this, says Arminius, can be found in Paul’s list of the actions of trying to satisfy our sinful tendencies here in verses nineteen to twenty-one. However, there may be one exception, that is “idolatry.” Various individuals find it challenging to include idol worship as being caused by either the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life.[2] It is more the case of trying to get the endorsement of those idolized as an excuse for one’s involvement, in the same way, a believer seeks the approval of God. The real difference is that the Spirit of God guides into all truth for the ability to produce the reborn spirit’s fruit. In contrast, the spirit of the devil leads people blindly into deception from which the effects of unbridled sinful tendencies evolve.

Alexander Maclaren has an expressive way of explaining Paul’s view on this conflict that sometimes rages between the believer’s sinful nature and his or her spiritual nature. He notes that such a conflict is a gift and a joy. Even though it is hard, it’s still a blessing because it is an expression of our genuine love for God, as well as others. It flows from the bottomless well of our will; it is full of hope and assured victory. Compare this to the painful, often defeated, and monotonous attempt to suppress our nature by force says Maclaren. It’s like a mill-horse going around in circles!

Maclaren goes on. The joyous freedom and cheerful hope that the Gospel teaches us about the highway of salvation have somehow been cramped and confined by church rites, rituals, and regulations that obscure all the glory of salvation by a mass of cobwebs spun by the minds of the so-called spiritually enlightened. But here in verse twenty-one, it is all swept away. So, let us learn the one condition of victorious conflict, the one means of subduing our natural humanity and its distracting desires, and let nothing rob us of the conviction that this is God’s way of making us higher than angels. “Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the sinful tendencies of the flesh.” [3]

John Eadie notes that these works of the flesh come divided into four classes. Each term included in the catalog come from some law of association, especially since other writings arrange similar words in the same order. The first category involves “sensual” sins – fornication, impurity, and immorality. In the second category are the sins of “superstition”idol worship and sorcery. In the third category are the sins of “social disorder” – hatred, strife, jealousy, wrath, gangs, divisions, heresies, envying, and murders. And in the fourth category are the sins of “senseless excess” – drunkenness and orgies.

Furthermore, in the first category, the terms have a distinct meaning and may have suggested other allied vices – miscellaneous and grosser aspects of forbidden indulgence. In the second category, the two terms are somewhat similar – the first more precise in meaning, and the second more comprehensive – all dealing with the occult and the powers of evil. The third category contains divisive actions, starting with hatred and ending with murder. They all seem to be intent on removing a rival. In the fourth category, we find the first simple term drunkenness and the more inclusive term orgies. They refer either to scenes of indulgence so festive and mischievous or orgies so gross and sensual they are hard to describe. Each term stands on importance, unconnected by any particle – a figure of speech typically used before such phrases [4]

Paul closes this part of his instruction by repeating his warning to the Galatians in verse four that such continued unrepentant behavior will keep their names from being included in God’s Testament as heirs and joint-heirs with Jesus the Anointed. After all, Jesus expressed the same warning.[5] Think of it this way: if a person is drowning and thrown a lifesaving ring, but they refuse to take hold of it and do not cooperate with being pulled from the water, their drowning will be on their heads, not the one who tried to rescue them. The grace of God is not mandatory; it is a gift. To accept it is to enjoy all its benefits. To reject it is to reap all the punishment from which you were being saved. However, there is an avenue open for appeal, because the same One who will judge us, in the end, is the same One who wants to redeem us now.[6]

 5:22a: Instead, your oneness with Jesus the Anointed produces spiritual fruit . . .

The Apostle Paul does not leave the Galatian believers in the lurch, wondering what to do now that he warned them against letting the freedom, they possess in Jesus the Anointed, lead to an undisciplined life.  Paul now embarks on sharing with the Galatians the antithesis to the actions of the sinful-self. It comes in the form of spiritual unity with the Anointed.

The Contextual Version rendering reads this way: “But when due to our faith in the Anointed, we have God’s powerful Spirit flowing in us, it will rule and order our lives. It will produce in us godly qualities, the fruit of God’s powerful Spirit within us. . .” [7] One commentator put it: “Listening to the leading of the Spirit.” [8] A Jewish commentary adds: “Fruit does not come from efforts (of legalistic rule-following) but grows naturally (out of trust).” [9] I prefer the rendering we have given above.

We might accept the idea of fruit produced by the reborn spirit as a result of the nutrition provided by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. King David gave this advice to his son Solomon: Great blessings belong to those who don’t listen to evil advice, who don’t live like sinners, and who don’t join those who make fun of God. Instead, they love the Lord’s teachings and think about these truths’ day and night. So, they grow strong, like a tree planted by a stream – a tree that produces fruit when it should, and sprouts green leaves that never fall. Everything they do is successful.[10]

[1] Romans 7:15-25

[2] The Works of James Arminius: Vol. 1, op. cit., Disputations on Some of the Principal Subjects of the Christian Religion, Disputation 8, pp. 435-436

[3] Maclaren, Alexander: Expositions of the Holy Scripture, Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[4] Eadie, John: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 419-420

[5] See Matthew 25:41-46

[6] Cf. I John 1:9

[7] Aiyer, Ramsey, The Contextual Bible Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[8] Nyland, Dr. A., Galatians: The Source New Testament with Extensive Notes on Greek Word Meaning, op. cit., loc. cit.

[9] Stern, David H., Jewish New Testament Commentary, op. cit., loc. cit.

[10] Psalm 1:1-3; 92:14

About drbob76

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