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 CIII)

No wonder Paul wrote the believers in Thessalonica, “Brothers and sisters, we urge you to caution those who are not involved. Encourage those who are afraid to try. Take tender loving care of those who are unsure.  Please be patient with them all.” [1] So we ask what force or essence were the Thessalonians to depend on to develop such patience. The only one that possesses such quality and character to withstand the burden Paul asks them to carry is love. Paul revealed this when he wrote to his protégée Timothy reminding him: “You know what I taught you and the example I set; you know my goal in life and how faith brought me the love I needed to be patient and endure.” [2]

We see the same line of thinking in Paul’s word to the believers in Ephesus, when he told them to “Always be humble and gentle.  Be patient with one another, and use your love to make allowance for each other’s shortcomings.” [3] Once more, Paul ties the potential of patience to love.  He offered the same advice to the Colossians by telling them: “Since God picked you to be the chosen people He loves, you must become known as tenderhearted, merciful, kind, humble, gentle, and patient people. Above all, become known as people of love, which helps us all act the same way.” [4]

There’s little doubt that the concept Paul shared with the Galatians of how our spiritual oneness with the Anointed produces fruit, permeated his thinking when counseling other believers on proper Christian conduct and ethics. We also see that forgiveness plays a dominant role in the fruit of patience as transformed-love. Nowhere does this become more pronounced than in Paul’s letter to the Romans.  He admonishes them for being so judgmental of others, when in fact they were guilty of the very things they condemned. Paul warns them: “Do think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things you condemn? Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, consistent, and patient God was with you? Does this mean nothing to you?” [5]

In too many cases, believers perceive patience as being a virtue we use when waiting for others to come around to our way of thinking, being more consistent until they do things the way we think they should do them. But not to the Apostle Paul. For him, love transformed as patience helps us to be kind to everyone until God uses that patience to make the changes He wants in their lives. Paul spells this out later on in his letter to the Roman believers when he challenges them to “Rejoice when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop patience. And patience develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. For we know how dearly God loves us because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” [6]

In our examination of transformed-love into the fruit of the spiritual oneness with the Anointed such as joy and peace, we saw how our love being in God’s presence brought about these responses and integrated them so naturally with what God originally designed our hearts to do. However, in patience, it’s the effect the presence of the Holy Spirit has on our minds. Here we see the importance of our attitude toward God and others. We don’t know how much influence Paul’s confrontation with Peter, as explained by Paul at the beginning of this epistle, had on Peter, but he joins Paul in extolling the virtue of patience. Peter praises the value of patience when we become the target of ridicule and persecution. He tells us, “For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment…. if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God will be pleased with you.” [7]

Yet, few Apostles knew the value of patience more than Paul. He tells the Corinthian believers that “In everything we did, we showed that we were an authentic minister of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We were beaten, imprisoned, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, suffered sleepless nights, and went without food. We proved ourselves with sincere love by being transparent, through understanding, patience, and kindness produced by the Holy Spirit in us.” [8] Here again, Paul points to love as the essence brought into lives by the Holy Spirit that leads to love transformed into the fruit we bear.

What Paul says sounds very familiar to what we find in the Letter to the Hebrews: “For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for Him and how you have shown your love to Him by continuing to care for other believers. Our greatest desire is that you keep on loving others as long as possible; to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually boring and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faithful patience.” [9] Here again, we see love transformed into the essence of patience.

So, what does all this tell us? We can conclude that patience is not where we stand, but how we stand, not our position, but our poise. Love in this form manifests itself with self-restraint in the face of annoying provocations by others and circumstances. It can never be misconstrued as resignation or apathy or being insensitive. Instead, it serves as the embodiment of endurance in battle; a positive attitude even when things go wrong; the ability to wait, while we expect.

God’s message as He passed by Moses was, “I am Yahweh! The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am patient and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.” [10] Peter, no doubt, read this passage and concluded that the Lord isn’t slow, as some people may think, in fulfilling His promises. Instead, He is showing patience for their sake.[11] It was the Psalmist who put it very succinctly, “Be still in the presence of the LORD; wait patiently for Him to act. Get rid of your rage!  Keep from losing your temper – it only leads to harm.” [12] Yes, let the presence of the Lord fill your mind so that the Love brought there by the Holy Spirit is transformed into patience, one of God’s most benevolent characteristics.

 Early Church writer, Tertullian, wrote, God Himself is a great example of patience. He wrote that no natural human affection, modeled on insensibility, furnishes a permit for exercising patience. The divine arrangement of a living and heavenly discipline, holding up before us God Himself in the very first place, is an example of genuine patience. He scatters His goodness equally over the repentant and unrepentant. He allows the goodness of the seasons, the blessings of the elements, the benefits of nature’s harvest accumulate for use by the worthy and unworthy. He also has patience with the most ungrateful nations, adoring as they do the godliness of the arts and the works of their own hands. Together, they mistreat His Name, along with His family. He puts up with excess, greed, iniquity, deteriorating attitudes, and ethics daily growing more and more bad-mannered. So, by His patience, He allows the belittling of Himself all because they don’t believe in Him. What you don’t know is that His patience is holding back his wrath and anger.[13]

Medieval commentator, Haimo of Auxerre, defines patience as perseverance in doing good works and tolerance amidst adversity. Every believer, says Bruno, ought to be patient so that they might receive their promised reward. As God says, “They are saved who persevere up until the end.” [14] [15] In other words, if we are patient and don’t give up until He returns, it will be worth it all. Later on, medieval writer Bruno the Carthusian offers his understanding that this fruit of the reborn spirit is patient while being hopeful. Even if compensation gets delayed, one hopes no less nor waits impatiently. This Fruit of the Spirit is consistent love transformed into patience, by which we tolerate every sort of adversity because we know the end of the story.[16]

Then medieval Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas offers his exposition that the Holy Spirit helps us mature through patience, which makes for calm endurance of adversities. That’s why the Lord told every believer to be patient so that by standing firm, it saves their life.[17] Also, it is needed to stand against any evil that tries to hinder our joy, namely, the postponement of being with the object of our love. To do this, the Spirit transforms that love into patience, which can withstand any delay, no matter how long. For this reason, Jesus says to be patient while waiting for His return because it may take a while, but wait for it; it will surely come. There will be no delay beyond the appointed time without God supplying us with patience.[18] That’s why the Lord made it clear that whoever holds out till the end will be preserved from harm.[19] [20]

[1] 1 Thessalonians 5:14

[2] 2 Timothy 3:10

[3] Ephesians 4:2

[4] Colossians 3:12, 14

[5] Romans 2:4

[6] Ibid. 5:3-5

[7] 1 Peter 2:19-10

[8] 2 Corinthians 6:4-6

[9] Hebrews 6:10-12

[10] Exodus 34:6

[11] 2 Peter 3:9

[12] Psalm 37:7-8

[13] Tertullian: The Great Sermons of Great Preachers, Ward and Lock, London, 1857, The Duty and Benefits of Patience, p. 12

[14] Matthew 10:22

[15] Haimo of Auxerre: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

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

[17] Luke 21:19

[18] Habakkuk 2:3; See 2 Corinthians 6:6

[19] Matthew 10:22

[20] Aquinas, Thomas: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit

About drbob76

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