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 CVIII)

God has every right to let willful sinners find their place in hell, but His essential goodness borne out of love allows Him to offer salvation instead. Since the fruit of goodness exists for a purpose, it possesses the potential of being something more than a mere process. It permits us to be useful in providing others with things they cannot afford nor have the ability to attain on their own and to do so without expecting any compensation other than seeing the joy that comes to them as a result of our goodness. Therefore, we could call “Goodness” the “Good Samaritan Fruit” of the spiritual oneness with the Anointed.

Augustine was asked: How do we deal with all the vices both in society and in ourselves? He brings in goodness as part of his answer. Notes Augustine, for us to treat these sinful tendencies and their effects with due restraint when we see them in the lives of those we live around us, our patience helps us to be consistent, kindness to be caring, and goodness to be understanding.[1] So in his mind, Augustine takes this virtue of goodness to be a trait. It allows someone to discern goodness others still cannot see. Years later, Bruno the Carthusian defines goodness as being willing and able to give even when they have very little to share.[2]

Theologian Thomas Aquinas offers a discourse on goodness. He points to the things that are next, above, beneath, and around us. Next to us is neighbors; above us is God; beneath us, the sensitive nature of the body, and around us is the world humming along, as if we don’t count. Regarding our neighbor, God makes us compatible by giving us a heart with proper and good will power. Concerning this, Paul offers goodness, namely, right living and humbleness of spirit. If people have other good qualities, they cannot be said to be good unless they act good, according to which they use all the other attributes properly.

 The reason for this, says Aquinas, is that good denotes something wholesome. But wholesomeness is twofold: the first concerns what a person possesses, and the second is the way they use it. This last part is more important than the first part. For something is called wholesome in the absolute sense only after it has reached its complete operation, which is the second part of the process. Therefore, since it is by a person’s will that they become effective, having the right attitude helps you make good use of all your gifts and talents. Consequently, we make ourselves a good person. The Scriptures say, “The fruit of Light is in all goodness and justice and truth.” [3] [4]

Martin Luther expressed it as being “willing to help others in their need.” He uses the German word “Gütigkeit,” which means: “proves to be valid,” or as we would say today, “to be real.” It is translated into English mostly as “goodness.” Luther says that such virtue will describe a person as good because they are willing to help others without being asked.[5] John Wesley, on the other hand, notes that the Greek noun agathōsynē means “all that is harmless, soft, winning, tender, either in temper or behavior.” [6] Of course, we must understand that this type of temperament is appreciated best in times of need and despair. It also suggests that such a person is always thinking of others instead of themselves.

I found this story in Catholic literature that illustrates this virtue of goodness. Around the year 340 AD, a young man named Pammachius was born in Rome. He grew into becoming a well-respected and wealthy aristocrat member of the Roman Senate, considered an essential civil post during that time. Besides performing his civic duties as a Senator, Pammachius also devoted his time to the study of many sciences and became very well versed in both secular and religious affairs. He also dedicated himself to his church and rose to be a much-respected diplomat in spiritual matters. Along the way, he became good friends with Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus, who later became known as St. Jerome.

In 385 AD Pammachius married a beautiful young lady named Paulina, who was the second daughter of Paula, a very prominent and well to do family in Rome. Paulina followed in her mother’s footsteps through her great love for God and the Church. But in 397 AD, Paulina died giving birth. Because of his standing in the church and the community Pammachius received letters of condolences from Bishop Paulinus of Nola, near Naples, who at one time was also a member of the Roman senate, and Hieronymus (St. Jerome) his boyhood friend. They expressed their sympathy to Pammachius because Paulina was such a great example of true faith, goodness, and courage.

Pammachius was not bitter that God took such a wonderful woman so full of virtue. He honored her memory by becoming a monk and dedicating the rest of his life to using his wealth and talent in serving the poor and those neglected by society. He lived a very humble and simple life. He was joined in his effort by a very noble Roman woman named Fabiola, a close friend of his wife, Paulina. Together they built the first hospital known at the time and a hostel to accommodate pilgrims coming into Rome, as well as, provide housing for the homeless on the city’s streets. Although Pammachius and Fabiola were very well off, they daily served the guests at the hostel. They also cared for the sick rather than turning this ministry over to others. Pammachius became known as a true caregiver of the sick and suffering. He also delighted in assisting the daily flow of pilgrims.

In so doing, he continued the legacy of his wife Paulina as a generous person dedicated to a life of prayer and caring for the poor, sick, and needy. Whenever Pammachius went into town, the blind, the poor, and the disabled would surround him, knowing that he would take time to listen to them, console them, and attend to their needs. He was neither a priest nor a member of any religious order. He served as a layman dedicating his life in service to God. The values of the Gospel guided him as a dedicated follower of the Lord Jesus the Anointed. He offered himself to others as Jesus did. Those who knew him said that Pammachius lived a life full of the presence of the Anointed’s love as he gave everything he was and all he had to care for the poor, sick, and suffering.

He died at the age of 70 in the year 410 AD. In the Principal Works of St. Jerome, we find a letter he wrote to Pammachius to console him on his loss. It takes examples like this to inspire others to exhibit this virtue of goodness in special ways. Perhaps we, too, can be such a representative of the fruit of the reborn spirit. We need not imitate Pammachius or Fabiola by becoming monks or nuns. It doesn’t call for giving all we have to the poor, leaving ourselves with nothing. Instead, we can emulate their goodness of heart by sharing with others as God provides.

Wesleyan theologian Adam Clarke defines goodness as a perpetual desire and sincere study, not only to spend little time in doing wrong but dedicating ourselves in doing good to the material and spiritual needs those less fortunate. But all of this must spring from a good heart – a heart purified by the Spirit of God; and then, our mindset and attitude will become good, the fruit of which will be good also.[7]

 I recall a young missionary family in Europe on a salary under the poverty line, even in the country they served. One day the postal service brought two large boxes to their rented house. When they saw the packages came from the United States, they got all excited about opening them. The kids acted like it was Christmas in July and couldn’t wait to see what was inside those big cartons. When opened, they found bags and bags of clothes.

Upon laying them out, it became apparent that these were old-styled, used clothing. These fashions were out-of-date. Even wearing them in a foreign country could cause this beautiful family to be laughed at by the local population. I wonder now if the good intentions of those who cleaned out their closets to send these used and outdated clothes met Jesus’ standard of treating others the way you’d like for them to treat you? I’m trying to imagine if Paul the Apostle would evaluate this good intent as being successful in producing the useful fruit of goodness through transformed-love?

Dr. Rodney Loper of God’s Bible School asks, “What is goodness?” What comes to most people’s minds is that doing good things makes you a good person. There is more to it than just good deeds. If goodness consisted merely of doing decent deeds, almost everyone would qualify as a good person. Sometimes, the worst people in history did honorable things in their lifetime. Adolf Hitler, the mass murderer of Nazi Germany, order Volkswagens (“People’s Car”) to be built so that every German could have a car and ordered an autobahn to be constructed. It served as a model for USA turnpikes and interstate highways after the war.

Loper goes on to say that goodness not only offers thoughts on those things that are “excellent, distinguished, and honorable,” but it also includes the idea of the uprightness of heart and right living. So, goodness not only draws us toward what is right but helps us run away from the appearance of that which is sinful and wrong. Goodness also involves moral and spiritual excellence, which leads to conformity to God’s laws and principles.[8]

Valorie Quesenberry, a pastor’s wife, mother, and musician,[9] in her article on Goodness, which she pronounces “Godness,” offers us practical ways to live out this quality of goodness. They will help us embody this trait of goodness in the way we go about living out our life’s purpose and destiny. One of them is Cherish Light.[10] Another is Practice Truth.[11] She then offers Nurture Compassion.[12] She follows this with Choose Mercy.[13] Also, Bestow Forgiveness.[14] And finally, Be Empowered.[15]

Says Quesenberry, goodness as motivation, action, and an undeniable sign that we belong to the Anointed and have His Spirit and cannot be learned even in an esteemed boarding school. It must be birthed and nurtured in us from Above.[16] And no matter what degree we may earn at even the highest level at any world-renown institution, at God’s University of the Word, we never graduate. We just keep on learning, practicing, learning, practicing, learning, and practicing in perpetuity. But when it is all over, there is a crown awaiting those who finish the course.[17]

In her reflection, Caslyn Rice asks: “Are we people of integrity?” Or do others question what happens in our lives behind closed doors. Do we seek others’ highest good rather than our own? Showing goodness is so much deeper than the things others see us do, although that matters a great deal as well.[18]

[1] Augustine of Hippo: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

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

[3] Ephesians 5:9

[4] Aquinas, Thomas: Commentary on Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[5] Luther, Martin: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[6] Wesley, John, Galatians: Explanatory Notes & Commentary, op. cit., loc. cit.

[7] Clarke, Adam: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[8] Loper, Rodney: Revival Magazine, September 2019, pp. 3-4

[9] She is also a speaker, author, and educational assistant for students with special needs. She is the editor of a Christian ladies’ magazine, has authored six books, and contributes to Christian women’s periodicals.

[10] 1 John 1:5

[11] Psalm 108:4

[12] Ibid. 86:15

[13] Ibid 57:10

[14] Psalm 130:4; Luke 23:34

[15] Ephesians 5:18

[16] Quesenberry, Valorie, Revivalist Magazine, September 2019, pp. 5-7

[17] 2 Timothy 4:7

[18] Rice, Caslyn, op. cit.

About drbob76

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