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 CIX)

5:22h Our spiritual oneness with the Anointed transforms love into the fruit of Faithfulness.

During Paul’s Jewish education, he no doubt read and heard the Hebrew noun ‘emuwnah used in this manner: Moses called Yahweh “a faithful God who does no wrong.” [1] The Psalmist sang to ADONAI in the heavens, praising Him for His grace and faithfulness that reaches to the sky.[2] And in another Psalm, the Psalmist asked God not to withhold His mercy from Him, “Lord,” the Psalmist said, “may Your love and faithfulness always protect me.” [3] Then, the prophet Habakkuk exclaimed, “The righteous will attain life through trusting faithfulness.” [4] So it makes sense that if the Spirit takes love and transforms it into patience, kindness, and goodness, then those who bear such fruit must be faithful in dispensing it both in season and out of season.

Now in this epistle, the Apostle Paul uses the Greek noun pistis, frequently translated into English as “faith.” However, we must interpret it as the occasion and context require. We see this when Jesus spoke of the Roman soldier who informed Him that He need only say the word for his servant to be healed; that He need not come to his house, “When Jesus heard this, He expressed amazement. Then turning to those who were following Him, He said, ‘I tell you the truth; I haven’t seen faith like this in all my travels throughout Israel’!” [5] Jesus was not commending the centurion on his religious faith or his faith in any teachings. It was his faith in Jesus being who He said He was and his faith that Jesus possessed the power necessary to do what the centurion saw Him do for others. Today we call that “fidelity.” It means that someone has the kind of character on which we can rely.

We see this clearly when the writers use pistis as an adjectivepistos. Jesus spoke of the wise servant in His parable of those who were left with various amounts of silver to invest; the ones who did multiply that given to them were called faithful servants.[6] In other words, they were trustworthy. Jesus made it clear that if a person could not be faithful in carrying their responsibility for a few things given them, how can they be trusted to carry out their duties over a large area of responsibility?[7]

The Apostle Paul was fully aware of this. He told the Corinthians that for someone to be assigned an area of responsibility, they must be proven faithful.[8] Here in Galatians, Paul says that if a person of faith is determined to be faithful, they are compared to Abraham.[9] And Paul commends various ministers such as Tychicus, Epaphras, Onesimus, and the brethren in Colossæ as being faithful.[10] And to Timothy, Paul was happy to tell his young protégé that he was so blessed that God counted him as a faithful servant. Anyone considered for appointment as a bishop, even their wives, must be regarded as being faithful.[11] And in Titus, they choose the English word “fidelity” to identify faithfulness.

So, we can see that the Greek word for faith used by Paul here does not deal with one’s theological belief, but of one’s ethical, moral, and emotional commitment to what they believe. Transformed-love in our spiritual oneness with the Anointed does not become a creed or doctrine; instead, it becomes characteristic of one’s love for what they hold to be accurate and their willingness to stand by that truth no matter what. Therefore, we can say that growing in faith is necessary to be faithful. And once one matures in their faith, then their love for the One they trust and obey is transformed into trustworthy love. Oh yes! We can trust God to be faithful, but can God trust us to be faithful? Faithfulness is firm devotion to God, loyalty to friends, and dependability to carry out responsibilities. Faithfulness is the conviction that even now, God is working and acting on our behalf.[12]

When great early Church preacher Chrysostom listed the fruit of the reborn spirit in his Galatian commentary, he wrote: “Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance.” Augustine referred to as “haeresibus fides,” which is translated by some as “faith that resists heresies.” However, scholars tell us that fides is often (and incorrectly) translated as “faith,” but it has nothing to do with the word used by Christians writing in Latin about the Christian virtue of Paul in the fruit of the reborn spirit. For the Romans, fides is an essential element in the character of a man of public affairs, and a necessary constituent element of all social and political transactions.

In other words, fides means “reliability,” a sense of trust between two parties in an existing relationship. Fides was always reciprocal and mutual and implied both privileges and responsibilities on both sides. In both public and private life, the violation of fides was considered a serious matter, with both legal and religious consequences. Fides was one of the first of the “virtues” to be regarded as an actual deity by Rome. The Romans had a saying, “Punica fides” (“faith in bloom” = “faithfulness”). For them, its removal represented the highest degree of betrayal. Augustine was calling this virtue: “reliability.” Later on, during the medieval period, some Catholic scholars took this virtue of Faith and gave it the definition provided in the Scripture: “Faith is also the belief by which we hope for those things that we do not perceive with our bodily eyes.” [13] [14]

So it is essential to know when faith is seen as a noun or an adjective. It also helps to know if the writer is referring to a person’s belief or reliability. When we look at it in the basket of the fruit of the reborn spirit, we see that compared to goodness, kindness, patience, and self-control, faith clearly stands alone as a concrete term. But when we change it to faithfulness, it clearly joins the others as an abstract essence. Yet, no faith, no faithfulness. The two go together, like the two sides of a coin. When you spend it – put it into action, they both go together. You can’t have one without the other.

[1] Deuteronomy 32:4

[2] Psalm 36:6 – Complete Jewish Bible

[3] Ibid 40:11

[4] Habakkuk 2:4

[5] Matthew 8:10

[6] Ibid. 25:21, 23

[7] Luke 19:17

[8] 1 Corinthians 4:2

[9] Galatians 3:9

[10] See Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 1:7; 4:7, 9

[11] 1 Timothy 3:11

[12] Publishing, Rose. The Fruit of the Spirit (Kindle Location 126)

[13] Hebrews 11:1

[14] Haimo of Auxerre: 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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