CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson CXVII)

The Apostle Paul gave this advice, says Hilton, when he wrote the Galatians: Get rid of your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is stained by greed and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Dress up in your new spiritual nature, created to be like God – truly living right and holy.[1] Paul wanted the Galatians to destroy all these false images they worshipped. But who can break them in-two? Of course, our Lord Jesus The Anointed One. With the fruit of the reborn spirit and in the Name of Him who redeemed us, we will break down these idols of sin. All we need to do is sincerely ask Him and desire His help, and He will be there to help every time.[2]

Martin Luther was not reluctant to apply this teaching to the church in his day. He warns them that when the poison of boastfulness gets into the Church, they have no idea what havoc it can cause. You may argue about knowledge, art, money, countries, and the like without doing particular harm. But you cannot quarrel about salvation or damnation, about eternal life and eternal death, without grave damage to the Church. No wonder, Luther says, that the Apostle Paul exhorts all ministers of the Word to guard against this poison. We must all let the Spirit guide us. Where the Spirit is, people, gain new attitudes. Where formerly they were proud, spiteful, and envious, they now become humble, gentle, and patient. Such people seek not their glory, but the glory of God. They do not provoke each other to anger or envy but prefer others above themselves.

 As dangerous as this detestable pride is to the Church, yet it seems all too common, says Luther. There is a problem with ministers who look upon the ministry as a stepping-stone to fame and glory. There you have the seed for all sorts of egotistical discord. Because Paul knew that the conceit of the false apostles caused the churches of Galatia endless trouble, he makes it his business to suppress this awful frailty.  In his absence, the false apostles went to work in Galatia. They pretended that they were on intimate terms with the Apostles in Jerusalem while Paul never saw Jesus The Anointed One in person or was in close contact with the rest of the Apostles. Because of this, they shunned him, rejected his doctrine, and boosted their own. In this way, they troubled the Galatians and caused quarrels among them until they fought each other out of envy. It shows that neither the false apostles nor the Galatians was being guided by human thinking, not the Holy Spirit.[3]

William Perkins (1558-1602), a clergyman and Cambridge theologian, wrote concerning the subject of whether our conformity with The Anointed One stands for the framing of our inward spiritual life or in the practice of outward moral duties. He points out that compliance of our spiritual life is not by doing that which The Anointed One did upon the cross, but of being willing to give our all for Him as He gave His all for us. This conformity comes in four parts, says Perkins. First is our spiritual offering. When The Anointed One went into the Garden of Gethsemane, and later upon the cross, He prayed earnestly with groans and tears. He did this as He presented Himself as a sacrifice to die for our redemption. We must do the same on the altar of service in prayer as we offer ourselves as living sacrifices to the service of God even unto death.

The second is conformity in the cross. He carried His cross to the place of His execution and so we too must be good disciples and deny ourselves to take up our crosses and follow Him in spirit and truth. [4] This is what Paul is talking about here in verse twenty-four, says Perkins. If we want to belong totally to The Anointed One, we must be willing to crucify our sinful affections and tendencies to the cross. It’s not enough to just say we’ve put to death our sinful tendencies; we must feel the hurt that comes with it. We must work hard in smothering these sinful passions until we sense them die in us. And if it’s possible, conduct a burial service for them, committing them to the ground never to rise again. Does this sound like a difficult thing to do? It is! We may need to have such a service every day of our lives.

The third thing, says Perkins, is the spiritual resurrection by which God’s grace means that we may every day more and more come out from under the burden of these sinful tendencies to live in the newness of life in Jesus The Anointed One. It was for this reason that God raised Him from the grave. And since this is a hard thing to do, this work of sanctification cannot be done all at once, but by degrees as God gives us grace. When we consider that we once lay spiritually dead in the quicksand of sin, but the Word and message of Jesus The Anointed One revived us.

He is now living within us so that we can take responsibility for keeping our spiritual life alive and well. Once this takes place, we no longer need to live with one foot in the swamp of sin and the other on holy ground, we were called to live in freedom! So, we can see how puzzling it was for Paul, who saw the Galatians going back to the prison of sin and bondage.[5] Therefore, we must raise our minds to a better state and condition, as we build our bodies: after this, we must extend out of the grave, one hand and then the other. Then, we must do our best to completely exit the tomb, as it were, on our knees, so that in the day of judgment, we stand wholly delivered from all links to corruption.

The fourth part is a spiritual ascension to the heavenly realm of the Spirit, by the continual elevation of the heart and mind to The Anointed One, sitting at the right hand of the Father, as Paul told the Philippians.[6] Conformity in moral duties is unique. The uniqueness is that we can be holy as He is holy.[7] Those He knew, He predestinated to be like the image of His Son, that is, not only in the cross but also in holiness and glory.[8] [9]

John Owen (1616-1683) says that it is the very work of the love of the Holy Spirit. His whole work on us, in us, and for us consists of preparing of us for obedience, enabling us to be holy, and bringing forth its fruit in us. He saved us because of His mercy, not because of any good things we did. He saved us through the washing that made us new people. He revived us by renewal through the Holy Spirit.[10] So with the fruit of the reborn spirit available to us through the Holy Spirit, we have a twofold reason for the necessity of our obedience and personal holiness. God has appointed it, He requires it; and it is an essential factor in the work of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the work of our salvation. If God’s sovereignty over us is to be recognized, if His love towards us is to be regarded, if the whole work of the ever-blessed Trinity, for us, in us, and continuously at work in us, our obedience is necessary.[11]

John Flavel (1628-1688), in a sermon with his text on verse twenty-four, concerning our crucifying the flesh, says that our interests in following The Anointed One involves several trials, and one of them is putting the sinful desires of the body to death. What bothered Paul the most was that this interference by the Judaizers shattered the brotherly love among the Galatians, no doubt pitting those Gentiles who went over to these false teachers against those who remained loyal to Paul’s Gospel. Flavel says that there were four great arguments against their continued fighting and discord.

First, Jesus’ great commandment that they love one another, which, if they really wanted to fulfill the Law, loving each other was sufficient to do so. Furthermore, until their love for each other was restored, they could progress no further with any hope of reconciliation. Secondly, they must stop and consider where this path of disharmony and disparagement was leading them. There would be no winners; both sides would end up in ruin. Thirdly, it is contrary to the work of the Holy Spirit sent to be our comforter and guide. And if they claimed that the Holy Spirit dwelled within them, then they certainly were not obeying His leading.

And then fourthly, from their inconsistency of loving one another and other desires of the flesh that interfered with their union in The Anointed One, they failed to crucify their fleshly desires. It’s as if Paul was saying: Hey, you all profess to be members of The Anointed One’s body and loyal followers of Him. But look how inconsistent you are in practicing what you preach. Is this the fruit of the dove-like Spirit of The Anointed One? Are these the fruit of your faith and professed self-denial? Will the sheep of The Anointed One fight like furious beasts of prey? Your willingness to harm one another is proof positive that you need to revisit the cross and crucify your sinful tendencies with the One who died in your place. You cannot serve two masters; you must choose one or the other – the Spirit or the flesh.[12]

 American Puritan revivalist preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) in referenced what Paul says here in verse twenty-four about that which belongs to Jesus The Anointed One have crucified their sinful tendencies and corrupt affections. He points out that the Apostle John – the same Apostle that writes the account of Nicodemus’ visit with Jesus where our Lord told him that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[13] Our Lord was referring to a second and new birth, which is from a divine source and holy nature, exerting itself in a principle of divine love, which is the sum of all Christian holiness. That means loving one another as The Anointed One commanded us to do. So, by doing so, it is obvious that we dwell in Him and He in us.[14]

Furthermore, since none of us has seen God, if we love one another, we can see God in each other. Then becomes our confirmation that we live in Him and He lives in us.[15] So in a spiritual sense, this principle in us is, in a way, the Spirit of God communicating to us. In other words, that’s how God speaks to us through His Spirit.[16]

[1] Ephesians 4:22-24

[2] Hilton, Walter: The Scale of Perfection, pp. 109-110

[3] Luther, Martin, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[4] Matthew 10:38; 16:24-26; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; 14:27

[5] Perkins, William: A Declaration of the True Manner of Knowing Christ Crucified, p. 630

[6] Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:1

[7] Romans 8:29

[8] 1 John 3:3

[9] Perkins, William: Knowing Christ Crucified (Kindle Locations, 139-165).

[10] Titus 3:5

[11] John Owen: Of Communion with God, Part 2, Of Communion with the Son Jesus Christ, Ch. 8, pp. 233-234

[12] Flavel, John: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 378-379

[13] John 3:6

[14] 1 John 3:23, 24

[15] Ibid. 4:12-13

[16] Jonathan Edwards: The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended, op. cit., Part 2, Ch. 3, Sec. 1, p. 595

About drbob76

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