CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER SIX (Lesson CXXXI)

I remember while working in Switzerland and the early stages of my advanced readings in psychology. My good departed friend and mentor, Dr. William D. Alton, talked with me about what the Swiss physician and author Paul Tournier said in a book. Dr. Tournier indicated the best way to help yourself is by helping others. [1] It mirrors a quote of Mahatma Gandhi, who said: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” as well as the ancient Chinese proverb that goes, “A giver is more fortunate than a receiver.” Even President John F. Kennedy borrowed this theme when he made his famous statement, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” [2]

I also recall talking on the phone with Francis Schaeffer, who established L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland, to make arrangements for joining his Bible study at the U.S. Consulate in Zurich. In one of his speeches, Dr. Schaeffer spoke about merely standing by while others are hurting. Said Schaeffer, “The Bible is clear here: I am to love my neighbor as myself, in the manner needed, in a practical way, in the midst of the fallen world, at my particular point of history. This is why I am not a pacifist. Pacifism in this poor world in which we live – this lost world – means that we desert the people who need our greatest help.” Unfortunately, there are many spiritual pacifists in the church; they are ready to sing, pray, praise, and worship God, even pay their tithes, but don’t ask them to carry someone else’s burden.

At the same time, Paul has a word for the errant believer who mature believers are helping and supporting: Since you are the one who stumbled, don’t expect others in the congregation to bear all your burdens for you.  In other words, don’t remain “self-focused.” Stop blaming the rest of the church for your problems.  It will only lead to disharmony, frustration, discouragement, and even depression. Thank God every day that the Holy Spirit sent someone to assist you. Thank Him for his timing in keeping things from getting worse and the hill to climb, becoming much higher. You may have let someone offend you; yes, some person misled or mistreated you. But remember, what they did to you is only 10% of the problem; 90% of the outcome belongs to you and how you respond.

Another issue that often plagues those trying to cope with failure is when they take the words of wisdom and comfort they are receiving as an insult instead of being objective. We must help them understand we are talking about their sin, not their soul; we are discussing what got them into trouble, not that they got into trouble. Martin Luther made an enlightening comment on this verse when he said that we all have burdens, but sometimes God does not want us to carry them all by ourselves. How many of you can testify to the embarrassment you’ve experienced in having to finally allow someone else to offer you a helping hand with your burden or deal with your problems? So, if it is challenging for you, keep that fact in mind when you extend help to others.

Even though Paul does not mention it, many Bible scholars feel that the Law of the Anointed One Paul refers to here is found in the words of Jesus, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. And just as I have loved you, you should love each other. When the world sees you showing love to one another, then they will know you are My disciples.” [3] My, oh my! What a rebuff to the Judaizers who were continually harping on keeping Mosaic Law. I can hear Paul saying: So, you legalists want to fulfill all the commandments; you want to do everything right according to the “do-good” laws? Well, here’s one for you; try doing what Jesus said and see if it isn’t much better than the laws you follow. The requirements you want to impose are a burden in themselves. But here’s a commandment that lifts the load and, in so doing, pleases the heart of God.

6:3 If you believe you’ve accomplished a lot, when in fact, you’ve accomplished very little, you are only fooling yourself.

EXPOSITION

Since Jews depended on their good deeds to justify being part of God’s family and heirs to the fortunes in the world-to-come, Paul has some bad news. When you bring it before God, it will be considered the same as trash. Solomon used an excellent illustration to point out their hypocrisy when he said that the person who makes a big deal out of promising to help but ends up doing nothing, is like a big cloud hovering over the desert without producing one drop of rain.[4] I’m sure you’ve heard of many politicians who promise everything just to get elected, but years later, when they leave office, they’ve not fulfilled even one of them. Solomon goes on to say that they are even worse than a typical fool because they are arrogant fools.[5]

Paul wants the Galatians to know what he also told the Romans. God has given me a special gift, and that is why I have something to say to each one of you. Don’t think that you are better than you are. You must see yourself just as you are seen. Decide what you are by the faith God has given each of us. So, live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all![6] He echoed the same theme with the Corinthians.[7]

It was an essential principle for Paul. He also told the Corinthians they should stop fooling yourselves. If they think that as a believer they are above average in intelligence using the world’s standards of evaluation, it would be better if they put this aside and be a fool for God rather than letting it become a hindrance in receiving true wisdom from above.[8] Paul told Timothy that only false teachers and immoral impostors use claims of specialized knowledge to deceive many; in the same way, Satan fooled them.[9]

The Apostle James felt that his readers should know that they must do what God’s teaching says; don’t just listen and do nothing. When you only sit and listen, you are fooling yourselves. Hearing God’s instructions and doing nothing is like looking at your face in the mirror and doing nothing about what you saw. You go away and immediately forget how bad you looked. You might think you are a very religious person. But if your tongue is out of control, you are fooling yourself. Your careless talk makes your offerings to God worthless.[10] John Gill tells us that the Jews have a saying that goes like this: “Whoever is thought of as ‘something,’ or thinks of themselves as ‘something,’ should have never been born.” [11] [12]

COMMENTARY

Robert of Melun (1100-1167) takes Paul’s reference here in verse three as a slap against those who think they are something special, when in fact, they are nothing at all. He is calling out those who are so preoccupied with their virtues and merits; they don’t have time to fool with needy spiritual brothers and sisters by being kind and gentle with them with words of encouragement. Such people, says Robert, may think they look useful to others, but in God’s eyes, they are a disgrace, and anything they may do does not count. They are going astray by their misleading ideas of self-righteousness. It’s one thing to deceive others, but it’s just as harmful to fool yourself.

The reason such people are useless to God, says Robert, is that they cling to those things that have no value with God. As the old saying goes: They are so heavenly minded they are of no earthly good. Instead, they should be holding on to that which means everything to God. They should cling to the One who suffered greatly on their behalf, who humbled Himself to become like one of them to help them with their weaknesses, handicaps, and burdens, even though He was God. For everyone who fails to take hold of the One who exists for eternity has nothing to look forward to in the future. All they have is what they possess now. Heaven will hold no rewards for them.[13]

Matthew Poole (1624-1670) believes that the term “deceiving themselves” should be understood as a person nourishing and entertaining a false high opinion of their value to humanity. Paul was not bashful in pointing out earlier that it’s all because of pride that people hold such egotistical views of who they are that far exceed expectations. It then becomes the cause of their gloom and doom in dealing with other offenders. It is especially true when they are aware of their own spiritual and moral weaknesses and are just as vulnerable to the same temptations. It is the pride and excessively high opinions of ourselves that make us despise or neglect others struggling with their burdens, and thereby forget the Law of the Anointed One, which is the Law of Love. Therefore, that’s why the Apostle correctly added humility and modesty to the fruit of the reborn spirit.[14]

William Burkitt (1650-1703) takes note of how the Apostle Paul strikes at the root of the sin of pride and self-conceit, namely when they judge their competence with those who are worse than they are, which most likely will stir up pride and arrogance. They use the same measuring stick on their importance, and others, except the numbers on the ruler, are inches for others and feet for themselves. Burkitt sees Paul directing them to gauge their influence with those who are more influential to see how they measure up. Furthermore, to prove the value of their works by the rule of God’s Word, not by the example and practice of others. Then they will be able to find matters over which they can rejoice in their commitment, in the testimony of God’s Word, and the silent applause of their consciences. That way, they need not celebrate over the failings and infirmities of others, thinking it makes them look better.[15]

[1] Tournier, Paul, A Place for You

[2] Kennedy, John F., Inaugural Address, Washington, D.C., Friday, January 20, 1961

[3] Matthew 13:34-35

[4] Proverbs 25:14

[5] Ibid. 26:12

[6] Romans 12:3, 16

[7] 1 Corinthians 3:18; 8:2; 2 Corinthians 3:5; 12:11

[8] Ibid. 3:18

[9] 2 Timothy 3:13

[10] James 1:22-23, 26

[11] Midrash Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), folio 79a

[12] John Gill: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 167

[13] Robert of Melun: On Galatians, op. cit., (Kindle Location 1698)

[14] Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible – Book of Galatians, op. cit., (Kindle Location, 1691-1697).

[15] William Burkitt: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 341

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s