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 SIX (Lesson CXXXII)

Puritan Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) notes that in verse three, he sees the same long, deep, narrow path in the Greek text with that in the English translation were the real person is on one side. Pretending people try to walk in between so as not to be identified for who they are. That’s why Edwards sees the Apostle Paul directing professing Christians to test themselves, using the Greek verb dokimazō to signify that they are examining or proving of a thing whether it be genuine or counterfeit. The most natural way to interpret his advice is that they should analyze themselves concerning their professed spiritual state and their actual possession of faith as a believer. It will help prove whether they are authentic disciples and genuine Christians and not false and hypocritical professors. It’s the same as when a person comes to the goldsmith with what looks like a gold coin with the impression of the king’s face, with the desire to see if it is real or imitation. It is not only the goldsmith’s job to know if it was gold, but also to see if it was legal currency. There is a difference between a gold medallion and a gold coin.[1]

German Protestant scholar Heinrich A. W. Meyer (1800-1873) saves little mercy for those who Paul points out here as those who imagine themselves possessed of a peculiar moral worth that exempts them from the embarrassing burden of lowering themselves to help these unfortunate believers who allowed some temptation to overtake them. The fact is, according to Paul, they are really of no pressing moral issue to use them as mentors or instructors for such struggling believers. They are so far away from fulfilling the Law of the Anointed One that they are suffering from self-deception. They are not worth anything.[2] They are like counterfeit dollar bills. They may look real, but when put under examination, they are not worth the paper used to print them. They are weak in their own opinion of right and wrong because their spiritual and moral judgment is flawed with deception.[3]

Swiss-born Protestant theologian Philip Schaff (1810-1893), takes what Paul says here in verse three as motivation for us to be patient and caring while helping weaker believers get back on their feet because we are aware of our weakness. There’s nothing to be proud of when mentoring others as they try to get their spiritual and moral lives straightened out. We are not to overestimate ourselves. As Schaff sees it, humility is one of the rarest, but sweetest graces. Any amount of moral self-pride is worth absolutely nothing.[4]

Anglican Bible scholar William Anderson O’Conor (1820-1894) reasons that the person who judges themselves by comparison with another person’s loss or fall, and concludes that they are reliable, have an unreal comparative superiority complex which is liable to develop into gross self-deception. Some find themselves tempted and surrender. Others are charmed but do not give in. One person is enticed, and concedes for everyone to see and is thereby disgraced, while another person experiences seduction, and yields secretly. Those who fail may mistake the people’s silence as God’s approval. If the latter person decorates themselves on their feeling of superiority, they end up fancying themselves as being something when, in fact, they are nothing. O’Conor feels the words of the following verse embodies the correction needing to be applied.[5] Don Garlington says it is separating fact from fiction so these mature believers can discover who and what they are.[6]

Grant Osborne observes that what Paul says here in verse three that helpers and mentors are to “take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else” seems rather strange. Ordinarily, being proud of oneself is thought a sin, but again we need to look at the context. “Pride” is kauchēma, “boasting,” and translated from Greek as “then they will have boasting in themselves alone and not in another.” Let us examine several translations to understand the terminology. It could mean that we are to restrict our boasting to our work, not the performance of others. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the Standard Version (KJV) read: “All must test their work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride.”

Also, we can evaluate our work without comparison to what others have done. We see this in the New Living Testament (NLT), the New International Version (NIV), and the New English Bible (NEB). We read: “Pay careful attention to your work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.” It is a difficult determination, says Osborne, but the second rendering seems slightly better and more in keeping with Paul’s theology and style.[7]

Messianic Jewish writer D. Thomas Lancaster defends the fact that Paul’s statement about the “Law of the Anointed One,” is the “Torah of the Messiah.” Some Christians teach, says Lancaster that Yeshua replaced the “Torah of Moses” with the “Torah of the Anointed One.” On the contrary, says Lancaster, the “Torah of the Messiah,” is not a different Torah or even a replacement. It is re-prioritizing of the Torah under the guidance of the Master’s principle that all the commandments in the Torah hang on the two greatest commandments: love of God and love of neighbor.[8]

It fits well in the defining, fundamental principle of Yeshua’s approach to the Torah – Love stands above, below, alongside, and in everything God did, that He did, that the Holy Spirit does, and charges us to do. Even James, the brother of our Lord, refers to it as “royal Torah.” Here’s what James said: “If you keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.” [9] The Complete Jewish Bible renders it, “Kingdom Torah.” The Greek adjective basilikos that James uses means something “befitting” or “worthy of a king, royal.” And since Yeshua is the Messiah, the Living Son of the Living God, He truly is a king.[10]

6:4-5 Find out what kind of impact you have on others, so then you can correctly evaluate your worth. You can find out if you have done any good without comparing yourself to what others have done. Keep in mind; we are only responsible for our conduct.

 EXPOSITION

When it came to self-evaluation, King David had his method. He called on ADONAI to examine him, to test him, and search his heart and mind to see what He could find.[11] The whole purpose was to reveal to him any wrong attitude or sinful tendencies that he could not see himself. Once completed, then Paul shares his philosophy on self-evaluation. So, it’s not what others think about your effectiveness, but what others say because his teaching has deeply impacted them. Paul thought it was so important that he told the Corinthians first to examine themselves before they take communion because if they prove to be unworthy of participating, they will bring God’s judgment down on themselves.[12] And just in case they didn’t take his message seriously in the first letter, he tells them in the second letter to look closely at themselves and test to see if they are living in the faith. Didn’t they realize that Jesus the Anointed One is supposed to be in them? That’s why, if they fail the test, then He is not residing in them.[13]

In Paul’s mind, there was nothing more worthless than a person who pretends to be a Christian. Even King Solomon was wise enough to know that being faithless will get what’s coming to them, and it won’t be a blessing.[14] As long as God finds a person credible as one of His children, it doesn’t matter what others think, not even if a church court determined such by during an inquisition.[15] It reminds me of a saying I once read that goes: “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

As far as Paul was concerned, there was one thing for which a Christian could be proud of: that our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with each other with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but God’s grace.[16] And the Apostle John says that this is how we know we belong to the way of truth. And when our hearts make us feel guilty, we can still have peace before God, because God is greater than our hearts. He knows everything. If we don’t think that we are doing wrong, we can be without fear when we come to God, and He grants us our requests. We receive it because we obey God’s commands and do what pleases him.[17] I don’t think that even the Apostle John thought that many believers would reach and then stay at this level of dedication and commitment. That’s why he said earlier that if we confess our sins, God will forgive us. We can trust God to do this. He always does what is right. He will make us clean from all the wrong things we have done.[18]

Today we are seeing some Christians who are becoming followers of high-profile ministers due to television and other forms of media. There is nothing wrong with having great appreciation and respect for the servants of God. But when it begins to divide believers into groups who feel that their idol is above all others, then it brings disharmony to the Body of the Anointed One. Paul address this very same situation in Corinth when some declared they were followers of Paul and others of Apollos.[19]

Paul then goes on to clarify for the Corinthians that there should be no boasting about following a particular Christian leader. For they will get all, they need to hear from the Gospel whether it’s from Paul or Apollos or Peter, about the world, life and death, the present and the future. Everything they will ever need is theirs because they belong to the Anointed One, and the Anointed One belongs to God.[20] So don’t look for someone else to take responsibility for your spiritual welfare, each Christian is personally responsible for dealing with their burdens. Don’t try to shove it off on someone else.

[1] Jonathan Edwards: A Humble Inquiry into the Rules of the Word of God Concerning the Qualifications Requisite to a Complete Standing and Full communion in the Visible Christian Church, Part 2, Sec. 9, p. 282

[2] See Galatians 2:6

[3] Heinrich A. W. Meyer: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 249-250

[4] Philip Schaff: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 347

[5] O’Conor, William A. On Galatians, op cit., p. 95

[6] Don Garlington: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 174

[7] Osborne, G. R. On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 202–203

[8] Matthew 22:37-40

[9] James 2:8 – New International Version (NIV)

[10] D. Thomas Lancaster: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 262-263

[11] Psalm 26:3

[12] 1 Corinthians 11:28-29

[13] 2 Corinthians 13:5

[14] Proverbs 14:14

[15] 1 Corinthians 4:3-4

[16] 2 Corinthians 1:12 – NIV (redacted by RRS)

[17] 1 John 3:19-22

[18] Ibid. 1:9

[19] 1 Corinthians 1:12-13

[20] Ibid. 3:21-23; cf. 4:6-7

About drbob76

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