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 CXXXVII)

Thomas Aquinas shares from a teacher’s point of view what Paul is saying. He notes that any student can communicate in two ways with his or her teacher. First, to receive good things from the teacher; as it is said, “Let him that is instructed in the Word communicate by sharing with others what the teacher shared with them.” They don’t need to be afraid to imitate the teacher, because even Paul told the Corinthians to be imitators of him, as he was also an imitator of the Anointed One.[1] But there are several things to keep in mind. Paul uses the Greek noun mimētēs from which we get our English word “mime.” It allows you to quote your teacher, share what you learned from your teacher, even copy the method your teacher used to instruct you. It doesn’t mean to imitate their hand movements, facial expressions, or even their voice.

Secondly, there may be some habits or expressions a teacher uses that are not good, especially if they don’t practice what they teach.[2] Regardless, any student who is willing to contribute to their teacher’s expenses is also communicating a warm and welcomed example of appreciation. As Paul told the Corinthians: The Lord commanded that those who speak the Good News should get their living from their work.[3] He also informed those sent out to spread the Gospel that if someone takes them in and gives them a place to sleep and food to eat, take what the people there give you. We should reward workers with pay. But don’t go from house to house, to find a better host, stay with those who are giving you hospitality.[4] That’s because when a teacher sows spiritual things, they don’t want to reap worldly things.[5]

So, says Aquinas, that’s why Paul emphasizes here that students should engage their teacher by interacting with them through questions, assignments, and contributions. After all, look at how the world supports their teachers who instruct them on secular matters. They pay them a salary, whether they are competent or not. Why then are some believers so reluctant to support their pastors and teachers who are instructing them on spiritual things. What you learn in the secular world will be out-of-date in a short time, but the spiritual truths you learn will last forever. Did not Jesus say that if worldly people know the benefit of taking responsibility reimbursing teachers, will not our Father in heaven give good things to them that ask him?[6] So if you pray for God to show you a way to help your pastor or teacher, a sure method will be found with God’s help.[7]

In other words, the exchange between teacher and student is mutual and reciprocal. I have learned in my teaching and preaching experience that the more the student puts into their studies, the more the teacher is motivated to go deeper into the Word. Therefore, we may take Paul’s warning here to not only mean that a student should be willing to support the ministry financially but also by participation and the practical application of what they are learning. One of the things that thrills a teacher more than a paycheck is when they see a student succeed in putting what they taught them into action.

Martin Luther shares a personal experience on the need to support the church’s ministers and teachers. He shares that as often as he read the warnings of the Apostle pointing out that the churches should support their pastors and raise funds for the relief of impoverished Christians, he was half ashamed to think that the great Apostle Paul had to touch upon this subject so frequently. In writing to the Corinthians, it required two chapters to impress this urgent matter on them. He would not want to discredit the congregation he served there in Wittenberg, Germany, the same way Paul shamed the Corinthians by urging them at such length to contribute to the relief of the poor. It seems to be a by-product of the Gospel that nobody wants to contribute to the maintenance of the Gospel ministry, says Luther. Unfortunately, when some preach the devil’s doctrines, people are too-generous in their voluntary support of those who deceive them.[8]

John Calvin believes that Paul was not only laying down a principle that would be followed by the church in centuries to come but based on the fact that the teachers and ministers of the Word were, at that time, neglected. Calvin laments the fact that this shows the lowest form of ingratitude. How disgraceful is it to defraud those who feed their souls! – to refuse an earthly compensation to those from whom they receive heavenly benefits! Though it is improper to take too much time in complaining or to be too demanding of a preacher’s rights, yet Paul found himself called upon to challenge the Galatians to perform this part of their duty.

Calvin is convinced that Paul was ready to do so because he had no private interest in the matter. He was concerned about the universal benefit this would have on the Church, without any regard to his advantage. He saw that because the Word itself was not highly esteemed, they neglected the ministers of the Word. It is one of Satan’s tricks to defraud godly ministers of support; it deprives the Church of such ministers. An earnest desire to preserve a Gospel ministry led to Paul’s recommendation that we should pay proper attention to ethical and faithful pastors.[9] So it appears that what upset Paul during his day, was also an upsetting problem in Calvin’s day.

I like what William A. O’Conor implies about the meaning of Paul’s words here in verse six, where he says that there is a lot of distorting influence in comparing oneself to others that often arises between those who are teaching and those there to learn. It is easy to misjudge another person as to their being what they claim to be, or if they are pretending to be something they are not. If a student believes their teacher does not possess the qualifications that impress them, they will often stop listening. And if teachers conclude that a student does not show the promise for greatness they are looking for, they offer only crumbs instead of the whole loaf.[10]

I learned while studying oriental philosophy at the University of North Dakota, and then living in Asia that Masters of various arts hope that their Deshi (“disciple”) ended up becoming even better than they are. Still, under Jesus, the Master, a mathētēs (“learner, pupil disciple”), can never exceed His mastery. They continue learning and learning.

George G. Findlay (1849-1919) makes a valid point when interpreting what Paul says here in verse six about those learning should provide for their teachers all the good things they have. While some have interpreted this to mean money and goods, Findlay believes it goes beyond that. It involves the unity of the Church, and in that sense, believers are to render help to their teachers with whatever kind of spiritual gifts they have. Believers have no right leaving all the burdens of the Church’s ministry up to the leaders. The battles should not be fought and worn by Church ministers alone. That will cause the laity to become lazy and begin criticizing the leaders because they did not do a sufficient job in handling their responsibilities. Everything, says Findlay, depends on spiritual fellowship, bound together with the strength of love that knits all the members of the Anointed One’s body as one, so they can do together what none of them can do alone.[11]

While I lived and ministered in Germany, I learned about what they call the “Church Tax.” The government collected “worship taxes” that they portioned out among all the congregations according to their membership size. But after I returned to the States, I learned that under pressure, from those who did not attend or belong to a church, the government decided that only those who were members must continue paying this tax. Needless to say, the support coming to the churches from the government dropped dramatically. The churches then were forced to start collecting tithes from their members.

Hans Dieter Betz sees another maxim that Paul was familiar with but repeated it in such a way that Betz calls “puzzling.” Paul said, “The one who receives instruction in the Word should share all good things with their instructor.” It appears that Paul is adding to what he already said in verses four and five. In other words, are both based on the concept of introspection before expectoration – be thankful for what you’ve received so you can better judge what you give. The emphasis is on the activation of the process, not the amount of the process. It also assumes one group of mentors with those they are mentoring or teachers with those they are teaching.[12] One of the disappointments that many pastors and Bible teachers experience is that despite all their research, preparation, and delivery of God’s Word, those who receive it seldom if ever share it with anyone, they just keep it to themselves. It would be like a farmer planting a crop of corn and putting all of it in their pantry for personal use.

Jewish writer W. A. Liebenberg reminds us of what Paul is saying here in verse six about those taught the Teachings of which Paul spoke was the Torah because, at that time, the Christians did not have any Bible. Even Yeshua said, “The Torah I teach is not my Torah but the Torah of Him who sent me.” [13]  So then, who do some Christian pastors and Bible-teachers think sent Yeshua? If therefore, the Messiah’s Torah is YaHWeH’s Torah, as Yeshua declares, then these verses prove that we must be careful not to dilate our exposition of the Scriptures by not rightly dividing the Word of Truth. It will, and has, led millions of Christians to oppose the Torah of YaHWeH and the very words of their Redeemer, Yeshua. Because of that, it has caused millions of Jews to despise Yeshua, the Apostle Paul, and the Final Covenant!

I will say there is guilt on both sides. Many Christians forget, when Jesus referred to the Word of God, He referred to the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. So, if Jesus thought it worthy enough to quote in His teachings and sermons, then who are we to make light of the First Covenant? Also, the Jews refuse to accept that Yeshua, the Messiah came to compete the work intended for the Torah, which it could not do. It could condemn, but not forgive. Yeshua provides by perfectly fulfilling the Law, and thereby offering forgiveness for sins. Why not let go of words on parchment and turn to the Living Word for instructions on satisfying the Law?

[1] I Corinthians 11:1

[2] Matthew 23:3

[3] I Corinthians 9:14

[4] Luke 10:7

[5] I Corinthians 9:11

[6] Matthew 7:11

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

[8] Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

[9] John Calvin: Commentary on the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, loc. cit.

[10] O’Conor, William A. On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 97–98

[11] George G. Findlay: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 406-407

[12] Hans Dieter Betz: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 304=305

[13] John 14:24

About drbob76

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