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 CXLII)

That’s why Paul instructed the Galatians to take every opportunity available to do what God wants them to do, especially their ministry to those of weaker faith who are part of God’s household. That’s why the preacher in Ecclesiastes told his flock that every time they see work that needs to be done, to do it to the best they can. Because in the grave, there is no work. There is no thinking, no knowledge, and there is no wisdom. And we are all going to the place of death.[1] No wonder Jesus informed His critics that He healed people on the Sabbath because He needed to do everything possible while it was still daytime, so He continues doing the work of the One who sent them. The night is coming when no one can work.[2]

And since we are to be more and more like Jesus, His example is for us to follow. Later on, Jesus told His disciples that the Light would be with them for only a short time more. So, they were to work while they had daylight. That way, darkness would not overtake them before they finished because people don’t know where they’re going or how to live without any of God’s instructions.[3] Surely Paul understood what Jesus was saying because he told the Ephesians they were to be careful how they behaved; these were difficult days ahead. So, don’t be foolish; be wise: make the most of every opportunity for doing God’s work.[4] And to the Colossians, Paul said that they were to be careful in the way they conducted themselves, especially when they were around unbelievers. They were to use that time to God’s advantage.[5]

Paul did not want anyone to forget that Jesus, the Anointed One gave Himself for us. He died to free us from all evil. He died to make us pure – those people who belong only to Him and who always want to do what’s right.[6] The Psalmist expressed it this way: “Trust the Lord and do what’s right. Then you will live comfortably in the land and feel safe.” [7] And, as Paul told the Thessalonians, don’t think it necessary to get back at people who did you wrong. Instead, treat everyone fairly, beginning with your fellow believers, and then do the same for everyone else.[8] And Paul shared this motto with Titus: Make people understand all that I’ve taught you. Then those who believe in God will be careful to use their lives for doing what’s right. These things are beneficial to everyone.” [9] Also, the writer of Hebrews told his readers not to forget to do good and to share what they have with others because sacrifices like these are very pleasing to God.[10]

As odd as it may sound, apparently Paul found out that some of the Galatians were following the obligation that the Council in Jerusalem placed on Gentiles by giving to the poor, but were not as excited about giving to their fellow believers. So, He reminded them that charity begins at home. Or as it is said another way: “The light that shines the furthest shines brightest at home.” It complied with what Jesus told His followers, that anyone who does what His Father in heaven wants is His true brother and sister and mother.[11] Our Lord uses a parable to show that any good a person does for their fellow believer, is doing the same for their God.[12]

After all, as Paul explained to the Ephesians, believers of every nation, race, color, and culture are no longer strangers and foreigners. We are fellow citizens, along with all of God’s holy people. We are members of God’s big family.[13] We don’t do this just for looks or to get the applause of others, as the writer of Hebrews tells us, the Anointed One is faithful in ruling God’s house as His Son. And we are God’s house, we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.[14] Not only that, but because of that, God is fair, and He will remember all the work we have done. He will not forget that we showed our love to Him by showing love to His people and continued to help them.[15]

The Apostle John does not hold back on making it clear that this is not a game; this is for real; this is something we must take seriously. He wrote: Brothers and sisters, don’t be surprised when the people of this world don’t like you. We know that we were once spiritually dead, but now we have been given new life. We know this because we love each other as brothers and sisters. Anyone who does not show love to their fellow believers is still spiritually dead. And anyone who dislikes a fellow believer has the mind of a murderer. And you know that no murderer has eternal life.

John goes on to say that this is how we know what real love is: Jesus gave His life for us. So, we should give our lives for each other as brothers and sisters. Suppose a believer, who is rich enough to have all the necessities of life, sees a fellow believer who is underprivileged and does not have even basic needs. What if the rich believer does not help the poor one? Keep this in mind, we will know for sure, by our actions, if we are on God’s side, and our consciences will be clear, even when we stand before the Lord.[16] For if you believe that Jesus is the Anointed One – and that He is God’s Son and your Savior – then you are a child of God. And that you love the Father and His children too.[17]

All of what Paul is telling the Galatians here about helping each other was not new to Him. Even as a Pharisee, when he visited the Temple in Jerusalem, he noticed that there were two chambers in the Temple, one called the “Hall of discreet donors,” and the other “The chamber of vessels.” The Jewish Mishnah explains to us that the room for the discreet donors served those God-fearing people who would discreetly place their gifts in it. Then, the poor, descending from good families, could support themselves without public knowledge. The chamber of vessels served those who wanted to contribute containers to the Temple; they would put them there. And once in thirty days, the treasurers would open them up. Any vessel found which was able to be used directly for the upkeep of the Temple they would leave. They sold the rest, and the funds went to the chamber for the Temple upkeep.[18]

That’s why Jesus and His Apostles always made sure that people knew they were not to make a big deal out of helping their less fortunate brothers and sisters. Here in the Mishnah, they are called “discrete donors.” What they do for others may be appreciated and of great value, but for themselves, they remain anonymous and invisible. That God sees them is reward enough.

COMMENTARY

Marius Victorinus believes that Paul is insistent that we are to work, to work hard, and to work it in such a way that we show no partiality toward any individual. The truth is, says Victorinus, we only do that which is excellent and useful for all. For indeed, if love lifts a person and they feel loved, then every act of kindness works for the benefit of everyone. However, Paul makes the point that all the good we do on behalf of others should begin with our fellow believers. They are the ones who believed and trusted in the Anointed One and the Father who sent Him.

Victorinus also notes that Paul comes to the climax of his argument, making this specific point. It was particularly relevant to the Galatians. For they, by making certain additions to their faith from Judaism, were not acting out of loyalty. They believed that they would gain fruit from works and ritual observances. Therefore, he emphasizes that they begin with the household of believers because they trusted only in the Gospel, that is, in God and the Anointed One.[19]

Jerome believes that all the things we say are like seeds being sown in two fields: a sinful swamp and spiritual soil. If what comes out from our hand, mouth, and heart is useful, it is planted in the Spirit and will produce the fruit of eternal life. If it is unuseful, when harvested from the swamp of sinful nature, it will grow an unsavory crop of corruption for us. It should be observed that to the one who sows in their sinful nature is sowing “to the flesh.” But the one who plants in their reborn soul is sowing “in the Spirit.” They will reap a harvest of delicious and nutritious spiritual fruit to share with everyone.[20]

Thomas Aquinas takes the opportunity to express how he sees these instructions of Paul that we help each other in carrying out our duties. Someone asked Aquinas if it is lawful to love one person more than another? Aquinas responded by saying that we should observe that love can be called greater or lesser in two ways. In one way, from the standpoint of the receiver. Another way, from the intensity of the giver. To love someone is to will good things for them. Accordingly, one can love one person more than another, either because they give them more because of their greater need, which is the object of love. Or because they think they deserve more in light of how they will use it.

Therefore, concerning the first, we ought to love everyone equally, because our goal is that all should have eternal life. However, regarding the second, it is not necessary that we love everyone equally since the intensity of any act depends on the principle of the greatest and most urgent need. Aquinas feels that we should love those we know less about with a higher degree of love than those we know very well.[21]

Alexander Maclaren stated that “Jesus the Anointed One can redeem the world Himself, but He chose not to without the help of His servants.” Jesus said he desired that we carry the Gospel to all humanity by His Incarnation and Sacrifice. Therefore, what He called us to do was not achieved in the manger nor the cross on Calvary alone. He intended that those He called would participate in carrying out His ministry to the world.[22]

To this, I add that those called to be part of this great ministry are guides in this world is to lead the lost to the Light, where they can receive forgiveness and eternal life. It is a great honor and privilege to do so. It is necessary because instead of Jesus taking all the inheritance He is to receive for His work and sacrifice here on earth, He decided on His own to share it with those who are also willing to be part of His suffering. Paul shared this with one of his protégés: “If we die with Him, we will also live with Him. If we remain faithful to Him even in suffering, we will also rule with Him.” [23]

[1] Ecclesiastes 9:10

[2] John 9:4

[3] Ibid. 12:35

[4] Ephesians 5:15-16

[5] Colossians 4:5

[6] Titus 2:14

[7] Psalm 37:3

[8] 1 Thessalonians 5:15

[9] Titus 3:8

[10] Hebrews 13:16

[11] Matthew 12:50

[12] Ibid. 25:40

[13] Ephesians 2:19; cf. 3:15

[14] Hebrews 3:6

[15] Ibid. 6:10

[16] 1 John 3:13-19

[17] Ibid. 5:1

[18] Jewish Mishnah: Division Mo’ ed, Tractate Shekalim, Chapter 5, Section 6

[19] Victorinus, Marius: Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 98-99

[20] Jerome: Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). op. cit., On. Galatians, pp. 97-98

[21] Aquinas, Thomas, op. cit., loc. cit.

[22] Maclaren, Alexander, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Galatians, loc. cit.

[23] 2 Timothy 2:12

About drbob76

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