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 CXLVI) 08/07/20

Matthew Poole says that Paul now aims at those false teachers who perverted these congregations in Galatia and exhibited their hypocrisy under all their pretenses of goodwill. These are those who desire to make a good impression for their fellow believers and the world that they are very devout. It is what ideal followers, who are enthusiastic for rituals, ordinarily do. It is why the Judaizers were urging the Galatians to be circumcised, to show such dedication to rites and ritualism. That lacks any love they have in fulfilling the Law of God or enhance the spirituality of these Galatians. Poole says that it was to avoid persecution since Jews are more favorable to such Christians who, together with the Gospel of the Anointed One, also add Jewish rites, rituals, and regulations.

It was proven by Jews a long time ago who persuaded some Roman emperors to publish proclamations giving liberty to the Jews, in the provinces subject to them, to use their religious rites. So, the circumcised accepted the notion and ended up with more liberty than those not circumcised, who were persecuted by both Jewish and the heathen magistrates. The Apostle Paul is saying that those opposing these false teachers, who vigorously urged Gentiles to accept circumcision, to avoid the danger of persecution, were believers who refused to cooperate and remain firm by standing steadfast in their Gospel liberty from the Law. Paul was not hiding the fact that such persecution was coming. Their fellow countrymen will shun and avoid them because they did it for the Anointed One’s sake, who endured the cross on their behalf.[1]

English Puritan Presbyterian minister John Flavel paints a beautiful word picture in response to what Paul says here in verse one about restoring those overcome with an unexpected attack on their moral weaknesses. The question is, did Jesus the Anointed One feel humbled most by His distress or by His compassion for others in their suffering? That helps us see that we can learn from Him that a compassionate spirit, laboring under burdens of expected sin, or affliction, is Christ-like and genuine in heart and mind. It was the Spirit of the Anointed One: “Oh, to be more like Him!” cries Flavel. Called by God, let us clothe ourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.[2] To weep with those who mourn and rejoice with those that celebrate.[3] It was the murderer Cain who asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” [4] Jewish tradition tells us that God’s first question of “Where is your brother?” did not get a reply from Cain. It was after God asked him, “Why did you kill him?” that Cain offered his alibi.” [5] We are not Cain!

Praise God that Paul was of a different mind-set, says Flavel: “Who makes a mistake and we do not feel sadness? Who falls without our longing to help them? Who is spiritually wounded without our indignation rising against the one who hurt them,” asks Paul?[6] Three things promote empathy in Christians. One is the Lord’s sympathy for them; He was willing to suffer with them; “In all their suffering He also suffered, and He rescued them. In His love and mercy, He redeemed them. He lifted them and carried them through all the years.” [7]

Another is the relationship we continue to have with God’s afflicted children: they are members with us in one body, and the members should have the same care of one another.[8] The last is, we don’t know how soon we may need the same help from others, as others need from us now. “Brothers and sisters, if someone gets caught sinning, you who live spiritually should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” [9] [10] My oh my, sounds like Brother Flavel was a fiery preacher of the Gospel!

In another place, this great speaker mentions again the principles involved saying, let the wounds and anguish of our fellow believers who suffer from an afflicted conscience at being untrue in their faith to remain holy before God, move us to compassion. God commanded the Israelites to be kind to strangers.  God says you understand the heart of a wanderer.[11] And surely, if any case in the world requires help, sympathy, and all-out compassionate tenderness, aimless wanderers, need it most. Yet how do some have no time for the spiritual troubles of others! Parents sometimes rebuff their children and employers their employees. So how much more should we expect the inhumane and evil-minded to do so.

Oh!” says Brother Flavel, “If we could only feel what they feel, we would never treat them as we do.” But even if we forget or don’t care, let us comfort such unfortunate individuals. Jesus the Anointed One knows your sorrows, and with lovingkindness will help you. Yes, He felt what you feel so that He might have compassion on you. If people do not show sympathy for you, God will. If there are people so cruel as to persecute you whom sin has wounded, God will pour the balm of love into the wounds that sin has made. If no one shows any concern for your troubles, except it be to aggravate them, God will not treat you that way. Those who have experienced similar difficulties cannot be without compassion for those that struggle with these hardships now.[12]

In other words, Flavel is telling us not to be like those here in verse sixteen. Be more like Jesus. There were no awards handed out to Him after He took our beating. No one applauded when He finally reached Calvary. The crowd was not there to urge Him on to victory. He never felt lonelier and more deserted than He did hanging on the cross. Yet, He sought no fame or fortune. He underwent such torture to please His heavenly Father so that the forgiveness of our sins could save us through His sacrifice.

George G. Findlay (1849-1919) calls what Paul says here about avoiding persecution because of the Cross of the Anointed One, a “cowardly policy.” Did not Jesus say that His disciples would go out like sheep among wolves?[13] And didn’t He tell them that to follow Him they must carry their cross?[14] But the Judaizers were singing a different song. They thought they knew better than this. They had a play whereby the Galatians could be friends with Jesus the Anointed One and still stay on good terms with the crowd that crucified Him. So instead of Jesus being a bridge to Christianity, He would be a bridge to Judaism. That’s why Paul told the Galatians that these Judaizers had erected an idol and were using them as sacrifices to make amends for their cowardice. They were robbing them of their Christian liberties to use them as shields against the hostility of their fellow Jews.[15]

George B. Stevens (1854-1906), Presbyterian minister and theologian, makes note that after issuing a stern rebuke to the Galatians for failing to stay on the straight path of the Gospel and getting off track on the crooked road of Judaism, he now decides to practice what he preaches. He reminds them and himself that there are always some believers who will be led astray into moral mistakes and missteps who need help in rising again in full strength to go onward for the Anointed One. So, the Apostle, as a result of this, helps them by teaching them how to help others. Although Paul spoke in a sharp tone when dictating his letter up until now, he uses a humble and compassionate manner in giving these instructions. Paul dealt with previous admonitions on a congregational basis; now, he does so on an individual basis. And all they need to follow is the Law of Love.[16]

Paul says here in verse twelve that their fellow Jews persecuted these converted Jews because of the cross. We are not exactly sure what persecution was involved. But looking at known Jewish customs and manners, we find the act known in Hebrew as hērem, (“shunning”).[17] It means when a Jew meets or sees such a person who has no respect for the Torah; they are not to speak to them, greet them, or have anything to do with them. So, for converted Jews like the Judaizers to avoid persecution, they demonstrate their loyalty to the Torah by demanding circumcision of the Galatian Gentiles who believe in Christ.[18] [19] In Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan, both the priest and Levite shunned their poor fellow Jew who lay beaten and dying from robbers’ attack. Only one person was willing to stop and render aid. Let that one person be you and me when we encounter someone wounded by the devil’s assault just because they are a Christian.

Tim Hegg talks about the relationship between the synagogue and the Galatians. If this scenario in verse twelve needed to be pointed out by Paul, then the Jewish house of worship was doing the Roman authorities a favor to evict Gentiles who were simply using the school as a shelter for their unwillingness to worship the emperor. That is to say, persecuting the Gentiles, the synagogue was exposing citizens of Rome who were failing to act as citizens. In this way, it was a “win-win” situation: the house of prayer pressured Gentiles to “make up their mind,” and either becoming converts to Judaism or leave the community. From Rome’s point of view, the synagogue was doing them a favor by exposing citizens who were dodging their responsibilities as citizens of the state.

This same scenario would also explain Paul’s use of “for the cross of Messiah,” says Hegg. The Messianic Jew and converted Gentile persecution, from a Jewish viewpoint, was caused because they based their covenant status on the work of the Messiah, not on works of the Law. In refusing to undergo the ritual of circumcision, the Gentiles were clinging to Paul’s Gospel, which had as its central pillar the sufficient work of Yeshua in His death upon the cross and His resurrection. Paul himself describes the unbelieving Jews as the “enemies of the Gospel,” [20] by which he most likely means “opponents of my Gospel,” [21] the message of the good news which emphasized the equality of Jew and Gentile in the body of Messiah.[22]

[1] Poole, Matthew: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[2] Colossians 3:12

[3] Romans 12:15

[4] Genesis 4:9

[5] Saba, Avraham: Tzror Hamor, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 114

[6] 2 Corinthians 11:29 – The Living Bible (TLB)

[7] Isaiah 63:9 – New Living Translation (NLT)

[8] 1 Corinthians 12:25

[9] Galatians 6:1

[10] Flavel, John: The Fountain of Life, Sermon 19, Of Christ’s Humiliation in His Life, p. 232

[11] Exodus 23:9

[12] Flavel, John: The Method of Grace – How the Spirit Works, Ch. 9, All Men Invited to Apply Jesus Christ, p. 166

[13] Matthew 10:16

[14] Ibid. 16:24-26

[15] Findlay, George G.: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 424-425

[16] George Barker Stevens: A Short Exposition of the Epistle to the Galatians, 1890, op. cit., pp. 219-220

[17] Cf. Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:11

[18] Cf. Galatians 5:11

[19] Levine, Amy-Jill; Brettler, Marc Z. The Jewish Annotated New Testament, op. cit., p. 637, Kindle Edition

[20] Romans 11:28

[21] Cf. Romans 2:16; 16:25; 2 Timothy 2:8

[22] Hegg, Tim: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 269

About drbob76

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