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 CXLVIII)

6:14 As far as I’m concerned, the only thing I ever want to be proud of is the cross of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. Through that cross, what the world offered died a long time ago, and any interest I had in the world perished along with it.

EXPOSITION

Now Paul turns his finger on himself. The last thing he wanted was for him not to practice what he preached. No matter how many objections his Jewish opponents may have raised, Paul was not bashful in telling them that Christian Jews were the ones who are circumcised,[1] but their circumcision is of the heart.[2] And like them, one day, he was forced to accept the reality that all those ceremonial rites and rituals didn’t do a thing to enhance his salvation. That’s because he decided to follow Jesus the Anointed One. Not only those things but now he thinks that all the world’s expertise is worth nothing compared with the greatness of knowing his Lord Jesus the Anointed One. Because of the Anointed One, he gave up all those things because he now considers them nothing but worthless trash. All he wants now is to know the Anointed One better and better.[3]

Since the Jewish TaNaKh was the only Bible that Paul had to read in his day, I’m sure he drew inspiration from its scriptures that he then applied to Christian living. Perhaps he remembered the wise man Job who faced not only losing everything, even his life, for no apparent reason. Yet, Job refused to turn to any other source of confidence than his Almighty God. So, in his final protest that he was innocent of any wrongdoing, Job said he’d preferred that they tear him apart than face God’s judgment. For if the majesty of God opposes a person, what hope do they have of survival? So, he looked up to God and said, “I have never trusted in riches. I never mentioned pure gold. You are my hope. . . But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will one day stand upon the earth. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body, I will see God!” [4]

It may also be that the sons of Korah the Psalmist were familiar with Job’s words, for, in one of their Psalms, they asked: “Why should I be afraid when trouble comes? There is no need to fear when evil enemies surround me. Others think their wealth will protect them. They brag about how rich they are. But no one has enough to buy back a life, and you cannot bribe God.[5] It was similar to the message God gave to Jeremiah for the children of Israel: “This is what the Lord says: ‘The wise must not brag about their wisdom. The strong men must not brag about their strength. The rich must not brag about their money. But if someone wants to brag, then let them brag about this: Let them boast in this alone: That they truly know Me, and understand that I am the Lord of justice and of righteousness whose love is steadfast; and that I love to be this way.’” [6]

The Galatians found themselves misled into thinking they could trust the Law and obedience of practicing all the rites, rituals, and ceremonies to save them. But Paul showed them in the Gospel that only Jesus the Anointed One can save. They seemed more willing to put their faith in the tablets of stone that Moses brought down off the mountain than trust in the cross on which the Son of God died on the hill of Golgotha. Did they need more evidence to see the error of their ways and the foolishness of their decision to follow these Judaizers than to follow Jesus?

Paul made it clear to the Corinthians that God is not interested in what the world thinks is not essential; that is, what the world despises and thinks is nothing. God did this so that no one can stand before Him and boast about anything they did to save themselves. It is God who made them part of the Anointed One, Jesus. And the Anointed One became for us the wisdom from God. He is the reason we are right with God and pure enough to be in His presence. The Anointed One is the only one who can set us free from sin’s bondage.[7]

Paul says here to the Galatians that what he finds worthy of bragging about is the Cross of our Lord, Jesus the Anointed One. Although the Prophet Isaiah was not fully aware of what the Cross would mean to those seeking salvation, he knew full well that being right with God is only possible based on His strength to deliver. That’s why the prophet said: “In the Lord, all the generations of Israel will be justified, and in Him, they will boast.” [8] No wonder that the Cross was the center of all Paul’s preaching. As he told the Corinthians, he decided that while being there with them, the apostle forget about everything he learned except Jesus the Anointed One and His death on the Cross.[9]

Paul wanted the Galatians to understand that the Cross of the Anointed One served two purposes. The moment Jesus died on the cross on their behalf, the sinful influence of the world hung there with Him. In other words, the way of the world was no longer an option for them; it became a dead thing. Furthermore, they were no longer any good to the world because they too were a dead thing to them. It gave the Apostle Paul the courage to tell the elders from Ephesus when they met at the city of Miletus; he didn’t care anymore about how things were going, knowing that angry Jews were waiting for him in Jerusalem. The most important thing was that he wanted to finish the work that the Lord Jesus gave him to do – to tell people everywhere the Good News about God’s grace.[10] That meant, Paul’s life in this world now was not as meaningful and precious as his life with God was going to be.

So, Paul certainly had every right to tell the Corinthians to stand firm. Don’t let anything change them. Always give themselves entirely to the work of the Lord. There is no wasted time in working for the Master.[11] He also wanted to remind them that the love of the Anointed One is in charge of our being because we know that one person died for everyone. He died for all so that those who have been made alive in the Anointed One would not continue to remain under the devil’s influence. He died for all so that all who survive – having received eternal life from Him – might no longer live for themselves, to please themselves, but to spend their time showing honor and glory to the Anointed One who died and rose again for them.[12]

Paul had a similar message for the Philippians when he told them that he was full of hope and felt sure there was no reason to be ashamed of His Lord and what He did for him. Paul was confident he would continue living and working with the same boldness. To speak unashamedly about the Gospel was Paul’s hallmark. He was willing to let God use his life to bring more honor to the Anointed One than to himself. It didn’t matter whether he lived or died. To him, the only important thing about living is to please the Anointed One. And even death would be for his benefit because he would then be closer to his Lord and Savior as he waited for the resurrection.[13]

And the Apostle didn’t leave out the Colossians. He wants them also to know the Holy Spirit raised him from death with Jesus the Anointed One. So, live for what is in heaven, where the Anointed One is sitting at the right hand of God. Think only about what is up there, not what is down here on earth. Your old self has died, and your new vitality is safe with the Anointed One in union with God.[14] As the wise man, Job once exclaimed: “I was born naked, and I will die naked. The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD will take it away. So may the Name of the LORD be praised!” [15] Wise man Job was not just talking about worldly possessions; he was talking about the blessed life that God gave him. So, as Christians, we can echo what Job said in that God gave us all that we needed to carry on victoriously here on earth, but that will be taken away and replaced with everlasting fellowship with God.

The Apostle Paul acknowledged that his spectacular conversion on the road to Damascus, allowed him to touch the lives of many people. It brought changes to his world never seen before. Therefore, he had every reason to point to his many trophies and the title of “World’s Best New Reformer.” But unlike the Judaizers, Paul saw no purpose in bragging about it because it wasn’t by his talent or influence that this occurred, but by the power and authority of the One who called and ordained him.

For Paul, what counted was the work that the Anointed One did to change the world forever, the One who willingly went to the cross of Calvary on our behalf, who freed us from the obligations under the old Mosaic Law to carry on in victorious salvation.  Paul no longer resided in the sinful world of gratification any longer; he now lived in a new spiritual world as a new creation in Jesus the Anointed One, and everything he does and thinks and feels and experiences is new.

Paul rebuffs the attitude and pride of the Judaizers. He lets the Galatians know his purpose for writing. The apostle wanted to give an account of his missionary labors among them. He took no self-pride in what he did. Paul cared about one thing: To transform the cross of Jesus the Anointed One from being an instrument of torture into a symbol of salvation. Because of that cross, he was able to shake off any lingering interest in pleasing his sinful-self with what the world offered.  But furthermore, the world lost any power it had in tempting him with anything the old sinful-self may desire.

No doubt, this declaration about the cross made some of the Galatian believers shake their heads as they heard it read.  How could anyone look at such a disgusting instrument of torture for criminals and say they feel great in boasting about it?  What more shameful and humiliating way could anyone die than on a despised cross? Wouldn’t Paul have more reason to brag if the Anointed One came down off the cross, proving His divinity and royalty?

Among Romans, whom Paul claimed to be a fellow citizen, even the mention of the word “cross” was profane. To them, it was an instrument of torment meant to bring the worst of criminals to the zenith of pain before dying in disgrace.  They always inferred that it was the product of barbarians, but never gave a reason as to why they adopted it. Nonetheless, in Paul’s mind, the Anointed One’s death on the cross transformed it from the emblem of shame into the epitome of Shekinah glory.

[1] Philippians 3:3

[2] Romans 2:28-29

[3] Philippians 3:7-8

[4] Job 31:24-25; 19:25-26

[5] Psalm 49:5-6

[6] Jeremiah 9:23-24

[7] 1 Corinthians 1:28-30

[8] Isaiah 45:24-25

[9] 1 Corinthians 2:2

[10] Acts of the Apostles 20:24

[11] 1 Corinthians 15:58

[12] 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

[13] Philippians 1:20-21; cf. 3:8-9

[14] Colossians 3:1-3

[15] Job 1:21-22

About drbob76

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