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 CL)

There may be many ways and different means, says Hilton, that lead a person to think profoundly about their faith. They also come from various backgrounds, cultures, with both religious or secular upbringings. Nevertheless, they must all enter through the same gate, because there is only one. A person may feel drawn to that Gate of Contemplation by realizing their worthlessness unless they finally let go of the world and its worldliness. But they cannot hide their feelings in the darkness of failure to declare their love for the vanities of secular society. If they continue attaching themselves to such frivolous things, there is no way they will be free enough to come into union with God through the Anointed One.[1] As we can see through Hilton’s words,[2] by the year 1300 AD, the Church of England had already moved in the direction of a certain amount of humanism whereby a person can contribute as much to their sanctification as the Holy Spirit.

At the beginning of verse fourteen, Cornelius á Lapide suggests that the word “But” is an antithesis that marks a contrast between the glory the Judaizers see in circumcision and the beauty Paul sees in the Cross. The Cross stands on its own to share all the redemptive benefits it gives. In the Cross, we can see the height of humanity’s sin and the depth of God’s love.[3]

Martin Luther ends this portion with a stirring sermon. He writes concerning Paul’s glory in the cross by noting that he and other Protestants, with their pride of freedom from the Vatican, are persecuted by the whole world trying to kill them. We know that we suffer these things, says Luther, not because we are thieves and murderers, but for the Anointed One’s sake whose Gospel we proclaim. We have no reason to complain.

The world, of course, looks on us as unhappy and doomed creatures, but the Anointed One, for whose sake we suffer, pronounces us blessed and bids us rejoice. “Blessed are you,” says He, “when people disrespect you and persecute you, and say all manner of evil things against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad.” [4] By the “Cross of the Anointed One,” it should not be understood two pieces of wood nailed together. Instead, it implies all the hardships of the believers whose sufferings the Anointed One suffers with them. Elsewhere Paul writes: “Who now rejoices in my sufferings for you, and add to any hardships I still haven’t suffered in my body for the sake of the Anointed One – which are the assemblies of believers.” [5] [6]

Roman Catholic Jesuit priest Cornelius á Lapide (1567-1637) feels that those who Paul refers to as having been overtaken by a fault and needed correction and reconciliation were those who fell for the Judaizer’s false doctrine. He agrees with Jerome that by turning from the Anointed One and embracing Judaism, they sinned. So instead of seeking retribution, the still faithful and believing Galatians should try to correct those the Judaizers misled in brotherly love.

Lapide sees in the book of Romans a parallel passage where it also describes a person overtaken in a fault described as “weak in faith.[7] [8] I find this assumption somewhat out of harmony with Paul’s closing chapter. When we go back and read chapter five, this would not be a logical way to end the discussion on the need for the fruit of the reborn spirit as opposed to the works of the flesh. Primarily the ones Paul lists there.

William Law (1686-1761) sees the Christian’s great conquest over the world is all contained in the revealed mystery of the Anointed One on the Cross. It was there, and from there, He taught Christians how they were to come out of and conquer the world, and what they were to do to be His disciples. All the doctrines, ordinances, and institutions of the Gospel contribute new expositions of the meaning, and applications of the benefit, of this great mystery. And the state of Christianity implies nothing else, but entire, absolute conformity to that same spirit Christ showed in the mysterious Sacrifice of Himself upon the Cross.

Law says that every believer is only a Christian if they adopt the mindset of the Anointed One. It was this that made Paul so passionately express himself, “God forbid that I glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One.” But why does he glory? Is it because the Anointed One suffered on his behalf to excuse him from suffering? No, by no means! It was because his Christian profession gave him the honor of suffering along with Christ, and of dying to the world under reproach and contempt, as He did on the Cross. For he immediately adds, “I and the world became crucified to each other.” [9] We can now see the reason for his glory in the Cross of the Anointed One. It was because it called him to a similar state of death and crucifixion to the world.[10]

Adam Clarke (1760-1832) explains how he sees Paul’s view here on self-glory. The Apostle emphatically denies he entertained any thought of taking credit for his success – God forbid that I glory. Whatever others may do, or whatever they may rejoice or glory in, God help me if I celebrate in anything other than the cross of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One, says Paul. It’s all part of the great doctrine that justification and salvation are only through the Anointed One crucified. He thereby made an atonement for the sin of the world by His passion and death. And I glory, also, in the disgrace and persecution which I experience through my attachment to this crucified Messiah.

And because of that, Paul goes on: The world is crucified. In other words, Jewish rites and Gentile rituals are equally flavorless to me; I know them to be empty and worthless. I’m aware that the Jews and Gentiles despise me. It’s because they know I reject the grounds on which they base their salvation. In my case, through Jesus, I crucified all of those things they trust in – their objects of dependence are despicable and deplorable to me. I know they feel the same way about me, for both them and me, these things are very, very important.[11]

But I like what Methodist Holiness Movement Bible Scholar and theologian Daniel Steele (1824-1914) had to say about being crucified with Christ. In the desire to mature, it requires an earlier full surrender, which, in the strong language of Paul, is crucifixion with Christ. The difficulty with average Christians is that they faint beneath their cross on the via Dolorosa, the way of grief, and never reach their own Calvary. They are not clothed with strength by faith for the hour when they must nail them to the cross. That’s why Jesus carried the cross for them.

They shrink from the torturing spikes through their hands and feet, says Steele, and from the spear aimed at the heart of their old self-life. It indicates their weakness of faith. But when the promise of their salvation is in the grip of a giant slayer, no terrors, no agonies, can frighten away the soul. It gives confidence that following the crucifixion comes a glorious resurrection to spiritual life. Therefore, the believer yields their hand to the nail and their head to the crown of thorns.

That’s when, says Steele, the granite core of the personality, is the will, which up to this hour stood steadfast in resistance to the complete will of God, experiences a sudden flow, a molten stream under the furnace blast of divine love, melted into oneness with “the sweet will of God.” After such a death, there is always a resurrection. Sometimes hours or even days may take place before the angels descend and roll away the stone from the tomb of the crucified soul, and the pulse of a new and blissful life pulsates throughout every fiber and atom of their being. It is not the old life that rises, but a new life breathed into us by the Holy Spirit. “After being crucified with the Anointed One, it is no longer I that lives, but the Anointed One in me.” In other words, I am dead to sin and alive to God through Jesus the Anointed One.” [12]

George Whitefield Clark (1831-1911) looks at what Paul said here in verse fourteen about holding the highest honor the Cross of the Anointed One. Clark makes a note that the Judaizer’s giving tribute to their accomplishments was offensive to Paul. Meanwhile, Paul giving such great honor to the Cross of Jesus was considered obscene to them. So, Paul’s statement that God forbid that he would choose anything other than the Cross to so highly honor was a sharp rebuke to the Judaizers for their choice. What upset the Judaizers even more than Paul’s giving such high esteem to the Cross was because of the sacrificial crucifixion of the Anointed One. What made them angry was when he identified this Jesus the Anointed One as their Messiah. Says Clark, that’s why the Savior’s full title should always be, Our Lord Jesus the Anointed One.

Edward Huxtable (1833-1893) points out that among all the truths Paul is sharing with the Galatians, there is one group that might appear as not being that interesting. That was how the Apostle’s heart and conscience finally found relief. In his earlier days as a Pharisee, he experienced the burden and the soreness of the benumbing effect of daily working hard to fulfill the Law, both on a ceremonial level and the law-filling level, right down to keeping each letter. Nevertheless, the Cross released him from the guilt and servitude of sin, also from all the worry and distress of bondage to religious requirements. And this group of truths, as well as those relating to man’s reconciliation with God, he felt it to be his special mission to boldly and honestly proclaim to both Jews and Gentiles.

Paul’s fierce protest against the Judaizers and their Law and his rejoicing in the Cross of the Anointed One was sure to ignite a fresh awakening to the slumbering sympathy with those feelings which probably, to some degree, once animated his Galatian converts. It motivated Paul to write the words, “the Cross of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One,” instead of, “the cross of my Lord.” Here he was speaking to all the Galatian assemblies of believers, not in the same case that seemed natural to him when he said to the Philippians, “for the excellency of the knowledge of the Anointed One, Jesus my Lord.” [13] This plural pronoun “our” gives a hint to the Galatians that they have as much reason as Paul to glory in the Cross as redeeming God’s people alike from sin and the Law.[14]

[1] Hilton, Tim: The Scale of perfection, Second Book, Part 2, pp. 161-162

[2] Hilton studied at the University of Cambridge before becoming a hermit and later joined the Augustinians at Thurgarton Priory, where he remained for the rest of his life.

[3] À Lapide, Cornelius: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 340

[4] Matthew 5:11-12

[5] Colossians 1:24

[6] Luther, Martin: Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

[7] Romans 14:1

[8] À Lapide, Cornelius: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 328

[9] Galatians 6:14

[10] Law, William: A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, op. cit., Ch. 17, p. 206

[11] Clarke, Adam, op. cit., loc. cit.

[12] Steele, Daniel: St. Paul Crucified with Christ, Ch. 10

[13] Philippians 3:8

[14] Pulpit Commentary: op. cit., Galatians, Exposition, Edward Huxtable, p. 310

About drbob76

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