CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER SIX (Lesson CLI)

Aaron Merritt Hills (1847-1935), in referring to Paul’s statement about the world crucified to him and him to the world, mentions that Bishop Charles John Ellicott feels this is a powerful way of expressing the complete cancellation of all communion between the Apostle and the world. Therefore, Paul and the world – all who are opposed to the spiritual reign of the Anointed One – regard each other as dead and gone.

That’s why there’s no surprise awakened by Paul’s declaration that he is made free from the law of (the uniform tendency to) sin and (spiritual) death. The trend toward sin is not only removed, but upward gravitation is substituted. A cork released from the bottom of the sea rises rapidly to the surface, so the soul “risen with the Anointed One,” seeks those things which are above.[1]

Walter F. Adeney (1849-1920), the author of the Expositor’s Bible, lays out a clear outline of the effectiveness and impact of the Cross of the Anointed One. To begin with, he points to the fact that Paul makes the Cross as an object of glorifying. He would glory in nothing else. Forget his birth, education, religious devotion, and accomplishments. They all fade in comparison with the work of the Anointed One on the Cross on his behalf. And this glorying in the Cross begins by looking away from self. Look at it this way: The Cross was a symbol of shame and torture. Yet, because of our Lord’s death and then resurrection, He transformed it into an emblem of liberty and everlasting life. Glorying in the Cross is not something we do as part of some mystical rite or ritual, but an open testimony before the world that we believe in the One who died there on our behalf.

Then Paul sees the Cross as an object of judgment. The Cross does not change its nature in winning its glory. It remains a tool of pain and death. It was that for the Anointed One, and it is no less to the Christian. For Christians, it is not a calm acceptance of what the Anointed One did for their sake; it is being in union with Him, first in His death and then in His victory. The Cross means the end of the world to us. As we look upon the cross, the world loses its hold on us. But the Cross also signifies our departure from worldly pleasures. Joined by faith with the Anointed One, we must put the old self in the grave. That way, the power of the world cannot drag us down to sin and trouble. No person on earth has fully realized it. It must be the aim of the Christian more and more to be one with the Anointed One, that the cross may pass more deeply into our soul till all else melts and fades away.[2]

Scottish theologian James Denny (1856-1917), in responding to what Paul said about seeing nothing else to glory in but the Cross of the Anointed One. That’s why when looking at Paul’s Epistle as a whole from a positive standpoint; we might say that aim of the Epistle to the Galatians is to show that the cross contains Christianity; that the Cross is the procreative principle of everything Christian in the life of the believer. Put negatively, we may say it aims to show that the Law, and mainly, as it happened, the ceremonial-side of the Jewish Law, contributes nothing to that life. Now St. Paul, it might be argued, came to know this experimentally, and independently of any theory. When it dawned on him what the Cross of the Anointed One was when he saw what it signified as a revelation of God and His love, everything else in the universe faded from view.[3]

That’s because the crucified Anointed One is also the highly honored risen Anointed One. Both are essential to the effectiveness of our Lord’s atoning death and His saving resurrection. Nothing approaches pleasing and praising God for what Jesus did on the Cross and by raising Him out of the grave. He triumphed over Sin on the Cross and over Death in the Grave. So, with that kind of power given to us through Him, it should not be such a struggle to become a dead thing to the world, and the world becomes a lifeless thing to every believer. And although we consider ourselves crucified with the Anointed One, yet we are alive to live and serve God, and it’s all because of Him.[4] Paul kept eyeing the Cross and the Anointed One, who turned the Cross from an emblem of shame into a symbol victory.

I like the way J. B. Chapman (1884-1947), general superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene, puts into perspective Paul’s desire to glory only in the Cross of Jesus the Anointed One. Jesus always looked forward to the Cross, says Chapman, because that’s where they would hang Him so He could bring everyone to Him.[5] Therefore, to be gathered closer to Him, we must always look to the Cross. But we don’t view the Cross as Jesus did, as a foreshadowing of things to come that will bring us pain and suffering, but to complete the mission here on earth we have been given. Jesus went to the cross, and it did its worst to Him. But that’s how He was able to attract all sinners to Himself.

So, it is only through the cross that anyone can come to Him. Whatever limitations and hindrances there may be, all have sinned, and His blood gives them the reason to draw near so that their sins may be washed away and removed. No wonder Paul declares here in verse fourteen, that God forbid that he should be proud of anything except the Cross of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One, by whom they cut their ties to the world, and the world lets them go. But when we preach the Cross, we must preach the penalty, as well as the remedy of sin, and from now on, sin becomes the terrible thing that it is.

No one says Chapman, with little knowledge of sin’s venom, ever feels the need of quickly finding a remedy such as only the Cross provides. Those who consider sinning as a simple moral weakness, and think of doing wrong as a small accident, will never think of the Cross as an absolute necessity. But sin is a disease so deep-rooted and so incurable that only the most potent remedy will be sufficient to cleanse it from their system. And when everyone recognizes sin to be the terrible thing that it is, then everyone’s attitude toward the Cross must be that of a full and heartfelt thankfulness. There is no substitute for finding an answer for the things that nailed Jesus to the Cross.[6]

Duncan Heaster researched many Latin manuscripts, including those of Cicero,[7] Seneca the Elder,[8] and Juvenal.[9] In one case, according to Seneca the Elder, a wealthy Roman citizen’s daughter married a slave. They began to degrade her by saying that she had become related to cruciariithe crucified,” which suggests that this slave was a Christian. That’s why among some Romans, the name cruciarii became a figure of speech for “slaves.” They taunted the girl’s father, “If you want to meet your son-in-law’s relatives, go to the cross.” “It is hard for us,” says Heaster, “to appreciate how they viewed slaves as less than human in that society.” And it was all because of their hatred for the cross of the Anointed One.[10] How long would many Christians be able to remain faithful today if such degradation and humiliation were heaped on them every time they went out into the public?

6:15-16 Believe me, getting involved in religious rituals and regulations should not interest you anymore.  What should count is that you are now a new creation. So, those who live according to this simple rule, let them enjoy peace of heart, and may God bless all those who are part of His real Israel with His mercy and peace.

 EXPOSITION

Paul still seems to be stuck on the idea that these once freed Galatian believers would even think of returning to bondage under the Law as slaves instead of remaining free sons and daughters of God. He made it very clear to the Romans that being in union with the Anointed One, Jesus, the death sentence of sin no longer applies to them. Can’t the Galatians see that too? Paul needed to remind the Corinthians, so he told them that when someone becomes a Christian, they become a brand-new person inside. They are not the same anymore. A new life has begun![11]

That’s why Paul kept insisting that they realize being a Jew and circumcised didn’t mean a thing. It doesn’t make any difference at all whether a Christian has gone through this ceremony or not. But it makes a whole lot of difference whether they are pleasing God and keeping God’s commandments. That is the crucial thing.[12] We are now God’s masterpiece. He created us anew in the Anointed One – Jesus, so we can experience the good things He planned for us a long time ago.[13] So start being that new person with a unique nature created to be more like God – genuinely pleasing and holy to Him.[14]

Those Jews listening to Paul talk about becoming a new person with a new name; no doubt they remembered what happened to Isaiah. It’s when he shared God’s message that God chose Jacob to be His servant and the father of twelve tribes. It would be from Judah that the Messiah would come, some will say, “I belong to the Lord;” others will call themselves by the name of Jacob; still others will write on their hand, “I am the Lord’s,” and will take the name Israel.[15] You must look closely to see the message here: Some of Jacob’s descendants will be satisfied to call themselves Jews, while others will call themselves Israelites. Those who call themselves Israelites are part of spiritual Israel because they made it clear that they belong to the Lord.  Now Paul says to the Galatians, you’re already a part of spiritual Israel, why do you want to forfeit that to become a part of the Jews?

Here’s how Paul put it to the Colossians: You are living a brand-new kind of life that is continually learning more and more of what is right, and continuously trying to be more and more like the Anointed One who created this new life within you. In this new life, one’s nationality or race or education or social position is unimportant; such things mean nothing. What matters is whether a person becomes unified with the Anointed One. He is equally available to all who seek Him.[16] [17]

[1] Hills, Aaron M.: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 87

[2] Pulpit Commentary: op. cit., Galatians, Homiletics, Walter F. Adeney, p. 342

[3] Denny, James: The Death of Christ, op. cit., Ch. 3, p.105

[4] Clark, George Whitefield: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 124-125

[5] John 12:32

[6] Chapman, J. B.: Devotional #27, The Cross is the Climax pp. 50-51

[7] Cicero on “The offence of the Cross

[8] Seneca the Elder in Controversiae

[9] Juvenal in his Sixth Satire

[10] Heaster, Duncan: On Galatians, op. cit., Kindle Location 1821

[11] 2 Corinthians 5:17

[12] 1 Corinthians 7:19

[13] Ephesians 2:10

[14] Ibid. 4:24

[15] Isaiah 44:5

[16] See Deuteronomy 4:29; Proverbs 8:17; Jeremiah 29:13; Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9; Acts of the Apostles 17:24-28

[17] Colossians 3:10-11

About drbob76

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