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 CLIII)

As a new creation in the Anointed One, it affects all human faculties once under the control of the old nature. The heart, the soul, the mind, and even the body are affected. The individual sees with fresh light and starts living a different life, discovering a unique kind of love, customed desires, unique joy, marvelous comforts, and a brand-new purpose for living.  Did Paul regret the crucifixion of his old nature with the Anointed One? Categorically not! The old-self died and resurrected as the new-self by the Holy Spirit. All born again, new creations, begin living this new life and walking on the new way, singing new songs, drinking new wine, speaking with new tongues, and calls God by a new name – Abba Father. They look forward to a new body in the resurrection, new heaven, new earth, and new Jerusalem. The Apostle Paul wrote the Roman believers telling them that “When submerged in water baptism, it is like being buried with the Anointed One. Just as the Father raised the Anointed One by His glorious power, we also rise to live new lives.”[1]

Possibly with a little touch of sadness, Paul brings his letter to a close.  Having started his Epistle with grace and peace, he now concludes it with peace and mercy. New creatures who make it their daily rule and goal to live for the Anointed One, it is an unspeakable joy and full of glory.[2] Furthermore, Paul offers this same blessing on all those who, while Jewish by birth, was now Christian by the new birth. God’s promise to Abraham, what Paul spoke of earlier now extends to those heirs he calls the “New Israel,” God’s children through the obedience of the Anointed One on the cross. You can sense Paul’s urging them to give up their daily standard and goal in life of earning salvation through their efforts. He wants them to accept the new standard and goal of letting the works of the Anointed One take care of their salvation, and get on with living free and filled with joy for the Lord Jesus the Anointed One.

6:17 So, from now on, I don’t want anyone to bother me with these matters again. I have the scars in my body to show what total dedication to Jesus means.

EXPOSITION

Paul was keenly aware that these Judaizers did not come to Galatia to harmonize their interpretation of the Gospel and his. They were simply troublemakers. The Jerusalem Council established this fact in their letter to Gentile believers everywhere.[3] The writer of Hebrews puts it another way: “Be careful that no one fails to get God’s grace. Be mindful that no one loses their faith and becomes like a bitter weed growing among you. Someone like that can ruin your whole group.”[4]

COMMENTARY

Puritan scholar John Trapp is struck by what Paul says about bearing the scars of honor in his body for his Lord and Savior Jesus the Anointed One. Paul was very open about the times he was whipped, imprisoned, stoned, and so on. With these scars, Paul was able to better boast of his loyalty to the Cross than those false apostles with their circumcision. Furthermore, never did he appeared to refused to take what his opponents threw at him, all in honor of the cross of the Anointed One. Trapp goes on to tell that in the year 1166, a Roman Catholic Synod was held at Oxford during the reign of King Henry II. They banished thirty Dutch Catholic theologians (teaching the correct use of marriage and the sacraments) after they branded them with hot irons like cattle.[5]

John Clark of Melden, a city in France ten miles from Paris, was apprehended and taken into custody in 1523 for posting on the church door a thesis against the pope’s recent pardons sent from Rome. In the argument, he called the pope the antichrist. The King sentenced him to whippings three days in a row, and afterward, a mark imprinted on his forehead, as a note of infamy. His mother, a Christian lady, watched as her son’s cruel whippings disgracefully deformed in his face. She continuously and boldly encouraged her son, crying out with a loud voice, “Blessed be the Anointed One! and welcomed are His bruises and scars!” But that didn’t stop John Clark. In 1554 he went to Mentz, France in Lorraine province, he demolished some images, for which his right hand and nose were cut off, and his arms and chest ripped with pincers.[6] He sustained these cruelties with incredible courage, and was even sufficiently calm enough to sing Psalm 115, which expressly forbids idolatry; after which they threw him into the fire and was burnt to ashes.[7] [8]

Bible scholar John Gill informs us that Latin writer Publius Renatus wrote of a similar practice of marks on the body in his books on military matters.[9] Here is what Renatus wrote: “Do not tattoo the selected recruit with the pin-pricks of the official mark. First, thoroughly test them with exercises to find out if he is truly fitted for so much effort. Both mobility and strength are expected and required of him, and whether he can learn the discipline of arms, whether he has the self-confidence of a soldier. For very many, though they seem not unacceptable in appearance, are yet found unsuitable in training. Therefore, reject the less useful ones, and in their place, substitute the most energetic. For in any conflict, it is not the numbers that pay off, but the bravery. So, once you tattoo recruits, the science of arms should be shown them in daily training. But neglect due to long years of peace has destroyed the tradition of this subject. Whom can you find able to teach what he has not learned?[10]

Alvah Hovey (1820-1903) held positions of high esteem at Dartmouth College and Newton Theological Institution, including Professor of Church History, Professor of Christian Theology, and Assistant Instructor in Hebrew. He reacts to Paul, requesting that no one bother him anymore because he has enough evidence to prove that he is a genuine Apostle. He doesn’t want to hear any more skepticism about his apostolic authority and claiming that he is misinterpreting his Gospel message. For Hovey, we can render Paul’s words to read: “Henceforth let no one prepare for me heavy labors or troubles.” In other words, he had enough to deal with because of what was happening in Galatia; he didn’t need continually to be defending his ministry or his message.

Paul often felt burdened, says Hovey, caring for all the churches. Especially those torn apart by infighting and factions. The danger of their being led away from the truth was real. Such conditions imposed heavy responsibilities on him and filled his spirit with anxiety, which would have been unbearable if it wasn’t for the strength which the Anointed One imparted to him.[11] Wasn’t it enough that he already suffered through beatings, shipwrecks, hunger, cold, and imprisonment. The pronoun “I” is emphatic, implying that this was not true of Judaizing teachers who impeached his authority and attempted to declare his work as worthless. Hovey quotes Charles J. Ellicott, who rendered it: “The marks attested who the Apostle’s Master was.” And J. B. Phillips translates it as “Jesus is my Master, my Protector. I carry His branding stamped on my body. I bear this badge of honorable service.”[12] [13]

Paul also let the believers in Corinth know that they did not go through their hardships alone because of their faith. He included himself in the group of sufferers.[14] Then Paul systematically outlines all the troubles and difficulties that the Apostles experienced just to get the Gospel out to as many as possible.[15] And he told the Colossians that he was happy in his sufferings for them. There is much that the Anointed One must still suffer through His body. And he gladly accepts his part of those sufferings in his body for the good of the Lord’s body – the assembly of believers.[16] So it might be possible that Paul saw these marks in the Roman soldiers he met and used it as a metaphor for the marks that branded him a believer in Jesus the Anointed One; the greatest of warriors; the One who won the victory over sin, death, hell, and the grave.

I attended a Missions Conference in Manila, Philippines, where several speakers were scheduled, including yours truly. Many of us entered the ministry and had served God for a good number of years. Yet, when the conference was over, there was one speaker that had the admiration and reverence of everyone there. He was a pastor from China. He had recently been released from prison and told his story of beatings, interrogation, threats. One of his main chores, chosen by the communist prison warden specifically because this precious servant of God was a Christian, was to wade into the open human waste pool to clean out clumps of paper and other material objects. When they led him to this cesspool, as he waded in he began to sing, “And He walks with me and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known
.”[17] We all had goosebumps and tears in our eyes. I told the crowd that we had just heard from a man who reminded me of the Apostle Paul.


[1] Romans 6:4

[2] 1 Peter 1:8

[3] Acts of the Apostles 15:22-29

[4] Hebrews 12:15

[5] Johann Heinrich Alsted (1588-1638):  Chronicles

[6] Pincers are a hand tool used in many situations where a mechanical advantage is required to pinch, cut or pull out an object.

[7] Foxes Book of Martyrs: Ch. 1, p. 91

[8] Trapp, John: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 588

[9] John Gill: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 180, (See footnote 123)

[10] Vegetius: Epitome of Military Science, Second Revised Edition, Trans. N. P. Milner, Liverpool University Press, 1993, Bk. I, Ch. 8, Recruitment and Training, p. 9

[11] Philippians 4:13

[12] See John 15:20; 16:2; 2 Timothy 3:12; 2 Corinthians 4:10; 11:23

[13] Hovey, Alvah: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 78

[14] 2 Corinthians 1:5

[15] Ibid. 11:23-25

[16] Colossians 1:24

[17] I Come to the Garden Alone, by C. Austin Miles (1913)

About drbob76

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