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 CLIV)

6:18 So, my brothers and sisters, I pray that you will sense in your spirit that what I have written was inspired by the grace of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One.  Amen.

EXPOSITION

Now Paul pens his benediction to this heartbreaking yet hopeful letter to the Galatian assemblies of believers. In his blessing to the Romans, Paul wrote: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.[1] And to the Corinthians, he wrote: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One be with you all. May God’s love and the Holy Spirit’s friendship be yours.[2] Then to his young protégé, Timothy, he penned: “May the Lord be with your spirit. And may His grace be with all of you.”[3] Even the Apostle John closed his Revelation with a similar benediction: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.”[4]

Furthermore, if anyone doubted his allegiance to the Anointed One, Paul offered as evidence of his commitment and dedication to the “wounds” he suffered in defense of the Gospel. Paul references a well-known custom practiced in his day where owners used a nail, knife, or needle, including a branding iron, in stamping their name on the slave’s body. In the old west of the USA, they used a hot branding iron on the owner’s cattle to identify them as his property. There is no reason to believe Paul indicates that Jesus requires the branding of all His believers with the cross on their forehead or arm.

What Paul referred to were the marks of his beatings, jailing’s, and persecutions he endured in honor of his Savior Jesus the Anointed One. Was Paul self-aggrandizing? No! How could his marks supersede the wounds in Jesus’ brow, face, hands, side, back, and feet? Did he want to show these scars to God to receive special commendation or favor? No! No! Instead, they were marks he gladly bore to prove to lost humanity that he was serious about being an Apostle for the One who called him.

COMMENTARY

German Calvinist theologian Johann P. Lange (1802-1884) says that Paul, in this last section (verses 11-18), is directing his strong warning to the Judaistic teachers, and issues what he calls, in Latin, a striking mutationes mutatum [5] to the entire congregations in the assemblies. So, Paul shows that he is still in charge. Keeping the ceremonial laws are one thing, but keeping the whole Law is impossible. So why lay on the Galatian’s such burden? There is a different principle, and it is called the Law of the Anointed One – the Law of Love. It doesn’t require much toil and effort to believe in the Anointed One and do what He says than trying to live up to the level of the Law to obtain salvation.

And the bridge between the Law of Moses and the Law of the Anointed One is the “Cross.” Paul says, where we crucify the world to ourselves and ourselves to the world. The believer then becomes a dead person to the Law. That makes the Cross the “touchstone[6] of true Christianity, says Lange. Interestingly, Lange would use the term “touchstone” to describe the Cross. So, Christians whose hearts and minds do not bear the marks of the Cross are not genuine. All believers want such an assurance to bear witness that they are right with God and been given salvation from eternal punishment. So, who wants to be guided by anything except the Cross? Why would anyone choose another champion than the Anointed One who died on the cross on their behalf? Why depend on a Law that only condemns and does not forgive?[7]

If you are wondering what happened to the believers in Galatia after Paul wrote this letter, we find out that he secured mission offerings for them from the church in Corinth. But perhaps the two letters written by Peter, the man Paul confronted for being a hypocrite, will give you a better idea. Although Bible scholars differ on the dates, the consensus is that Peter’s letters to the Galatians came some 15 to 20 years after Paul’s Epistle.

Grant Osborne states that, like the Galatians, we must become effectively and thoroughly familiar with theological truth in our doctrines and be able to recognize when people are straying. For how long would it take a heretic with charisma and command of Scripture to lead your church astray? How many within your congregation would be aware and concerned enough to recognize and combat the false teaching? That’s why we must be committed to the cross and justification by faith. Self-righteous works keep sneaking to the forefront in too many churches. It’s a response replacing the Gospel with good works and doing away with evangelism in favor of social concerns. But these external issues must never be allowed to supplant the internal reality of faith in Christ as the core of everything we are and do. We are all sinners saved only by faith in the Christ who went to the cross and carried our sins on our behalf.

So, says Osborne, our purpose is simple and yet profound: We are to keep the cross central and maintain a lifestyle that is “crucified to the world – that considers itself dead to the world’s values and goals. We are part of a “new creation,” no longer pursuing self-centered goals and sacrificing eternal realities for the fleeting pleasures of this life. We seek a balanced life, enjoying the world in which God has placed us while centering on God, the Giver. Our goal is to live for God’s mercy and within God’s peace.[8] We are not to withdraw from the world into some self-made monastery or convent. We are to brush elbows every day with worldly people. But we must never accept their goals and purpose for living as being for ourselves only, with an occasional act of goodwill. Our selfishness must become selflessness on behalf of our Lord and Savior and His kingdom. 

One of the stories I loved to hear my father tell, that I later used many times to close a sermon on the cross, involved a fire that broke out in an old apartment building on the rundown side of town. By the time the firefighters arrived, the building was aflame with vast plumes of black smoke billowing through the roof and flowing out the windows. The heat was so intense that the gathering crowd had to stand far away from the growing inferno.

Suddenly the fireman heard the crowd began yelling and pointing to a window on the top floor at the far-left corner of the building. There they saw a small boy frantically waving for help as he coughed and choked on the smoke and fumes that surrounded him. The fire trucks in those days did not come as well equipped as today, so when the firefighters tried to rescue the boy, their ladder was not long enough to reach him, and they were unable to persuade him to jump. People in the crowd began to cry as they saw the flames getting closer and closer to the horrified young man.

Abruptly, a man ran out of the crowd. He raced to the corner of the structure, where a cast iron drain pipe ran down the side of the building. It passed very close to the window where the terrified lad quivered in fear. Quickly the man began to scale the building holding onto the pipe, which by now was extremely hot. The people could see the man grabbing and letting go of the conduit quickly because it was burning his hands. Nevertheless, he finally reached the boy, grabbed him with one arm, hoisting him onto his back, and then with the boy holding on for dear life, the man repelled down the pipe just in time as the roof collapsed.  The crowd gave him a heroic cheer that seemed to last forever.

Later, city officials discovered that the boy’s parents perished in the fire, and could locate no other family members. So, a judge decided to hold a custody hearing where couples could present their credentials and bid to become the new parents of this little chap. When the proceedings started, several couples spoke of their desire to take the boy in and raise him with love and care.  One such pair involved a man who was a banker and his wife, a school teacher. They struck the judge as being the sincerest, and certainly financially able, to give the boy a good upbringing, and would be the perfect couple.

However, before announcing his decision, he asked if there was anyone else in the courtroom who desired to offer anything that might persuade him to consider them. After a short pause, a man way in the back slowly stood up and said, “Yes, your honor, I’d like to be considered.” “And what do you have to offer that could persuade me to give the boy to you?” the judge asked. “This is all I have your honor,” and with that, he raised his hands to show the scars of the burns he suffered as he climbed the drainpipe to save the boy’s life.

A hush settled over the courtroom as the judge looked at the man who seemed to have very little that pointed to signs of wealth or education. The judge sat there for a moment as everyone held their breath, and the affluent couple looked at the floor while wringing their hands. Finally, the judge spoke, “Of all the evidence I’ve seen, the man with the scars on his hands is the one with the greatest proof that he will love this boy and give him a good upbringing.

Whenever I used this illustration, I would ask the audience to imagine a scene where Satan roamed the earth[9] seeking whom he may devour.[10] As they stood before the divine judgment seat, God asks, “Is there anyone here who can give me any reason why I should save this person from the devil’s claws?  As angels look at one another in silence, and archangels bow their heads, suddenly a man at God’s right-hand steps forward and replies, “I will.” “And what do you have to show Me that will convince Me that you will love, protect, and take care of this person?” Without hesitation, Jesus spreads out His arms so God can see the nail scars in His hands. I can hear our heavenly Father exclaim with a tear of joy in His eye, “They are yours!” To some extent, this is the picture Paul wanted the Galatians to see.

THE END


[1] Romans 16:20 – New Living Translation (NLT)

[2] 2 Corinthians 13:14 – (NLT)

[3] 2 Timothy 4:22 – (NLT)

[4] Revelation 22:21

[5] Mutationes mutatum is a Medieval Latin phrase meaning “make changes that need to be changed” or “once the necessary changes are made.”

[6] A touchstone was a black siliceous stone related to flint and formerly used to test the purity of gold and silver by the streak left on the stone when rubbed by the metal. As such, it was used to test for determining the quality or genuineness of a thing.

[7] Lange, Johann P.: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 159-160

[8] Osborne, G. R. On Galatians: Verse by Verse, op. cit., pp. 220–221

[9] Job 1:17

[10] Cf. 1 Peter 5:8

About drbob76

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