CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson I)

2:1  It took another fourteen years before I returned to Jerusalem, and this time I took Barnabas and Titus along with me.

Paul now moves on with his story as to why he’s claiming the right, as well as the blessing, of the original Apostles to teach and preach the Gospel the Anointed One revealed to him. Since his conversion to Christianity marked the starting point for his time reference; the fourteen years he speaks of here began at that point. What did he do during those years? A quick review of his journeys listed in the Book of Acts tells us.1 But his main point to the Galatians was that he stayed in contact with the leaders in Jerusalem and is very mindful and respectful of their Ecclesiastical authority.

Luke records this journey to Jerusalem by Paul and tells us it all started with an argument. Paul and Barnabas returned to the congregation in Antioch from their first missionary journey. And while they were there, some questionable so-called apostles came over from Judea and started telling them and the congregation members that they needed to add circumcision and other practiced rites and rituals of the Jewish faith to their Christian faith, if they wanted to be absolutely certain of their salvation.

But Paul and Barnabas got into a debate and argued with them. That didn’t seem to settle the matter, however, so the congregation in Antioch decided to send Paul and Barnabas, and some others, up to Jerusalem to report this to the Council. Along the way, they stopped and visited the churches in Phoenicia and Samaria, and told them how many Gentiles on the mission field were turning to God. This made the members of these congregations very glad and they rejoiced in the Lord.2

The associates Paul chose to take with him to Jerusalem were emblematic of his ministry. Barnabas, a Cypriot Jewish Levite, one who vouched for Paul before the Council in Jerusalem when Paul returned from Damascus3, and Titus, a non-Jew living in Antioch and one of his first converts. What better way to prove his ministry being effective both among the Jews and non-Jews than to bring witnesses to show that in a part of the world no other Apostles ever visited, heathens were being won to Christ through Paul’s preaching of the Gospel.

Early church scholar Irenaeus wrote that Paul went to Jerusalem to meet with the Apostle in response to their request. Apparently, the Jewish legalistic contingent of the congregation in Jerusalem were all upset that no one confronted and questioned this rebel Apostle formerly named, Saul of Tarsus, asking him to explain who gave him the authority to excuse the Gentile Christians from being circumcised before they were baptized. Paul feels that this information proved important enough not only to share with the congregations of believers in Galatia but also hoping that the converted Pharisee troublemakers might also see the light.

That’s why Paul did not hesitate to include this story in his letter to them in the opening verse of this second chapter. But it was in Jerusalem that something else happened that Paul wanted the Galatians to know about, so he told them, “We refused to yield for a single instant to their claims; we were determined that the truth of the Gospel should hold steady for you.1 However, Irenaeus may have uncovered some information passed down by the Apostles that Paul did not include here. He tells that Paul and his entourage admitted that “for about an hour they did take time to receive advice.”5

Early church writer Ambrosiaster points out that Paul found himself dealing with a reputation that preceded him no matter where he went, especially among Jews who never met him. This allowed the possibility of a false impression being created in their minds. And in Galatia, the added pressure of explaining how his Gospel matched that of the Apostles in Jerusalem needed to be explained. No doubt, many of those in the synagogues in Galatia were suspicious when their neighbor to the southeast by the name of Saul of Tarsus, planned to come their way. So Paul is taking as much space as needed in his letter to remind them that all of their fears dissipated when he got there because they found out he was the real thing. Now, unfortunately, some reputation assassins still embarked on attacking Paul’s message as well as the messenger.

Ambrosiaster is convinced that Paul insisted on a private meeting with the Apostles for them to realize that he did not go around propagating some new version of the Gospel, that is to say, that they wouldn’t think he knowingly or unknowingly developed an error in his interpretation,6 as quite a few of the Jewish believers imagined.7 The ultimate goal remained that any hesitation or suspicion on the part of his brothers or fellow Apostles might be removed and the Gentile believers would be reassured that Paul’s Gospel proved to be the same as that of the other Apostles, especially after they decreed that Gentile believers would not be bothered as long as they kept the law by refraining from fornication and idolatry.

Early church commentator, Bruno the Carthusian, felt that Paul recalled this event to correct any misgivings the Galatians harbored after his departure. He goes on to explain that Paul’s intentions were to dismiss any of his opponents’ claims that he concealed the real truth when he preached to the Gentiles. Paul wanted them to know that he preached the authentic Gospel among the Gentiles. Nor did he at any time keep the true Word under wraps. In fact, he conferred with the Council in Jerusalem publicly.8

The reason Paul emphasized this visit showed his critics that if the leaders in Jerusalem found any reason to oppose his ministry, they would have made it known as soon as possible to everyone. But just the opposite happened; they agreed that the Anointed One chose Paul specifically to preach the Gospel among the Gentiles. So little by little, Paul is tearing down the Judaizers’ arguments against his authority; he refutes their claim that he’s an independent maverick organizer of a new Jesus Movement and never given the right hand of fellowship by the original disciples.

Thomas Aquinas sees Paul making a series of important points for the Galatians, so as to assure them that the Gospel he brought them was genuine. The first thing he does is to show that the other Apostles approved of his teaching. This is what allowed him to rebuke the Judaizers who opposed his Gospel. The second thing involved showing how he scheduled a private session with the top Apostles. Not only did they gladly receive him, but they approved of what he did there in Galatia. And the third thing his visit accomplished, concerned those who came to oppose him did not succeed. In fact, the other Apostles accepted Paul’s view as part of their Gospel.9

Reformist Martin Luther sees a similarity between what Paul experienced with the Jews and what he observed in trying to get Roman Catholics to convert to his way of understanding the Bible. Just like the Jews who were brought up in the Law of Moses and the traditions that were embedded in Judaism, so Roman Catholics were prone to cling to their teachings and their traditions. After all, do not both Jews and Catholics believe that what they received came from God? Jews believe that it came through Moses and the Prophets, while Roman Catholics believe that it came through the Apostles to the Pope and then to the Church.

So Luther understood how impossible it proved for recent converts from Judaism to suddenly break with the Law and Tradition. However, God showed the same patience with them that He had with the infirmity of Israel when the people switched back and forth between two religions. In addition, didn’t God show patience with us while we remained blindfolded by our religion and traditions? But God is patient and full of mercy. But once the Jews learned the truth, they did not dare abuse the patience of the Lord. Same is true of those who continue in error once the truth of the Gospel is revealed to them. How long will they continue to test God’s merciful patience?10

Matthew Henry (1662-1714) feels that he can see a pattern here in why Paul picked the two companions he did to go up with him to Jerusalem to inform Peter, James, John, and the Council there about their missionary ministry to the Gentiles. For Henry, he says that we have a clear reason why Barnabas went along with Paul for he was chosen by the Christians at Antioch to be his companion and associate for this particular effort. But, as it does not appear that Titus was put into the same commission with him, so the chief reason of his taking him along with him seems to have been to let those at Jerusalem see that he was neither ashamed nor afraid to own the doctrine which he constantly preached in his evangelistic endeavors among the Jews and Gentiles.

In other words, Paul brought Titus along so he could testify that salvation without circumcision works. For although Titus became not only a convert to the Christian faith, but a preacher, and later a Bishop, of it as well, yet he was by birth a Gentile and uncircumcised, and, therefore, by making him his companion, it appeared that their doctrine and practice were cut from the same piece of the same cloth, and that as he preached that circumcision and observing the Law of Moses were unnecessary, so Paul presented through Titus the evidence that his message worked for the salvation of all who heard.11

Luke does not mention who went with Paul besides Barnabas, but here Paul tells us that one of them was Titus. William Ramsay suggests that Titus was Luke’s little brother, that’s why Luke never mentions him in Acts of the Apostles.12 As far as Barnabas is concerned. Luke gives us a little background on this young man. He attended the prayer group in Jerusalem that prayed for Peter and John when they were kicked out of the Temple and then forbidden to speak about this Jesus anymore.13 But Peter and John stood steadfast and refused to stop preaching Jesus as the Messiah. When they reported this to the congregation there in Jerusalem, everyone rejoiced in what happened.

1 Acts of the Apostles 13-21

2 Ibid 15:1-3

3 See Acts 9:27

4 See Galatians 2:5 – A New Testament Translation by James Moffatt

5 The Ante-Nicene Fathers: A. Roberts & J. Donaldson Eds., Vol. 1, Irenaeus Against Heresies, Bk. 3, Ch. 13, pp. 868-869, AGES Library, 1997

6 The Latin term used here is “vacuum”, which means developing into “emptiness” or “futility.”

7 Ambrosiaster: Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

8 Bruno the Carthusian, Letter to the Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

9 Thomas Aquinas: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.,

10 Martin Luther: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 28

11 Matthew Henry: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

12 Ramsay, William: St Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen (Illustrated), 1895, Kindle Location 910-913

13 Acts of the Apostles 4:1-23

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POINTS TO PONDER

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Harvey Mackay is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers. Toastmasters International named him one of the top five speakers in the world. In one of his motivational presentations, he said: “Do what you love, love what you do, and deliver more than you promise.”

Nicole Bradley-Bernard is quoted as saying that your word is more valuable than anything else. We should always remind ourselves about the importance of promises (and of keeping them). Life is always changing and evolving. This includes everything from the things in our daily lives to our emotions. All of these things make some commitments hard to keep. The proof that sticking to your word can sometimes be hard, is deep-rooted in our society. New Year’s resolutions are only followed through the first week of January and nearly every person has experienced the feeling of betrayal from a broken promise, and have often been responsible for causing that feeling for someone else.

She points us to several quotes that we ought to keep in mind. For instance, “Don’t make a promise you don’t intend to keep.” Another thing is not to make a good promise when you are happy and don’t promise revenge when you are angry and do not make a regrettable promise when you are sad. Furthermore, the most important person to keep your promise to is God, then your spouse and family, then to yourself. Think of it this way: a promise is like a cloud. When it’s filled it sends down rain. Kept promises are the best friends a person can have. And the Bible makes it clear that we are never to break a promise, especially one we make to the Lord.1

As Nicole rightly stated, keeping your word is what make it valuable. So if you are known to keep your promises, you will be thought of as a very valuable friend. So it makes sense then, that what Mackay says about going above and beyond what you promised will really make you a precious spouse, father, mother, sister, brother, family member, co-worker, friend, neighbor. That doesn’t mean you make promises for things you can’t deliver. What it does imply is that once you make a promise and fulfill it, if there anything left over, add that too what you’re able to do or give. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

1 See Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21; Matthew 5:33

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

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GOD IS NEVER LATE

This story is told by one of two college musicians who decided that a good part-time job would be singing on the street in Times Square. So each evening they would go down to Manhattan and set up their instruments just outside the Starbucks on 51st Street and Broadway. On this particular Saturday, it was chilly outside but warm inside the Starbucks Coffee Shop. The early November weather in New York City holds only the slightest hint of the bitter chill of late December and January, but it’s enough to send the masses crowding indoors to get in line for the available space and warmth and hot coffee.

Most street musicians know it’s the most lucrative Starbucks location in the world, and the tips can be substantial if they play their tunes right. Apparently, on this evening, they were striking all the right chords because their basket was almost overflowing. It was a fun, low-pressure performance, one was playing keyboard and singing backup for his friend who also added rhythm with an arsenal of percussion instruments. They sang mostly pop songs from the ’40s to the ’90s with a few original tunes thrown in. During their emotional rendition of the classic, “If You Don’t Know Me by Now,” one of them noticed a lady sitting in a chair across from them. She was swaying to the beat and singing along.

After the tune was over, she approached them. “I apologize for singing along on that song,” she said. “Did it bother you?” she asked. “No,” they replied. “We love it when the audience joins in. Would you like to sing up front on the next selection?” To their delight, she accepted their invitation. “You choose the song,” they said. “What are you in the mood to sing?” “Well…. do you know any hymns?” she asked.

Hymns? This woman didn’t know who she was talking to. Before one of them was even born, he was going to church! He gave the guest singer a knowing look. “Name one,” he offered. “Oh, I don’t know. There are so many good ones. You pick one,” she told him.

“Okay,” he replied. “How about His Eye is on the Sparrow?” The lady just stood there in silence as she looked away. Then she turned and looked him straight in the eye and said, “Yeah, okay. Let’s do that one.” She slowly put down her purse, straightened her jacket and faced the center of the shop. With a two-bar setup, she began to sing in a beautiful soprano voice, “Why should I be discouraged? Why should the shadows come?” The audience of coffee drinkers were transfixed. Even the gurgling noises of the cappuccino machine ceased as the employees stopped what they were doing to listen. The song rose to its conclusion. “I sing because I’m happy; I sing because I’m free. For His eye is on the sparrow And I know He watches me.”

When the last note was sung, the applause crescendoed to a deafening roar that would have rivaled a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall. Embarrassed, the woman tried to shout over the noise, “Oh, y’all go back to your coffee! I didn’t come in here to do a concert! I just came in here to get something to drink, just like you!” But the ovation continued. The musician who picked the hymn reached out and embraced his new friend. “You, my dear, have made my whole year! That was beautiful!” he told her.

“Well, it’s funny that you picked that particular hymn,” she said. “Why is that?” he inquired. “Well…” she hesitated again, “that was my daughter’s favorite song.” “Really!” he exclaimed. “Yes,” she said, and then grabbed his hands. By this time, the applause had subsided and it was business as usual… “My daughter was sixteen, she died of a brain tumor last week.”

He said the first thing that found its way through his stunned silence. “Are you going to be okay? he asked. She smiled through tear-filled eyes and squeezed his hands. “I’m going to be okay,” she replied, I’ve just got to keep trusting the Lord and singing His songs, and everything’s going be just fine.” She picked up her bag, gave him her card, and then she was gone.

Was it just a coincidence that they happened to be singing in that particular coffee shop on that particular November evening? Was it happenstance that this wonderful lady just happened to walk into that particular shop? Was it by pure chance that of all the hymns to choose from, he just happened to pick the very hymn that was the favorite of her daughter, who died just the week before? He refused to believe it.

God has been arranging encounters like this in human history since the beginning of time, and it’s no stretch for anyone to imagine that God could reach into a coffee shop in midtown Manhattan and turn an ordinary gig into a revival. It was a great reminder that if we keep trusting God and singing the songs that honor Him, everything’s going to be okay.

Some may call this incident a case of good luck, karma, fate, coincidence, or being in the right place at the right time. That might seem reasonable if you are talking about one person’s fortune. But three people, coming from different directions, meeting on the same night, at a particular spot in one of the largest cities in the world, knowing the same song? No! As every believer knows, God often operates this way. Just think of Jesus meeting the lady at Jacob’s Well in Samaria.1 That wasn’t happenstance. That was by divine appointment. So when something like this happens to you, don’t give fate or luck the praise, give God the praise because He’s the One in charge of your destiny. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

1John 4:1-25

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS

SUMMARY OF CHAPTER ONE 

Like all of Paul’s writings, the Book of Galatians is an epistle – a letter. Paul founded the Christian congregations of believers in the region of Galatia during his early missionary journeys. After leaving the region, he wrote the letter we now call the Book of Galatians in order to encourage the congregation he planted – and to offer correction for some on the way they were easily being led astray from the Gospel that he brought and taught them.

Paul began the letter by claiming himself as the author, which is important. Some Final Covenant epistles were written anonymously, but Paul made sure his recipients knew they were hearing from him. He begins Chapter One by asserting that he was appointed by the Anointed One, not the other Apostles or the Jerusalem Council. Paul claimed that this fact alone made him, unlike the other Apostles. The first five verses are a standard greeting for his day.

Paul was writing this letter to the congregations of believers in Galatia because there was a huge problem about men claiming to be teachers for the Lord. Their true intention, however, was to steer the people away from the Scripture and insert alternate books and teachings. These false teachers wanted to discredit Paul’s word in order to continue their selfish mission of corrupting the congregation of the Anointed One.

In verses six and seven, however, Paul got down to the main reason for his correspondence: I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from Him who called you by the grace of the Anointed One, said Paul, and are turning to a different gospel – not that there was another gospel, but there are some who were troubling them and wanted to change the good news about the Messiah with the bad news of the Law.

Paul also mentions that he was disappointed in how easily these false teachers were able to sway people away from the Scripture. Paul then made it clear that any person, whether they are a priest, an apostle, or even an angel, that spoke of any other word than the Word of the Lord were to be promptly told to leave without any goodbyes. As an obedient servant of God, he saw it as his duty to please God and not mankind.

This all happened because after Paul departed from Galatia, a group of Jewish Christians entered the region and began denouncing the Gospel of salvation Paul preached. These Jewish Christians were often referred to as “Judaizers” because they claimed that followers of Jesus must continue to fulfill all the regulations of the First Covenant Law – including circumcision, sacrifices, observing holy days, and more.

Paul’s Gospel was being put on trial by those that questioned his authority as an Apostle. Paul continued to defend his Gospel by saying that its words were sent to him by the Lord and not by man. He wrote how God’s grace saved his soul and called him to preach the Scripture to the Gentiles. He claimed that he had very little interaction with the other Apostles.

Paul was completely against the message of the Judaizers. He rightly understood that they were attempting to twist the Gospel into a process of salvation by works. Indeed, the Judaizers were attempting to hijack the early Christian movement and return it to a legalistic form of Judaism.

For this reason, Paul spent much of chapter one establishing his authority and credentials as an Apostle of Jesus. Paul had received the Gospel message directly from Jesus during a supernatural encounter on the road to Damascus and then later in the Arabian wasteland.

Just as importantly, Paul spent most of his life as a gifted student of the First Covenant Law. He was a zealous Jew, a Pharisee, and dedicated his life to following the same system the Judaizers wanted. He knew better than most the utter failure of that religious legal system, especially in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

That’s why Paul used this letter to explain his conversion on the road to Damascus, his connection with Peter and the other Apostles in Jerusalem, and his earlier work teaching the message of the Gospel in Syria and Cilicia. After his conversion, he did not consult with anyone else but traveled into Arabia. Then after three years, he traveled to see Peter in Jerusalem, but only stayed for fifteen days. The only other Apostle he spoke with was James, the brother of Jesus. Paul then moved to Syria and Cilicia, remaining out of sight to the congregations of believers in Judea. The people of Judea only heard of Paul’s teachings, which was enough to make believers out of most of them that he was for real.

Paul faithfully taught the Gospel to the people of Galatia. He proclaimed the truth that Jesus the Anointed One died and rose again in order that all people might experience salvation and the forgiveness of sins as a gift received through faith – not as something they could earn through good works. Therefore, Paul showed no tolerance for those who attempted to deny or corrupt the truth.

Additionally, Paul reinforced his credibility as an Apostle of Jesus the Anointed One. One of the ways the Judaizers attempted to argue against Paul’s ideas was to discredit his character. The Judaizers often tried to intimidate Gentile Christians on the basis of their familiarity with the Scriptures. Because the Gentiles had only learned about the First Covenant for a few years, the Judaizers would often bully them with their superior knowledge of the text.

Paul wanted to make sure the Galatians understood that he had more experience with the Jewish Law than any of the Judaizers. In addition, he received a direct revelation from Jesus the Anointed One regarding the message of the Gospel – the same message he proclaimed to them. This was something the Judaizers were unable to do. So one question the Galatians might ask these intruders was this: When did you meet Jesus the Anointed One? When did He call you to be an Apostle to the Gentiles? Where did you spend three years learning more from the Great Teacher about His Word, His Mission, and His desire to save the world? I’m sure, that if they did, they’d only hear excuses and alibis. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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LESSONS ON GALATIANS UPDATE

A grateful “Thank You” to all my readers whose love for God’s Word is greater than their desire in using their time for other things. You are blessed of the Lord for your urge to learn more about what the Word of God has to say about our conduct in this present world. Especially among those outside the church walls, as well as, those inside the church walls.

Tomorrow we will post a Summary of Chapter One for you to add to your notes, that will give you a quick overview of what Paul wrote and what role it plays in his message to the Galatians – which is also a message to us.

Then on Friday, I will finalize the first lesson on Chapter Two for posting next Monday, July 15th. I hope that your appreciation for what the Apostle Paul went through just to spread the Gospel to those to whom the Lord Jesus sent him. So the next time you encounter any difficulties in carrying out the mission given to you by God, just remember what Paul went through. It should make you feel better and give the Lord thanks for what He’s doing through your life.

P.S. If you haven’t heard about our studies on the Book of Galatians, or haven’t joined yet, there is still time to get in and be able to catch up. Just go to Facebook Group “Called to Live in Freedom” and ask to join. You will be accepted immediately. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

 

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LXVI)

Collector of anecdotes, British Sunday school teacher J. L. Nye offered this story as an illustration of verse twenty-three where Paul relates how so many were talking about the difference in meeting the Anointed One face to face made a change in him from a Persecutor of the Gospel into a Preacher of the Gospel.

One of Martin Luther’s most fierce enemies was Count Eberhard of Erbach, Germany. At a scheduled meeting of Church officials in Heidelberg, Germany, Count Eberhard heard that Martin Luther would be attending. So leaving a sick daughter at home, he rushed to get to the city in time. While staying at a Gasthaus, he conversed with several men, who were all strangers to him, about Luther staying there. Count Eberhard was struck by the learning and piety of one of them, an unknown monk. After their talk, Count Eberhard quietly told them of his plan to get rid of Martin Luther and invited them to join him.

When the other men left, the monk stayed behind. He looked steadfastly into the Count’s eyes and said, “You can spare yourself with any further trouble in this matter. The man you desire to seize and put in prison is standing in front of you. I am Martin Luther.” Thunderstruck and bewildered by this sudden revelation, the Count fell to his knees and in a choked voice said to Luther, “You are a much better man than I am. May God in His mercy forgive me of my evil intentions.” In a calm and reassuring voice Luther took his hand and said to Count Eberhard, “Rise and go in peace. The one who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus the Anointed One.” As a result, Count Eberhard became on of the staunchest supporters of Luther and the Reformation Movement.1

What a model for faith and faithfulness that Martin Luther gives us to emulate. His core belief that came from the Apostle Paul wrote in his Epistle to the Galatians. And in the same manner, we should all be ready to become an Apostle Paul or a Martin Luther when it comes to any persecution or hardships we may have to endue because of our faith in the Anointed One. We must stand fast in the belief that we are “called of God,” “called by God,” until we are “called away by God” to our rest to await the resurrection.

Andrew Roth shows us that the Aramaic version of Galatians gives us a slightly different nuance on what Paul is saying here in verse twenty-four about praise going to God. His translation reads: “And they turned their praise to Elohim on my account.2 The translation from Aramaic by John Etheridge has: “And in me they glorified Aloha.” (Hebrew “Eloah.”). And James Murdock’s translation reads, “And they glorified God in me.” Edger J. Goodspeed renders it as, “…and they praised God for me.”3 In the Contextual Bible it is rendered, “And they praise God because of me.”4 When we put all of these together it is clear that Paul was saying that when they saw what God was doing through me they gave Him all the praise. That’s the way it should be for all of us.

Ronald Fung has another insight as to why the congregations of believers in Judæa rejoiced because of Paul’s conversion and the ministry God gave him. Not only was it because of what they saw in him that was truly attributed to God’s transforming grace, but because it also showed that the Gospel he was preaching was in harmony with that believed by earlier congregations. This caused the Judæan Christians to be cordial in their attitude towards him. Therefore, the Judaizers whom he is opposing are both of recent development and out of harmony with the original Gospel and with the original attitude of the Judæan Christians. In other words, it was the Judaizers, not Paul, who deviated from the right path.5

Messianic scholar Lancaster explains that when Paul ended up in Antioch, it would have been very easy for him to begin teaching them about Judaism and guide them along the path to full conversion by first becoming converts to Judaism. This is what the false teachers were doing in the Galatian congregations of believers. But Paul refused to follow this model. Instead, he taught the new believers to remain as non-Jews as far as being circumcised was concerned, and, as well as the observance of the Jewish holidays and feasts.

Lancaster believes that Paul’s message in Antioch was the same as that he would share with the believers in Corinth: “But each one of you should continue to live the way the Lord God has given you to live—the way you were when God chose you. I tell people in all the congregations of believers to follow this rule. If a man was already circumcised when he was chosen, he should not change his circumcision. If a man was without circumcision when he was chosen, he should not be circumcised. It is not important if anyone is circumcised or not. What is important is obeying God’s commands. Each one of you should stay the way you were when God chose you. If you were a slave when God chose you, don’t let that bother you. But if you can be free, then do it. If you were a slave when the Lord chose you, you are now free in the Lord. You belong to the Lord. In the same way, if you were free when you were chosen, you are now the Anointed One’s slave. God paid a high price for you, so don’t be slaves to anyone else. Brothers and sisters, in your new life with God, each one of you should continue the way you were when God chose you.”6

Lancaster goes on to say, that Paul wanted the Galatian believers to know that the Gospel he preached teaches that a non-Jew can become a full member of the body of the Anointed One without having to go through the Jewish process of first being a convert to Judaism with circumcision, and then accept Jesus of Nazareth as the true the Anointed One. Lancaster concludes, that Gentiles would not be present in the community of faith today, nor in any congregation of believers if it were not for the revelation from Heaven that God granted His servant Paul. God set him apart before he was born, called him by His grace, and was pleased to reveal His Son to him in order that he might preach the Anointed One among the Gentiles.7

Charles B. Stevens (1854-1906) offers a paraphrase of verses eighteen through twenty-four that serves as a summary of Paul’s message and mission. Here’s the way Stevens puts it:

After my conversion, my course was such as to prove my independence of human teachers. For three years I did not see Jerusalem and the authorities of the church there. At the expiration of that period, however, I went there to interview Peter, but my visit was a brief one. I saw only one other apostle. I solemnly assert the truth of these statements. I next returned through Syria to my native province. My brief stay in Jerusalem and Judæa brought about, indeed, a new interest and rejoicing at my conversion, but I was not there long enough so that the congregations of believers at large even knew what I looked like.8

We should all be humbled by Paul’s example of standing true to God’s calling and God’s Word. At the same time, we should all be proud that the Holy Spirit gave us such a model to emulate by inspiring Paul to write these words. But none of this means anything if we do not dedicate ourselves to adopting the same attitude and action in standing up for the Gospel of Jesus the Anointed One. Otherwise, by reading these words we will be like the person who saw themselves in a mirror, realized what a weak and helpless person they were, but then turning away to go down the same old path they were following. They apparently concluded, that the image they saw the mirror was a part of their imagination, or, that it was a defective mirror that did not show their true self.9

But one thing is for sure. One day we will all stand before the judgment seat of the Anointed One, and what He sees will determine whether or not we go through the gate into everlasting life, or are thrown down into the pit with Satan into everlasting damnation. The choice is not His, it is ours.

THE END OF CHAPTER ONE

1 J. L. Nye: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 108

2 Aramaic Galatians by Andrew G. Roth, op. cit., loc. cit.

3 Edgar J. Goodspeed: An American Translation, University of Chicago Press, 1923, loc. cit.

4 The Contextual Bible Series: Galatians, loc. cit., Sylvanus Publishing, New York, 2003; Cf. James Moffett: The New Testament, A New Translation; Harper and Row Publishers, Inc, 1964

5 Ronald Y. K Fung: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 83-84

6 1 Corinthians 7:17-24

7 D. Thomas Lancaster: On Galatians, op. cit., p.40

8 George Barker Stevens: The Epistles of Paul in Modern English, a Paraphrase, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1899, p. 25: Redacted by RRS for clarity of vocabulary.

9 James 1:24

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LVIX) 

John Edmunds (1801-1874) takes note of how in verses twenty-one through twenty-four Paul describes to the Galatians the reaction among the congregations of believers scattered outside of Jerusalem in Judæa. It was another way of saying that he was popular everywhere else except in Judæa. Many of them never saw him or heard him teach. But they had heard about him, and why not? He may have been famous elsewhere, but he was infamous in Jerusalem and Judæa. As we can vouch for today, what people hear about you depends entirely upon whose telling them about you. So we can imagine that Paul was ready to accept the news that he was still persona non grata, and that would be understandable. Edmunds points out that the Thessalonian brethren became so famous that it was a high commendation to compare Judæans with them.1

Now, it is most likely that Paul did not persecute any of those in these outlying areas of Judæa. Many sprung up so quickly after Pentecost and grew rapidly there wasn’t time to visit them all. Nor did he visit any of them on his quick stops in Jerusalem. That’s why they were only hearing about him.2 As the New Living Translation puts verse twenty-three, “All they knew was that people were saying, “The one who used to persecute us is now preaching the very faith he tried to destroy!” Then comes the real surprise in verse twenty-four, “And they praised God because of me.” That’s the difference that the Anointed One makes in a person’s life. No matter how bad the notoriety of their past life, once Jesus moves in and the Holy Spirit takes up residence it’s the wonderful restoration taking place that has everyone praising the restorer for turning something headed for the trash pile of broken dreams into a treasured heirloom in God’s Hall of Faith.3

Johann P. Lange (1802-1884) points out that by Paul saying that he was unknown among the congregations of believers throughout Judæa is further proof that he was never a disciple of the Apostles. If he studied under them, they most certainly would have taken him with them when they visited these congregations of believers. Based upon Paul’s testimony, he walked for years in the footsteps of the Pharisees, but now he was walking in the footsteps of the Anointed One, Jesus of Nazareth. Before he was headed for everlasting destruction, now he is headed toward everlasting life. He was also once bound to his religion as a form of obligation, now he is yoked together with the Anointed One in the form of faith. Because of God’s grace, the prosecutor became a preacher. What a wonder, it was as though a dead man was raised to life. This shows that God is more interested in saving His enemies than destroying them.4

J. B. Lightfoot (1828-1889) points out that Paul did not go directly home to Tarsus. He stopped in Syria for a while. This is where the congregation of believers in Antioch was. Perhaps he got acquainted with the brethren there and that’s why they later sent Barnabas up to Tarsus to persuade him to return to teach. He no doubt would have visited the congregations of believers in Judæa were it not for his being suddenly hurried off from Jerusalem to Cæsarea just to save his life. Lightfoot also points out that the congregation of believers became synonymous with the Gospel. In other words, it is not the name over the door, the membership, the type of building being worshiped in, but that it is the loudspeaker of the Gospel that makes it a Church – No Gospel, no Church!5

After reading this, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) was inspired to say: “Brothers and sisters, may you and I so live that Christian people may glorify God in us! May they often wonder at the mighty grace which has wrought such a change in us; and as they see us zealous and fervent, may they marvel at the amazing grace of God which has brought us to be so consecrated to the Anointed One!6 In the same vein we can see a correlation between the spirit of King Saul and Saul of Tarsus. King Saul heard about the deception with which the Gibeonites tried to fool Joshua just to save their skin.7 So when Saul became king, he decided to pay them back. He thought so much of the sons of Israel that he took revenge on them for lying and slaughtering many of them.8 So it seems that Saul of Tarsus shared the same feeling about Jesus and His disciples, especially Stephen. They were lying and deceiving the children of Israel. King David remembered what Saul did and tried to make recompense. Now Paul was trying to repay God for his foolishness as Saul of Tarsus.

Frederic Rendall (1840-1906) in looking at the translation of verse twenty-two feels that it is not correct in explaining what Paul was saying about his reputation among the congregations of believers in Judæa. Instead of the way the KJV and NIV translate the Greek verb agnoeō as “unknown,” it should be “I was becoming unknown.” By the time Paul wrote this letter, because of his absence from Jerusalem his name was no longer familiar to the believers in Jerusalem, let alone out in Judæa. Rendall also suggests that certain Greek manuscripts describe the believers in Judæa, Samaria, and Galilee were considered as one congregation of believers in multiple locations.9 In fact, the Greek verb agnoeō is translated as “be ignorant” and “ignorant of,” “not know,” “unknown,” or “ignorantly” twenty our of twenty-two occurrences.10

The key to understanding this is found in what Paul said earlier about how after the Council Meeting in Jerusalem he left and traveled to Syria and Cilicia, (where Paul’s hometown of Tarsus was located). And it appears that he did not go up through Judæa, Samaria, and Galilee because no one knew him personally and may not have welcomed him as warmly as he may have wished. But Paul did skip those congregations of believers with some assurance because he was told that once they heard the story of his ministry that was now leaking out of Jerusalem after the meeting, and rejoiced and praised God for what they heard. I can personally testify that when going to preach or teach in a church I’ve never visited before, it brought a different kind of smile to my face when someone came up and said, “I’ve heard some good things about you.” I can imagine that same type of smile was on the face of the Apostle Paul.

Current Torah teacher Andrew Gabriel Roth shows us that the Aramaic version of Galatians gives us a slightly different nuance on what Paul is saying here about praise going to God. His translation reads: “And they turned their praise to Elohim on my account.11 The translation from Aramaic by John Etheridge has: “And in me they glorified Aloha.” (in Hebrew it is, “Eloah.”). And James Murdock’s translation reads, “And they glorified God in me.” In the Contextual Bible it is rendered, “And they praise God because of me.”12 When we put all of these together it is clear that Paul was saying that when they saw what God was doing through me they gave Him all the praise. That’s the way it should be for all of us.

Ronald Fung has another insight as to why the congregations of believers in Judæa rejoiced because of Paul’s conversion and the ministry God gave him. Not only was it because of what they saw in him that was truly attributed to God’s transforming grace, but because it also showed that the Gospel he was preaching was in harmony with that of the primitive congregation of believers. This caused the Judæan Christians to be cordial in their attitude towards him, and, therefore, the Judaizers whom he is opposing are both of recent development and out of harmony with the original Gospel and with the original attitude of the Judæan Christians. In other words, it was the Judaizers, not Paul, who deviated from the right path.13

Messianic scholar Lancaster explains that when Paul ended up in Antioch, it would have been very easy for him to begin teaching them about Judaism and guide them along the path of full conversion until they became proselytes. This is what the false teachers were doing in the Galatian congregations of believers. But Paul did not follow this model. Instead, he taught the new believers to remain as non-Jews as far as being circumcised was concerned, as well as the observance of the holidays and feasts.

Lancaster believes that Paul’s message in Antioch was the same as that he would share with the believers in Corinth: “But each one of you should continue to live the way the Lord God has given you to live—the way you were when God chose you. I tell people in all the congregations of believers to follow this rule. If a man was already circumcised when he was chosen, he should not change his circumcision. If a man was without circumcision when he was chosen, he should not be circumcised. It is not important if anyone is circumcised or not. What is important is obeying God’s commands. Each one of you should stay the way you were when God chose you. If you were a slave when God chose you, don’t let that bother you. But if you can be free, then do it. If you were a slave when the Lord chose you, you are now free in the Lord. You belong to the Lord. In the same way, if you were free when you were chosen, you are now the Anointed One’s slave. God paid a high price for you, so don’t be slaves to anyone else. Brothers and sisters, in your new life with God, each one of you should continue the way you were when God chose you.”14

Lancaster goes on to say that Paul wanted the Galatian believers to know that the Gospel he preached teaches that a non-Jew can become a full member of the body of the Anointed One without having to go through the Jewish process of first being a proselyte to Judaism with circumcision, and then accept Jesus of Nazareth as the true Anointed One. Lancaster concludes that Gentiles would not be present in the community of faith today, nor in any congregation of believers, if it were not for the revelation from Heaven that God granted His servant Paul. God set him apart before he was born, called him by His grace, and was pleased to reveal His Son to him, in order that he might preach the Anointed One among the Gentiles.15

Hans Dieter Betz raises a good question, why did Paul feel it necessary to confirm with an oath before God that he was telling the Galatians the truth? As we know, it is the function of such oaths, in speaking or writing, to offer proof to cover what others may have doubts about what is being said or written. For instance, the story we find in Actions of the Apostles about his first meeting with the Apostles,16 shows a different version of the same story than what Paul is telling here in Galatians. This may be the reason Paul wants to assure them that he has nothing to hide of what happened in Jerusalem. What we don’t know is whether his version in Acts of the Apostles may have included left out some of the stories that the Judaizers were telling the Galatians, making it look like he was trying to hide something. But Paul is adamant by saying, “I am telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.17

11 Thessalonians 2:14

2 Acts of the Apostles 8:16

3 John Edmunds: On Galatians, op. cit., loc., cit., pp. 27-28

4 Johann P. Lange: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 27

5 J. B. Lightfoot: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 228-229

6 Charles Spurgeon: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

7 Joshua 9:1-27

8 2 Samuel 21:1-6

9 See Acts of the Apostles 9:31

10 Frederic Rendall: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 157

11 Aramaic Galatians by Andrew G. Roth, op. cit., loc. cit.

12 The Contextual Bible Series: Galatians, loc. cit., Sylvanus Publishing, New York, 2003

13 Ronald Y. K Fung: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 83-84

14 1 Corinthians 7:17-24

15 D. Thomas Lancaster: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 38-39

16 Acts of the Apostles 9:26-30

17 Hans Dieter Betz: On Galatians, op. cit., p.79

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