POINTS TO PONDER

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I remember my first class in “Ethics” at the University of North Dakota. The professor wanted to introduce us to the subject. His definition was short and sweet. He said, “Ethics is determining what is right and what is wrong.”

To put it simply, ethics represents the moral code that guides a person’s choices and behaviors throughout their life. The idea of a moral code extends beyond the individual to include what is determined to be right, and wrong, for a community or society at large.

Ethics is concerned with rights, responsibilities, use of language, what it means to live an ethical life, and how people make moral decisions. We may think of moralizing as an intellectual exercise, but more frequently it’s an attempt to make sense of our gut instincts and reactions. It’s a subjective concept, and many people have strong and stubborn beliefs about what’s right and wrong that can place them in direct contrast to the moral beliefs of others. Yet even though morals may vary from person to person, religion to religion, and culture to culture, many have been found to be universal, stemming from basic human emotions.

According to Dr. Stephen Behnke American Psychological Association Ethics Director, “Ethics” and “ethical” are words that people use in different ways. For some, to say that a psychologist has behaved “unethically” means that the psychologist has violated a rule of conduct, perhaps a licensing board regulation or a standard in the APA Ethics Code. This way of thinking about ethics focuses on the unethical, the absence of what is ethical, a breach in the minimum standards of our profession’s behavior. The “Code of Conduct” aspect of the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct sets forth 89 such standards, a violation of which constitutes “unethical” behavior.[1]

Deborah Smith, a Monitor staff member shares some interesting points on how to keep from being called unethical. One of them is, “Understanding what constitutes a multiple relationship.” For instance, if you are a real estate agent, is it ethical to volunteer at one of you children’s functions if you know there may be buyers there? Or, can you buy a car from one dealer and not others because he is one of you clients? Can you tell an employee to drive you to the airport? The question is, whose needs are you most interested in, yours or the other person?

Another point is, can you be trusted to protect confidentiality? When you are asked to provide information on people you know personally to employers, spouses, school administrators, insurance companies and others do you comply without asking their permission? While such requests may be well-intentioned, you need to carefully balance the disclosure with your ethical obligations to protect their confidentiality. In addition, if someone asks you about an individual, they want to harm who harmed you, do you give them the information?

Then we have, respecting people’s autonomy. For instance, if you never tell your child, or a friend, or a neighbor that you just planted flower bulbs in your back yard that are covered with dirt, is it ethical to confront them and accuse them of damaging your flowers when you never told them about the bulbs to begin with? Or, you don’t want anyone coming into the house through the front door, but you did not put up a sign that says, “Please do not enter here. Use the back door.” Should these violators of your unwritten law be punished or told they are not welcome?

Then the next one is, know your responsibilities before telling someone else they are failing in carrying out theirs. Any area or responsibility assigned to you makes you a supervisor. That means you should continually assess the competence of those you are in charge of to make sure they are doing their job appropriately. Such supervision should cover everything the person was told to do, how to do it, and report any problems that come up keeping them from finishing their task. Sometimes parents stop raising their children when they hit their teens, and there are others still trying to raise them long after they are married and gone.

Then there is this: Write it down, keep track, know what the timeline is. Many relationships have been fractured when someone says, “You didn’t tell me that.” Or “You just told me today, not last week like you’re saying.” Sometimes I wish I had a “bodycam” like the police do so I could rewind and prove my assertion. But they are not to be used for that purpose. But you can keep a daily journal and write down when you make certain statements or give particular instructions.

Another is “Practice only where you have expertise.” The problem is that, many times, we are not aware that there’s something we don’t know? If you don’t know where the boundaries are on your area of responsibility or breadth of your knowledge, you must know there are certain guidelines to keep you in bounds. You may be well-intentioned, but not realize you’re going beyond the boundaries of your competence.

And finally, stick to the evidence. When you give your expert opinion or conduct an assessment or offer advice, base your evaluation only on the facts available. For example, don’t take sides in believing one person over the other just because they are part of your extended family. We must be always mindful about what we know, what we don’t know, and what our sources of information are or have been.[2]

But what does God’s Word have to say? King David told the Lord, “Let what is good and what is right keep me safe, because I wait for You.” (Psalm 25:21). King Solomon states that “The Lord detests the use of dishonest scales, but he delights in accurate weights.” (Proverbs 11:1). In other words, always remain fair and balanced. He also states, “Don’t be happy when someone you don’t like has troubles. Don’t be glad when they fall.” (Proverbs 24:17).

The Apostle Peter says that all of us “Should live together in peace. Try to understand each other. Love each other like brothers and sisters. Be kind and tolerant.” (1 Peter 3:8) And the Apostle Paul tell us to “Watch what we say. Don’t let biased words come from our mouth. Say what is good for all concerned. Our words should help others grow as Christians.” (Ephesians 4:29). And the Apostle told the Philippians, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (Philippians 2:4).

To sum it all up, we can agree that ethics is doing what’s right even if we are in the wrong. There could have been other people besides you that the Holy Spirit called to the altar before Jesus to receive forgiveness and eternal life. But He chose you. Not because you were better than anyone else, but because His love has no bias or discrimination.[3] Since He treated us that way, what excuse do we have for not treating others the same? – Dr. Robert R Seyda


[1] Ethics Rounds, July/August 2005, Vol 36, No. 7

[2] Monitor, January 2003, Vol. 34, No. 1

[3] Romans 5:8

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

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A GENTLE ANSWER CALMS FRUSTRATION (Proverbs 15:1)

Mary Ellen Mann is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in Denver. Here is her. I recently returned from a trip to California deeply grieving that my opportunity to be interviewed on a large, popular podcast (which focused on mental health and healing) was cancelled last minute for a seemingly trivial reason. My topic was on spiritual abuse, something that is not often spoken about in public. This sent me into a triggered tailspin, which included lots of crying on a public beach where I happened to take his call.

While my recent cancelled interview was not abusive, it brought up all the old deep-down, gut-wrenching triggers and familiar—but unfriendly—feelings of being unimportant, unheard, and cast aside. It’s these feelings that are connected to spiritual abuse for me specifically. At this point in my life, crying in public is not an issue, but finding safe ways through my triggers from a spiritually abusive past is an ongoing challenge. It’s taken me many years of personal work and therapy to understand and to validate my own experiences.

Spiritual abuse can be defined as abuse committed under the guise of religion, or harm inflicted in God’s name. I grew up in the Jesus Movement, a subset of the Evangelical movement, in which I was taught, as a small child, about Satan, demons, being in a spiritual war, end-times apocalypse, and that all unbelievers would burn in hell for eternity.

The Jesus Movement was organized around communities, which worked together to help addicts, the mentally ill and others who struggled to function. As a result of community living, our family lived with a cast of characters who were either safe and respectful or who were quite dangerous.

The message I primarily and unconsciously absorbed as a “ministry kid” was that I needed to be “a healer,” “a helper” and at all costs. God had no boundaries. Nothing was impossible with God. Pleasing God was about having no gut instinct, and no voice that contradicted their belief.

Thus, my personal safety, my need for consistency or predictability “washed up on the shore” after years of being storm tossed in the ocean. Trusting God meant being in a turbulent sea with no rudder, no sails, and no compass. Subsequently, I felt terrified by how none of this felt safe and by how God allegedly judged me for being afraid, angry, doubtful, or frustrated in any way that would reflect badly on our faith, community, or mission. My childhood needs didn’t matter. In fact, I didn’t matter. Does this sound abusive so far?

Because I was also taught to fear unbelievers, fear “the world,” as well as the supernatural, there were no outside resources from which to objectively seek new truth. My well-intentioned parents didn’t understand or notice the stress, anxiety, and the nightmares I lived with constantly.

As I struck out on my own as a young adult, I joined ministries and mission organizations, and Bible Schools. I finally got a degree in social work and counseling and became a mental health therapist. During those early adult years, I experienced silencing and disparity based on my gender. This also took form in the way of sexual and emotional abuse, and in ministry contexts. Sadly, my internal formation and past fears did not allow me to fully process or speak out against abuses, because if I did, it meant I was speaking out against God or leadership. In effect, my speaking out would have meant I would have lost my community, and/or be labeled as “bitter,” “fallen” or “deceived.”

I understand now that these old, haunting messages played a large part in my story of staying quiet. I had lived with fear and anxiety for so long that it had become the norm for me. Internalizing it had sadly cost me my health. I also understand now that whenever your basic instinct is dismantled, your body can sometimes react through auto immune disorders, headaches, digestive pain and so on. I have had to relearn how to “trust my intuition” in my own spiritual journey, and as a safeguard, validate my intense resistance to being controlled and manipulated. It can still be difficult sometimes to know who and what to trust.

So, even after all my years of intentional healing work, I still found myself crying on the beach feeling unheard, and with so much I wanted to say to others who had experienced what I had. In cases like this, I allow myself to grieve and I remember that deeply lonely feeling of having to “shut up and shut down.” I know that shutting up helped me survive my early years, but it’s no longer tolerable to my body or my soul.

Plus, it’s not my personality to be quiet about injustice or healing. I knew my tears honored the younger me who did the best she could to be quiet, and survive what seemed to be a terrifying, no-win existence.

Maybe you did not have the same upbringing as Mary Ellen. You were not part of church or ministry that demanded obedience without questioning what you were told to do or be. But without knowing it, sometimes we put our family and friends through the same grief when they come to us for guidance and instruction. As soon as they express doubt about the way life is treating them, what they get from us is a lecture on how wrong they are in doing things their way instead of God’s way. Parents do this to children and friends do this to their friends and believers to it to other believers. Even some pastors are known to be this way. Maybe that’s why they don’t want to talk to you, all they get is a scolding not tender loving care.

Paul told the Ephesians “Don’t use harsh language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29) And later Paul tells them, “And now a word to you parents. Don’t keep on admonishing and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord Himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice.” (Ephesians 6:4) And the Apostle Peter told his followers “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of mistakes – missed opportunities or expectations.” (1 Peter 4:8).

Keep in mind, those who come to you for advice may have already been told by others how wrong they were and had their mistakes pointed out in detail, somewhat like a person trying to scold a dog or cat for knocking over a plant or peeing on the floor. You might be their last stronghold, the one they trust most to lift them up, not knock them down. As the Apostle Paul said, “Be willing to accept those who have doubts about what believers can or cannot do. And don’t argue with them about their different ideas.” (Romans 14:1) If you have anything to offer, make sure it comes from God’s Word. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS

SUMMARY OF CHAPTER SIX

When we arrive at the beginning of chapter six, Paul has spent whole chapters hammering away at the false doctrines of the Judaizers and imploring the Galatians to return to the message of the Gospel. It is refreshing, then, to see Paul tackle some practical matters within the Church community as he wraps up his communication.

To begin with, Paul shows that when a brother or sister in the Anointed One gets caught by sin, other Christians should step in instead of looking away. Spiritually mature Christians should help to restore the one caught by sin with gentleness and humility. It is one of the ways those in the Anointed One can help to carry each other’s burdens. When the load one of us is hauling around becomes too heavy, others should step in to help that person get through that season. It does not mean that life in union with the Anointed One is lived alone.

Paul emphasized the need for gentleness and caution in such restoration. Having rejected the First Covenant Law as a means of salvation, he encouraged the Galatians to “fulfill the law of the Anointed One” by carrying one another’s burdens.

Having said that, Paul encourages Christians to take careful stock of the work they do in the Spirit without comparing themselves to each other. We should be honest with ourselves and take full responsibility to do what is ours to do in following the Anointed One. One of those responsibilities is to share the good things God gives to us with those who teach us the Word.

Paul is quick to point out that faith in the Anointed One for salvation doesn’t mean we should avoid doing good things or obeying God’s commandments. The opposite is true – actions that are grounded in sinful tendencies will produce the “works of the flesh,” as described in chapter five, while a life lived in the power of the Spirit will bear an abundance of good fruit.

Next applies the comparison of planting and harvesting to living in the flesh and living in the Spirit. Those who insist on trying to be made righteous before God by the effort of their good moral deeds in following the Law will harvest a failed crop. Only those who plant works of faith by God’s Spirit will yield eternal life (Galatians 6:6–8).

So, Paul encourages those who walk by the Spirit not to give up doing good. Don’t get tired of it, he writes. The harvest is coming! Use up all the planting time to do good to everyone, especially other Christian in this house of faith we live in as brothers and sisters with the same Father.

Paul concludes his letter by, presumably, taking the pen from his scribe – something like a secretary who would write down his words – to write the ending with his hand, and he writes with big letters! He immediately goes back to the issue of circumcision, revealing once more that the false teachers pressuring the Galatians to get circumcised are only interested in promoting themselves. The Galatians must not allow themselves to be misused in that way.

Paul concluded his letter by again summarizing his major argument: neither circumcision nor obedience to the Law have any chance to connect us with God. Only faith in the death and resurrection can save us.

For his part, Paul will not brag about how many people he led to faith in the Anointed One. He will brag, though, about the cross of the Anointed One. That’s where Paul crucified his passion for the things of the world, and vice versa. Because he has been set free by faith in the Anointed One, the world no longer has anything that interests him.

Paul closes his letter with a plea and two blessings. Paul tells everyone to stop causing him trouble since he belongs to Jesus. He blesses all who follow the rule that circumcision doesn’t matter, but being a new creation in the Anointed One does. Then he offers his standard closing blessing, to all the saints in Galatians.

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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 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

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

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)

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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 CHURCHES

CHAPTER SIX (Lesson CLII)

However, there is a rule we cannot brake. To continue in this new life, the believer must enjoy peace of heart that all things are right with God. Paul says this is especially true of those who are part of spiritual Israel, whether Jew or Gentile. The Psalmist shows us that this was understood back in his day: “O Lord, do good to those who are kind, whose hearts are in tune with you. But banish those who turn to crooked ways, O Lord. Take them away with those who do evil.”[1] But God was not satisfied with the First Covenant way of a person’s heart being at peace with Him; that’s why Jesus the Anointed One came He told His followers: “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot provide. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”[2] That’s why our Lord was not afraid to share with His followers everything that was going to happen to Him so they could be comforted in the future when they too face similar hardships.[3] That’s why Paul was able to reassure the Philippians that because they belong to the Anointed One – Jesus, “God’s peace will stand guard over all their thoughts and feelings. Nothing is better for our human minds than His blessed assurance.”[4]

None of these things matter, says Paul. Even if you do allow yourself to be circumcised, wash your hands the right way, and participate in all the “do good” laws and ceremonies, they mean nothing in enhancing your salvation. What matters is, you are a new creature in the Anointed One, Jesus. That’s what counts! When you consider your obedience to God in following His will and doing all the things, He asks of you, it must start from the moment you became a new child of God through the power of what Jesus did on the cross. If you follow this simple rule: “you must be born again,” then the mercy of God and the peace of our Lord Jesus will quickly identify you as a member of a unique tribe called the “New Israel.”

COMMENTARY

Marius Victorinus comments on verse twelve by saying that Paul openly lays out the very thing he is criticizing the Galatians for. They were transgressing the Gospel’s plan of salvation – they insisted on getting circumcised to make it better. All these men, Paul says, who want to make an impression on other Jews, are persuading you to be circumcised, which consists only in this fact, being circumcised offers no help toward salvation. It is all about not suffering persecution for relying totally on the Cross of the Anointed One for salvation. They were calculating, Victorinus says, that if they added circumcision to the Gospel (that is, to their confession of faith in the Anointed One), they would still not pay the penalty for persecuting the Anointed One and crucifying Him.

But they were illusional in thinking that although all their hope was in the Anointed One (more appropriately, in His Cross), they would guarantee to be part of New Israel through circumcision.[5] We must take what Victorinus says so that believers must not make the same mistake today by trying to follow all the First Covenant laws in addition to what the Gospel teaches. However, I would say to Victorinus that it wasn’t laws of the First Covenant they were adding to salvation’s plan, it was the Laws of the Church.

Chrysostom gives us his impression of what Paul is saying here in these two verses, telling us to take a good look at the power of the Cross, and to what a high position it raised Paul! Not only did it put to death for him all everyday concerns, but it set him far above the usual way Jews sought salvation. What can be comparable to this power? It was the Cross that persuaded him, the raging Pharisee, who was willing to be slain and to slay others for the sake of faith in circumcision. However, it remains on a level with those who are not circumcised to seek marvelous things above.

Paul calls this a new rule of life, “becoming a new creature.” It points to the past and what is yet to come. In the past, the soul grew old with the debilitating sickness of sin. Now it is renewed and alive after baptism as if recreated. Wherefore, says Chrysostom, we require a new and heavenly rule of life. As far as things to come are concerned, both heaven and earth, and all nature, will be translated into everlasting incorruption.[6] So it appears that even by the fourth century, Christian scholars still tied the Cross to the new creation of believers in Jesus the Anointed One.

Bishop Theodoret addresses Paul’s phrase “new creation,” as something he also mentions in his letter to the Corinthians.[7] The strict meaning of new creation is the transformation of all things which will occur after the resurrection from the dead. At that time, believers are released from sin’s burden and redeemed. Paul demonstrates that baptism is an image of things to come. In it, we put off the old nature and put on the new. And we rid ourselves of sin’s burden of receiving the grace of the Spirit. Yet neither the holiest baptism nor the coming life puts any value on circumcision and uncircumcision. And by referring to the “world,” he means the affairs of life – honor, glory, and wealth. To these, he declares himself dead.[8] It might be permissible that after immersing a person in water baptism, upon standing up, they confess: “All worldly desires are now dead to me, and I am dead to them.

Theologian Aquinas offers his comments on verse fifteen, saying that the intention of the Judaizers is evident, for they glory in the flesh. But Paul is declaring that he seeks glory elsewhere, namely, in the Cross. And this is what he says: “God forbid that I glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One.”  Notice that where the secular philosophers of his day felt shame, there the Apostle found his treasure; what the Greek and Roman philosophers regarded as foolish became for the Apostle wisdom and glory. As Aquinas quotes Augustine, each person glories in that through which they are considered significant. For those who regard themselves to be excellent in nothing but Jesus, the Anointed One and the Cross alone are eternally blessed. As Paul declares: “It is not I who am alive; it’s the Anointed One who now lives in me.[9] [10]

Adam Clarke adds his exposition by noting that the phrase, In the Anointed One Jesus – means living under the guidance of the Gospel, of which the Anointed One is head and supreme. It leaves the Jews with nothing to boast about; the Gentile with nothing they can call excellent. None of these things mean anything anymore; they do not contribute to the salvation of the soul.” Then in the phrase, But a new creature – indicates newly created, not merely a different species, but a total renewal of the whole person, of all the powers and passions of the soul. And just as creation cannot be changed but by the power of human logic or ritual, so this transformation cannot be affected by that same energy. Circumcision cannot do this; only the power that made that person new can make them whole.”[11]

Philip Schaff offers a unique perspective to glorying in anything other than the Cross of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One. He begins by noting that the Cross, as the material instrument of capital punishment of criminals and slaves, is the most disgraceful of torture and death instruments. It was through the Anointed One; the Cross became a symbol of His passion signifying the most glorious of reality and truths, namely, the atonement for the sins of the world. The Cross of the Anointed One then became a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the heathen. The same is true today to the unconverted individual because it puts fleshly desires to death and removes the influence of worldliness and the devil.

Not only that says Schaff, but it also destroys all self-righteousness and boasting. It is the deepest humiliation of self, the most substantial exhibition of man’s guilt, which required even the sacrifice of the Son of God, and of God’s undying love which made that sacrifice, and the strongest motivator to gratitude for such amazing grace and love. That’s why Paul was determined to know nothing other than the crucified Anointed One as the one source of salvation.[12] He died on our behalf for the forgiveness of our sins against God, who then raised Him to life for our justification to stand before God as being right with Him. The power that changed Paul’s lifestyle, in the beginning, is the same power changing sinners today.

As Schaff sees it, the Cross of the Anointed One possesses the power to redeem everyone who believes. Through the Cross, as the instrument of the Anointed One’s crucifixion, and our execution with Him is made possible.[13] The KJV translates the Greek phrase di hos as “by whom,” and there are some who render it as “through whom,” namely, “through” the Anointed One.[14] But Schaff feels that it would be better expressed by “in whom,” we crucified the world to us and us to the world. That’s when the world lost all its charm and attraction for Christians, and they lost all their appetite for worldly living. They are now dead to each other; old things passed away; Christ is now the center of it all.[15]

Fredrick Rendall mentions Paul’s use of the Greek noun kanōn (English “canon.”), which can be a rod, measuring line, fixed space within limits, rule of standard, a principle or law. As Rendall sees it, everyone needs guidelines to direct their lives, such as the surveyor or the carpenter uses to guide their work. To the Jews, The Law of Moses and Levitical code of morals outlined those rules. But for Christians, they were given the Holy Spirit to guide their new life whereby their conscience is enlightened to discern good and evil as defined in the Gospel. And since the Gospel also serves as a compass, there is no reason any believer should get lost. So, says Rendall, those who walk by the rule of the Spirit are declared to be part of the true Israel of God, not the Jews who are Jews in name only. They may fancy themselves as children of Abraham, but not the children of God.[16]

So, we can see that Paul’s use of the phrase “new creation” does not imply that any part of an individual’s body renewed to start over and thereby live longer. Instead, it speaks of an internal awakening of the person’s spirit, long dormant, and out of contact with God brought to life by the Holy Spirit for the individual to again communicate with God on a spiritual level. The new creature becomes the renewed person inside one’s flesh. That then requires a new way of looking at life and one’s conduct. We now live to serve God, not ourselves. From the moment of the new birth onward, we owe everything to the One who transformed us and made us a child of God.


[1] Psalm 125:4-5 – New Living Translation (NLT)

[2] John 14:27 – (NLT)

[3] Ibid. 16:33

[4] Philippians 4:7

[5] Victorinus, Marius: Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

[6] Chrysostom, op. cit., loc. cit.

[7] 2 Corinthians 5:17

[8] Theodoret of Cry: On Galatians, Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). op. cit., p. 103

[9] Galatians 2:20

[10] Aquinas, Thomas, op. cit.

[11] Clarke, Adam, op. cit.

[12] 1 Corinthians 1:23; 2: 2; Philippians 3:7ff

[13] See Galatians 2:20

[14] American Standard Version (SV); New American Standard Bible Revised Edition (NASBRE)

[15] Schaff, Philip: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 349-350

[16] Rendall, Frederic: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 191

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POINTS TO PONDER

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Have you ever heard someone, possibly yourself, say, “I don’t care what they think!”  Psychologist Fredric Neuman tells us that the degree to which someone cares about what others think depends – or should depend – on the nature of their relationship.

It all boils down to whether or not caring for someone is a meaningful effort. In fact, Judith E. Glaser of Conversational Intelligence says, it gives the person you care about a feeling of celebration and helps meet people’s needs for inclusion, innovation, appreciation, and association.

But there is another side to caring. Mother Teresa once said, “If I look at the mass [of people], I will never act. If I look at the one, I will,” Writer and editor Tiffanie Wen says it exemplifies one of the most baffling aspects of the human caring about the plight of others. While most of us will see a single death as a tragedy, we can struggle to have the same response to large-scale loss of life. Too often, the deaths of many simply become a statistic. The thousands who were killed in the Twin Tower Trade Center demolition by terrorists and the millions of lives lost in natural disasters, wars, or famine, can grow too large for one person to fathom.

So, instead of trying to care for the masses, begin with caring for someone who needs you, who respects you, and will benefit significantly from your caring touch. That’s how God feels about us. The Bible says that Jesus died for the whole world,[1] but not to save them all at one time. He died so He could redeem them one at a time. Listen to this story about God’s love:

On March 10, 1748, John Newton, a 22-year-old English seaman who had worked in the slave trade, was traveling home on a merchant ship after a series of misadventures, including being captured and enslaved in Sierra Leone. On that day, a violent storm struck just off the coast of Donegal, Ireland. Rocks ripped a hole in the side of the ship, and it seemed unlikely that the vessel would make it safely to shore. A young seaman named John remembered his Christian upbringing and prayed and committed to devote his life to Christianity if God spared the ship. At that moment – the story goes – the ship’s cargo shifted, covering the hole and allowing the ship to limp to port. John Newton kept his promise, eventually becoming an Anglican priest. Most famous perhaps for composing the hymn “Amazing Grace,” the former slave trader dedicated himself to ending the slave trade. That’s how much God cared about his soul.

Jesus told the story of a despised Samaritan stopping to help a robbed and beaten Jew. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ [2]

Then there was the occasion when Jesus was at the house of his friend Lazarus. His sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him talk. But all that went into the preparation of the upcoming meal distracted Martha from following Mary’s example. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”[3]

The Apostle Paul was writing his first letter to the Corinthians and telling them that like arms, hands, legs, feet, etc., are all part of one frame, so they are all members of one body of the Anointed One. So, if one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it. When one part of the body receives care, the other parts are happy.[4]

In his second letter, he apologized if he was too tough on them in the first letter, but any sorrow they experienced was on purpose. He tells them, I wrote as I did so the Lord could show how much you care for us. That was my purpose even more than to help the man who sinned or his father to whom he did the wrong.[5]

But the Apostle was not finished. He congratulated them on the way they helped out by providing resources for the churches in Macedonia, how much joy it brought them during troubled times. But Paul regretted that he couldn’t be with them, so he sent his close associate Titus to be there and help. And, says Paul, I thank God that He gave Titus the same care to help you.[6]

Paul had the same concerns about the church in Philippi. So, he told them he was sending his son in the Lord, Timothy, to be with them. Said Paul, I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare.[7] Later in the same Epistle, Paul sends them words of encouragement. He wants them to continue being a partner in the ministry the Lord gave him. So, he lets them know, the Lord gives me a reason to be full of joy. It is because you can care for me again. I know you wanted to before, but you did not have a way to help me.[8]

In these verses, the Scriptures show us the many ways of caring. The Apostle Peter lets us know that we should give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about us.[9] So if God cares that much about us, and we love our neighbor as ourselves, should we not care for them the same way? Remember, by caring; you can be like the Good Samaritan and help pick somebody up and help get them back to good health in mind, heart, and spirit, just by caring. – Dr. Robert R Seyda


[1] 1 John 2:2

[2] Luke 10:34-35

[3] Ibid. 10:40

[4] 1 Corinthians 12:26

[5] 2 Corinthians 7:12

[6] Ibid. 8:16

[7] Philippians 2:20

[8] Ibid. 4:10

[9] 1 Peter 5:7

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

LOVE THE LITTLE CHILDREN

Mary Ellen Mann, a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in Denver, tells this interesting story about her experience at home that changed her attitude and life. She said that while picking up the clutter around her house one day, she noticed a photo of herself when she was around 20 months old. I had fallen behind a bookcase. She wasn’t particularly fond of the photo because she didn’t think it was the cutest one of her at that age.

At the time the photo was taken, her parents lived in New York City. She pulled the photo out from behind the bookcase and found herself drawn into the picture. She tried to remember what she was thinking. Was she doing such a good job sitting still, while the photographer had her sit on a chair? She knew from her Mom that she started walking when she was only nine months old and was already potty-trained. She was about to meet her new brother, too. Mary Ellen looked at her little-girl eyes, and wondered what she liked to do in those days. How she loved going to the Karl Schurz Park nestled on Manhattan’s East Side. She decided to take the picture up to her bedroom and placed it on her nightstand. She wasn’t sure what she would do with it eventually.

As she looked at this picture of her 20-month self one night, a rush of surprising feelings came over her. She thought about the life she had been given. Her purpose and presence on this earth. A rush of tears streamed down her face. All she could do at first was apologize to herself in the picture. She told her that she should have taken better care of herself growing up. She should have listened the small girl inside of her, and dignified her with more respect and honor. After all, she was responsible for how this tiny girl turned out. She should have been more considerate to this little lady than to exposed her to certain compromises and mistreatment. Oh my, she said to herself, it’s a long list. She felt her miniature self looking at her, saying, “It’s about time. I’ve needed you.” How many times had her good friends, the needs of her children, and her loving husband told her relax and take better care of herself?

What happened next was simple. She kissed the photo and held it close to her chest. She felt her sweetness, her energy, her pure heart. And she heard God say, “Tell her you’ll take care of her from now on.” She pushed the photo out to get a better look and staring the baby girl’s face kissed her again and said, “I’m going to look out for you. I’m going to listen to you. I’m going to make room for you to live and be loved. I see your pure, devoted heart. I’m so proud of you. I’m so grateful for you. I enjoy you, and I’m so fortunate to be the one that loves you.”

What washed over me, Mary Ellen said, was some sort of deeper confidence and resolution, an empowerment that I didn’t know was missing. I was her, before I was anything else – a therapist, a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend. Jesus’ statement to love God and then to love others as I love myself was no longer some mystery or confusion. It was straight, simple and freeing. Now, no matter what she is doing, Mary Ellen tells her little self, “Everything I do, I do for Jesus and you. I won’t forget you again, ever!


You may never have had an experience like Mary Ellen’s. But what we all have in common is that little child still living in us. In fact, that’s why you see 80-year old’s sometime act like kids! However, there’s another little child living in our memory, that is when we were new Christians. We just experienced the joy of being born again in Jesus. The question is, have we been true to that little child’s dreams as we grew in Christ? Have we kept the promises we made? Did we faithfully stay on the path God placed us on? Are we today what that little new Christian within us always wanted to be?

Only you can answer those questions. However, of this you can be sure, Jesus is the same Jesus today who redeemed us; God is the same Father who welcomed us into His family, and the Holy Spirit is the same comforter and counsellor He was when He drew us to the cross for salvation. Maybe we need to take a look at ourselves and determine that His help we will keep those promises we made to the Father as long as we shall live. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

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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

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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 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

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