This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
mqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyui opasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjk lzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwe rtyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopas dfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvb nmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyu iopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghj klzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmrt yuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdf ghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvb nmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwer
4/24/2011 By: Troy D. Mangram Course: Galatians and James Professor: Dr. David Matson
Paul’s letter to the Galatians is one of the more striking pieces of Christian literature concerning the Law in the NT. Unlike most of his letters, Paul does not begin this letter with his customary thanksgiving, but rather with a defense of his apostleship and a rebuke to them for turning away from the Gospel they originally received. Thus, his letter to the Galatians is crisis literature in which he is urgently appealing to them to come back to his Gospel. In order to grasp fully much of what he says it is important for one to be aware of the historical backdrop against which he is writing. It is widely accepted by Biblical scholars that the occasion for his writing has to do with Jewish “missionaries” that have come to the Gentile church and began to impose the standards of the Mosaic Law upon them, most notably circumcision (Matera p.2). Paul considers this a perversion of the Gospel, and he therefore must do what he can to get them to reject the circumcision as means for salvation (Matson). He makes a series of appeals to them in order to help them see things from his point of view and turn back to the truth of the Gospel. In Chapter 3 we find his position on the Law, in which he determines the Law to be secondary to the promise God made with Abraham (3:15-19), asserting that since Abraham was justified by faith, before the law, so are they justified by faith in Christ apart from the Law. Perhaps his most captivating appeal comes in Chapter 5, where he calls them to adhere to the moral standards of the Gospel and establishes living in the Spirit as the means by which such standards are met.
The Purpose of Freedom
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Verse 13 begins with Paul stating to the church of Galatia that they all “were called to freedom”. Without understanding the backdrop of this letter, and the issues Paul has taken up thus far, one may be quick to assume that Paul is speaking of freedom in a general sense, and simply spewing out cliché Christian exhortations. In actuality, Paul is referring back to his previous appeal to them in which he made the claim that they were free from sin, the law, the flesh, and the powers through their faith in Jesus Christ. His use of gar indicates that he has taken up the issue again (Matera 192). More specifically, the freedom he mentions here echoes chapters 3 and 4 in which Paul speaks about them receiving adoption through the Spirit and no longer being slaves, but sons and heirs to the promise. The fact that Paul sees the need to drive this point home does well to show just how important this is to him. For him, the issue of justification and redemption through faith and not the works of the law is the truth of the Gospel (Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free p. 328). Therefore, there is no room for compromise on this point. This is why he then goes on to tell them not to turn the freedom into an “opportunity for the flesh.” Paul is using the term σαρκι, or flesh, which could be a reference to circumcision, but given what follows this statement it is more likely that he is using the term as indicative of the sinful human nature, which the law exposes but does not eradicate (Bruce, Paul:
Apostle of the Heart Set Free p. 206). This is why he then proceeds to instruct them to serve one another in love as opposed to turning to the flesh, thus bringing in the ethical component of his Gospel. Interestingly enough, in ancient Greco-Roman culture, a culture heavily based on honor and power, servanthood is not placed upon a pedestal (Kittel, Schneider v.8 p 176). Having servants would have been the mark of a free man, not being a servant. This was their way of life before Christ, when they were, as Paul described, under the “powers”, and without ethical boundaries. The implication is that by turning to the law they are in affect turning back to the powers, and therefore this worldview. If such is the case, they are no longer living in obedience to faith and the law of love. Because he presents the two in opposition to one another, one must conclude that it is not possible, at least in Paul’s mind, for them to adhere to both at the same time. This statement, and the ones that proceed, are in no doubt in response to opponents of Paul that claim that since his Gospel is law-free it gives way to sin and anarchy. This position would be the one that the Judaizers would have held. One must not make the mistake in thinking that they only wished to have the Gentile converts accept circumcision in order to be accepted into Abraham’s family. The popular understanding, which is reflected in Paul’s own writing, as well as in James’ epistle, is to accept one part of the Law is to accept the Law as a whole. This is why they saw a need to push circumcision in order to compel their Gentile brothers in Christ to accept the moral guidelines of the Law so sin could have no place in the community of faith. However, it is clear that Paul did not see things this way. This is why he instructs them to use their freedom to serve one another in love, rather than to accept the requirements of the law and therefore submit slavery under sin.
The Law of Love
For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF”. 15But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
At first glance, it appears as though Paul has offered a slight contradiction to the basis of his argument against the Law up to this point. However, this is not the case. While it is true, that he the statement, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” is indeed a quotation taken from the Law (Lev 19:18.), it would be presumptuous to conclude that by making such a reference that Paul is advocating for the continuation of, or any adherence to, the Mosaic Law. If that were the case, he would be effectively tearing down his own argument, and thusly the truth of the Gospel as he sees it. It is then more likely that Paul’s quotation of Leviticus is a direct quotation of Jesus and a response to their desire to submit to the Law. Granted, many biblical scholars hold an opposite position concerning this particular occurrence in Paul’s writings, and do not believe that Paul is taking a quote from Jesus, but rather the phenomenon of common ground is at play here. The point is well taken, especially when you consider that Paul does not directly quote Jesus very often, if ever at all, in the rest of his writings. It is rather apparent that Paul is much more concerned with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as opposed to his ethics and teaching. Nevertheless, it does appear as though Paul is gleaning from and repeating back something directly from the mouth of Jesus. There is no precedent in Jewish texts for using the term “fulfill” in relation to the Law, because the understanding was that the Law was full and not lacking (Barclay, Obeying the Truth, and p.138). Christ does, however, refer to the Law in terms
of it being fulfilled in the same command found here in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (Matt 19:19, Mk 12:31, Lk 10:27). Offering a direct quotation from Jesus lends credibility to the ethics of Gospel, because in doing so he is making the point that his law enforces the ethics of Christ. Therefore, it appears as though he is admonishing them for their sudden urge to submit to the Law and urging them to submit to Christ. His use of the term fulfill suggests that the Law was incomplete and insufficient and designed to bring or point to something better than itself. Frank Matera proposes that Paul usage of the term “fulfill” indicates that he has something more in mind that “doing” the prescriptions of the Law, because they do not go to the root of the problem (Matera p.197). Moreover, using a quote from Christ as the fulfillment of the whole Law further accentuates his claim that Christ has fulfilled the law and replaced it. He is also offering a direct response to their desire to fulfill the Mosaic Law (Jervis, p.141). Additionally, Paul makes mention of this because, as we see in verse 15, it appears as though division and hostility has taken place within their community because of the actions of the Judaizers, which is why he warns them of the dangers of their present internal conflict. As Martin Luther points out, this can be seen as a criticism of the Galatians in which Paul is essentially saying to them that they are so consumed with superstitions and ceremonies that they serve no good purpose and neglect love, which is the most important thing (Luther, p.217). In short, their disputes will lead to their destruction and the destruction of what God has purposed through Christ. This warning, coupled with the command from Christ he makes mention of, he is making the point that the result of their desire for the requirements of the Law (which have been fulfilled by Christ), has caused them to offend the Law and to be in opposition to Christ.
The Eschatological Hope
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
Some have proposed that walking by Spirit is simply living a life that is conducted by means of the Spirit (Jervis, p.142). However, the level of ambiguity present within that particular exegetical understanding of the text makes such reasoning problematic. Because, if it was to be understood in this way, the lack of practicality inherent within it would leave it out of place in Paul’s argument. In order to grasp what Paul means in verse 16, one must understand it in respect to the letter as a whole, and what has preceded it. Consequently, it must be pointed out that Paul is writing in response to an extremely divisive social and theological issue in their community, in that the perverted Gospel the Judaizers had brought to them had made table fellowship and community difficult to say the least. Furthermore, to better grasp how Paul sees walking in the Spirit we must define the terms used by examining his usage of them, and not by reading common or popular interpretations into them. With that said, the word Paul uses for walk here is peripatew, commonly translated as walking, or to literally “to walk around”. However, the word was also used in the 1st century to describe one’s way of life, or code of conduct (Strong’s 4043). When used in scripture it is usually translated in the literal sense. In fact, of the New Testament authors, Paul is the only one to use the word in this manner, and it is worth mentioning that he never uses peripatew in its literal sense. In his writings the word is usually translated as “way of life” or “living” (2nd Cor 10:3, Eph 2:10, Ph 3:17). In addition, in Chapter 3 (v.14), Paul identified the Spirit as both the giver of the promise God made to Abraham, and the promise itself, thus considering it the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. Thusly, the
more accurate way to translate this command is “live in the Spirit”, which is much more than a metaphysical abstraction. Rather, it is a command that is directly addressing their daily lives and conversion (Lenski, p.280), and therefore speaking to the issue at hand. Paul is stressing to them that their way of life should not be in submission to the powers that once enslaved them, but that they ought to live in the promise of the Spirit, thus allowing Christ to live in them and among them. He is pressing them to allow the Spirit to enable them to live lives that are exemplary of the life that Christ lived. In this way, their community will defined by love and submission to one another and not legalism and dissention. The phrase, “και επιθσμιαν σαρκος οσ μη τελεσητε”, is commonly translated as an emphatic future negation meaning, “and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh”, and rightfully so. In the Greek, this is the most assertive way to prohibit or negate something grammatically. Paul’s usage of it here shows that Paul places supreme confidence in the Spirit to bring one to new life. Some, such as William Tyndale (“FaithOfGod.net”), have understood this verse to say, “…and do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh”, thus making it an imperative, or command. The latter would suggest that they are somehow capable of resisting sin and the flesh in and of themselves. This would undermine his position on the Law, because it would suggest that the Law could bring righteousness. If sin were simply a transgression of the law, then this would be true. However, Paul does not see sin as simply transgression, but rather as a cosmic force that has taken control of the world. Furthermore, the word translated as lust in this verse is επιθσμιαν, which generally carries a negative meaning in the NT; the term is used most frequently to denote a longing for the unlawful, hence, concupiscence, desire, lust (Raffety). Without context, this would be a rather perplexing claim, but he has already stated that the fulfillment of the Law is the command to “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” So then, the only Law they are
subject to is the law of love (Jervis, p.142). He has also pointed out that their observance of the prescriptions of the Law as a means of salvation has placed them back where they were before the Gospel (4:9-12), and has begun to destroy their communal love (5:15). Therefore, Paul is telling them that life in the Spirit will completely free them from the flesh at some point in time and eventually render them virtually impervious to carnal desires (Matera p.199). He is doing more than issuing a call to ethics, or informing them of the power of the spirit, this statement points toward the eschatological hope of resurrection and complete freedom in the Spirit. The Eschatological Tension
For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.
By juxtaposing the flesh and the Spirit, Paul has clearly personified sarx. This further substantiates the assertion that sarx representative of something more than human nature. This is where Paul’s apocalypticism begins to manifest itself. He has painted the picture of two cosmic forces at war with one another. As Luther put it, the Spirit and the Flesh are “bitter opponents”. (p. 222) He seems to be very aware of the constant struggle between the two in the world and in the life of the believer. In using αλληλοις in respect to both the Spirit and the Flesh, Paul employs the dative of personal interest, indicating that the two have objective goals in regards to this cosmic struggle (Bruce, The Letter to the Galatians p.244). In some of his later writings he reveals that the Spirit’s purpose is to bring the believer to resurrection life, and the flesh brings forth death (Rom 8:5-9). His employment of eschatological imagery suggests that
what is at risk here is not just their community or freedom, but their salvation. This is why he is so adamant about them turning back to the Gospel they first received, because if they turn to the insufficient ways of old they are submitting themselves to this cosmic power of sin that has been overcome by Christ, yet persists until his return. He even goes as far as to concede that because of this constant struggle, there are times when they may experience difficulty doing the very thing they will to do. This is why living in the Spirit is of the utmost importance, because the Spirit is what allows Christ to live in the believer and the church. Paul does not seem to render the believer as a helpless victim on this cosmic battleground; instead, he sees the human will as either working for or against the Spirit. The conclusion drawn from this is that if one yields to the flesh, they are enslaved by it, but if they live in the Spirit, they are liberated and can live out will of God here and now (Bruce, The Letter to the Galatians p.245).
The Certainty of Liberty from the Law
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
Paul again stresses the freedom inherent within the Gospel and in a life that is lived in accordance with the Spirit. After previously stating that the struggle between the flesh and Spirit, both internally and externally, makes it increasingly difficult for one’s will to assert itself, he offers a comforting statement. He informs his readers that those who are led by the Spirit are no longer upo nomon, or “under law”. The phrase “upo nomon” is one that Paul uses quite regularly, and it paints the picture of the Law as being something that is oppressive and enslaving
(Matson), and according to Romans 7:15, an existence under law leaves on unprotected to the malignity of indwelling sin. This is because the law is only sufficient to reveal to someone that his or her actions are in opposition to the will of God, it cannot however empower one to choose what is good. According to Paul, again, the law’s purpose was to reveal to both Jew and Gentile that they were in need of redemption, and it is in Christ that this redeeming work takes place. To be led by the Spirit then is to be increasingly conformed to the likeness of Christ and to cease to be under the law (Bruce, The Letter to the Galatians p.245). The point is this, the Spirit brings one to adoption, liberty, and Christ likeness, therefore liberating one from the desire of the flesh, the bondage of the law, and the power of sin. Furthermore, no longer being “under law” indicates that they are now a part of another world order, so to speak. As Paul would later say, the Christian is “in the world, but not of the world.” This means that by faith, they have not only been adopted into the Abraham’s family and freed from the law, the flesh, and sin, but they have also become a part of the Kingdom of God that is both here and not yet.
The Works of the Flesh
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions,factions,21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God
In order to establish a more clarified distinction between the flesh and the Spirit, Paul lists of conduct and characteristics that are indicative of both. He employs a popular literary device to make this point, listing vices and virtues (Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians p.250). It
does not appear as though he intends the list to be exhaustive because he afterwards he throws in the phrase, “and things like it”, suggesting that more than what he stated can be included. However, what he offers here is more than just a list of vices. Paul is still working out of his apocalyptic mindset here, while still attempting to call the church to an ethical faith-based lifestyle. The “works of the flesh” are a representation of the nature of the flesh and the characteristics of its kingdom. Present within the list are things that are distinct characteristics of the pagan religious practice that were commonplace in ancient Greco-Roman culture. Sexual immorality, idolatry, sorcery, carousing and drunkenness were all things that were very closely associated with pagan worship. By associating these things with the works of the flesh, Paul is again showing them how they were previously under the power of sin before Christ. The other things in the list have to do with social relations and participation in community. Enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, and envying all have to do with how they interact with one another. The assumption is that their social relations were defined by such things before they came to be in the family of God. What is interesting is that Paul had to address their disputes and dissensions earlier in his letter, which presumably came because of their desire to follow the Law. It is clear that Paul did not include them as a matter of happenstance; rather he is demonstrating to them again that living by the Law places them under the dominion of sin. This is why he makes the bold claim that those who make such things their prassw, or habitual practice, will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
The Fruit of the Spirit
. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Naturally, the fruit of the Spirit are in contrast to the aforementioned “works of the flesh”. These do not make up an exhaustive list, however all nine are characteristics of those in whom the Spirit lives (Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians p.251). Again, this is not simply a list of virtues, but characteristics that embody the Gospel and the Kingdom of God. The first of these is love, which Paul elsewhere mentions as the greatest spiritual gift. He also established love as the defining command and characteristic of those who are in Christ. In addition, the inclusion of joy and peace in this list is not a mere coincidence. As Paul states in Romans 5:1, we are to rejoice because we have peace with God through Christ. Love, joy, and peace are all present within the church and believer in the Spirit as a direct result of God’s actions through Christ. The second half of the list deal with how believers are to interact with each other socially when they are in the Spirit. It is worth noting that the structure of verses 22 and 23 mirror the structure Paul uses to present his Gospel. That is, the theological framework he adheres to and works from is an “indicative then imperative” one; in other words, “God has done this, so we should do this” (Matson). Love, joy, and peace come because of God’s own doing in Christ, and our response should be patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control towards one another. Such are the defining marks of Christian community. In making mention of this, Paul is attempting to urge them to come back to the Gospel they originally received and implement the ethical standards of Christ, against such there is no law. Essentially, what Paul is trying to communicate is that the purpose of the Flesh is to bring forth characteristics and promote a
culture that is in direct opposition to what the Spirit works to cultivate in the church. Only by living in the Spirit, will they embody and exemplify Christ and the resurrection power he has granted by the Spirit. He mentions that there is no law against the fruit the Spirit brings into the life of the believer. The assumption inherent within that statement is that there are laws against those things that the Flesh works to bring forth, therefore assuming that a moral law that transcends all law governs all. Therefore, no law, not even the Law of Moses, prohibits the fruit of the Spirit. This is because the fruit are exemplary of the character of Christ and in accordance with his teachings. Therefore, if one walks in the Spirit they are following Christ and thus fulfilling the Law through him. Interestingly enough, Paul has effectively managed to present a law-free Gospel that does not give way to spiritual anarchy and sin.
Although we may not find ourselves in precisely the same historical situation as the church of Galatia, there is still much to glean from Paul’s letter to them. More specifically, the issue of freedom from the Law and life in the Spirit can provide insight as to what standard we are to live by as Christians. Unfortunately, in many Christian circles it is believed that some parts of the Mosaic Law still apply to the Church on a moral or ethical level. According to Paul at least, this is an inappropriate understanding of the Gospel. To be free from the law is to be free from the law in its entirety. Understanding the law or the adherence to any doctrine, as a means of salvation is very problematic and should be considered the antithesis of the Gospel. Too many
churches attempt to enforce and impose their beliefs about homosexuality, alcohol, or entertainment on people as a criterion for being considered a Christian. It is clear that Paul does not consider religious traditions as the defining mark of a believer or as the means of inclusion into the family of God. Faith in Jesus Christ is how one becomes a part of the Christian community. However, this does not mean that our faith is void of any moral or ethical grounds. Such could not be further from the truth; our calling is to adhere to love as the highest standard. Regardless of theological differences, denominational barriers, or racial and social distinctions, the church should be bound together in love. If any practice or conviction threatens the love, and the expression thereof, in the church on any level it should be re-evaluated. Such an understanding would lend itself to more unity in the Church as a whole.
For the individual believer, this passage is one that can really bring hope and an understanding of the purpose of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, today there seems to be a lack of understanding as to what the phrase “walk in the Spirit” means. For many the Pentecostal circles, it means that those believers who are privileged enough to be “baptized in the Spirit” are pray in tongues so much that they live in another spiritual stratosphere than other believers. Walking in the Spirit is better understood in the corporate sense first, then on an individual level. That is, the Spirit is resident within the church as a whole and is there to empower to church to fulfill its calling to be the representation of Christ on earth. Individually, whether one speaks in tongues or not, the Holy Spirit works in the life of the believer to help them better express their freedom by means of Christ-like love to others. This of course involves a transformation of character, which comes by the aid and the empowerment of the Spirit. It is encouraging to know that one does not have to attempt to reflect Christ under their own power, which would be very difficult. It is also comforting to know that we are not expected to lead lives that are blameless and upright.
Unfortunately, until the Kingdom comes in its fullness there is a tension in each of us; an everpresent struggle between what is good and true, and a life of slavery to selfish ambitions and sin. So long as we submit ourselves to the standard of Christ and by faith accept the Promise he has given us, we are energized to live in the freedom of God. As Paul states elsewhere, it the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in the Church and individual believer for the purpose of building Christ-likeness in us, advancing the kingdom, and bringing resurrection power to the world.
1. B a r c l a y, J o h n M . G . O b e y i n g t h e T r u t h : P a u l ' s E t h i c s i n G a l a t i a n s . Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2005. Print. 2. B r u c e , F . F . P a u l : A p o s t l e o f t h e H e a r t S e t F r e e . G r a n d R a p i d s , M I : E e r d m a n s P u b l i s h i n g C o m p a n y, 1 9 7 7 . P r i n t . 3. B r u c e , F . F . T h e E p i s t l e t o t h e G a l a t i a n s . G r a n d R a p i d s , M I : E e r d m a n s P u b l i s h i n g C o m p a n y, 1 9 8 2 . P r i n t . 4. " G a l a t i a n s 5 . " F a i t h O f G o d . n e t . F a i t h o f G o d , n . d . W e b . 2 4 A p r 2011. <http://faithofgod.net/WTNT/galatians_5.html> . 5. J e r v i s , L . A n n . G a l a t i a n s . P e a b o d y, M a s s : H e n d r i c k s o n P u b l i s h e r s , 1999. Print. 6. K i t t e l , G e r h a r d . " T h e o l o g i c a l D i c t i o n a r y o f N e w T e s t a m e n t . " V o l s . 7 - 8 G r a n d R a p i d s , M I : E e r d m a n s P u b l i s h i n g C o m p a n y, 1 9 7 6 . Print. 7. L e n s k i , R . C . H . T h e I n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f S t . P a u l ' s E p i s t l e s t o t h e Galatians. Columbus, OH: The Wartburg Press, 1937. Print. 8. L u t h e r , M a r t i n . C o m m e n t a r y o n t h e E p i s t l e t o t h e G a l a t i a n s . G r a n d Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publis hing House, 1949. Print. 9. M a t e r a , F r a n k J . S a c r a P a g i n a : G a l a t i a n s . 9 . C o l l e g e v i l l , Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1992. Print. 10. M a t s o n , D a v i d L . G a l a t i a n s a n d J a m e s . H o p e I n t e r n a t i o n a l U n i v e r s i t y. F u l l e r t o n , C A . L e c t u r e .
11. M c R e yn o l d s , P a u l . W o r d S t u d y : G r e e k - E n g l i s h N e w T e s t a m e n t . 4 t h R e v . e d . C a r o l S t r e a m , I L : T yn d a l e H o u s e P u b l i s h e r s , 1 9 9 3 . P r i n t 12. R a f f e t y, W i l l i a m E d w a r d . " L u s t . " I n t e r n a t i o n a l S t a n d a r d B i b l e Encyclopedia. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1939. Web. <http://www.internationalstandardbible.com/ L/lust.html>