Friday, 8 July 2011

Freedom and Slavery in Galatians (3)

            The Case of Peter

            Peter lived under the same traditional Judaism as Paul, and had now been set free to ‘live like a Gentile’[1]. Possibly commenting from Psalm 143[2] he argues that no flesh can be made righteous through the law. Thus in coming to Christ, they confessed they are all sinners, and therefore ‘Gentiles’[3], and that was the point of the law – not to help the flesh become righteous, but to point it to trust in the Messiah, and thus show the flesh it was weak and sinful[4].  Thus even though turning to Christ proves one to be a sinner, it does not mean one can go back to the law to deal with sin, since one already died to the law in Christ[5]. This is exemplified in Peter’s actions: “The fact that Peter was now turning back to it (the law) proves that he is actually opposing the true purpose of the law. To turn away from Christ to the law is a betrayal of the law, the ultimate law-breaking.”[6]

            Comparing it with Titus’ circumcision case, then to go back to the law after one has been set free by Christ in an attempt to deal with sin, is the definition of slavery here. And behind all this we can see that Peter’s real motivation was the fear of his fellow Jews[7].


            At the crux of the matter, is the crucifixion of Christ.  O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.[8] Paul wants them to know that if Jesus was crucified, then even Jesus is not considered righteous by the law, but cursed[9]! “Crucifixion and the law will not go together. The law defines crucifixion as a cursed death. The law told Paul that if he was crucified with Christ he is cursed… however, to choose Christ is also to die to the law and therefore to escape its curse.”[10] If one started in faith by hearing the Word[11], one must continue in faith through that same Word and Spirit[12]. Luther explains the heart of those trying to live out their ‘faith’ through law-keeping: “Instead of doing the Law, these law-conscious hypocrites break the Law. They break the very first commandment of God by denying His promise in Christ. They do not worship God in faith. They worship themselves. Those who intend to obtain righteousness by their own efforts do not say in so many words: "I am God; I am Christ." But it amounts to that. They usurp the divinity and office of Christ. The effect is the same as if they said, "I am Christ; I am a Savior. I save myself and others."[13] Keeping the law in this manner is opposite to faith in Christ[14], it is faith in self - and no wonder leads to making disciples for self, rather than Christ[15].

            It is no wonder Paul emphasized that through the law, he was joined with the crucifixion of Christ, and thus now the old flesh is dead, and he only lives this fleshly life to God through Christ, by faith[16] – and that is freedom.

[1] Gal 2:14
[2] See Blackham, pg. 28
[3] For all Gentiles are regarded as sinners. We believe that this whole section is a continuation of Paul’s debate with Peter with regards to Jews.
[4] “As long as he remained a faithful and loyal Jew with the divine law as the way he was meant to live, he was ‘kicking against the pricks’ for he could never keep the law fully” - Morris, pg. 88
[5] Gal 2:18-19
[6] Blackham, pg. 28
[7] Gal 2:12
[8] Gal 3:1, See Morris, pg. 94 for more details on the meaning of the phrase ‘publicly portrayed’
[9] Deut 21:23
[10] Blackham, pg. 28-9
[11] Gal 3:2
[12] Implied in Gal 3:3. We note briefly that a we define a life lived crucified in Christ has the same meaning as a life lived in the Spirit of God. See Fee pg. 204-5 for more details describing ‘the life in the Spirit’.
[13] M. Luther, Commentary on Galatians, – commenting on Gal 3:10
[14] Gal 3:12  - note Jesus’ interpretation on the same passage, Lev 18:5 – it is in opposition to a man who wanted to justify himself rather than trust in the Lord (Luke 10:29)
[15] Cf. Gal 4:17, 6:13
[16] Gal 2:20

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