Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
There are many things I appreciate about God’s Word. From our text we see that God does not beat around the bush. He does not leave a person guessing as to what He says and expects of man. When we are confronted honestly by the God of love, we can deal with what is needed. Yesterday we looked at Paul’s confrontation of Peter. Peter needed to be openly rebuked and he needed to stop his hypocrisy. He needed to be genuine 24/7. The same is true for any born again Christian. God changes the true saint from the inside out. He changes the heart and the life is built on that changed heart. The mind of the saint needs to be changed through the faithful study of God’s Word. The Bible talks of saved people who are still in need of milk when they should be able to take in meat. God is not talking of the physical diet of the person. He is talking of the spiritual health of the person. A person that is a “Sunday” Christian but thinks he is too busy to attend a mid-week Bible Study or attend all the services on Sunday is sinning against God and will not grow as he must. He cannot be pleased in his heart because God is not pleased with him.
In our text, Paul continued to address the subtle nature of the Judaizers. They were putting pressure on the saints and the saints did not seem to be equipped to deal with the subtle nature of the false teachers. The duty of a spiritual leader is to work at equipping the saints to be able to discern the false teachers and the false teaching and to grow to resist it.
The word “bewitched” means to “malign” or “fascinate”. It is the act of speaking in a manner to lull the person to sleep so that he accepts a subtle message instead of holding to the truth.
The Galatian saints were taught the truth. They knew that salvation was a work of God’s grace in the repentant sinners’ heart and life. They knew that they needed to place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation. They knew this, but they were being lied to and were not sure that what they were hearing from the false teachers was actually a lie.
Thus Paul asked them who “charmed” them into disobeying the truth. This is what was at issue. This was not some little issue. This was hitting at one of the roots of the Christian faith. Obedience is a key. We can hear all the truth, but if we refuse to obey it, it cannot help us. It will in fact condemn us.
Paul had been led by the Holy Ghost to teach the fact of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ in such a way that it was as if these saints had literally seen His crucifixion with their own eyes. Paul was led by God to be able to teach with such clarity that these Galatians were fully convinced of the fact that Jesus Christ was crucified for their sins.
These saints knew this. There was no need to now doubt what they had already believed. They did not need to entertain the false teachers. Paul stated that they were foolish to look back after they had been so thoroughly convinced of the truth. Why would you look back? Why would you look anywhere else, when the truth has been made so clear before you and you already chose to believe the truth?
Thus in verse 2 Paul wanted to know how these saints received the Holy Spirit. The Bible is clear that every born again Christian receives the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. There is no delay. The saved person does not need to pray for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He does not need to wait in anticipation of His coming. God gives every true child of God the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. The question that Paul was led to ask is: how did you receive the Holy Spirit? Was it by law keeping, or was it by the hearing of faith?
Notice again here that Paul is not speaking of a blind faith. He was talking of the fact that the saints had heard the faithful preaching of the Word of God and they had been led to believe that what Paul had taught them was true. Who led them to believe this? It was not just Paul’s teaching. It was the Holy Spirit working with Paul’s words to convince these people to turn to God in repentance and be saved.
Paul had not taught them to do any work. They did not get baptized to be saved. They did not speak in tongues to get saved. They did not need to do penance in order to be saved. They did not get circumcised in order to be saved. They needed to turn to God and thus away from idols and they needed to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Paul knew the saints in Galatia did that. Thus there was no need for them to listen to the false teachers for a moment.
It is not impolite to say no to false teachers. It is not impolite to not refute the false teacher and reject their message. Give them the truth and let them consider that.
In verse 3 Paul again addresses the foolishness of these saints. Did they truly believe that they could begin their new life in the Spirit and then be perfected by the flesh? The flesh was what was sinful. The flesh was what they had been functioning under prior to salvation. How was is possible that now the flesh would make them perfect? These saints needed to stop and think about what they were buying into. We need to do the same. Works cannot save us and works cannot improve on our salvation.
The Judaizers accused Paul of preaching lawlessness. The danger is always for the pendulum to swing from one heresy to another. God runs in the middle. He is truth. The truth shall make you free. We do not need to live by extremes. We need to live by faith in the true God. That was what Paul finished off chapter 2 with. The walk of faith is the pure walk. When we get into the flesh we fail. The challenge for the child of God is to walk by faith. We must reject the naysayers and the works promoters, and to live under the grace of God that guides the child of God in the right way. Paul began by offering grace and peace to the saints. There are things that the true saint does and there are things he does not do. He functions under the love of God, and under the law of liberty. As we will see the law of liberty is not lawlessness. It is not a license to sin. It is the blessing of God that moves the child of God ever closer to that walk of holiness that is needed in the true saint. Paul was directed to continue to expound on this in the book of Galatians.