Galatians 3 is a chapter of the Bible that has always made me laugh and cry at the same time. Every time that I begin reading it, it makes me laugh – and then it makes me cry because the same thing that the Galatians were being confused and seduced by, is still confusing and seducing people today.
There are many people who are seeking after God, seeking after His power, seeking after miracles, and many of them are good and honest people who truly desire these things and they want to be close with God with a pure heart. The problem is, that they are being deceived… they are trying to approach God from the wrong angle and with the wrong perspective.
The same thing was happening in Galatia, and as we look at what Paul wrote to them in order to correct their view and remove the deception, it will become clear for us today as well. As we look at this truth today, and see the marvelous Grace and mercy of God for all that it is, we will be free from the same pit that the Galatians were falling in to.
So as you may have guessed, as we begin today, we will be reading Galatians chapter 3. And as we look at this and are attentive, we will begin to see that this error that the Galatians were being caught in, is still with us in many places today. So let’s start off with Galatians 3:1-3:
“O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
This only would I learn of you, Received you the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Are you so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?”
Notice the passion in Paul’s words here. What is it that has him so emotional? Why is he calling them foolish? Well, he says who has bewitched you? Who has put a spell on you? Who has captivated you? … that you should not obey the truth; even though Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, Jesus Himself is your evidence He has been displayed before you as evidence, crucified among you.
The Galatians were being deceived, they were being pulled away, they were being swayed, to not obey the truth. Now, what truth is this? Many people assume that this is some sort of legalistic truth, that this is the truth of the Law of Moses… but no, it is the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ being spoken of here. Ironically, this same kind of confusion right here is the same thing that was stumbling those in Galatia at that time… they were being confused, bewitched, towards legalism and the Law of Moses and complicating and convoluting the simple truth of God’s Grace and the Good News of Jesus Christ. Paul is marveling that even in the face of the evidence of Jesus’ crucifixion, that they are still so easily moved away from the truth of the Gospel.
His questions in verses two and three are very telling: have you received the Spirit by the works of the Law or by the hearing of faith?
Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?
We can learn a lot from these questions. Because there are some today also who believe the same lie that the Galatians were being swayed by… that saving faith in Jesus isn’t enough, that faith in Christ is just the beginning – and once received, then you must move on to what they call “deeper things”, “deeper truths” that we must still be perfected through our works.
My friend, that is nothing more than a terrible and destructive lie. It nullifies the finished work of Christ, because the lie itself suggests that His work really isn’t finished at all. The lie makes you think that the accomplishment of Christ on the cross really didn’t accomplish anything – it’s just a starting point.
That is the lie that the Galatians believed. They believed the lie that they had begun in the Spirit, but now they had to be perfected in the flesh. That they had to work in order to complete what Jesus had left unfinished. And this reduces the finished work of Christ to nothing but a jump-start at best. And there are quite a number of people today who believe the very same lie… it’s even taught in some Christian churches!
We see that Paul in the scriptures here, calls it for what it really is though; foolishness.
He starts off by saying O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? That question itself let’s us now that such a lie does not come from God… this is not God’s wisdom here – God’s wisdom would not move us away from His own Gospel; God’s wisdom would not cause us to look to ourselves to complete ourselves, when in reality the finished work of Christ Jesus His Son was more than enough!
And Paul reminds them of that.
Then in verse 2, Paul asks them, well how did you receive the Spirit? Did the Spirit come through your works, your efforts, your strength? No ofcourse not! The Spirit came through the hearing of faith. However there are teachings out there in the world today that say that the Spirit of God must be earned, must be worked for or merited through various sacrifices or sufferings of man; and it’s the same lie of Galatia all over again.
Paul continues in verse 3: are you so foolish? Again we see that these are foolish things to believe. There are some who think that to “move on from milk to solid food (spiritually speaking) is to leave the Gospel of the Grace of Christ and go to some form of works, and that this somehow makes us more holy, or in deeper connection with God – but again, we see here straight from the scripture, Paul again calls this a foolish lie. It is foolish to believe that Jesus only begins you, and then you need to complete yourself – it is nothing more than a stupid lie!
Look at verse 5:
“He therefore that ministers to you the Spirit, and works miracles among you, does he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?”
Again, this is something that honest, sincere, good-hearted believers want… ministerings of the Spirit and the working of miracles; but as I mentioned in the opening, many are going about it the wrong way. They are proceeding from a foundation of works, effort and merit, trying to earn what cannot be earned they are suffering in an effort to obtain what Jesus already suffered to give them.
Paul reminds the Galatians here that the one who ministers the Spirit and works miracles does so, not by the works of the Law, but again by the hearing of faith. We cannot earn what is given as a free gift through faith in Jesus Christ… and I know that some people have the question of why not? I too, had the same question even before I was truly introduced to Jesus; even before I knew who He was at all – I couldn’t understand why faith was so essential… I couldn’t understand why a truly loving God wouldn’t just give it to us anyway – even if we proceeded from the wrong foundation of works, and if I would’ve just read a few verses more, I would’ve saved myself a lot of confusion, because Paul explains why in verse 10 of this very same chapter, take a look:
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”
I know people who when they read Galatians 3, they gloss over this verse, and almost speed-read it because they don’t see the importance of it, but this verse is huge. This verse answers the question of precisely why faith is so important, and also why approaching from the wrong foundation of man’s efforts, and the works of the Law are so deadly.
Notice what the verse says. This is what Galatia needed to hear to avoid being sucked-into the deadly lie, and this same thing is what we need to hear as well. As many as are of the works of the Law are under the curse. Now this is very specific language being used here and it’s actually much broader than we think.
It says as many as are of the works of the Law. This is not only speaking of using (abusing) the Law as a means of justification, but it also includes all uses of the Law, because Covenants cannot be mixed. The Law was never even given to save anyone or to make anyone righteous – and in verse 12, we plainly see that the Law is not of faith.
Everyone who is clinging to the Old Covenant Law, trying to rely upon it or use it as a means of merit, thinking that their own obedience is scoring them points, earning favor or blessing, is actually being deceived, just as Galatia was – they are placing themselves under the curse all over again. You cannot dance on the fence with one arm grasping Christ and your other arm grasping Moses. I would suggest to you that you simply embrace Grace with both hands, give Jesus the biggest bear hug of your life, and I promise you that He will hold you beyond your greatest expectations.
That was Paul’s message to the Galatians, and it is the same message for us today as well.
So I encourage you today, do not fall victim to the same lie that troubled Galatia. Christ is not merely a starting-point by which you then finish through your own obedience. Instead, Christ has done a complete work, He has made you absolutely righteous, absolutely holy, and all of the blessings and intimacy with God, come as a free gift; the result of the finished work of Christ.