Posted by: missionventureministries | August 5, 2012


“You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” – Galatians 3:1-5

Paul had clearly preached the gospel to the Galatians and they seemed to understand the great doctrines of salvation by grace and of liberty in Christ and it was hard for him to understand how they had been so quickly led astray.

True Christians acknowledge that life in Christ begins by the work of the Spirit. It cannot be perfected or brought to maturity through the flesh. Yet in many churches today people seem to believe that they can. In the first three verses above, Paul wants them (and us) to understand that sanctification comes by trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit by faith. He called the Galatians foolish for compromising the gospel of grace by relying on human effort for personal holiness and spiritual maturity instead of placing complete trust in God for salvation.

In these days of apostasy, this is even a greater problem then it was in Paul’s time, since at this very time in history, people that admit to being Christians are “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” – Ephesians 4:14. Many who profess to be Christians have, like the Galatians, been “bewitched” by clever persuasion of false teachers and religious leaders into such deceptions. They have been drawn away from the pure gospel by the fascination and allurement of the false teaching, and by the devious and deceitful words of its teachers. Had they acted by the truth that they were taught, they would not have fallen prey to it, but they acted irrationally.

Looking at religious leaders many consider themselves open-minded in their new thinking, but Paul would call them “foolish” just as he did the Galatians. He writes to the Colossians that “true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3)

It is sad to see what is happening today as it was with the Galatians where people are being misled to think that sanctification was something they needed to accomplish on their own. The Galatians had by faith received and been empowered by the Holy Spirit, but now were agreeable victims to a false form of sanctification. “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?” (Galatians 3:1)

Paul asked the Galatian believers, “did you receive the Holy Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?” – Galatians 3:2. The reason he asked this was because they were being taken in by the false teaching of the Judaizers who said that you had to add works to faith. Furthermore, they were tying to grow in Christ by adding works to their faith. If a person receives eternal salvation and the fullness of the indwelling Holy Spirit through wholeheartedly trusting in the crucified Christ, why in the world would he trade in supernatural power for human effort? That’s what Paul wanted to know. We cannot achieve a spiritual goal by natural means. The Holy Spirit produces spiritual life initially and He also sustains it.

“Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3). Likewise, adhering to external religious restraints can be easier than serving God in the liberty of the Spirit. This is why some first-century believers in Galatia wanted to live under the Mosaic Law, even though in Christ they were no longer bound by it.

Many Christians follow a similar pattern. They look for security by placing themselves under a legalistic system that calls for no more than good external behavior. In many instances, the do’s and don’ts are merely cultural, not biblical. Although their outward conduct may be generally acceptable, they are actually escaping into a subtle kind of bondage. Obedience to accepted standards has value only when our actions reflect a changed heart and express gratitude to God for His salvation.

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