Chapter 2 closed the 1st section of Galatians on what could be considered the “Authenticity of the Gospel. Today starts the 2nd section of Galatians which could be characterized as the “Superiority of the Gospel”. We’ve seen so far in this study how Paul is going to great lengths as he is battling against those that are opposing the True Gospel message within the churches of Galatia. Remember that Paul has said early on, any other teaching apart from that of Christ crucified as the way of salvation is a false gospel. So Paul is primarily addressing this false gospel of adherence to the Jewish customs, traditions and circumcision were requirements for salvation and sanctification. And remember that this was coming from people that had come into the church. They were called Judaizers.
Before we even begin our time together, we can learn this very important lesson. The message of our churches, that is salvation is only available through Christ, are under attack today just as they were in Paul’s time. And just like Paul, it’s important for us to be prepared to battle with the truth of Scriptures. Our foundations must be strong and firm. And how do we do that? We do that by spending time with Him in Scripture and in prayer, learning more about who He is and His character, depending our relationship and fellowship.
With that, let’s dig in.
Galatians 3:1-5 (NASB) – “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? Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
When we come to Chapter 3, some of your Bibles may have a heading for this chapter. If so, there’s a good chance that it mentions faith. Paul is getting ready to lead them back, when they first believed in Christ through their faith. This is an important place for us to start as well.
Webster defines faith like this: “allegiance to duty or a person; belief, trust in and loyalty to God; belief in traditional doctrines of religion; firm belief in something for which there is no proof; something that is believed especially with strong conviction”.
Remember from last week, we talked about having a Biblical worldview. So from a Biblical perspective, we see that Hebrews 11:1-3 and vs. 6 gives us a Biblical definition of faith:
Hebrews 11:1-3,6 (NASB) – Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the Word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible…..And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.
Don’t let that word “rewards” or “rewarder” trip you up. The root word used here is to pay off a debt. We often think that faith only happens at the point of salvation or redemption. But this faith continues throughout our walk with Christ. It is not just at redemption. It is a lifetime action. In Habakkuk 2:4 when the Lord responds to Habakkuk’s plea, we find “the righteous, those that have been made right with God through Christ, will live by faith.
With that foundation laid, when we come to chapter 3, as Paul is talking to the people in the churches in Galatia. The first that that we need to see is this:
1. Galatia is not that far away
Given that Galatia is over 5,700 miles away from where we are, maybe a better way to say that is we’re not that far away from being like the Galatians.
Paul starts out with “You foolish Galatians”.
The Greek word for foolish used here Galatians 3:1 is the word anoētos meaning unwise, lacking understanding or intellectually lazy or careless. Another way to describe what Paul is saying is “What are you thinking?” “You know better.” That’s probably not something that we’ve said, but certainly have heard others say. The Galatians were not thinking clearly. They had begun to think more highly of what they were doing to grow closer to Christ, than what they knew Christ had already done. They had begun to treat their faith carelessly and stopped relying on Christ and began relying on themselves. The object of their focus shifted from Christ to themselves.
The word lazy conjures up all sorts of images for us and we don’t like to think of ourselves as lazy, but we can be. So how can we become lazy within our churches? One thing to keep in mind is that this is not a physical laziness that has taken place, although that can certainly happen. This is a spiritual laziness and the Galatians had allowed it to enter into their churches. This can begin to happen as we begin to settle in and get comfortable. Well, how does that happen? Before you start getting tense, let’s walk through this. It honestly happens almost naturally and we don’t realize it. Think back to our SS or Bible Study class. Each class has a lesson that the teacher has prepared. As class members, how prepared were we for the class lesson? Did we read the verses on the way to church so we could say we did or did we spend time throughout the week studying the Scripture that the lesson was about? Think about our worship service. We come into the sanctuary, we sing some songs, hopefully just a couple, and we listen to somebody on the stage talk for a little bit, hopefully just a little bit. Are our churches designed to create a level of complacency?
Suppose you were going to go out on a date, you would not ask someone else to go in your place, have them to take really good notes on what the other person is like, their character traits, their likes and dislike, and then bring back a detailed report to let you know everything there is to know about that person and that be considered what your relationship is like. That sounds absurd. Instead, you would want to go so that you could get to know them, so that you could be actively involved in the relationship. So that you could understand what the other person is like. We would not want to have a relationship vicariously through someone else.
So back to church. My prayer is that this is not the only time you are hearing and reading Scripture throughout the week. That’s why we give out note taking sheets on Sunday mornings and handouts on Sunday and Wednesday nights. That’s why we have SS books or note-taking sheets in our classes. We want to provide ways to send us to Scripture. To let the Scripture roll around in our minds all week long. To reflect on what we’ve heard when we’re together as we do life together within our Bible study classes. Ultimately, to help us learn how we can spend quality time with this Jesus we’ve been talking so much about.
Most worship services and activities are structured so that our time together is very brief. Anywhere from 1-4 hours a week. We hope that the service doesn’t go long. I want to send us to the Scripture each week so that we see this living Word for ourself as the Holy Spirit draws us deeper and deeper into His Word to ultimately draw us closer to Himself. But our culture wants it quick, wants it now, and wants to move on to the next thing. Think about it. We are a “instant society” and we want our walk with Christ to be the same way. We want it now, we want it quick, we want it the way we want it and we want to get on with our life. Do we see the relationship between our walk with Christ and our daily life?
Here’s some food for thought for you. If we only came to the worship service each week and that’s the only service we attend and that’s the only time we hear or read Scripture, we will have heard about 30 minutes of Scripture and teaching. That equates to about .3% of your time for the week. For comparison, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person spends 496 minutes, or 4.9% of their time eating each week. With this comparison, we spend almost 16 times eating than we do reading Scripture. Now, I’m using this as an extreme example to make a point and I pray that it is not a reality, but consider where you are in your own personal walk. We substitute our personal time with Christ with church. So that’s why we have to say:
a. Accept no substitute
Remember back earlier in our study in Galatians, Paul had said this in Chapter 1, verse 6.
Galatians 1:6 (NASB) – I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;
Paul was well aware that attacks were going to come against them. The attacks come against all believers and the attacks come against the church as the church strives to be more like Christ, and our church is no different. Those attacks may or may not be physical, but they will most definitely be spiritual. They work to lead us away from the focus of Christ. There can be no substitute within our lives nor within our churches for the gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Paul is in the process of discipling them back to a firm foundation in Christ, through his letter, as he walks with them. So he starts out with “You foolish Galatians” as the Amplified Translation puts it
Galatians 1:6 (Amplified) – “O you foolish and thoughtless and superficial Galatians”.
But we’re the same way. If we don’t spend time in the Truth (the Scriptures) and with the Truth (Christ), we will not be able to discern the false truth for the actual Truth. There is no substitute for time with the Savior. We often chuckle with the kids on the soccer or t-ball field who get easily distracted from what’s happening on the field in order to look at a bird or look for 4-leaf clovers. But as a church, we are easily distracted from doing the work God has commanded us to do while we also look at things around us. Like Paul, we must ask this question:
b. Have our eyes been closed?
Paul continues in verse 1 with the phrase “who has bewitched you?” That’s not a phrase we use much or ever. The phrase bewitched that Paul is using here has the idea of someone who is being duped, deceived or led astray against their will, almost as if under a spell or a hex. Someone who was speaking things that was close to the truth, but falsely representing the truth . The people were being irrational and acting different from what they knew to be the truth. This could be us. We can also begin to walk by our own strength because we think we know what we’re doing. Instead of staying in close fellowship with Christ, continuing to seek His direction, we begin to go through the motions, do what we’ve always done without much thought at all and honestly without evaluating the impact. Let me ask it this way. Have you ever heard the phrase “I’ve done that so many times, I could do it with my eyes closed”. The meaning is that I’ve done it so many times, that I can complete the task with minimal effort or in a carefree manner, hence “doing it with my eyes closed”. Almost like being on auto-pilot. The churches in Galatia were no longer looking like the church it was created to be. You can almost here Paul saying “how did you go from being redeemed through Christ, believing in Him and reflecting Him, to relying on yourselves, trying to do things your own way?”
Did you know that we can carry on the functions of the church with our eyes closed and with 0 reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit? We can have our regular services and our regular programming without a single breath of seeking God’s guidance, discernment and power. And, by worldly measures, would be considered successful. How you may ask? Here’s a couple of scenarios of how it could happen. Graham can put together a list of his favorite hymns, praise songs and choir anthems that he likes and lead them with passion because he knows they will create an emotional response from us and we’ll like them. I could pick out my favorite passage of Scripture to teach from and teach a compelling lesson, b/c it’s one I’ve taught before or it’s one I know you’ll enjoy. We could get the same people to serve on the same committees and do the same jobs, because it’s easier that way. We could schedule an activity and do what we did last time, because last time we had a good turnout. We can manufacture an environment and not once seek God in the process. We can have a gorgeous facility with all of the modern conveniences and technologies. But hear me on this. If church becomes something other than the coming together of God’s people to worship Him, striving to be more like Him, growing in our relationship with Him, desiring to go outside of the walls in order to make disciples, neglecting to seek His direction in every aspect of ministry, neglecting to repent of our sins and disobedience to that which Christ has commanded, neglecting to call people to repentance, to name but just a few possible ways. If any of those are true, then are eyes have been closed. The type of facilities, the number of attenders, the money in the bank, nor the funds in the budget determines the success or vitality of the church. But instead, it is measured by it’s obedience to Christ, its faith in His sufficiency, it’s going outside of the walls, it’s disciple making and it’s disciple sending. So the question has to be asked. Are we guilty of “being foolish” and “have our eyes been closed”? Do we need to repent personally? Corporately as a church? Remember that inconvenient idea of Biblical worldview. Guess what? It also applies to inside of these walls of the church as well.
Paul said to the Galatians, how can your eyes be closed when Christ crucified was so clearly portrayed right before you. Remember, Paul is taking the Galatians back to when they were first redeemed, when they first believed in Christ’s crucifixion, He, Christ, His atoning sacrifice that made a way to have not only direct access to God the Father, but a personal relationship with Him. This idea of “clearly portrayed” is a familiar concept for us, even today. Think back to early Russia or even current North Korea with the large banners with the images of the likes of Stalin, Lenin or Kim Jong Un. The idea behind what Paul is saying is that Christ crucified was preached so clearly before your eyes it was as if you were seeing it publicly portrayed before you on large banners. He said that they heard it, believed it, obeyed it and were justified through their faith in Christ. It was Christ’s death that was the atoning sacrifice. It’s even possible that some of the Galatians were in Jerusalem during Pentecost or were even there at the crucifixion. So Paul is asking this question:
2. How did you receive?
I know what you’re thinking, we’re never going to make it through at this pace. Don’t worry. We’re fine.
Paul asks a question with the scope focused in. Paul says “How did you receive the Spirit….”. He does not say if you received the Spirit….So his question is to those that are believers. Now lets take a look back at the time that you received the Spirit and let’s look at how that came about.
a. Where did it all begin?
Remember that shortly after Pentecost, Peter preaches and 3,000 are redeemed. Peter preaches again and 5,000 were redeemed (Acts 2 and Acts 5). The message of Jesus Christ is spreading through His power. So Paul is saying, remember when you first were redeemed, remember back to when these churches were first started? What happened? Was it because of the work that you did in obeying the Law? If that was it, then there was no need for Christ to come at all. We saw that last week in Chapter 2:21. Paul reminds them, again, in verse 3. Don’t be so foolish. Instead, it was because of your faith and belief in what Christ did that brought about the Holy Spirit entering in. Now, it’s important for us to know and understand that, once we have admitted that we are a sinner in need of a Savior, repented of our sins, place our faith in the work of Christ’s crucifixion,resurrection and atoning sacrifice, and allowed Him to rule and reign in and over our lives, and entered into a relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit comes and dwells within us. The Holy Spirit is part of the triune God. God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. When Christ walked on the earth, He said that He would send us an advocate, a comforter in John 14, after His ascension. This Holy Spirit is God, living inside of us, once we have entered into that relationship with Him, is that advocate. Listen to Ephesians 1:13-14:
Ephesians 1:13-14 (NASB) – In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
Paul is saying the same thing to the Galatians. When you began your walk, it all started with the work of the Holy Spirit. It was not what you did. So what happened? You started out by believing in Christ and receiving His Spirit, are you now trying to continue that work by doing things your own way, attempting to “finish the race” in the flesh, on your own terms? Are you trying to adhere to that which you know you can never keep? Have you forgotten where you were before Christ’s death and resurrection? Listen very carefully here.
b. We can’t earn favor with God
We know this, right? But often times are actions reflect a different message. We can’t earn brownie points with God. There’s no extra credit. At the core of what was taking place was an attempt to try and “grow in their relationship”. That sounds like a good thing and it is. In fact, Scripture tells us in Ephesians 4 that we should be growing in our walk and our relationship with Christ. Is there a difference between a good thing and the right thing? We see it in many places in Scripture where people did a good thing, but not the right thing. The people in the churches of Galatia were trying use the Law as a means of “doing good” by growing. At face value, that sounds like a good and noble thing to do, right? If our desire is just to obey the Law, then we become enslaved to the law and the law has robbed us of our joy that comes through the redemption in Christ. The law can only point out how sinful we are. Our relationship with God is securely held in His hands because of Christ’s work on the cross, not because of our works. Listen to Romans 8:6-8:
Romans 8:6-8 (NASB) – For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Forget about saving ourselves, we are not even able to please God through our flesh, i.e. doing things from within ourself in order to contribute to our salvation. Trying to keep a list, if you will. Jeremiah 17 tells us that our heart is deceitful. A way that we often here it, “God helps those who helps themselves”, which by the way is not in the Bible. So let’s make sure we get this. Our mind, when focused on ourselves, is actually hostile toward God. However, our mind, focused on the Holy Spirit brings us peace and life. Now, we’ve seen this word life for 3 weeks in a row now. The word life here, in the Greek is zōē (zo-ay) which means the fullest life possible. As our focus and our pursuits shift from ourselves toward the Holy Spirit, we experience His peace and the fullest life possible while here on earth and that is a life walking with Him. And this is an eternal life. We saw this Wednesday night in our James study. Once redeemed, our identity is found in Christ.
3. What is the source?
Galatians 3:5 (NASB) – Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
As Paul is trying to bring them back, he ask them “where did the Holy Spirit come from?” What’s the source? Do you really think it’s because of how well you do something? Do you really think that’s the source of your redemption and sanctification? Listen to verse 5 from the NLT:
Galatians 3:5 (NLT) – I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.
Obedience to the Law or faith in the Holy Spirit? Or because of you or because of Him?
John McArthur says this: “If a person has received eternal salvation through trust in the crucified, received the fullness of the Holy Spirit the same moment he believed, and has the Father’s Spirit-endowed power working within him, how could he hope to enhance that out of his own insignificant human resources by some meritorious effort?”
Now that’s a mouthful, but let me break it down. If you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior by believing His atoning sacrifice on the cross and His power to redeem you through admitting you’re a sinner, separated and condemned to hell because of your sin, a sinner in need of a Savior and that Savior is Jesus Christ, repenting or turning away from those sins and accepting the Lordship of Christ, and now, having the power of God dwelling within you through the Holy Spirit, how in the world can you possibly think you can contribute anything to that in order to grow in that relationship.
As the band is coming up.
Once we are redeemed, we have the Holy Spirit living within us. That’s right, the third part of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is living within us. That’s exciting news! That’s encouraging news! And yet, we still try to do things to earn His favor. Would it not be wise of us to rely on that which God has given us instead of trying to put together some paltry works? Think how freeing that is to allow the Holy Spirit do what only He can? I want to encourage you to allow God to free you!
Have we become lazy and complacent? Has our church become lazy and complacent? If you have placed your faith in Christ and allowed Him to rule and reign in your life, do you need you, repent, turn away from your sins and have the fellowship with God restored?
If you have not placed your faith in Him, we would love to talk to you about that and help you understand what a relationship with Christ is all about.