March 19, 2021 – Friday
Galatians 3:1-6 NIV
1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.
2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?
3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
4 Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain?
5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?
6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
To make sense out of what Paul is saying here it would help if we turned to the first chapter and discover why he is writing to the Galatians in the first place. After his opening and greeting he gets right to the point, 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the One who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
Clearly some people were doing their best to get the Galatians to give up their faith or to change their faith by perverting the gospel by requiring works. Then the first thing he writes in chapter three is You foolish Galatians! The exclamation mark by the translators is correct when you consider the word used for foolish is not one meaning morally deficient as foolish is often used in the Old Testament, but the Greek word anoetos. Why this word, because it may also be rendered thoughtless, for it not only signifies persons void of understanding, but also persons who, though they have understanding, do not form right judgments of things, or the absence or undisciplined condition of the reasoning faculty. (Benson and Ellicott)
Paul then asks for answer to the rhetorical question, Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Of course, they knew the answer or at least they used to know the answer and Paul wants them to remember that they received the Holy Spirit by believing the gospel they heard of Jesus the Christ. He wants them to know if some people told them they must come under the law or else God would not bless them, then they had heard a lie. A lie worthy of bringing those speaking under God’s curse. The Holy Spirit does not come from the law and circumcision, but by faith, believing Jesus paid the ransom for our sins.
Paul continues with another rhetorical question, Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Barnes’ Notes to the Bible describes Paul’s incredulity thusly, Are ye so foolish? Can it be that you are so unwise? The idea is, that Paul hardly thought it credible that they could have pursued such a course. They had so cordially embraced the gospel when he preached to them, they had given such evidences that they were under its influence, that he regarded it as hardly possible that they should have so far abandoned it as to embrace such a system as they had done. Paul expresses his disbelief further when he asks, Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? What they experienced was suffering initially as well as persecution at the hands Jews requiring the law and non-believers in the region. Paul is telling them it was not in vain if they hold on to their faith.
And it is at this point Paul returns to his first question with more detail, So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? Paul wants them to remember the Holy Spirit came as a result of their faith. God blessed them through their faith, miracles happened because of their faith. None of it was the works of the law. None of it. Then he concludes with the example of Abraham from Genesis 15:6, So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Abraham believed before the law and his belief, his faith, was credited to him as righteousness.
Prayer: Father God – Please let me always be aware You have blessed me because of my faith in what You have done through Jesus, not because of any work or works on my part. – In Jesus name. Amen.