Gal 3:1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? NIV
Ouch! One of the last things I think most of us would like to be called is foolish. Isn’t Paul being kind of harsh here? And what does he mean, “bewitched?” What is going on here?
First answer is no, Paul is not being harsh, he is being blunt and honest because so much is at stake, not for just the Galatians, but for all of us as well. Why? Because the teaching that was bewitching (Strong’s says to “fascinate by false implication”) these people was a heresy that has eternal ramifications and the Galatians were falling for it. So much so, that it seemed as though they were under a spell.
What was this doctrine that so “fascinated” them? A group of men (Judaizers), had been teaching that “grace alone, through faith alone,” which Paul taught, was not enough for salvation. They taught that you must also keep the “Law,” in order to be saved. Paul is incredulous that those who had placed their faith in Jesus for salvation, would now be tricked into thinking that they still could earn that salvation by following the law.
He states in Gal 3:10-11, “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith."And then in verse 13 “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,”
This doctrine is so important that Paul will spend the next three chapters (3-5) explaining it. To help understand the consequences of buying into this false doctrine, Paul asks them three questions. I would suggest that we ask ourselves these same questions.
One: Gal 3:2 “Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?”
Two: Gal 3: “after beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”
Three: Gal 3:5 “Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”
The answers to these questions become obvious. We receive the Spirit by faith in Christ. Once we have begun in the Spirit, the flesh cannot now sanctify us. The power of the Holy Spirit works in our lives through faith in Christ, not because of our ability to follow the law.
Why is this important to us? Well, have you ever thought, that even though you believe that Christ died to give you salvation, you still must earn your way to heaven by good works? Have you tried to earn God’s grace by keeping the law? Have you even heard teaching that might lead you to think this way? There are even those today, who after receiving Christ as Savior and Lord, have been led by false teachers into believing that they must then follow the laws of Moses to be truly right with God.
It is a trap that we are all susceptible to. Our flesh desires to exalt itself rather than God and we have an enemy just waiting to exploit that. Now, as Paul clarifies, this does not mean that the law is not good or holy, just the opposite. He explains it this way, Gal 3:23-25 “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.”
I encourage you to not be fooled by anyone who wants to lead you back into bondage. Don’t be a prisoner to the law, but live in the freedom of the Spirit. When you walk in the power of the Spirit, freely given to you by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, you will automatically be fulfilling the law. Gal 5:6 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
God bless you