Lesson 59: "O Foolish Galatians, Who Hath Bewitched You?"
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson # 59. Welcome! At the first of what we call ch. 3, Paul once again tied his thoughts back to the beginning of this book. In 1:7, the apostle said to the Galatians: "there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ." Here at the beginning of ch. 3, the apostle stopped and asked about 4 or 5 provocative questions. In effect, these questions add up to an accusation against the Galatians that they had swallowed the doctrine of the Judiazers and fallen for their false teaching. Paul said they were "bewitched." James Strong gives the Greek word Paul used here for "bewitched" literally to mean: to fascinate by false representation. That pretty much says it, I believe. The Galatian brethren were fascinated with the doctrine of circumcision and keeping the Mosaic law. The Judiazers taught these things were necessary to be saved (Acts 15:1).
O.K., let's read the first 5 verses in ch. 3. Are you ready? Ch.3,1 beginning in v.l. Let's read! "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? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?"
Alright, try to get these questions sorted out in your mind. The first question is simply this: who hath bewitched you? Paul's emphasis was upon "who?" You see, this suggests the Galatians should re-examine the source of their information. Who was responsible for casting this bewitching spell upon them "that ye should not obey the truth...?" What is truth? That's the way it is! Truth means the reality of the situation. What was the reality of the situation? Paul and Barnabas (and later Silas) had taught them about Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Paul here says: "before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you." i.e. the teaching had been so thorough that Paul speaks here as if these Galatians were literal eye witnesses to the crucifixion. But, as so often happens, they had forgotten that teaching over a period of time. They were evidently so fascinated by those false representations they had lost sight of their earlier understandings. Thus, Paul's question was intended to provoke their memory. Who had done this? Then while that "who" question was penetrating, the apostle in v.2 said in effect: if you are so fascinated by this perverted and false doctrine to the point you have lost sight of reality; let me ask you one simple question. The answer to Paul's question required them to review their own past experience. How had they received the Spirit in time past? That's the question! Then Paul offered two multiple choice answers: (1) had they received the Spirit by the works of the law? or (2) did it come by the bearing of faith? When they considered the question carefully the answer was obvious and it condemned their own conduct. Alright, what's the question? V.2, listen to Paul's question. "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" Question mark! Which was it? Please note in the KJV the word "Spirit" begins with a capital "s". What does that mean? The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead. Back in Acts 14:23, at the time Paul and Barnabas departed from the churches of Galatia; it says: "when they had ordained them elders in every church., .they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed." hi Acts 16:5, when Paul and Silas left the Galatian churches on the second missionary tour, it says: "so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily." So, you see, truth did exist in the Galatian churches back then. Furthermore, they had evidently received spiritual gifts in Galatia just as we learned about the Corinthian church back in I Cor. Ch. 12-13-14? Do you remember the list we covered in v. 8-9-10 of I Cornthians chapter 12? How and when did their spiritual gifts come? Did these gifts come after obeying the Mosaic law or after obeying Christ? When they focused and thought on these things the answer was obvious; after obeying Christ the Lord sent them the Holy Spirit as he had promised in John 16:7-8. It had nothing to do with the Mosaic law. Then, quickly in v.3 Paul sharpened the contrast with a couple more questions. "Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" Notice now: in this question, Paul implied they had begun correctly, i.e. in the Spirit. Why had they switched? Why had they abandoned that course? The answer could be no other than that they had swallowed the false doctrine of the Judiazers. Then in v.4, another swift question that reminded them of all their suffering for these things in the past; was that all empty and vain? If they followed the path of the Judiazers; why had they suffered in the past? They were building again the very things they had suffered for in the past. Back in v.l 8 of ch. 2, Paul had just said: "If I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor." Thus, they were transgressing However, notice sprinkled into all this is Paul's subtle suggestion that they correct their error and return to their former faith. At the end of v.4, Paul said: "if it be yet in vain." Paul was saying in effect, once you see the error of your way; I'm confident you will repent. The "He" at the beginning of v.5 refers to God and not to Paul. V.5 is a re-statement and a summary statement (in question form) of Paul's argument in the prior verses. Notice in that question, Paul again gives them a choice: "doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" They must obviously answer: "by the hearing of faith."
Now, try for a moment to put yourself in the shoes of the Galatians. They were undoubtedly forced on the strength of Paul's argument to say to themselves, momentarily at least: Paul you are right. Then trying quickly to harmonize and measure Paul's statements with the teaching of the Judiazers, freshly on their minds no doubt, it would naturally cause them to re-think the Abraham-Moses relationship here. You realize of course, I trust, the Judiazers must have constantly appealed to Abraham; the rather of the Jewish race and to Moses, to whom God gave the 10 commandments, as they taught circumcision and the keeping of the old law. So, as they read this (or as it was read in their hearing) and as they stood there befuddled betwixt", the arguments of Paul and the teaching of the Judiazers; Paul used this opportunity at the height of climax to do a quickie review of Abraham and Moses and to correct in the minds of the Galatians the twisted view and teachings of the Judiazers on Moses and Abraham. As I said, try to imagine yourself a Galatian disciple who had only recently espoused the doctrine of the Judiazers. Re-read v. 1-5 and try to psyche yourself into a momentary frustration that Paul's questions must have caused them. Now hold that mental stance long enough to read the rest of the chapter. If you can keep that mental posture and apply it to the following verses; there's a great lesson here. Now you must make up your own mind also: does righteousness come by the law, i.e. by obeying the law of Moses? or by faith in Jesus Christ? This causes a lot of frustration in some, even today! You won't have to go very far from your house down the street to find a so-called church teaching their children next Sunday morning to tithe and keep the ten commandments. They'll tell you they are trying to obey both Moses and Christ. So, it's no wonder they are frustrated. Paul said, back up in v.24, "I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. You can't have it both ways now! Thats what the Judiazers were trying to do: circumcise, keep the law of Moses and follow Christ too. Paul said it won't work! Modern day Judiazers try to say that if we don't keep both Moses' law and Christ's law we are making Moses and Christ competitors. They try to make both covenants one and the same. That patched-it-up idea, Matt. 9:16, do you remember? They seem to fear they are desecrating Moses to teach that the law of Moses is no longer in force. It reminds me of some people, who learn the truth taught in the New Testament and then find it conflicts with what their ancestors believed. Many times they will NOT change thinking they would be condemning their poor old mother or condemn their grandfather who believed and taught same religious error all his life. My friend, it may be that your mother or your grandfather never had an opportunity to learn the truth. They may have been doing the best they knew how. I don't know! They were good people, you just told me that. But, would they have obeyed the truth if they had learned it? You say: Oh yes! Then, you are not condemning them! They are condemning you! You just told me THEY were honest enough to change; but, then you tell me you're not. Does that make sense? You are NOT desecrating Moses to teach that we must hear Christ and not Moses. Moses himself taught that very fact before the time of Christ! Read Deut. 18:15 and Acts 3:22. Christ is the fulfillment of both Abraham and Moses' teaching. So, when you teach that the law of Moses was done away in Christ; you are teaching exactly what Moses taught.
Now, please take the time to re-read the questions at the beginning of this chapter and psyche yourself to the frustrating view of the Judiazing spirit. Then, let's read the rest of chapter 3. Are you ready? hi v.5, Paul 3 asked: "He therefore that ministereth to you (i.e. the Galatians) the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doetb he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" Question mark! They were forced to answer: 'by the hearing of faith!" They knew it was true. So, Paul says in effect: O.K. then Abraham was the same way. Look at v.6! "Even as Abraham believed God!" There's not competition! Here we go, let's examine Paul's review of Abraham and the purpose of the law. Are you ready? Beginning in v.6: "Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the Scripture, forseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall life by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on the tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannul or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions; till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Ts the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterward be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
Alright, notice while you are here that 4:1 continues this same thought by expanding on the idea of an heir (as mentioned in 3.29). So, this may be a bad place to stop reading. But, what we have just read is obviously going to take a lot of discussion. And we have just about read a whole chapter; so, trying to be practical, let's break here at a convenient place, the end of the chapter. Furthermore, our old clock has less than three minutes remaining for this lesson. And, we can't cover much of anything in three minutes. So, let me make a little homework assignment, O.K.? Between now and our next lesson together; would you re-read all of chapter three? Grind it hard, O.K.? In v. 6-18, Paul shows that to honor Abraham and do as Abraham did; one would have to act as Abraham did., .i.e. obey. God made a promise to Abraham and through Abraham that promise was made to Abraham's descendants, also. What was that promise? That promise, Paul said, involved not only Jews but "all nations." (v.8), i.e. all people of the earth. That promise really concerned the coming of Christ.. .THAT was the promise (v.16). Then Paul points out the law of Moses was given later, more than four centuries AFTER the promise to Abraham. However, the addition of that law, centuries later, Paul emphasized, did not cancel out the promise that God made to Abraham. The law was part of the plan. Then the question naturally arises: what warn the purpose of the law? Why was it added? That law, that the Judiazers were so concerned about keeping? This question Paul anticipates and answers in v.19 down through the end of the chapter. In v.24-25, Paul states clearly when that law ended and what replaced that law. The word "faith" in v.25, for example, does not mean merely: a firm conviction on the part of a hearer as we commonly use that word; but, Paul used the word "faith" here to mean the entire system of faith in Christ Jesus, i.e. in contrast to the overt nature of the 10 commandment law, you see. "Faith" here means: the gospel, in other words. Now, I think that'll hold ye for a while. But, don't slight it! Dig in! Play like you're a real Galatian disciple befuddled between Paul and the Judiazers. Then get Paul's point of view. Have a good day. I will see you in lesson 60.