Study Notes

Galatians 3:1-5


As you recall in our study of the book of Galatians, the Christians in the churches of the region of Galatia had been becoming deceived by the Judaizers - those men who taught that a person had to first subject themselves to the Jewish Law before they could become Christians.

But as we saw in chapter two, the apostles of the church officially proclaimed that this was wrong. They reiterated that salvation was only by grace, not by the religious works of the Law.

This was such an established fact that Paul even rebuked Simon Peter for failing to communicate this truth by his actions.

So now Paul says...

3:1 Foolish & Bewitched

He calls them foolish. Not because they are mentally incapable of understanding. Not because they are being deceived and drawn away because of some brain deficiency. This word "foolish" here doesn't speak of a foolishness stemming from stupidity, but a foolishness that comes from a lack of thought.

They hadn't thought this through, and so Paul is going to walk them through the logic step by step.

He also asks the rhetorical question, "who has bewitched you?" I have often felt the same way when I see someone deceived into false doctrine. "What were you thinking? Were you thinking at all? What kind of magic spell did this false teaching have on you? How can you be more dedicated to a lie that you now follow than you ever were with the truth?"

Many of you have experienced this same thing with friends and relatives. People who grew up knowing the truth but drifted away from it. People who were taught solid Bible doctrine, yet now follow heretical teachings. Paul is feeling the same frustration that we feel when we see this happen. And so he is going to try and reason with them.

3:2 Receiving By Hearing With Faith

Paul challenges them to question themselves regarding this issue. He asks them how they received the Spirit in the first place. Maybe that's something that we should ask ourselves as well. How does one receive the Spirit?

First of all, the Spirit convicts all people in the world of not believing in Jesus (John 16:9). He is near to all people, drawing them into a relationship with Christ. Jesus promised the disciples,

John 14:16-17 "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; {that is} the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, {but} you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you.

Although the Spirit is next to all people, many have hardened their hearts against the Spirit's call to Christ. But the promise to the disciples was that the Spirit would soon be in them as well.

This happened after the resurrection of Jesus. He told the disciples,

John 20:21-22 Jesus therefore said to them again, "Peace {be} with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.

They received the Spirit - He came to live inside of them. The same thing happened to you when you believed in Jesus Christ for salvation and forgiveness of sin. Paul told the Corinthians,

2Cor. 1:21-22 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave {us} the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.

And he reminded them,

1Cor. 3:16 are a temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you

The Holy Spirit living in us is God's promise of eternal life.

Eph. 1:13-14 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...

So when you were born again, when you received the gospel of Jesus Christ, you received the Holy Spirit.

So Paul asks the Galatians,

Gal. 3:2 ...did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

Was it trying to be good religious people that caused God to give them the Spirit? No. It was when they heard the gospel and received it in faith.

God has never caused a religious person who was depending on their own goodness to be born again. He has never given the seal of the Holy Spirit to anyone based on their works.

3:3 Perfected By The Flesh?

And so Paul asks them, "If you were born again by faith, not by religion, then why are you trying to now get into religion in order to perfect yourself?" Let me ask you the same question. How righteous were you the day you were born again? If you were anything like me, you were wicked to the core. You were not saved by turning over a new leaf, joining a church, or trying your best to be good. You were saved when you heard that you were a sinner separated from God, and that Jesus Christ died to pay the death penalty for your sins. You responded to the simple fact that,

Rom. 3:23 ...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

And that...

Rom. 6:23 ...the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You recognized that although you didn't measure up, God wasn't asking you to try. He was freely offering a payment for your sins. He was lovingly telling you that forgiveness was free for the asking, because He'd provided for it through the death of Jesus on the cross.

So, if their salvation experience was by faith alone, not works, He asks why they feel the need to do religious works in order to feel worthy.

This is a message that many of us need to hear today. You were separated from God, and undeserving of forgiveness. But God did it all, He paid the price in full. You didn't become religious, you simply receive the gospel. But look at your life today. Have you since become religious? Have you established yourself into a Christian lifestyle because that's what is expected of you?

Do you go to church because you're excited to worship God, learn the Word, and fellowship with His children? Or do you go out of obligation, because "real Christians" are always in church?

Do you abstain from alcohol because you want to be sober-minded and be clear-headed so that you can be used by God at any time? Or do you avoid it because "real Christians" know that alcohol is the devil's drink?

Do you read the Bible because you're excited to hear what God would say to you today? Or do you do it because "real Christians" are supposed to read for at least an hour a day?

Do you avoid immoral entertainment because it grieves the Spirit of God dwelling in you, or because you live under the law of "PG-13 and higher will land you in the lake of fire"?

Has religion crept into your walk? Do you do things because they are expected of Christians, or because your heart is really desiring to walk in a manner worthy of your calling? Have you established rules of holiness now, so that your godliness is automatically dictated by your religion?

Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

3:4 Suffer

The Galatians suffered greatly when they first heeded the gospel message that Paul was preaching. From the Gentiles, they suffered the persecution that comes with living godly lives among ungodly people, but with the religious Jews they also suffered, for they were esteemed unworthy to be children of God.

Maybe you went through that when you became born again. After I began to walk rightly with the Lord, I lost nearly every friend that I had. Darkness hates light and rebels against it.

But maybe you were in a religious family. Maybe your parents were die-hard Lutherans, or dyed-in-the-wool Catholics, and when you became born again, they got angry, didn't understand why the church you were raised in wasn't good enough. Didn't like how you seemed to be going overboard with this Jesus thing. Accused you of breaking up the family or joining a cult.

Now, if you turned away from those religious systems to become born again, can you see how foolish it is to be tied to another religious system? To become a legalist after being set free from dead religion is to do as the proverb says,

Prov. 26:11 Like a dog that returns to its vomit Is a fool who repeats his folly.

2Pet. 2:22 ...and, "A sow, after washing, {returns} to wallowing in the mire."

"Did you suffer all these things for nothing?" Paul is asking.

3:5 Miracles

Paul asks another rhetorical question, hoping that they'll understand. Not only did God provide them with the Spirit, but He also worked miracles among them. Did God do that when they were undeserving sinners saved by grace, or not until they began to follow the rules and practice the rituals? Why, it was when the gospel of grace was preached to them.

Do you need a miracle in your life? It's not going to happen if you simply "get religion." It's not going to come about just because you begin to follow a code of right living. It's not going to be manifested simply because you pledge membership to a church.

If you would simply hear with faith, then God desires to do the miraculous in your life.

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