Galatians 3:1-3

In Galatians 3:1-3 Paul begins with some strong words for them. “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?”  Phillips translated it this way, “O you dear idiots of Galatia.” Paul doesn’t think they are morally or mentally deficient. Instead, Paul used the ancient Greek word anoetos, which had the idea of someone who can think but fails to use their power of perception. Paul knows they have been taught better than they are acting. Their thinking was so clouded and unbiblical that it seemed like some sort of spell had come over them. That wasn’t the case – they simply were not applying the knowledge and understanding that had been poured into them.

Barclay translates bewitched as ‘put the evil eye on’. The ancient Greeks were accustomed to and afraid of the idea that a spell could be cast upon them by an evil eye. They believed that once a person looked into the evil eye, a spell could be cast. The way you overcome that evil eye is not look at it. Paul encouraged the Galatians to fix their gaze upon Jesus. They need to avoid looking anywhere else – just keep their eyes steadfastly on Christ. “It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” Paul is clear that he has made the message about Jesus clear as it could be – and can’t understand how the Galatians have misplaced their understanding.

Paul gets personal with a question. “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” The obvious answer and the one Paul had taught them was that they received the Holy Spirit through a simple act of faith. The Spirit is not something you earn by doing good works. It is part of the gift of grace that God offers us through the shed blood of Christ on the Cross. There were some in the church telling people that as a Gentile, they had to come under the Law of Moses or God would not bless him. This meant he must be circumcised according to the Law of Moses.

This was the same challenge Paul faced in the Corinthian church. But this teaching was not of God or His Word, and certainly not what Paul had taught them. We receive the Holy Spirit by faith and not by coming under the works of the law. “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” The Galatians were deceived into thinking that spiritual growth or maturity could be achieved through the works of the flesh, instead of a continued simple faith and abiding in Jesus.

Guzik explains “This lays out one of the fundamental differences between the principle of law and the principle of grace. Under law, we are blessed and grow spiritually by earning and deserving. Under grace, we are blessed and grow spiritually by believing and receiving. God deals with you under the covenant of grace; we should not respond on the principle of law.” The law has passed away and grace is now the opportunity we have to be made right with God.

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