In many of my posts I show you a bit of me; in other words, I make it personal, and then hopefully applicable. I am going to try to integrate myself into this one as well, but I am going to jump back into commentary mode with Galatians chapter 3.
“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes, Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.”
This opening line is one that has caused me grief; not because I see myself as a foolish Galatian, but because of a local Calvary Chapel pastor, one who has a particular way of accentuating words, preached on this, and it seemed like these words, “You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you?”, were condemning all of us, and putting us under some form of bondage once again. Since radio programs are just sermons, chopped into overlapping pieces, so that they can make it last for an entire week; it continued for what seemed like weeks. So let’s see what Paul was trying to say because I can assure you that Paul was not attempting to put people under bondage. We can do that quite well on our own.
If I reiterate the last three verses of Galatians 2, you can get a feel for the context, so let’s start there.
Galatians 2:19-21 NET. For through the law I died to the law so that I may live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!
In chapter one, Paul tells these Galatians that there is no other gospel; there are, however, those out there that wish to pervert the good news that Paul had preached. (Galatia is a reference to the Asia Minor region, we now call Turkey. Paul had made stops at a handful of cities, few of which are mentioned. This letter then was written from Rome around 68AD, almost 18 years after passing through the region.
As a believer, I can take this statement literally – Christ lives in me, and I now live in Him. And, this life I now live, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, Jesus Christ the risen King, who gave Himself for me.
What then, had Paul preached?
That the followers of Christ were free from the bondage that comes with the Law found in the Torah; a law that had been so expanded upon by the Jews, that it was deemed, the law of the Jews.
The Law, in its original state, given by God, was effectively the law of the universe, and Adam, as a representative of God, broke that Law. The transgression of that universal law brought a demand for payment of that wrongdoing, to us all. So, Christ not only paid the debt on our behalf, but, by His grace and faithfulness, freed the Jews and us, from the bondage of the Law, and the expanded Jewish portion as well.
Now, wouldn’t it be great if the effects of Adam’s sin did not linger upon us daily? The freedom begins to kick in, as you remind yourself “that’s not who I am.” Because, “Christ lives in me, and I now live in Him. And, this life I now live, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, Jesus Christ the risen King, who gave Himself for me.”
What is essential to our understanding of the phrase “free from the bondage of the law?”
That it meant nothing to a Gentile, and everything to a Jewish audience, which is whom Paul was preaching and writing to in the days before his captivity in Rome.
Let’s start breaking chapter 3 down.
Galatians 3:1 NASB You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?
Since we understand that there was no Church of Galatia as there was in Corinth or Ephesus, he is broadcasting this reprimand across an entire region. Are you serious? In relative quantity, after hearing about the grace and mercy found in Christ, and receiving that blessing, the converts in this region are submitting to the pressure of Jewish zealots and setting aside the grace of God. The implications are, they are setting aside their faith in Christ as the risen Messiah.
The words Paul uses are anything but politically correct; they are, however, quickly understood, to the point, and meant to get the readers attention.
Foolish – The Greek word anóētos means Lacking intelligence; one who does not govern his lusts; one without a mind, therefore lacking the organ by which divine things are comprehended and known or ignored. Word Study Dictionary. Other translations called them stupid and senseless Galatians.
Paul is asking them, WHO has done this too you? As though he, and they do not know. They know; it was the Jewish zealots from which these converts had emerged.
Here is something you should see and understand.
Paul never told them to stop being Jewish. To stop being Jewish would border on impossible; why? Because of heritage, birthright, and training. Paul of all people would have understood this. Accepting Jesus Christ as the Messiah, was what the prophets of old called for and showed them through their words. Acceptance of Yeshua was the carrying out and completion of a lifelong dream every Jew has.
Passing on and invoking our prejudicial attitudes and ways is something we all do, some just not so intentionally; we do, however, display our prejudices rather openly when we feel threatened and wish to regain our support base. Here in America, we have a derogatory term, red neck. While it initially applied to farmers, and ranch hands, it came to imply a simple mind with an unyielding attitude; an attitude that does not work so well in the big city. Jews are not so different as they too take pride in their lifestyles and traditions.
That’s great, but, as we have learned from Paul, Christs insertion into the universal picture, changed everything. By the intentional spilling of His blood and giving of His life, He reinserted grace and mercy into the world. The Law of the universe was set aside, and freedom is available to every man through the actions of Christ. Whether you accept it or not, sins were forgiven. This forgiveness has a massive impact on the final judgment, where you will spend eternity, and it is all about who you are choosing to serve. You should know that you will not be judged for anything other than what you did with Christ, this risen King; the one who will gather those who are in Christ, to Himself, so that they can live with Him in the peaceful kingdom, forever.
Bewitched? – Is the Greek word baskaino; to malign, that is, (by extension) to fascinate (by false representations): – bewitch.
Sometimes it helps me if I can see a definition of a word, such as malign.
Malign – Having a very evil disposition towards others; harboring violent hatred or enmity; malicious; as malign spirits. Webster’s Dictionary
Think this through for a moment. The Jews already had an evil disposition toward all Gentiles. The assumption, and probably a safe one, would be that the hard-liners or zealots had regained members of their congregations by provoking the violent hatred and maliciousness that, sadly, is an aspect of the brokenness we all carry due to Adam’s transgression.
Note how Paul paints a word picture when he uses the phrase, “before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” If that seems a little challenging to wrap your mind around, then perhaps the Amplified version might be graspable.
Unto whom–right before your very eyes–Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified.
What if Christ crucified (the Messiah), is the primary thing that Paul preached to them? And, if not, why not? Deeply entrenched in laws and traditions, the Jews needed something that jolted them into believing the what the Word of God.
Whether we use the word publicly, which conveys an image of standing on a street corner talking loudly to car passengers as they go by, or openly, which speaks of a person talking unashamedly, it is still the same Greek word prographo and can mean either. The word prographo means to write previously; to announce, or to set forth. [Strong’s Concordance]
Since we have nothing to tell us that Paul spoke to enough people directly to act as though he addressed all of Asia Minor in person, then we should assume that he wrote letters; letters, which were then transmitted through the mouths of other believers, Jewish converts. Since it was typical for Paul to acknowledge those with him and aligned with him, we should have expected the same in this letter. He would have used names that made a personal connection. So let’s see what he tells us.
Galatians 1:1-2 NASB Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:
That’s odd, for he merely calls them, “all the brethren who are with me.”
Why that could be anyone. However, we can have confidence that Luke the physician was there; there is the possibility that Silas is with Paul, and, we might expect to find Timothy.
How would these men, make any more of an impact than Paul?
Excluding the effect of the Holy Spirit on men, I would say no way. Besides that, Paul is talking to Jews; Jews who are not the least bit interested, for the most part, in the Gentile Jesus.
Paul chastises the Galatians harshly, pointing out the message that he preached (Jesus Christ, as the Messiah, publicly portrayed as crucified.), and then asks them a question.
Galatians 3:2 NASB This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
This question is important to a Jew, and all of us as well? What is he asking them?
Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law?
Considering that the primary thing a Jew had to do to obtain righteousness, was to sacrifice a lamb or a dove, for example, the problem is that this sacrificial process is not a lasting one. If you, five minutes later, after leaving the synagogue, have a brutal road rage incident as someone cuts in front your camel on the way home, you have lost your righteousness. Here then is the evidence that the works of the Law did not bring about lasting righteousness.
Or, by hearing with faith?
Since Paul laid out what the Messiah, Jesus Christ, did for them, and how He, because of His faithfulness, secured our righteousness. Then the answer is, by hearing.
Galatians 3:3 NASB Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
Paul, having asked his sarcasm-laced questions, reiterates what we began with when we started chapter three.
Are you so foolish?
We ran into this already. It is the Greek word anóētos meaning without a mind; unable to comprehend; lacking intelligence, foolish.
Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
The apostle is here dealing with Jews primarily, who, having embraced Christ as the risen Messiah, and yet, continued to seek for justification by the works of the law. The pressure to return to the law has come from zealots within the synagogues.
But put another spin on this scenario, and you can easily see this also pointed at Gentile believers as well. Having begun in the Spirit, where else would we find them indulging in something that might perfect their flesh? The philosophies and idolatry of the world.
There is no room for denial here, as Israel was pulled continuously into the idolatries of the world. This attraction to the gods of this world is one of the main reasons we have the story of the ‘prophet’ Balaam. [You find this story in Numbers 22. In essence, Balaam gave their weakness away to Balak, the Moab king, and Israel was destroyed from the inside out as they brought in women from the nations to be their wives and whatever else they were.]
“Are you now being perfected by the flesh?
Perfected is the Greek word epiteleo meaning to fulfill further (or completely), that is, execute; by implication to terminate, or undergo.
Every Jew looked for fulfillment in the Messiah. Paul merely directed them to Him. So, the idea that they would have been completed would imply an integration, which is precisely what we do when accepting Jesus Christ; we become ONE with Him. At the point of conversion, we undergo an immediate change, one we rarely seem to be aware of from the outside. It is, however, a lasting and eternal change in God’s eyes. But, because we struggle with our beliefs due to inadequate teaching in Church, the promise that we are changed must be rehearsed in the mind of Christ followers far too frequently, as we seem to forget who we are.
We will move on through Galatians 3 if the Lord is willing, but I want to say something here. The men I sit with on Monday, are a microcosm of the unsound teaching you get in Church. Don’t get me wrong, God has given me a love for the guys, but I cannot stand the garbage that the leadership spews out of their mouths every week. The saddest part of this is that this false teaching has been going on for YEARS. The questions these elder gentlemen ask, and the twisted comments they make, prove my point, and, it demonstrates that they do not know the nature and character of this God we serve. A secondary point I want to make is the manipulative way we are evoked to win the lost constantly. Do you not realize that the lost sit beside you in Church; if what Jesus said when He spoke of the ten-virgins, is true (and it is,) then fifty percent are going to be left behind. Are these lost? According to the teachings, I hear on Mondays.
Look, I am not an evangelist, I am a teacher, and teaching is my gift. However, if you sat with me for coffee, you would get an earful of God’s truth. Fortunately, so do the people around me. So, maybe I am also an evangelist and don’t even know it.