Summary: Experiences can change, but truth never changes. Paul balances the subjective experience of the Galatian Christians with the objective teaching of the unchanging Word of God.
October 6, 2013
The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians
Chapter III.A.1: The Experience of the Galatians (3.1-5)
Galatians 3.1-5 (KJV)
1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?
2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?
4 Have you suffered so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain?
5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
The key to this section is in the word “suffered” (Gal. 3.4), which can be translated “experienced.” Paul asks, “Have you experienced so many things in vain?” The argument from the point of Christian experience was a wise one with which to begin, because Paul had been with them when they accepted Christ. Of course, to argue from experience can be dangerous, because experiences can be counterfeited and they can be misunderstood. Subjective experience must be balanced with objective evidence, because experiences can change, but truth never changes. Paul balances the subjective experience of the Galatian Christians with the objective teaching of the unchanging Word of God (Gal. 3.6-14).
1 O Foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?
“Foolish” as it is used here, means “spiritually dull,” while the word Jesus used in Luke 24.25— “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken”—has the idea of a “foolish person.” Paul is declaring a fact; Jesus is warning against verbal abuse.
Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth,
The Judaizers, the Jewish false teachers, were succeeding in convincing the Galatian believers that certain aspects of Jewish law (circumcision, observing the dietary laws, etc.) were necessary, in addition to faith in Christ, in order for a person to be saved. Paul is astonished that they could believe such a thing, and in this section he uses some of his strongest language to express his disapproval of them following these false teachers and returning to Judaism.
“Bewitched” has in it the notion of being charmed or misled by flattery or false promises. The term suggests an appeal to the emotions by the Judaizers. Let me translate “who has bewitched you” in good old Americano—what’s gotten into you? To embrace a doctrine which declared the death of Christ unnecessary was irrational—“I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die” (Gal. 2.21) The sole reason why the Son of God came into the world to suffer death was to do away with our sins and make us righteous with God. If there was any other way to accomplish these ends, He would have stayed in heaven. It would almost seem that the Galatians had been “bewitched,” cast under a spell by some malign influence. For this, however, they were without excuse because the Savior had been “clearly portrayed…as crucified,” before their eyes. Paul had vividly and graphically proclaimed the crucified Christ to the Galatians, but their eyes had been diverted from the Cross to the Law. They were without excuse. The Galatians were known to be intelligent, and Paul uses the term “eyes” to refer to their minds; they received the preaching of Paul with both their mind and heart, and the proof of their salvation was that they demonstrated the presence of the Holy Spirit.
before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?
“Christ…crucified” is the subject the apostle preached in Galatia, and he preached it with such effectiveness, that the people could almost see Jesus crucified and hanging on the cross. The words “clearly portrayed” are translated from a Greek word that means “publicly portrayed and announced on a poster.” Just as we put important words on a poster, and display it in a public place, so Paul publicly presented Christ to the Galatians, with great emphasis on His death for sinners on the cross. I am not sure that Paul actually drew pictures and held up placards to the Galatians, but I am sure he did paint word pictures for them. Now that is the way to “clearly portray” a teaching, and that is the word Paul uses. “Clearly portrayed among you as crucified”—it was His death on a cross that made your salvation possible. They heard this truth, believed it, and obeyed it; and as a result, were born into the family of God.