Summary: The bewitched believers in Galatia faced the danger of falling from the teaching of grace into the trap of legalism.
How many of you remember the sit-com “Bewitched” from the 1960s? When it debuted, ABC was a distant third to NBC and CBS, but the popularity of shows like the “Jetsons” and “Bewitched” moved ABC up to the same level to make the “big three networks.”
Elizabeth Montgomery played a lovable witch named Samantha who was married to a mortal named Darren. See if you can answer these “Bewitched” trivia questions: What was Samantha’s mother’s name? Endora. What was the name of her bumbling aunt? Aunt Clara. What was the name of their first child? Tabitha. My favorite character was the neighbor down the street, who kept witnessing Samantha’s trickery, but her husband never believed her, do you remember her name? Gladys Kravitz.
You may think “Bewitched” is a strange title for a message from Galatians, but that’s exactly the word Paul used to describe what was happening in the churches in Galatia. The word bewitched means, “to place under one’s power by or as by magic; cast a spell over.”
Paul founded the churches by preaching that salvation comes by grace and grace alone. But some sneaky teachers had infiltrated the congregations and “bewitched the believers” into accepting another gospel. It was as if a false teacher had come in, wiggled his nose, and said, “Here’s the REAL truth about salvation. If you keep the Jewish rules and regulations, you’ll go to heaven. Guys, you’ve got to be circumcised. And you can’t eat pork. You must keep the Sabbath Day rules as well.” (wiggle nose) And the bewitched believers said, “Oh. Okay.”
In the first five verses of Galatians 3, Paul bombarded them with a six rhetorical questions. What is a rhetorical question? If you answered aloud, then you didn’t recognize that was a rhetorical question. A rhetorical question doesn’t expect an answer; it’s really more of an accusation. Guys, if you’re married, chances are you recognize a rhetorical question, because many wives are skillful with them. For instance, when your wife asks, “Why don’t you listen to me?” she really doesn’t want you to answer that question, she’s actually telling you, “You’re not listening to me.” So the next time your wife asks, “Why don’t you listen to me?” DON’T say, “Because I don’t care about what you’re saying.” If you answer that way, chances are you’ll get more than a rhetorical question!
As we look at our text, remember chapter and verse divisions weren’t part of the original scriptures. There really shouldn’t be a break here, so we’ll start reading in Galatians 2:21.
Galatians 2:21–3:5. “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! You foolish Galatians! [J.B. Phillips translation: “O, dear idiots”] Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”
After Paul’s powerful testimony of Galatians 2:20, he warns about the danger of “setting aside the grace of God.” Now, you may be thinking, “Well, those first century Christians might have been bewitched, but in the 21st century, there’s no way I can be spiritually bewitched.” That’s a dangerous attitude, because our real enemy is the same one those believers faced. Our true enemy isn’t some false teacher; our real enemy is the devil, whom Jesus called “the Liar.” Martin Luther knew a thing or two about false teaching and he wrote this about this passage: “Satan is clever. He does not only bewitch men in a crude manner, but also in a more artful fashion. He bedevils the minds of men with hideous fallacies. There is not one among us who is not at times seduced by Satan into false beliefs. The tricky devil can make a lie look like the truth. Since he has this uncanny ability to make us believe a lie until we would swear a thousand times it were the truth, we must not be proud, but walk in fear and humility, and call upon the Lord Jesus to save us from temptation.”
This is a timely message, because there are many people in our churches today who have “set aside” the wonderful truth of grace, and have reverted back to a performance mindset of earning God’s blessing. Paul mentions three negative consequences of “setting aside the grace of God.”