Summary: Which is more important - doctrine, or experience? The WORD is our authority, but shouldn't our experience corroborate the truth? Link inc. to formatted text, audio, PowerPoint.
Experience the Word
Paul now goes back to the experience of the Galatians. How were they saved? Were they saved by law or were they saved by faith in Jesus Christ?
O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? [Gal. 3:1].
"O foolish Galatians" -- senseless Galatians. The Greek word is anoetoi from the root word nous, meaning "mind." He is saying, "You're not using your mind -- you're not using your noggin."
"Who hath bewitched you?" Let me translate that: What's gotten into you?
"Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth" -- "set forth" is literally placarded or painted. Paul painted word pictures for them. I like to show PowerPoint slides in sermons. It is a great tool. For example, I would not attempt to teach the tabernacle without using slides. Now that is the way you "set forth" a teaching, and that is the word Paul uses.
"Set forth, crucified among you" -- it was His death on the cross that made possible your salvation!
This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? [Gal. 3:2].
Now we need to be very careful here. How do you know you are saved? How do you know what doctrines to believe and how to practice your faith? Is it by experience? Your personal feelings or beliefs? The gospel is true regardless of experience. What experience does is corroborate the gospel. There are many people today who reason from experience to truth. I personally believe that the Word of God reasons from truth to experience. Experience is not to be discounted, but it must be tested by truth.
What does Paul mean by 'the hearing of faith?' You have to hear something before you can be saved, because the gospel is something God has done for you, and you need to know about it.
In this section Paul is raising several questions. He tells them to look back to what had happened to them and asks six questions that have to do with their experience.
This is his first question: "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" Nowhere -- not even in the Old Testament -- did anyone ever receive the Holy Spirit by the works of the Law. He is received by the hearing of faith. The Galatians never received the Spirit by the Law. The Holy Spirit is evidence of conversion. Scripture tells us, "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise" (Eph. 1:13).
Now here is the second question:
Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? [Gal. 3:3].
What Paul is asking is this: "If the Holy Spirit is the One who converted you, brought you to Christ, and now you are indwelt by the Spirit of God, are you going to turn back to the Law (which was given to control the flesh) and think you are going to live on a high plane?"
Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain [Gal. 3:4].
Paul asked the Galatians, "Are you going to let all of the things you have suffered come to naught?" He reminded them that they had paid a price for receiving the gospel. Was it all going to be in vain, without a purpose?
Now he raises this question:
He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? [Gal. 3:5].
Paul reminded the Galatians that he was the one who had come into their country, preached the Word of God to them, and performed miracles among them. He did not do it in the flesh -- Paul would be very careful to say that. In that day signs were given to the apostles. As I understand it, the apostles had practically all the gifts mentioned in Scripture; they certainly had all the sign gifts. Paul could perform miracles. He could heal the sick. He could raise the dead. Simon Peter, one of the original Twelve, could do that also. To do this was the mark of an apostle in that day.
What proved the truth of their message was their ability to perform miracles. They had the sign gifts. (After they had given us the Word of God, the sign gifts disappeared. In fact, I think they disappeared with the apostles. We see their gifts waning late in their lives.)