Summary: Paul asks and answers questions about grace
The questions of Grace: Are we saved by Grace or by works of the law? Galatians 3:1-14
Faith or Observance of the Law
3 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.
In the previous chapters, we have seen the problem: The Galatians had begun to fall from grace, believing the lie that you needed to be saved by the works of the law. The judaisers, Grace Killers, told them that they had to obey the Mosaic Law and be circumcised and practice other Jewish customs once they became Christians. Paul was stupefied, because he had clearly portrayed the crucifixion of Christ as sufficient for salvation. He was incredulous, saying here what more can I do? Obviously you had to have a spell cast on you to believe such a lie. Paul began to ask them four rhetorical questions.
2 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?
Paul was wondering if they had received the Spirit by being obedient to the law that they did not even possess when he first preached to them!! You see, as gentiles, they may have been aware of the Jews, but they did no abide by their law. They had received Christ on the basis of their belief in the sufficiency of His work on the cross. Their having the Spirit affirmed that Christ had accepted them and received them into the family.
How foolish we are today as well, that we somehow have to clean up our lives before we come to Christ, that somehow by our action that Christ will love us more or less than He already does. Some Christians still point to the works that they do and the time and money that they spend for God, and demand that those who call themselves believers must do the same or more to please Him. It is utter hogwash- God loves you not because of who you are and what you have done for Him- He loves you because of who He is- and because of who He is He sent His Son to die for you! There is nothing you can do but thankfully receive that free gift. ANSWER: We receive the Spirit by believing what we heard.
3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
Having answered the first question, Paul asks another- You have received the Spirit by believing, now are you trying to be sanctified (the goal- Christ likeness) by doing good works? He accuses them again of being fools. How can we gain Christ likeness by doing any works? We cannot even hope to save ourselves! It has already been proven by Paul according to the scriptures that we cannot be saved by observing the law. How are we to be sanctified by observing the law? We cannot be. Sanctification is a work of Grace by the Holy Spirit. We are made to look like Christ through His work, by allowing the exchange of my life for His (see Galatians 2:20) The Galatians probably believed that somehow by keeping the old law it would make them more spiritually mature. It would not.
And yet, how many times have we heard someone brag of his or her hours in the prayer closet, or the number of times he or she has read through the Bible? How many have heard the person speaking of fasting for spiritual health, only to wear it as some sort of badge of honor or pride? Now I have had seasons of prayer, and of fasting, and I do read, study, and meditate on my Bible, but I don’t want to brag about it or compare the time I spend in it to the time you spend in it, because in the long run, that statistic is between me and God. And I don’t read the Bible for you or anyone else, I read it to feed my soul, and to know the Lord better, and I pray to know His will and love Him more. When I fast, I don’t want anyone to know except me and God. These things will not bring me sanctification, but only being given over to the Spirits control. If I do these things in the Spirit to feed the Spirit within me, they will help grow me to maturity. If I do them in the flesh, it is a prideful act of religiosity only attempting to gain God’s favor (which I already have) O foolish Christians? When will we learn that God already loves us, and that we respond to that love by obedience- but even in that, we curry no more goodwill and favor from Him than we already have.