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An Exploration of Galatians: Paul Speaks to a Foolish Church
Galatians 3:1-5 - God sets us free in Christ to live in the power of His Spirit daily, for His glory.
“You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 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? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”
Galatians 3:1-5 NASB1995
We now begin Chapter 3 of Galatians. Paul is on a roll and is addressing the Galatians again after giving the backstory to his purpose for this letter. But before I jump in, I wanted to share a comment that a reader gave me on a previous Galatians devotional that I thought was so appropriate about the tenacity of Paul (I have a link to this reader’s Substack site at the end of this devotional):
Our culture, really all human culture, values compromise above almost all else. Galatians 2 is the story of how all of the love and unity in the world depended on one man not compromising in a matter that seemed small and unessential. It is strange and unnoticed but true that all of the Apostle Paul's virtues would have meant nothing without a stubborn, uncompromising, even partisan zeal that seems more fitting, in our minds, for Saul than Paul.
Back to Galatians 3: Paul begins this section by calling the Galatians foolish not once but twice in this little diatribe full of questions for them to ponder. The word foolish comes from the Greek word ἀνόητος or anoetos and means the following:
not understood, unintelligible
not understanding, unwise, foolish
Every major Bible translation uses the word “foolish” although a couple of the lesser-used versions soften the word a bit. I’m sure the elders and leaders in the Galatian churches got a little hot under their collars reading this, but Paul makes such a marvelous point. Precept Austin expands on the definitions of foolish and has some superb thoughts about this word and what it means for believers:
The English word foolish means devoid of good sense or judgment, lacking in sense, judgment, or discretion; totally unsound, lacking or marked by lack of intellectual acuity; unwise; silly | resulting from folly or stupidity | ridiculous or absurd; not worthy of consideration | weak-minded; simple.
THOUGHT - Beloved, any and all of the preceding definitions of foolish might also be applied to us as believers when we make the foolish choice to futilely attempt to live a supernatural life depending on our natural power and/or we try to follow a set of rules or regulations to guide our behavior in a way we think will be pleasing to God. It's called legalism and it will blunt the transforming power of grace and quench the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. And then we wonder why we are not experiencing the abundant life of John 10:10! If that describes your experience beloved, then Paul's wise words in Galatians are for you. Eat this book for breakfast, lunch and dinner until so you can "digest" its rich truths asking God to set you free in Christ to live in the power of His Spirit daily, all for the glory of the Father. Amen
Wow and wow!! I have spent a lot of my time since coming (back) to Christ stressing about how I can walk a narrow line of behaviors by thinking about all of the “don’ts” instead of allowing the transforming power of grace to power me to freedom in Jesus. I have wondered where the abundant life was, because I had so much guilt still being carried around with me for my sinful life (past and present), for which I have repented and still repent. My natural power (very weak) and gritting my teeth to “try and do better” can never compete with the supernatural infinite power of the Holy Spirit. I was foolish!
Paul asks the Galatians if they were put under a spell or bewitched (by the enemy). He tells them that he preached Christ crucified to them, clearly indicating what this ultimate sacrifice meant. He asks if they received the Spirit by works of Law, or by hearing with faith. He asks them if they began with the Spirit but now are trying to finish or perfect with the flesh. He asks if they suffered so many things in vain (or was it in vain?). He asks if the Spirit who works miracles among them does it by works of Law, or, again, in hearing through faith. Here’s a story that answers these questions rhetorically, again coming from Precept Austin:
A famous story tells of the tight-rope walker Charles Blondin (1824-97), who set up a rope across Niagara Falls and walked across several times. So confident did he become that he made the journey backwards as well as forwards, and performed various tricks on the way, like sitting on a small stool and eating a meal. But the most famous trick was when he asked for a volunteer to be carried over on his back. In what must be one of the most supreme acts of physical trust ever placed by one human being in another, a brave, or perhaps foolish, man stepped forward, and was carried over on the great man's shoulders. Now supposing, halfway across, the man had said to Blondin: 'Look here, this is all very well, but I really don't trust you any more. I think I'd better do the rest by myself. Let me down and I'll walk from here without you.' One can only imagine the retort he would have got, not only from the professional, but from any watching friends or family. Had he taken leave of his senses? How did he suppose he would get across by himself? That is exactly the reaction Paul has on hearing that his beloved Galatians are thinking of getting circumcised.
We can’t jump off and do our own mid-course correction on our own to God based on legalism. I know, now, in my heart of hearts that God guided me to a study of Galatians! The Holy Spirit is quelling my fears and anxieties and worries by pounding it into my head that His Grace is sufficient! He transforms us when we hear with faith!
My next devotional examines Galatians 3:6-9 Abraham believed and all nations are blessed by God.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Thank you from the bottom of my heart for guiding me into a study of Galatians. I cannot walk the course of my remaining life towards you through laws or checklists or brow-beating myself for every little slip. I walk by hearing with faith! Amen!
Here is the Substack site for Jon Cutchins, who made that great comment I shared in this devotional:
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
The Blue Letter Bible was accessed on 11/19/2023 to use the lexicon for the word “foolish”.
The personal testimony of Bruce Hurt, creator of Precept Austin can be found here.