There is something about us that causes us to want to take control of our lives rather than walk in step with God’s will for us. This is even true with our spiritual growth. For example! “There was a young man who was powerfully touched by the Holy Spirit of Christ at his salvation. He was so excited about his new relationship with the Lord Jesus that he wanted to do all he could to please Him, and that was great. However, as time went along he felt like he had to start paying the Lord back for all the things he had done wrong. That is when he started losing his joy and started relying upon his works to obtain favor with God. His walk with the Lord started to become a burden to carry, rather than a walk that revealed the grace of God in his life. The good news is that it was not long before he allowed the Holy Spirit to replace his joy by reflecting on the grace of God.”
Sadly though this doesn’t always happen! And many are still lost in the bondage of works and traditions of man’s way to please a holy God. What’s worse it could lead abandonment from the gospel all together which has eternal implications. See! Defection and abandonment are disgraceful because they involve disloyalty and betrayal. Few things are more tragic or disappointing than a so called Christian who deserts the purity of the gospel for a false form Christianity that presumes to improve on the finishing work of Christ. As we have seen! Legalism’s most destructive effect is that it cancels the effect of the cross. Man centered religion does the same thing. But the truth is that we have been crucified with Christ and the life we know live we live is by faith in the Son of God alone. The Galatians churches were in danger of ignoring that wonderful and freeing truth as they were reverting back to the traditions of men. They were in danger of buying into a system of legalism and works righteousness that promised more, but only produced doubt and deception. See some of them were falling prey to……
“Formalism” is a method, style, way of thinking that shows very careful attention to traditional forms and rules; it’s the practice or the doctrine of strict devotion to prearranged or external forms as in religion. J C Ryle said this about formalism “First, formal religion is not true religion, and a formal Christian is not a true Christian in God's sight. Secondly, that the heart is the seat of true religion, and that the true Christian is the Christian in heart. Thirdly, that true religion must never expect to be popular. It will not have the "praise of man, but praise from God." It’s the same idea when Jesus said this in Matt 15:8 “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;…” But they were also substituting external ceremonies and rites for personal growth in the Lord. Others fell to Legalistic systems of dos and don’ts, who proudly hoped to improve their standing with God by not doing or doing some things to please Him. Some looked for a second blessing; a spiritual secret to unlock some higher plane of spirituality….which is also an addition to grace. It’s the idea of hoping to receive more of God than already received. But how can you receive more than what’s already given? “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal 2:20. Do you realize that Satan never ceases his efforts to destroy God’s way of salvation? Because God’s way is by His grace working through faith which God gives in Christ alone? Satan is the opposite…. the way of man’s salvation is by your effort and your works.
Remember he sinned against God first. “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning.” 1 John 3:8
Remember he is the author of the fall. Gen 3:1 “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?"
Remember he is the one who works lies. 2 Thess 2:9-10 “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”
Remember he is the one who opposes God’s work. Acts 13:10 “Paul said, "O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?”
Remember he is the one who wears many masks. 2 Cor 11:14 “And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.”
So what does Paul do? Paul cries out in his opening remarks “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by 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? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” Gal 3:1-7
He asks the churches a series of questions as a reminder we are justified by faith through Christ by the Holy Spirit.
First one being…..
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?
Who has caused you to fall back and to retreat to such foolishness? “Foolish” refers to those lacking in the power of discernment. It does not mean mental deficiency, but mental laziness and carelessness. It came from a lack of faith that clouds sound judgment. Jesus used the same word with the two men on the road to Emmaus. "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” The Galatians had foolishly fallen into Judaistic legalism because they had stopped believing and applying the basic fundamental truths of the gospel. They followed after impulse and rather than God’s revealed truth. By doing this they compromised the gospel of grace….which was frustrating for Paul to see. See! The Christian life is not based on good feelings or attractive predispositions, but on the sole basis of God’s truth founded in Christ. This caused a pile of mix emotions for Paul when he saw what they were doing….for example: anger, love and surprised! “who has Bewitched you?” means “to charm or fascinate in misleading way, as by flattery, false promises, or occultic power ” It’s the idea they use their feelings or emotions over clear understanding of truth. As John MacArthur said “Who tickled your fancy?” Who could have dragged you away so easily because this word “bewitched” doesn’t indicate they were victims of a magical spell or incarnation! They were willing victims who submitted to the flesh to pleasing works of man righteousness. They bought it; hook line and sinker to the Judaizers words over Christ. See, lack of discernment and living on emotions can have its way with a seasoned believer just as much as a new believer. We are so easily drawn away with messages that fluffy, nice and easy to swallow. This is why Paul said to Timothy “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” 2 Tim 4:3-4. This is why Paul said “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” 2 Tim 4:2
Which brings me to the next question?
"Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?"
Did you have to fulfill some further requirement, go through some special ceremony or perform some additional rite? Or did you not receive the Spirit at the point of God’s saving power in your life? We read in Romans 8:14-16 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, See the gift of the Holy Spirit is the believer’s most unmistakable evidence of God’s favor. The Holy Spirit is inseparable from the new birth. At no time before salvation can a person have the indwelling Spirt and at no time after salvation can he not have Him. Through Christ and the gospel we are sealed and accepted into His family through the Holy Spirit residing in us. Again as Paul wrote “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Eph 1:13-14. Are you saved by your works or is it by grace alone? Many today try to add special requirements to ones salvation to seal its approval!
The gift of speaking in tongues, slaying in the spirit, must be in the church in order to keep ones salvation.
Some say it’s the result of a process that begins with baptism, and includes good works, along with sacraments.
See! The Holy Spirit is not the goal of the Christian but the source…..He not the product of faithful living but is the power behind it. Trying to achieve God’s blessing in our own strength is foolish! But the simple truth is this! “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Rom 10:17. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Rom 8:1-4
This leads me to Paul’s next question!
"Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?"
How could you think that your weak, imperfect, still sinful flesh could improve on what has already been done for you in the gospel? It’s that person swaying to works righteousness over the grace that has been poured out through Christ alone. But people get confused and usually try and fight you with a certain passage. “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” James 2:14-20. “Works” by implication is “an act, a deed, doing, labour, work. James is not talking about works righteousness” or “contradicting” Paul’s writings to the church. Actually James is reaffirming or complimenting what’s already been said by Paul and the Apostles. We need to understand it’s by God’s sovereign grace and work that we are saved, not our works or our own righteousness. But through His saving grace our lives are transformed and changed to do His will and make Him known through our works of faith to those outside the family of God.
For example: You take an automobile that is empty. It has no gas whatsoever and then you take a gas can that is filled with gas. Neither one can work without the other……. The vehicle cannot run without gas……….the gas is useless until it gets poured into the gas tank. Our Christian walk is very similar. Our genuine faith in Jesus Christ is an action and a reality in the life of the believer. That’s the fruits of Christ righteousness being displayed in the believer. Our works are done through faith, because our desire is to please the one that enlisted us into the family in the first place. You cannot have one without the other! Just like an automobile needs gas to go……our Christian life requires a working faith to produce fruit of Christ righteousness. John Selden says "As in the candle I know there is both light and heat, but put out the candle, and they are both gone." Gil Rugh said "faith is a living restless thing. It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works, but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith. It is quite impossible to separate works from faith as to separate heat and light from fire.”
The genuineness of our works is dependent on whose power they are done in and for whose glory. When they are done in the Spirit and for His glory they are beautiful and accepted by God. But! When they are done in the flesh and for the sake of personal credit and merit they rejected by God. A beautiful picture of this is told by Jesus in one of His many parables….“Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:9-14
Which leads to the final question for today?
"Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?"
Paul asks first! “Did you suffer..” the word “suffer” cares the idea of experiencing pain or hardship. Paul’s was reminding them what they came out of (bondage and legalism) for the sake the gospel. When the Gentiles first trusted in Christ they were exposing themselves to bitter persecution, possibly by the Jewish zealots who hated the gospel of grace. The same question could be applied each and every one of us here in this sanctuary. Do you forget whom you serve and love? Do you forget the cost or the payment for our sin…the punishment was death on a cross. As Jesus said “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." John 16:33. Paul is reminding them! Have you run in vain and forgot what we have gone through so far to get the good news to people like yourself? It has taken many lives for the glory of His glorious name? What Paul is saying is “If it be yet in vain. That is, “I trust it is not in vain.” I hope you have not so far abandoned the gospel that all your sufferings in its behalf have been of no avail. Again as Paul said “Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” Gal 3:3 “
An article in our local newspaper told about an inmate in a penitentiary who had lived all but sixteen months of his thirty-nine years in various penal institutions. Born in a women's reformatory of a convict mother, he spent the first fourteen years of his life in prison as a ward of the court. When he was released, he committed a succession of crimes. He explained his behavior by saying, “I don't know how to live on the outside. My home is inside, and I want to stay here for the rest of my life." This unfortunate man found security in his bondage.” Likewise, observing to external religious restraints can be easier than serving God in the liberty of the Spirit. This is why some first-century believers in Galatia wanted to live under the Mosaic law, even though in Christ they were no longer bound by it. Apparently they discovered that "freedom" can be frightening.
Many Christians follow a similar pattern.
They look for security by placing themselves under a legalistic system that calls for no more than good external behavior. In many instances, the do's and don't s are merely cultural, not biblical. Although their outward conduct may be honorable, they are actually escaping into a subtle kind of bondage. Obedience to accepted standards has value only when our actions reflect a changed heart and express gratitude to God for His salvation. As one writer said “We must not hide behind the walls of legalism to avoid the freedom of life on the outside”…….. This is ONLY grounded in Christ alone.