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"The Bewitching Lure of 'Something More' "
Galatians 3:1-5

Wednesday Evening Home Bible Study
September 14, 2005

Paul now departs from "personal" matters (chpts. 1-2) to "doctrinal" matters (chpts. 3-4). But though his main arguments in this section for justification of faith are based on the scriptural record of Abraham, he begins with arguments from the experience of the Galatians themselves.

A. Paul calls the Galatians "foolish". The word that he uses (anoŕto) is not a complement; but it isn't as strong a word as m˘ria (which is more of an expression of contempt and condemnation; see Matthew 5:22). Anoŕto means "unintelligent" or "unthinking". (If a teacher were to tell all of his students that they were anoŕto, they would be mildly rebuked and called to do better; but if he said they were m˘ria, he might get fired!) Paul was not speaking of them contemptuously. He was simply rebuking them for not thinking about what they should already know. (See Luke 24:25, Romans 1:14, Titus 3:3, 1 Timothy 6:9, where this word is also used.)

B. heir foolishness in this matter is so remarkable that he wonders "Who has bewitched you . . .?"

1. The word "bewitched" (baskain˘) has the idea of causing someone to stumble by casting "the evil eye" upon them. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, it was used as a metaphor for an attitude of malice or hostility or envy (Deuteronomy 28:54, 56; see KJV). In this case, however, it borrows from popular magical mythology, and gives the picture of someone casting a spell upon someone else in order to delude them from the truth. (An ancient letter once closed with the wish, ". . . But above all I pray that you may be in health unharmed by the evil eye and faring prosperously" (Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of The Greek Testament, p. 106). In this case, it's a delusion in that it caused them to depart from a simple faith in the sufficiency of the cross.

2. The phrase that follows this in the King James and New King James translations - that is, "that you should not obey the truth" - is found in the Greek text that stands behind those translations; but is not found in others. Its presence may be explained as a scribal explanatory insertion taken from Galatians 5:7.

C. The reason that their foolish departure from the cross was so astonishing to Paul was because of what they already knew; ". . . before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed . . . as crucified."

1. "Clearly portrayed" is a phrase that translates the word prograph˘. In the NKJV, it is used by Paul in Romans 15:4 to describe what was "written before" to his readers; and likewise to what he had already "briefly written" in Ephesians 3:3. In this case, it has the idea of a public advertisement or place-card that clearly exhibits something.

2. Jesus had not been publically crucified before the Galatians in a literal sense. Rather, He was publically paid notice of by Paul, in his preaching to them, that Jesus HAD BEEN CRUCIFIED as a past, completed act (perfect passive participle of stauro˘, "to crucify"). The clear fact of His crucifixion is what made their departure to works of the law as a means of justification before God such a horribly offensive and inconsistent thing. It was as if they were doing this in the plain sight of the cross - completely missing the point!

D. This first verse stands as the main affirmation that Paul argues for in the next four verses. The sufficiency of the cross is a watershed belief. If we doubt its sufficiency to justify us fully before God, we will seek to augment the cross with our works; and if we seek to augment it with our works, we fundamentally deny its sufficiency and, as it were, 'fall from grace' (see Gal. 5:4).


A. From the beginning of our life in Christ (vv. 2-3).
1. Paul introduces a strong argument by saying, "This only I want to learn from you . . ." He isn't seeking to learn anything from them. Rather, he's seeking to make them depart from their "foolishness" and once again think through the implications of the cross.

2. To this end, he asks them "Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" The obvious answer is by the hearing of faith. To receive the Holy Spirit is to be in God's complete favor; and is essentially synonymous with being saved (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3). Paul may have been thinking of Peter's experience with the household of Cornelius in Acts 10:44-47; or of his own experience with the Ephesians in Acts 19:5-6. Perhaps a similar thing happened among the Galatians.

3. The obvious answer to Paul's question is that their life in Christ - marked by receiving the Holy Spirit - came through the "hearing of" the message of "faith". This - and not works of the law - was the means by which they received the Holy Spirit. No one would argue that they could have "earned" the indwelling of the Holy Spirit by their works of the law. It only came as a gift of grace through faith.

4. The means of the beginning of their life in Christ stands as the basis of his argument: "Are you so foolish (i.e., anoŕto)? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect (epitele˘, 'to bring to a finish or completion') by the flesh?" The flesh here is used as a figure for human efforts to become righteous in God's sight by the law. And yet, the same word here translated "perfect" is used in Philippians 1:6; ". . . He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ . . ." It is foolish to believe that we could perfect, by our own efforts through obedience to the law, what only God could begin in us by faith in the cross; "for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified" (Gal. 2:16). By contrast, ". . . Christ is the end (telos) of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Rom. 10:4).

B. From our sufferings for our life in Christ (v. 4).

1. Paul now points to the experiences that they suffered because of their original faith in Christ. "Have you suffered so many things in vain . . .?" The word for "so many" or "so great" (tosoutos) is placed in the emphatic position in the original language; making it read "So much have you suffered to no purpose . . .?"

2. What exactly it was that they suffered for their faith isn't stated. It may be hinted at in 5:7, where Paul says that, in the past, they "ran well"; and in 6:9, where they were urged to "not grow weary while doing good". Or it may be that they suffered similar things to that which Paul testified to them that he suffered - that is, persecution (5:11) and the bearing in his body the "marks of Christ" (6:17). It may be that, in some way, they literally suffered with Paul (4:13-14). Paul's point is that they were originally motivated by faith in Christ to the point of great suffering and sacrifice. They didn't think that this was "in vain" then. Do they think so now? What changed?

3. In fact, Paul's astonishment at them even moves him to wonder "if indeed it was in vain"; not that faith in Christ's cross was in vain, but that their suffering was in vain because they didn't really believe. Paul is, in this statement urging them to examine themselves to see if they are even of the faith. "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless indeed you are disqualified" (2 Corinthians 13:5; see also Hebrews 10:23).

C. From the power for our life in Christ (v. 5).

1. He seems, in this verse, to draw upon the experiences he has already mentioned - that is, the receiving of the Holy Spirit, and the manifestation of God's power during their times of suffering - to argue this third point. This is suggested by the connective word, "Therefore . . ." (oun).

2. He asks the rhetorical question; "He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles (dunamis; that is, a manifestation of power) among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? - " Paul's wording in this verse is very similar to that of verse 2.

3. Again, the conclusion is obvious. If God Himself did not empower them for the Christian life after their initial faith, or provide the necessary resources for them to live that life, on the basis of anything other than faith in God's grace; how could they believe they could go on to live that life by works of the law? "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32).

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