Who Has Bewitched You?
Paul now moves into the body of his letter to the Galatians and uses some pretty strong words: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” In other words, who has deceived you into forsaking the gospel of grace for the anti-gospel of the law? And then Paul says something that needs to be addressed. He writes: “It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” Wait a minute! Did he say “before their eyes?” Why yes, he did. But how could that be? There were surely no Galatians at the crucifixion of Christ. Of course not! Then what does Paul mean when he says that Christ was publicly portrayed as such “before their eyes” when they were obviously not at that most notable event in world history? Might I answer that this statement of Paul speaks: 1) to the timelessness of our Lord’s passion. Granted, he was crucified over Passover in the early 30s under Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem—a historical event. Yet, that event has swallowed up history such that it stands above history; and, 2) to the personal way that event (i.e., our Lord’s work on the cross) becomes real to us through saving faith. Through participation in the Spirit and union with Christ, that event lives in us and we see him crucified and risen before our very eyes. So like those Galatians, we were not there; but also like those Galatians, we were there and are there.
Paul then asked the Galatians a few pointed questions to wake them up: “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” In other words, how is it that you were born again? Did you experience the new birth by doing the right thing? Was it by a good work which you performed in obedience to some law? Of course not. You were saved by hearing the gospel message and then responding in faith through the Spirit’s convicting you of your sin and convincing you of your need for Christ. And then a little further, “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?” In other words, Does the Holy Spirit work among you now through both mighty deeds and inward assurance by your checking off how many do’s you do and don’t’s you don’t? Again, a resounding, “No!” And then the biting, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Understand that “flesh” here means our sinful nature which the law only arouses (Romans 7:7-12). Having been reborn by the Spirit, we can only be nurtured and perfected therein. Righteousness has always come by one way, and that way is faith. It was true for Abraham 2000 years before the cross; it is true these 2000 years afterwards, and ever shall be till he returns.