Galatians Part 3 – Have You Lost Your Mind?
The letter to the Galatians, Paul gives us a counter-intuitive view of spiritual life and puts a torpedo through the hull of our self-made systems of religious righteousness. Paul launches into the third chapter wanting to remind the Galatians how they first experienced connection with God by rhetorically asking, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?” (Galatians 3: 2). Put in other words he is saying “You can’t get the Spirit; you can only receive the Spirit as a gift.” There is a world of difference between ‘getting from God’ and ‘receiving thing from God.’
Yet the Galatians had been easily taken in by the Judaizers from Antioch who came preaching that keeping of Jewish Law is the means of true acceptance before God. To this Paul writes, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (Galatians 3: 1). The tone of the Greek here is more like, “You crazy Galatians” (the Message) or “You witless Galatians” (NT Wright). Paul is exasperated that the Galatians could so easily give up on the gospel. After all, “Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.” (Galatians 3: 1). Having seen that it is Christ crucified who sets us right with God how is it that you are now“trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Galatians 3: 3).
When the Galatians first heard the gospel is came to them not just in the preaching but in the demonstration of the Spirit. Something happened to them that was notable and real. The truth and the power of Christ crucified palpably affected the hearers. They did nothing to earn it, or deserve it, or to acquire it. The Spirit was simply given to them and the they received it by faith. Real faith is the glove that fits on the hand of God’s action and grace. The hand of God gives shape to the glove; not the other way around. Faith does not make it true, rather the truth engenders faith.
The Spirit is not given as a kind of “no repayments honeymoon stage” of your spiritual mortgage which later gives way to a ‘law-keeping’ stage. In the same way we begun in the Spirit, so it will always be. If I can badly misquote the doxology, “As it was in the beginning, it is now and evermore shall be, world without end” is how we go on relating to God in Christ by faith. There is never a time when we graduate from grace and forge a self-made connection with God. Our connection to God is forged by him and remains in him forever.