“O foolish Galatians! Who hath bewitched you that ye should not obey the truth,
before whose eyes Jesus Christ was hath been evidently set forth, crucified amoung you?”
(Galatians 3:1, KJV)
Have God and Paul abandoned all tact? This is strong medicine and, unless we have learned to enjoy being corrected by God’s Word, not too tasty. One wonders how the Galatians felt upon hearing this read for the first time when Paul wrote it to them in the first century. How do we feel upon reading it now in our time? For, while it is Paul’s message to the Galatians in the early days of the church it is also God’s message to the Body of Christ throughout our earthly history.
The word “foolish” is the Greek word for “unthinking”. It does not imply mental incapacity…the inability to think, but mental laziness…the unwillingness to think. Phillips paraphrases “O you dear idiots of Galatia.” The Galatians were not idiots – they were simply acting like idiots. Idiotic behavior, unfortunately, is not the sole province of imbeciles. It afflicts all of us some of the time and some of us most of the time. They had been “bewitched” – mesmerized…hypnotized. They had stopped thinking on their own. The major influence on their minds was the influence of others.
Bible teachers from “headquarters”… “experts”, if you will, had cast a spell over them. Once thoughtful, objective people they were now thoughtless and subjective. Like most believers since, they had scrapped thinking for feeling. As the Pharisees had done before them, they had abandoned truth for tradition. How many Christians do we find today whose authority is a church or denomination and not the Word of God? I met a man once who shrank back from everything that he was shown that was plainly taught in Scripture. “Is that in the creeds?” he kept asking. He could trust the creeds drawn up by strangers in a now forgotten time, but he would not trust the clear message of God’s Word. He insisted on viewing the Bible through the creeds rather than viewing the creeds through the light from God’s Word.
Something happened in Galatia early in Paul’s ministry that has been happening ever since, and that is why this book and this particular text are so important to you and me today. The Galatian believers had been “hypnotized” into mixing Law with Grace. We have even come to call this error “Galatianism,” not because it was peculiar to the churches of that area, but because the heresy was so predominant there that it called forth a letter from God to correct it. What we call “Galatianism” and God calls “idiocy” men today call gospel. This attempt to minimize grace by mixing in law has taken the day. It has swept the field. It has conquered all. It is so widely taught and so unquestioningly accepted that the pure Grace Message of the risen, glorified Christ sounds to the average Christian like a dangerous heresy.
But it is this attempted admixture of Law with Grace which seems so plausible and sounds so logical that is the dangerous heresy. It is not some minor nuance of interpretation. God says that it makes Christ of no effect to the believer. God says that it “sets aside the grace of God”. Anything that causes believers to reject His grace in favor of something else is serious error!
It is called a departure from God the Father in chapter one, verse six. The same verse, in the original Greek, conveys the idea of leaving God to enter into a “gospel” that is dissimilar to Paul’s. Gentile believers were not to place themselves under the legal requirements of Peter’s Kingdom gospel, but to remain free under the liberty of Paul’s Grace gospel. The preaching of any other message than Paul’s, whether true or false, to these Galatians incurred God’s curse. These first century believers, while continuing to love and minister to the judaizers, were to treat them in their teaching role as “accursed.” In other words, Grace believers – then and now – were to treat these legalistic Bible teachers the way a good orthodox Jew would treat a pork chop. Or, better yet, a stinking, rotten corpse. They were to give legalistic teachers a wide birth, and so are we. Yet how many today sit under the regular preaching of men whose message God has cursed, involve themselves in the ministries of legalistic churches, financially support wrong message, and forsake the grace message, the grace pastor, and the grace assembly for a lifetime!
God’s message abandoned by God’s people – who can understand it? And when God’s message is abandoned God’s will goes undone! These people were disobeying the truth! God speaks to us for the express purpose of our heeding what He says. These Gentiles who never had been under the Law were desiring to stand on Law ground where no Jew had ever attained righteousness. They had been declared righteous by faith and now were attempting to approach God on a different principle that had never brought right standing to anyone. They had begun in the Spirit and were switching to the flesh to be “made complete.” They were not only deserting Grace, which alone can save the sinner and make the believer complete, they were deserting God Who poured forth grace to them at Calvary.
Actually, by adding Law to Grace, they were denying the all-sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross. And this is why God and Paul wrote Galatians. God sent His Son to be the Savior of the world, and His people were saying “That isn’t enough!” Just the other day a young person told me that the principal of his Christian school told the students not to pay attention to people who say that all one needs to do to be saved is believe. The principal believes that one must “make a commitment of his life to Christ” in order to be saved…a far cry from what Paul told the Philippian Jailor! A week or two ago I heard the world’s most famous evangelist tell his audience that there are four things one must do to be saved. He said, “You must change your life.” This is Galatianism. It sounds good to man, but it is the message that God has cursed. God only saves men one way – by grace! This means that God performs the action of the verb, not man. God does all the saving. Man does only all the being saved.
That Christ died the sinner’s death on Calvary is gospel. That this was not enough to save is heresy. From Calvary the Son of God shouted “Tetelestai”…finished …completed…paid in full! Galatians is God’s vindication of that cry!