Tuesday, August 19, 2014

BY THE SPIRIT (Galatians Chapter 3)

Galatians 3:1-5, “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 the 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 the works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’?”

In the book of Galatians Paul defends and explains the superiority of the gospel of grace as opposed to the legalism that was being promulgated by the false teachers.  His question, “who has bewitched you?” speaks to their naivety and lack of discernment with respect to these matters.  Paul had proclaimed the gospel to them.  They had trusted in Christ for salvation. They had suffered for Christ and had begun a walk by the Spirit, but were “deserting him who called (them) in the grace of Christ and (were) turning to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6).  Paul was astonished and disheartened.  The book of Galatians represents his corrective response.

Three important statements are made regarding the Spirit in this passage.  The Spirit is, of course, the person of the Holy Spirit.  He whom Jesus promised to send—“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:16).  The word “Helper” translates the Greek parakletos which means literally “called to one’s side” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).  Jesus comforted His troubled disciples with news of the Spirit’s coming—“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7).  His is a Christ-revealing and Christ-glorifying ministry (Cf. John 16:12-14).

The believers in Galatia had received the Spirit (Cf. Galatians 3:2).  Paul’s rhetorical question demands one response: they had received the Spirit “by hearing with faith” and not “by the works of the law” (Galatians 3:2).  As An immediate result of faith in Christ a person receives the Spirit.  Every born again believer is indwelt by the Spirit of God (Cf. Romans 8:9).  From salvation on the Helper is at work in the believer, lovingly and patiently working to instruct, empower, and transform. 

The believers in Galatia had “begun by the Spirit” (Cf. Galatians 3:3), but had digressed.  The Christian life is a walk by the Spirit.  “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14; Cf. Galatians 5:18).  Though there are commands to be obeyed, the Christian life is not a religious construct of do’s and don’ts.  No one can be “perfected by the flesh,” because the flesh is incapable of such a thing (Cf. Colossians 2:23; John 6:63).  It can only do the “works of the flesh” and none of them have anything to do with perfection (Cf. Galatians 5:19-21).  By the Spirit alone can the “deeds of the body” be “put to death” (Romans 8:13).  By the Spirit alone can transformation into Christ-likeness take place (Cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18).

The believers in Galatia had been supplied with the Spirit “by hearing with faith” (Galatians 3:5).  God had “graced them” with the Spirit and had worked miracles amongst them.  Those things happened not as a result of their own religious doings.  How foolish it is to suppose that we can, in our own self efforts, do that which the divine Spirit alone can do.  By the Spirit alone the miracle of regeneration takes place.  By the Spirit alone can we have assurance (Cf. Romans 8:16).  By the Spirit alone are we sanctified (Cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18).  By the Spirit alone can we understand truth and gain assistance in our prayers (Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:12; Romans 8:26).  By the Spirit alone Christ-like fruit is borne in us (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23).  How incredibly blessed we are to have such a Helper!  We did not obtain Him by merit or self-effort, He was given to us as a gift.  To be filled with Him (Cf. Ephesians 5:18) and to walk by Him (Cf. Galatians 5:16) is a matter of great privilege and is the only means by which we can walk in a manner worthy of the calling which we have received. 

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