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Bewitched (Galatians 3:1-6)

July 15, 2012 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: When Jesus Isn't Enough (Galatians)

Topic: Galatians Passage: Galatians 3:1–3:6

When Jesus Isn’t Enough (Galatians)

Bewitched

Galatians 3:1-6

(One Lord: So Great a Salvation)

July 15th, 2012

I. Opening Lines

Do you remember the old TV show, “Bewitched”, with Elizabeth Montgomery? I used to love that show when I was a kid. And if you know that show, then you have to remember the theme song… [hum theme]. Everyone remembers that song. It’s a catchy melody, isn’t it?

But did you know there are actually lyrics to that song? I grew up thinking it was written to be an instrumental piece. But it wasn’t. The opening of the song actually goes like this:

Bewitched, bewitched, you've got me in your spell. Bewitched, bewitched, you know your craft so well.

So how does this have anything to do with anything? Well this morning we begin a new series on how TV theme songs from the 1960’s can teach us more about the Bible. I’m kidding, of course.

But, though it might seem like a strange connection, I do think those opening lines, with a slight alteration, could express the very the same sentiment that the Apostle Paul expresses in the opening lines of our passage this morning. Turn with me to Galatians 3.

II. The Passage: “Who Has Bewitched You?” (3:1-6)

This morning, as we continue our study of Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches, we will discover that Paul is beginning a new section here in 3:1. In the first two chapters of the book, Paul has already confronted the false teachings and the false allegations about himself that were being introduced into these churches (churches he helped establish!).

As we saw in the last set of verses we studied, 2:15-21, Paul has stated emphatically that a person is not justified[or "made right with God"] by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ,so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified [no one will be “made right with God”]. (2:16)

Remember, these non-Jewish Christians in Galatia were being told that if they wanted to fully live as Christians, they must first become like Jews, that is, they must keep all of the regulations of the Law of Moses (which includes things like being circumcised and observing all the kosher food rules).

So here in this new section, Paul is going to provide what we might could a theological argument against the distorted views of these false teachers.

A. Bewitched by Works (3:1)

Look how he begins in 3:1: O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?

Paul might have said: Bewitched, bewitched, they've got you in their spell…Bewitched, bewitched, they know their craft so well.

Paul is stunned, surprised, and disappointed that these Christians have been so easily duped by these crafty, destructive teachers. Remember how he described these teachers in chapter 1, verse 7: there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

And one of the reasons Paul is so surprised, and uses such strong language with his readers is the fact stated in the last half of verse 1:

It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.

Paul is not saying the Galatians were witnesses to the actual crucifixion of Jesus. He’s reminding them that when he and Barnabas first came to them, the death of Jesus Christ, the cross of Jesus Christ, was VIVIDLY proclaimed among them…PUBLICLY proclaimed; every one of them knew how Paul had preached about Christ crucified.

And so because of that, Paul is dumbfounded that these believers would so easily buy into a system of teaching that makes the cross of Jesus Christ unnecessary. If being right with God is really about what I DO, what I can DO, then what Jesus DID on the cross is ultimately irrelevant. As Paul expressed it in the last line of chapter 2: …if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

You see, because of what they heard from Paul, because of what they first believed, their acceptance of a different message, a different gospel, that acceptance confirms the fact they are acting like fools. Paul is saying, “Don’t you see? It’s almost like you’ve been put under a magical spell.” Who has bewitched you?

B. Breaking the Spell (3:2-5)

Now if we continue forward in this passage, we discover that Paul goes on to ask the Galatian disciples three questions about what God has done and is doing in their lives. There are actually five questions listed here, but I think we can group some of them together. In fact, when Paul says, “let me ask you only this”, I think he means for this to be ONE multi-faceted question; one question with many parts.

But these questions are meant to bring the Galatians to their senses. Paul wants them to see, not only how irrational their thinking has become, but also how dangerous.

But before we look at these questions, I want us to get in the right frame of mind. I want us to think about our own susceptibility…our own gullibility. Have you been bewitched like this? Have you been bewitched by the idea of human efffort? Have you been put under the spell of performance? It doesn’t make sense, but you do it anyway.

Let me put that another way: “Have you ever defined or measured your relationship with God according to your religious or moral performance?” Or we could say, “Have you ever believed God’s acceptance or rejection of you is based on how well you obey, or conversely, on how miserably you fail?”

I daresay every single one of us can relate to that temptation; that every single one of us had by betwitched by works. As those capable of being just as foolish as the Galatian believers, let's listen to these questions that Paul puts to them in verses 3-5.

1. Did you earn God’s gift? (3:2)

Look at verse 2: Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?

If we boil that question down, Paul is essentially asking them, “Did you earn God's gift?” The gift of the Holy Spirit comes to every Christian when the place their trust in Jesus Christ alone as both Lord and Savior.

Surely what Paul wrote to the Ephesians can also apply to the Galatians: In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, [14] who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:13-14)

So not only does the Spirit of God help us walk in new life, but He is also the evidence that we have received new life. But as Paul asks the Galatians, “Did the gift of the Spirit, that is, did the gift of new life in Christ come to you when you PERFORMED properly according to the Law of Moses?” They knew the answer to that question was an emphatic “no”.

So why, if they were reconciled to the living God and became partakers of His Spirit simply by trusting the message of Christ, why would God now make that relationship contingent on obedience to the Law?

Brothers and sisters, this doesn't only apply to the Law of Moses. We all know there are times when keeping the rules and doing our religious duty become the sum of our Christian life. We look at our good deeds, we mark off how many chapters we've read in the Bible, we count how many ways we are serving the church, or we are generally pleased with our overall moral performance. And because of these things, we imagine God is patting us on the back and saying, “Good job! Let me put a few more stars on your 'star chart'.”

But on the flip side of that coin, we all know there are times when our struggles with sin and self, and our religious apathy, become the 'ball and chain' of our Christian life. We look at our failings and our indifference and our struggles and our poor moral performance, and we conclude that God is ticked off, that God is sick of us, maybe that God is ready to squash us. We feel weary and condemned.

But in those times, we need to remember the question Paul is asking them here: Did you earn God's gift? Did God give it to you based on how well you were performing? Did God keep it from you based on how often you struggled. No. No! No! No!

New life through Christ came to simply by faith. You heard the gospel, you believed the gospel, you were saved through the gospel. Full stop. Shouldn't what God DID in our lives affect our view of what God is DOING even now? Watch how he builds on this question in verse 3.

2. Is your strength sufficient? (3:3)

Look at verse 3: Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? I can almost hear Paul saying, “Really? Seriously? Are you for real?”

So Paul is building logically here: if they did not earn the gift of the Spirit by their good works, and if the gift of the Spirit is evidence of new life from and with God, then the law, their performance did not make them right with God. And if that's true about the past, then, according to verse 3, isn't it foolish to believe that in the present, we can somehow be or stay right with God by trying to keep all the rules and depending on our good deeds?

In some sense, Paul is really asking them, “Is your strength sufficient?” Let's be clear. Paul wants them to grow. He says in 4:19, “... I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” He wants them to obey God. He wants them to love each other and love others. To use Paul's phrase to the Corinthians in II Corinthians 7:1, Paul wants the Galatians to bring “holiness to completion in the fear of God.” But they will not and cannot do this through their own flesh. If if their moral performance and religious efforts could not make them right with God, why do they now believe that their moral performance and religious efforts can keep them right with God? It's almost as if they are telling God, “Thanks for getting the bike up the hill, God. I couldn't have done it without you. But I'll take it from here. Just step back and watch me go.”

But living as a disciple of Jesus is like riding down the steep twists and turns of an alpine highway. The view is amazing; but without God in control, we are in BIG TROUBLE.

What about you? Have you been depending on your strength to get you through? Are you now being spiritually perfected by your own power? Have you been telling God, “Don't worry, I'll take it from here?”

Paul is not downplaying spiritual effort. This is the same guy who told the Philippians to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). The life of a disciple is an active pursuit of Jesus Christ. But we purse Him by faith, and faith that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13 ESV) God has made is own through Christ and God is making his own more like Christ.

New life begins with hearing by faith, and new life is lived through hearing by faith. Are you depending on God's strength and wisdom our your own?

3. Are you responsible for God’s miracles? (3:4, 5)

Look at Paul's final question, or the final part of his question in verses 4 and 5:

Did you suffer [or as I think it's better translated, Did you experience] so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? [5] 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—

Do you see how Paul is once again emphasizing the role of the Spirit of God in the life of the disciple of Jesus? If the Spirit was given to us by grace through faith, and if our own efforts are incapable of making us right with God or making us pleasing to God, then any obedience, any love, any hope, joy, or peace in us is directly from the Holy Spirit.

Just think about the wonders God works in our lives: hope to carry on, joy in our trials, peace when the storms are raging, love for our enemies, strength to turn away from sin, and a desire to live, not for ourselves, but for God and others...AND the perserverance to keep going even when we struggle in these areas.

And so Paul's question to the Galatians is this: Are you responsible for God's miracles? Does God work these wonders in our lives based on how well we perform? By how much good we do? Are God's wonders simply the result of our following His commands? Paul wants them to see how ridiculois that idea really is. God's wonders are gifts of His grace, that come through the Holy Spirit, as we walk by faith in the 'performance' of Jesus Christ.

III. Corrected by an Ancient Example (3:6)

And when we arrive at verse 6, we see that Paul is building on that phrase he used at the end of verses 2 and 5, the phrase “hearing by faith”. Being right with God is not, as so many religions claim, about our good works. It is not even, as certain so-called Christian religions claim, about faith AND good works. No, being right with God is about faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone.

You see, Paul's opponents in Galatia want to claim the Old Testament high ground. But Paul wants the Galatians to understand that before Moses there was Abraham. He wants them to understand that Moses must be understood in light of Abraham. And as he reminds them of the central place of faith, he backs that up from the OT. God's work in us comes, not based on our religious performance, but through hearing by faith...[6] just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”.

We are going to dig deeper into the example of Abraham next week, but this morning, it's so important for us to understand that like the Galatians, we too need to be regularly corrected by this ancient example. Being right with God through faith has been part of God's plan from the very beginning. And so are we following God's plan or our own plan?

When you are bewitched by the deceptive security of depending on your own efforts, when you are bewitched by the burdensome notion that God is angry with you or has rejected you because of your struggles and failures, ask yourself these questions: Did I earn God's gift? Is my strength sufficient? Am I responsible for God's miracles in my life? The answer to all of these MUST be “no”.

And that “no” should remind us that being right with God, knowing God was not, is not, and will not ever be about what you can DO. It's always about what Jesus has DONE. And what Jesus has done through His cross and His empty tomb will change us. How? By God's Spirit as we hear and believe God's word.

More in When Jesus Isn't Enough (Galatians)

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January 20, 2013

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January 13, 2013

Being a True Do-Gooder (Galatians 6:6-10)