The Galatians Conversion (Gal. 3:1-5)

A small town police chief spoke at a public forum about preventing hate violence. Hours later, he discovered that his son is a suspect in a hate crime.

The area had been rocked by a recent spate of attacks on Sikhs, including the beating of a 71-year-old man named Singh Natt by two teen assailants in nearby Manteca. Union City Police Chief Darryl McAllister had been speaking to members of the local Sikh community, trying to engage them in strategies in violence avoidance.

The next day, chief McAllister left the following words as part of a note on the department’s official Facebook page: “It is not that often that I find myself sharing with the general public issues that pertain to my personal family life. I feel it is a MUST that this be one of those rare occasions.”

After recapping the details of the attack, he continued: “I am completely disgusted in sharing with you that, later yesterday evening, I received a call from the Manteca PD that the suspect in this horrific crime turns out to (be) my 18-year-old son.”

Tyrone McAllister, who was reportedly estranged from his police chief father, was taken into custody and charged with attempted robbery, elder abuse, and assault with a deadly weapon, in connection with the attack. Manteca police were able to locate him after his father provided relevant information.

In the statement, Chief McAllister also wrote that he and his family were “shaken to the core.”[1]

Sometimes we are shocked to the core about something. Sometimes we expect better of certain people, or groups and we are greatly disappointed when someone we respect, and love does something contrary to our expectations.

I think that is going on in this passage. Paul reveals his emotions. I believe he is disappointed in them. Let’s look at the passage.

My theme is:

We are saved by faith in the Gospel, we grow in our faith by the Holy Spirit’s work.

Let’s read Galatians 3:1-5:

You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: 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? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

  1. Let’s put this passage in context.
    1. This is a new section in Galatians and a major section:
    1. For the broader section: The main points are that Paul talks about how Abraham had received righteousness, which means, right standing with God, not from the law because this was way before the law. Abraham had this righteousness by faith alone.
    1. Paul develops this by going back to Gen 15 and then adding on how God had said that Abraham’s seed (Christ) would bless the nations.
    1. Paul then goes into his next evidence which is that Jesus has become a curse for us.
    1. Paul talks about how the law requires obedience and we are cursed for not being absolutely obedient.
    1. Paul then talks of how Christ was the curse for us. Paul then moves into how we are free and not as slaves. We were slaves at one time when we were young and immature. However, with Christ came adoption and therefore, we are not slaves. Paul then moves to the allegorical story of Hagar. This was his close which showed that we are descendants of the free woman. This was Paul’s appeal to our lineage. This takes us through Galatians chapter 4.
    1. Each of these main points is significant as Paul had built in transitions from one to the other. He transitioned smoothly from Abraham to the law, to the curse to the fact that Christ is the curse. Paul went back to the law again and then back to Christ. Then Paul moved into slave versus free which transitioned to adoption and then lineage. They flow nicely. Paul assumes the reader had understanding of the Old Testament.
  2. Let’s look at these verses.
    1. Paul says that they have been foolish.
    1. Paul says they have been bewitched.
    1. John MacArthur points out when Paul talks about them being “bewitched” it has the idea of “Charmed or misled by flattery and false promises. The term suggests an appeal to the emotions by the Judaizers.”[2]
    1. One source shares: this Greek word means: To bewitch as with the eye, to cast an evil eye. A Greek commentator on the work of the poet Theocritus observes that the noun báskanos means one who with his eyes kills or destroys. Superstitious people believed that great harm might result from the “evil eye” or from being looked upon with envious and malicious stares. In the NT, it means to utter foolish babble, i.e., to mislead by pretenses as if by magic arts, to bewitch (Gal. 3:1).[3]
    1. When Paul calls them “foolish” he is not insulting their intelligence. They were not lacking IQ, but in spiritual discernment.
    1. Paul says that “Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified…” About this Ben Witherington writes: Scholars have long puzzled over the meaning of Gal 3.1b, which reads literally “before whose eyes Jesus Christ having been crucified was put on public display.” Did Paul put on some sort of early version of a passion play? These questions however tend to reflect how little some scholars know about Paul’s use of rhetoric, and in this case the rhetorical device known as ekphrasis… it is the use of vivid language that conjures up stark visual images in the listener’s mind. So, we need not imagine Paul putting on a passion play to impress the Galatians, we need only imagine that he gave a very vivid, with lots of visual imagery, description of the crucifixion of Jesus.[4]
    1. The rest of these verses are about how they were saved and how they grew in their faith.
    1. Paul uses rhetorical questions and uses 5 of them in these 5 verses..
    1. In verse 2, Paul says he only wants to know one thing, “did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” This is summing up the next few verses.
    1. The obvious answer is “hearing with faith.” They received the Spirit, they were saved by hearing the Gospel and accepting the Gospel.
    1. Paul continues with questions in verses 3 and 4 and sums it up in verse 5.
    1. In verse 3, Paul goes to another level. He started verse 2 asking questions about how they were saved and now he asks questions referring to how they grow in the faith. He asks if they are perfected by the flesh. The flesh usually means the law. So, the idea is do they grow in Christ by the law or by the Spirit. The obvious answer is the Holy Spirit.
    1. In verse 4, Paul seems to refer to suffering which means that they have suffered persecution and if they suffered for the law it was in vain, it was worthless.
    1. Then, verse 5, this comes to the original idea: So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
    1. The obvious answer is by hearing with faith.
    1. In the next few verses, which we will get into next week, Paul substantiates this with two Old Testament passages.
  • Let’s apply:
    1. We need to not be arrogant, we must know that we are saved by faith and faith alone.
    1. Looking at verse 1, we must not allow anyone to divert our focus from Jesus and proper doctrine. We must not allow the devil to do this through false teachers.
      1. We must stay clear of the major heresies such as: Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.
      1. However, we must stay clear of smaller heresies as well. We must make sure we do not let anyone steer us the wrong way.
    1. We must recognize that we are not saved by our own works.
    1. Looking at verse 2, we must recognize we did not receive the Spirit by works of the law, but by hearing and faith.
    1. Looking at verse 3, we must recognize that we did not begin by grace and then be perfected by the law. We are still sanctified by the Spirit, not our works or by the law.

I recently read the following:

Some time ago, I attended a conference in which a well-known speaker related the cultural and value differences between his current home in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and his childhood home in a small town in the Southwest United States. These cultural and value differences found their expression in a set of rules. As a young man, his church culture enforced a particularly prescribed set of rules: no dancing, no drinking, no card playing, no long hair. These were rules that could not be violated. To do so would not only invite censure from the community, but he was also warned that it would put his eternal standing with Almighty God in jeopardy.

As it sometimes happens with this kind of upbringing, the conference speaker moved as far away from his hometown rigidity as he could. He escaped to the Pacific Northwest—a part of the United States known for its laidback attitude and freethinking ways. The speaker believed that he had finally found a community that would be free from the constricting rules and legalisms of his childhood. He was in for quite a surprise. While he had indeed moved far away from the many rules of his childhood town, he discovered that the rules of his new neighborhood involved minute intricacies relating to garbage, the banning of plastic bags at the grocery store, and skateboarders or musicians in the common areas of his upscale townhome complex. The wrath of God may not have been invoked in the threats of punishment, but the speaker suffered the self-righteous censure of this community just as bound by legalism as the one in which he grew up. In both communities, oddly, he found that the rules seemed more beloved than the people they were meant to shape.

The writer continues to say, Regardless of the community rules involved, human beings seem to be lovers of legalities. She then continues to write, maybe we love rules because it is easier than loving people.[5]

Remember, we cannot keep the law. We are saved by Jesus’ blood on the cross and we grow in our faith by Jesus’ blood on the cross.

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means being with Jesus Forever (Rev 22:5)

[1] Jelani Greenidge, Editor, : source: Dakin Adone, “After brutal attack on a Sikh man, police chief is ‘disgusted’ to learn is son is one of the suspects,” CNN (8-10-18

[2] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books.

NT (New Testament)

[3] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).




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