Galatians 3:1-5 – You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.  I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?  Have you suffered so much for nothing–if it really was for nothing?  Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
If we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, why do we always seem to revert back to trying to earn God’s acceptance?
This sort of question perplexed Paul. It perplexes me. The Church at Galatia – home of those “foolish Galatians” – was clearly taught that Christ had been crucified for sinners (v. 1). They had heard the gospel rightly exposited by the Apostle. And yet, they seemed to be setting aside the grace of God. For if righteousness could be gained through the law, then Christ died for nothing (Gal. 2:21)!
So, Paul asks them point blank: How did you receive the Spirit: By observing the law or by believing the gospel (v. 2)? I’ll let Paul speak for himself in verse 3…
Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
The answer to his questions was YES. They were indeed guilty as charged… but all too often…so are we.
How often do we try to earn God’s favor and become enslaved to performance-based living, thus rendering Christ’s sacrifice for sin as worthless? While we know – or ought to know – that we are justified (or saved) by faith, we somehow think that everything else is up to us.
The biblical truth is, however, that although we must certainly pursue godliness for all we are worth, it is only by the power of the Spirit that we will achieve our goal of Christlikeness. And we access that power only by faith. Trying to live for Christ by your own power is like trying to cut down a mighty Redwood Tree with a chainsaw that you never start up. You’ll fail miserably and look stupid doing so.
Instead, we are not only called to begin with the Spirit in our justification, but also to finish with him (as well as to walk every step with him in between). To change metaphors one last time, it’s only as the Spirit pulls us along the track of life that our efforts will amount to anything for the Kingdom.
Grace and Truth,