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May 9, 2021 | Chris Baselice
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“Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross. Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it? I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.”—Galatians 3:1–5 (NLT)
Have you ever fallen for a scam? Maybe you bought something online because the product looked great in pictures, but what you received was junk. Maybe you fell for the smoke and mirrors of a great deal, only to find out it was a lie. If you have, you’re not alone!
In today’s passage, Paul is fired up because the Galatians had been duped. He calls them “foolish Galatians.” Listen to how the JB Phillips version translates it: “O you dear idiots of Galatia!”
This colorful Greek word is anoétos, which means mindless, dense, mental, unwise, or just plain stupid. And guess what? He doesn’t just say it once. In verse 3 he says, “How foolish can you be?” Or even better, “Surely you can’t be so idiotic” (PHILLIPS).
Now, he’s not saying they didn’t have knowledge nor lecturing them on things they haven’t learned about yet. You see, the Galatians knew the truth, but they chose not to use it. Paul makes it crystal clear in verse 3, and this essentially is the issue that led him to write this letter. He says, “After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?”
This is the question that Paul will spend the entirety of this section of Galatians answering, and it is essentially the heartbeat of the entire book. As we have discovered so far in this study, the Judaizers were telling the Galatians that grace was fine to get you started on your journey, but if you wanted to complete the journey, you needed to earn it by adhering to the law of Moses.
But here’s the thing: God’s grace isn’t something you ever graduate beyond. Trusting Jesus isn’t a jumpstart, it’s a brand-new heart! It’s not a defibrillator, it’s a transplant!
He takes His heart and puts it within us. And your new life, where you have access to God through the Holy Spirit, is only made possible because of His heart in you, His power in you, His strength in you.
As Paul tells us in Philippians 1:6 (NIV), “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” That good work that was begun in us, that gave us a new heart, is the finished work of Jesus on the cross—not any work you or I have ever accomplished. It was He who accomplished it all on our behalf and He who carries us every day into eternity!
DIG: Have you ever fallen for something that ended up being a scam?
DISCOVER: Why is the scam of the Judaizers, the scam of legalism, so dangerous and damaging to a believer?
DO: Ask the Lord to reveal any areas where you’ve been duped into believing something that leads you away from His truth and into slavery or bondage to the world.
Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.