This is the only direct, written revelation we have from God. It’s all contained within sixty-six books of the Bible: 39 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New. No one is to take away anything from it or add anything to it, or “it will be added to them the plagues that are written in it.” This is what happened at the Galatian church. Galatia was a region that was under the power of the Romans.
Paul writes this letter to all the churches in Galatia because false teachers had gone from church to church proclaiming a false gospel. He knows immediately that the people will be attacked, and some will be seduced by these false teachers. So Paul writes this letter to deal with what’s going on. In the first two chapters, he defends his apostolic authority as the one called by Christ, taught by Christ, and sent by Christ.
Then in Galatians 3 and 4 he clarifies the truth of the gospel. Now what the false teachers basically were saying was: grace was not enough, the cross is not enough, the Holy Spirit is not enough. You cannot enter the kingdom of God unless you are circumcised and adhere to the Law of Moses. They were adding works to grace and works to faith. Paul is shocked by their defection.
Galatians 1:6-8, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” Paul begins by pronouncing a curse on anyone who preaches a false gospel.
This is a powerful portion of Scripture because Paul embraces the Trinity – the Son, the Spirit, and the Father – and essentially says, “By foolishly being bewitched by a false gospel, or a false addition to the gospel, you have called into question the work of the Son and the Spirit and the Father.” In other words, “You have assaulted heaven at its heights.” This is an all-out attack on the Triune God.
Well, the fact is that many true believers in the churches in Galatia were bewitched. They were true believers according to Galatians 3:26-29, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all of you who were immersed into Christ spiritually have clothed yourself with Christ.” And verse 29: “Since you belong to Christ, you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.”
He says to them, in verse 3, “Having begun in the Spirit.” That’s the work of the Spirit, the work of regeneration. First, the work of conviction; then the work of granting new life, regeneration, new birth. You began with the new birth. You began in the power of the Spirit. “Are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Are you so bewitched as to think that the work of the Spirit was incomplete?
The Judaizers said, “Salvation is in Christ, salvation is by grace and by faith, but also by works. You must be circumcised as prescribed in the Law of Moses. You must maintain the Mosaic ceremonies and laws.” And that’s always the lie that plagues the church and true believers. Now it is not the Judiazers, but false religions, false sects and false teachers who bewitch the Gospel.
Maybe you never thought that true believers can be bewitched. But every warning in the New Testament, every warning about false teachers and false doctrine is an assumption that believers can be bewitched. Every command to hold to the truth, guard the truth, rightly handle the word of truth is also based on the assumption of our susceptibility to bewitching. Yes, believers can be seduced into believing lies.
The bewitching comes from those who acknowledge the gospel, accept the gospel, and then add works to the gospel. Paul anticipated this in Acts 20:29-30 when he said to the Ephesian elders, “after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.”
All those warnings, all those commands to faithfulness assume that we can become bewitched. And I would just go so far as to say, most churches in our society are bewitched. Most church leaders are bewitched. At the core, they may believe the true gospel, but they have allowed so many things to be added to the gospel or to corrupt the gospel that they are bewitched.
This isn’t just a problem in the pew. It is a problem in the pulpit. All too common for Christian leaders and pastors in places of great influence to become themselves bewitched about the gospel, even the gospel that saved them. The duty of the pastor is to guard the truth, is to preach the truth, is to fight for the truth, and to protect his flock from the bewitching doctrinal errors.
Now a little closer look at the word “bewitched” for a moment. What does that phrase mean in the Greek language? The word means “to charm in a misleading way.” It always had a bad connotation. It meant, “to seek to do harm to someone by lies or deception or false promises.” It is even related to magic spells and sorcery, and the evil eye, and demonic power. It comes from Satan.
It’s a very serious word, and the Holy Spirit only used it once to describe not what’s happening to nonbelievers, but what has happened to believers. It’s as if they have been bewitched, not by magic spells, but by false doctrine. Why are they susceptible to that? This is a battle that never, ever ends, because Satan continues. And bewitching is always a deviation from the true gospel, salvation by your works.
Now Satan only has two types of attacks. We see them in Matthew 13 in the words of our Lord. He can, first of all, snatch the gospel seed before it can go into the ground and be productive. And we see that in our Lord’s parable of the soils. Satan comes and snatches the seed away before anybody can understand it. That’s corrupting the gospel on the front end where it does not have time to grow.
The second thing that Satan does is once the gospel has taken root and believers begin to grow and flourish, then Satan’s second attack is to sow tares among the wheat: false believers in a false gospel alongside true believers. And that is corrupting the gospel on the back end by bringing into the church corrupt messages that produce corrupt tares among the wheat.
Yes, believers can be bewitched. Let me make it simple: just as believers can sin against the holiness of God – and we do – they can sin against the truth of God. Just as believers sin against the holiness of God, they sin against the truth of God. There is so much confusion in the bewitched church that it is outrageous. False teachers are everywhere, especially on TV.
Paul is sad over the bewitching then and it always happens. If you can go on Oprah, as one evangelical did, and Oprah says to him, “Does a person have to believe in Jesus Christ to enter heaven?” and he says, “No,” well, he has been bewitched. Larry King said one day, “I’m going to be okay because a well-known evangelist told me, because I’m Jewish, God’s going to take special care of me.”
“You foolish Galatians,” in verse 3. It means “ignorant, deadness and impotence of intellect. You’re not using your sanctified minds. You have been bewitched. Many times Paul writes about a renewed mind: Romans 12, Colossians 3 and Ephesians 4:23. “You need to be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” J. B. Phillips’ translation says, “O you idiots, how can you be so stupid?”
Who confused you about the gospel?” Well, the Judaizers did it, of course, by their words and their false teachings. And I understand why; because being bewitched is equal to not obeying the truth. And we see that in Galatians 5:7, “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?” That is exactly the case. If you have been bewitched, then you’re not obeying the truth.
Unless there is going to be a movement back to the Word of God in the pulpit and the pew, the bewitching will continue, because foolishness will continue. Then Paul looks at it from a Trinitarian perspective: “How did you get to this point? Verses 1-5 deal with the defense of the gospel by their experience. Then from verse 6 to the end of Galatian 4 is a defense of the gospel of grace from Scripture.
First, the role that Christ played. Your experience started when Christ was proclaimed to you in verse 1, “before whose eyes, Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed crucified.” The gospel came to you openly, clearly, powerfully and publicly portrayed. What did Paul say? 1 Corinthians 2:2, “I’m determined to know nothing among you except Christ and Him crucified.” What does it mean?
Paul preached not just the physical crucifixion of Christ, but the theology of the death of Christ. It was that you understood that it was a substitutionary sacrifice for you. You understood that He was dying in your place, that your sins were imputed to Him, so that His righteousness could be imputed to you. I preached Christ crucified to you, and also that Christ is risen again. And the reality was you believed.
And miraculously you were transformed. Now how can you, when you have seen Jesus Christ publicly portrayed crucified, go back to the Law? Are you saying that the cross was unnecessary and you must save yourself, or are you saying that the cross was insufficient, or that the death of Christ was a partial provision, and you have to make up the rest by your works?
If you are saying that, you are blaspheming the Christ of the cross. The verb “crucified” at the end of verse 1 is a perfect passive participle in Greek, which means it has continuing reality. It’s not just crucified at a moment in historical past; it’s continually crucified. Why? The impact and the power of the cross keeps on going. 1 John 1:9 says, “He is still righteous to keep on forgiving our sins.”
The cross work is never done; it never stops. It isn’t that Christ did something that was necessary for us and then He was finished, and now we have to pick up the work. That is offensive to Christ. Hebrews 10:14 says, “He perfected forever those that are sanctified by the one offering of Himself.” The cross lacks nothing. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, and not by our works.
And they knew from personal experience, that when they put their trust in the crucified and risen Christ, they were transformed. They knew that. They knew justification was by grace through faith in a crucified Christ, because they had done it and received it. They had that experience. Was that experience in vain? What could Judaizers or what could anybody else add to Christ’s work on the cross? Answer: nothing.
Secondly, they not only had personal experience with faith in the crucified Christ, they had personal experience with the Holy Spirit. Verse 2: “This is the only thing I want to find out from you. Did you receive the Spirit?” Yes, because everyone who believes receives the Holy Spirit, right? Romans 8:9: Holy Spirit lives in every believer; you’re the temple of the Spirit of God.
“If any man have not the Spirit, he’s not His.” The Holy Spirit has taken up residence in our life. He is the life of God in us. He comes in, transforms us; and we become new creations. We have new loves, new affections, and new desires. There are things that we used to love that we hate, and things we used to hate that we love. And now we love the brethren, we love the truth, and we love God.
Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law or by hearing with faith?” What’s the answer? By faith. There was no requirement that said you’re not going to get the Holy Spirit until you do certain things. That is another lie that says you can be a Christian without the Holy Spirit until you attain some level of spirituality. Every believer has the Holy Spirit. So the work of Christ was a finished work.
Verse 3, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” In other words, is the work of Christ only partial and you have to add the important part? And is the presence of the Holy Spirit only partial and you have to add something; and in both cases, the important part is something your flesh produces? Christ’s work is complete, the Holy Spirit’s presence is also complete.
The Law adds nothing to the work of Christ, the Law adds nothing to the work of the Holy Spirit.” Verse 5, “Did you experience Christ for nothing? Did you experience the Holy Spirit for nothing?” And what about the Father? Verse 5, “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?”
This is talking about the Father. Because in Luke 11:13 and in John 14:16 and 26, twice, Jesus says, “When I go, the Father will send the Spirit.” So in verse 5, “So does He who provides you with the Spirit” – that’s the Father. The Father is the one who provides you with the Spirit. The Son did a complete work on your behalf, and so did the Spirit and the Father did a complete work on your behalf.
You have experienced power of the gospel and experienced the power of the Spirit in your life. You have experienced the power of the Father and you have been living in that Trinitarian power. To say that all of this is inadequate is blasphemous. It diminishes the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit and the work of the Father in the miracle of regeneration. They did it all perfectly. Let us pray.