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Lowell Brueckner

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Seeking the Spirit of the Kingdom, chapter two




The adjoining chapter is from this book
“You foolish Galatians” (Gal. 3:1). I wonder what would happen to Paul, if he could speak so forcefully to Twenty-first Century Christians. He certainly would not have many people in his congregation, because today we are expected to speak in a way that is “politically correct”. People are very sensitive and are easily offended by any little word of criticism or by something that might damage their self-esteem. Today, Paul would be accused of being judgmental and lacking in love.

I can assure anyone, who is a convert in this new generation, that the presentation of the truths of God to His people in this time is not what it used to be. I can remember passion, directness (using the pronoun you) and a lot of frankness in preaching. What would be the reaction today to a message like Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”? I think the answer is obvious and has much to do with the difference between the results of preaching in those times and the kind of success we see today. Paul commanded Titus, “Reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith.” He accused the Galatians of being bewitched, besides asking them, “Are you so foolish?” (verse 3).

J. C. Ryle (1816-1900, a bishop in the Anglican Church) said in his book, Warning to the Churches, “Let us not be detained for fear of controversy. A thief likes dogs that do not bark and watchmen, who do not raise their voice to alarm. The devil is a thief. If we are quiet and do not defend against false doctrine, we please him and displease God. To maintain the truth of Christ in the Church is even more important than maintaining peace.”
Because of the preoccupation with diplomacy from the pulpits in our day, many Christian people are asleep. Often, we hear it said, “We are not what we should be”, but that isn’t the confession that needs to be heard, nor is it adequate. The correct confession is, “We are not who we profess and seem to be.” We invite people to join us, but perhaps it would not be too good, if they would come close. If they knew about the adultery, percentage of divorces, thievery, abuse of minors, and other crimes among those, who profess to be the people of God, they might flee from us.

As in the days of Jeremiah, the ministers of our day heal “the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, Peace’, and there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14 & 8:11). The consequence is that the people’s commitment to the purposes of God breaks sooner or later, when the opportunity comes to give place to the desires of the flesh or when the cares of this world take priority.

When the angel gave to Zechariah the message for Zerubabel, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit”… he roused him, “as a man who is awakened from his sleep” (Zech. 4:1). He wanted him to know the reality of God consciously in broad daylight. God spoke to Jeremiah about the obsession in his day of one person recounting dreams to another and also pointed at the dreaming prophets. Then He made a comparison, saying that those who dream are like straw and those who speak the true word that He had given were like grain (Jer. 23:27-28). The need in our day is to directly confront the Word of God, the Scripture, understand it clearly and not give too much credit to dubious and nebulous “revelations” that can easily deceive.

In any case, it is abrupt and unpleasant to awaken from a good sleep, but especially so, when spiritual things are involved. We wish we could dream on, believing that we are among the most informed and committed in our walk with Christ. Peter had left all to follow Jesus and, after three and a half years of discipleship, he was sure that he was ready for anything that could happen. He said, “Even though all may fall away, yet I will not… Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You” (Mk. 14:29, 31). He was totally convinced that his love was genuine and faithful, but the rooster awakened him from his dream. He discovered that he did not have, what he professed to have. I wonder if we are any better than he.

In a much better day than ours, Paul had to say to the Romans, “Knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep… The night is almost gone, and the day is near” (Rom. 13:11, 12). In this day, when the gospel is so perverted and superficial, we ought to be awakened to the reality of who we are, of our condition before God, and the state of the work, with which we are associated.

There is no one so foolish as the person, who has known the spiritual truth of God and then abandoned it to follow an inferior and opposite way. This is an incomprehensible and irrational foolishness. The only way to explain it would be to say that it is the result of interference by supernatural forces in that person’s soul. Evil spirits have taken control of his good senses, not only deceiving him, but bewitching him. “Who has bewitched you?” (Gal. 3:1). The Galatians had not only been deceived by men, but also by demons. Wycliffe Commentary says, “They must have been bewitched, victims of an enchantment or an evil spell.”

It is interesting to see that one of the works of the flesh mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21, is witchcraft. The fruits of the Spirit follow, which we understand to be the results of the active presence of the Holy Spirit in a human being. Fruit always is something coming from a living and growing organism. Paul uses the word works to describe the results of a life governed by the flesh, which stems from things that are mechanical and artificial. The efforts, beginning in the flesh, end as something diabolical, henceforth witchcraft. So fruit and works are the two possible end results of Christian experience.

King Saul was a living example of someone controlled by the flesh, from the beginning to the end of his story. He came to be king, because of a carnal and worldly longing in the hearts of the elders of Israel, who wanted to be governed by a man, like the rest of the nations of the world. The entire reign of Saul showed carnal activities, initiated by a king with a carnal mentality. As time went on, he became more and more influenced by demons, until finally he went to consult with a witch. He was totally bewitched.

The first error that Israel committed in this matter was to take into consideration the ways of the governments of the world. There is an evil trinity consisting of the flesh, the world and the devil. Speaking of the Ephesians’ past, Paul puts these three elements into two verses: “You formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air… we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh” (2:2, 3). The three join and cooperate, opposing all that has to do with God. In Galatians 1:4, Paul tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ “gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age”. It is another way of saying that He rescued us from the world. Peter expresses it in yet another manner: “You were… redeemed… from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers.” (1 Pet. 1:18). He is referring to the ambience, the customs, including the culture, in which we were born and raised. This is the world, its system and its way of life and thinking. In his first apostolic sermon, Peter preached about the need to repent and leave the world behind: “Be saved from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40).

All the religions of men form part of this perverse, wicked world. In them, men are limited to understanding things from a human and natural standpoint, based on that which is visible, physical and material. They cannot come to see things as God sees them, but function according to natural powers and abilities. They are tied to the system of this present age. We, who are in Christ, in order to enter totally into the sphere of the Holy Spirit and faith, must be liberated from this age for, if we are not, we will walk according to the flesh and end up bewitched by Satan.


Paul saw the Galatians as God saw them and he called them foolish. They had left the incomparable, heavenly way in order to follow an inferior one. He made a comparison between their actual situation and the revelation they had received originally, based upon the cross, “before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” (3:1).

The world considers this message of the cross insanity. “We preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:23). Finally, Paul came to the conclusion that the “natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor. 2:14).

If we could mention one message that requires spiritual eyes, more than any other, it would be the message of the cross. In order to accept it, we need plenty of help from God, because naturally it is unacceptable. To present a bleeding savior, a dying champion and a liberator, executed as a criminal, is insanity to the uninspired mind and it is rejected by the human race. Only the eyes that are enlightened by the Spirit can see the beauty hidden in such an act and the Galatians had seen it. With hands and feet nailed to a cross, with His lifeblood flowing and falling to the earth, weak and unable to defend Himself, Jesus offered Himself in sacrifice. However, Paul taught us that “the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25). For three hours, dense darkness covered the earth and, as He expired, the ground trembled, the rocks split, the veil of the temple was torn in two, the graves opened and the dead rose.

“The foolishness of God is wiser than men.” Here is the highest display of the wisdom of God available, working towards man’s salvation. In the cross, by death, Jesus took the sins of the world upon Him and offered Himself as a substitute in our place. There as well, He took the corrupted nature of Adam and dealt it a death blow and there, death died. In this unique manner, God offers hope and life to a condemned race. Human understanding cannot capture this truth, but the light of the Holy Spirit had illuminated the Galatians, its reality was revealed to them and they experienced it.

Paul said, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). That’s all he wanted, even though he knew that it was an unacceptable message to the human mentality of the world’s races, whether they be Jew or Greek. Seven hundred years before, Isaiah asked, “Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Is. 53:1). Only those, to whom God has supernaturally manifested his power and wisdom, can believe. Why is it that many of those, who attempt to evangelize today, want to present a message that has been adjusted to the logic and natural reasoning of men? They do it without any help from heaven, presenting something that is pleasing and tasty, so that the gospel will appear acceptable. Instead, they actually corrupt the message and grieve the Holy Spirit.

It is exactly what had happened to the Galatians. It was a satanic plan, as every plan is today that compromises that which is divine. It changes what should be spiritual for something natural, and cheapens it. As someone has said, “Compromise is the language of the devil.”


Faith is always the way to God and the only way that pleases Him. What power there is when we hear with faith! By hearing with faith, the Galatians could receive God and His Holy Spirit from heaven (3:2), as a reality in their lives and region. By the same means, they could experience miraculous things that they could have never believed possible before. They entered into spiritual riches, never seen nor imagined before by them or by their ancestors throughout their history. When Paul came to them and opened the Scripture, a flame began to burn in their souls, something that they never had experienced. They began to believe the impossible, because “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Faith was born within them.

An example taken from the book of Acts will help us understand a little better what happened in Galatia: “At Listra a man was sitting who had no strength in his feet, lame from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze on him and had seen that he had faith to be made well, said with a loud voice, ‘Stand upright on your feet.’ And he leaped and walked” (Acts 14:8-10).

The path of faith is the way of the Spirit (3:5). It is the Holy Spirit who sows faith in us and we only can walk in the Spirit by faith. The preaching of the gospel must be accompanied by the Spirit of God and the supernatural results obtained are the proof that He is moving. The work of evangelization can never be only a mere human effort. If men can do it, and if there is a way to explain in human terms what has happened, then what has been presented is not the gospel of God.

Christ was He, who provided the Spirit and did miracles among the Galatians (3:5); He does it wherever the gospel has been received with faith. Those, who attribute miracles solely to the time of the apostles, say that God manifested Himself only to the Jews in this form and not to the Gentile church. They ascribe the multiplied miracles that they encounter in the Gospels and in the book of Acts only to that epoch. They believe that the epistles, especially those of Paul, are the parts of Scriptures that we should apply to the Gentile church. Therefore, we will do a little search, only in the epistles, to convince ourselves that the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit is essential in the preaching of the gospel, even among us, who are not Jews and who live in the 21st Century.

We have Galatians 3:5 before us: “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?” In Romans 15:18-19, Paul declared that the miraculous power that Christ manifested through him was not for the benefit of the Jews, but for the Gentiles. To try to make a difference, between the Gentiles of those days and those of today, would be pure speculation without Biblical base: “I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” Paul did not confide in his natural faculties in proclaiming the gospel and convincing his listeners, because he did not want to direct their attention towards himself, but towards faith in God. So that they would deposit faith in Him, they had to see a real and powerful God: “My message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4-5). Paul wanted the Thessalonians to know that the arrival of the gospel through him was legitimately from God, because… “our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction…” (1 Thes. 1:5). In the same manner, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews assured his readers that any message of salvation must be confirmed by supernatural signs from God. If that does not happen, it is probable that it has only been an invention of men: “How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will” (Heb. 2:3, 4). Peter also affirmed that the gospel is always announced under the anointing of the Spirit: “It was revealed to them (the prophets) that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven”(1 Pet. 1:12). According to Paul, the essence of the Kingdom of God, “does not consist in words but in power” (1 Cor. 4:20). The supernatural power of the Spirit of God is an indispensable part of the preaching of the gospel and, without the demonstration of His power, we are presenting a gospel that is something less than that presented in the New Testament.

Faith is the only means through which a non-Jew can enter into God and His wonders. I never tire of thinking and talking of the Canaanite woman (Matt. 15:21-28), who was ignored y repudiated on the basis of her race, since she had no right to receive anything from the Messiah of the Jews. Nevertheless, she could approach and experience the benefits of God through that mysterious and powerful thing called faith. We who are “Gentiles in the flesh… separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus… have been brought near” (Eph. 2:11-13).

“Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Gal. 3:6). What did Abraham believe? Let’s go for a moment to the story in Genesis 15. We see that Abraham still did not have a son and the heir of everything he had was Eliezer, a slave. There were no indications of a future blessed of God and much less was there an assurance of receiving eternal life. However, God told him that he would give him a son miraculously and that, by that means, He would give him a seed. Paul emphasized that the word used is singular (seed), not plural (seeds) (Gal. 3:6), and that the fulfillment of this promise was Christ Himself. Abraham believed in Christ, by means of Whom he received hope without limit or end. He believed the word of God, the gospel, by faith: “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed in you” (Gal. 3:8).

We receive God’s blessings as heirs with Abraham by faith: “God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath” (Heb. 6:17). When God gave this promise to Abraham, He not only wanted to assure him that His purpose would not change, but also wanted that future heirs of the promise could be sure of it and “take hold of the hope set before us” (verse 18). God possesses a most powerful word, capable of creating light, stars, the world and the universe. He cannot lie and His word cannot fail, but He did something that He should never have to do: He swore! Why? “So that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we… would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.” He wanted to do it for us. He did not simply want to show it, but to show it even more. Two things assure us – His infallible word and his oath. He not only wanted us to be encouraged, but to have strong encouragement. May the Holy Spirit enable us to hear this word (and the oath) with faith!


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