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Lowell Brueckner

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Foolish and Bewitched


Galatians 3:1-6

V. 1 “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.”

The Galatians are foolish. The Amplified Version, with its characteristic thoroughness, states, “You poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians!” Please don’t think that it overstates the condition of the people. Words cannot adequately express the folly of accepting error in the face of truth, of turning to theory, where reality has been experienced, of sheep following wolves instead of the Shepherd, and believers, who prefer law over grace.

For such deception to take place, Paul recognizes something more sinister and powerful than mere human persuasion. Demons have been involved; they enjoy no greater activity than to invade the area of Christian doctrine. Paul writes to Timothy: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Ti.4:1). The Greek word, translated bewitch, means exactly that: to bring evil upon people, cast a spell, to charm.

In John 10, Jesus says that His sheep will not listen to strangers: “A stranger they will not follow… All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them” (Jn.10:5,8). I am sure that He is speaking in the same way, as He would, in reference to sin: “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning” (1 Jn.5:18). It is possible for a Christian to sin (1 Jn.2:1), but he cannot habitually practice and persist in sin. Likewise, a stranger could deceive a sheep for a while, but the Shepherd will intervene, before the sheep is irremediably wounded. However, for deception to have reached the high level, as is evident in Galatia, it certainly proves that there are a good share of unconverted, carnal goats among the sheep.

Bewitching is a process, involving a coercion upon people, moving them to make wrong decisions and take steps downward. I know of no greater example of this fact in all the Bible than that of King Saul. As the people of Israel came under his reign, so the Galatians have come under the influence and authority of false leadership. To help us understand the process, we need to know the camaraderie between the flesh, that is, fallen human nature, and the devil. What begins in the flesh, eventually ends in the realm of the occult.

If we study the life of Saul, I think we will be able to look into the heart of Judaism and those, who propagated it. Judaism was the tool in Paul´s day, but instruction against the wiles of Judaism is not enough, because there are many other devices that can be used. We will try to learn the spiritual principles behind them, in order to give ourselves a broad base of understanding.

When an individual (or individuals) stubbornly clings to his position over God´s flock and exaggerates that position, he can go beyond the bounds of his responsibility and begin to play God. He will take the initiative, instead of waiting and trusting the Lord. As King Uzziah (2 Ch.26:18-19) many years after him, Saul tried to enter the ministry of the priesthood. He thought that this was indispensable to the welfare of the people (see 1 Samuel 13:8-14).

A second immense mistake that Saul made was to put his prerogatives over the Word of God. I am referring to the battle against the Amalekites, in which Saul was commanded to totally destroy them and their goods. Instead, he saved the king’s life and spared the best of the flocks. Here I think it might be worthwhile to consider the gift of prophecy, which at times came upon Saul. You remember that a proverb was created over the fact that Saul prophesied… “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 S.10:11-12, 19:24). Could this fame have caused him in some way to exalt his “gift” and take lightly the command of God? As I said, I believe it is something to think about.

After this second fatal error, Saul is now moving totally in the realm of the flesh and making one mistake after another. He tries to justify himself and excuse his behavior. His disposition becomes surly and cantankerous. It is uncomfortable to be around him, and yet, he rewards those who are loyal to him. Holding desperately to his shaky kingdom, he finally enters the occult and has an interview with a medium. Saul has been bewitched, but even after his death, he has followers, who continue to function and battle to further his kingdom. Because of a conflict of interest, they do not discern the direction that the Lord has taken. I am suggesting that the Judaizers have gone through a similar process in their own experience with Christianity and have acquired some aid from the kingdom of darkness. If you have dealt with cultists at all, you are aware of the fierce hold, in which their religion has bound them. Few are set free.

In this first verse, we have one last truth to consider: It is the theme of the gospel and the power, with which it is proclaimed. Paul refers to it in one small statement and I will try to be brief in my comments. The central theme of the gospel is the cross of Christ: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Co.2:2), wrote Paul and this is what he preached to the Galatians. But how did he preach it?  “My speech and my message… was in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Co.2:4).

Before the eyes of the Galatians, he preached publicly with such Holy Spirit power that they saw Christ and His cross in all reality. Ah, brothers, this is indispensable! How can we bring a two thousand-year-old incident into the 21st Century and catch the attention of modern eyes and ears? I look at myself and see too little power and passion. God help us! It is time to seek the Lord… this above all other priorities. We must be empowered by the Witness, who was present when it all took place. He is able to portray Christ with supernatural power that causes the sinner to prostrate before Him, repent of his sin, believe and receive a joyful salvation. It happened to the Galatians and it shows, with more intensity, the dark power, which later blinded them from the crucified Christ, Whom Paul had set before them.

V. 2-5 “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by 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? 
  Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 
In this portion, Paul brings out the reality of Christian experience. Receiving the Spirit, as the Galatians did, was not a theory or just something that Paul taught them. As he preached the gospel, Jesus Christ crucified was evidently portrayed, the Galatians believed, they received the Spirit, and were born again. He preached nothing about circumcision or about doing the works of the law.

There was no question about the working of the Spirit in individual lives, when the gospel commenced in the cities of Galatia. They were born of the Spirit and began to walk in the Spirit. We have already considered the foolishness of laying aside this wonderful reality for an unproven theory of gaining something more through the works of the law. In doing so, they turned to another source of power entirely, which was generated by the flesh. It was human effort, energized by fallen nature, which they were relying upon, rather than the moving of the Spirit.

The Galatians had suffered for the sake of the gospel. In Antioch of Pisidia there was opposition from the Jewish population, who stirred up the leading women, as well as men, and Paul and Barnabas were driven from the city. The account in Acts tells of persecution from both the Gentiles and the Jews. Paul was stoned in Lystra and left for dead and the believers surely witnessed a miracle, if not a resurrection, when Paul got off the ground and walked into the city. You can be sure that persecution continued after he left these places and the believers suffered much.

He that supplied the Spirit and did miracles was obviously God. Wherever Paul traveled, the Word received divine confirmation through the presence of God Himself, doing His supernatural work. To say that miracles ceased after the days of the apostles, as far as I am concerned, is to say that God ceased His work.

A popular theory teaches that miracles were used by God, in order to convince the Jews of the reality of the gospel, but Paul says just the opposite in Romans 15:18-19: “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience… by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God… so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ.”  

To the Thessalonians, Paul wrote, “Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Th.1:5). Whoever authored Hebrews wrote of the declaration of salvation by the Lord and those who heard him, “while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Heb.2:4).

To the Corinthians, Paul spoke of the demonstration and power of the Spirit through his speech and his message. He went on to say, “The kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power” (1 Co.4:20). The supernatural work continued after Paul’s departure, because he mentioned that the Corinthians were not lacking in any gift (1:7). In chapter 12 and 14, he counseled them concerning the proper use of spiritual gifts, and by listing them, he showed their miraculous nature, manifested by utterance and by deeds. Apparently also, the Galatians are still seeing the supernatural power of God, because in verse 5, he speaks in the present tense of miracles among them.

Where then, does the New Testament begin to teach the clear doctrine of the cessation of the supernatural work of God among His people? The preaching of the gospel among the Gentiles is still a supernatural work and always will be. We are dealing with a heavenly entity, when we consider the bride of Christ, and an unworthy bride she would be, if formed and nurtured merely by natural man. To lay the present and the future of the church solely in the hands of men is to reduce it to a human endeavor. That will never do. The work is totally spiritual in nature. How is this glorious body to function, limited to the talents and abilities of men? I fear that the day, of which Paul spoke in 2 Timothy 3:5, is upon us: “For people will be… having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”

V. 6 “Just as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"? 
Paul begins his doctrinal arguments now and everything that he claimed in the first two chapters, concerning apostleship and leadership, is based on his knowledge, revelation, and faithful interpretation of the Old Testament Scriptures. I think this will become crystal clear as we study. The New Testament believer, he teaches, will be counted righteous by believing God, just as Abraham did in Genesis. Regardless of any other right, ability, and sacrifice that someone might have and manifest, the essential qualification for Christian leadership is a knowledge and understanding of Scripture. No one can lay legitimate claim to any position among God´s people without being able to lay a sound doctrinal foundation in their lives.  

Every true gospel effort must be soundly based upon the entire Word of God. We have seen that Paul considered his founding of the Galatian churches to be legitimate, because he came preaching the true gospel. We know that it was the true gospel, because it was totally based on the preaching of the Scriptures. We looked into the book of Acts to see that it states repeatedly that he preached the Word from place to place. We are given a sample of his preaching in Antioch of Pisidia from Acts 13:16-41, and we can see it is totally scriptural, based on the Old Testament (vs. 13-22). It is followed by an account of the ministry of John the Baptist and Christ (vs. 23-31).  He continues through verse 41 with quotations, in order, from Psalms 2:7, Isaiah 55:3, Psalms 16:10, and Habakkuk 1:5.

Success would take place, when the Scriptures were believed and received by the people.
For instance, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:  “When you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Th.2:13). This was the way that Christianity was founded in every place and it cannot truly be done in any other way. It is the way, in which God works in people’s lives and it is the way that He forms Christians. Paul said that, should he return with any other message than the one he preached from the beginning, he would consider himself accursed. 

When Jesus commissioned His disciples, leaving in their hands the future of the gospel and the purpose of God on earth, He said, “Everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Lk.24:44.45). They must have clear understanding of the Word of God, in order to be involved in this work. In the same chapter, He gave this example: “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk.24:27). We see in the four Gospels that the writers were careful to show that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Christ of the Old Testament Scriptures.


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