In Galatians 3, Paul begins this chapter with some strong words for the readers of his letter to the Galatian believers. He calls the Galatians foolish, and asks them, “who has bewitched you?” Other versions say, “who has cast this evil spell on you?” Paul didn’t mean that the believers were literally under some type of spell, but their thinking was so clouded and unbiblical, that it seemed as if some sort of spell had been cast on them.
So what was it that the Galatians believed that caused Paul to use such strong words in his letter to them? They had begun to believe that by their own works they could receive salvation. Paul says in verse 2, “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.”
But Paul doesn’t stop there. He then calls the Galatians foolish again for thinking that after receiving the Spirit through faith, they could then become perfect by their own works and efforts. With all of the false-teaching influences, the Galatians had begun to depart from their very foundation of faith in Christ.
The problem is that we can fall victim to this line of thinking and belief ourselves if we’re not careful. It’s so easy for us as believers to live this way without realizing it. You go a day without prayer or reading God’s word. Then that day turns into a week, that day into a month, and all of a sudden you find yourself operating in your own good works rather than the faith that you once had.
We have to remember that it’s impossible to follow Jesus on our own. We can’t love our neighbors, forgive those who have wronged us, or honor God the way He desires us to without His help. The good news is Jesus gives us His power, so we’re never alone. We don’t have to be like the Galatians.
In the middle of the Galatians’ struggle, Paul chose to remind them of the story of Abraham. That God counted him as righteous because of his faith. Not by his works. Not by his own effort. Not even by his obedience. But by his faith! And the promise in verse 9 is that, “So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith”. Notice Paul doesn’t say that all the Christians who are perfect, share the same blessing. We receive this same blessing by putting our faith in Christ.
So how do we do it? How do we prevent ourselves from becoming so focused on our works that we think it’ll earn our salvation? We keep our eyes focused on the cross of Jesus Christ. Even in a culture that so easily distracts or wants to “bewitch” us by agendas, ideas, or philosophies. We remember Christ and him crucified.
Paul says, “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”. His entire argument against the Galatians and their new belief is that faith in Christ and his crucifixion brings salvation. He’s shocked by how quickly the Galatians have turned away from their faith by believing that they can somehow earn salvation on their own. This is because they had taken their eyes off of the cross of Christ. By trying to follow the law instead of accepting God’s grace, they were taking on an impossible burden and forgetting that they already belonged to Jesus.
This is why Paul concludes this chapter by saying, “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.”
When we accept the gift of salvation through Jesus, He gives us the Holy Spirit as our comforter and guide. The power of God lives in us! But so often, rather than tapping into this power that enables us to follow Jesus, we slip into old habits and return to our own self-reliance.
When we are burdened by worries, hurts or problems, we must keep our focus on the one who knows us and remember whose we are. We live under Jesus’ mercy and grace. He alone enables us to be who He’s created us to be and to do what He calls us to do.