Sunday Evening Bible Study

January 28, 1996

Galatians 3:1-9


Paul is writing to a group of churches which he had helped to establish.

After having established these churches, there were a group of teachers called "Judaizers" who came in and began spreading their own doctrines.

The Judaizers felt that a Gentile couldn't really be saved apart from first becoming a Jew, and that started by being circumcised.

We've had Paul describe his conversion, and how he was taught his theology not by man, but God had taught him.

Then we saw how Paul's theology got the "Jerusalem seal of approval" by the early church.

Then last week we saw how Paul had to go face to face with the apostle Peter, when Peter started acting hypocritically in front of the Gentile believers in Antioch.

At first Peter went to all the Gentile functions, but after some Jewish brother from Jerusalem showed up, he started to pull away from the Gentiles.

Paul confronted him in front of everyone, making it clear that salvation is based on believing in Jesus, not whether or not you are a Jew.


:1  foolish ... bewitched you

anoetos - not understanding, unwise, foolish

baskaino - to bring evil on one by feigning praise or an evil eye; to charm, to bewitch

:1  that you should not obey the truth

Paul is wondering just what happened here.

He left them as a church that was on track, worshipping the Lord.

And now they've wandered so far from the truth.

:1  before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

Literally, "to whom before your very eyes Jesus Christ was portrayed as crucified."

When Paul was with them, he had taught them the truth.

He had very plainly told them that Jesus Christ had died on the cross for their sins.

This ties in with the last verse of the last chapter:

Gal.2:21  I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

If it were possible to become righteous before God by keeping the Law, then there would have been no need for Jesus Christ to die on the cross.

:2  This only would I learn of you

I only have one question for you ...

If you think about it, this is the only question they should need to hear.

If they understand where he's coming from, they would have to give up their legalism.

:2  Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

How did you receive the Holy Spirit?

I believe Paul is talking about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

That's the way this phrase is used most often.

Look at these instances of people "receiving the Spirit", and see if they did it through the works of the Law: (see also Acts 1:8; 2:33; 2:38)

Acts 8:14-17  Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: 15  Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16  (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17  Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

Acts 10:44-47  While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. 45  And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 46  For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 47  Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

Acts 19:1-6  And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, 2  He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. 3  And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. 4  Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. 5  When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6  And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.


The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is received by faith!

John 7:37-39  In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39  (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

You don't earn the gift of the Holy Spirit.

You don't have to work to clean up your life first for Him to fill you.

It's a gift from God, only received by simply believing.

If the Galatians were paying attention, this should be enough, to remember that their whole walk with the Lord simply began by believing in Jesus.

:3  having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

We've seen the beginning in the Spirit, by faith.

perfect - epiteleo - to bring to an end, accomplish, perfect, execute, complete

Having the Spirit do the work at the beginning of your life, are you now going to take over and finish the job for Him?


Paul now replaces the "law" with "flesh".


Trying to keep the law is a work of the flesh

Trying to make yourself righteous by keeping a list of do's and don't's is saying that you are able to achieve righteousness in your own flesh.


The Difference between legalism and obedience.


When you're trying achieve a good standing before God by doing good things.


When you want to please God, because you love Him.

John 14:15  If ye love me, keep my commandments.

They can both look the same on the outside.

The difference is on the inside.

:4  Have ye suffered so many things in vain?

Apparently, as with many of the churches in that time, the believers had suffered persecution.

2Ti 3:12 And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

Yet if they're giving up their faith in the true gospel to follow after the lie of legalism, Paul is saying that they suffered in vain.

:4  If it be yet in vain

Maybe, hopefully, Paul would get through to them.


Don't give up hope on cultists

We can tend to think that people that have strayed from the truth are never coming back.

But look at the Worldwide Church of God!

Founded by Herbert W. Armstrong, they had a very strong form of legalism, and some pretty strange doctrines too.

But some of the leaders began to study the Bible more and more, and then they came to Hank Hannegraf with questions, and they are now leading this cult out of the darkness, into the truth!

Don't give up hope!

:5  He therefore that ministereth to you in the Spirit ...

Talking about God.

After their initial filling of the Spirit, God had continued to work in their church.


:5  worketh miracles among you

Apparently they had seen some miracles in their midst.



:6   Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

Paul now quotes from Genesis:

Genesis 15:1-6  After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. 2  And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? 3  And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. 4  And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. 5  And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. 6  And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

The principle here is that God made a promise to Abraham.

When Abraham choose to believe God, God credited his account with righteousness.

It wasn't because he did some great deed.

It wasn't because he vowed never to watch TV.

It wasn't because he drove the speed limit on the freeway.

It was simply because he believed God's promise.


Abraham isn't circumcised until Genesis 17.

This credit of righteousness comes totally separate from circumcision, from the "law".

This is a major foundational principle in the New Testament.

We too have some pretty fantastic promise, just like Abraham had, and we've been seeing some of them in the gospel of John.

John 8:51  Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.

John 8:36  If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

What God's looking for is you to simply believe His promises.

:7  Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

We've been seeing a lot of how the Jews cherished being called the "sons of Abraham".

This probably also has something to do with the teaching of these Judaizers.

Being Jews, they would be extremely proud of their heritage as "sons of Abraham".

Yet we've seen in John, that Jesus made it clear that just because a person has physical lineage from Abraham, they can still have the devil as their father.

John 8:37  I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.

Joh 8:39  They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.

John 8:44  Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

:8  And the scripture, foreseeing ...

NIV - The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you."

:8  that God would justify the heathen through faith

That's us and the Galatians.

God would make us clean before Him on the basis of us trusting in Him.


"Faith" is simply the means by which we obtain salvation.

The actual work of salvation was accomplished by Jesus Christ on the cross, dying for our sins.

The way that we make His death valid for our sins is through believing in Jesus.

It's not just "faith" for the sake of "faith".

It's faith in Jesus.

:8  In thee shall all nations be blessed.

This is what Abraham was told from the very beginning:

Genesis 12:3  And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

Not just the descendants of Abraham, but ALL nations.

That includes us pig-dog-heathens.

How were all the nations blessed through Abraham?

Because from Him came the line of the Messiah.

And the Messiah has brought salvation for the whole world.


This is even further back from Genesis 17, circumcision.

:9  they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham

The ones who can really claim to be related to Abraham are those who learn to trust God for their salvation.


Your salvation is by faith alone.

"I know this", you say.

But every once in a while we hear some sermon talking about falling away and not getting caught in certain sins.

And we get to thinking that we better get our act together and stop a certain sin so we don't fall away and lose our salvation.


Your salvation has started, continues, and finishes with simply believing.

It's all about faith.

Are you trusting Jesus to pay completely for all of your sins?

That's it.