Sunday: The Foolish Galatians
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Read Galatians 3:1–5. Summarize below what Paul is saying to them. In what sense could we be in danger of falling into the same spiritual pitfall, of starting out right and then falling into legalism?



Several modern translations have tried to capture the sense of Paul’s words in verse 1 about the “foolish” Galatians. The actual word Paul uses in Greek is even stronger than that. The word is anoetoi, and it comes from the word for mind (nous). Literally, it means “mindless.” The Galatians were not thinking. Paul does not stop there; he says that, because they are acting so foolishly, he wonders if some magician has cast a spell on them. “Who has bewitched you?” His choice of words here may even suggest that the ultimate source behind their condition is the devil (2 Cor. 4:4).

What baffles Paul so much about the Galatians’ apostasy on the gospel is that they knew salvation was rooted in the Cross of Christ. It was not something that they could have missed. The word translated “portrayed” or “set forth” (KJV) in Galatians 3:1 literally means “placarded” or “painted.” It was used to describe all public proclamations. Paul is saying that the Cross was such a central part of his preaching that the Galatians had, in effect, seen in their mind’s eye Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:23, 2:2). In a sense, he’s saying that, by their actions, they are turning away from the Cross.

Paul then contrasts the current experience of the Galatians with how they first came to faith in Christ. He does this by asking them some rhetorical questions. How did they receive the Spirit, meaning how did they first become Christians? And from a slightly different perspective, Why did God give the Spirit? Was it because they did something to earn it? Certainly not! Instead, it was because they believed the good news of what Christ had already done for them. Having begun so well, what would make them think that now they had to rely upon their own behavior?

How often, if ever, do you find yourself thinking, I’m doing pretty well. I’m a pretty solid Christian, I don’t do this and or I don’t do that . . . and then, even subtly, thinking you’re somehow good enough to be saved? What’s wrong with that picture?

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Sunday: The Foolish Galatians — 4 Comments

  1. When I read these lessons, I always think about myself and my spirituality.

    There is a game, called by many names, where one person at a point in the circle (typically large) will tell the person quietly (let's say to the right) a phrase. That person will then continue to whisper that phrase in the ear of the person to their right and this will continue until it reaches back to the originator.

    At times, some may try to mischievously twist a few words (which may speak to Pharisees mission etc). However, even if this is not done, it has been shown that the original phrase is typically never captured at the end. (try it if you have not already).

    Was this the same with the churches Paul was able to set up? Is it the same with us today? Are the checks and balances that are put into place helping us keep the original message or creating a legalistic system?
    What about works?

    It brings me to the point of relativity as in science and having a assumed fixed point. We travel at 45 miles/hr assuming that the earth surface relative to us is 0 (not moving). This is not true but it is a useful approximation to understand how fast we are going as the earth given its size and slow rotation can be assumed to be zero.

    As Christians, how do we measure our walk with God and what is right? Yes, we are saved by grace but then how is this translated to our kids. How was it passed down to us? What is our relative point where we can always measure where we are?

    I propose that God's word should be our only primary source of understanding (not man, or another book, others' experience etc) and what better way to get it, as directly from the source Himself.

    Paul had a personal relationship and understood the why, the what, the who etc about Jesus' life. He was able to convince the new believers about his saving grace but could not divinely effect that same relationship he had with God, with the new believers.

    It is so important to study for oneself and develop a personal relationship so God does not call us "foolish" and "I know ye not", "depart from me". The issue of being save by grace, yet still keeping his commandments and being a good workman for him is always easily resolved.

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  2. (How often, if ever, do you find yourself thinking, I’m doing pretty well. I’m a pretty solid Christian, I don’t do this and or I don’t do that . . . and then, even subtly, thinking you’re somehow good enough to be saved? What’s wrong with that picture?)

    This isn’t a problem I have in such that I feel I’m “doing pretty well”. In fact I would say I have the exact opposite feeling. Sometimes I feel that my giving in to my “favorite” sins makes me hopelessly lost. Satan seems to be pretty quick to point out that I have failed Jesus again, and I should just give up. Thankfully I know that guilt is not the Holy Spirits work, but the voice telling me to come back to Jesus is. I pray so often for help in controlling my temptations, only to find myself slipping again. I thank Jesus everyday for His sacrifice for a wretch like me, and take comfort in the fact that He won’t give up on me, even when I feel like giving up on myself.

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  3. The focus of this lesson seems to be that the Galatians had so quickly forgot their past experiences. They were living in and for the present and doing things as though their experiences of the past never happened. We too can easily forget. The quote from Ellen White below is a good one to remember concerning such things.

    "We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history" (3 Selected Messages 162.3).

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  4. "......The word is anoetoi, and it comes from the word for mind (nous). Literally, it means “mindless.” The Galatians were not thinking. Paul does not stop there; he says that, because they are acting so foolishly, he wonders if some magician has cast a spell on them. “Who has bewitched you?” His choice of words here may even suggest that the ultimate source behind their condition is the devil (2 Cor. 4:4)." The Author

    The Galstians were confused...and well they ought to be...after all; the leadership of the Christian church from Jerusalem had ordered Paul to tell the Gentile Christians to practice certain ceremonial laws that they were supposed to follow if they wanted to be accepted as Christians....as well the leaderesip had shown that the Gentile was to be treated as outside the covenant of God; and not to be accepted as an equal to the Jewish Christian...This was demonstrated by the leadership of the Jerusalem Church; and even though Paul rebuked Peter and the Jerusalem leadership; yet his rebuke was a single voice against the many thousands of Christian Jews who agreed with the leadership of the Jerusalem church.

    it was therefore not surprising that bringing pressure to bear; from those who disgreed with Paul's teaching of the gospel of salvation, was very effective in getting the Galatians to side with the majority point of view that salvation included the works of the law.

    "....they knew salvation was rooted in the Cross of Christ. It was not something that they could have missed. The word translated “portrayed” or “set forth” (KJV) in Galatians 3:1 literally means “placarded” or “painted.” It was used to describe all public proclamations. Paul is saying that the Cross was such a central part of his preaching that the Galatians had, in effect, seen in their mind’s eye Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:23, 2:2). In a sense, he’s saying that, by their actions, they are turning away from the Cross." The Author

    This is another example of the sincerity and patience of Paul; and his earnestness in presenting to the Galatians, the truth of the different gospel that he preached'''ie different from the "gospel of the Circumcision". His gospel centered around the cross of the crucified Christ; and was the only gospel that the Gentile could identify with; ie if the Gentile was to be accepted as a faithlul Christian. So back to the original gospel of the cross the Gentile again had to pointed, and directed away from the law and its promoters re justification by it.

    "Paul then contrasts the current experience of the Galatians with how they first came to faith in Christ. He does this by asking them some rhetorical questions. How did they receive the Spirit, meaning how did they first become Christians? And from a slightly different perspective, Why did God give the Spirit? Was it because they did something to earn it? Certainly not! Instead, it was because they believed the good news of what Christ had already done for them. Having begun so well, what would make them think that now they had to rely upon their own behavior?" The Author

    The above quotation; and totally the words of the author, are not mine...but I couldn't have written them any better if I tried....But for a single addition:...."what would have made them think they could rely on their own behavior" The Author...it would have been peer pressure to accept the "gospel of the Circumcision" that they [the Gentiles]were indeed justified as well by the works of the law.
    James 2:24 says as much; and without understanding what James meant; it would have been easy for them to accept this implied error in teaching.

    Courtney

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