Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →
Some of you may be thinking that I have gone rogue and am preaching on a Halloween theme. But really it quite be accident that we come to our passage, in the days leading up to Halloween. When I first mapped out my preaching schedule for this sermon series, titled: NO OTHER GOSPEL I had estimated that this morning’s text would have been preached on on October 15th, and that today’s text would have been . And that is why I do not publish my preaching schedule, because it is continually being revised.
This Tuesday, October 31, 2017, marks the 500th anniversary of when Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses for debate on the church door at Wittenberg, Germany. Church historian Stephen J. Nichols, in an article that appears in the back of the Reformation Study Bible wrote: “The preface to the document reveals his motive in posting the theses: ‘Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light.’ By the end of his truth-seeking expedition, Luther was certain of one thing: his church, latter medieval Roman Catholicism had lost its way. Quoting Scripture, Luther declares in Thesis 92, ‘Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “‘Peace, peace’” and there is no peace!’ So proclaimed the thesis that would be heard around the world, and so began the Protestant Reformation.”
In his article, Nichols goes on to write: “In short, the Reformation was a rediscovery of the life and light found in Christ alone.”
The medieval Roman Catholic Church had been bewitched by century after century of false teachers who had led millions, if not billions of people astray by teaching a works based salvation. But as Paul had stated in
Galatians 2:16 NASB95PARA
nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.
John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrims Progress, who lived about 100 years or so after the time of Luther, was greatly influenced by Luther’s commentary on Galatians. Writing about his conversion he wrote:
Live in Liberty: The Spiritual Message of Galatians Appeal to the Galatians’ Experience

One day, as I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience, fearing lest yet all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, Thy righteousness is in heaven; and methought withal, I saw, with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I say, is my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, He wants my righteousness, for that was just before Him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed, I was loosed from my affliction and irons, my temptations had fled away; so that, from that time, those dreadful scriptures of God left off to trouble me now; now went I also home rejoicing, for the grace and love of God.

As we look at our passage today we will look at the bewitched, the rhetoric, and the example. Since I don’t like the paragraph division as laid out in the NASB I have added the text, minus the paragraph division, to the notes page which is in the bulletin. Not wanting to get into a lengthy discussion about paragraphs in the Bible, I will just note that the Bible was not written in paragraphs. The editors of various translations have inserted the paragraph format into various English translations since it make the text more readable for us. On this occasion I side with the translators of the New International Version, English Standard Version and Christian Standard Bible as to the paragraph division (which are in keeping with commentator Douglas Moo’s take on the text).
Let’s read the text together.
Galatians 3:1–6 NASB95PARA
You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the 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? So then, 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? Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.
THE BEWITCHED (vs. 1 & 3)
Notice that in both verse 1 and then again in verse 3 Paul refers to the Galatians as fools. The perplexed apostle addresses his beloved churches with very strong language. In Paul had noted his astonishment at the spiritual defection of these churches who were embracing another gospel when in fact there is no other gospel but the one which Paul and Barnabas had preached to them in the first place.
In chapter 2, Paul focused on the problems that were occuring in the church in Antioch which reminded him of the problems in Galatia. They both had been pestered by the same group of false brethren.
The Greek term that is translated as foolish literally means mindless.
Paul wasn’t addressing those who had low intellects, he was addressing those who were not properly using the intellect that God had given to them.
More than once I have heard someone say something like this: “You have been given a strong mind, but it would be nice if you would use it more often.” Or as Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot used to say: “Use your gray cells my dear Hastings.” These bewitched Galatians were not using their gray cells.
The reason Paul referred the Galatians as beings fools is that they had allowed themselves to be bewitched. This is the only occurrence of this term in the N.T. In secular use the term had connotations that concerned black magic. Literally it refers to one who casts a spell by means of an evil eye. Hence, the CSB translates it this way: “Who has cast a spell on you.”
“By the way, as a footnote, if you have a King James Bible or a New King James you see another phrase there: “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth?” Some of you have that in your text. That appears in some of the old manuscripts, but not the earliest ones, so it probably was added later for clarification. And I understand why; because being bewitched is equal to not obeying the truth. And we see that over in chapter 5, verse 7: “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?” So perhaps somebody along the way just pulled it from verse 7 and added it into verse 1 to kind of further explain it.
That is exactly the case. If you have been bewitched, then you’re not obeying the truth. Even though it’s not in the original text, it certainly is an accurate assessment. “You are foolish, and in your foolishness you have allowed yourself to be bewitched.” (MacArthur)
Who is it that has been bewitched? Was it unbelievers or true believers? Notice how Paul refers to them in
Galatians 3:25–29 NASB95PARA
But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
Paul was not addressing unbelievers, he was addressing believers — believers who had been duped into following a false doctrine.
Sadly, this is often the case. There are many within the church who have come to believe that only certain people can understand the Bible. And so they don’t make the effort to study the Bible for themselves. Such folks open themselves up to all manner of false teaching because they blindly believe what they are being taught. In this case it appears the Galatians were being taught that though they begin the journey of the Christian life by faith, they complete it in their own efforts. Look at
Galatians 3:3 NIV
Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
The case in point for the Judaizers is that they were teaching that a person had to be circumcised in order to become a true Christian. Of course circumcision involves the removing of flesh from the body. Though circumcision is not a big issue today, to the best of my knowledge, there are a whole host of other legalistic practices that stand ready to take its place. And people fall for these things because deep down inside they believe that they have to somehow earn God’s favor. We like to have instruction booklets that take us step by step through the process of doing things. But that is just not how it works with God’s free grace. Oh, we do have the Bible, which definitely gives us instructions for godly living. But without the union that we have with Christ there is no godliness. And when we follow godly practices it is not so that we can earn some sort of brownie points in heaven, but rather so that we can demonstrate our gratitude to God for His indescribable gift, and so that we can grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Though I believe that we often give the devil too much credit for things, still we do know that he wages war against God and His elect. On the front end, as we learned from our study of the Parable of the seed and the sower, the devil will come and snatch away the seed of the truth of the gospel before the seed can take root and spring forth with new life. On the back end we learned from the parable of the tares among the wheat that the devil, by means of bringing false brethren into the church, will try to supplant the good seed with bad seed. And Paul is calling the Galatians fools for allowing themselves to be so duped.
Notice that the last phrase of vs. 1 says that “Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” to the Galatians. This of course does not mean that Christ was crucified in Galatia. Nor does it mean that Paul painted a picture for them to gaze at, such as the chalk drawing artists of last century. The Greek term translated publicly portrayed refers to a public written announcement that was hung in the market place for all to see. We still see things like that today with a public announcement of foreclosure, and such. One commentator pointed out that if a picture can paint a thousand words, then, given time, a thousand words can paint a picture. And you can be sure that Paul accurately painted the picture of Jesus’ crucifixion, which would include His substitution and all that goes with it, for the Galatians to perceive with spiritual eyes.
Live in Liberty: The Spiritual Message of Galatians Appeal to the Galatians’ Experience

When Paul preached the cross, the Galatians saw Jesus! It’s not that he emphasized the mental and physical sufferings of Jesus until their hearts were moved to tears—you couldn’t live in the Roman world without daily encountering staggering brutality; crucified men were a dime a dozen. What they understood and felt was the meaning of Christ’s cross.

THE RHETORIC (vs. 2-5)
Paul launches into a series of rhetorical questions which span verses 2 through verse 5 (or vs. 6 depending on your translation). A rhetorical question is one in which a reply is not anticipated since the answer was obvious. And the point of using rhetorical questions probably stems from the foolishness of the Galatians, who were not using the brains that God had given to them to use.
The first question, found in verse 2 is this: “did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” The obvious answer to this question is that they received the Spirit by the hearing with faith. Writing to the Romans Paul stated:
Romans 10:14–17 ESV
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Like you and I, the Galatians had heard the gospel of the cross and the empty tomb with ears of faith. And having believed they received the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 1:13–14 NASB95PARA
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
One of the many erroneous teachings today is that the gift of the Holy Spirit is only for the spiritual elite; that the Holy Spirit comes as some sort of second blessing. But Paul clearly states that after a person believes the truth of the gospel they are sealed with the Holy Spirit. All believers are sealed with the Spirit, not just some.
The second rhetorical question, found in verse 3, we already briefly looked at, but let’s look again. “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Again the obvious answer is no! Salvation, from beginning to end, is completely the work of God. Douglas Moo wrote: “Despite this good beginning, the Galatians are being tempted by the agitators to shift to another means of completing their Christian pilgrimage. The verb translated “perfected” in the NASB could be translated as “finished” or “completed.” With a similar thought Paul wrote elsewhere:
Philippians 1:6 CSB
I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Bush & Due wrote:
Live in Liberty: The Spiritual Message of Galatians Appeal to the Galatians’ Experience

Why, having begun by the Spirit, do we so often attempt to perfect ourselves by the flesh?

One of the chief reasons is because we confuse our justification with our sanctification; that is, our position before God with our practice before God. The law can neither justify nor sanctify you; it can no more declare you holy than it can bring lasting change to your heart.

But the flesh loves to hear that it has a role to play.

“Legalism doesn’t pick up where the cross left off, because the cross never leaves off
The cross work is never done; it never stops. It isn’t that Christ did something that was necessary for us and then He was finished, and now we have to pick up the work. That is offensive to Christ.” (MacArthur)
The third rhetorical question is found in verse 4: “Did you suffer so many things in vain?” The term translated “suffer” can refer to suffering or to experience. Experience seems to fit the context better. What had the Galatian believers experienced? There certainly had been hardship and suffering since it was in their region that Paul was stoned and left for dead. There would have been the persecution that is common for those who convert from a system of dead works to serve the Living God. But they would have also experienced many positive things. One of which was a great love for Paul. Writing about this Paul had stated:
Galatians 4:13–15 ESV
You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.
Verse 5 of our text also refers to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit among them. In the early days of the church the Spirit performed many miraculous deeds as an authentication of the truth of the gospel. These certainly could be in view here.
As on commentator noted, experience, while not wholly trustworthy, can be found
“And they knew from personal experience, that when they put their trust in the crucified and risen Christ, they were transformed. They knew that. They knew justification was by grace through faith in a crucified Christ, because they had done it and received it. They had that experience.” (MacArthur)
John MacArthur, in a recent sermon on this passage said this:
““You’ve experienced that. You’ve experienced power of the gospel in your life. You’ve experienced the power of the Spirit in your life. You’ve experienced the power of the Father in your life. You’ve been living in that trinitarian power. And now all of a sudden, these bewitching Jews show up and tell you that all of this is inadequate.” That is a blasphemous assault on the Triune God. It diminishes the work of Christ on the cross, the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer, and the work of the Father in the miracle of regeneration. The whole Trinity and all that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have to offer you is yours by faith and faith alone. “You foolish Galatians. Are you so bewitched?” “You are,” says Paul to the Colossians, “complete in Him.” When anybody comes along and adds anything, it is a bewitching.”
When anybody comes along and adds anything, it is a bewitching.”
The fourth rhetorical question is found in verse 5, which we have already looked at briefly. “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?” Again the obvious answer is that it is by the hearing with faith. In a sense verse 5 is a recapitulation of what was said in verses 2-4.
Let’s turn our attention briefly to the example found in verse 6.
Abraham is perhaps the greatest example of hearing with faith. Abraham heard the promise of God. He believed the promise that he heard. And that faith was reckoned to him as righteousness.
The question for the Galatians was whether or not they, like Abraham, heard the message of the gospel with the hearing of faith. Paul contends that they did. But after hearing and receiving the gospel by faith, they were not trying to finish the Christian life in the power of the flesh.
How about you? Have you heard the message of the gospel in faith? The message that begins with the fact that you are a sinner and that your sin is an offense to God. The message that teaches us that though we could not fulfill the righteous demands of the law, Jesus did. And that when He died on the cross, He died as your substitute — which means that God was satisfied with Jesus’ death as payment for your sins. Have you truly embraced that truth. Have you embraced the truth of the empty tomb, that Jesus rose again victoriously from the grave? If you have not embraces the message of the cross and the empty tomb, I invite you to do so today.
If you have embrace the gospel, are you not trying to finish the Christian life in the power of the flesh? If you are I invite you to repent and return to where you once were. Let’s pray.
Closing Song: No.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more