Galatians 3:1-4. “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.”
It was as if the Judaisers who came from Jerusalem had cast a spell over the new believers, who had been so excited about their new-found faith. They had experienced receiving the Holy Spirit! You would think that nothing could top that experience!
To grasp the truth of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ ought to be enough to protect a believer from the influence of the deceivers. Alas, it is not so. I’ve known of cases in which a new believer in Jesus Christ was easily swayed into a cult that actually denies the deity of Christ, because the heart was open, and the false teachers were convincing.
Think of it: A person has come to belief in Jesus Christ, has experienced the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is excited about all that he is learning. He has started his faith-walk in the Spirit. Yet how easily, under the influence of the Judaisers, legalists, our new convert is convinced that he must continue and finish his faith-walk in the Law, in the power of his own mind and strength to keep the law.
When Paul talks about the truth in which Jesus Christ had been evidently set forth among them, he was talking about his own ministry to them. He gave birth to them, in a sense, and felt very jealous of them, protective of them.
Have you ever lead a soul to Christ? Isn’t it the most exciting thing EVER? And don’t you pray for that person, follow up, do your best to disciple that one, help him grow, just as you would a child of your own flesh?
It was a very big deal for a new believer to step away from those around him in his new faith. To turn one’s back on the idols and the rituals of his whole community was a dangerous thing, and it often ended in persecution for the new believer. Why, having placed their trust in Christ through faith alone, would they now turn to living out the Law for their salvation?
Did they suffer persecution in vain? How did they lose their assurance?
But Paul doesn’t really believe it was all in vain. He stands ready to reassure them that they do NOT need to be persuaded to live under the Law in order to keep that which was gained through faith alone.