“O foolish Galatians!” (Galatians 3:1)
Have you ever acted foolishly? What does it mean to be foolish, anyway?
The Greek word translated “foolish” is anoētos. It means “non-thinking,” or “not thinking things through.”
The Galatians were deserting Christ and accepting legalism and a salvation-by-works gospel. Paul charged them with not thinking things through.
They were not thinking through some very basic truths that should have led the Galatians to reject outright the legalists’ perverted gospel.
In vv 1-14, Paul gives five truths the Galatians were not thinking through.
First, they were not thinking through the crucifixion:
“Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?” (Gal 3:1).
Jesus died on the cross as the Galatians’ substitute. His work was finished. It was perfect. Jesus took away the sins of the world (John 1:29). He is the propitiation for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). It was foolish for the Galatians to think being circumcised or keeping kosher would add to the salvific finality of the cross. Jesus paid it all.
Second, they were not thinking through their reception of the Holy Spirit:
This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Gal 3:2-3).
The Galatians had received the Spirit through faith, not through keeping the Law. They had already begun living the Spirit-filled life before they heard this gospel of growth-through-legalism. So why think that the Spirit now depended on reverting to Jewish legalism? They were not thinking things through!
Third, they were not thinking through the basis of the miracles they had seen:
Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Gal 3:5).
The Galatians had seen miracles happen with their own eyes—because they believed in God for them, not because they were keeping the Law. If the Spirit was working miracles through faith, apart from law-keeping, why think that keeping the Law was suddenly necessary now?
Fourth, they were not thinking through the doctrine of justification:
— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham (Gal 3:6-9).
Abraham was justified through a single act of faith. So, too, were the Galatians, just as God promised. If they were already justified and already blessed, why think keeping the Jewish laws could add to that? Think about it!
Fifth, they were not thinking through the function of the Law:
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (Gal 3:10-14).
The Law does not bring life or blessing to anyone. It can only condemn you for failing to live up to it. It reveals your sin (Rom 3:20) and shows you the only way to be saved is through faith in Christ (Gal 3:24). For the Galatians to believe a gospel of salvation-by-law-keeping shows they were not thinking through the purpose of the Law. The Law was designed to bring a curse upon them, but it could not save them. Only Jesus could do that. So He became a curse in their place. He took their punishment (and ours) upon Himself, so they could be saved through faith in Him, apart from works. The Galatians knew this. Paul had told them. They should have thought through that truth!
Theology matters—but not to fools!