Foolish or wise! – Galatians 3:1-5
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 3, 2016
Did you know that at the beginning of the Revolutionary War less than 20% of the population was supportive of our being a free nation no longer ruled by a king? It sounded foolish to many who saw themselves as loyal monarchists and supportive of their king in England who could not have cared less for their security. Yet as those who saw this as a means to throw off the tyranny of a king were able to present their case and as the results of heavy taxation, suppression of free speech, and the confiscation of private property in the name of the king the populace began to see what it meant if they lost their inalienable rights to be free people. Was it foolish or wise?
There are those today who would use their political office to suppress the free speech of its citizens; perhaps we need another revolution? Not necessarily a violent one but a political one. There were those who were foolishly returning to the tyranny of spiritual slavery in trying to garner God’s grace after tasting the freedom Jesus brought by faith. Instead of being wise they were being very foolish. There are those today who would have you do the same thing and give up your freedom in Christ. What does this mean?
Why would anyone want to throw away freedom for slavery? Yet there were those who willingly do so every day. Whenever we try to appease God and give up our freedom in Jesus, we are foolish!
I. Paul wrote it was foolish to return to spiritual slavery! (Vv. 1-3)
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
1. It can be frustrating to try and talk with someone who thinks they know what is right for their lives and yet are making a huge mistake in taking the unwise course they are. Sometimes you want to yell at them, “How stupid can you be?!” Yet this often does not have the desired affect one wishes, however, Paul does not pull any punches in writing to the Galatian church that he had invested so much of his time and effort in. He was not going to let them go down without a fight. Paul bluntly confronts them, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” The only explanation to the Galatians spiritual culpability was that they had to have been “bewitched” somehow. The idea is one whereby they were distracted, kind of like the dog Doug from the Disney movie “Up” is when he thinks he sees a squirrel! Paul relates, “Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.” They had heard and seen for themselves how Jesus had died on the cross to gain their freedom by faith, yet they were willing to return to their old spiritual slavery. Paul is incredulous and bluntly asks them, “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?” Their blind obedience to following the law had lead them only to their own spiritual death and they had seen and learned for themselves what Jesus had freely done for them! They had once believed in Jesus! “Are you so foolish?” Paul continues. Evidently they were. “Squirrel!” See what I mean? “After beginning with the Spirit, [were they] now trying to attain [their] goal by human effort?” Yes they were! Wow! They readily threw off their freedom and willingly wanted to be chained back to the law of sin and death! Hebrews reminds us that ” The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7:18-19 NIV) Paul wrote it was foolish to return to spiritual slavery!
EXAMPLE: “The American Revolution was a civil war based on who would rule in the Thirteen Colonies. Families were often divided as war forced colonists to choose sides in a conflict that remained for many years uncertain. Colonists, especially recent arrivals, often felt themselves to be both American and British, subjects of the King, still owing a loyalty to the mother country.” At the time they were often called Tories, Royalists, or King’s Men. “Historians have estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of the 2.5 million whites in the colonies were Loyalists, or about 500,000 men, women and children.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loyalist_%28American_Revolution%29) Patrick Henry expressed the Patriot viewpoint when he stood and cried, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Henry knew returning to the fold of Great Britain was no answer. Why return to the slavery of tyranny when one had experienced personal freedom? Paul understood the spiritual concept and one’s freedom in Jesus. Paul wrote it was foolish to return to spiritual slavery!
Why do folks think they can do something better than God, yet there are those who do! Perhaps they think God will look the other way and excuse their foolishness? The Bible tells us otherwise and this is why…
II. Paul related it was wise to stay free in Christ! (Vv. 4-5)
Have you suffered so much for nothing–if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
1. We do not know what it means to truly suffer for our faith. Being rejected by our family, friends, or co-workers for our faith is not the same thing no matter what we think. Yet there are those who willingly give up on their new found spiritual freedom only to return to the spiritual enslavement of rules, regulations, and requirements. I always laugh when someone knocks on my door and wants to share with me about Jesus only to discover that what they want to share is spiritual enslavement. Either they want you to worship a con artist as a prophet, rewritten manmade Scripture, or their own convoluted addition of certain days of worship or the inclusion of not eating certain foods! The Galatians were going backwards in their faith practice. Peter would later come to his senses and call these people “false prophets” and “springs without water and mists driven by a storm”. (2 Peter 2) In fact, Peter would write that “They promise… freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity–for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,” and, ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.'” (2 Peter 2:19-22 NIV) Paul asks the Galatians, “Have you suffered so much for nothing–if it really was for nothing?” because they had suffered from their own Jewish brethren. They had seen how believing Jesus had worked among them: “Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” These miracles were not the result of the works of the law of Moses but from their faith in Jesus! Paul related it was wise to stay free in Christ!
EXAMPLE: There is an old saying that states, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.” For those caught in the midst of the fighting between the Sons of Liberty and British Loyalists this might have brought them some kind of comfort but the reality was totally different. On October 1, 1774, in response to the deteriorating relationship between the American Colonies and Britain, the First Continental Congress decided to prepare a statement to King George III of Great Britain. The goal of the address was to persuade the King to revoke unpopular policies such as the Coercive Acts, which were imposed on the Colonies by the British Parliament. It became evident that the Crown had little interest in forming good policies that would benefit both sides. Why let go of a cash cow when the cow was so far away? Perhaps it would do us well to remember General John Stark’s motto, “Live free or die!” Paul related it was wise to stay free in Christ!
Paul wrote it was foolish to return to spiritual slavery! Paul related it was wise to stay free in Christ!
This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.