Tuesday, 15 March 2016
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? Galatians 3:2
Paul, questioning the utterly ridiculous nature of the Galatians turning to the law in order to please God, asks a simple question, beginning with the words, “This only I want to learn from you:…” In using the word “only” (in Greek monon), Paul is showing that nothing else is needed to determine the truth of the matter and to settle the question. Upon completion of his thought, there would be no more need for proofs of any kind to show how absurd their new path truly was.
And the question is, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” First, it is evident that they received the Holy Spirit in an outward, demonstrable way, just as other early believers did. They were given gifts which they used in accordance with the reception of the Spirit. Paul now confronts them directly by asking if those gifts (which were proofs of the Spirit) came “by works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?”
Paul knew the answer because it was he who was there, leading them to Christ. All he had done was to tell them the gospel. When they believed, they received. This is exactly what happened with Cornelius in the account in Acts 10 –
“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. 45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.” Acts 10:44-46
Like those with Cornelius, the Galatians had simply heard the word, had faith, and then received the Spirit. They had whatever food they ate that day in their belly – food which was unclean according to the Law of Moses. In fact, it may still have been on their breath at that time. They were uncircumcised in the flesh, something which excluded them from entry into the covenant community under the Law of Moses.
Further, they had never observed a Sabbath day and they had never made a sacrifice down in Jerusalem. Their clothes didn’t meet the requirements of the law. On and on, through 613 commands within the Law of Moses, they failed to meet those standards. And yet, by mere faith in the work of Christ, they received the promise and were sealed with the Spirit.
The word for “hearing” here is akoḗ. It is “used of inner (spiritual) hearing that goes with receiving faith from God” (HELPS Word Studies). This is exactly what Paul wrote about in Romans –
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
The Galatians had heard the word, they had believed what they heard, and they had received the Spirit. This “only” that Paul submitted for their consideration should be enough to get them (and thus us!) to think clearly and to realize that they were headed down the wrong path by now inserting the Law of Moses into their lives.
What is truly sad is that many today are presented with exactly this evidence as is recorded in the Bible (for example, the account of Cornelius), and yet they reject the simple, obvious nature of what is provided there for our understanding. In so doing, they continue down the road of apostasy and stand self-condemned because they fail to trust in Christ, and in Him alone, for their salvation. What a waste! What a twisting of the mind by wolves who creep in and refuse to be obedient to the Lord who reaches His hands out to them, asking for a simple act of faith.
Life application: Have faith in Christ and in Him alone to save you and to keep on saving you.
Lord God, the nailed-scarred hands of Christ are all I need to think about in order to come to the conclusion that what He did is all-sufficient for me to be reconciled to You. If this isn’t true, then those marks were truly wasted effort. And more, I could never know what I needed to add to that marvelous, but insufficient act. My life would be a hopeless wreck of futile works. But no! I am fully confident that His cross is all-sufficient for me to stand in Your glorious presence once again. Hallelujah to the work of Christ Jesus! Amen.