Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Galatians 3:3
Paul uses the same word here as in verse 3:1 – foolish. The Galatians, without thinking through or even considering the stupidity of their actions, were willing to follow these heretical Judaizers onto Apostasy Avenue as they headed for Heretic Highway. His words are intended to cut them off and redirect them to Right Doctrine Drive. They needed clarity of thought, and they needed to rationally consider what their actions meant.
And so he questions them in an attempt to get them to think through what they were doing. “Having begun in the Spirit” shows that these Gentiles had NEVER been under the Law of Moses. They started out completely separate from the people of Israel and the covenant promises and expectations that were outlined for them. But then came the message of Christ.
When the gospel was preached to them, they didn’t suddenly get a crash course on how to observe the law, they were never circumcised, and they didn’t give up on their afternoon pork roast. Instead, they believed the message of Christ and they received the Spirit. If the Spirit was given by the Lord, then how could the Galatians think that by adding in the law (which Christ fulfilled) they could now be “made perfect by the flesh?” Adding in the law was not a step forward, but a step back.
Paul’s use of the word for “being made perfect” shows the stupidity of this choice. It is in the middle or passive voice and so it is more literally rendered, “…having begun in the spirit are ye coming to completion in the flesh?” (Vincent’s Word Studies). The words are filled with irony and they are intended to show the Galatians (and thus us!) the utterly absurd nature of expecting to be perfected based on the Law of Moses when it could never perfect anyone. Instead of arriving on Pleasing Parkway, they had been misdirected to Senseless Circle.
Not a single person in Israel’s history was able to meet its expectations. Because of this, Christ needed to come and fulfill it on our behalf. For a person to reinsert the law then means that Christ’s work means nothing to them. It is the ultimate slap in God’s face. Those who would do this have attempted to reverse the order of what God intended. This is seen from Paul’s hand in 1 Corinthians 15:46 –
“However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.”
Life application: It is the epitome of arrogance to assume that we can make ourselves more pleasing to God by observing aspects of the Law of Moses. Christ fulfilled it and so placing our faith in His work is the only thing that we can do in order to be pleasing to Him in this regard. Trust Christ, keep the observances and exhortations that you follow from the New Testament, and reject anyone who would tell you that it is right and proper to reinsert the Law of Moses, in part or in whole, in order to be in right standing with God.
Heavenly Father, by Your spoken word alone all things came forth. And by the power of Your word, all things continue to exist and are held together. In Your wisdom You created man and breathed life into him. As these things are so, then why should we not think that You are completely capable of keeping Your promises to us? Give us the fortitude to believe Your word and to stand on the truth that You are mighty to save and to keep on saving. How great You are, O God. Amen.