God wants every believer to regularly experience the power of the Spirit to the fullest to remain in, grow in, and become more like Christ.
Galatians 3:1-5: O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer] so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?
Have you ever been to a renaissance fair? There is one act where a hypnotist brings someone up on stage and puts him under hypnosis. While I am pretty sure the guy in the audience is a plant, the performer demonstrates the power of hypnosis by telling the guy being hypnotized “you are a chicken,” and then he acts like a chicken. It’s actually quite funny, but some people insist that you can truly change one’s habits and behavior by hypnosis. I am not going to argue whether hypnosis works or not, but the idea is both fascinating and worrying that someone could be controlled so easily, that it could takes one’s freedom and free will away.
The power of the Holy Spirit is the exact opposite. The power of the Spirit does not take over our free will, rather it comes along to help so that we may learn to do life better under His guidance.
The problem with why we are so bad at doing Christian life is either because we do not know the full potential of the power of the Spirit at our disposal, and therefore we ignorantly use it only for a limited function, or we equate the Spirit with spiritual gifts.
Our text today, Galatians 3:1-5, is a series of rhetorical questions to make a simple point that the Galatians were bad at doing Christian life because they were neglecting the power of the Spirit and pursuing the works of the law to live the Christian life. To Paul, that is foolish and equates to being bewitched.
God wants every believer to regularly experience the power of the Spirit to the fullest to remain in Christ, to grow in Christ, and to become more like Christ, which is the exact function of the Spirit.
What do we need to do to experience the power of the Spirit so that we can do Christian life right? Let’s look at three truths.
Hearing with Faith
The first truth is that we experience the power of the Spirit when we receive the Spirit by hearing with faith.
If you are a genuine Christian, you have already experienced the power of the Spirit because it brought you to faith and life in Christ. This truth is the reason why Paul is burning with righteous anger and calls the Galatians foolish or bewitched. The Greek word translated as foolish means “to act as though the mind was inoperative or non-existent,” which goes with the idea of being bewitched. As far as Paul is concerned, the false teachers have put them under their spell, and they were incapable of using their minds. It is not that they were literally bewitched, it is more like they were under the hypnosis of the false teachers.
This is happening even today. A few years back an immigrant brother shared with me that he works hard and sends money back to his home country, but his mom gives all of it to a prosperity gospel televangelist healer. He said she sold their belongings and even borrowed money to give to this preacher. She was under the spell of this false preacher. I think many professing Christians here and around the world are bewitched by false teachers of all kinds because they have fixed their eyes on them rather than on Jesus who was crucified for them.
In an attempt to break the hypnosis, Paul reminds the Galatians in verse 1 that “it was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” It is not that the Galatians were present at the time of the crucifixion, rather it is the idea that His crucifixion was portrayed to them in a very clear way. The word in Greek for “publicly portrayed” is prographo, where we get our English word graphic. This means it was so convincing that they were able to see the truth of the crucifixion in their mind and believe it in their hearts.
If you are a genuine believer, you too experienced that moment when the crucified Christ became a reality in your mind and heart. In verse 2, the phrase “receiving the Spirit” is synonymous with being saved. This is an extremely important truth because there are people who would argue that you receive the Spirit after you are saved, and they equate the filling of the Spirit with spiritual gifts, especially speaking in tongues. If one does not speak in tongues, they would say that person is not saved. My sister in Pakistan called me one day and asked me whether she was saved or not because she heard a preacher say that if you do not speak in tongues, you do not have the Holy Spirit.
Church, just as “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8),” the Spirit was active in bringing us to Jesus even before we realized that we were sinners. This text is a reminder to the Galatians and us that we were dead in our trespasses until the Spirit moved in compassion by the sovereign will of God and brought us to life by opening our minds and hearts to hear and receive the Gospel of grace; this is how we were saved. There is no greater miracle than that sinners lost forever are brought to life in Christ.
This makes God the Holy Spirit active in the process of our salvation even before we knew God. This also puts us in a passive role as recipients of God’s grace through faith in Christ through the power of the Spirit. No one can achieve salvation. You can only receive it as a gift by believing in Jesus, and no one can believe in the gospel unless the Spirit opens their mind. There are billions of people who may have heard the gospel but did not receive it because the Spirit had not opened their minds. This should make us humble that God the father chose us to be saved, God the Son chose to die for us, and God the Holy Spirit chose to open our heart and receive and our minds to believe.
The second truth is that we experience the power of the Spirit when we receive new life and are made perfect by the Spirit. This is the undeniable truth that the Spirit is the means of our perfection and total completeness in Christ.
The word translated as “perfect” is from the Greek word epiteléō. “Teleo” is “complete” or “mature,” but the addition of “epi” indicates emphasis, so it could be translated as “totally and completely mature.” Paul is saying their salvation that began by the Spirit is being totally completed and perfected by the Spirit, too. In Paul’s understanding, one would have to be foolish or bewitched to abandon the work of the Spirit and attempt to seek perfection through the work of the flesh.
In his book, Forgotten God, Pastor Francis Chan says, “We’ve ignored the Spirit for far too long, and we are reaping the disastrous results.”
The Galatians were reaping the disastrous results of ignoring and neglecting the Spirit. When we ignore and neglect the Spirit, we become slaves to good works, which 2:21-22 says nullifies the grace of God. Unfortunately, today we are in a moral mess and theological chaos because we have forgotten God the Holy Spirit, the very person who was sent to help us to navigate through life on earth to make us perfect.
The Spirit gives us faith to believe and the belief to have faith that the one who gave us new life in Christ to begin with will bring it to completion without any human effort to present us acceptable to God as blameless and holy. As we see in Romans 8:11-13, it says: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
God Gives the Spirit
The third truth is that we experience the power of the Spirit when God gives us the Spirit by hearing with faith. Twice in this section, Paul uses this phrase “by hearing with the faith,” and in Romans 10:27 he says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” We will look at this deeper next week, but for now, please take note of the fact that the living Word has the power to make us new, but it is activated only by the Spirit. Without the Spirit, the Bible becomes another book.
I grew up in a charismatic church. I remember when I was 13 or 14 these men came to our church to give us the Holy Spirit. This preacher was going around and touching heads, claiming to give them the Spirit. As he touched them, people fell, and his assistant grabbed them and helped them to lie down. My friends fell too. When it was my turn, I didn’t fall. I felt deprived. When I asked my friends about their experience, they said nothing happened, they were just pushed harder than me therefore they fell on the floor.
Church, no man gives you the Spirit or makes you experience the power of the Spirit. God the Father is the one who supplies the Spirit by hearing with faith. This seems straightforward, but I do not want you to miss this, only God gives the Spirit.
As we see in John 14:16-18, “And I will ask the Father, [why because he gives the Spirit] and he will give you another Helper [another because the first helper Jesus is ascending to heaven], to be with you forever [that is eternity], even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
In the Greek, the language is literally one who is called or invited. In practical life, the Spirit is there as our Helper, but he has to be invited to work beside us. He is not going to force Himself on us. In every decision and in every situation, we have to invite Him to guide us.
In the Old Testament, the Spirit did not indwell God’s people permanently but in the New Testament He chose to dwell in us forever. The Spirit is going to be with us forever, so allow me to give you three steps to get to know him better.
Step#1: Ask the Holy Spirit to open your mind as you read the Bible. There you will meet Him.
Step#2: Be sensitive to His presence. Be attentive to what He prompts you from the Bible.
Step#3: Call on Him to help you with what He convicts you of as you attempt to live the Christian life.
As we are being perfected by the Spirit, we need to learn that we are not always going to feel a spiritual high. Please don’t let anyone bewitch you into thinking that you can always feel the spiritual high. Part of being perfected by the Spirit is that sometimes we will be in the valleys and other times we will be on the mountaintops.
Where are you today? In the valley or on the mountaintop? The Spirit is always there to comfort, counsel, and guide us, but we need to invite him through prayer, and we need to listen and follow His directions to the T to experience the power of the Spirit to deal with every temptation and every situation in every season of our life.
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