“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?”
Chapter 3 marks a shift in emphasis in the book of Galatians to the doctrinal section (chapters 3-4). The first two chapters defend Paul’s apostleship and, therefore, his gospel of grace. The last two chapters (5-6) are practical, terse, pithy, pertinent exhortations. The first five verses of chapter 3 prove from the experience of the Galatians themselves that grace is the true doctrine.
Galatians 3 falls into two segments:
1) the curse of the law (3:1-14), and
2) the purpose of the law (3:15-29).
In the first five verses, Paul fires a series of six questions about the personal experience of the Galatians with grace. Verse 1 is the first question.
O foolish Galatians!
The word “foolish” signifies no understanding, senseless. This is someone who does not apply his mind to a situation. It does not imply that they were stupid but that they were unwilling to understand. The Galatians did not use their capacity for understanding when it came to grasping the idea of grace. They had the intelligence, but they did not have the heart to appropriate what they knew. They were gullible about false doctrine and did not have the wisdom to reject it.
Paul does not mince any words in his opening salvo against the doctrinal aspects of legalism. His last comment was that to deny grace is to negate the finished work of Christ on the cross (2:21). What the Galatians thought was new enlightenment, Paul calls “foolish.”
Who has bewitched you
“Bewitched” originally meant to slander, and then it came to mean to bring evil upon someone by feigned praise. The legalists charmed the Galatians into legalism. They deceived the Galatians by devious and crafty religious means. The Judaizers put the Galatians under a spell of hypnotic malignant control. The legalists seduced them because they were fascinated with legalism (1:6-8). The legalists could put on the charm.
“…lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11).
“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians11:3).
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).
“So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:9).
The word “you” is emphatic. “You are the very people to whom I clearly presented the grace concept.” We can see Paul’s indignation surging out.
If we supplement grace, we supplant it.
Many people labor under the delusion that they can keep the law, and thereby God will accept them into Heaven. The law cannot justify a sinner or sanctify a saint. That is not the purpose of the law.
God does not save us by faith plus the law. That is an error. It is staggering how many people today cannot recognize error. We live in a “foolish” generation. The Scriptures clearly put up a poster announcing that salvation and sanctification are by grace alone, not works, yet Christians regularly buy into legalism.
Once people recognize that the law cannot save a sinner or sanctify a saint, they come to grips with grace. God never designed the law to do these things. The Christian life is not rule or regulations but eternal life provided by God alone. If we adopt any other position, we fall under the bewitching powers of Satan. Does Satan’s charm subtly instill into you the thought that you have something to offer God? Legalism always fascinates our pride.
The principle of faith without works from the very beginning of our salvation goes hand in hand with grace. Legalists love to mesmerize us into believing that we have something to offer God for salvation or sanctification. Many people have become victims of this. Do you try to supplant what Christ did on the cross?