Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Galatians Journal: Chapter 3, verse 1

Galatians 3:1 “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.”

Paul abruptly shifts gears here. Besides Galatians 1:6-12 (where Paul also at least partly admonishes the Galatians believers for giving in to the Judiazing heresy) most of the material in the first two Chapters of Galatians is directed at refuting the heresy, either through direct argument, or the example of Christ’s transformational power in Paul’s own life. He also places most of the blame for the problem on the Judiazing heretics themselves (Galatians 1:8-9). Chapter 3 continues the argument against the heresy, but the focus has changed. Paul opens Chapter 3 by declaring the Galatians are “foolish, ” and Paul will use his power of persuasion to not so much refute the Judiazers as to convince the Galatians themselves of the depth of their own deception. And isn’t that the best way for the Holy Spirit to win us over? Sometimes, we are convinced when we are show “the fact” about sin – the objective truth. For example, someone who grew up a Mormon can be shown the facts about the life of Joseph Smith, and the truth of how the Book of Mormon was produced, and discover the whole LDS religious system is a fraud. But merely debunking a lie we once believed to be true usually only produces skepticism. We need more than proof that lies are not true; we need convincing in and of ourselves that we need God, and what the truth really is. Otherwise, we’re still “fools.”

The general spiritual condition of the Galatians must have been pretty poor – they obviously had really bought into the lie of the Judiazing heresy. Paul’s use of the word “foolish” here does not mean mental deficiency, but rather implies a lack of perception – a childishness, an irresponsibility. Conditions are so bad, he asks “who has bewitched you?” Obviously, we know who, Paul is referring to the outsiders, the Judiazers. Or is he? Could he mean something deeper? The term here for “bewitched” is literal – it refers to the casting of spells or the concept of the “evil eye.” Paul also references the charismatic gifts in the next few verses. He seems to be suggesting that demonic forces are at the root of this issue. When we consider the broad overview of all these issues, the spiritual warfare implications are pretty obvious. Satan wants us to believe in a works-based theology. He also wants us to believe that ethnicity defines who we are in God. Both are lies from the pit of hell.

“Before your very eyes, Jesus was portrayed as crucified.” Did the Galatians see the crucifixion? Were any of them eyewitnesses to Jesus’ death? While possible (Galatians was written approximately 20 years after the death of Christ), its unlikely. Yet, the Greek word translated as “portrayed” literally mans “to publicly display or placard.” Its like hanging a picture in an art gallery. How was this done “before their very eyes?” Who or what “portrayed Christ as crucified” to the Galatians? All we need to do is go back a few verses to Galatians 2:20. It was Paul! This is "portrayal" in the same sense as an actor portraying a character on stage in such a way as to be totally believable -- we are seeing the "real thing" presented before us. When he explained the concept of being “crucified with Christ” and the miraculous, powerful transformation this brings in our lives, he is writing in the first person. Again, the emphasis is on RELATIONSHIP – the relationship of Jesus with us, of Paul with the Galatians, of the Galatians with each other. It also implies that the faith transformation via Christ’s death and resurrection is achieved on a personal level – in intimacy, not through following a formula or being a particular ethnic background. As an aside, the use of the word “portrayed” also helps direct the argument back on the Judiazers. It recalls the bronze serpent Moses set up for display in Numbers 21:9. The same word that is translated as "portrayed" here would be used to describe that historical event that was such a big part of Jewish tradition, and Paul's Jewish listeners would have understood that connection. Jesus made this same connection in John 3 when he referred to himself being “lifted up.” This would have helped drive home the “faith connection” with those who would argue the need to follow the law.

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