The Bewitched Galatians
July 22nd, 1956 @ 7:30 PM
THE BEWITCHED GALATIANS
DR. W. A. CRISWELL
7-22-56 7:30 p.m.
Now may we turn to the third chapter of the Book of Galatians. Last Sunday and this Sunday morning the sermons were in the second chapter of the book, and tonight we begin at the third chapter and we read through the fourteenth verse; Galatians the third chapter, reading the first fourteen verses. Now do we have it? The third chapter of the Book of Galatians, from the first through the fourteenth verses. Now let us read it together:
O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.
He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth He it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Now, it begins with a very caustic remark, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?” [Galatians 3:1]. Had a Latin writer been the author of this epistle, he would have said, “O foolish Gauls.” Had a modern author been writing, he would have written, “O foolish Frenchmen.” A Greek was writing, so he writes, “O foolish Galatians.” I told you in the beginning, as we started this study in Galatians, that about two hundred years before Christ they reversed the great migration from east to west, and a part of that Gallic nation turned back east searching for a home, and finally conquered and settled the middle part of what you know today as Turkey, Asia Minor. And there, in that great Roman province of Galatia, Paul preached the gospel.
Now he was amazed, he was surprised at the conversion, the reception of the gospel message by those Gallic people. In the fourth chapter of this book, at the thirteenth verse, he says:
Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.
And my trial which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Himself.
Where then is the blessedness ye speak of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and given them unto me.
That’s the reason some people say that the physical disability of Paul was his eyes. He had great trouble and suffering with his eyes. Well, whether yea or nay, this thing obtains. When Paul preached the gospel to those Gallic people, their reception of him and his message and their conversion was a marvel in his eyes. They did it wonderfully, gloriously, triumphantly. They were a new people!
Then their falling away, their defection, their apostasy, their backsliding was just as amazing in the sight of Paul. He began the letter saying, “I marvel, I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another gospel; but there be some that greatly pervert you” [Galatians 1:6-7]. Now that is the Gallic people; highly volatile, one day wonderfully saved, receiving the message of Jesus by faith, a new liberty in their hearts, a new spirit in their lives, a new light on their brow, a new faith of glorious conversion, a real revival; then, the next thing Paul hears of them, they have defected; they have turned aside.
“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” [Galatians 3:1]. You have a good little indication there of the kind of a message that Paul preached. “Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been” and that Greek word translated “evidently set forth, proegraphē, “placarded” [Galatians 3:1], that’s the word that a Greek would use when he would say, “I’m going to the marketplace,” or, “I’m going to the forum,” or, “I’m going to some other public assembly, a ground, and there I’m going to placard an announcement before all of the citizens where all may read and know.” That is the word used here.
Paul says, “I came among you placarding, setting forth before your very eyes Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” [1 Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 3:1]. That is what he preached, Jesus! That’s all that a man in Christ ought to preach. That’s the beginning and the middle and the end of the whole Christian message, preaching the Lord Jesus. And that’s what Paul did there among those Galatian people, and they were wonderfully saved; they were converted; they opened their hearts to the message, and they gave their lives in faith to Christ. It was a wonderful revival.
Then, I say, they turned. “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?” [Galatians 3:1]. That word, baskainō, is just the same meaning in Greek as it is in English, “Who hath bewitched you?” What evil eye has come along? What sorcerer has entered among you? Why, you act as somebody entranced. You are fascinated! Somebody has taken you away from the great truth of the faith, and you have found yourself following the beggarly elements of a religion that has passed away and is dying and being removed out of this earth. They were turning again to rites, and to rituals, and to ceremonies, and to law-keeping in order to save their souls [Galatians 3:1-5].
Isn’t that a strange thing, the story, the usual story, of the religious life of people? I could show it here in Dallas endlessly. There was a man that was converted in a tent revival meeting, or in a great revival service, and the Spirit of God got hold of him, and he was wondrously saved. You know where he is now? Why, he is out here in one of the most ritualistic churches that you could think of, bowing and genuflecting and repeating a litany and going through all of those things, hoping to be saved by the ceremonies of the church; but a few years ago he was afire, he was aflame, he was converted, he knew the Lord! Now you would never know he even knows Him. There is not anything out there in the world that the world does that he does not do. He lives just like the world. And he likes the church because the church likes the world; no difference, doesn’t have to change. Live out there in that fellowship just the same, just the same. Isn’t that an amazing thing? “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?”
Have you ever noticed people in the city especially? Twenty-five years ago they were devout; they were holy; they loved God; they were real Christians; and now fifty years of age he is a finished worldling. All that he thinks about is gambling and drinking and making money and sharing all of the blandishments and enticements of the world. “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?” [Galatians 3:1]. Have you ever noticed the tendency of God’s people to backslide? Backslide! Backslide!
I read a story this week in my reading. There were a group of soldiers at the entrance of one of those large barracks in India, stationed in India, and a little evangelist, funny queer looking little fellow, but a godly evangelist, a Christian evangelist, he rejoiced in the name of Sammy; a Christian evangelist came trotting by, funny looking little fellow. It said he had a big Bible under one arm and carried a big umbrella in his other hand, and came trotting by, and some of those soldiers seeing the little queer fellow trotting by with his big Bible, why, they said to him, “Good morning, Sammy, how is Jesus Christ today?” Little fellow stopped and drew himself up to his full height, and with all the dignity that he could muster looked in reproof to those scornful soldiers, and turning here to the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews and the eighth verse, he read to them out of the Holy Book. He said, “Out of God’s Book that came to us from your country, I read ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever’” [Hebrews 13:8]. And then he went on about his mission.
And that night, the story said, two of those soldiers made their way up the little hill to the humble, modest home of that little evangelist Christian, and shook his hand and said, “We were standing at the gate of the barracks when you came by this morning, and we want you to know we are ashamed of what we said to you, making fun of Jesus this morning.” And those soldiers said, “Back home, back home, we were Christians and members of the church and loved God, but we backslid! And we want you to know that your brave reply this morning has made us determined to follow Christ anew.” “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?” [Galatians 3:1].
The tendency here, abroad, in the camp, out of the camp, at home, everywhere, the tendency is always to backslide, to turn aside, to turn away. Well, Paul writes to them:
O you foolish Galatians, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was evidently set forth, crucified, and you received Him by faith. You were saved by trusting Jesus, by giving your heart, giving your life to the Lord Jesus. And now you think you have progressed in religion. Why, he says, This only would I know of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected by the flesh, all of these things you are doing?
Isn’t that a strange thing about religion? It’s just the ignorant that get it. It’s just the ignorant that are Baptists. It’s just the ignorant that are really converted. It’s just the ignorant that go down to those revival meetings. But we have progressed in our religion, and now we have our ministers dressed up so, and we have all of the appointments just so, and we have our rituals just so, and we have our genuflections just so, and our responses just so, and we have all of the ceremonies just so. Paul says, “You have devolved!” Paul says, “You have turned back!” Think you are going to be perfected by all of those things that come of the flesh that a man has invented? “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth?” [Galatians 3:1]. Of progressing, back there when I was doing it, I didn’t do any better, I had religion like that; but now I’m left in the world, and I have this kind of religion and this kind of a ceremony and this kind of a ritual.
What is the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ? What is it? He says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness” [Galatians 3:6]. So they that be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham [Galatians 3:9]. No man is justified by ceremonies, or by rituals, or by church memberships, or by incense pots, or by genuflections, or by litanies, or by sevenfold amens, or by belonging to any institution here in this world, or by any ordinances; not by baptism, or mass, or communion, or by anything that a man can do for himself. No man is justified by the law in the sight of God! [Galatians 3:11].
Well, how is a man saved? This is it, “The just shall live by faith” [Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11]. That string of monosyllables sums up everything in heaven and in earth, and the whole message of the Old Testament and the New Testament, everything Asiatic, European, missionary here and abroad, “The just shall live by faith!” [Galatians 3:11]. That is one of those great liberating creative sentences like, “God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” [Genesis 1:3]. Same thing, “The just shall live by faith.” Habakkuk said it [Habakkuk 2:4], and Paul wrote it to the church at Rome [Romans 1:17], and the author of Hebrews repeated it [Hebrews 10:38], and now here again it is in the third chapter of the Book of Galatians, 3:11, “The just shall live by faith,” saved by faith, by looking to Jesus, by trusting Jesus, naught that a man could do, naught that a man could hold, saved just alone by looking to Jesus, trusting the Lord Jesus.
So many of our people have the persuasion that they are saved by their feelings. They feel a great calm, they feel a great ecstasy, they feel a great happiness, a great exultation, and they are saying; “I am a child of God!” Then the next day, why, all that is gone, and you are down there in the world again; you are down there in the dumps again; you are down there in the well again, and you are down there in the dumps again. And then you say, “Oh, I don’t believe I am saved, I was mistaken, I’ve lost my religion”; saved by a feeling. As long as you look for the ground of salvation in yourself you are going to be dragged to death; one day on top of the world, next day the world on top of you.
The ground of our salvation has to be in Christ, outside of us, in the Lord, if there is ever any wonderful calm and tranquility, no matter how we feel in the depths of our souls. “The just shall live by faith” [Galatians 3:11], not by feeling, not by feeling, looking to God, trusting Jesus no matter what. If it is dark and cloudy: looking to Jesus. If it is bright and sunshine: looking to Jesus. If it is in the winter or the summer, if it is in youth or old age, if I am sick or I am well, if I am here or I am dying, just the same, just the same, looking to Jesus; “The just shall live by faith” [Galatians 3:11].
Some of us had a persuasion we live in this world by worldly prudence. The just shall live by being smart in the things of this world, worldly prudence, worldly wisdom; the just shall live by knowing how to manage things in this world, by how to get by in this world. Today, I took my Bible in my hand and looked through this great faith chapter, the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, and I turned my heart back to those days and those events and times and places where this preacher in the Book of Hebrews, where he calls to mind those men of faith, and I began thinking about the worldly wise, the prudent, who lived also in that day and generation.
He starts over here, “By faith Abel.” “By faith Abel” [Hebrews 11:4]. I remember somebody who was worldly prudent and worldly-wise who lived at the same time that Abel did. His name was Cain. And Abel brought an offering to the Lord, a blood offering, a lamb, and he shed blood that God might receive his intercession and forgive his sin. Cain, he was not going under the blood, he was not bringing a lamb. Why, he was a smart man; how about a sheaf? How about a plant of the field? How about this cereal? [Genesis 4:3]. But, by faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, and God received his gift. And to this day, though he lived generations ago, he speaks to us yet [Hebrews 11:4].
It says here, “By faith Noah” [Hebrews 11:7]. Oh, can’t you see those worldly-wise? If I had the language really adequate, I’d try to describe that picture. How far was it to water from where Noah built his ark? I can just see them standing around that enormous boat, rising in shape just like God had given him the pattern. There, that big big boat, built out there, miles and miles and miles from any water to float it. And I can just see the worldly-wise gathered around, “Ha ha ha! Come over here! Look at this fool! Look at this idiot! Noah! Noah! Look at him!” Building an ark, and an ark, and an ark, and an ark, and the thing got bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and better, and I don’t suppose some of them had ever seen any water that would be enough to float a thing like that. Miles away! That’s worldly wisdom, that’s worldly prudence [Genesis 6:12-22]. But “by faith Noah” [Hebrews 11:7], and “the just shall live by faith” [Galatians 3:11]. “By faith Noah, warned of God of things not seen as yet,” scared to death, “moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house” [Hebrews 11:7]. And I can see the worldly-wise as they laugh and scorn.
Look at the next one here, “By faith Abraham” [Hebrews 11:8-10]. I remember another one in his day, I remember Lot, Lot! Lot looked down on the well-watered plain to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham stayed a pilgrim and a sojourner and lived in a tent [Genesis 13:10-13]. Lot, down there in the plain, and finally in the city, was robbed of everything he had [Genesis 14:11-12], finally lost everything in this world [Genesis 19:15-25], but Abraham up there in the hills, dwelling in a tent, had great security and peace with God [Genesis 13:7-13]. “By faith Abraham” [Hebrews 11:8], and “the just shall live by faith” [Galatians 3:11].
“By faith Moses” [Hebrews 11:24-26], I can just see the people looking at Moses “He is the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and the heir-apparent. He is the Prince of Wales. He is to be the next Pharaoh. He has the whole kingdom in his hands.” And I can see the worldly-wise and the worldly-prudent as they stand aghast and amazed at the choice that Moses makes; “choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than all of the treasures in Egypt” [Hebrews 11:24-26]. “The just shall live by faith” [Galatians 3:11], “by faith, Moses” [Hebrews 11:24-26].
Why, I haven’t time to go through that chapter; just all of them, all of them, all of them. But some people say the way to live in this world is to be prudent and smart. God says the way to live in this world is to put your trust in Him. Put your hand in His hand, put your life with God. “The just shall live by faith” [Galatians 3:11]. There are some who think the just shall live by almanacs, and by prayer books, and by seasons, and they regulate their religion by the Almanac. “On this day we weep and mourn, and now two days later, we rejoice and are glad.” Their emotions are controlled by the moon, and so they go through all of those days and all of those rituals just according to the book. And that’s their faith, and that’s the way they live, and that’s their religion!
I renewed again this week my acquaintance with Martin Luther. In Erfurt, Germany, is a magnificent and famous painting, beautifully done. There’s a young monk, twenty-four years of age, and it’s the early morning. And the sun dawning, just the pink light of it, shining through that little window on the face of the eager young student, and flowing there on an open Bible. And there is a piece, a bit of a chain, dangling down from the Bible. And the place in the Bible where the young monk is so earnestly reading has written across the sacred page, “The just shall live by faith.”
In the library at Rudolstadt, Germany, is a famous manuscript. It’s in the handwriting of the eldest son of Martin Luther. In that manuscript, in the handwriting of his eldest son, there is a recounting of one of the famous moments in all the history of the world: [Martin Luther] climbing up, says this manuscript, climbing up on his knees the Scala Santa in Rome at St. John Lateran Church, climbing up on his knees. That is the stairway that he has been told that God miraculously transplanted out of Jerusalem and placed there in Rome. It is the stairway up which the Lord went when he was tried before Pontius Pilate [Matthew 27:11-31; Mark 15:1-15]; the sacred stairway, the Scala Santa. And he [Martin Luther] is going up; he has been promised an indulgence from the pope if he will go up those stairways on his knees.
I’ve stood at the head of that stairway and looked down at the people coming up. Oh, the feelings you have! Those people, day and night, day and night, climbing up that stairway; for every place where they say the prayer, for every place where there is a drop of blood, there do they gain merit, and finally an indulgence, when they rise to their feet, having climbed up on their knees.
Martin Luther, all the way from Germany, Wittenberg Germany, down to Rome, climbing up those stairs for an indulgence; and the manuscript says that while he was climbing up those stairs on his knees, there came to his heart like the voice of an archangel, like the trump of God, there came to his heart these words: “The just shall live by faith!” [Galatians 3:11]. Not by penance, not by repentance, not by fasting, not by bead-counting, not by all of the rites and rituals whereby a man here, there, or anywhere might seek to justify himself before God. The just shall live by faith, by trust, by committal to Christ.
Martin Luther stood up from his knees and walked back down the steps and back to Wittenberg, Germany, and nailed those ninety-five theses to the church door, and the great Reformation was on. “The just shall live by faith” [Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17].
Whatever a man may do, however a man may do it, the purpose of it must never be, “Lord, this is a bribe that I might enter the gate of heaven.” “This, Lord, is something to place in the hands of the gatekeeper that, suborned, he might allow my entrance in.” Nothing, nothing,
Nothing in my hands, no price I bring.
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
[from “Rock of Ages,” Augustus M. Toplady, 1776]
Lord, if there is any worth in my life or any good that I ever did, let it be just because I love the Lord who gave Himself for me that I might live [Galatians 2:20]. All of it just looking to Jesus, trusting the Lord Jesus. If I could sing, Lord, just singing for the love of God. If I can give, Lord, giving for the love of God. If I can witness, Lord, witness just for the love of God. If I can do aught that is good or blessed or helpful, doing it just for the love of God.
But when it comes to my soul, and when it comes to my salvation, and when it comes to the redemption of my life from sin, Lord, pleading no other thing than the hope that I have in the mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus [Titus 3:5]. The just shall live by faith, trusting Him, trusting Him tonight, trusting Him when I get up in the morning, trusting Him in youth and manhood, trusting Him down to old age, trusting Him when the doctor turns and says to the people gathered around, “The last moment has come. His life is ebbing away. He will soon be on the other side.” Trusting Him in death, trusting Him in the great adventure that is yet to come, the eternity we are to spend with God. “The just shall live by faith” [Galatians 3:11].
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” [Acts 16:30-31]. Would you do that tonight? Put your life in God’s hands; put your trust in Jesus? Would you tonight? “Preacher, I can’t but God can. I refuse longer to look to me or what I can do. I turn loose; I let go and let God.” Would you do that tonight? “Best I know how, my humble best; I yield the destiny of my life to the keeping of Christ.” Would you do it tonight, would you? “We have already done that, preacher, back yonder; I gave my life to Jesus.” Would you put your life with us in the church? Would you? Would you? A family of you, or one somebody you, would you? Would you? Would you make your home complete? Would you come tonight? How ever God shall say the word, would you come and stand by me? “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” Would you make it now? Won’t you not make it now? While we stand and while we sing.
THE BEWITCHED GALATIANS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Paul addresses the Galatians, not the “Gauls” or the “Frenchmen”
B. Paul astonished at his warm reception when first he preached to them(Galatians 4:13-15)
C. No less astonished at how soon they are removed from the message they received(Galatians 1:6-7, 3:1)II. Their conversion
A. They had seen the Lord crucified in Paul’s preaching
1. Prographo, translated “evidently set forth”; our word “graphic”
2. The gospel he preached (1 Corinthians 2:2, 15:3-4)
B. Effect upon the Galatians glorious – they were a new people(Galatians 4:6)III. Their turning aside
A. Turned their gaze from looking to Jesus to something else
1. Turned to rituals, rites, seasons, ceremonies, laws
B. Believed they were advancing religion(Galatians 3:1-3)
C. The Galatians had backslidden
1. The things that pertain to laws are bondages (2 Corinthians 3:17)
a. Sammy the Hindu evangelist
D. We are free when we keep our hearts and minds on Christ
E. Ebaskanen – “bewitched”, an evil eye has pulled you away from the truthIV. The message of justification by faith(Galatians 3:5-7, 11)
A. The just shall live by faith(Habakkuk 2:4, Galatians 3:11)
1. A liberating sentence(Genesis 1:3, Romans 1:17, Hebrews 10:38)
B. Some live by feelings
C. Some live by worldly prudence
1. Cain and Abel (Hebrews 11:4, Genesis 4:2-5)
2. Noah(Hebrews 11:7, Genesis 6:12-22)
3. Lot and Abraham (Hebrews 11:8-10, Genesis 13:5-13)
4. Moses (Hebrews 11:24-26, Exodus 2:11-15)
D. Some live by prayer books, seasons, regulations
1. Martin Luther
E. Our salvation is in Jesus alone