The Bewitched Galatians
September 17th, 1972 @ 8:15 AM
THE BEWITCHED GALATIANS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-17-72 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing with us, the First Baptist Church in Dallas, our early morning service; and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Bewitched Galatians. In our preaching through the Book of Galatians we have come to the third chapter. And it begins:
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?
Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
He that ministereth to you the Spirit. . .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.
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
[Galatians 3:1, 3, 5-6, 11]
The Bewitched Galatians, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?” [Galatians 3:1]. Were it a Latin writer, he would have said, “O foolish Gauls.” Were it a modern writer, he would have said, “O foolish Frenchmen.” Being a Greek writer, he says, “O foolish Galatians,” for they are the same people, the Gauls who live in Western Europe in what is now France, and the Gauls who lived in Central Asia Minor, organized by the Romans into the province of Galatia. These people were so volatile.
Paul marveled at their reception of him and his gospel when he first preached to them. In the fourth chapter he writes:
Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.
And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God.
Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear ye record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.
He marvels. He was astonished at the unusual warm and hospitable reception he had among those Galatian people [Galatians 4:14-15]. Then now he is no less filled with marvel at their so soon turning aside [Galatians 1:6]. After the greeting in the first chapter [Galatians 1:3-4], he writes to the same Galatians who had so graciously, and marvelously, and enthusiastically, and zealously received him [Galatians 4:14-16], he writes, “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” [Galatians 1:6-7]. Then the text, in the third chapter, “O senseless Galatians, O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been openly set forth, crucified among you?” [Galatians 3:1]
Their conversion was wonderful and marvelous. They saw, in the preaching of Paul, Jesus Christ, prographō [Galatians 3:1]. That is a word that was used to refer to the placarding of the news that the citizens of the state should know, be aware of. Prographō, a writing that would be placed in the forum, or in the agora, or in the marketplace where all the people could look at it, could see it, could read it. He uses that citizen term––that public term––translated here, “Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been prographō, evidently set forth, publicly exhibited” [Galatians 3:1].
In the preaching of the apostle, those Galatians saw in detail and in moving, convicting, saving power the crucifixion of our Lord [Matthew 27:32-50]. They saw the soldiers in vivid imagination take the Lord and nail Him to the tree [1 Peter 2:24]. They heard His sobs and His cries [Matthew 27:46]. They saw His blood drops [Matthew 26:28]. They witnessed His sufferings [Matthew 27:26-31]. And in looking upon the crucified Lord, they were convicted of their sins, and Christ Jesus, in saving grace and power, came into their hearts. They were born again [John 3:3, 7]. They became new people. The old passed away and the new from God in heaven came down upon them [2 Corinthians 5:17].
Could I pause here to say, you have an illustration in this passage of the preaching of the apostle Paul? He preached Christ, and Him crucified! [1 Corinthians 2:2]. That is the gospel. That is the message of the Christian faith; its middle, its beginning, its ending, its first and its last. The gospel is Christ! The gospel is Jesus dying for our sins, buried, and raised for our justification! [1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 4:25]. Christianity is Christ; that’s what it is. It is nothing but that.
When Paul preaches, he preaches the atoning grace of God in Christ Jesus [Galatians 3:1]. When the sainted apostle John writes, he will write about Christ, who mediates to us the mind of God and gives to us eternal life [John 3:16, 15:15]. When James, the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, writes, he will write about Christ, the great Lawgiver and Judge [James 4:12]. When the author of Hebrews writes, he will write about Christ, our great Intercessor and High Priest in heaven, Jesus the Mediator between God and man [Hebrews 8:6; 1 Timothy 2:5].
The gospel message, the Christian faith, is Christ, and that’s what Paul did to the Galatians. He preached to those people Jesus, and Him crucified [1 Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 3:1]. And in the convicting presence of the death of our Lord and in the regenerating presence and power of the Holy Spirit, they became new and other men [1 Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:5]. Out of their paganism, and out of their heathenism, and out of their idolatry they were born into the kingdom of God. They were saved, gloriously so! The light of heaven was on their brow, the cry of “Abba, Father” was in their mouth [Galatians 4:6], in their lips, and the presence of Jesus was in their hearts. They were wonderfully saved. They were born again. They became new men. They were Christians [2 Corinthians 5:17].
And then something happened. Teachers came, pseudo-apostles came, false teachers came and taught them another way, another method, another practice, another worship; Paul calls it “another gospel” [Galatians 1:6-7]. And they took their eyes off of the crucified Lord Jesus, and they began to look at and to observe rituals, and ceremonies, and seasons, and calendars, and programs, substituting these ceremonies for the living, saving presence of the Son of God! And the marvel of it was they thought that they were progressing in religion.
At first it was Christ and Him alone. They were saved in Jesus. They were happy in the Lord. They had become new men in Christ [2 Corinthians 5:17]. But now, they were giving themselves to a study and a practice of all kinds of days, and seasons, and programs, and rites, and ceremonies, and rituals [Galatians 4:9-10]. And they thought they were progressing in religion. This is progress, to turn aside from the living presence of Christ to observe ceremonies, and litanies, and calendars, and rituals? This is a step closer to God, to give yourself to all kinds of observances? And forget the living, moving dynamic changing presence of the Lord God? “O senseless Galatians, who hath bewitched you?” [Galatians 3:1].
Oh, I can see that! Saved in a great meeting, born again in the power of Christ, rejoicing in the Savior; and now, the religion devolves down to practice, ceremony, ritual, doing certain things over and over and over again. “O senseless Galatians, who hath bewitched you, baskainō ? [Galatians 3:1]. Who has brought you under the spell of a sorcerer? You act as though you were under the influence of an evil eye.” And as such they fell away from the faith, they backslid. They turned from Calvary to Sinai. They turned from sonship to serfdom. They turned from freedom and liberty to bondage. They turned from faith to the law. They turned from the glorious freedom and liberty they had in Christ Jesus to the yoke and the bondage of all kinds of ceremonies and good works, thinking in these they could be saved and find themselves commended to God. “O senseless Galatians, who hath bewitched you? Are you so senseless; are you so foolish, that having begun in the Spirit, ye are now made perfect by the flesh, by the deeds of the body?” [Galatians 3:1, 3].
Then he proceeds to present again the glorious liberty that we have in God, apart from any ritual, any rite, any ceremony, any work of man; but a glorious endowment that comes from trusting God and believing in Christ. “Even as Abraham believed God; and it was accounted to him for righteousness” [Galatians 3:6; Genesis 15:6]. “Even as it is written, The just shall live by faith” [Galatians 3:11; Habakkuk 2:4].
Isn’t that a string of monosyllables for you? “The just shall live by faith” [Galatians 3:11]. It’s a creative sentence. It is a liberating sentence; like that other monosyllabic fiat, “Let there be light” [Genesis 1:3]. So this text from Habakkuk 2:4, “The just shall live by faith!” This is the theme of Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, that text, “The just shall live by faith,” announced in the first chapter of the letter [Romans 1:17]. It is the theme of the great epistle to the Hebrews, announced in the tenth chapter of the letter, “The just shall live by faith” [Hebrews 10:38]. And it is the theme and text of this letter to the senseless, foolish, bewitched Galatians; “The just shall live by faith” [Galatians 3:11].
Now the best way for me to present that is by contrast. How many there are who read it like this: “The just, God’s people, the just shall live by feelings. When everything is calm and bright, and I’m happy and content, then I know I’m saved. I really belong to the household of faith. I am numbered among the people of God. I feel just great.” But then when an evil time comes, and the winds are turbulent and the waves are boisterous, and it is hard, and maybe dark, then I’ve lost my religion. I don’t think I’m even saved. “I don’t think God even loves me.” For you see, I live by feelings. Let me tell you something. If you attach your salvation to your feelings, and if you give yourself to the favor of God just as you define it in the circumstances of life, you’re going to live a miserable and wretched Christian experience. It’s like dying. It’s a dying existence.
My feelings have nothing to do with the word of God. However I feel, my salvation is not rooted or grounded in me, but in Christ! My hope is not in me, it’s in Him! And when I look at myself and depend on myself, and judge myself by myself, inevitably I fall into abysmal despair and darkness. I am not to do that.
My salvation is in the hands of Christ. My hope is in Him, and I’m saved by trusting His promise and His word [Mark 1:15]. That never changes. Why, I can wake up at two o’clock in the morning, I can wake up at five o’clock in the morning, I can open the Book at high noon, or in the twilight, or at the dawn, and these glorious promises never change. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” [John 1:11], “But,” John 1:12, “But to as many as received Him, to them gave He the right, the privilege, the prerogative to become the children of God, even to those who trust in His name.” “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never, ever perish” [John 10:28]. It doesn’t change. I may change. My feelings do change, but He doesn’t change, and the Word doesn’t change, and the promise doesn’t change. And I am to ground my hope and my salvation upon the inerrant, eternal, immovable, unchanging Word of God. My salvation is in Him, not in me. The just shall live by feelings? No, no, no!
Or there are so many, “The just shall live by speculation, by philosophical, metaphysical definitions.” Oh, that is everywhere! I see it in the personal lives of people. “Now I know God said so and so, but this is the way I look at it. I know the Word of the Lord is very clear, but this is the way I think about it. I know that God says I am to repent and I am to trust in Jesus to be saved, but this is the way I add it up. This is the way I summarize it. This is the way I think about it.” And they live by speculation. “The just shall live by personal, metaphysical, philosophical delineations and definitions.”
How often is that true of the church, that instead of proclaiming the simple message of Christ and seeking to evangelize the world, we turn aside, fall into all kinds of theological disputations and hairsplitting and dissentions? Oh, oh, wouldn’t it be great if the churches of Christ and the people of God could just accept God’s Word just plain as it is; and then preach it, evangelize, call men to faith, to repentance, to conviction, to trust, and just give ourselves for the evangelization of the world. Oh, the just shall live by speculation? No, no, no!
Or again, “The just shall live by worldly prudence. Yes, you’ve got to be smart now. You’ve got to be wise now. Doesn’t matter about God, that’s no vital part in a man’s life, not really; you’ve got to be very shrewd and very wise in this world. Prayer has no place. Looking to heaven has no place, looking to God has no place. It’s not needed. It’s a waste of time to pray. It’s a waste of time to worship. It’s a waste of time to seek the face of God and the blessing of heaven. What we need to do is to get with it and to get at it. And the just shall live by prudence, by shrewdness, by astuteness. That’s the way we gain and advance in this world. The just shall live by being smart.” Oh, oh!
You know, when I think of that, I think of Lot. When the herds of Lot became so numerous that it was difficult to feed them, to graze them by the herds of Abraham, and there was strife between the herdsmen of Lot and the herdsmen of Abraham, the patriarch Abraham said to his nephew Lot, “Lot, the whole world is before you. You choose, and what remains will be left to me. And I’ll be content with what is left. You choose” [Genesis 13:5-9].
And Lot was astute. He was shrewd. He was prudent. He was a man of the world. Couldn’t he recognize a thing when he saw it? And there spread before him was the beautiful well-watered plain and the teeming cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Lot said, “I will choose the cities of the plain, and these well- watered regions, these fertile valleys, so productive and fecund, I’ll take the plain and the cities of the plain. And you can have these rough, rugged, barren mountains” [Genesis 13:10-12].
Abraham said, “Well.” And Sodom welcomed Lot. He became mayor of the city, and he prospered [Genesis 19:1]. Thus did Lot. Abraham was up there in the mountains, close to the heart of God. And while Lot was in the city of Sodom, as the Scriptures say, “vexing his soul with the filthy living of the sodomites” [2 Peter 2:7], Abraham was walking by faith in the presence of the living God [Genesis 13:14-18; Hebrews 11:8-19].
You can’t change that Word and live. “The just shall live by,” and I’ve named a few, we could name a dozen others, for the child of God it is always that; “The just shall live by faith” [Galatians 3:11]. Not by calendars, not by prayer books, not by rites, not by rituals, not by ceremonies, not by feelings, not by prudence, not by sophistry, not by speculation and philosophy and metaphysics. No! The just shall live by trusting God, loving God, believing God, hoping in God [Romans 1:17; Hebrews 10:38].
Every day through, every circumstance through, all of the unfolding years and vicissitudes and circumstances of life; “The just shall live by faith” [Habakkuk 2:4]: accepting Jesus, trusting Jesus by faith, committing our hearts and lives to Him by faith—facing every circumstance of life, the good and the bad, the glad and the sad, the up and the down, they’re all alike, facing them in faith: coming down to old age and to the hour of our death by faith, and walking out into the eternity by faith—“The just shall live by faith” [Genesis 3:11].
O blessed Jesus, grant to us that heavenly grace and gift. Whatever, God is over and beyond; whatever, the Lord lives, and we shall believe and trust in God and look to Him for the ultimate and the final blessing. “The just,” God’s people, “shall live by trust” [Galatians 3:11].
That’s our invitation to you this morning. In the balcony round, you; in the press of people on this lower floor, you; in Embree Hall, hundreds of people that gather there to listen to the service, wherever in this church in an assembly you are, while we sing this hymn of appeal, to give your life to the life of trust and faith, looking to God, looking to heaven, would you come? A family of you putting your life with us in this dear church, a couple of you, or just one somebody you; trusting Jesus as Savior, walking in the way of the Lord in the glory of Christ, as the Spirit from heaven shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now, come now. Make the decision in your heart now, and in a moment when we stand up, stand up coming down one of those stairways, or crossing that street from the activities building, or down this aisle, “Here I am, pastor. Here I come. I make it now,” while we stand and while we sing.
addresses the Galatians, not the “Gauls” or the “Frenchmen”
astonished at his warm reception when first he preached to them(Galatians 4:13-15)
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
translated “evidently set forth”; our word “graphic”
2. The gospel he
preached (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
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
1. The things
that pertain to laws are bondages (2 Corinthians
a. Sammy the Hindu
D. We are free when we
keep our hearts and minds on Christ
– “bewitched”, an evil eye has pulled you away from the truth
A. The just shall live
by faith(Habakkuk 2:4, Galatians 3:11)
1. A liberating
sentence(Genesis 1:3, Romans 1:17, Hebrews
B. Some live by
1. Hope of
salvation is in Him, not in us(John 1:11-12,
C. Some live by
D. Some live by worldly
1. Lot and Abraham (Genesis 13:5-10)