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O foolish Galatians!

Mar 3, 2017

O Foolish Galatians!

We come to this statement in Galatians 3:1. It follows on the heels of a short section in which Paul clearly states that justification is not by works of the law but by faith alone in Jesus Christ. This section concludes with these words, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”

O foolish Galatians!

Do you hear the exasperation in Paul’s voice? His indignation mixed with concern?

He is perplexed at the current situation and so reproves the Galatians. In tough love, he calls them foolish. The word here for foolish refers to an attitude not intellectual inability.  In calling them foolish he is not casting aspersions on their intelligence.  This fact is plainly seen in that Paul assumes his audiences’ ability to understand and answer the questions he is about to ask them. They are not lacking in IQ but have demonstrated themselves to be undiscerning spiritually.

As one commentator put it,

“The Galatians, in lending a listening ear to the arguments of the legalists, must be considered not necessarily dull but thoughtless, not ignorant but senseless, not stupid but foolish.  And is not everyone foolish who barters the truth of God for the lie of Satan, peace for unrest, assurance for doubt, joy for fear, and freedom for bondage?”

Paul is suggesting that the Galatians have failed to draw the obvious inference from their experience as Christians.  In fact, in the following verses he will argue from experience and Scripture to make his point.

What we might be tempted to do today is look down our noses at the Galatians for even considering that circumcision was necessary for salvation. Perhaps we see clearly that it is not required but where might we be blind? Where have we lent a listening ear to the legalists of our day, to those who would add to Christ’s death?

Do we claim that faith in Jesus is all that is necessary to save us while thinking for even a moment that something we have done or not done that matter merits favor with God? Do we think that compared to my neighbor or even other Christians I am pretty good therefore God owes me? Circumcision may not be an issue in the church today but Christ-plus runs rampant. Christ may not be denied but he is often functionally not sufficient. As one writer stated, “A Christ supplemented is a Christ supplanted.”

Perhaps this is why Paul is so indignant with the Galatians.  He understood that to proclaim that faith in Christ alone was sufficient for salvation and then add anything to that faith denied the faith that was just proclaimed. He understood that by adding anything to the work of Christ was to supplant Christ.   What Paul saw so clearly, that the Galatians were missing, is that there is no Christ-plus scenario in which Christ is not dethroned.  Whatever it is that one would add to the work of Christ, that becomes what is required for salvation because that is what really changes the equation and tips it in our favor. If that is the case, that something other than Christ’s work is needed for salvation, then Christ died for no reason and that is exactly what Paul said in 2:21.

So the question with which one must wrestle is, Am I trusting in Christ alone for my justification or am I trusting in my works for justification? Do I think that Jesus plus something on my part is required for justification or is Christ sufficient?

By His Grace Alone,

Josh