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Galatians 3:1-5 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Montgomery   

"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?"

Overall, my impression of this passage of scripture is that the Apostle Paul is trying to force these Galatians to acknowledge that the blessings they had enjoyed were by the hearing of faith and not by the works of the law. What are these blessings?

1. The reception of the Spirit (verse 2).
2. The ministering of the Spirit (verse 5).
3. The working of miracles (verse 5).

Receiving the Spirit can be seen in at least a couple of ways. In one sense, it can be understood as regeneration, but in another sense, as a blessing unique to the gospel age. In the case of Galatians 3:2, I see it as the latter, a gospel blessing. To me, the Spirit is the same thing as the Holy Ghost and I can see that there are at least two functions the Holy Ghost performs, that of regeneration and that of enlightenment. Let’s look at a few examples and then we will see if we can assign the proper function to our text.

Romans 8:15 seems, to me, to be dealing with regeneration. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” Contrast this verse with John 7:39, “But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” Now, it is my humble opinion that John 7:39 is speaking, at least in part, of the effusion of the Holy Ghost which took place on the day of Pentecost.

Now, look at John 14:17, “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” Here the Lord says that His disciples already have the Holy Ghost dwelling with them, yet sometime later the Holy Ghost will be in them. Obviously, the Lord is here stating that the Holy Ghost was already in them in one manner of speaking but would be in them at a later time in another manner of speaking.

Of course, understanding the context in which a phrase is found is very important to properly defining the phrase, as you can see by studying the aforementioned verses. In Galatians 3:2, I think the Apostle Paul is contrasting the works of the law to the hearing of faith. The Galatians received the Spirit by the hearing of faith. Faith is here seen as that instrument by which one accomplishes something. It presupposes that the Galatian brethren were regenerated. It assumes that this is the case. Later in this writing, the Apostle Paul will verify that faith exists as a manifestation of the indwelling Spirit of God. Faith, as the Apostle Paul uses it here, has the ability to hear spiritual things. When I hear you speak, I can either receive what you say or reject it. Another way to say it is, I can take or leave what you proclaim. If you look up the word “received,” as used in Gal 3:2, you will see that it comes from the Greek word “lambano” which is sometimes defined as “to take” or “to admit.”

Instead of using the carnal senses, they used their spiritual sense of faith and received the Spirit. Again, this means that they must already be born again. Here is a long passage to show how the Spirit was received in a Gospel way: Acts 8:4-25.

Notice how that this event parallels perfectly with Galatians 3:2,5. These people of Samaria had miracles performed before them by Philip. How did he do these things? I think he did them by the faith that he possessed, and, to be more specific, he did them when he was instructed by the Spirit to do them. Philip could not just do these things like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. I think this describes, somewhat, what the phrase “the hearing of faith” means in Gal 3:5 because, in that verse, it is by the hearing of faith that the miracles are performed. The one who worked the miracles in Acts 8:4-13 was Philip and of course he worked them under the auspices of God.

Notice verse 6, “And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.” Certainly they saw the miracles with their natural eyes, but by faith they were able to know who it was that gave Philip the power to work those miracles. Here is an evidence of these folks spiritual nature.

Now, in verses 14-25, we see where the Apostles heard that the people of Samaria had received the gospel, so they send Peter and John to visit Samaria. Verse 15 shows how that they received the Holy Ghost and verse 17 is very specific on how these people were able to receive the Holy Ghost. It was by the laying on of hands of these Apostles. Even Simon the Sorcerer recognized this and desired to obtain this power from the Apostles. Philip obviously did not have this power even though he could, by the grace of God, work miracles.

The sum of this is that only when God allowed it could Philip do what he did and the Apostles do what they did. They therefore needed as much faith to know when and to whom to do what they were empowered to do. As I said earlier, it was not something that they could do at any time, but it was something that only they could do. They did what they did as much by the hearing of faith as the receivers of it did.

Now, notice this essential point. Simon the Sorcerer apparently did not receive the Holy Ghost. According to verse 13, he believed and was baptized but I do not find where he was one of those who received the Holy Ghost. I can only conclude that, being in the gall of bitterness, he was not in a position to be able to receive the Holy Ghost. Compare this to Hebrews 4:2 where it says that “the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” How often do we miss out on the blessings of God by not using the faith we have as a gift of God? Later in Hebrews 11:6, the Apostle Paul says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

The Galatians had by faith heard the gospel and by that faith received the Spirit just as those in Acts 8 did. The gift of the Holy Ghost, which Peter promised to those who were pricked in the heart on the day of Pentecost, is essentially the joy that comes from believing the gospel of Jesus Christ. We, today, may not be able to work the special miracles of Philip or minister the Spirit by the laying on of hands as did the Apostles, but where there is faith to go and preach it and faith to hear and believe it, there is still the same miraculous blessed assurance that they had back then.

The Apostle Paul is showing these Galatians that what they had received was by faith and not by works of the law. What the minister did was by faith and not by works of the law. In that it was by faith, then there could never be any claim that the works of the law had anything to do with it. Later in this writing, the Apostle Paul will confirm that the works of the law act counter to what they received because the letter killeth but the Spirit maketh alive.

Your humble servant,
Mike Montgomery

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