Having Started in the Spirit

In Galatians, Paul addresses a growing danger. Certain “men from Jerusalem” claimed that Gentiles must keep the deeds of the Mosaic Law to “complete” their faith, or at least, some of its statutes and rites. They were “compelling Gentiles to Judaize” by adopting circumcision, calendrical observances, and perhaps the Levitical dietary restrictions.

Paul would have none of it. Unlike his other letters, his opening salutation is curt, and he immediately chastises the Galatians and launches into a diatribe against the Judaizing faction from Jerusalem. He admonished the congregation NOT to accept any gospel that deviated from the one he previously delivered to them – (Galatians 1:6-8).

Spirit - Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash
[Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash]

The Galatians were “moving away from him that called them in the grace of Christ.” As for the Judaizers, twice Paul pronounced a “curse” (anathema) on anyone who proclaimed a “different gospel,” even if done so by “an angel from heaven.”

He received his gospel by direct revelation from Jesus, NOT from any human authority or angelic visitation. The leading apostles in Jerusalem accepted his Torah-free gospel for the Gentiles, requiring only that his churches contribute to the relief of poor believers in Jerusalem - (Galatians 1:5-2:10).

Paul described a previous incident in Antioch when a group of Jewish believers, also from Jerusalem, pressured Peter, Barnabas, and other Jewish believers to withdraw from table fellowship with uncircumcised Gentile believers - (Galatians 2:11-14).

In the second chapter, he presented the key proposition of this Letter; namely, that man is “not set right (before God) based on the deeds of Torah, but through the faith of Christ Jesus.” Having come to faith in Jesus, Paul “died to the Law” and was “crucified with Christ” so that he “lived unto God.”

To rebuild a Torah-observant lifestyle after encountering Jesus was tantamount to declaring that Jesus “died in vain.” To regress to life under the regulations of the Torah would mean “setting aside the grace of God” - (Galatians 2:15-21).

RECEIPT OF THE SPIRIT


Next, Paul presents his first argument in support of his Torah-free Gospel, the experience of having received the gift of the Spirit. The activity of the Spirit among the Galatians demonstrated that God accepted Gentile believers as members of His covenant people without circumcision, and circumcision was one of the basic requirements of the Law of Moses- (Galatians 3:1-5).

Earlier, Peter made a similar argument in response to Jewish critics of his table fellowship with uncircumcised Gentiles. Upon seeing the Spirit fall on his Gentile audience in Caesarea, he declared:

  • Surely no man can forbid that these should not be baptized, seeing they have received the Holy Spirit just we… if the same free-gift God gave to them just as to us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that could withstand God?” - (Acts 10:47, 11:17).

The granting of the Spirit was irrefutable evidence that God accepted Gentiles even though they remained in an uncircumcised state. Having received the Spirit from faith, to add Torah-keeping to “complete” their faith would mean abandoning the Spirit and resorting to “the flesh” - And “no flesh shall be declared righteous from the works of the Law.

To get circumcised and “observe days, months, seasons, and years” meant returning to bondage under the “weak and beggarly elemental spirits,” and a return to an immature and far less enlightened state - (Galatians 4:7-11)!

Just as Abraham received the promise without circumcision before the Torah was even given, so those in Christ receive “the blessing of Abraham… the promise of the Spirit through the faith.” Anyone “led by the Spirit is not under the law” - (Galatians 3:6-14, 5:18).

Believers who abandon the Gospel by embracing a Torah-observant lifestyle could find themselves “severed from Christ… fallen from grace.”

Since Jesus inaugurated the age of the Spirit, the Levitical rites, including circumcision and Sabbath-keeping, were no longer “of any avail.” They were not evil or sinful, but their time ended with the arrival of God’s Son - In the “fullness of time.”

What mattered was “faith working through love.” The believers in Galatia began “to run well but now were hindered from obeying the truth.” They were “bewitched” by the false gospel proclaimed by the “men from Jerusalem” - (Galatians 5:1-7).

Shackles - Photo by niu niu on Unsplash
[Shackles - Photo by niu niu on Unsplash]

To adopt a Torah-observant lifestyle means coming “under the Law” - its jurisdiction and obligations – and being enslaved by the “elemental spirits” of the old order, powers already defeated by Jesus on the Cross.

According to the Law, any man under its jurisdiction was required to keep the whole law. Failure to do so placed one under its “curse.” If the Galatians decided to get circumcised, they would be obliged to keep all the Law’s regulations, commandments, and rituals.

Thus, having received the fullness of the Spirit, believers in Galatia were considering abandoning the Gospel of grace and the “Word of the Cross” proclaimed by Paul for something that had become obsolete.



RELATED POSTS:
  • The Spirit of Life - (The Spirit of God imparts life, especially the everlasting life of which the Gift of the Spirit is the First Fruits, foretaste, and guarantee)
  • Even an Angel - (Paul warned the Galatians not to heed any Gospel that deviated from the one preached by him - even if it came from an angel)
  • The Faith of Jesus - (Paul responds to his opponents by emphasizing the all-sufficiency of the faithful act of Jesus in his obedience unto death – Galatians 2:15-21)

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