Having Begun in the Spirit...

The receipt of the Spirit while in an uncircumcised state is irrefutable proof that Gentile Christians are accepted by God AS GENTILES – Galatians 3:1-4

Stream - Photo by Mike Lewis HeadSmart Media o
In 
Galatians, Paul addressed 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 them. They were “compelling Gentiles to Judaize” by adopting circumcision, calendrical observances, and possibly, the dietary restrictions from Leviticus - [Photo by Mike Lewis HeadSmart Media on Unsplash].

Paul would have none of it. Unlike his other letters, in this one, his opening salutation was curt, and immediately, he launched into a diatribe against the Judaizing faction. He admonished the Galatians not to accept any gospel that deviated from the one he had delivered to them:
  • (Galatians 1:6-8) – “I marvel that this quickly, you are abandoning him that called you in the grace of Christ to a different gospel, which is not another, only there are some that are troubling you and wishing to pervert the gospel of the Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven announce a gospel aside from that which we announced to you, accursed let him be!
Already, they 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 “an angel from heaven.”

Paul received his gospel by direct revelation from Jesus, NOT from any human authority. The leading apostles in Jerusalem accepted his Torah-free gospel to 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 Christians to withdraw from table fellowship with uncircumcised Gentile believers - (Galatians 2:11-14).

In the second chapter, he laid out the key proposition of his gospel. A man is “not set right on the basis of the deeds of Torah, but through the faith of Christ Jesus.” Having come to faith in Christ, Paul “died to the Law” and was “crucified with Christ” to “live unto God.” To rebuild a Torah-observant lifestyle was tantamount to declaring that Jesus had “died in vain.” To regress to life under the Torah was to “set aside the grace of God” - (Galatians 2:15-21).

Next, Paul presented his first argument in support of his gospel, the experience of receiving the Spirit:
  • (Galatians 3:1-5) - “O thoughtless Galatians! who has bewitched you, before whose very eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth as a crucified one? This only am I wishing to learn from you: from the works of the law did you receive the Spirit, or from a believed report? Are you so thoughtless? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now to be completed in the flesh? Such things did you suffer in vain, if, at least, it is even in vain? He, then, who was supplying the Spirit to you and energizing mighty works among you, did he do it from the works of the law or from a believed report?
They had received the Spirit while in an uncircumcised state, and therefore, without the deeds required by the Torah. That experience resulted from their response in faith to the gospel. The activity of the Spirit among them demonstrated that God had accepted Gentile believers as true members of His covenant people without circumcision, one of the basic requirements of the law of Moses.

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, 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 to Gentiles was irrefutable evidence that God had accepted them while still in an uncircumcised state. Having received the Spirit from faith, to add Torah-keeping to “complete” their faith was tantamount to abandoning the Spirit and regressing 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” was to return to bondage under the “weak and beggarly elemental spirits” - (Galatians 4:7-11)!
Just as Abraham received the promise of blessing without circumcision, and before the Torah was even given, so those in Christ receive “the blessing of Abraham… the promise of the Spirit through the faith,” and in the very same way. Anyone who is “led by the Spirit is not under the law” - (Galatians 3:6-14, 5:18).

Believers who regress by embracing a Torah-observant lifestyle may find themselves “severed from Christ… fallen from grace.” Since Jesus has inaugurated the age of the Spirit, the Levitical rites, including circumcision and Sabbath-keeping, no longer are “of any avail.” What matters is “faith working through love.” The Galatian Christians began “to run well but are now hindered from obeying the truth.” They were being “bewitched” by the false gospel proclaimed by the “men from Jerusalem” - (Galatians 5:1-7).

To adopt a Torah-observant lifestyle is to come “under the Law,” its jurisdiction and obligations, and once more, to be enslaved by the “elemental spirits” of the old order, powers already defeated on the Cross. Not only so, but according to the law itself, anyone under its jurisdiction is obligated to keep the WHOLE law, and failure to do so places one under its “curse.”

Thus, having received the fullness of the Spirit, the Galatians were contemplating its abandonment, wittingly or not - (Galatians 3:10, 4:1-6).




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