Bewitched

Bible Book: Galatians  3 : 1-11
Subject: Salvation; Works of the Flesh; Redemption

Bewitched

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com
Introduction

Galatians 3:1-11

Paul writes to the Christians at Galatia and makes a statement that on the surface appears to be quite brash and unkind. Yet, what Paul is actually saying to this church and the members of it is extremely important. In the passage we are going to consider today, we are looking at a dangerous drift that is possible in the church of our Lord - a swerve away from the truth that Paul refers to as being bewitched.

Our text today comes from Galatians 3:1: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?”

I want us to consider today the great danger of Christians being bewitched by this world, its theories and ideas. The danger is that we change the gospel of Jesus Christ into something that is powerless and mindless. Paul wrote this letter because the true danger is that of changing the gospel to a life of morals and works instead of it being that which it really is - the gift of God in Christ - grace - eternal salvation at the cost of God's Son on the cross. To weaken the true gospel has implications that require frank confrontation and that is exactly what Paul did in the text we are considering. Just think of a letter like the one we are looking at today being read to the Church at Galatia. A church leader rises and opens the letter. Then he reads the section that asks, "O foolish church, who has bewitched you?" To be called "foolish" would certainly get your attention.

Is it possible for us to be foolish in the same way that the Galatians were? Yes, sadly it is.

First, note with me …

I. The Bewitched Congregation

Paul wrote this letter to the Church in Galatia, to a people who had accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. So, Paul is not writing to would-be Christians or fake believers. He is clearly addressing children of God – saved Christians. Sure, some in the church may not have truly accepted Christ, but the letter is written in a manner that sees the congregation as being made up of born-again Christians.

What is interesting is that Paul writes to these Christians using some very strong language. He speaks of these Galatians as “foolish.” Now most of us don’t call people fools or speak to them as being stupid. Imagine a preacher rising to speak to the church and calling the congregation fools or stupid people. I mean that might be consider a bit aggressive, don't you think? Paul must have had a strong prompting from the Lord to write such a word as this to a church. We can consider the situation in that church as being extremely important and serious.

The word Paul used for "foolish" is from a Greek word meaning to be “unknowing.” It combines the word “to know” with the negative letter “a” at the beginning – which means “not to know.” You know one form of that word in English today - it is the word "agnostic." A person who claims not to know whether he or she believes there is a God or there is no God is called an agnostic - one who doesn't know. Paul uses a form of that word in our verse today when describing the problem in the Church at Galatia. In other words, Paul is asking how in the world the Galatian Christians allowed someone to “bewitch” or “charm” them into being so foolish as not to act upon that which they knew to be true. It is interesting that the Philips New Testament translates the first phrase of this passage to read, “O you dear idiots of Galatia…” Now that really is strong language, but it is very close to the exact meaning of the phrase that Paul used in this text. I would not advise a preacher to speak to his congregation like that today, unless he has his furniture on the moving truck.

Now, note in this passage that Paul did not call the Galatians unbelievers, nor did he speak of them as having mental issues, rather he was pointing out that they had opened themselves up to foolish ideas. Somehow these believers had been bewitched – fooled – misled!

A. The Horror of being Hoodwinked

If you are hoodwinked or duped into believeing something that endangers your life is it sad, but being hoodwinked when it come to eternal life is horrible! That is what was happening at Galatia. The church was being led to believe that works and salvation were linked together. Jesus is the only way to salvation! It is not Jesus and something else but Jesus alone that redeems the human soul. If you add anything to "Jesus alone" for salvation you negate the message of redemption. There is a subtle slope in the deception of believing that your salvation is based on what you do and not on what Jesus did for you. Salvation is not DO! Salvation is DONE! I can't DO anything to make myself right with God for Christ has DONE all that is necessary.

In the ancient world there was the idea of an "evil eye.” It was known that there was a particular snake that could stare at a prey and paralyze the victim. The snake could then strike and mortally wound the poor creature. The idea of being bewitched was to be thought of as someone who was captivated by a person or an idea to the point that the bewitched person was paralyzed from thinking and acting properly. Paul was indicating that the congregation that received this letter was being paralyzed by thoughts that were not divine or true - simply stupid, foolish, reckless thoughts that were contrary to the truth of God. Sadly, there are many today who are falling victim to being bewitched by the world today - and this is happening on many levels within the Christian faith, and the worst way is that of reducing salvation to something less than Christ alone.

B. The Trouble with being Tricked

Of course, there are many ways that Christians can be misled. Imagine a person today receiving a phone call from someone promising a large amount of money to deposited to their bank account. All the person has to do is give the person on the phone the bank account number and the vast sum of money will quickly appear in the bank. The sum of money promised, and the ease with which it can be received, bewitches the individual and the bank account number is given to the person on the phone. After the victim’s bank account is emptied out by the crook on the phone, we are prone to say of the victim, “How in this world could a person be that stupid?” Or we might ask, “How can an evil person mislead someone with such a preposterous, absurd and unreasonable scheme?” That, in a way, is what Paul is saying to the Galatians. They have been paralyzed by someone who has clearly caused them to believe something absolutely foolish in regard to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dear people, there is a way of life that is clearly wrong but popular opinion or arguments win Christian people over to accept these ideas as being okay. For example, a television evangelist tells people that they can receive great financial rewards by just sending him a particular amount of money. He even uses examples of people who are already enjoying the fruits of such action. The evangelist holds up a letter and says, "Here is a letter from a lady who was in dire straights. She was about to lose her home and car. She sent her last $200.00 to this ministry and the next day she received an unexpected windfall of $18,000.00. God rewarded her faith!" Receiving money in this manner is not taught in scripture, but a person with the gift of communication and influence can "bewitch" many people into mailing checks or placing gifts to the evangelist on their credit cards. When the person doesn’t get a reward for their gift, the evangelist simply says, “Well, you just didn’t have enough faith when you sent it to me,” then he flies off in his private jet. “O foolish Christian, who have you allowed to bewitch you?”

Christians are in danger of being bewitched into thinking many things contrary to the gospel, or at least in acting like those things are not true. This idea of being bewitched can cover many areas of Christian living and belief. A great number of Christians in this day do not know their Bibles and so they are easily misled by bewitching messages from false teachers or from the world at large. They are led astray as if an evil eye has paralyzed them.

A congregation must be careful not to be led astray from the truth. It does happen and we could recite a number of examples of churches that once had a powerful message and far-reaching ministry but today they have become watered down, weak, and emaciated before the world. Don't ever allow this to happen in your life or in your church.

We need to know exactly what Paul was talking about in his letter to the Galatians. So, let’s look at the …

II. The Bewitched Consternation

There was consternation in Paul’s words to the Galatians. He was simply bewildered by their departure from the truth. He even questions them by asking, “How is it possible that you have done this?”

A. Right Before Their Eyes

In just what way did someone bewitch the Galatian Christians? Paul speaks of Christ having been clearly presented to the Galatians as crucified for their sins. So we know that the foolishness which the Galatians displayed involved the people looking away from Christ as the means of grace to someone or something else. The truth was right there before their eyes.

The word used here for “clearly displayed” in the Bible text is from the Greek word “prographo.” The word means to write something so large that you cannot miss it. We have all heard of the small print on contracts and we have perhaps at times fallen victim to not reading all the minute details in a document. Paul is saying that the Galatians did not receive the gospel of Jesus, His death on the cross, His salvation and grace in some hidden small print. In fact, the gospel had been presented them as if it were written on the side of building, or on a billboard by the side of the road. They could not possibly have missed it! Paul had preached Christ so clearly that it was right there before their eyes. What, pray tell, had turned their eyes away from the only means of having a right relationship with God?

Now, understand this. When Paul states that the Galatians had clearly seen Christ crucified, he is not stating that they were actually at the cross in Jerusalem when Jesus died there. In fact, even if they had been there, it would not have meant that they understood what was taking place when Jesus died. Many people at the cross mocked Jesus and most never believed on Him as Lord. Paul is speaking here of the Galatians knowing the truth of the cross, the way to salvation, the power of the resurrection and the grace of God in Christ. Paul, had clearly presented Jesus as the sacrifice necessary for the forgiveness of their sins when he preached to them. He had preached to them the nature of the gospel so clearly that they had to know the full and absolute truth that salvation was only available by grace and never by works. They knew clearly from Paul’s preaching and teaching that “Jesus paid it all.” Yet, even though the Galatians had heard the message clearly presented and had received it, they how were being bewitched by ideas that led them away from the power of God in their lives.

B. The Faith the World Denies

I expect every faithful Christian hearing this message today knows someone who has been bewitched. You have likely felt the consternation that Paul expressed in his letter to the Galatians when seeing someone foolish led away from a deep faith in and faithful walk with God. We know those who have heard the gospel plainly and forcefully presented to them and we have seen these people step forth to accept Jesus. Then, sometime later we see those same people living in a manner than shows no evidence of the true faith. It is as if they have been paralyzed by the world - by the evil one. They go out into the world that denies the very Lord they once gave allegience to. We simply can’t understand it. That is what Paul is saying in this letter. Of course, there are some who make religious commitments that are insincere and not based on true faith. But Paul is speaking here to people he is convinced are genuinely saved – redeemed. Paul is disturbed and it shows in the brash words he uses as he addresses these Galatian Christians.

Now, note one thing very important in regard to Paul's letter to this church. There is one fact that really upset Paul. Those who have been bewitched in the Church at Galatia have not walked away from the church but have remained in it. They are using their positions of leadership to lead others astray with them. The people in question are in the church and are turning others to a way of falsehood. To be frank, it is better if someone becomes bewitched and misled for that person to just depart and live in the world rather than to have that person remain in the Christian fellowship and corrupt many other people to a false faith.

The world clearly denies Jesus as Lord and Savior. Much of what is called "Christian" today is nothing more than social relativism. Many see their on moral code as equal to or better than the gospel of our Lord. How wrong and foolish it is when those in the local church reject the true message of Christ.

Now, this brings me to the important point of this message. Look at the …

III. The Bewitched Contamination

“…having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?”

“The just shall live by faith.”

The Galatians had contaminated the Christian Gospel by going back to the Law or the works of the flesh as a means of salvation. The real corruption at Galatia was not worldly living, but it was a message that a person can be right with God through good works. Listen, dear friends, any mixture of grace and works is anathema to the true gospel. We are not saved by Jesus and something else - we can only be saved by Jesus ALONE. If good deeds, right living and the works of the flesh could save a person, no Savior would have been necessary. Why did Jesus come to this earth, be treated the way He was, and die on the cross? If all we needed was better morality, Jesus was unnecessary? No! A thousand times we say NO. God sent His Son because He was the only way to salvation. Jesus came because there was no other way for us to be saved other than through His subsitutionary death and bodily resurrection from the grave. Joining the church is not becoming a member of the moral club, but rather it is reserved for those who have admitted that they are lost in sin and have turned in repentance from that sin to accept by faith Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. To place our good works on a par with the life of Jesus and His death for our sins is to be FOOLISH!

To explain what he meant, Paul used the example of Abraham to explain what he was communicating to the Galatians. Paul states that Abraham was not saved by works but by faith. He was not saved because he took his son Isaac up to the mountain, but because he had the faith to believe that God had the power to spare Isaac from death or to raise his son from the dead. Not works but faith saved Abraham. His works came about as a result of his faith and not the other way around.

Paul appealed to the Galatians, calling on them to return to the true faith and not to mix works of the flesh with faith as a means of obtaining a right relationship with God. It is true that we may spoil our fellowship with God through our wrongful deeds, but we can’t ruin our relationship with Him once we are saved. Our close fellowship may be based on how faithfully we follow our Lord, but our relationship to God through Christ is based on what Christ did for us in His death and resurrection.

When I was a boy, I sometimes spoiled my fellowship with my dad. He punished me for wrongdoing when it was necessary – which was far too often! However, my wrongful behavior did not remove my relationship with my dad. Even when I did wrong things, I was still his son. Likewise, the Christian is saved by grace alone – by being born into God’s family through faith in the work Christ did on the cross. We may harm our fellowship with God due to bad behavior, but we can never lose our relationship with Him. That relationship was secured by Christ and his sacrifice for our sins.

We must never contaminate the gospel by adding works to grace. We live for Him because we are saved, not in order to be saved. I do not live for Christ in order to get to heaven; I live for Him because He saved me and I'm on my way to heaven. To think otherwise is to be bewitched!

Conclusion

There just might be someone in this service who thinks you are right with God because you do the right things. Beware of such thinking. The only way to be made right with God is in Christ alone. He died for you and was made a curse for you on the cross (Galatians 3:13). He alone saves and keep us in our redeemed state. If you have never fully trusted Jesus, now is the time to do so.

Then, there are some of us who are redeemed, and we know it. We know that it all was done by Him and by Him alone. Yet, we know that our fellowship with the Lord could and should be better. A closer walk with the Lord is needed. If that is the case, then let us come to Him just now and have our fellowship renewed.