Have You Been Bewitched? – Galatians 3:1-5
by Thomas Thornhill
In these verses, Paul calls the Galatians "foolish" and "bewitched" for being deceived by Judaizing false teachers. He doesn't believe in such superstition but uses it as sarcasm to make them think. How did they receive the Spirit that brought justification and salvation?
Paul is deeply distressed that the Galatians were so foolishly listening to false teachers who were turning them away from the pure gospel of Christ which had delivered them from paganism and corrupt Judaism back to the law of Moses and the traditions of men (Matthew 15:7-9), which could not save them. So Paul sarcastically seems to say that the only explanation he can see for them acting so foolishly is that they must have been bewitched (put under a spell, hexed) since having seen Jesus Christ openly portrayed as being crucified before them had made such a little impression Galatians 3:1. He proceeds with a question about how they had learned this, by the works of law or by the hearing of faith (Galatians 3:2). Instead of making progress, they are going backward, from the Spirit to the flesh, rather than from the flesh to the Spirit (Galatians 3:3). Was their suffering, after yielding to the gospel and receiving the benefits of it, now in vain? That is, has it become a wasted effort because it was an imaginary good (Galatians 3:4)? They had seen Paul perform miracles before them and impart gifts to some. Was this by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith (Galatians 3:5)?
Today, we have the same type of influences affecting the world. The power and appeal of the gospel have been lost to many. They have, in Paul's words, been "bewitched," thus the lesson for today.
Many religious people are "foolish" and "bewitched" by false teachers. "Foolish" according to the words of Jesus (Matthew 7:26). Bewitched is a superstitious term of witchcraft (voodooism today) denoting one who has been hexed or had a spell cast on him by a witch deriving power from the devil. I'm using it to denote people who are deceived by false teachers. False teachers have always abounded (Matthew 7:15-16; II Peter 2:1-3; I John 4:1). They are not easily recognized (II Corinthians 11:13-15; 4:3-4; II Thessalonians 2:9-12).
How are people "bewitched"? One is saved "by faith in the Son of God." He had been openly crucified before them (Galatians 3:1), not literally but through the gospel (I Corinthians 2:1-2; 15:3-4). Hearts are purified by faith (Acts 15:9), which comes by the word of God which saves (Romans 10:17; Acts 11:14). Receiving the Spirit is not the Spirit Himself but the word He reveals. The word is the "Spirit of truth" (John 16:12-13), which develops faith (John 20:30-31). It is the mind of God put into words for us (I Corinthians 2:10-13). We know the difference between the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error by what is preached (I John 4:1,6). If it cannot be found in God's word, those who follow the words of men are "bewitched." They have made void the word of God (Mark 7:6-9). The power to save comes only through the gospel (Romans 1:16). If you will not obey it then you are under the power of the devil.