Galatians 3:1-3, 13 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? … Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
We should be careful not to miss the significance of the strong language Paul is using as he writes to his fellow believers, his friends, in Galatia. The word he uses twice to describe them, translated for us as ‘foolish’, literally means ‘not giving reasonable thought to something’, or ‘brainless’. Eugene Petersen translates it as ‘crazy’!
The reason we need to face up to his use of this word is that the ‘brainless/crazy’ thinking (or rather, non-thinking) the Galatians had been drawn into is exactly what has plagued the Christian Church for the two millennia since Galatians was written! It is part of our fallen nature, our post-Adamic DNA, to want to understand the Gospel on OUR terms and not GOD’s. Our inbuilt PRIDE makes it hard for us to accept that the reason Jesus had to leave his place in heaven and come among us to die for us (see Philippians 2:5-8) is because we just CAN’T EARN a place in heaven by DOING good things! At the end of the previous chapter, Paul had written, “If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (2:21b).
As Adam & Eve had been warned at the very beginning, failing to obey God’s Word would result in DEATH, the CURSE of being cast out of GOD’S PRESENCE, out of ‘the Garden’. WE are just NOT ABLE to meet this requirement, so there is no point in even thinking we could ‘attain this goal by human effort’ – and yet we so easily let our pride get the better of us and think (ie non-think!) we CAN!
The theological term for this is ‘Justification by WORKS’, a wrong way of thinking that had so gripped the Church by the 16th Century that God used Martin Luther to bring about a Reformation based inter alia on the Biblical truth of Justification by GRACE alone through FAITH alone, which is the very point Paul is confronting the Galatian Churches about! Let us not allow our inbuilt pride to turn our brains off and be ‘bewitched’ into thinking (ie un-thinking) that we can ever EARN our way to heaven by impressing God with our so paltry efforts.