Galatians 3:2-3 – Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
After a few decades in pastoral ministry, one trend that has become abundantly clear is that legalistic religious folks are always trying to convene court. They want to sit in the seat of judgment, put everyone else on trial, interrogate them, and then render a verdict of condemned. This is precisely what is happening in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
But rather than standing trial before religious legalists, Paul turns the tables and starts asking a series of questions designed to lead the confused people back to Jesus and away from the “false brothers” who were leading them astray. His first question was intended to bring them back to the simple start of their saving relationship with Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, think about your story for a minute. We’re you a devout moral hardworking exemplary person who was picked by God in the same way that an all-star athlete is chosen in a sports draft? Or, were you just another lost, messed up person that God showed up to bless?
Hoping to feel assured of their salvation, people want some sort of outward sign that brands them as God’s people. In Paul’s day, circumcision was popular. Today, things like baptism, speaking in tongues, etc. are equally popular. The only sure sign of salvation, however, is the Holy Spirit internally and nothing externally. Once the Holy Spirit applies the gospel of Jesus Christ to a person, they are spiritually born again, given a new heart to love God, desire to learn the Bible, growing distaste for sin, and more than anything else a deep affection for Jesus Christ. It is the same Holy Spirit who not only makes someone a Christian but keeps someone a Christian and matures them every step of their journey Home to heaven. Adding any religious legalism or cultural tradition to the work of the Spirit is as silly as someone flapping their arms on an airline flight hoping that their efforts were contributing to the successful flight.
How have you experienced the ministry of the Holy Spirit in you?