Paul continues in Galatians chapter 3 to rebuke the Galatian believers for turning away from the message he presented. They have exchanged the truth of the Word of God that can save and transform their souls, for a different message. After having been justified by faith and born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Galatians are building their Christian lives and spiritual performance on works of the Jewish Law. This is similar to the modern evangelical church pushing their born again believers into a life of “application” and “ministry,” instead of allowing these believers to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2
“Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” – Hebrews 5:13-14
The apostolic message has the both the power to save the spirit and renew the soul. This is why both Jesus and his apostles continue to encourage believers to “continue” in the word that saved them and not drift off into a life of Law. Today this could be compared to a modern form of legalism practiced by the Western evangelical churches. They give their followers a steady diet of dumbed-down sermons laced with points of application and pleas to get involved in church activities because church leaders feel this generation, who otherwise seems to manage more information on a daily basis than any generation before them, can’t handle the truth.
“So Jesus said to those Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are really my disciples.’ ” – John 8:31
“Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God.” – 2 John 1:9
The Galatians had begun with the Word of God that brought salvation through the renewal of the Holy Spirit, but then they decided to finish the work of salvation by working in the flesh. Paul asks them:
“After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?’ – Galatians 3:3
Paul calls them “fools” and asks them “who has bewitched you?” The word “fools” is not the Greek word moros used often by Jesus to refer to people he encountered as being mentally deficient, and so, because of their lack of mental ability they played the part of the fool. Instead, Paul uses the Greek word anoetos for “fool.” Anoetos refers to people who have the ability and have been given the information, but they fail to use their powers of perception “to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14) and they were not “able to test and approve what God’s will is” (Romans 12:2)
“Bewitched” literally refers to the hypnotic spell that many believed came from being caught in the stare of the “evil-eye.” Paul’s message was so clear and the saving/transforming power of the Holy Spirit was so tangible in their lives that Paul imagines that the only way the Galatians could have been convinced to switch directions to a false gospel was if they had been put under a magic spell or were induced with drugs that overrode their wills. They must have lost control of their volition, Paul says, because no logical person would have allowed this corrupt teaching to infiltrate their soul and their church.
In twenty-first century talk Paul could have said,
“You stupid Galatians! What have you been smoking?”
Paul wants the Galatians to stick to the message and not drift into the alternative message of the first century Judaizers and the twenty-first century western evangelical’s “application” rhetoric that replaced teaching the apostolic revelation that can transform and renew the believer.