We find security in various things. Many find security in material possessions. Among these may be a fine house, a boat, hunting equipment, a nice car, fine furniture, tech gadgets, and the like. Others find security in insurance policies: health and property.
Some time ago, this aspect of security hit me. We had no insurance on our belongings. With word of thieves breaking in, I wondered how we would replace belongings that were important to us if someone stole them or if a fire or natural disaster destroyed them. The way I solved the problem was by taking out an insurance policy.
Others invest in retirement programs and bank on Social Security so that they might have financial security at retirement or disability. Still, others save in some manner for their children’s future. Many choose to make out a will. This assures the security of their belongings after their death. We lock our houses at night and lock up other valuables to provide a sense of security. There is something about feeling secure in our persons and with our belongings that is part of human nature. This sense of security or being safe leads to a feeling of calmness not present when we feel insecure.
We also need to feel secure in our salvation. Paul continues his defense in these passages by telling us this security can come only through faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot work for this sense of security found in salvation. Christ freely gives it to those who express the desire to possess it.
Along with this teaching, he rebukes the Galatians for allowing the Judaizers to bewitch or trick them. They had previously accepted his message that salvation comes by faith alone, but now some of them had allowed the Judaizers to trick them into believing they had to work for it. They had deserted the teachings of Paul, and more importantly Jesus. They were undercutting the gospel message of salvation through their actions and trying to improve on the finished work of Christ—an impossibility. By doing so, they were losing the joy and freedom of their salvation and returning to the bondage of legalism by which no one could be saved.
Perhaps you have known or know Christians like this. They started out well in the faith but pulled away for some reason. Some fall into the trap of believing in legalism or some form of works righteousness. Others may fall into formalism or observing external ceremonies and rites as a part of their salvation. Some try to improve their standing before God by observing the strict do’s and don’ts. Others look for a second blessing that will lead them to a higher spiritual plane. We cannot add anything at all to our faith. This is the bottom line of salvation and what we find security in as well.
In these verses, Paul reminds us that faith is the necessary element. He also tells us that this experience of faith involves Christ, the Holy Spirit, and God the Father. Because of this, we need not depend on anything other than our faith for God’s acceptance.
IS BASED ON OUR EXPERIENCE WITH CHRIST
Paul calls his readers foolish. This probably resulted from a mixture of anger, love, and surprise over their turning back to the old ways. He could hardly believe what they were doing. Their actions were especially foolish because Paul had taught them well. There was no reason for them to turn back to a works salvation.
Foolish refers to mental laziness and carelessness. If they had not been taught well, Paul perhaps could have understood their actions, but he had taught them well. This was pure spiritual laziness on their part. When they faced the false doctrines of the Judaizers, instead of using their spiritual intelligence to refute their teachings, they succumbed to them. Obviously, they had stopped believing and applying the truths of the gospel. They were compromising the gospel of grace and following their impulses rather than the truth of God’s Word.
The Galatians were actually bewitched. The word means to charm or fascinate in a misleading way. It may involve false promises, flattery, or occultic power. It suggests using feeling over fact and emotion over a clear understanding. They should have recognized the teachings of the Judaizers as false, but they were bewitched because they were foolish. They supplemented faith in Christ with good works.
This was foolish on their part because the crucified Christ was publicly portrayed before them. This was the heart of the gospel message Paul preached to them. They believed and received that by faith. Publicly portrayed carries the idea of a message posted in the marketplace or some other public place where people can read it. Paul put Jesus up before them, and they had believed the gospel he presented to them. But now they were backtracking. By turning back to legalism, they were denying the saving power of Christ.
We enter salvation by faith in Christ alone. We cannot supplement that with anything else. We do not live the Christian life by feelings or emotions alone. We live it based on the truth of God’s Word as it concerns Jesus Christ and the work he has done. When we base our relationship on emotions alone, every wind of doctrine will toss us about. We will not have stability, and we will be prone to the same or similar mistakes as the Galatians. The validity of what God’s Word teaches concerning salvation and the way it comes about is not based on how good this makes us feel. It is based on God who will not lie. All of the emotions we have as Christians are by-products of knowing the truth of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
No ritual or ceremony can add to the cross. We must hold our faith in Jesus Christ before others as the way of salvation even as Paul did for the Galatians. Jesus’ death on the cross was the payment for our sin, and there is nothing we can add to this. We cannot save ourselves by our works to begin with, and we surely cannot continue to save ourselves by works either.
IS BASED ON OUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE SPIRIT
Paul confronts them with a question: “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” The answer was obvious even though they seemingly had forgotten. God gave the Spirit because of their faith, not anything they did. The Spirit came when they trusted Christ not when they accomplished some good work. They had not gone through some special ceremony or performed some special religious rite to get the Spirit. He came when they placed their faith in Christ. They received the Spirit because of God’s grace when they received Christ. Paul wondered how the Judaizers could dupe them into believing the Spirit came by good works.
At the moment we place our faith in Jesus Christ, God gives the Holy Spirit to us as well. This is the greatest proof of our salvation. He is our guarantee or pledge of eternal life with God. Paul writes in Romans; “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (8:12). On another occasion, he writes; “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him” (8:9). The Spirit is the security of our salvation, and if we do not have the Spirit we do not have salvation.
In Ephesians, Paul writes of the Spirit; “Having also believed in Christ, you were sealed in him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance” (1:13). Pledge is a down payment or earnest money given by a person planning to make a purchase as a guarantee that the full amount will be paid later. It is something like our modern day collateral. The Spirit is our guarantee of our eternal life with Christ.
The Spirit is the source of our Christian life. We do not receive him because we are faithful. He is the power behind our faithful living. We can only live the Christian life because of his sustaining and guiding power. Thus a higher level of spiritual living does not bring the Holy Spirit but the Holy Spirit brings the higher level of spiritual living. Through his power, we are able to do those good works that please God.
IS BASED ON OUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE FATHER
The Father is the one who provides us with the Spirit. He does not give the Spirit nor the ensuing ability to live a successful Christian life because of our good works. He gives him because of our faith in Christ. Paul says God provides us with the Spirit. It carries the idea of supplying abundantly and with great generosity.
Paul writes to the Ephesians; “He is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask for or think, according to the power that works within us” (3:20). That power is the Holy Spirit given in abundant power by the Father.
Many times in an effort to secure those things that are important to us, we might rent a lock box at the bank. If a fire, natural disaster, or thief assaults our home, these valuables will still be safe. We have the idea, and probably accurately so, that the bank is safer than our home.
Where salvation is concerned, our security is found through faith in Jesus Christ and in his abiding Spirit as provided by the Father.