Isa 43:10 Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Galations And The Witch's Spell

Galatians 3:1 “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched (lit. cast the witch’s spell over) you...?”

The apostle says that these people had come under a spell. Have you ever been under a spell?

I should think (without having had any experience) that to come under a witch’s spell is to wake up at some point and realize that you have been in an unreal realm. 

It may have been pleasant for the time being, like the effect of opium, but afterwards it was revealed to have been an illusion, an unreality, a false world, everything had been suggesting what was not true after all.

During that time of the spell you have been deprived of your normal state of good sense, you were not yourself, and the effects were quite different from those which had been presented to your mind under the spell.

To look closely into this letter to the Galatians is to see that that is exactly what had happened. 

It was a spell indeed, and a spell which meant that they were taken out of the realm of the greatest of all realities, and put into the realm of things which were false and deceiving, and where they were robbed of their true spiritual position, and placed in a false one.

What was the nature of the spell? 

The Holy Spirit is very apt in His way of describing things. 

The phrase: “the witch’s spell” could not be improved upon as a description of what had happened to these believers. 

These believers had come right out into a living place with Christ, and they had, through faith, received the Holy Spirit.

They had been emancipated and set free from all the old thraldoms. 

They had been put in a place of spiritual liberty, spiritual ascendency, spiritual power, spiritual life, and they had had a great enjoyment of the Lord.  

But, being Gentiles, and having turned to Christ, certain things had entered into their experience outwardly. 

Outwardly they had become involved in a great deal of persecution. 

They had found tremendous antagonism leveled against them. 

Inwardly they had become aware of the fact of two natures, an old and a new, that which the apostle speaks of in this letter as the flesh and the Spirit. 

And, while they had come to the place where the old and fleshly nature was triumphed over by a life in the Spirit, they knew only too well that the old and the fleshly nature was not annihilated, and that to maintain their position of ascendency, every day they must maintain a walk in the Spirit.

The walk in the Spirit demanded a continuous appropriation of Christ and obedience to Him. 

These were two of the things which had come into their lives, and represented a certain amount of difficulty.

It was not easy to suffer persecution. 

It was not always easy to be obedient and to walk in the Spirit. 

It represented a continuous yielding to the Lord.

The other thing which governed their life entirely was that it was a life of faith. 

While a life of faith brings into a wonderful realm of ever fresh discoveries and blessing, it is a life of faith, and the old and natural life never takes kindly to a life of faith, but is always seeking the seen and the felt, that which can be provided by the senses; that realm of outward perception, as over against the life which is entirely by faith in God. 

While these Galatians went on with the Lord they had a life of knowing and enjoying the Lord.

We all know that the Christian life is not a picnic every day. The Word of the Lord never promises that it will be. 

We are not in the playground; we are in the school. 

We are not here for pleasure and enjoyment; we are here for real business and grim conflict. 

A day of unmixed pleasure and glory lies ahead for us; in the meantime it is a life of training, discipline, equipping for that day, and it becomes strenuous sometimes.

We would deceive nobody who is not a believer by saying that if you become a believer you are going to float about in the air, play upon imaginary harps all the days of your life and never have any trouble.

You will come up against the grim realities, of which you may be altogether unconscious at present. 

You will find that you are precipitated into the battle, and are taken into a place of deep training and discipline.

It is in that realm that we make our discoveries, and find our wonderful enlargement. That does not mean for one moment that while such things obtain there can be no joy. 

The New Testament is a strange paradox throughout: “Sorrowing, yet always rejoicing”; “Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation...” It is a strange contradiction, and the man of the world understands nothing of that.

However, the Christian life is a grim business for the time being, and the Galatians came to recognize that, and sometimes, in common with all other Christians at all times, the sense of the conflict and the pressure registered itself in a costly way.

Nevertheless, ask anyone who knows the Lord best, and who knows the cost most, whether they would give up the Lord in order to escape the cost, and you will find that they will give no consideration to that — unless they become tricked, which is exactly what happened here. 

There came down to these Galatian believers certain men who were Jews, who pretended to be Christians, and the most that can be said in their favor is that they acknowledged Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. 

That does not mean for a moment that they had seen Him as the Eternal Son of God, and it does not mean that anything was entailed in the setting aside of Judaism. 

These Judaizers, with the Christian name, went in the track of Paul wherever he went with the Gospel, and worked their way through the network of Jewish synagogues until they got into this area known as Galatia, and began their Judaizing activities in direct contradiction to his Gospel.

They found a point of contact, and said to these believers:

Now, you are having a difficult time; this kind of life that Paul has shown to you is a very strenuous life (we are not saying they used these words, but this was clearly the line of argument);

This struggle and this effort to live this life is because of a fundamental mistake!

All you have to do to be accepted with God is to observe the law! 

You come to the synagogue and carry out these various regulations of Moses; that is all that is required of you! 

So many meetings a week, and so many sermons a week, so many outward observances a week, and all is well! 

God’s law is so-and-so: observe God’s law, and all is well (a very plausible argument)! 

Then, you see, you are suffering a great deal of opposition and antagonism from without, also upon this fundamental error! 

You have taken up a position which is bringing this upon you! 

You will find that a great deal of that persecution will drop away if you will simply let go this extreme position that you have taken, this life of faith, this detachment from the recognized and accepted religious system of the Jews; and things will become very much easier for you because you will be associated with that which is accepted and recognized! 

Paul is all wrong, and he has led you into this position, and these are the consequences!

Our counsel is that you should all be circumcised, have the center of your relationship to the historic order of things, carry out these regulations, and you will be left alone and escape this intense spiritual conflict, inwardly and outwardly!

You will cease to have this inward pressure; you will not have all the strain of a life of faith, it will become a life of sight; and the way will become easy!

Because these Galatian believers were conscious of the cost of the life in relation to Christ, and were perhaps feeling badly just at that moment (for you may be sure the devil always strikes his blow at the weak moment) this whole proposition was like a witch’s spell. 

A lovely sensation crept over them: Oh, is it not necessary for us, after all, to have all this to meet, all this to suffer? 

Are we, after all, wrong?

Is it really that we have made a mistake, have been misled? 

They let the doubt in, and we know what happened.

When they opened their mind to a question of a fundamental character like that, it rushed in and became like a spell to them, a beautiful suggestion, a wonderful idea!

The suggestion was: We need not give up anything of Christ, but it can be so much easier if we let go what is evidently an extreme position which we have taken! 

The witch’s spell did its work. They came under it, and let go their position.

Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians in that condition. 

When you look closely into it, you see that it was a witch’s spell.  

It was a lie!  

Paul says some very strong things about this: “though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be accursed.” That is regarding these Judaizers. 

This gospel which they were preaching brought them into the category of the curse, under an anathema from God; they were preaching an accursed gospel. 

With Paul there was no myth about their position; he saw how deadly it was as a deception, and how, under its it had been so plausibly presented just in a time when these people were feeling the strain of things.

It had worked to rob them of their true position.

That which Paul keeps continuously in view right through this letter is the cross of the Lord Jesus. 

The central and inclusive statement is this: “before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified”.

Then in the rest of the letter Paul explains what that means.

~T. Austin Sparks~

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