O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? (Gal. 3:1)
The bewitchers are among us, hard at work.
I see it all the time.
Beautiful people sit (reluctantly) before me for me to do a quick sketch. I say, “Look at me please. Could I see a smile?” But getting a smile from them–or even eye contact–is next to impossible.
They say variations of, “I don’t smile” or “I don’t like my smile.” Sometimes, it’s “I’m shy” or “This is really difficult for me.”
And I wonder who has done a number on this person to warp their psyche that severely.
A man told me a few days ago, “I had a teacher in high school who said to me, ‘You do not have a nice smile.'” That was all it took, he said. Thereafter he went out of his way to avoid smiling.
Aarrgghh! That’s a good comic book expression that means, “This is awful! I cannot believe this!”
I see intelligent people–men and women and young people who are really brilliant with great gifts and talents–who seem to think they are stupid. Ask them to do something that requires reading or writing or thinking and you will hear a variation of “I’m not good at that” or “You’ve got the wrong person for that.”
Who bewitched them into believing they were dumb? Take your pick: a teacher, a parent, a friend. But someone did it to them. No one comes into the world automatically believing they are morons.
I see godly people oppressed by needless guilt over forgiven sins.
They creep along in life, barely accomplishing anything worthwhile, their attitude one of defeat and discouragement. In private, they confide that they feel worthless, that they have failed God miserably, that life is over for them.
Who did this to them, you wonder? Who sucked the life out of this child of God and left her a shell? Who turned him into a zombie?
I see churches of great potential situated in wonderful areas that sit there year after year accomplishing nothing other than to hold Sunday services. And even those are weak and unchallenging.
Who did this?
The great apostle asked the Galatian believers, Who has bewitched you?
These followers of Jesus he had personally introduced to Jesus. He had preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified to them in such a powerful way that they seemed to experience the events of that recent weekend in Jerusalem. They had been overwhelmed by the love and grace of God.
And now, here they were, still proclaiming God’s love and grace but preaching law and demanding law, both of themselves and from their converts.
They were saying, “Sure, we are saved by grace. But thereafter, if we expect to grow in the Lord and please Him and be used of Him, we have to keep the law.”
Paul would not let them get by with that. It’s heresy.
That wrong preaching, incidentally, is still very much alive and well and can be heard from thousands of pulpits every Sunday. Get saved by grace through faith, but thereafter, if you would please God you must keep the following rules. Those rules vary depending on what section of the country you are in or what sect of Christianity you are associating with.
My pastor tells of a conversation he had with a minister in the Ukraine. They were about to make a visit to a family in that city. Mike asked if the wife was a believer. “Yes, she is,” the pastor said. Mike asked if the husband was a believer also. “No,” the pastor said. “He still smokes.”
That pastor was teaching that one cannot be saved if he is still using tobacco.
I have known churches that would substitute dancing or drinking or a hundred other things for “tobacco.”
Paul says someone has bewitched those believers. Charmed them.
Here is Timothy George’s comment on this text from the New American Commentary: Paul not only addressed his readers by name; he also characterized them in a very unflattering way as foolish, stupid, senseless, silly. Or, as J. B. Phillips puts it, “Oh you dear idiots of Galatia…surely you cannot be so idiotic?” The bluntness of Paul’s language should not blind us to the fact that he had earlier referred to the Galatians as ‘brothers’ (1:11) and that he would later call them his children (4:19)…. Paul’s harsh rebuke is an example of tough love.
About their being “bewitched,” Dr. George writes, The word for “bewitched” is a hapax legomenon, a word found nowhere else in the New Testament. Literally, the word means “to give someone the evil eye, to cast a spell over, to fascinate in the original sense of holding someone spellbound by an irresistible power.
Bewitchers are all around us today.
Often they are pulpiteers. While it’s not stated, we may assume that the culprits who had misled the Galatians were preachers.
John R. Stott says, “(Paul’s) question is partly rhetorical, because he knows only too well about the activities of false teachers. ….behind these false teachers he detects the activity of the devil himself, the deceiving spirit, whom the Lord Jesus called ‘a liar and the father of lies’ (John 8:44).”
All about us today are church members with bad mental health who take it as their calling to rob preachers of their confidence. “Your sermon just didn’t quite do it for me, preacher.” “Our former pastor was better.” “You’re improving; just keep at it.” One pastor said, “Sometimes they don’t say anything. They just get up and walk out in the middle of your sermon.”
All about us today are warped adults in authority whose calling seems to be to undermine the self-confidence of children. “You’re stupid.” “Who told you you could play the piano? That was awful.” “You can’t sing.” “You call that art?”
All about us today are mean-spirited evil people set on making sure that young people grow up misshapen and warped. “You are ugly.” “You have a terrible smile.” “I wish yoiu had never been born.” “God does not love you; he hates you.”
One of the great callings of God upon His preachers and teachers–maybe all of us!–is to encourage His children to see all that they are in Christ. We are salt of the earth, light of the world, His ambassadors, new creations.
In Christ, we are somebody.
As the little kid in the ghetto said, “I’m me and that’s good. Cause God don’t make no junk.”
Preach it, brother.