O you foolish and thoughtless and superficial Galatians, who has bewitched you [that you would act like this], to whom—right before your very eyes—Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified [in the gospel message]? This is all I want to ask of you: did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying [the requirements of] the Law, or was it the result of hearing [the message of salvation and] with faith [believing it]? Are you so foolish and senseless? Having begun [your new life by faith] with the Spirit, are you now being perfected and reaching spiritual maturity by the flesh [that is, by your own works and efforts to keep the Law]? Have you suffered so many things and experienced so much all for nothing—if indeed it was all for nothing? So then, does He who supplies you with His [marvelous Holy] Spirit and works miracles among you, do it as a result of the works of the Law [which you perform], or because you [believe confidently in the message which you] heard with faith? – Galatians 3:1-5
Having entered upon your Christian course under the light and grace of the Holy Spirit, received by faith in Christ and his gospel; do you now, when you ought to be more enlightened and renewed, more acquainted with the power of faith, and therefore more spiritual; expect to be made perfect by the flesh? – Benson
Obviously, the Galatians received the Holy Spirit through simple faith. The Holy Spirit is not a prize earned through the works of the law. They were deceived into thinking that spiritual growth or maturity could be achieved through the works of the flesh, instead of a continued simple faith and abiding in Jesus. “You received the greatest gift – the Holy Spirit of God – by faith. Are you going on from there, not by faith, but by trusting in your own obedience under the Law of Moses?” This lays out one of the fundamental differences between the principle of law and the principle of grace. Under law, we are blessed and grow spiritually by earning and deserving. Under grace, we are blessed and grow spiritually by believing and receiving. God deals with you under the covenant of grace; we should not respond on the principle of law.
Now here is the interesting thing about this verse. Awhile ago, I began to ask people a fill-in-the-blanks question using this verse.
This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive ________ by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
When I asked people to fill in the blank portion, they gave me these answers:
· Salvation – This is a good and reasonable answer. Certainly salvation comes by way of faith and not by works of the Law. Most people quickly chose this as the missing word.
· Grace or mercy – “For by grace you have been saved by faith.” Perhaps grace is a better word since it is the operating principle of salvation.
· Eternal Life – The end result of salvation is eternal life.
Very few, close to none, ever responded with the word “Spirit.” The only explanation for this is that somehow, the truth of salvation by faith has superseded or pushed aside the truth of the Holy Spirit. We hear the words “receive,” “works of the law,” and “hearing with faith” and we think “salvation” and not “Holy Spirit.” But clearly for the Galatians, the Holy Spirit was very important and was something that they received by faith. For Paul, it was receiving the Holy Spirit that stands against the works of the Law. For the church to think “salvation” where Paul wrote “Spirit” is a serious defect in our understanding that keeps us from experiencing a gospel of power. – Donald Curtis