"You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain — if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?" (Galatians 3:1-5)The literal understanding of the Greek term for "foolish" means one who fails to exercise their mind. Our lack of thinking can be our undoing. If we blindly go along with everything that seems right or looks exciting and spiritual then we are in danger of wandering into error and missing the mark. We must use our minds to understand the gospel and to test and examine new teachings and doctrines as they come along. Not everything that is shiny is spiritual or of the truth.
The Galatians had become fascinated (bewitched) by some new doctrine and teaching and, in their lack of mental examination of the truth, they were leaving behind the doctrine that Paul had previously preached and set before them (publicly portrayed). They were in danger of leaving the realm of the Spirit for the realm of the flesh; of exchanging dependence on God for dependence upon themselves. They were on a path that sets aside the efficacious work of Christ for the previously proven ineffectiveness of the works of the flesh.
Paul's counsel to them was to consider how they started and to stay the course. They had started well and, if they continued in the manor in which they started, they would end well too. So how did they start well? Their beginning in Christ was marked by the Spirit both in His presence and His working. His presence is what captured their love and transformed them and gave them courage to face the difficulties of being a Christian in the first century. It was a beginning that was birthed and sustained by their faith. It was through their faith that the Spirit moved and super-abundantly provided for them all they needed to live a Christian life.
For some of us, we must ask ourselves, "How have we started? Did we start in the Spirit by faith or in works by our flesh?" If we find our beginning was not as their beginning, then maybe we did not start as they started. Maybe we need a fresh infusion of faith that the Spirit may be released in our lives and in our midst. How can we finish well if we don't first return to start well?
For the rest of us, we must ask ourselves. "Are we continuing as we started or have we exchanged the Spirit for our own efforts?" If the Spirit has grown cold in our lives and in our gatherings, then maybe we need to return to a simpler time and a simpler faith; maybe we need to return to trusting and depending upon the grace of God and the presence of His Spirit among us. Let us not loose what we have, or what if available to us, trying to finish in our own strength. Pride would say we can do it, but faith reminds us that it is only in Christ that we find our life.