You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. (Galatians 3:1 NIV)
I like the word “bewitched.” Perhaps you know people who have the ability to “cast a spell” over others because of their dynamic personality. In a short time they can lead people down a path to nowhere.
Leadership is neutral. Leaders have traits that prompt people to follow them, but it is possible for a leader to draw others in the wrong direction. As was the case in Galatia, false teachers sometimes communicated with great confidence, and they are believed by those who can’t fathom talented, charismatic people could have impure motives.
How could it be the Galatians were beginning to put their trust in the Law, when they obviously knew Jesus had fulfilled it in His death? Why were they returning to a “righteousness by works” lifestyle when they had been made righteous by the blood of Jesus?”
Were the words of the bewitchers more vivid and attractive that Paul’s portrayal of the cross? Was the personality of the false teachers more exciting than that of the apostle?
It seems so. Sorry Paul…I’m just calling it the way I see it.
Paul was a bold, intelligent and effective communicator. But he was out of sight and out of mind.
I have often wondered how servants like the Apostle Paul were ever able to manage false teaching long-distance. In our culture, if we hear something that sounds a little off biblically, we can e-mail a respected teacher, or start a Facebook discussion with people we know all over the world. But in Paul’s day, a false teacher could do a lot of damage before he, or any of the other apostles were aware there was a problem. And by the time a messenger delivered the news and a letter was sent correcting the doctrine, the damage could be severe.
On the other hand, letters, such as this one from Paul to the Galatians, were held in higher esteem than today’s electronic messages. We receive e-mails and either file them in a mailbox or delete them. We might forward them, but they are rarely read again, and again, and again. This was not the case with the letters that would one day make it into our New Testament. Not only were they treasured and read repeatedly, but they were often sent to outlying regions.
Where do you suppose the letter to the Galatians was read, and who do you think was there at the time? When the reader read “Who has bewitched you”, were the culprits in the room? Did everyone look at them with suspicion and turn their heads again to hear the rest of the letter.
Letters were a big deal, and correcting doctrine was critical. It is still critical, but since the New Testament was not complete, letters such as this one to the Galatians were among an apostle’s main lines of defense. This, together with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, explains why they still are.
Dear God, thank You for preserving Your letters. In Jesus’ name, Amen.