Having Started in the Spirit

The receipt of the Spirit while in an uncircumcised state is irrefutable proof that Gentiles are accepted by God AS GENTILES – Galatians 3:1-4. 

In Galatians, Paul addresses a growing danger. Certain “men from Jerusalem” claim that Gentiles must keep the deeds of the  Law to “complete” their faith, or at least, some of them. They are “compelling Gentiles to Judaize” by adopting circumcision, calendrical observances, and perhaps the Levitical dietary restrictions.

Photo by Mike Lewis HeadSmart Media on Unsplash
[Photo by Mike Lewis HeadSmart Media on Unsplash]

Paul will have none of it
. Unlike his other letters, in this one, his opening salutation is curt, and he immediately chastises the Galatians and launches into a diatribe against the Judaizing faction from Jerusalem. He admonishes the congregation NOT to accept any gospel that deviates from the one he delivered to them:

  • (Galatians 1:6-8) – “I marvel that thus quickly, you are abandoning him that called you in the grace of Christ to a different gospel, which is not another, only there are some that are troubling you and wishing to pervert the gospel of the Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven announce a gospel aside from that which we announced to you, accursed let him be!


Already, the Galatians are “moving away from him that called them in the grace of Christ.” As for the Judaizers, twice Paul pronounces a “curse” (anathema) on anyone who proclaims a “different gospel,” even if it is by “AN ANGEL FROM HEAVEN.”

He received his gospel by direct revelation from Jesus, NOT from any human authority or angelic visitation. The leading apostles in Jerusalem accepted his Torah-free gospel for the Gentiles, requiring only that his churches contribute to the relief of poor believers in Jerusalem - (Galatians 1:5-2:10).

Paul describes a previous incident in Antioch when a group of Jewish believers, also from Jerusalem, pressured Peter, Barnabas, and other Jewish believers to withdraw from table fellowship with uncircumcised Gentile believers - (Galatians 2:11-14).

In the second chapter, he presents the key proposition of his gospel. A man is “not set right on the basis of the deeds of Torah, BUT THROUGH THE FAITH OF CHRIST JESUS.”

Having come to faith in Jesus of Nazareth, Paul “died to the Law” and was “crucified with Christ” so that he now “lives unto God.”

To rebuild a Torah-observant lifestyle after encountering Jesus is tantamount to declaring that he “died in vain.” To regress to life under the regulations of the Torah is to “set aside the grace of God” - (Galatians 2:15-21).


Next, Paul presents his first argument in support of his Torah-free gospel, the experience of receiving the Spirit:

  • (Galatians 3:1-5) - “O thoughtless Galatians! who has bewitched you, before whose very eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth as a crucified one? This only am I wishing to learn from you: from the works of the law did you receive the Spirit, or from a believed report? Are you so thoughtless? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now to be completed in the flesh? Such things did you suffer in vain, if, at least, it is even in vain? He, then, who was supplying the Spirit to you and energizing mighty works among you, did he do it from the works of the law or from a believed report?

They received the Spirit WHILE IN AN UNCIRCUMCISED STATE, and therefore, without the deeds and rituals required by the Mosaic Law. That experience resulted from their response in faith to the gospel preached by the Apostle to the Gentiles.

The activity of the Spirit among the Galatians demonstrates that God has accepted Gentile believers as true members of His covenant people WITHOUT CIRCUMCISION, and circumcision is one of the basic requirements of the  Law delivered to Israel at Mount Sinai.

Earlier, Peter made a similar argument in response to Jewish critics of his table fellowship with uncircumcised Gentiles. Upon seeing the Spirit fall on his Gentile audience in Caesarea, he declared:

  • Surely no man can forbid that these should not be baptized, seeing they have received the Holy Spirit just we… if the same free-gift God gave to them just as to us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that could withstand God?” - (Acts 10:47, 11:17).

The granting of the Spirit to Gentiles is IRREFUTABLE EVIDENCE that God has accepted them while still in an uncircumcised state.

Having received the Spirit from faith, to now add Torah-keeping to “complete” their faith means abandoning the Spirit and resorting to “the flesh” - And “no flesh shall be declared righteous from the works of the Law.

To get circumcised and “observe days, months, seasons, and years” is to return to bondage under the “weak and beggarly elemental spirits,” to return to an immature and far less enlightened state - (Galatians 4:7-11)!


Just as Abraham received the promise without circumcision before the Torah was even written, so those in Christ receive “the blessing of Abraham… the promise of the Spirit through the faith.” Anyone who is “led by the Spirit is not under the law” - (Galatians 3:6-14, 5:18).

Scissors - Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash
[Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash]

Believers who desert the gospel by embracing a Torah-observant lifestyle may find themselves “severed from Christ… fallen from grace.” Since Jesus inaugurated the age of the Spirit, the Levitical rites, including circumcision and Sabbath-keeping, are no longer “of any avail.” They were not evil or sinful, but their time and purpose have come to an end.

What matters now is “faith working through love.” The believers in Galatia began “to run well but are now hindered from obeying the truth.” They are being “bewitched” by the false gospel proclaimed by the “men from Jerusalem” - (Galatians 5:1-7).

To adopt a Torah-observant lifestyle is to come “under the Law” - its jurisdiction and obligations – and once more to be enslaved by the “elemental spirits” of the old order, powers already defeated on the Cross by Jesus.

Not only so, but according to the law itself, anyone under its jurisdiction is obligated to keep the WHOLE law, and failure to do so places one under its “curse.” If the Galatians get circumcised they will be obliged to observe ALL its regulations, commandments, and rituals.

Thus, having received the fullness of the Spirit, the followers of Jesus in Galatia are contemplating the abandonment of the gospel of grace proclaimed to them by Paul, whether they understand this or not - (Galatians 3:10, 4:1-6).



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