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? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (3:2-3).
Have you ever heard the words, “How can you be so stupid?” I have; more times than I care to remember. I was one of those kids whose behavior continually begged the question.
It’s not that I am recommending this become our default question when addressing others in need of instruction; it’s just that now, I get it. I get the exasperation I caused in refusing wise counsel (from yes, my parents), and instead, convinced I knew better, opted to follow my own recklessly, unsafe (and yes, stupid) choices.
And I hear in Paul, a spiritual parent to the Galatians, the same frustration that I heard so many times. Frustrations that perhaps inferred, “Don’t you know better? Didn’t I teach you truth? Don’t you see your recklessness in this? How could you allow yourself to go there?” But sadly, Paul knew the how…the Galatians had listened, and been persuaded, by those preaching another gospel, which in reality is not the gospel at all.
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ, (Galatians 1:6-7).
And in their foolishness, and yes, I daresay, stupidity, they had deserted the truth of His gospel, His gospel of grace, now convinced they could somehow perfect themselves by the works of the flesh.
And Paul asks them, as way of reminder, Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (3:3). In other words, “Hey Galatians, did you forget where you came from? How did your life in Christ begin? And how do you think it will be successfully completed?
Some versions translate “perfected” as “finishing, completing, ending up.”
“2005. ἐπιτελέω epiteléō; to complete. To finish, complete, perfect…” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
“68.22 ἀποτελέω: to bring an activity to a successful finish— ‘to complete, to finish, to end, to accomplish.’” Louw- Nida Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament
Our English verb, perfected, incorporates the Greek definition of “completing” that which was started, as well as the act of “bringing something to perfection.”
Perfect (verb): “to bring to completion; finish; to bring to perfection; to make flawless or faultless.”
And what would a successful finish look like when considering the Spirit of God? Of course, it would be completely flawless, entirely faultless; for everything about Him, and all that proceeds from Him is absolute Perfection. It is His work, Perfectly begun, Perfectly sustained and Perfectly completed by His Perfecting Spirit.
Consider His Perfecting Spirit
- His Perfecting Spirit Perfectly begins at the cross.
- You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? (3:1).
- His Perfecting Spirit is not earned, but Perfectly received by hearing with faith.
- 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? (3:2).
- His Perfecting Spirit both Perfectly begins and Perfectly matures our faith.
- Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (3:3).
- His Perfecting Spirit Perfectly blesses those who have faith to believe.
- So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer, (3:9).
- So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer, (3:9).
- His Perfecting Spirit Perfectly redeems us that we would receive His promise.
- Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith, (3:13-14).
- His Perfecting Spirit provided the Law to teach us and Perfectly lead us to faith in Christ.
- But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith, (3:23-24).
- His Perfecting Spirit adopts us into His family, to be immersed in Him and Perfectly bear His image.
- For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ, (3:26-27).
- His Perfecting Spirit removes all distinctions to Perfectly bring us to unity in Him.
- There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus, (3:28).
- His Perfecting Spirit Perfectly places us in the family of Abraham, the believer, as heirs to His promise.
- And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise, (3:29).
- His Perfecting Spirit Perfectly accomplishes our sanctification through faith in the truth.
- Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work,” (John 4:34).
- …God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth, (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
How do we respond to His Perfecting Spirit?
We must daily tune our ears to listen to the true gospel, that we would be persuaded by His Word alone to believe that His Perfecting Spirit will bring an even better ending in Christ than when we began in Him by faith.
The end of a matter is better than its beginning… (Ecclesiastes 7:8).
Let us, by faith, confidently believe that because it is His work alone, He alone will continue to Perfect us until Christ returns.
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus, (Philippians 1:6).
As we cooperate, by faith, with His Perfecting Spirit and surrender our entire selves to Him in worship, He will work in us what only He can.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship, (Romans 12:1).
Let us pray that we would never forget where we came from; and may we so grow in our faith, to be able to declare, like Paul, that we will not be so foolish as to depend on ourselves; but we will depend on His Perfecting Spirit in our lives that have, in fact, been crucified with Him.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly, (Galatians 2:20-21).
His Word teaches that our sin nature went to the cross with Christ. Oh, may we never take His cross for granted, it is our only hope for a successful finish in this life. If we will believe, if we will have confidence in His Perfecting Spirit to do what only He can, He will grow us in His grace to take hold of the very righteousness of God that is now ours, in Christ alone.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, (2 Corinthians 5:21).
It is His Perfecting Spirit that will enable us to walk sure footed in Him until the end, to be able to stand before Him, Perfected and with great joy. May our lives bring Him glory and may we never stop being thankful for His miraculous provision by His Perfecting Spirit.
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen, (Jude 1:24-25).