The ancient Roman province of Galatia was home to a number of churches that began following the Apostle Paul’s missionary work in that region (see Acts 16:6 and Acts 18:23). But in the wake of Paul’s departure from that area, others infiltrated the Galatian churches with a “gospel” that was far different from the one they received from Paul. These false teachers taught that faith in Christ alone was not enough for salvation. Instead, one could only find acceptance with God by obeying the Old Testament Law as well.
Paul spent much of the first third of this letter addressing this issue from his own experience. Here now in Galatians chapter three, Paul will continue with a series of doctrinal teachings that will occupy much of the next two chapters of this epistle. Yet even in the midst of these lessons, his personal concern for the Galatian Christians will never stray far from his thoughts.
But for now, Galatians chapter three opens in a rather unexpected manner…
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?” (Galatians 3:1).
To modern-day audiences, “You foolish Galatians…” (CSB) may seem quite insensitive. In fact, some translations render this portion of Scripture in a manner that may come as a surprise to those who are accustomed to a spiritual message that is far more positive, inclusive, and affirming…
“You stupid Galatians!” (CEV).
“You irrational Galatians!” (CEB).
“O you dear idiots of Galatia…” (Phillips).
As startling as those characterizations may seem, this was not an indictment of the Galatians’ intelligence. In fact, it was quite the opposite. From Paul’s perspective, the Galatians were in a position to know better. Their defection from the truth was so inexplicable that it was almost as if someone had cast a spell over them to make them act in such an unwise manner,
The experience of these Galatian churches provides us with a valuable lesson. You see, a heretical doctrine that is presented in a persuasive, eloquent, and compelling manner may sound convincing to someone who should know better if he or she is not diligent to check it against the Word of God.
In the New Testament era, the Galatians received God’s Word through the ministry of the Apostle Paul. Today, a person who prayerfully commits to reading the Scriptures on a daily basis is someone who has an opportunity to hear from God directly through His Word and identify those teachings that fail to align with sound Biblical doctrine.