“Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of His death on the cross” (Galatians 3:1 NLT).
Given the clear Biblical admonitions against witchcraft, sorcery, divination, and the like, it may seem unusual to encounter the phrase, “Who has bewitched you?” here in Galatians 3:1. But as one commentator explains, this term does not necessarily refer to occultic practices…
“In verse 1 Paul uses the Greek term anoetos (NIV foolish) to denote the improper thinking of those who, otherwise, should be expected to perceive things correctly. They are not incapable of proper thought. Thus, their uncharacteristic foolishness must be the result of some ‘magical spell’ (as indicated in the sarcastic rhetorical question, ‘Who has bewitched you?’).” (1)
Paul the Apostle’s sense of exasperation was highlighted by the knowledge that he had clearly portrayed the meaning of Jesus’ sacrificial death before the Galatians, much like the first-century equivalent of an advertising billboard. Unfortunately the false teachers who worked their way into the Galatian churches had taken the genuine gospel message of salvation by grace through faith and driven it off the road of good doctrine.
It was that kind of attitude that surely prompted the warning given to us in the Biblical epistle of 2 John…
“Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:9 NIV).
This portion of Scripture directs us to exercise caution with those who seek to “run ahead” of the Scriptures with teachings that are not Biblically supported. Much like an athlete who is disqualified for running off the designated lanes of a racetrack, it is possible to run so far “off the track” in our spiritual beliefs that we advance right out of Biblical Christianity. That’s what the false teachers in Galatia were doing and makes the following admonition worth considering…
“It is quite possible for one to have been truly converted and to have begun with a clear, definite knowledge of the saving grace of the Lord Jesus, and then because of failure to follow on to study the Word and to pray over it, to come under the influence of some false system, some unscriptural line of teaching. And so often when people do come under some such influence you find it almost impossible to deliver them. They seem to be under a spell.” (2)
(1) McClelland, S. E. (1995). Galatians. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, p. 1011). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
(2) H. A. Ironside, Expository Messages on the Epistle to the Galatians, [pp. 88-89] quoted in Constable, Thomas. DD. Notes on Galatians 2017 Edition [3:1]. https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/galatians/galatians.htm#_edn135