Receiving spiritual power (Gal 3:1-5)
Key Text: Gal 3:1-5
I am interested how today more than ever there seems to be an interest in true power; spiritual power. I guess maybe it comes from a place from scepticism; how for too long we have seen people claim to have true spiritual power yet there is no change in their lives and it seems to fade. We have been to all the hype events and are left hungry.
We were chatting in the systematic theology class the other day and were asking why is it that people are far more easily drawn to demonic power as opposed to the power of the Holy Spirit? Especially because the power of the Holy Spirit is so much more powerful.
The conclusion we came to is that although the Holy Spirit is infinity more powerful. Demonic influence and power is more appealing because it promises self-indulgence (even though it delivers bondage) while the Spirit demands surrender (and yet delivers freedom).
I want to suggest that we can gain infinite Spiritual power. And Paul shows us how to do this in Galatians 3:1-5.
Now, I have to warn you before we even read. This is not going to be a simple place these things in your life and you will receive spiritual power, however it will be a direction to the only way the Bible tells us to gain Spiritual power. So if you have your bibles please turn to Galatians 3:1-5
Galatians 3:1-5 New International Version (NIV)
Faith or Works of the Law
3 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?[a] 4 Have you experienced[b] so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?
The first and most important aspect of this passage is:
You can receive the Spirit!
Unless you have the Spirit you don’t have Christ!
A message that you get
A message that you continue in
The interesting thing that Paul states here is that he assumes that these Galatians have the Spirit.
Paul asks in verse 2 “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?”
Paul knows that the Galatian church possessed the Spirit. This seems obvious; however today needs to be stated.
It is possible for us to possess the Spirit. I have to ask; what does it mean to possess the Spirit?
It doesn’t mean that we have an emanation of God or power of God or connection to God. It means that you and I possess the fullness of Deity in the person of the Holy Spirit.
Here in the Text you will see that the Spirit is written with a Capital; why? Because the Holy Spirit is not a force it is a person. The third person of the Trinity.
Other religious promise us connection to life force; chi self-power. When they speak about spirit and even spirit energy they are speaking about something completely differently than when the Bible speaks about Spirit power.
Again it comes down to the reality that we are not talking about a force here we are talking about the person of the Holy Spirit God Himself!
2 Peter 1:4 says it so beautifully when Peter writes and says;
Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
There is something deeply significant about the fact that we have God Himself in us! Power unimaginable.
This same God who spoke the universe into being. He dwells in us in the Spirit. This claim is so much greater than any other religion could or would ever claim!
And so as a side but not the main point of this evening; if you want to know what Spiritual power you have as a Christian; get to know who dwells in you! The value of this cannot be stated!
You have God Himself Holy Spirit in you! Our trouble is that because the Spirit is a person He is not subject to us a force would be; rather we are subject to Him as we should be to God!
The next thing we need to see in this passage is:
Unless you have the Spirit of God you are not a Christian! Now that might sound incredibly hard. How can you say that; maybe I am more contemplative than spiritual? Well look at verse 3
3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?[a]
what does Paul mean here when he says after beginning by means of the Spirit?
Paul is basically saying; unless you have the Spirit you simply have not begun the Christian walk.
In the New Testament there was no distinction like we have today; you have your normal Christians and then you have your Super Spiritual Christians. The New Testament simply never made this distinction. And Paul emphasises that here.
Paul is making it clear that unless you have the Spirit you simply are not a real Christian. Now this seems over the top to us.
We long to make it more practical; so we make true Christian conversion a matter of having the right doctrines and being able to say the right things. Our churches membership is determined by practical things; have you been baptised? Do you believe… and then we run off the tenants of faith? However, Paul’s distinction for being a Christian is far deeper: have you had a Spirit filling conversion experience.
The reality is that there is always temptation to soften the teaching of Scripture; you don’t really need inner change; an inner conversion experience. Rather we say you simply just have to know the gospel and believe. Paul says unless you have the Spirit you haven’t begun the Christian walk.
Now you might be sitting here and starting to worry maybe I haven’t had this conversion experience. What if I haven’t received the Spirit. Well you are in the right place. Because Paul starts in this passage to describe what it is to receive the Spirit and the rest of the book goes into details about what that means.
So let’s look at that.
So how did the Galatian Christians get converted? Because in that is the Secret to receiving the Spirit;
How do I Receive the Spirit?
Well firstly you receive the Spirit by:
Paul says in verse 1:
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified
Why would Paul say this? Galatia is hundreds of km away from Palestine where Christ was Crucified. The temptation of modern reader would be to think that Paul just preached to the convincingly. However, that misses what Paul is saying here.
There is an aspect that Paul preached convincingly. However, the main thing that Paul is trying to communicate is that he didn’t just come to them teaching them moral lessons or doctrinal truths.
He came and preached the crucifixion of Christ in a way that was real. The word “Christ was portrayed.” Literally means the crucifixion of Christ was put on a display board for them. In other words the central truth of the gospel was gruesomely displayed for this church.
We are often tempted to soft peddle the fundamental truth of the Gospel; your sin caused the Son of God to die.
The result of this preaching has a result.
Paul says to your very eyes. Now they didn’t actually see anything. It is not a literal reality. No it is the eyes of their hearts that were opened so that they got what Paul was preaching.
There is something deeply different understanding something and then actually it sinking in and your eyes of your hearts being opened to that reality.
Let me illustrate; one of my mother’s best friends died very suddenly a few months back while she was in Australia, and I remember asking her how she felt. And she said she doesn’t know; it hasn’t sunk in. it was only after she came back from Auz and went to visit the house that it all sank in and she just fell apart. It moved from understanding to getting it.
This is what Paul is trying to say here. The message of Christ sank in. you will see this with Christian. They can live in the church, and hear the message over and over. And all of a sudden out of nowhere they get it and you see definitive and powerful life change. All of a sudden the message of Christ sinks in.
In fact, I remember chatting to a young guy once about how he has no motivation to change. And I said; wait and seek God His Spirit will make it real for you.
When the message of Christ is graphically displayed the Spirit of God is moving in you to ensure that your heart and not simply your head gets it. The Spirit makes the message beautiful! And there is a definite change there cannot not be a change.
Now, I need to ask; has this happened to you? You have to know that there is a fundamental difference between knowing about Jesus and salvation and the Spirit bring conviction about it.
If this hasn’t happened to you stop trying to figure out what you need to be saved and hear afresh the story of what Christ did for you. The beauty of the Gospel is that it is a story of what Christ did for you!
So you receive the Spirit when you get the story; secondly it is;
Again in verse two Paul says
: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?
We must ask what does it mean to believe? Well Paul tells us here. He says did you receive the Spirit by observing the Law of by believing. What is the opposite of believing? It’s not the law. Its trusting the law.
Paul continues in verse 3
Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?[a]
Paul uses an interesting word here that we translate finish. The word is complete. Are you trying to complete yourself by observing the law.
The secret of Spirit power is the impact that this story of Jesus has on us. This church had not only believed a story they had seen the impact that it had on them. That it released that they had being trying to complete themselves by human efforts and this story of Jesus made them realises that Jesus had completed me!
It really is that simple. Stop putting things in your life above Christ; stop trying to complete yourself through anything but Christ; it is here that the Spirit is working; it is here that we have true Spiritual power.
And as I started tonight with it is why it is so difficult to achieve because at its heart is not an empowering but rather a surrendering to. Am I fully surrendered to the completed work of Christ on the Cross; and am I trusting in that and that alone to complete me?
So church. The key to Spiritual power is both simple and yet completely unnatural. It is fall completely at the finished work of Christ; trust in Him fully and completely. And if you want to continue in that power then stop trying to complete yourself. Rather, journey to discover how beautiful the completed work of Christ on the cross is for all of your life.
Essentially what are you putting in your life to complete you? if it is not Christ and Him Crucified you might be short circuiting spiritual power in your life. True Spiritual power.