Life-Study of Galatiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Chapter three of Galatians is crucial, but it is also extremely difficult to understand. It is one of the most difficult chapters in the New Testament. Therefore, it is not easy to explain in a few sentences what this chapter reveals. As we read this important chapter, we should not take it for granted, assuming that we understand all the terms used by Paul. For example, in this chapter Paul refers to the hearing of faith (v. 2). We should not assume that we understand this term.
In 3:1—4:31 we see a basic contrast between the Spirit by faith and flesh by law. In this contrast we have two sets of opposites: the Spirit and the flesh as one set, and faith and law as another. The law goes along with the flesh, whereas faith accompanies the Spirit. Hence, the Spirit is by faith, and the law is by flesh.
The first two chapters of Galatians may be regarded somewhat as the outer edge of this book. Chapter three, however, is the center of the book, its inner core. In this central section of Galatians is presented the contrast between the Spirit and the flesh, and also the contrast between faith and law. Therefore, it is correct to say that the subject of chapters three and four is the Spirit by faith versus the flesh by law. To have this understanding of these chapters is to have something of great value. Apart from seeing this contrast, we have no way to understand what these chapters reveal.
As we come to 3:1-14, we see that the Spirit is the blessing of the promise by faith in Christ. Here we have the Spirit, the blessing, the promise, the faith, and Christ. The Spirit is the blessing, the blessing is of the promise, the promise is by faith, and faith is in Christ. What does it mean to say that the Spirit is the blessing and that the blessing is of the promise? What does it mean that the promise is by faith? Understanding such matters is not easy. Nevertheless, these are the very matters to which we must pay attention as we consider these chapters.
In 3:1-5 Paul refers to the Spirit three times. In verse 2 he asks, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of law or by the hearing of faith?” In verse 3 he goes on to ask, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Then in verse 5 Paul asks whether the Galatian believers are supplied the Spirit by works of law or by the hearing of faith. Therefore, the Spirit is a crucial matter in 3:1-5.
Another crucial matter is the hearing of faith. Paul mentions the hearing of faith both with respect to receiving the Spirit (v. 2) and to God’s supplying the Spirit (v. 5). Both the receiving of the Spirit and the supplying of the Spirit are related to the hearing of faith. Doctrinally speaking, the hearing of faith is of greater importance here than the Spirit, for Paul’s point is the contrast between the works of law and the hearing of faith. Although the hearing of faith is of such vital importance, it is neglected by many readers of Galatians, who either ignore this matter or take it for granted. Rarely does anyone seek to know what actually is the hearing of faith.
In Romans 8:2 we see the relationship between the Spirit of life and Christ: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed me from the law of sin and of death.” What does it mean to say that the Spirit of life is in Christ? Traditional teaching would lead us to believe that the Spirit and Christ are separate and distinct Persons. But if the Spirit is a Person separate from Christ, how can the Spirit be in Christ? Some Christian teachers say that Christ the Son, the second Person of the Trinity, is sitting on the throne in the heavens and that the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, is now working within us. In contrast to the traditional teaching that the Spirit and Christ are separate and distinct, the Bible tells us that the Spirit is in Christ.
The Lord’s answer to Philip’s question in John 14 helps us to understand this matter. When Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father and it suffices us” (v. 8), the Lord answered, “Am I so long a time with you, and you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father. How is it that you say, Show us the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words which I speak to you, I do not speak from Myself; but the Father Who abides in Me, He does His works” (vv. 9-10). The Lord’s word indicates clearly that the Father and the Son are not two separate Persons. On the contrary, the Father is in the Son, and the Son is in the Father. They cannot be separated. Furthermore, the Son was sent from with the Father (John 6:46, Gk.). On the one hand, He was sent from God; on the other hand, He was always with God. The Son did not actually leave the Father; neither was the Father separated from the Son. Therefore, the Lord said, “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me” (John 14:11).
The principle is the same concerning the relationship of Christ and the Spirit as the relationship between Christ the Son and the Father. The fact that the Spirit of life is in Christ means that an intrinsic relationship exists among the Three of the Godhead. The Son is the Son, and the Father is the Father. Nevertheless, the Father is in the Son, and the Son is in the Father. Likewise, while the Son is the Son and the Spirit is the Spirit, yet the Spirit is in the Son. This indicates that the Three of the Triune God cannot be separated.
A further indication of this truth is found in Romans 8:9-10. In these verses Paul says, “But you are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any one has not the Spirit of Christ, he is not of Him. And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is life because of righteousness.” In these verses we read of the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, and Christ. These titles all denote one reality—the all-inclusive Spirit. The Spirit of God is God, the Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of God, and Christ Himself is the Spirit of Christ. Christ is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of God is God Himself. All these titles refer to the all-inclusive life-giving Spirit. This One is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of life, Christ, and God.
In Romans 8:2 and 9 there are three titles of the Spirit: the Spirit is the Spirit of life, the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of Christ. Hence, the Spirit is of life, of God, and of Christ. Certainly these titles do not refer to three Spirits. It is utterly wrong to say that the Spirit of life is separate from the Spirit of God or that the Spirit of God is distinct from the Spirit of Christ. On the contrary, the one Spirit is the Spirit of life, of God, and of Christ. Life, God, and Christ are not three separate entities or substances. Rather, life is God, God is Christ, and Christ is life. Therefore, the Spirit of life is the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of God is the Spirit of Christ. These three are one entity, the all-inclusive Spirit.
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