Life-Study of Galatiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Scripture Reading: Gal. 3:2, 5, 3, 20, 9, 14, 22-25; Rom. 7:10-11, 24; 8:2, 6, 10-11, 30
Galatians 3:2 says, “This only I wish to learn from you, Did you receive the Spirit by the works of law or by the hearing of faith?” Surely we have received the Spirit by the hearing of faith, not by the works of law.
In 3:5 Paul goes on to ask the Galatian believers, “He therefore Who is supplying to you the Spirit and doing works of power among you, is it by the works of law or by the hearing of faith?” God continues to supply the Spirit to us also through the hearing of faith, not at all by the works of law.
God’s New Testament economy is a matter of supplying the Spirit and receiving the Spirit. On God’s side, He supplies the Spirit; on our side, we receive the Spirit. The supplying of the Spirit and the receiving of the Spirit do not take place once for all. On the contrary, they are continual. According to 3:2, we have already received the Spirit. But according to 3:5, God continues to supply the Spirit to us. Day by day God supplies the Spirit, and day by day we receive this supply of the Spirit. Therefore, by our experience we know that the supplying of the Spirit and the receiving of the Spirit take place continually.
Both the supplying of the Spirit and the receiving of the Spirit are by the hearing of faith, not by the works of law. The law was the basis for the relationship between man and God in God’s Old Testament economy (3:23); faith is the unique requirement for man to contact God in His New Testament economy (Heb. 11:6). Law is related to the flesh (Rom. 7:5) and depends on the effort of the flesh, the very flesh that is the expression of “I.” Faith is related to the Spirit, and trusts in the operation of the Spirit, the very Spirit who is the realization of Christ. In the Old Testament, “I” and the flesh played an important role in keeping the law. In the New Testament, Christ and the Spirit take over the position of “I” and the flesh, and faith replaces law that we may live Christ by the Spirit. To keep the law by the flesh is man’s natural way; it is in the darkness of man’s concept and results in death and wretchedness (Rom. 7:10-11, 24). To receive the Spirit by faith is God’s revealed way; it is in the light of God’s revelation and issues in life and glory (Rom. 8:2, 6, 10-11, 30). Hence, we must treasure faith, not the works of law. It is by the hearing of faith that we have received the Spirit that we may participate in God’s promised blessing and live Christ.
In 3:22-25 we see a contrast between law and faith. According to 3:23, “before faith came we were guarded under law, being shut up unto the faith which was about to be revealed.” This verse indicates clearly that there was a time when faith came and was revealed. According to verses 24 and 25, now that faith has come we are no longer under the law as our child-conductor. Faith and law cannot co-exist. Before faith came, we were under law. But now that faith has come and has been revealed, this faith replaces law.
In fundamental Christianity it is commonly taught that the law has been replaced by grace. Theological terms such as the dispensation of law and the dispensation of grace are used to point out this distinction. According to this understanding, the Old Testament was the dispensation of law, whereas the New Testament is the dispensation of grace. Hence, grace is versus law and replaces law. But have you ever heard that faith has come to replace law and that faith is versus law? It is possible even to say that in the Old Testament there was a dispensation of law, but in the New Testament there is a dispensation of faith. The dispensation of grace is also the dispensation of faith. When grace came, faith came also. Both grace and faith came with the coming of Jesus Christ.
What a contrast there is between the works of law and the hearing of faith! We must distinguish between a working Christian and a hearing Christian. What kind of Christian are you? We all should declare that we are hearing Christians, not working Christians. To hear is a great blessing. In the meetings of the church we come together for the hearing of faith. By this hearing we receive the supply of the Spirit.
If we would understand the meaning of the hearing of faith, we need to know what faith is and also what grace is. Both grace and faith refer to the same thing. Grace is on God’s side, but faith is on our side. As we have pointed out, grace is the Triune God processed to be everything to us. As we hear of this grace, we spontaneously have faith.
If I were preaching the gospel to primitive people who had never heard of God, Christ, the Spirit, the cross, redemption, salvation, or eternal life, I would tell them that the true God is a loving and lovable God. I would go on to tell them the story of how God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to accomplish redemption for us by dying on the cross. I would continue by telling them how wonderful Christ is. I would want them to know about His death on the cross and how He shed His blood so that we might be forgiven. I would tell them that through Christ’s death and resurrection, the divine life within Him has been released. I would also tell them that now Christ, the living One, is the life-giving Spirit who is waiting to be received. Those who hear such a gospel message would spontaneously have the hearing of faith. The word that I would preach would be a word of grace. But once they have heard such a word, in their experience it would become the faith by which they believe.
When people hear of the grace of God in the preaching of the gospel, something rises up within them to appreciate what they have heard. The grace presented to them becomes in them the faith by which they believe. Spontaneously they begin to appreciate God, Christ, and the Spirit. They appreciate what Christ has done in accomplishing redemption. This appreciation is faith. Faith comes when they begin to appreciate what they hear in the gospel.
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