How Did You Receive the Spirit?
1O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 7Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 10For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
As the Galatians stand on the verge of making (or perhaps may have already made) some rather shocking choices regarding the faith, Paul pulls out all the stops. His language is designed to get their attention as he calls them “foolish Galatians!”. We’ve all made foolish choices in our lives and the consequences of those choices is rarely pleasant.
Next comes a discussion that is of vast importance when it comes to our faith. Did we entice the Holy Spirit into our lives by good works, or did He come to us by His own will? This question begins and ends the entire discussion, as the Galatians were heading toward thinking they could gain the Kingdom of God by their own actions (circumcision). This is a dangerous theology, for sure. Paul very persuasively points them to Abraham, who, at the time of his calling by God, was a Gentile. Abraham didn’t earn God’s invitation or work out his own righteousness by good works. No, God just called him, and Abraham answered. Abraham was declared righteous by God through His own power, not by Abraham’s works. The same is true for those who believed during the first century and for us today. Verses 13 & 14 say it all: 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
So did you receive the Holy Spirit (and thus salvation through Jesus Christ) because you invited Him into your life? No. You received Him because He came to you. Belief in your own works to save you is a foolish and wrong understanding. The words are harsh, but that doesn’t make them untrue.