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What does “who has bewitched you?” mean (Galatians 3:1)?

who has bewitched you

In Galatians 3:1, the apostle Paul accuses the Galatian believers of being “bewitched.” He says, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” (ESV). To understand the meaning of the word bewitched, we must review the context of Galatians 3:1–9.

False teachers had persuaded the Galatians that Gentiles should practice circumcision and other ceremonies of the Mosaic Law to be justified before God (Galatians 5:2). This false teaching directly contradicted Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith (see Romans 5:1–2; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 2:16; 3:11–14). For this reason, Paul reminds the Galatians of the truth he had proclaimed to them.

To express the absurdity of abandoning the truth, Paul uses the words foolish and bewitched (Galatians 3:1, ESV). The Greek word translated as “bewitched” means “to exercise evil power over someone, like putting them under a spell.” The false teachers exercised evil power over the Galatians by luring them away from the truth. It was as if the Galatians had been bewitched or spellbound.

The false teachers in the Galatian churches used what seemed to be wise words, presented eloquently. This helped with the “bewitching” of the Christians there. However, when Paul preached the gospel, he did not use “words of eloquent wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:17, ESV), nor did he use “plausible words of wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:4, ESV). He simply preached “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2, ESV). The crucifixion teaches us that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. If salvation could be achieved by works, “then Christ died for no purpose” (Galatians 2:21, ESV).

As Paul rebukes the Galatian believers, he uses a series of rhetorical questions to communicate the irrationality of seeking justification by works (Galatians 3:2–6). The Galatians did not receive the Holy Spirit by works but by faith. It is through the Spirit that the Galatians are sanctified and empowered to proclaim the gospel—the same gospel they had abandoned. Their own experience, then, testifies to the fact that justification is by faith rather than works.

The Old Testament example of Abraham also teaches that justification is by faith (see Genesis 15:6). Paul says, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Galatians 3:6, NLT). The word counted means that Abraham was not inherently righteous. Indeed, no one is righteous (Romans 3:10). God counted or declared Abraham as righteous because Abraham trusted and believed in God. This is the doctrine of imputed righteousness, wherein God imputes or attributes the righteousness of His Son to believers: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV). In doing so, He not only makes us “sons [and daughters] of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7), but children of God: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1, ESV).

Paul’s use of the word bewitched (Galatians 3:1), then, is a reality check for the Galatians. False teachers do not care about the flock. They only care about themselves: “It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ” (Galatians 6:12, ESV). Therefore, instead of continuing in sin, error, and deception, the Galatians should examine themselves (see 1 Corinthians 13:5) and return to “the Shepherd and Overseer of [their] souls” (1 Peter 2:25, ESV).

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What does “who has bewitched you?” mean (Galatians 3:1)?
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This page last updated: April 30, 2024