Galatians 3:1-5

The Hearing of Faith

By David M Rogers

Published: July 2010

Table of Contents

Wise v. Foolish

Hearing of Faith

How Does Elohim Work in the Believer?

Galatians 3:1-5

Foolish Galatians!  Who has put you under a spell, not to obey the truth – before whose eyes Messiah was clearly portrayed among you as impaled?  This only I wish to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by works of law, or by the hearing of faith?  Are you so senseless? Having begun in the Spirit, do you now end in the flesh?  Have you suffered so much in vain – if indeed in vain?  Is He, then, who is supplying the Spirit to you and working miracles among you, doing it by works of law, or by hearing of faith?

Wise v. Foolish

Why does Paul call the Galatians "foolish"?  What biblical basis does Paul have to say this?  In the Torah, the people are called foolish who disregard the commandments of Elohim:

They have acted corruptly toward him; to their shame they are no longer his children, but a warped and crooked generation.  Is this the way you repay Yahuwah, O foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you? (Devarim 32:5-6)

And in the Writings, foolish men are those who revile the name of Elohim:

Remember how the enemy has mocked you, Yahuwah, how foolish people have reviled your name. (Psalm 74:18)

They are foolish who do not walk in the truth of Torah.

Yahuwah answered, "This will happen because my people are foolish. They do not know me. They are like children who have no sense. They have no understanding. They are skilled at doing evil. They do not know how to do good." (Yirmyahu 4:22)

The Galatians are said to be foolish because they have strayed away from the teachings of the written Torah.  The reason that the Northern kingdom was taken away into captivity was because they rebelled against Yahuwah and his Covenant.  Thus they were "Galatians" (meaning: "exiles" from Hebrew galut) on account of their rebellion against Torah.  So, Paul calls them "foolish" to remind them that they are repeating the same mistake that caused them to be exiles in the first place.  They are listening to the "false brothers" and submitting to the authority of the Pharisees and their Oral Tradition.

On the other hand, those who are called wise are those who obey the Torah of Elohim

Look! I have taught you rules and right-rulings just as Yahuwah my Elohim told me to do, so that you might carry them out in the midst of the land you are about to enter and possess.  So be sure to do them, because this will testify of your wise understanding to the people who will learn of all these rules and say, "Indeed, this great nation is a very wise people." (Devarim 4:5-6)

Obeying the Torah of Mosheh shows the people to be a very wise and understanding nation. Thus it is with the Galatians.  If they obey the Pharisees and their man-made commandments and traditions, they are a foolish people.  But if they show fidelity to Yahuwah and to his Messiah Yahusha, the people will be showing themselves to be wise and understanding.

Hearing of Faith

Paul next asks a rhetorical question.

This only I wish to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by "works of law" or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:2)

The contrast made here between "works of law" and "hearing of faith" constitutes the central conflict Paul is trying to resolve.  His argument leads us to the simple conclusion that "works of law" is bad, while "hearing of faith" is good.  So let's explore these terms a little more deeply so we can truly know what Paul is teaching.

We saw in the previous section (Galatians 2:11-21) that the "works of law" is an action of a Rabbi or sage that justified the practical manner in which a tradition should be observed.  The “works of law” are those precedents set by rabbis and sages which convert an action, work or practice into law.  When the Oral Torah is unclear about a matter, one may default to the precedent laid down by the actions of a rabbi, to guide you in your experience.  Thus, the "works of the law" were laws created by the Pharisees (and Rabbis after them) which were based on the actions or “works” of a wise one. 

With this in mind, it is easy now to see why Paul puts "works of law" in such a dark light.  Really, who would believe that just because a Pharisee, Rabbi or wise one performs a certain action that this makes that action he performed law for all Israel?  And yet, this is what is commonly taught by many Jews today!  Clearly, no one receives the Holy Spirit by randomly mimicking the actions of a Rabbi!

How, then, does one receive the Holy Spirit?  What is the testimony of Scripture?  In Acts 5, the apostles were being interrogated by the Sanhedrin as to why they were teaching in the name of Yahusha.

The Elohim of our fathers raised Yahusha from the dead-- whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. Elohim exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Yisrael.  We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom Elohim has given to those who obey him. (Acts 5:30-32)

Kepha's response to the Jewish elders is that Yahusha was raised from the dead and was exalted by Elohim to provide repentance and forgiveness to Yisrael.  But he makes a curious statement next.  He says that the Holy Spirit was witness to all those events.  And he says that Elohim gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey him

How can obedience play a part in whom Elohim gives his Spirit?  Christianity teaches that the Holy Spirit is given to people when they "believe," not when they obey.  What does Paul mean when he talks about "hearing of faith"?  Does it have anything to do with obedience, like Acts 5:32 says.  Let's look at the terminology.

“Hearing” comes from the Hebrew shema which means “hear, listen, obey.”  It recalls the well known greatest command of Devarim 6:4: "Hear Israel.  Yahuwah is our Elohim.  Yahuwah is oneAnd you shall love Yahuwah your Elohim with all your mind, with all your life, and with all your strength."  Shema means much more than just hear.  This Hebrew verb is action oriented.  It means "actively hear" or "hear and respond."   Just as Yahusha said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear," which means, "Don't just hear the words being said.  Respond with action and obey."

Next, faith comes from the Hebrew hn"Wma/ (emûnâ) firmness, fidelity, steadiness, steadfastness, trust, loyalty, faithfulness.  This word is used in a marital relationship to express loyalty.  Also, the Hebrew verb usually translated believe is !m;a' (aman) to confirm, support, uphold (Qal); to be established, be faithful (Niphal); to be certain, i.e. to believe in (Hiphil).   So, the word amen is from the Hebrew !mea' (amein) verily, truly, amen.  “To believe in” = “be loyal to,” “support,” “be faithful to.”  “To believe” does not mean to merely “know something to be true.”  It means “to be convinced and committed to…” 

Putting it together, “hearing of belief” means "responding with the obedient action of covenant loyalty."  It implies obedience to the Covenant commandments as a means of showing loyalty to Elohim.  It might be translated the obedience of fidelity.”

So here is what Paul is really asking in this question - if I may paraphrase - "Did you receive the Holy Spirit by following the "works of law" (the teachings of men) or by hearing and obeying Elohim's Word?"  Another way of saying this is, "Did you receive the Spirit by works of Oral Torah or by loyal obedience to the written Scriptures?"

This should not surprise us, because obedience to the commandments is the response of faith, as taught by the Torah.

So realize that Yahuwah your Elohim is The Elohim, the faithful (aman) El who keeps the covenant and the kindness with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, but who pays back those who hate him as they deserve and destroys them. He will not ignore those who hate him but will repay them as they deserve.  So keep the commandments, rules, and right-rulings that I today am commanding you to do.  And when you obey (shema) these right-rulings and are careful to do them, Yahuwah your Elohim will keep the covenant and the kindness with you as he promised your fathers. (Devarim 7:9-12)

Loyalty to Elohim is expressed by loving his and keeping his commandments.  And Yahuwah's response to our obedience is that he fulfills his promises in us.

How Does Elohim Work in the Believer?

Next, Paul goes on to ask,

Are you so senseless? Having begun in the Spirit, do you now end in the flesh?  Have you suffered so much in vain – if indeed in vain?  Is He, then, who is supplying the Spirit to you and working miracles among you, doing it by works of Torah, or by hearing of belief (the obedience of faithfulness to his covenant commands)?  (Galatians 3:3-5)

For Paul, this is a no brainer!  (Are you so senseless?)  Since Elohim gives his Spirit to those who obey him, why would Elohim change course?  Obedience is the response of faith.  Therefore, it would make no sense at all to be saved by obedience to his word, and then proceed to turn to the commandments of men to stay in the favor of Elohim.  That would be completely non-sense, wouldn't it?

How does Yah work in us – through our man-made traditions, or through our obedience to his word?  Since Elohim gives his Spirit to those who obey him, then a proper response would be to continue obeying him.