“Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law or by hearing with faith…” (Gal. 3:5)
The Galatians had received the Holy Spirit just as all Christians do. Obviously, from what Paul writes they had also witnessed miraculous events within the body of Christ. This is a major question for the Christians Jews who want to go back to the law. The Holy Spirit did not come to them as a result of keeping the law. The miracles they witnessed God doing were not the result of keeping the law. Paul wants them to express the obvious. Was it by works of the law or a result of their faith in Jesus Christ?
Make no mistake, Paul is going somewhere with this. Keep in mind that Paul is a champion of justification by faith rather than works. What he is going to do is point out that faith as a justifying cause preceded works of the law. First, though he wants them to be honest in their appraisal of the presence of God in their lives and in their churches.
Faith comes as a result of hearing Paul declares in Romans and the hearing is a result of someone teaching. In the Galatian case, Paul was the preacher/teacher that brought them the true gospel. Their response had been to believe and trust, thus gaining faith. That faith had led them to leave their old practices of keeping the law and replacing that with following the gospel as a way of life. By doing that they had received the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit had been active in their lives. Paul knows that when they answer this question it will remind them of the truth of their own faith rather than works.
Faith and works have long been the subject of debate in the Christian world. From the early days of the church, the trend moved to works, not of the law but works to obtain righteousness just the same. When the Reformation came in the late middle ages it grew out of debate over this very issue. The Protestants protested salvation by works and advocated salvation by faith. This became a faith alone proclamation. Today, that argument is still going on. The question of salvation is still one of faith or works. Paul wants it clear that justification cannot be obtained by doing anything.
Here is a good place to point out that sometimes this faith only pushes out faith with obedience as if obedience was work. In that sense, belief is a work (John 6:29). So, repentance and oral confession of Jesus are not works of salvation but rather obedience to the word. The same is true of baptism. Baptism, like trusting in Jesus, repenting of sins, confession of Christ as Savior and living the Christian life are all acts of obedience rather than works of some law. Couldn’t be saved without obedience before the law, during the law, and after the law.
Task for Today: If you have been trying to earn God’s favor by doing things you can stop now. God is not interested in your efforts because after you have done everything you could do you would still be a sinner and need Jesus to save you. Put your trust in Him and God’s saving grace. Believe in Jesus, repent of your sinful life, tell the world about him, and be buried in the watery grave of baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Not works, trust, and obedience.