Imagine that next year during the State of the Union Address, President Obama announced that he has instructed NASA to begin developing new technology.
“My fellow Americans, we sit at the dawn of a new age. This past year, the United States began private talks with leaders from the world’s 25 largest nations. Following recommendations from the international community, I have directed NASA to begin research and development on a global infrastructure that will change our planet for all of time. Our goal, our dream, our hope, is that by the year 2100, we will have rockets attached to the earth’s crust that will generate enough thrust to be able to rotate the Earth on its axis. Following that project, we foresee the potential to develop a similar system to propel the Earth into an orbit around the sun. As an international community, we will be investing approximately 100 quindecillion dollars over the next 85 years. In dollars, one with fifty zeros behind it may sound like a lot of money, but that is a small price to pay to accomplish such a great task for our children and our children’s children.”
That would be incredible! Technology that could rotate the earth on its axis, or send the earth in orbit around the sun, what an amazing idea!! Except for one thing…the earth already spins on its axis…and it also already orbits the sun. Spending 100 quindecillion dollars on research and development and implementation is absolute nonsense. We would be trying to accomplish something that already was a reality. How would we know if we had actually succeeded? If the earth is already spinning, would we ever be able to say, “We are now making the earth spin.”? It is ridiculous to imagine that human beings should try to match something as powerful as the rotation of the planet. I think I would be one of the seated, non-applauding snobs during that moment in the State of the Union Address.
When we arrive at Galatians 3, we see that Paul is arguing a similar point. Instead of Paul saying that the Galatians were trying to attach rockets to the planet, Paul explains that someone tricked the Galatians into thinking that after the Spirit of God converted them, they should try to perfect themselves in their own power. This was simply incorrect. Rather, the same power that brought them into salvation, now worked in them to sanctify them. The Holy Spirit had drawn them in and converted them, and had given them faith to believe the message of the gospel. Like the earth orbits the sun with power not its own, these believers had been drawn into a path of holiness and righteousness by a power that was not their own. To imagine that it was through their own wisdom and “good enough” efforts that they would become more pleasing to God, was to ignore the reality of their conversion and their current, helpless, sinful state.
Paul continued to argue that we as believers must surrender ourselves to the power and working of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, in our modern age, this concept is often confused and muddled. Just as the force that spins the earth on its axis has a specific purpose and accomplishment in the life of the planet, so the Holy Spirit works and accomplishes things with a very specific purpose in the life of the believer. In conversion, it is the Holy Spirit that opens the eyes of the unconverted to see the truth of God, that conviction of sin and repentance might come. Similarly, following conversion, the believer can rely on the Holy Spirit to continue to perfect and grow him, by illumining the truth of God as found in Scripture. The sword of the Spirit, His tool, His implement in the life of the believer is the Word of God.
Food For Thought: Why did Paul call the Galatians efforts “foolish” in Galatians 3:3?