Reading through the book of Galatians the other day, I came across this interesting question Paul asks in 3:2:
I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?
Now, Paul’s larger concern here is that this church not be deceived into thinking their salvation or sanctification has anything to do with obedience to the law. They did not enter covenant with Jesus Christ, nor are they sustained in that covenant, because they were/are circumcised.
But the thing that caught my attention in this question has little to do with that larger theological discussion he’s having. Rather, it’s the one he’s NOT having…the one he’s assuming…the one even the Galatians are assuming: That the Spirit’s activity and dwelling among the Galatian church is an objective reality.
When Paul asks this question about the Spirit, his assumption is that the answer will come back unanimously, “by believing what we heard.”
In other words, both Paul and the Galatians are assuming the objective reality of the Spirit in their midst. It is so objective that it is assumed.
This is quite the contrast to the present day church. If someone were to ask the American church, “Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?” we would probably say, “Receive the Spirit? What Spirit? Huh?”
I’m not sure that I have anything theologically profound to say here. I’m in awe of the Spirit’s obvious manifestation to the Galatian church and Paul. And I feel a bit of sorrow that such a manifestation is not nearly as objective in my life…and that so many of us would feel the same way I do.
I would like to be clear here, though. I DON’T think the seeming lack of objective movement by the Spirit in our midst is because we don’t believe the gospel as much as the Galatians did. In fact, quite the contrary, Paul’s problem with the Galatians here is that they don’t believe it like they should…they’ve abandoned it. And yet, even in the midst of it, he can still appeal to the objective reality of the Spirit in their midst.
So why does it seem so different with us? Is the Spirit an objective reality in your life? Your church?