21 days of prayer and fasting - Galatians 3
Paul’s passion to rescue the Galatians from legalism spills out into strong language in this chapter. Not the sort of coarse strong language he warns against elsewhere (Eph 4:29 and Col 4:8). But he wants to shock them. They are subject to witchcraft.
We might think of witchcraft as curses and spells. Some think of potions and of witches even as figures of fun. But it is deadly serious.
There are different forms of witchcraft and very often people engaged in it try to keep secretive, but the essence is trying to control events and people through spiritual forces. It is about power, but not the clean and wholesome power of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit fills us to love and serve God and others. Demonic spirits, however, seek to manipulate and control people. The good news is that Jesus has defeated them at the Cross (Col 2:15) - so when we are in Christ, spells, curses and witchcraft have no effect on us (Prov 26:2 gives a nice picture of this).
So how did the Galatians become subject to witchcraft? By losing sight of the Cross (v2) and by trying to rely on obeying the Law rather than trusting God. In v3 Paul asks quite plainly whether they think they can be made perfect by the flesh, when they started their journey of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Witchcraft or sorcery is listed among the “works of the flesh” in Gal 5:20. So what does Paul mean by the flesh?
The word has a spectrum of meanings. It can be used in a neutral way just to mean meat. Or it can mean more and include the body. Or it can mean more than the body and include our natural humanity. It can be either good or bad. But Paul often uses it in a particular way, meaning natural humanity independent of God. That is why it is such a bad thing to live “in the flesh” instead of dependant on the Holy Spirit for everything.
We become Christians by faith, looking to God and trusting Him. We mature as Christians in the same way. But it is ever so tempting to try to help the Spirit along by using our own efforts.
Even in this 21 day period of fasting and prayer some people can follow the encouragement as though it is a law and as though God is obliged to do certain things for us as a result of the religious things we have done for Him! But God hates religion! It is witchcraft, trying to manipulate Him or use spiritual forces to get our own way. Instead He invites us into relationship with Him, seeing the unseen by faith, so that prayer and fasting are glorious ways of positioning ourselves to hear His voice better and to be filled with His Spirit afresh so we can grow in our knowledge of Him and mature in our faith.
It is really good news that we are now no longer under law but are sons of God through faith. See verses 25 to 29. Even the daughters are ‘sons’ in that they inherit equally! And the result is that all human barriers between different kinds of people are destroyed.