The Experience of the Galatians Page 3 of 3 (series: Lessons on Galatians)
by John Lowe
The Holy Spirit was an obvious possession of new converts, without the outward tokens of the Law. It is the same argument that carried the day for Peter after the conversion of Cornelius—“Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, 'John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?" When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life” (Acts 11.16-18). He also used this argument effectively at Jerusalem—“So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 14.8, 9).
Paul speaks of these “miracles” as if they were a matter of unquestioned notoriety among those he addressed, which is an undesigned proof of their genuineness. The miracles would probably have included those supernatural evidences of the Spirit which were common in the early churches, such as healing the sick and afflicted. But here the “miracles” may refer to the working of the Spirit on moral qualities which undoubtedly included the patented moral transformation of many of the converts.
You will recall that Paul’s apostleship was attacked by the Judaizers. They said he was a Johnny-come-lately apostle. He was not with Christ during His ministry but came along later. Paul reminded the Galatians that
he was the one who had come into their country, preached the Word of God to them, and worked miracles among them. He did not do it by the works of the Law—Paul would be very careful to say that. He preached the Lord Jesus Christ as the ONE who died for them, was raised again, and in whom they placed their trust. When He did that, a miraculous thing took place. They were regenerated. Paul had the evidence he was an apostle. In that day signs were given to the apostles. As I understand it, the apostles had all the gifts mentioned in the Scriptures; they certainly had all the sign gifts. Paul could perform miracles. He could heal the sick. He could raise the dead. Simon Peter, one of the original Twelve, could do that also. To do this was the mark of an apostle in that day.
Now the apostles have given us the Word of God. We have a faith that is built upon Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone, and a faith built upon the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets. That which gave credence to the truth of their message was their ability to perform miracles. They had the sign gifts. (After they had given us the Word of God, the sign gifts disappeared. In fact, I believe they disappeared with the apostles.) The important thing for us to note here is that Paul came to the Galatians not as a Pharisee preaching the Law, but as an apostle preaching Jesus Christ. That was something these people had experienced, and Paul rested on that.