You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Gal 3:1-6).
Strikingly, in this passage that is meant to be decisive for his letter’s whole argument, Paul hangs his theology of salvation by grace through faith on the Galatians’ experience of the Spirit, asking them if they received the Spirit by works of the law or by faith.
Calvinists assert that the Spirit must regenerate a person before he can believe. This passage not only avoids any mention of such a notion, but actually undermines it. The passage expressly indicates that it is by faith that people receive the Spirit, reinforcing that Union with Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit are conditioned on faith. Since the only means whereby a person receives Christ’s newness of life (regeneration) is through Union with Christ, then regeneration itself is dependent upon faith. There is no life apart from Christ’s life, and no one share’s Christ’s life except through Union with Christ, and no one is united with Christ apart from faith.
Calvinists have a very narrow view of regeneration, one that fails to appreciate regeneration as a sharing of Christ’s newness of life, and one that completely re-writes John 3:16 to say that God so loved (the elect) that he gave his only Son that (those who are irresistibly called) receive eternal life, enabling them to believe on him and not perish. Gal 3:1-6 assumes a correct reading of John 3:16, that is, those who believe receive life, as it affirms that a person receives the life-giving Spirit through faith.