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Galatians 4:8–20

by Danny Mihailovic last modified Mar 05, 2014 10:16 PM
On a more personal note, the Apostle Paul sought to address what he saw as being the heart of the issue for the Galatian Christians.

Namely that somehow, the Judaizers had managed to unsettle the church in Galatia not only by their erroneous teaching, but by maligning Paul himself. Verse 13 suggests that Paul struggled with some physical infirmity which would have affected his speech and presentation when speaking publicly. Yet in spite of that problem, he states in verse 14, that at the outset, this was never an issue for the Galatian church. In fact they would have “plucked out their eyes for him”. Such was their love for him. What changed now? How did the opposition manage to destabilize these once ardent supporters of Christ’s ambassador? “I am now your enemy,” said Paul. Every preacher of the word of God, and every servant of the Lord knows what this is during the time of their work for the Lord; and it is this. Not all who are in the church are well grounded in the truth. For one reason or another many folk experience constant waves of doubt and confusion both in theology and in practice, tossed about by every “wind of doctrine” and thereby are easily influenced by the latest fad in Christian spirituality. One minute they love the doctrines of grace and the next, they loathe them, or even worse, have no basis of belief whatsoever embracing everything until at last they become agnostic or apostate due to having never been born from above in the first place. Because of this, the preacher who preaches the truth, is popular one day and despised the next. (see verse 14–16).

…and you did not despise my temptation in my flesh, nor did you spurn it. But you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. What then was your blessedness? For I bear you record that, if you were able, plucking out your eyes, you would have given them to me. So then did I become your enemy speaking to you the truth? (Galatians 4:14–16)

This was Paul’s experience, but not his real concern. His real concern was to do with the gospel message itself; the implications; the ramifications; the matter of salvation itself. For these people to have turned back so easily to their former ways, embracing what Paul considered to be “beggarly elements” meant that possibly, all of his hard work had fallen on deaf ears, or shallow hearts. Their desire for the Law again was not so much that they wanted to live Holy Lives before God, for there is nothing wrong with that. But they hungered for what was theirs culturally, historically, namely Judaism or whatever variation of Judaism there may have been under Hellenistic culture, for this gave them status and acceptance rather than the assured persecutions of the Roman Empire along with all who opposed Christ. Paul’s life of suffering was becoming a clear prediction of their futures under the gospel; not a popular concept for anyone then, and not even today.

This great Apostle was not a grand figure of a man neither was he a great public orator by his own admission. He described his disposition as a “Trial” in the flesh. This of course meant more than just a physical malady. The “flesh” in Scripture also means our “fallen nature”. i.e. our sinful bias against God favouring “self”. Paul struggled with this as much as anyone. And he admitted it. (v14). He also pointed out that his enemies used this to alienate him. In verse 17, we read, “They are zealous for you, but not well. But they only desire to shut you out, that you be zealous to them.” This was not Paul looking for popularity, but rather explaining the danger of being easily shifted by charismatic personalities who peddled false doctrine. And so it is even today within the ever confusing circles of “Marketed Christianity” where the latest doctrine or the newest way to worship or the new panacea for our spiritual ills package themselves into attractive benefits; benefits which will solve your family dynamics, make you a great leader, establish you with health and wealth; where you too can look like the newest recruits for the church advertisements, Hollywood smiles, where never a sad face is to be seen, or a lonely heart, a troubled child, an angry teenager…or dare we say it, a Paul, who is tried in the flesh and all but worn out for his love of Christ and his brethren. Is it any wonder that Paul said this. “O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Christ has been evidently set forth as crucified among you?” We are moved so easily by the slightest breeze of doubt. Stay the course. Look to Jesus afresh every day.