Summary: Exposition of Gal 4:12-20 about Paul’s heart for the Galatians to see Christ formed in them.
Text: Galatians 4:12-20, Title: A Glimpse of a Shepherd’s Heart Date/Place: NRBC, 4/15/07, AM
A. Opening illustration: Lynn Anderson, in "They Smell Like Sheep relates this story: “Several years ago in Palestine, Carolyn and I rode a tour bus through Israel’s countryside nearly mesmerized as the tour guide explained the scenery, the history, and the lifestyle. In his description, he included a heart-warming portrayal of the ancient shepherd/sheep relationship. He expounded on how the shepherd builds a relationship with his sheep—how he feeds them and gently cares for them. He pointed out that the shepherd doesn’t drive the sheep but leads them, and that the shepherd does not need to be harsh with them, because they hear his voice and follow. And so on… He then explained how on a previous tour things had backfired for him as he was giving this same speech about sheep and shepherds. In the midst of spinning his pastoral tale, he suddenly realized he had lost his audience. They were all staring out the bus window at a guy chasing a ‘herd’ of sheep. He was throwing rocks at them, whacking them with sticks, and siccing the sheep dog on them. The sheep-driving man in the field had torpedoed the guide’s enchanting narrative. The guide told us that he had been so agitated that he jumped off the bus, ran into the field, and accosted the man, ‘Do you understand what you have just done to me?’ he asked. ‘I was spinning a charming story about the gentle ways of shepherds, and here you are mistreating, hazing, and assaulting these sheep! What is going on?’ For a moment, a bewildered look froze on the face of the poor sheep-chaser, then the light dawned and he blurted out, ‘Man. You’ve got me all wrong. I’m not a shepherd. I’m a butcher’” This poor unwitting fellow had just provided the tour guide and all of us with a perfect example of what a ‘good shepherd’ is not.”
B. Background to passage: After speaking of their adoption as sons in the early part of this chapter, and encouraging them to act like it, not returning to bondage under the law, Paul warns them of turning away from the gospel of grace. This is the beginning of the transition from theological argument to practical application of these truths. And what Paul does is beg and plead with them in a pastoral sense not do turn away from grace. And while there is no commendation in the letter, there is obviously a great concern that Paul has for them. This gives us some understanding to the heart of Paul, and to the relationship that a pastor should have to the flock, and vice versa.
C. Main thought: In this text we will see four aspects of Paul’s concern as a shepherd to this faltering flock.
A. Understanding and Knowledge
1. In this portion of the letter Paul expresses an intimate knowledge of these people. It is obvious that he had spent a considerable amount of time with them. Maybe he could picture some of their faces as he wrote. He said that “I have become like you.” In this he meant a Jew becoming a Gentile, but I think we can stretch it based on the rest of this passage. As a shepherd he also had a good knowledge of what was going on in the congregation. He spoke of the Judaizers “courting” the believers. He knew about their intentions and motivations. He was wise and discerning in the situation. The Hebrew word for preacher also meant one who gathers knowledge and wisdom.
2. Pro 27:23, Ps 78:72,
3. Illustration: Marriage is also hindered without understanding and knowledge between spouses. Formulated by Einstein as his Theory of Relativity. “Do you understand this theory?” It was a bad moment for me, but I did not hesitate in replying, “No, sir.” You could have heard a pin drop. I braced myself and waited. And then the slow words of the professor: “Neither do I, Mr. MacArthur. Section dismissed.” -Gen. Douglas MacArthur
4. You can see that there is to be an open and honest relationship between the sheep and the shepherd. And this really applies to anyone who is ministering to someone else. Even in cases of sin, such as this present issue, there is to be transparency and honesty. Without good knowledge and honest communication, genuine Christian fellowship cannot be achieved. And that is hard for some of us. Not everyone just tells everybody everything on there minds. There should be a respect for the office and the person of the shepherd, but not a difference in class. We are all brethren together, and I am just like one of you,
B. Fondness and Affection
1. We also see that Paul had a great fondness for them and genuine affection toward them. He remembered how they received him, even as Christ, still being impressed. He testified that they would have given him their own eyes to fix his infirmity if they could. Later he called them my dear children, speaking as a mother; using a word that was a term of endearment. Finally he told them that he longed to be with them, so that he wouldn’t have to speak so harshly. Paul genuinely love these believers, and it seemed evident that at one point they loved him too.