Summary: Paul’s spirits here reminds us that there must be a gentle side to every faithful servant of God. No matter how serious the doctrine he may have to defend or how corrupting the immorality he may have to expose, he dare not lose his sensitivity and compas
Till Christ be Formed in You
Until this point in the letter to the church in Galatia, Paul’s approach has been confrontational and impersonal. He has been writing like a scholar or debater, marshalling every possible argument and illustration to get his message across. He has taken the stance of a determined lawyer in a court, giving a irrefutable presentation.
But the apostle’s approach changes dramatically here in verse 12 of chapter 4. His anger at the Judaizers subsides, and he moves from the purely doctrinal to the more personal. In fact, verses 12-20 are the strongest words of personal affection Paul uses in any of his letters. He does not so much preach or teach as simply pour out his heart in personal exhortation. He says, in effect, “I care about you more than I can say. I love you dearly just as you have loved me dearly. Please listen to what I’m saying, because it’s so vitally essential.
Paul’s source of gentleness was Christ Himself. Paul’s spirits here reminds us that there must be a gentle side to every faithful servant of God. No matter how serious the doctrine he may have to defend or how corrupting the immorality he may have to expose, he dare not lose his sensitivity and compassion.
In the course of his intimate outpouring to the Galatians here, Paul first appeals to them, then fondly remembers their loving acceptance of him, warns them about the ulterior motives of the Judaizers, and finally tells them of his desire to be with them again in person.
I. His Appeal to Them (v. 12a)
“I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are.”
• Paul’s appeal to his brethren in Christ was for them to recognize and live by the spiritual freedom all believers have in God’s grace.
o That is the central truth of the letter to Galatia, a truth he had previously preached and taught to the Galatians but one the Judaizers had seduced them into doubting and forsaking.
o I Beg of you,…become as I am, he pleaded, free from trying to earn salvation by keeping the law and free from having to live by its outward symbols, ceremonies, rituals, and restrictions.
o “I died to the Law, that I might live to God”, is what Paul had already written to them in 2:19.
o While all believers are called to live in obedience to God’s moral standards that never change (such living is the evidence of salvation), they can no more live by the law than they could have been saved by it.
o Later in Gal. 5:1 Paul writes, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
• For now, Paul presents no more arguments but rather gives a heartfelt exhortation.
o You know how I have always lived since receiving Christ, Paul says in effect, “and how I lived while I ministered among you. That is the way I want you to live as well.”
• The reason for Paul’s appeal is also personal: because I also have become as you are.
o When he came to Christ he had torn away every shred of legalism, in which he had been entangled more tightly than perhaps few other Jews of his day.
o Although he now willingly became like a Jew when among Jews and like a Gentile when among Gentiles, becoming “all things to all men, that [he might] by all means save some”, Paul never represented himself nor thought of himself as anything but a sinner redeemed by Jesus Christ.
• The Jewish believers in Galatia knew well that Paul had abandoned his former subservience not only to the rabbinic traditions but even to the ceremonial law of Moses.
o Many of those believers, like Paul himself, had paid a dear price when they turned from Judaism to Christ, being ostracized from their families and synagogues and treated as if dead.
o Yet they were now being intimidated by the Judaizers into returning to their former bondage under the law.
o Paul here is telling them, “I introduced you to freedom, don’t turn back to slavery.”
II. His Remembrance of Them (vv. 12b-16)
• Paul makes a rather abrupt change of emphasis here, reminding the Galatians of how rich and deep their personal relationship with him had once been.
• They not only had done him no wrong but had openly and lovingly received him while he was in extremely adverse personal circumstances.
• “How then,” he was wondering, “could you reject me now, after being so accepting of me then?”
• When Paul first went to Galatia, many Jews turned against him when they realized his message was as much for Gentiles as Jews.