Because of their Loss of Joy. Page 1 of 3 (series: Lessons on Galatians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

November 16, 2013

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians
Tom Lowe

Chapter III.C.1.b: Because of their Loss of Joy (4:12-20)

Galatians 4.12-20 (KJV)
12 Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.
13 Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.
14 And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
15 Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.
16 Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?
17 They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.
18 But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.
19 My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,
20 I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.


12 Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.

Although he was a man of strong convictions and many conflicts, Paul had a genius for developing deep and lasting friendships. Between him and his spiritual children there was always shared feelings and reactions in times of suffering and victory (2 Cor. 1.3-11).

“Be as I am” is better translated become as I am. In Galatians 2.19-20 , Paul told them the kind of man he is, and now he asks them to be like that. He has a right to expect this because he too has relinquished all his special privileges as a member of God’s chosen people, and has put himself on the same level as the Gentiles in respect to the grace of God (Gal. 2.15, 16 ). Through faith in Christ he and they had taken their place on common ground which required them to give up all reliance upon the Law as a way of salvation. The Galatians had been listening to false teachers, and they were looking upon Paul as an enemy because he told them the truth. Paul is saying, “We are all on the same plane. We are all believers, and we are all in the body of Christ. In view of this we ought to be very polite to one another.” He challenged the Galatians, “Become like me, for I became like you,” that is, “Become free of the Law as I am, for after my conversion I became like the Gentiles, no longer living under the Law.” Paul had been a proud, self-righteous Pharisee, trusting in his own righteousness to save him (Phil. 3.4-6 ). But when he came to Christ, he abandoned all efforts to save himself, trusting wholly in God’s grace (Phil. 3.7-9 ). He urged the Galatians to follow his example and avoid the legalism of the Judaizers. The irony is that the Galatians were putting themselves under the Law after their conversions.

Paul was a wonderful spiritual father; he knew how to balance rebuke with love. The apostle desires that they would be of one mind with him with respect to the Law of Moses, as well as being united in love for one another. This is something that all of us should bear in mind: When we must criticize or correct others, we should be sure to convince them that our reproofs come from a sincere desire to honor God and religion, and help them maintain a good relationship with God and the Church.

“Ye have not injured me at all” is a reference to his first visit to the churches in Galatia. However much he was hurt by them now, he recalled that the Galatians were very kind to him and accepted his preaching at that time, while the Jews persecuted him. This relationship contrasts with the hostilities described in Acts 13.45, 50 ; 14.4-6, 19 which would be described accurately by the term “injured.” But the treatment he received from the Christian community on those occasions was exactly the opposite. The term “injured”, however, means more than physical injury, since the emotional injury done to him might have been worse than the physical. Anything that threatened the stability and hindered the progress of his churches was a wrong done to him. He wanted to return to that relationship which he enjoyed with them at their first meeting. He is turning from “spanking” (see Gal 4.8-11) to “embracing” as he remind the believers of their love for him and his love for them. At one point their love was so great that they were willing to sacrifice anything for him, but now he had become their enemy. The Judaizers had come in and stolen their affection.

13 Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.

Bible students wish Paul had been more explicit here, because we are not quite sure what he is talking about when he mentions his “infirmity of the flesh.” He is referring to the first time he visited them. At that time he was suffering from some physical affliction. Apparently Paul had not intended to visit them, but was forced to do so by this physical malady. We can only speculate as to what this was. There are a couple of diseases that have been suggested, one of which is probably the ailment he calls his “thorn in the flesh.”

The first possibility is malaria, which he may have contracted in the costal lowlands of Pamphylia. That could explain why Paul and Barnabas did not preach at Perga, a city in Pamphylia (Acts 13.13, 14 ). The cooler and healthier weather in Galatia and especially at Pisidian Antioch, where Paul went when he left Perga, would have brought some relief to the fever caused by malaria. Although malaria is a serious and debilitating disease, its attacks are not continuous; Paul could have ministered between bouts of fever.

The second possibility is an affliction of the eyes (v. 4.15), which is probably his thorn in the flesh as we will see as we read on.

Although Paul was pained now by the Galatians placing themselves under the Law, he recalls that the Galatians did him no injury during his first visit, but they overlooked his “infirmity of the flesh,” which made him a sick man and caused him to remain with them longer than he planned. Whatever it was, it must have made Paul somewhat repulsive to look at, because he commends the Galatians for the way they received him in spite of the way he looked. Paul did not leave their area until he had acquainted them with the good news of the Gospel.

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