Because of their Loss of Joy. Page 3 of 3 (series: Lessons on Galatians)
by John Lowe
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prov. 27.6). Paul had proved his love for the Galatians by telling them the truth; but they would not accept it. They were enjoying the kisses of the Judaizers, not realizing that these kisses were leading them into bondage and sorrow. Christ had made them sons and heirs, but they were rapidly becoming slaves and beggars. In our contemporary society, many people do not want the preacher to preach the truth from the pulpit. They would much rather he say something complementary that would smooth their feathers and make them feel good. We all like to have our backs rubbed, and there is a lot of back-rubbing from the contemporary pulpit instead of the declaration of the truth.
It is clear that the apostle did not incur their enmity for telling them the truth on his first visit, but his words here imply that it happened after that and before his writing this letter, which would mean that it occurred at his second visit (Acts 18.23 ).
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.
A free translation of verses 17 and 18 would have Paul saying in effect: “They unfairly compete for your favor, because they want to exclude you from the fellowship so that you will seek to be associated with them. Now it is good to be sought after for good motives, but this is not always the case, and you should adhere to the Gospel I taught you even when I am not with you.” Paul charges his opponents with ulterior motives; that they do not seek supporters “well” (honestly, honorably, fairly) and not for a good purpose. These would-be leaders, who want to build up a following for themselves, claim to be the only true Christians, and they exclude—“shut out” those who disagree with them. They excommunicate men from their “true church” in order to frighten them into currying favor for readmission! Paul concedes that it is a good thing to be sought after if the motives of both the seeker and the sought are good, and if both are honestly serving a good cause. But in that case there is still another stipulation; it must “always” be that way, not just when the parties are together, but also when one is absent. When Paul was present, the Galatians responded favorably. Now he reminds them that the same Gospel was no less a joy and a blessing in his absence. He hints that if his competitors were absent, they might not care enough about the Galatians even to write letters to them.
Paul made it clear that he was not averse to having another man minister to them rather than himself, providing the ministry was of the right sort—aiding the cause of the truth.
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.
A free translation of verses 19 and 20 would read: “I think of you as my dear children for whom my heart aches until Christ is fully formed in you; and I wish I could be with you now so I could deal first hand with your situation, because I am at a loss of what to make of you. Paul’s challenge to the Judaizers was to imitate him in being sincere and faithful “fathers” of spiritual “children,” as he called his converts. In a bold figure of speech he compares his anxiety to the throes of childbirth. But as usual with his comparisons, he suddenly shifts the reference and applies it to the Galatian Christians who are about to give birth to Christ. His own “labor’ now becomes the anxiety of one who is waiting until Christ is “formed” in them. Paul longed for these believers to be transformed into the image of Christ. This expression describes the Christian life as a kind of reincarnation of Christ in a believer’s life. This is, in fact, God’s ideal and purpose—for Christ to live His life in and then through each believer (Gal. 2.20 ). Yet the apostle was perplexed about the Galatians because he felt their spiritual development was being arrested. He had a deep desire to be with them, so that he could speak gently, but firmly, concerning his grave concerns. However, he was filled with misgivings. Had his approach and language been too severe, or had he not been forthright in warning his “children”? If only he could be in Galatia! Then he could gauge the situation more accurately and control it by changing his “tone” (voice). The apostle had strong feelings for these people. He used strong language in his letter, but you can see his tender heart.
The Galatians had not lost their salvation—they were still Christians; but they were losing the enjoyment of their salvation and finding satisfaction in their works instead. Sad to say, they did not realize their losses. They actually thought they were becoming better Christians by substituting Law for grace, and the religious deeds of the flesh for the fruit of the Spirit. Paul was deeply hurt (travail) to see them falling back into legalism. He longed to see Christ formed in them, just as we parents long to see our children mature in the will of God.
Paul felt that another visit was in order. It would accomplish more than a letter. Then he could speak softly to them, as a mother to an erring but still beloved child.
i For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live ; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
ii We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, xvi Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
iii Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
iv But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
v But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. But the Jews stirred up the devout and honorable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.
vi But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles. And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them, They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about. And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.
vii Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem. But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.
viii For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.
ix In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them.
x He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
xi And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
xii Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.
xiii Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's.
xiv He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
xv And after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.
xvi I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.