Appeals from the Heart (A Study in Galatians)


Galatians 4:12-20

Daily appeals are numerous. The pastor to his flock for greater commitment to God’s work. The employer to his employees to pay more attention to quality, to do more in less time, and to do their best. The appeal from law enforcement officers for people to drive safely, to wear their safety belts, and to live by the laws. The appeal from the lawyer to find a person guilty or innocent. Appeals from politicians to their constituents to get out and vote, from our President to make America a better place to live, and from leaders of various countries to live in peace. Appeals from parents of rebellious children for them to be obedient. And then there is also God’s appeal for his people to be whom he calls them to be.

Paul also does some appealing. Up to this point, he has been confrontational and impersonal with his readers, but now that changes. He positions himself as the lawyer in the courtroom and gives a dispassionate presentation. He has reminded them that salvation has come by God’s grace alone and not their works. He has questioned them about their backpedaling to works salvation.

Now he moves to the personal level and says, “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.” He moves from stern to gentle.

Be an Example to Others

If these early believers were to be an example before others, they needed to live in the spiritual freedom that was theirs as God’s child. Paul has already warned them about returning to the slavery of trying to live under the law. No one could ever hope to obey God’s laws perfectly. We must trust in the one who was born to redeem those who labored under this curse of the law: Jesus Christ.

Paul begged them to become as he was: an example. But what kind of example was he? He exemplified salvation through God’s grace. If anyone had attempted to live under God’s law to find salvation, Paul was that person. On the Damascus Road, he discovered this was impossible. He let go of his legalistic attempts to please God and now counted as loss all those things he once trusted in for God’s approval.

The Galatians accepted the message Paul taught but were now backtracking onto the previous ground of trying to earn their salvation. Many of them, like Paul, paid a dear price when they turned from Judaism to Christianity. Some had families ostracize them. Some were ostracized from the synagogue. Others were treated as dead. Paul was bewildered that many of them were turning back to this dead-end religion and appealed to them to live as he did. They must enjoy the freedom found in Jesus Christ and not bind themselves by the traditions and ceremonies they once trusted in for salvation.

Our lives are an open book before others. They are looking for examples to follow, and as Christians we must provide that example of right living. In a world where wrong is prevalent, we need to be examples of right and moral living. We are the salt and light of the world. It is our duty to permeate the world with good. It is our job to provide light for those living in the darkness of sin.

Find Good Spiritual Models

Paul was a good spiritual model. In spite of his bodily illness, he preached the message of God’s grace and lived out his belief. But many of the Galatians were forsaking his good model and turning to unworthy models.

Paul reminds them how rich their personal relationship was. They did him no wrong. They openly and lovingly received him despite his extremely adverse personal circumstances. When Paul first came to Galatia, many of the Jews turned against him when they realized his message was for Gentiles as well. God used him in spite of the circumstances, and many of the Galatians turned to God. They accepted the message of Paul despite a serious illness that affected him.

Paul visited Galatia on his first missionary journey. He either became seriously ill while there or went there to recuperate from the illness. Some suggest he contracted malaria and went to Galatia to recuperate. Whatever the illness, the Galatians accepted him in spite of it. His bodily condition was such that it would have normally repulsed them, but they accepted him. He was not treated with contempt.

The Galatians accepted Paul as an angel of God. They received him as even Jesus himself. They did not question how he looked but accepted him as a messenger from God. They were grateful for the spiritual life they now had because of his ministry. They would have even plucked out their eyes and given them to him.

As Paul was a good spiritual model to them, so we need to find and be good spiritual models to others. It is important that we find good spiritual models in the church—or other places—and pattern our lives after them. They provide inspiration for us. They give us goals to reach for in our Christian life. In like manner, we need to be good spiritual models. Our behavior is very important. Others should see an example of love in us. Our service to Christ should be such that others would want to pattern their lives after it.

Be Steadfast in Your Faith

Paul asks, “Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth?” In the beginning, they were happy with the message Paul preached. They accepted it with great joy, but many of them were now turning back to Judaism. They were trying to earn what God must freely give. They were trying to do what they could never hope to attain in their own strength: live in perfect obedience to God’s laws.

By Paul’s second trip to Galatia, some of the Galatians had turned to the teachings of the Judaizers. They were doubting the truth of salvation by faith alone. They felt they needed to add their good works. The gospel of legalism became more attractive. The man Paul, who was once their dearest friend, had become as an enemy to them because he confronted them with the truth.

Confronting others with the truth of God’s Word sometimes makes us enemies. But it is important that we are steadfast and immovable in our faith.

Avoid Those Who Could Damage You Spiritually

Paul warns the Galatians about the Judaizers. They wanted to shut the Galatians out of God’s grace. He is not their real enemy; the Judaizers were. Paul says they eagerly seek the Galatians. This carries the idea of taking serious interest in someone and was often used to refer to a man courting a woman.

The interest of the Judaizers in the Galatians was to entrap them in legalism again. They were like the scribes and Pharisees of whom Jesus said; “You travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:15). The Judaizers wanted recognition for themselves.

Paul also sought the Galatians but for a very different reason. He wanted to introduce them to God’s grace and deliver them from the bonds of legalism. He wanted to show them their good works would not bring God’s acceptance.

We too must avoid those who would damage us spiritually, but we must also infiltrate the world with the things of God. We must avoid anyone or anything that would drag us down spiritually.

Desire to Nourish Others Spiritually

This was Paul’s desire. He considered them his children in the faith, and they were. He wanted to labor among them until Christ was formed in them. Though perplexed over their behavior, he still concerned himself with their spiritual nourishment. He was speaking like a mother or a parent pleading with a wayward child. Paul accused them of acting like infants who refused to be born.

Paul says he is again in labor with them. He had been instrumental in birthing them into Christianity in the first place, but now he says it is as if he is having to do it all over again. He felt like a mother who had to birth the same baby twice. Their spiritual condition was tragic, but he would not forsake them. He would labor with them until they returned to the right path.

We must spiritually nourish other believers. A part of our great commission is to disciple people. That so many people leave churches and fall away is evidence we have work to do. We must be concerned about the spiritual development of other Christians and do all in our power to enhance that process.


Martin Wiles
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