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Friday, September 29, 2017

Galatians (4:12-20) (Lesson 14)

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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Established November 2008                                                       Published Weekly on Friday

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Galatians (4:-12-20)                                                             (Lesson 14)

Welcome to HBS.

I thank God for His Amazing Grace.

Florida is in recovery mode and making remarkable progress thanks to all the neighbors helping neighbors, the out-of-state volunteers, the first-line responders who are assisting people with their urgent needs, and all those who have shown an interest in helping the people affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, respectively, through their generous prayers and charitable contributions.  Florida and Texas appear in the news most often, but please remember these hurricanes also inflicted severe damage to the islands of Dominica, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos, Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, St Kitts & Nevis, St Thomas, the Dominican Republic and others.  So please remember these folks are in dire straits too, so pray for them and give what you can so they can rebuild their lives too.

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ… Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.  So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith (Galatians 6:2, 9-10).

Please open your Bible at Galatians 4:12.

Galatians 4

12: I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are.  You have done me no wrong;

I beg of you, brethren - Paul ends his rebuke of the Galatians with these words and the tone of this letter changes noticeably.  He suddenly shifts from reprimanding them to pleading with them.  The Koine Greek word for beg is Deomai (deh’-om-ahee), Verb, Strong’s Greek #1189, meaning:  to ask, to desire or long for with urgency.  

You’ll find other examples of this phrase in your Bible.  Luke 9:38 is one.  Let’s all turn there now.  Here we have Jesus coming down from the mountain to find a man waiting patiently for Him.  The man’s son is possessed by a demon that is torturing his son.  The father was beside himself with anguish and desperate, so he sought the Lord’s help.  And behold, a man from the multitude shouted out, saying, “Teacher, I beg You to look at my son, for he is my only boy…

The urgency in this man’s request literally leaps off the page!  No matter where you encounter this phrase in the N.T. the same sense of urgency is present.  So, Paul’s plea to the Galatians “I beg of you, brethren,” contained the same sense of urgency as this passage from Luke 9:38.  The only difference between these two passages is the reason for Paul’s urgent request.  He said, “brethren, become as I am.”

Bible commentators have assigned multiple interpretations to the phrase “become as I am,however, Paul only had one meaning in mind.  If we keep Paul’s statement within the context of the previous verses, the sense of this phrase isn’t all that difficult to determine.  Our Apostle Paul is obviously referencing the Jewish rites and religious customs, under the Law, and the question all along has been whether or not they were relevant to Gentile Believers.  Paul is trying to convince the Gentiles in Galatia they need to “walk away from” these religious customs (traditions), as He has done.  In essence, he’s saying follow my example; for I also have become as you are.  Even though I am a Jew, I became like a Gentile; free from the Law thanks to Christ Jesus (Colossians 2:16). 

We know we’re on the right track, that Believer’s should be like him, because Paul wrote a similar message in Philippians 4:9:  The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.

Y’all should be aware, when Paul says, “imitate me,” he’s not being egotistic.  He is truthfully saying: Be imitators of me, just as I am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).  Permit me to illustrate by using a game from childhood.  When my siblings and I played “follow the leader” with other children from the neighborhood, we imitated the physical antics and speech of our chosen leader in a continuous line that moved along with them.   If you failed to imitate the leader correctly, you were out of the game.  Now there were usually 7 or more children playing this game at one time, all of us in a line.  Not everyone could see the leader and that was especially true for the child in back of the line.  Most of the children had to imitate the child right in front of them, hoping that kid got it right.  With that mental picture in mind, our apostle Paul is saying Christ is the Head of the Church; he imitates Him, and we Believers are to follow Paul.   Does that help?

You have done me no wrong – with this statement Paul assures the Galatians this is not a personal matter; therefore, there is no sense of ill will between them. 

Verse 13:

Galatians 4

13: but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first timePaul doesn’t give us any details about his bodily illness, so as usual I’m not going to speculate as to what this might have been.  It’s my duty to inform you Bible commentators suggest it was Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” but this book doesn’t tell us what that was.  These same commentators also think it might have been an “eye condition,” i.e. Ophthalmia, which he may have acquired on the Damascus Rd (Acts 9) or at his stoning in Lystra (Acts 14:19-28).  Both of these illnesses are viable arguments so they can’t be completely discounted.  But since Paul doesn’t tell us what the bodily illness was we’re just going to move on because the bottom line is it doesn’t matter.  What matters is this illness kept Paul off of the missionary road and in Galatia for quite some time.  He took advantage of this bodily illness to preach the gospel to the Galatians who were steeped in paganism. 

Verse 14:

Galatians 4

14: and that (bodily illness) which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as a angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself.

Many Jews and Gentiles would have said Paul’s illness was a judgment from God, which linked it to sin (John 9:2-3).  But we know Paul was in God’s will, and ill, so this should force the Bible student to reconsider such a thought.  When the man sinned in the Garden of Eden, he condemned all of humanity to suffer the consequences of that sinful act, one of which is sickness.  

Please turn to Romans 8:20-22:  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 

Until that great day, God uses illnesses and other evils, such as hurricanes, to bring about His Sovereign purpose upon this earth, ultimately to bring glory to Himself.  I’m reminded of WW II and the many major battles fought between the Allies and the Axis armies that were turned in favor of the “good guys” simply because the weather changed in their favor, The Normandy Invasion, and the Battle of the Bulge would be just two examples.  But when illness does come, it may not be the result of God’s direct intervention in one’s life, but is rather the result of that individual living in a “fallen world,” with a “fallen body,” and poor health is a direct result of making poor choices (cigarettes, meth, heroine, Opioids, pot smoking, drinking too much alcohol, not enough sleep, poor diet choices, poor exercise routine, STD, etc.).  God wants people to enjoy good health (3 John 2), however, illnesses are permitted to occur for His purposes, whether we agree with them or understand them or not (Job; Romans 8:28).

A great deal of speculation surrounds our Apostle Paul’s physical illness and this verse shines some light on people’s response to it.  Paul said his illness was a trial to them (a test); they could have avoided him, the way you would purposely avoid someone suffering a contagion.  People, by nature, are attracted to beauty, but shun that which is unappreciated or unattractive.  However, they did not despise or loathe him. 

Paul’s use of the word loathe tells the story or reveals truth.  It’s a graphic term which literally means:  “to spit out.”  If you’ve ever swallowed a bug, you have a better understanding of this word than others.  In the ancient Near East, people would spit, automatically, after coming in contact with a disease or an illness which was repulsive, thinking there was some therapeutic value in this act.  Paul’s point isn’t lost on his readers:  visually, he was a mess; an unattractive sight.  But Spiritually speaking, he was as an angel of God. 

but you received me as a angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself in spite of his “unattractiveness” the Galatians received him warmly.  They received him as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus Himself.  Why would they do this?  They didn’t receive him warmly because of his physical appearance or because of his oratory skills.  There can only be one reason they welcomed him in such a fashion; it was his simple message.  Paul came preaching the gospel and because of this the Galatians were saved by faith (alone).  By the way, the word for “angel” in Hebrew and Greek also means messenger. 

Verse 15:

Galatians 4

15: What then is that sense of blessing you had?  For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me.

What then is that sense of blessing you had – in asking this rhetorical question, Paul wants to know where the original, warm, feelings the Galatians held for him have gone.  The Phillips translation Bible reads:  “What has happened to that fine spirit of yours? 

The Celtic People:  They were descended from the Gauls who sacked Rome in the fourth century B. C. and in the third century B. C. invaded Asia Minor and northern Greece.  A part of them remained in Galatia predominating in the mixed population formed out of the Greek, Roman and Jewish people.  They were quick-tempered, impulsive, hospitable and fickle people.  They were quick to receive impressions and equally quick to give them up.  They received Paul warmly and then suddenly turned from him (Galatians 4:13-16).

For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me – some people in the church say this statement from Paul supports their theory his “thorn in the flesh” was related to an eye condition.  But I’m not eager to board that train…  Paul’s statement above is not so far removed from one of our common expressions used today; “I’d give my right arm for the chance to ________” (marry him/her, get that job, hit the lotto, have a healthy baby…); you fill in the blank.

In Paul’s day the eyes were considered important parts of a person’s anatomy, so Paul is merely conveying the thought the Galatians would have given him anything; they would have contributed anything to his welfare at one time because they truly loved him.  Yet now, Paul has realized their fickleness regarding his apostleship, the gospel, and the church doctrines, or the truth, as they were abandoning these things to follow the doctrines of men instead.

Verse 16:

Galatians 4

16: So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?

This is very strong language.  The Koine Greek word for enemy is Echthros (Ech-thros’), Adjective, Strong’s Greek #2190, meaning:  hostile, hating, and opposing another.  Paul has never lied to these folks; he’s never manipulated or scammed them.  He didn’t enter Galatia with dollar signs in his eyes.  He came preaching the gospel with the intention of saving some (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). 

So, his question is not only appropriate it’s relevant because Paul’s enthusiasm hasn’t changed.  His heart for the Lord and for every Believer in Christ Jesus is reflected in this letter; there isn’t one untruthful thing in it.  But, have the Judaizers’ been equally truthful?   Hardly; they came preaching a different gospel; a legalistic gospel (1:6-7), and the fickle Galatians’ were in the process of turning away from Paul and the truth of his gospel.  They were heeding the message of the false teachers and striving to observe the doctrines of the Judaizers’ even though doing so placed them back under the Law (4:8-9).

Jack Nicholson’s line from the movie, “A Few Good Men, “ just came to mind.  You can’t handle the truth!”  Paul wanted these folks in Galatia to know Christ the way he knew Him, but things don’t always work out the way you expect them to or the way you want them to.  That’s life.  Jesus, who was the embodiment of Truth, walked this earth for 3 years loving people, healing people, teaching people; He performed miracles, signs, and wonders to prove to His people, who He was, but the majority of the Jews voted for His execution; only a precious few actually recognized Him as their Redeemer.  Considering the fact He ministered to thousands, fed thousands, I find that remarkable!  (John 21:24-25)

These Galatians were introduced to the truth, but look what happened to them after Paul continued on down the missionary road.  Turn with me to 2 Timothy 1:14-15:  Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure (the gospel) which has been entrusted to you.  You are aware (the word had spread) of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me…  

What’s Paul saying?  His letter to the Galatians had little to no effect on these Galatian churches.  Another way of putting it is, “His words fell upon deaf ears and hardened hearts” because all they which are in Asia turned away from Paul’s gospel.  Only one thing could have caused this 180 degree shift in attitude and behavior.  The Galatian churches deserted the gospel and eventually embraced legalism (1:6).  It’s doubtful these churches survived such a disturbing shakeup.   We know the cities did not each one of them fell into the dust of history.   

Was this a judgment of God or merely a result of cause and effect?  Permit me to respond to the question this way.  I read an article the other day re: “The Decline of the Catholic Church in Europe,” and it gives one reason to pause and reflect.  In the article the writer comments the elder Catholics are dying and they are not being replaced by younger Catholic converts.  This trend has been ongoing for decades it’s just now becoming more obvious.  He also stated in the article he entered many Catholic churches on Sunday morning and found the building almost empty.  Now before people start getting upset with me prematurely, I’m not picking on the Catholic faith.   I am merely reporting on a recently written article, by a well-known author, reporting on current events.  The Catholics are not the only faith experiencing a decline in growth or a decline in Sunday worship attendance.  Every Church denomination, across the board, is in decline to some degree with some mainline churches headed toward extinction. 

I am saying it is human nature to reject the truth because humans are flawed creatures.  This is evident across all aspects of society and not just regarding one’s faith.  This flaw can be traced back to the woman’s decision to listen and then believe the serpent’s lie in the Garden of Eden that she will be like God (Genesis 3:4-5).  This has been humanity’s chief problem ever since that day; they’ve copied Satan’s mantra:  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14; Ezekiel 28:2). 

Verse 17:

Galatians 4

17: They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them.

They eagerly seek you – They are the Judaizers; the false teachers who have infiltrated the Galatian churches eagerly seek you.  Eagerly seek are from the Greek word Zeloo, (dzay-lo’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #2206, meaning:  to desire earnestly.  So, Paul is saying, “They earnestly desire you; or “They want you on their team.” 

but (behold the underlying truth):  they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them - They demonstrate a great commitment towards you, but that’s not a good thing; their reason is to get you to fellowship only with them.”  These Judaizers were teaching in such a way as to create dependency on themselves in the lives of the Gentile Believers.   

Verse 18:

18: But is it good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner, and not only when I am present with you.

Here Paul admits it is not wrong to eagerly seek to win the affection of others as long as it is for their welfare.  But Paul calls us to be careful that we are not seeking the affections of others for our own selfish advantage.  Paul's focus has been and still is on the Galatians’ benefit; the false teachers' focus was upon the Galatians’ contribution to the teacher's benefit.

Verses 19-20:

Galatians 4

19: My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you – but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

As I pointed out to y’all back in verse 12, Paul went from rebuking the Galatian churches to pleading with them, to appealing to their better judgment, as a parent with a broken heart would to a child who has gone astray.  Paul often used metaphors because of their warm and caring connotation.  He called himself a spiritual father in 1 Corinthians 4:15 and 1 Thessalonians 2:11 and here it’s implied. 

I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you - the Koine Greek word formed is Morphoo (mor-fo’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #3445, meaning:  to form.  According to the text, this refers to the Galatians’ spiritual maturity or their being like Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4:13) (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:18, 7:1; Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 1:4, 4:13; 1 Thessalonians 3:13, 4:3, 7, 5:23; 1 Peter 1:15).  All of you should be aware by now that spiritual maturity is a “process of change.”  Therefore, we are encouraged “to walk worthy of our calling,” (Ephesians 4:1); “to walk worthy of the Sprit,” so as not to “fulfill the lusts of the flesh,” (Galatians 5:16); and to “walk in love” (Romans 5:2).  Paul was showing the Galatians his motives in teaching and preaching the truth were totally different from those of the self-seeking Judaizers. 

but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone for I am perplexed about you  - Paul’s heart was on fire for the Lord and equally for those he served; though this letter probably seemed harsh by its readers… who likes being scolded?  It’s easy to pick up on Paul’s frustration in dealing with these Believers because we see the flip-side of the issue too; for I am perplexed about you.  The Phillips Bible translation reads:  I honestly don’t know how to deal with you.”  The word perplexed in the Greek is Aporeo.  It literally means: to be without resources; to be in doubt; to not know which way to turn.  Paul had many reasons to doubt the sincerity and the soundness of the church doctrines of which they had been introduced and he was very anxious about the Galatians’ spiritual maturity. 

(To be continued)

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