Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
The section we’ll be looking at here is a section or transition that reflects Paul’s concern for the Galatian churches. Paul is writing this letter to correct an error encouraged in Galatia by those who sought to require them to first come under Jewish law before they could become followers of Jesus Christ, and so after having demonstrated that Jewish law is no longer in force and effect, Paul comes down to the root of the problem− Do you, after having been set free, desire to return to bondage? I don’t know about you, but there have been times in my life where that was the central question for me.
You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! Note Paul’s tone… and that’s all I’m going to say about this for now…
I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
In recounting their earlier relationship, Paul is reminding them of their experiences together, and of all that they had in common. You might also notice that he mentioned that he became like them and shared the Gospel with them. Isn’t it ironic that they have now become like Paul used to be; Jewish in their outlook. It would seem that this irony wasn’t lost on Paul who is writing to bring them back to where they were before he left them.
Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you. My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!
So far in this letter, Paul has spoken sharply to its recipients; he wasn’t pleased to hear what they’ve been up to. In these verses, however you see that he is really speaking to them like a father who is correcting a naughty child. The message is clear, but the motivation for the correction is pure love. Paul isn’t upset because they have listened to another teacher, Paul is upset because the other teacher has led the people to a place where they will be harmed, and Paul is having a tough time with that thought. It isn’t difficult to feel his emotions at being separated from those who need his guidance now.
That brings something to mind. Have you ever been chided by someone for not agreeing with them on some point? Did they have Pail’s motivation, or were they just insisting that everybody do things their way? If you answered that question, I’m willing to bet that you’ve been “corrected” in both ways, right? There’s a big difference between the two, isn’t there?
There is a time and place to correct a fellow Christian who has taken the wrong turn. The question is, why do we seek to correct them, and how do we go about doing it?
Yes, there is a lesson for us in this text, isn’t there? Oh, and it really isn’t in speculating about what Paul’s illness was, is it?