The outline of Paul’s appeal is now plain. He then turns to make a personal appeal to the Galatians. Their potential apostasy involves much more than simply following an argument—although it includes that. That “much more” has to do with their personal relationship with Paul himself.
Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. 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. 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. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you (Gal. 4:12-20).
He begins with an appeal to switch places, and says that they did not injure him (v. 12). The reason he preached to them in the first place involved an infirmity (v. 13). Paul could have been despised for that reason then, but the Galatians received him as an angel, or even as Jesus (v. 14). At that time, his presence with them was blessed and they said so (v. 15). They would have taken out their own eyes to give them to Paul, which indicates that his infirmity probably had something to do with his eyes. What did Paul do to become their enemy? Was it telling the truth (v. 16)? The Judaizers were zealously courting the Galatians, but in order to exclude them. That would in turn have caused the Galatians to become the “suitors” (v. 17). Zeal is good, but not when it is haphazard (v. 18). In a gloriously tangled metaphor, Paul is in labor until Christ is formed in them, meaning Christ is being formed in him (v. 19). Paul is baffled, and wants to be with them so he can look at their faces while he talks (v. 20).
AT ONE TIME . . .
Paul felt the same way about the Galatians away from them as he had felt when he was with them (vv. 18-19). But they did not return the favor. He was an angel of God when he was present (v. 14), but one to be rejected when absent (v. 16). They forgot their previous blessing of Paul. An inconstant man is greatly affected by his surroundings. A constant man understands the nature of loyalty, and his circumstances do not blow his loyalties about. An inconstant man is like a thermometer, reflecting the temperature of the surrounding room. A constant man is like a thermostat, affecting the temperature of the surrounding room.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP
Jesus warned His disciples not to imitate the leadership techniques of the Gentiles. He put it this way: “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:25-28).
Some Christian leaders disobey Christ’s instruction because they are glory-hounds. But it must be noted that others disobey it because they are shrewd pragmatists. Mistreatment of people “works.” Paul makes this plain elsewhere. “For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face. To our shame, I say that we were too weak for that! But in whatever anyone is bold—I speak foolishly—I am bold also” (2 Cor. 11:20-21). He points to the same thing here. The Galatians are listening to the Judaizers because they are excluding them, so that they could then try to earn their inclusion (v. 17). Paul had simply preached the good news of their accomplished inclusion — where is the challenge in that? So they became his enemy because he presented the truth of the gospel to them.
CALLED TO CONSTANT MATURITY
This is why faithful shepherds are frequently accused of tyranny, and why tyrants are not. Tyrants have no lack of sycophants who will praise their kindness. And faithful Christians like Paul have no lack of accusers who are not afraid to lie.
CHRIST BE FORMED IN YOU
Now what is before you? It is the same process that the Galatians were going through. Christ is being formed in you, and this results in turmoil for both you and your pastors. God did not intend for this process to be simple. But He did intend for the end result to be glorious—which is Christ fully formed in you.