The Galatians’ Relationship with Paul
There was a time that they admired Paul (Galatians 4:12-15)
Paul wants the Galatians to become a follower of Christ, just as he is a follower (I Corinthians 11:1). He has left Judaism and its rights and in doing so, Paul has become like the Gentiles (Galatians 2:14). He did not claim some privilege because of his Jewish heritage. Or another way of expressing what Paul is saying is, “Be as friendly to me as I am to you” (I Kings 22:4).
The basis of Paul’s plea was not because the Galatians had in some way harmed Paul. In other words, Paul doesn’t see the defamation of his character as important. He has already put it behind him. Paul is genuinely concerned about their welfare and not his own. He reminds them of the first time he visited them. He came to be there because of an illness. Some wonder if this was the thorn in Paul’s flesh that he mentioned in II Corinthians 12:7. While they had to put up with Paul’s condition, they received him as a messenger of God or even Jesus himself. There was no despising or loathing of Paul.
Paul wonders what happened. How have they stopped seeing Paul as a blessing in their lives? There was a time that, if they could, they would have given their own eyes to Paul. This point causes many to wonder if Paul had problems with his vision – possibly an inflammation of the eye.
How did Paul become their enemy? (Galatians 4:16-18)
Paul always preached the truth (Galatians 2:5,14), so he asked the Galatians how did he become an enemy by giving them the truth? Truth is a blessing to the hearer (Proverbs 9:8). It may make us uncomfortable at times because it reveals our flaws, but it is always a benefit (Psalms 141:5).
The false teachers have been courting the Galatians, but they are not concerned about the Galatians’ welfare (Romans 16:18; Philippians 2:21). Instead, they are dividing the church, seeking to exclude the Gentiles, so that the Gentiles will submit to their rules.
It isn’t that being zealously courted is wrong in and of itself. However, it is only good when those doing so want the best for those being sought (Philippians 1:15-18). As it was, they only sought out Paul when he was with them. Since then, they have been seeking out false teachers (Galatians 1:6).
Paul wants to bring them back (Galatians 4:19-20)
Paul addresses the Galatians as his small children (I Corinthians 4:15). He labored to bring them to the Gospel in the past and now he is in labor again to restore them to the Gospel. He wants their hearts given totally over to Christ (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 3:8-10; Colossians 1:27). Teaching the Gospel is a difficult process like that of a woman bearing children. But with teaching the Gospel, it sometimes has to be repeated with the same people.
Not that Paul is holding this against the Galatians. He wishes that he could be in Galatia, if it were possible, and have the matter resolved so that he can change the tone he has been using with them. But at the moment, he is at a loss as to how to reach them with the truth from a distance.