It is customary to think of Paul as normally dividing his epistles into two parts: Doctrine and Application. But that is a bit of an over-simplification because Paul's doctrine IS applicable and practical. True doctrine is always extremely practical.

As we approach the last part of this epistle, Paul will draw out certain applications from his teaching. But we haven't quite gotten to the application portion of the letter. We are in Chapter 4. We are somewhere in between. We are in the process of moving from Paul the theologian to Paul the pastor, Paul the person, Paul the spiritual father, Paul the friend of the Galatian Christians. He is no longer simply making a theological case. Now he will be trying to persuade and exhort and appeal to the Galatians to respond to the case he has been making

The fourth chapter of Galatians is a study in contrasts. We have already seen a contrast between the former bondage under the Law versus the present position as a Son. Now the contrast becomes more personal as Paul contrasts his own ministry with the Galatians versus those who are attempting to effect their return to the Law.







At the same time, there is a continuing contrast between where the Galatians are now versus where they have been in the past.



I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. (Galatians 4:12a).

Paul's pastoral heart now begins to come to the forefront. He has been preaching doctrine. Now he is making a heartfelt plea for their return. He wants nothing more than for them to enjoy the freedom that he enjoys. Therefore he begs for their return to their former stance in grace.

What is involved in this plea? In what way are the Galatians to become as he is and in what way has Paul become like them? Several have been suggested.

The Galatians are to become Like Paul

Paul has become Like the Galatians

They are to return to the love that he has for them

He has come to love them in the same way they once showed such devotion to him that they were ready to pluck out their own eyes for his benefit

They are to enter into the freedom that Paul enjoys

He has once been under the Law to which they are attempting to return

They are seeking to enter into Judaism, but instead they are to follow in Paul's footsteps who departed from that legalistic Judaism to follow Christ

In following Christ, Paul has become free from the Law and has been able to enter into fellowship with Gentiles who are apart from the Law

Paul did not win the Galatians to Christ by keeping all of the Jewish purification rituals or by remaining in the Temple in Jerusalem. He won them through a ministry of incarnation; a ministry in which he went to where they were and ate what they ate and lived where they lived and talked as they talked. This was Paul's pattern for evangelism. But it was not original to him. He got it from Jesus.

To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.

To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. (1 Corinthians 9:20-22).

When the Lord wanted to save His people, He did it by leaving heaven and coming to earth and living where we live and eating what we eat and dying where we die. There is a sense in which He became every man. This is seen in the manner in which He is represented in various art forms. If you look at most artistic depictions of Jesus in the western art world, He is painted as a white Anglo-Saxon, not as a Semitic Jew. If you go to Africa and see a painting of Jesus, how is He pictured? He is seen as black. When He is portrayed in the east, He has oriental features. Is this bad? No, it is a demonstration of the truth that Jesus is the Savior of all men.

We are called to mirror that same approach in our efforts to evangelize others. That does not mean that we enter into sin so that we can reach sinners. But it does mean that we look for cultural bridges to span the gaps that separate us.


You have done me no wrong; 13 but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time; 14 and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself. (Galatians 4:12b-14).

Paul's initial reception among the Galatians was completely out of accord with his physical appearance and bodily demeanor. He was not at his physical best when he first preached the gospel to them. He had been sick. We are not told what manner of sickness this involved, but apparently is was something of an outward visible nature.

We do not know what was this bodily affliction. Paul elsewhere speaks of a thorn in the flesh from which he suffered (2 Corinthians 12:7). But we are given no clue as to what it may have been.

Here is the point. The Galatians accepted His message in spite of the appearance of the messenger. They were not won to the Gospel by a charismatic personality or a good-looking preacher. They came because they heard truth and they recognized Paul to be a messenger from God (that is what an angel is).

People tend to gravitate toward that which looks pleasing to the eye. Elections are often won in this video age, not by the most qualified, but by the most ruggedly handsome. This was seen in the 1960's election between Kennedy and Nixon. One was more pleasing to the eye.

God sees the heart. And when He works in a person's heart, He sometimes allows them so catch a glimpse of that same vision.



Where 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. (Galatians 4:15).

There had been a time when the Galatians were ready to do anything for Paul, even down to tearing out their own eyes and handing them over. Some have thought that this may be a hint as to what was Paul's bodily affliction, but that is not the point that Paul is making. His reference to eye-plucking is similar to the words of Jesus when He calls for people to cut off hands or feet or pluck out eyes if they are a cause for stumbling (Matthew 18:8-9). The point is that the Galatians were once ready to give to Paul that which was most dear and precious to them. Paul is not asking them for anything and instead they have become antagonistic toward him.

In the Past

In the Present

You would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me

I am become your enemy for telling you the truth

You were willing to hurt yourself for my sake

You are wishing to hurt me for your sake and for the sake of the false teachers



So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? (Galatians 4:16).

This is the only charge that can be laid at Paul's doorstep. He has presented and held to the truth of the gospel.

There is a lesson here. It is that the preaching of the gospel DOES make enemies. The gospel divides. It divides friends and families and neighbors. It divides with an eternal division. That does not mean that we ought to add to such divisions. We are ambassadors of peace and we proclaim a gospel of peace. We are on a mission of reconciliation. But we ought also to realize that those who reject the gospel are rejecting the peace of God. The result is spiritual warfare.


They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them. But it is good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner, and not only when I am present with you. (Galatians 4:17-18).

Paul finally comes to the contrast between Himself versus the legalistic Judaizers. There is both a contrast as well as a comparison.

The Judaizers


They eagerly seek the Galatians

He has eagerly sought the Galatians

They eager seeking of the Galatians was to shut them out from God's blessings

His eager seeking of the Galatians is to bring them into God's kingdom

Their seeking is not commendable

His seeking is in a commendable manner

Their goal is that they might be glorified

His goal is that God might be glorified

We are not told the specifics of who were these Judaizers. We can draw several conclusions from what Paul has said up to now.



My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you -- 20 but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. (Galatians 4:19-20).

This image that Paul presents is of a mother who has given birth to children, but now for some strange reason is having to go back and again suffer the labor pains. In essence, he is saying, "We've already been through the pain of childbirth and there was a successful delivery. Now that you have been born again, you ought to be growing and developing rather than bringing on more labor pains."

Only a mother can truly empathize with these words. Can you imagine having to give birth two and three times to the SAME child? It would be a lesson in futility. Childbirth is no picnic. The only thing that makes it bearable is the conclusion of having brought a life into this world.

You've heard the saying, "No pain, no gain." Paul is saying, "I went through the pain, now I want to see the gain!"

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