Galatians 4:12-20 Leadership in action

by | Oct 18, 2023 | 01 Podcasts, Galatians

Galatians 4:12-20: In his fourth argument, Paul appeals to the Galatians to return to the true gospel based on his deep affection and concern for them.


Chapter 1: Paul introduced the two of his key themes: 1) his apostolic authority and, 2) the gospel of justification by faith alone. Paul claimed you can recognize the true gospel by its substance (grace based on the cross of Jesus Christ); its source (divine revelation).

Chapter 2: Paul argued he received the gospel through revelation from Jesus Christ. He reviewed his biography to prove that he had no chance to learn the gospel from the other human beings. Yet the other apostles confirmed he preached the same gospel.

Three Arguments

Paul gives five persuasive arguments justification by faith alone.

Galatians 3:2-5—First, Paul argues from experience. Did you receive the Spirit because you got your act together and finally started keeping the law? Or because you heard the gospel — that Jesus died in your place — and believed it? You received the Spirit because you have faith.

Galatians 3:6-14—Second, Paul argues Scripture confirms our experience. Scripture teaches Abraham believed and God counted it to him as righteousness. From the beginning, righteousness came through faith and God promised to bless all those who have faith, like Abraham.

Galatians 3:15-22—Third, Paul appeals to common sense. Paul argued God made a promise to Abraham, but the Law which came later was a deal. And the deal does not nullify the promise.

Galatians 3:22-4:11—Paul explains why God gave the Law. “Why the Law then?” The law teaches us we are sinful and we need a savior. But having learned that lesson, we should graduate from law-keeping to the maturity of faith.

Passage: Galatians 4:12-20

The Galatians’ attitude toward Paul

Galatians 4:12-16—Paul reminds the Galatians of their attitude toward him. He contrasts how they viewed him when he first met them with how they view him now.

12Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. 13You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. 16Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? — Galatians 4:12-16

  • When he was with them, Paul abandoned his Jewish upbringing and Pharisaical lifestyle. He lived as a Gentile as far as possible in order to teach and save them. They treated him with respect and accepted him without animosity.
  • Paul suffered some kind of sickness when he was with them. Perhaps he contracted malaria on his way there. Perhaps he’s referring to his return visit after his beating at Lystra.
  • Since they showed him so much respect before, despite his physical afflictions, shouldn’t they pay him the same respect now?

Paul’s attitude toward the Galatians

Galatians 4:17-20—Paul reminds the Galatians of his attitude toward them. He contrasts his attitude toward them with the attitude of the false teachers.

17They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 18It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! 20I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. — Galatians 4:17-20

  • The false teachers eagerly seek the favor of the Galatians, but their intentions are deceitful. The Judaizers seek to separate the Galatians from Paul.
  • The Judaizers seek to alienate the Galatians from Paul so they can draw the Galatians into their lies.
  • Just as a loving mother wants her child to be safe and wise, so Paul labors over them both when he is present and when he is absent.
  • Paul is not worried about numbers and appearances. He is worried about their faith, their future and their maturity in the gospel.
  • The difference between Paul and the false teachers is not prominence. The difference is motive.

Leadership in Action

  • Organizational hierarchies in the church are problematic. Compare with Mark 10:42-45.
  • Faithfulness is more important than short-term accomplishment, because invisible realities are greater than things we can measure.
  • God works through broken and inadequate people like us.
  • Relationships are central to spiritual growth.
  • The truth of Scripture is always relevant.
  • Our job is to do what God has called us to do and trust Him for results.

Please listen to the podcast for more detail and explanation.

Next: 11 Galatians 4:21-31 A Tale of Two Mothers

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Series: Galatians: Living by Faith

Study: Galatians Resources

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