Today Paul’s concern for the Galatians comes through even stronger than in 4.8-11.
He desperately wants them to become as I am (v.12). By this he means free from the shackles of law and the burden of working to justify yourself. Things started so well for the Galatians: they received Paul despite his poor physical condition (v.13), even as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus (v.14). In fact, things were going so well that Paul is sure that had the need arisen, the Galatians would have gouged out their eyes and given them to him (v.15). Some take this to mean that Paul had eye problems (2 Corinthians 12.7), others as a figure of speech to show intense dedication and emotional attachment.
In contrast to the parental love that Paul felt for the Galatians (v.19), the Judaizing law-bringers sought to manipulate the believers back into bondage (v.17). How Paul wished he could be there to lovingly correct this new band of believers and protect them from the potential pitfalls (v.20).
The contrast between Paul’s pastoral heart for the Galatians and the manipulative flattery of the legalists is stark and one we would do well to note. Just pause and think of where and how you regularly hear the Word of God taught.
- Is it edifying or adding a burden?
- Is there a connection between you and the teacher, or are they simply ‘doing a job’?
- Is the teaching given to draw you closer to Christ or in order to explain rules and regulations you need to keep?
- Is the teaching building you up emptily or showing you who you are in Christ?
- Is there a consistency to the teaching or does it change week to week?
Paul knows the motivations and the methods of these Judaizing law-givers, and neither were in the best interests of the Galatians. If you find yourself part of a body of believers where you know someone cares for you with a pastoral heart like this, take a moment today and thank the Lord, because sadly many are not.