< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Galatians 4:12 – 20

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Galatians 4:12 – 20

Galatians 4:12-20 “ I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?

Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you. My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!”

“Become like me for I became like you.” Paul became a gentile. He gave up all the traditions and privileges of his people. He appeals to the Galatians, telling them not to become Jews, but like himself.

In the next part we see that Paul apparently met them when he was ill. Paul talks other places about a thorn in the flesh, which God did not take away even though he prayed He would. No one knows what that thorn was, but many have speculated. Some think it was the persecution he suffered. Some think it was the temptations of the flesh, which he said he never succeeded in suppressing. Some think it was his physical appearance; bow-legged and probably with “runny eyes” (due to an eye disease prevalent back then and in that area.)

The oldest thought was that he had violent headaches and this may have tied in with the fact that when Paul first went to Galatia he had been to Pamphylia where malaria fever raged. It’s possible he contracted malaria and went to Galatia to recover. Malaria reoccurs and is accompanied by a headache that people have likened to a red-hot bar thrust through the forehead.

We’re not sure what was exactly wrong with him at this time, but apparently the Galatians didn’t treat him like a burden. They took care of him.

Paul calls them “my little children”. Very loving, very enduring. The disciple John, who was the sensitive one, used this term a lot, but this is the only time in the Bible that Paul does. Paul was yearning over his straying children. He had gone through a lot to get them to where they were and it was killing him to think they were backsliding. He couldn’t understand why someone who believed and therefore freed himself from the law would want to take on the burden of the law again.

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