Sunday Evening Bible Study

February 25, 1996

Galatians 4:12-18


Paul is writing to a group of churches which he had helped to establish.

After having established these churches, there were a group of teachers called "Judaizers" who came in and began spreading their own doctrines.

The Judaizers felt that a Gentile couldn't really be saved apart from first becoming a Jew, and that started by being circumcised.

:12-20  Paul's frustration with the Galatians

:12  Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are:

This phrase is a little difficult to understand.

For one thing, the tenses are a little confusing, or actually some of the tenses are missing, and would literally be translated,

"Become as I, for I also as you, brethren I beg of you"

Paul could be saying:

"Become like me, because I once was like you"

"Become like me, because I am like you"

NIV - "become like me, for I became like you"

He's at least saying that he wishes they would be more like him.

And it seems to make the most sense that he would be saying "I was once like you too" in that he once held to a strict obedience to the Law.

After all, Paul was even a Pharisee at one time.


Be the example to follow.

That can be kind of scary at times, to think that other people might be looking to you to set the example.

Sometimes it's just easier to say, "Don't look at me, but look at Dave."

But we ought to be willing to set the example.

Paul was not afraid to set himself up as the example to follow.

1Corinthians 4:16  Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

1Corinthians 11:1  Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

Philippians 3:17  Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

2Thessalonians 3:7-9  For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 8  Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: 9  Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

People need to see that it can be done.

They need to see what it looks like when it's happening.


When I'm putting together the latest Birthday or Christmas present for one of my boys, I actually like to follow the directions, but it's always a whole lot easier if you have a picture of the finished product on the box to look at.

Somehow the instructions just never quite give the same kind help as a picture of a completed toy does.

We ought to be pictures of God's completed work to each other.

That's one of the things I love about people like Chuck Smith.

He's a pretty good example to me of what a pastor is to be like, both a caring and loving individual, who is strong in the Word, and yet humble in the way he lives.

It's one thing to read it in the Bible, and to see all the commands for a pastor to follow, but it's another to see what it actually looks like when someone walks in it.

:12  ye have not injured me at all.

Even though these people were dear to Paul, and he was very concerned about their spiritual state, he wasn't taking it personally.


Don't take it too personally.

Usually when people aren't responding to your ministry, the problem isn't you.

Admittedly, sometimes we are the problem, but not always.

It seems that much of the time, the real problem is with the Lord, not you.


When the prophet Samuel was getting old, he started planning to have his sons take his place as the judge over the nation.

But the people didn't like the idea too much, especially because Samuel's sons had actually drifted away from the Lord, and were corrupt men.

Instead, the people wanted a king "like all the other nations".

This bummed Samuel out, and he felt rejected.

1Samuel 8:7  And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

It might not be you they have a problem with, but God.

:13  Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.

Paul is speaking to the Galatians about something that they know about, but that we don't.

He's taking them back in time to when they first met.

It appears that the first time Paul met these people and then preached to them was apparently a time when he was sick.

Some have suggested that Paul had malaria, and was sick with a fever.

Some have suggested, and it makes the most sense that it was possibly some kind of eye disease, also thought to be his "thorn in the flesh", since Paul says in verse 15, "ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me."


God can even use an illness for His glory.

Jamie Salvatore was talking with me this morning about how God is using her neck and back problems with all the surgeries, to minister to people about the goodness of the Lord.

I find this incredible, and have a long way to go to get there.

Personally, when I get sick, I want to lay in bed and have my wife baby me.

The last thing I feel like doing is being used by the Lord.

:14  And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.

temptation - or, trial. (peirasmos - an experiment, attempt, trial, proving)

Paul reminds the people that even though he was going through a hard time, they still took care of him and gave him special treatment, treating him like an angel, or even as they would treat Jesus Christ.

Some translations (NIV, NASB) carry a little different slant (due to textual differences), indicating that Paul's infirmities was a trial to the Galatians, and they still put up with him:

NIV - 14   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.

:15  Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.

NASB - 15  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.

Paul reminds them of how much affection they had demonstrated toward him.

What's Paul been doing here in these last few verses?

He's reminding the Galatians of where they were with the Lord and with him.


Returning to your first love.

What Paul is doing is right along with what Jesus told the Ephesian church to do when they had left their first love:

Revelation 2:2-5  I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3  And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 4  Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5  Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

Just as the Galatians, the Ephesians got to a place where their walk with the Lord was all based on external things.

For the Ephesians, they were experts in the cults.

They were good at putting people's doctrines to the tests, which is not a bad thing!

But they had lost their true heart of love for the Lord.

God's remedy?

1)  Remember

They needed to spend some time thinking back on what their walk used to be like.

And that's just what Paul is doing here, helping the Galatians to remember.

2)  Repent

Stop this foolishness, and turn around.

3)  Do the first works

Start acting like a young Christian, all overflowing in the love of the Lord.

And you'll see the passion come back again!

:16  Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?

The bottom line is that Paul has been getting some animosity from the Galatians, all because he was telling them the truth.


Maturity comes with the truth.

Ephesians 4:11-16  And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12  For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13  Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14  That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and

carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15  But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16  From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

It's only when we starting speaking the truth to each other, that we are able to grow and mature.


If you keep telling me I look great, when there's a large green grapefruit growing on my back, then I'll never go to the doctor when I should.

If you keep telling me that you admire my walk, when you know that I'm really a carnal mess, I'm going be a lot less likely to change my life.

If you keep telling me that some goofy doctrine I've made up is okay, then I'm not going to be seeking the truth.


The one telling you the truth is your friend.

Proverbs 27:6   Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

We like to be told nice things, but a true friend is going to know that more than compliments, you also need to hear the truth.

:17  They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.

zealously affect - zeloo - to burn with zeal; either a bad way as in envy, or a good way as in zeal.

The idea is that these Judaizers have this "zeal" for the Galatians, but not for a good cause.

they would exclude you - talking about how the Judaizers have told these Gentile believers that unless they get circumcised and start following the Mosaic Law, that they are not going to be saved.

that ye might affect them - this excluding the Galatians from salvation without the Law is done so that the Galatians would have this zeal to seek out the Judaizers for this better understanding of salvation.


Be careful about the "excluders".

It's a common ploy of cults to tell you that they are the only group going to heaven.

And what does that do?

It makes you want to join them, so you don't miss out on heaven!



:18  But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.

18   It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.

Paul is saying that it's a fine thing to have zeal, as long as it's for a good thing, and as long as it's a continual thing, and not just whenever Paul is around.


Make sure your zeal is accomplishing something!

We can get all hot and steamed over things, but never accomplish anything.


When the Crystal Palace Exhibition opened in 1851, people flocked to London's Hyde Park to behold the marvels.  One of the greatest marvels back then was steam.  Steam plows were displayed.  Steam locomotives.  Steam looms.  Steam organs.  Even a steam cannon.

Of all the great exhibits that year, the first-prize winner was a steam invention with seven thousand parts.  When it was turned on, its pulleys, whistles, bells, and gears made a lot of noise, but, ironically, the contraption didn't do a thing!  Seven thousand moving parts making a lot of commotion... but having no practical use.

Zeal (like steam) should be used for good purposes, for a "good thing".


Personal zeal for Jesus.

May God help us to have this passion and burning in our hearts that works it's way into our lives, but not just because certain people are watching us.

It comes from the Holy Spirit.


Thy Glory

When Thy Shekinah glory fell,

  The priests stood still in awe; 

Nor could the great Apostle tell

  The glory that he saw 

When Thou didst lift him to the sky

To sights unseen by mortal eye. 


When Moses stood with unshod feet

  And Thy great Presence felt, 

No trumpeter could call retreat

  While gazing where Thou dwelt! 

He listened, raptured by Thy voice,

And strangely did his heart rejoice. 


The toilers' fishing nets were left

  In answer to Thy call, 

And worldly men, of sense bereft

  Before their feet would fall. 

Those simple men Thou didst endue

With power original to You. 


O Lord, we labor in a day

  When men of faith are few. 

Now just a remnant watch and pray. 

  Again we beg - endue 

Thy church with apostolic power

For true revival in this hour. 


Have we the holy channel blocked

  With unbelief and sin? 

Have we not asked and sought and knocked 

  To bring the glory in? 

How is now Thy Spirit grieved 

  That He withholds the shower 

That would revival tide bring in 

  And apostolic power? 


Is Thy blest Holy Word unread? 

  And have we ceased to pray? 

Have carnal longings in our hearts 

  Brought spiritual decay? 

Come, great Physician, come, 

  And circumcise the heart; 

Fleshly impediments remove 

  And all Thy might impart. 


So let the beauty of the Lord

  On Christians be outpoured, 

That we forget "our" ministry, 

  And glorify the Lord. 

We hate the boasting flesh 

  Which often claims Thy name. 

Descend, Oh Holy Ghost, descend 

  With all Thy purging flame!


Excerpts taken from "Heart Breathings" by  Leonard Ravenhill.

Used by permission. (C) Copyright 1995 by Harvey & Tait Publications.