Beginning, Part 2
Galatians 4:10-20 (NKJV)
John 14:6 (NKJV)
This lesson was such a good reminder for me! For one thing, it brought back many memories about things my dad taught me about relying on Christ alone. When I was young, it was difficult for me to understand how I could ‘do nothing’ except rely on Jesus. That was counter cultural and it didn’t make sense to me. People still say to me, “but you have to do something if you want doors to open.” All the while I sit with God and talk to Him. I listen. I wait. I am doing something. But it’s not from the standpoint of working for the end result. It’s about being in Christ. In Galatians 4:10-20 legalists were trying to convince many in the new church they needed to work to earn their salvation; Paul was trying to tell them they need to wait on God and turn to Him.
It’s still counter cultural today. Believing we do not have to DO anything except believe in Jesus goes against the very grain of the American way of life. We ARE a DOing people. We get our value by what we do. If we do nothing we often feel like we have no value.
Paul was desperately trying to get the Galatians to see that believing and relying on Christ is the ONLY criteria. We pray and wait. We listen. We get to know God.
The truth is that Paul was devastated about the churches turning back to their old ways of thinking that they had to work for their salvation. Paul, who did not turn back once he had his Damascus road experience doesn’t understand how they could allow other ways of thinking come into the church and “muddy” the waters with a watered down version of the Gospel message. Clearly, the message that ‘only through faith’ in Jesus can we be saved was what Paul wanted for these young churches. He wanted them to ‘get’ the baseline underlying concept that they cannot work to earn their salvation.
Paul was so wounded by the turn of events (that the church was listening to others who said they needed to work for their salvation) that he used phrases like, “you have not injured me”, meaning him personally, because he knew this wasn’t about him...it was about knowing who Jesus really is personally and how much He loves them.
This section of scripture tells us how much Paul loved them and gave his heart to the people in the churches in Galatia. Paul had a special relationship with these churches so much so they were like his first love. He was broken-hearted when he heard that legalists came in and convinced the members of the new church that they had to work to earn their salvation.
In verses 13-15, Paul brings up his infirmity. It’s unknown what Paul’s infirmity actually was but he mentioned it in other letters. His statement indicates it had something to do with the reason he came to them first. Paul reminds them they received him anyway. He says when he first came to them they were so blessed by his coming to them they would have given him their eyes (which might lead us to believe his infirmity had something to do with his vision).
Paul asks them about the blessing they enjoyed?
In verse 16 Paul even asked them, am I now your enemy because I spoke the truth to you?
Paul knew the future of the churches in this region hinged on their decision in this matter.
He knew this WAS their defining moment.
He knew they would either believe him and surrender to what Jesus died for on the cross for OR they would become a cult-like club that practiced:
serving a little ‘g’ god who demanded that they follow a daily ‘to do’ list
Doing things that made them ‘look’ religious to the world
Making up service projects to get them noticed for their good works
Making a list of requirements that gave them the ‘right’ to be saved
Paul knew the men who had infiltrated the churches were zealous and made this new way of doing church ‘look’ easier. He knew they were trying to separate them (exclude them) so they would receive their new way of doing church.
Read Paul’s Response and Fear for the Church in Galatians 4:10-20:
10 “You observe days and months and seasons and years.
11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.
12 Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all. 13 You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first.
14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
15 What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.
16 Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?
17 They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them. But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you.
19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you,
20 I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you.”
At the end of Chapter 4, Paul tells them he labored for them when he was with them and he labors still, praying they will stay on the true path of salvation through Jesus alone so THAT would be fully formed in them. In verse 20 Paul finished by saying he would like to be with them...he would like to change his tone so he wasn’t so harsh with them, but because he has doubts about the future of the churches in the region he MUST tell them the whole truth.
Paul is acting as God’s change-agent (and re-change agent) telling the churches by the very nature and character of God through Jesus, complete reliance on Him IS the “Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Because, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).
Only through Jesus do we find the way, know the truth, and receive the Life. We cannot be good enough or smart enough or work hard enough to get there on our own. It just can’t be done without Jesus.
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Surrender
As you go about your day, practice surrendering small issues and problems to Jesus. For me, the best way to learn surrendering was one small step at a time.
In God, Deborah