Focal verses: 9, 12, & 16-20
9 But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?
12 I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong.
16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
Paul wrote this letter to the Galatian Christians to combat new teachings of which they became aware. The new teachers said before the Galatians became true Christians, they had to become Jews first by following the laws God set up for the Israelites. The outward expression of being part of God’s chosen people was circumcision. Paul explained in the first seven verses of this chapter that no works by man could help them gain their salvation from sin and death. The other thing he said was by choosing to follow the Law for salvation, they chose to enslave themselves again instead of accepting the freedom God gave them by His grace through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Beginning with verse nine, Paul beseeched them not to turn back from the way they knew God and were known by Him to the old way, the laws of God given for the establishment of His nation, Israel. Those laws, Paul said, were “weak and worthless elemental things.” They enslave people to trying to earn salvation by working for it. Yet salvation can never be attained by the works of human hands since humankind is fallible and sinful, but Jesus Christ is not. That makes God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ perfect.
In verse twelve, Paul begged the Galatian Christians to be as he was just as he became as they were. This verse can confuse us so let us consider it closer. Was Paul saying he became doubters and waffled on the means of his salvation? No, he was not. He meant in this verse that the Galatians became as he was when he spoke to them about salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. They realized they did not have to be Jews to become Christians, but that God gave His grace for every person. Paul, who once was a chief Jew, a Pharisee, gave up his tradition of keeping the laws of God to accept God’s grace gift by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. He understood that the Law could not provide salvation and he taught that to everyone, including the Galatians. So then what did Paul mean when he said he became as the Galatian Christians were? He meant that instead of making them become as he once was, a Jew, he, by believe in Jesus Christ, became as the Galatian Christians were, non-Jewish believers. Paul did not rely upon the laws to make him a Christian, but only the grace and mercy of the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ. Paul gave up his Jewish-ness to become a Christian. In that way, he became like the Galatian Christians who were never Jews and became Christ-followers.
Paul was adamantly against the teachings the Judaizers brought to the Galatian Christians. Why did he say they were teaching this added step to become a Christian? Paul said in verse seventeen, “They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them.” The teachers who taught contrary to what God provided, salvation by grace through faith, wanted to be commended by other people for understanding better and deeper what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ. They added on more things to become a Christian hoping to gain notoriety and fame. Do we have any preachers in our day who do this? Do they preach you must give more money to be blessed more by God? Do they say you must worship or fast a certain number of times a year, month or week, for example, to be in God’s will? We must stop and seek God for ourselves to determine if what they teach is in line with God’s revealed Word, the Bible, or if it is contrary to God’s teaching. When the veil tore upon Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, we each we enabled to speak to God for ourselves to ask Him His way. Listen, if someone teaches something that sounds odd and off from what you have read in the Bible, seek God to understand if it is truth or manmade rules. This is what the Judaizers were doing with the Galatian Christians. They added rules for a person to become a Jesus follower. God did not require these rules for them to become Christians.
In verses nineteen and twenty, Paul expressed that he continued to labor for the Galatian Christians even though he was not with them. He wanted them to be formed into the image of Christ – for them to grow in Christlikeness. Paul expressed his concern and stated he was “perplexed” about the Galatians. He reacted like a teacher, even a parent. These people were Paul’s children in Christ. He taught them and brought them before the Lord Jesus. Paul corrected them and showed them God’s way verses manmade ways to salvation and eternal life with God. He wrote and encouraged them and prayed for them. Paul desired to be with them to protect them from false teachings. We can identify with these feelings. If you have children whether young or adult, you continue to raise them in a moral and, hopefully, Christian way so they will grow up to be strong Christians and good citizens in the world. Teaching is not a one-off event, but requires encouragement, explanation, prayer, intervention, and sometimes punishment to convince the child of the necessity and purpose of the godly lifestyle and walk.
Perhaps you had people intervene in your life in the past who taught you about God and the salvation He gives through His Son, Jesus Christ. You probably did not hear about the Gospel once and then lived a perfect life from that point forward. God sent people into your life who helped you mature in your walk. Maybe they even corrected and chastised you to help you get back on the godly path. God used these people in your life as He used Paul in the lives of the Galatian believers. The Christians whose lives intersected with yours, cared and prayed for you. Some may still remember you and pray for you when the Holy Spirit prompts them. This is most definitely how Paul felt about the Galatians.
On the other hand, maybe you have never stopped to hear and consider or no one came into your sphere to tell you about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Today and this week with these lessons, you have heard the Gospel. Because of the sinfulness of humankind and the inability for imperfect humans to work their way to perfection to be in the presence of Holy God, God provided the perfect sinless sacrifice for our wrongs/sins so we could be in His presence. The sacrifice He gave was His Holy Son, Jesus Christ who was sinless and perfect. His life paid the price for the just judgment we deserve for our sins. God provided this sacrifice because He loves you and each of us. He wants to be in a relationship with you but could not because He, being holy, cannot be in the presence of sin. With His Son’s sacrifice, sins are removed, people are cleansed from evil, when they admit they are sinners, believe Jesus Christ is God’s Son given as the sacrifice for their sins, and confess Jesus Christ is Lord of their lives. That is the simple Gospel. You can do nothing to earn salvation, but because God loves you, even as you are now with your sins, He provided the sin sacrifice through His Son’s death. God provided a way for you to be with Him forever with His Son’s resurrection from death. When you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you inherit the kingdom of God – power over sin and death, and eternal life with Him.