Brothers, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as you are: you have not injured me at all.
To render Paul's appeal more emphatic, he proceeds next to remind them of the tender relations in which he had stood to them when he preached the gospel to them the first time. He had been suffering from the thorn in the flesh; he was consequently a very weak specimen when as a preacher he stood before them; but the message was so emancipating to their souls that they would have done anything for him in their gratitude. They would have even plucked out their own eyes and have given them to him. Why, then, should they turn against him when he seeks to tell them the truth? It is consequently the pathetic appeal of the apostle to those who had once been so interested in him.
I. PAUL'S EXAMPLE OF CHRISTIAN LIBERTY. (Ver. 12.) He wants the Galatians to be as he is, for he is as the Gentiles are so far as legalism is concerned. How did Paul act among the Gentiles? Not certainly as Peter had done at Antioch, in a vacillating spirit. He sat down deliberately at the tables of the heathen and carried no Jewish scruples into Gentile society. The ceremonial Law did not bind him to keep his converts at arm's length or to insist on their submission to Jewish scruples. He felt that Jesus had fulfilled for him all righteousness, and that he was consequently free from the ceremonial yoke. Hence with the greatest breadth of view and consistency, Paul acted the free and social part among the heathen.
II. PAUL'S APPEAL FOR SOMETHING LIKE THE OLD SYMPATHY. (Vers. 13-15.) He had appeared among them in a suffering condition. The "thorn in the flesh," which bad been sent to buffet him and keep him humble, had manifested itself in full force. There is every reason to believe that it consisted in weak eyes, which never recovered the shock on the way to Damascus. But the weak-eyed, despicable-looking preacher (2 Corinthians 10:10) had got an admirable reception in Galatia. His hearers so sympathized with his message as to forget his outward weakness, nay, rather to so sympathize with him in it as to be ready to pluck out their own eyes and give them to him, if it had been possible. The poor preacher was in their estimation an angel of God, and was received with the same consideration as they would have extended to Christ Jesus himself. This was admirable. And Paul wishes them to revive this sympathy for him and lead them along the path of liberty he himself is treading. How deep and pathetic the true sympathy between pastor and people ought to be I
III. THE UNREASONABLE CHARACTER OF THEIR PRESENT ANTIPATHY. (Ver. 16.) Because of Paul's faithfulness they are inclined to resent his interference with their legalism as a hostile act. But he would have them to analyze their antipathy fairly and to own how unreasonable it is. And yet this has been the fate of faithful men in all ages. They are hated because they tell the truth. The unreasonableness of antipathy to a man who tells us God's truth may be seen in at least three particulars.
1. Because the truth sanctifies (John 17:19).
2. Because the truth makes men free (John 8:32).
3. Because the truth saves (1 Timothy 2:4).
IV. ATTENTION MAY BE MISINTERPRETED, (Vers. 17, 18.) The false teachers were assiduous in their attentions to Paul's converts. They could not make enough of them. But Paul saw through their designs. Hence he declares, "They zealously seek you in no good way; nay, they desire to shut you out, that ye may seek them" (Revised Version). It was a zeal to get the Galatians under their power; it was to make them ritualists of the Jewish type, and so amenable to their Jewish authority and direction. Young converts require warning against the designs of zealots whose prerogative it is to curtail Christian liberty and put the simple under bondage. Now, Paul had paid all sorts of attention to the Galatians. He compares himself to a mother who had travailed with them and would consequently nurse them with the utmost tenderness. He courts comparison between his attentions and those of the false teachers. He more than insinuates that they are receiving different treatment at their hands than they did when he was present with them. It is only fair and right that attention should be weighed in the balances carefully, and a selfish fuss not be confounded with an unselfish and disinterested enthusiasm.
V. A PASTOR'S SPIRITUAL ANXIETIES ABOUT HIS PEOPLE. (Vers. 19, 20.) Paul had been in agony for their conversion when in Galatia. But their legalism has thrown him into perplexity about them. His agony, like a woman's travail, has to be repeated. He will not be content till Christ is formed within them as their true Hope of glory. He wishes he were present with them once again and were able by tender, maternal tones to convince them of the unselfish interest he has in them. The whole case is instructive as showing how painful is the interest of a true pastor in his flock and to what straits their waywardness may reduce him. A mother's anxieties should summon a pastor to an enthusiasm of affection for those committed to his charge. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.