Galatians 4:13

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.

Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh.
I. THAT WE MIGHT NOT EXALT OUR TEACHERS UNDULY, who are only instruments of grace (Acts 14:15).


III. THAT GOD MIGHT BY THIS MEANS CONFOUND THE WISDOM OF THE WORLD, and cause men that would be wise to become fools that they might be wise (1 Corinthians 3:18).


(W. Perkins.)

I have been delighted, on a calm summer's evening, to hear the tones of a sweet human voice borne to my ears from the other side of the valley. The shadows of the evening were around me, the birds had gone to their rest, a sadness was over the land; not a sound was heard save that voice, singing some tender Welsh air. The voice wandered among the hills, or seemed to linger in the eaves; then it trembled among the branches; by and by it became more powerful as it passed over the clear plain below. There was in it an indescribable pathos — it was a sigh swelling into a song — and it created in me unutterable longings for the perfect good, for that state in which life is musical, harmonious, and not filled with wild, discordant notes, as our present life is. The gospel resembles that voice, it comes to us trembling with Divine love; a tender, melting, pathetic voice, speaking of God and His love and His heaven, and the blessedness that shall be revealed.

(Thomas Jones.)

While we have more or less acquaintance with all the other important Churches of Paul's founding, not a single name of a person or place, and scarcely a single incident connected with the apostle's preaching in Galatia is preserved in either the Acts or the Epistle. This may partly be accounted for by the circumstances of the Church. The same delicacy which has concealed from us the name of the Corinthian offender may have led the apostle to avoid all special allusions in addressing a community to which he wrote in a strain of severest censure. And the historian would seem to have purposely drawn a veil over the infancy of a Church which swerved so soon and so widely from the purity of the gospel.

(Bp. Lightfoot.)

Nothing is more natural than that the traversing of vast distances over the burning plains and freezing mountain passes of Asia Minor — the constant changes of climate, the severe bodily fatigue, the storms of fine and blinding sand, the bites and stings of insects, the coarseness and scantiness of daily fare — should have brought on a return of his malady to one whose health was so shattered as that of St. Paul.

(Farrar.)The climate and the prevailing maladies of Asia Minor may have been modified by lapse of centuries; and we are without the guidance of St. Luke's medical language which sometimes throws a light on diseases alluded to in Scripture; but two Christian sufferers, in widely different ages of the Church, .occur to the memory as we look on the map of Galatia. We could hardly mention any two men more thoroughly imbued with the spirit of St. Paul than John Chrysostom and Henry Martyn. And when we remember how these two saints suffered in their last hours from fatigue, pain, rudeness, and cruelty, among the mountains of Asia Minor which surround the place where they rest, we can well enter into the meaning of St. Paul's expression of gratitude to those who received him kindly in the hour of his weakness.

(Conybeare and Howson.)

The hopes of humanity do not lie in the fulness with which science discovers and employs the forces of nature. On the contrary, there is no danger which is more imminent than the appropriation of those powers by the coarsest despotism which can enslave and corrupt its subjects. It does not consist in what is called culture, because art and poetry are easily made slaves of that wealth which is willing to have its existence certified and its power acknowledge by the homage of cultivated parasites. It is not learning that can save man; for at best learning only influences a few, and is apt, in those who possess it, to degenerate into self-sufficiency and ease. Least of all do the hopes .of man lie in the aggregation of wealth; for experience tells us that wealth is not .only apt to be arrogant and domineering, but to form a coarse and harsh oligarchy, degraded by low tastes and prone to ferocious fears. Nor, finally, do the hopes of humanity reside in any form of polity. It may be that one form of administration is better than another, because it offers least resistance to the influence which ought to leaven society, gives a freer course to those forces which can chasten and exalt mankind. Despotism degrades us, but it does not follow that liberty purifies us. The atmosphere is cleared of its accumulated poisons by some furious storm, which does in the end bring health to the many, but bestows its benefits amidst the waste and the rain of those whom it smites. And so the moral purification of society is affected by the suffering of those whom the cleansing storm catches in its course; the victory of the most righteous cause demands the suffering and death of some among those who enter into the battle. When the stronghold of truth and virtue is to be built, the foundations are laid in the firstborn, and the youngest perishes before the walls are finished.

(Paul of Tarsus.)

The sunlight falls upon a clod, and the clod drinks it in, is itself warmed by it, but lies as black as ever, and sheds out no light. But the sun touches a diamond, and the diamond almost chills itself as it sends out in radiance on every side the light that has fallen upon it. So God helps one man to bear his pain, and nobody but that one man is a whir the richer. God comes to another sufferer — reverent, unselfish, and humble — and the lame leap, and the dumb speak, and the wretched are comforted all around by the radiated comfort of that happy soul.

(Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

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