Zealously Affected

Galatians 4: 17-18. “They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.”

The judaizers had come to make a prey of the Galatian believers with their false teaching, trying to affect them adversely in order that they might rally around the judaizers, because they wanted to set up a little group of their own.  They were not seeking the Galatians’ good, but were trying to extend their own influence.

Paul said, “It is good for a man to be zealous in what is right. It is good to go after people with the truth and bring them into the light,  and you who started in the truth need to come back to it, even if I am not with you.”

Many years ago, I knew of a situation in which two men had joined a certain church.  They were full of brotherly love, it seemed, and soon their wives were teaching in the women’s classes. The men were put in places of authority and responsibility. And then word started coming to the pastor that these men were teaching another gospel; that they were questioning the pastor’s authority to be in ministry (on trumped up charges), and doing their best to run him out and take over the church themselves.

They didn’t succeed, but the church was so damaged by the division and the gossip, by the lies and the hurt and anger, that  it never really recovered.  Too late, it was discovered that these two men had a history of going to different churches and doing the same thing wherever they went. They were preaching “another gospel,” and doing damage to the cause of Christ.

Just like the judaizers in Galatia.

Has Telling the Truth Made Me your Enemy?

Galatians 4:15-16. “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. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? ”

"Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" - Galatians 4:16

There really is nothing new under the sun. So many times, we would rather believe the lie than the truth, even when it is Truth that sets us free!  Why?  Sin works in us all the time to keep us from the truth. Never forget, we have an enemy who is first and foremost God’s enemy.

Can you hear the hurt in Paul’s words?  “There was a time when you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me because I brought you truth, and you loved me for it.  Now, it seems, I am  your enemy for the very same reason–I told you truth!”

The judaizers had done a really good job of making the Galatians doubt Paul, doubt his teaching, doubt his apostleship. The plan they offered instead appealed to them because it gave them some control, some power, to gain heaven by their own works.

It takes a little humility to acknowledge that there is nothing at all we can do that makes us good enough for God to overlook our sin and accept us into His heaven. All the systems man has devised to work his way into heaven are nothing to God.

Isaiah 64:6

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Infirmity of the Flesh

Galatians 4:13-14, “Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first, 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.”

Wouldn’t you like to know what Paul’s infirmity was?  Apparently it was active and obvious when he first ministered to the people of Galatia–in Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. He reminds them here of how he preached truth to them in spite of his infirmity, and they listened with joy, receiving him as if he were an angel of God, or even Jesus Himself!

Paul did not go to the people in pomp and circumstance, with a great retinue of servants. He did not wear a fabulously expensive garment.  Heralds did not run ahead of him to announce his coming. He simply preached, and people were touched by the truth of God’s Word inspite of the fact that the messenger had some sort of physical problem.

Why is Paul reminding the Galatians of those early days?

Because they need to go back there in their faith and doctrine.

I Beseech You

Galatians 4:12.”Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.”

This seems like a strange statement at first glance, so let’s pick it apart. And, of course, we have to remember to always keep things in context. This is an introductory verse for the next section, from 4:12-20.

Brethren, I beseech you:  Paul is now speaking directly to the believers, speaking in a very intimate way, and from the heart.  He is begging them.

Be as I am, for I am as ye are:  Once, Paul had been just like them. He followed all the laws with great care, depending upon his observance of the Law for his place in heaven.  But now, he is free from the Law, and no longer needs to observe it, because he is new in Christ Jesus. Paul wants the Galatian believers to enjoy the fullness of their salvation, and no to be tied to the Law any longer.

Ye have not injured me at all: This statement will become more clear as we continue this section. For now, it’s important to realize that there was a rift in the tender relationship between Paul and the Galatian believers. This rift came about partly because the judaizers did their best to discredit Paul and his apostleship.

Second, Paul didn’t mince words. He called them “foolish Galatians,” and they apparently didn’t take it kindly that he was so direct. He didn’t worry about being politically correct.

Third, it is simply in the nature of mankind to reject criticism, no matter how kindly it is offered. We don’t like being caught in our foolishness.

All these things, Paul said, had not injured him at all. He took it in stride, and his major and ongoing concern was for these believers who were being led astray by the judaizers.

Incorrect doctrine often leads to strife and separation among believers. Satan is always at work.

Friday Schlump

I’m feeling kind of 

I’m discouraged and tired.  Maybe it’s the typical reaction after being on such a high during the trip to Slovakia. Maybe I’m just old. There’s no real reason for it, so I thought maybe I could write my way out of it.

Well, actually, there is a reason.  I’ve either developed a new disc herniation, or one of the other ones has gotten worse.  I’m having the same kind of pain on my left side now. I did so well for the trip, I was feeling so good, and then WHAM! this pain started about four days ago.  I waited to call my pain doctor, hoping the problem was only temporary, but I was kidding myself. So I have an appointment for an evaluation next Thursday, which I’m sure will lead to another MRI and another round of epidural shots. Sigh.

I’m trying to be thankful that treatment is available.  Since I started with this condition, I’ve heard countless stories from other people about their own painful journey. For many of them, the shots didn’t work, or they worked only for a short period of time.  All that’s left at that point is surgery, which scares me to death. I don’t like the idea of nerves being snipped.

I’m learning, though, that no matter how bad your own situation may be, someone else’s is much worse. It is interesting to me that people who live with chronic, debilitating pain don’t usually talk about it. Their attitudes toward the pain is, “It is what it is. I do the best I can. Other people have it much worse.”

If the person in pain is a believer, it is often true that she has learned to walk more closely with God because of her pain.;That is what I want to do. The only alternative is to grow bitter and whiney and miserable.  No, thanks.

A few weeks ago, while I was at my physical therapy place, I saw a woman I know who is a chronic complainer.  She is never happy about anything, never has anything good to say.  I avoid her. When she appeared at therapy, I dodged around a corner before she could see me.  I did NOT want to spend an hour listening to her sad story. Again.

I don’t want to BE her. You don’t have to be her. It isn’t necessary.

I often think about the Apostle Paul, wondering about his thorn in the flesh. Some believe it was something to do with his eyes. Others believe he may have been damaged as a result of the beatings he took. We don’t know, and it really doesn’t matter. What we do know is that he asked God repeatedly to take it away, whatever it was, and God did not heal him. Yet Paul was able to write “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”  He knew how to be abased and how to abound. He knew he could do all things through Christ, Who gave him strength. He knew that no temptation or struggle can come to us that God cannot help us through, and make us able to bear it.

This is part of what grace is all about, I think. Last Sunday, we sang Wonderful Grace of Jesus  in church.  The words have stayed in my mind all week, and helped keep me from slipping into the pit of self-pity.

I think maybe I have written my way out of my schlump.

Labour in Vain

Galatians 4:9-11. “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.”

To be known of God is an amazing concept. We hear of Him, we read of Him in His Word, and we feel we know Him. In truth, we know Him very little, and will spend all eternity learning of Him.

He, on the other hand, knows each one of us; knows our propensity for sin, and our need of a Savior.  In the song I Will Sing the Wondrous Story, we find the words “I was lost, but Jesus found me, Found the sheep that went astray; Threw His loving arms around me, Drew me back into His way.”

And once we have been known of God, how is it possible to leave that incredible place of blessing to return  to a legal system that is no longer necessary?  It’s kind of like going back to eating margarine after you’ve enjoyed the taste of butter!

To depend on feasts, forms, and ceremonies is no longer the way to please God. To love His Son, and to gladly receive the salvation offered by His death and resurrection, is  so much richer; it is free, and it creates freedom. It takes only belief, and true believers will not desire to go back to the rituals.

Paul says he is afraid of having wasted his time and work on them, because they are being so easily seduced back into keeping all the laws when it is no longer necessary to do so.  He fears that he has labored in vain.  He fears that their conversion was not genuine, their hearts not truly changed.

Returning to Bondage

Galatians 4: “Howbeit then when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.”

To paraphrase: “How is it, then, that before you knew God you were enslaved by false gods? You were heathen when I came to  you, enslaved by heathen customs, worshipping idols, misled by pagan priests. I introduced you to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which sets you free from the bondage of sin and death–and now I hear that you are turning away from the light of grace and becoming enslaved again in rules and regulations that will keep you in bondage. Why?  Why on earth would you do that?”

Why, indeed?