In this passage of Galatians, Paul expresses again his concerns for the Galatian believers. We saw last time that he seems to go back and forth between identifying a concern and responding to it with the truth of the gospel. What an excellent pattern that we can put to use in our own lives, always returning to the gospel, reminding ourselves of the gospel, putting ourselves in places to be taught again the gospel. It will never grow old. It will never be outdated. It will never be powerless. It will change us and shape us and form us.
This is what Paul wants for these Galatian believers. He desires that Christ be formed in them (v.19). Paul is coming to them as a spiritual father. He calls them his “little children” (v.19). As a father cares for his child, Paul is laboring over these young believers (v.11, v.19), and he expresses concern over them: “I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain” (v.11).
Paul asks them, “How is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements?” He says “you desire to be in bondage” (v.9); “you observe days and months and seasons and years” (v.10); “I am afraid for you” (v.11); “what then was the blessing you enjoyed” (v.15); “Have I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (v.16); “I have doubts about you” (v.20.)
These sound like heavy concerns on Paul’s heart. Picture a wayward child, a person walking away from his or her faith. They have been given the knowledge of the truth, but they are turning from it. They are being deceived. They have been set free in Christ and are returning to bondage. And Paul comes with the truth of the gospel to expose the lies and help them return to the freedom that Christ has given them. He does it with the love of a father who so desires their best, that is that Christ would be formed in them. This is why Paul writes; these are his concerns.
Paul reminds the Galatians of how they received him initially (v. 14). They have not injured Paul at all (v.12), and they did not despise or reject him and the trial that was in Paul’s flesh (v.14). They would have plucked out their own eyes for him (v.15). Paul urges them to become like him (v.12) and contrasts himself with the false teachers. Paul is telling them the truth (v.16) and means good for them. The false teachers court them, but for no good; they want to exclude them, so that the Galatians will be zealous for them (v.17).
The false teachers would have them be in bondage to the law, observing the days and months and seasons and years, depending on the law rather than grace. But Christ came to set them free, and Paul desires them to be zealous for a good thing (v.18) and that Christ be formed in them.
We have seen that through Christ’s death and resurrection, by faith in Him, we are delivered from this present evil age (1:5), redeemed (4:5), adopted (4:5), and given new life. We are justified (made right with God) by faith (2:16, 3:11, 24). By faith, we become a child of God (3:26) and heirs to the promise (3:29). We are given the blessing of God (4:15). We are given the Spirit of God (4:6). We are no longer a slave, but a son (4:7).
The law which we could not keep points us to our need for a Savior, Jesus Christ, who could perfectly keep the law. He sacrificed Himself for us, forgiving our sins, that we can live in newness of life. And all that we have been given in Christ enables us to live for Him, in freedom, not in bondage.
Paul desires these truths to take root and sink deeply into the hearts of these Galatian believers so that they might be full of joy and free in Christ. Do we know this freedom and joy?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for being our Creator, Savior, Redeemer, Father, King. Thank you for giving us all that we need for life and godliness. Thank you that we can turn from sin and turn to you for forgiveness. Thank you that you love us and have made a way for us to know you. Thank you, Jesus, for humbling yourself to death on a cross to bring us to God. Thank you for the joy we find in trusting you and walking with you. Thank you for your Spirit who teaches us and leads us. Let us believe your truth and live in this freedom that you accomplished for us. My heart is full of gratitude. Thank you for a relationship with you, for seeking us. May we now seek You and find true blessing and joy. Keep our eyes fixed on you. May we study your Word so we can know you and be reminded again and again of this glorious gospel of grace that has saved us and redeemed us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.