For Paul, this time it’s personal. Paul considered the Galatians his “little children,” (Galatians 4:19). They were because he preached the Gospel to them for the first time, Galatians 4:13. They believed the Message of Life and were wonderfully saved. But now a group opposed to Grace were pestering Paul’s proteges!
After he left, these young believers were in danger. As one commentator put it, “As a result, the Galatians would have found themselves in the awkward position of having abandoned at least some of their familial, social, and religious affiliations, yet without simultaneously embracing the new status and identity that belong to full-fledged Jewish proselytes. They would have thus found themselves in an extremely tenuous and delicate position vis-a-vis both the Jewish community and their (former) pagan coreligionist,” (PTW Commentary).
This section (4:12-20) is most personal. Paul appeals to them not as a theologian, but as a parent or pastor. Three things to notice about the passage. First, verse 12 is the first command in the letter. He tells them to imitate him and he has imitated them. Like a parent showing a child how to hold a bat, Paul places young hands around the Gospel of Grace and say heres how.
Secondly, he recounts his initial meeting with them. It was because of a “bodily weakness” that he even met them. (This was not a sickness unto death, but unto life!) Whatever it was, (and we do not know for sure) it’s severity would have caused many to “despise or loathe” Paul. But they embraced him as “an angel of God or Christ Jesus.” What a wonderful way God has to connect the Gospel with those prepared to hear it!!!
But Paul’s enemies made them forget those sacred moments, when Paul shared God’s soul-saving Truth. And for this Paul was now the enemy, (Galatians 4:16). They had turned these believers away from Paul and back to Moses. And their motives were not noble, but nasty. They did not want this blessed infection (The Gospel) to spread.
Thirdly, Paul cannot abandon his spiritual children to a life of legalism, drudgery and and empty works. No he pens this letter, hoping they will return to discipleship and “Christ will be formed in them.”
How easily we are moved away from Grace. How quickly this stunts spiritual growth. How sad to see believers not mature into disciples. You cannot grow apart from Gospel rooted Grace living. This Sunday, Paul exhorts us, his little children, to imitate Him. How do we do that you ask? Come Sunday and find out!