PAUL HAS GREAT FEAR FOR THE GALATIANS
Paul often speaks of his work as an apostle of Jesus Christ as being “labor!” This work of an apostle had not been easy, but it was fraught with severe difficulties for both mind and body. It was, at its best, a constant, toilsome effort for this man of God. It was a sowing in tears. He was but an earthen vessel. And so he speaks of his work as being toiling and laboring, a constant struggle. When all this labor appears to have been in vain, this is rather heart-rending for a faithful servant of Christ. And this it seemed in the case of these Galatians.
Paul indeed feared the worst. He writes in a tense which indicates that the labors are now completed. No more work will avail unless there comes a radical change. And this change is that these Galatians be liberated out of the clutches of these evil men who corrupt the Gospel of Christ. It was pure toil and labor, and that in vain. Paul will not have the joy, he fears, of rejoicing with the joy of these saints in the day of Christ. Are they not now very minutely keeping days, months, times, and seasons. They, to all appearances, desire and will to be under law and not under grace. In their teaching they have moved to beggarly principles where Christ avails them nothing!
These are not ungrounded fears on the part of Paul. And the expression of these fears is to move these Galatians to come to their spiritual senses. Only if the Holy Spirit opens their hearts and causes them to heed, is there hope. Therefore Paul says in Gal. 5:9 that he “has confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded.” He knows that the Lord Jesus can do all things, and that His power can be fulfilled in Paul’s weakness. But that is then the only light which Paul sees in this dark prospect with these Galatians.
PAUL’S BIRTH PANGS FOR THE GALATIANS
Paul compares the concern which he has for these Galatians to the agony and fear which a woman has in child-birth. He truly agonizes over them as his dear children’ in Christ, his “brethren.” He reminds them of former and better times together. Paul’s mind goes back to the very first meeting with these Galatians, when he first preached Christ to them. He had set forth Christ before them as crucified. He had preached the saving power and the glory of the Cross of Christ. He will stir up their memory to bring them to their senses.
First of all Paul appeals to his own conduct. His own life and walk was a sermon. He so walked that others might be gained to Christ. (Ques. 86. Heidelberg Catechism) What Paul now lived he lived by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved him and gave Himself for him. (Gal. 2:20) Paul had ceased to be a Jew. He had become a Christian, a poor sinner who was saved by Christ’s blood of the Cross. Paul appeals to these Galatians “become as I,” that is, become a poor sinner saved by grace, through faith, instead of going to the weak and beggarly principles of law, which law cannot give life and willingness to the dead and stubborn sinner. The reason is that Paul had become really as the heathen, a sinner needing salvation. (Gal. 2:15-17) He had left the position of the Jewish law of “do this and thou shalt live” and had become just like the Gentiles who were “sinners.” And he urges these Galatians to become like himself, free in Christ, justified by faith alone. This is powerful appeal. Paul’s entire life is a sermon. It speaks volumes. Paul is the great example of the poor sinner saved by grace. In him is manifested the work, which is true and worthy of all acceptation: Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners, of which I am chief. (I Tim. 1:11-17; Matthew 1:21)
Paul adds: “brethren, I beseech you.” What a tender appeal and full of love. It is the spasm of spiritual birth pangs of a true preacher. It is the love of Christ that constrains Paul (II Cor. 5:14) Here is the perfect blending of example and word. Well may every preacher emulate this example of the great servant of God, steward of the mysteries of God.
Paul hastens to assure the Galatians that his writing concerning the false teachers is not that he feels hurt and slighted by the Galatians personally. Writes he, “ye have done me no wrong.” He does not have any reason to complain for personal injury and injustice. That is the farthest from his mind. His love is like a mother’s love to her children. He has birth pangs over them to have Christ formed in them once more. And to woo them back to Christ he relates the very conduct of these Galatians to them; he rehearses here briefly how he and the gospel of grace which he preached was received by them at that time of their first meeting. Paul had preached the gospel there “because of illness.” He must have tarried there because he could not push on. And, while amongst the Galatians, he must have presented himself a pitiable sight. There was nothing of the “appeal” of a good-looking preacher. Paul’s very appearance would rather cause them to abhor him, and turn away from the gospel. They should have, as it were, spit out their disgust at his sight. But this they did not do. They rather were very thankful for the message which he brought. Paul’s feet were beautiful upon the mountains of Sion, as he preached: behold your God in Jesus’ blood and righteousness, and receive in Him the forgiveness of your sins. What a message! What a Messenger! These were the Words of eternal life. Yes, they received Paul as if he were Gabriel out of heaven. They must have stood in awe when they heard the apostle of the Gentiles.
When they heard this Word they were, O, so inwardly blessed! For the first time in their, life they experienced the peace of God which passes all understanding. They were justified by faith, and received the Spirit by faith, and they said with David in Psalm 32:1, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” That was the “blessedness” then. Do these Galatians still enjoy that blessedness now that they are seeking to observe with greatest scrupulosity days, months, times and years? Where is that blessedness which you tasted then? It is gone! You are no longer under a nurture that brings you to freedom in Christ, but under a yoke of bondage, which is not Christ’s because it is neither light nor easy! (Matt. 11:28) So great had been the blessedness, this pearl of great price for these Galatians, that the best they had to offer was not good enough in their thankfulness. They would have given the very apple of their eye. They would sell their all that they might obtain this gift of grace in Christ.
Thus Paul speaks then tenderly, then reproachfully, then in fatherly earnestness that he may “form” Christ in them. He would have them shew the true nature of Christ. This is evident from the Greek verb here: “morphoothee.” This refers to the essential, spiritual form of Christ in his grace of justification and adoption unto sonship. Such is the holy zeal of Paul, the true preacher of the Gospel and the shepherd of the sheep, whom he loves most tenderly and earnestly. He has a holy jealousy over them!
This zeal of Paul cannot and is’ not matched by these would-be preachers of the Gospel, who came in sheep’s clothing, but who were inwardly wolves, who came to destroy the sheep and to fleece them. Yes, they zealously affection the Galatians; but they have very evil motives. It is that the Galatians may be separated from the body of Christ, and separated from God in Christ, and may thus be followers of man, mere men. They were pure demagogues! The preacher-world is ever full of such charlatans. They know nothing about that which they so confidently affirm. (I Tim. 1:7) These ignoramuses would have these Galatians follow them so that they would not be under the shame of the Cross of Christ!
O, it is a good thing to be zealously affected!
But not by such who have only personal gain, the honor and glory of men in mind, and not the glory of God, the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to Whom be honor and glory forever!
Paul would like to be present with these Galatians this very moment, while he is writing from far away Rome. If only he needed not to use the written word, to which he must add the appendage, “Ye see with how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand!” (Gal. 6:11) He desires to be in their midst to speak with them personally and change the tone of his voice so as that they might hear the living message from the Word.
Must such an apostle of Christ be. made out to be the enemy of the church at Galatia, who did nothing but preach the truth which makes us free? (Gal. 4:16; John 8:31, 32) Such is the bleeding heart of that great apostle to the Gentiles!
Birth pangs til Christ is formed in them!
THE VOICE OF THE SCRIPTURES EXPOUNDED
Now the apostle will apply once more the touchstone of the holy Scriptures. He will turn to the book of Genesis and to the great instruction of the prophecy of Isaiah, which both speak of the liberty which the sons of God shall have in Christ, both Jew and Greek. He will lay bare from the Scriptures that we have been set free unto freedom from sin, guilt, death, and hell in Christ!
We will learn some great principles of interpretation from this instructive passage from the pen of the inspired Paul. We shall see how the Spirit of truth leads him into all truth. (John 16:12-15) The deep meaning of the happenings, the experiences and the lives, and the mighty dealings of God are here interpreted by Paul for us in their profound and wide implications. When we “hear” these Scriptures we shall never again “will to be under law,” that is, we shall never again seek justification by works of law which we perform, but will see it all in the full, sure, sovereign promise of our Almighty and Faithful covenant God. We will then cling solely and always to the promises of God.
But to bind these matters upon our hearts the Apostle proceeds to interpret the Scriptures and call attention to their allegorical implication. This allegorical implication must not be equated with the well-known allegorical method of interpretation which wildly allegorizes all the Scriptures according to their own choosing! The apostle limits this allegorical meaning to “such things which are of that nature” (hatina) as are mentioned in the Scriptures referred to by Paul, namely, the things concerning Abraham, his two wives, his twofold sons in relationship to the covenant promises in Christ Jesus! These things, and these only, are selected by the Holy Spirit, to show us the deep meaning which goes beyond the literal facts of this history of Abraham. Here in this written history lies a deep prophetic implication and perspective which we must “hear,” we must understand!