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Thursday, November 28, 2019

2019.11.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 4:12-20

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the apostle call them in Galatians 4:12? Like whom does he urge them to become? Like whom does the apostle say he had become? What does he assure them that they had not done? What had brought him to Galatia at first (Galatians 4:13)? How does he refer to that physical infirmity in Galatians 4:14? What did they not do, despite his physical infirmity? How did they receive him? What does the apostle ask them about their first encounter with his preaching in Galatians 4:15? What does he say they were willing to do for him after they had heard the gospel from him? How does he say they are treating him now (Galatians 4:16)? For what reason does he say they have begun treating him this way? What are others doing to the Galatians, that has resulted in their treating the apostle this way (Galatians 4:17)? What effect is this going to have on them? Why are these others doing this—how do they want the Galatians to think toward them? Is the zeal itself bad (Galatians 4:18)? How does the apostle feel toward them in Galatians 4:19? What is he aiming at having happen to them? Where would he like to be (Galatians 4:20)? What could he do, then, that he can’t do in a letter? 
One thing that is always missing among legalistic believers and congregations is the profound sweetness of Christian affection. Here the apostle is reminding them of how he came to feel so close to them.

He had come in the great weakness of his poor eyesight. He’s even going to remind them of this in a couple chapters, when he closes the letter with his own handwriting instead of employing a scribe. But they had not rejected him for his feebleness. Rather, as a messenger of God they had received him—with a respect for the preaching of God’s Word that flowed directly out of their respect for Christ Jesus Himself (Galatians 4:14)!

Of course, Paul had loved them dearly for Christ’s sake already, but you can hear how moved he was by their love in Galatians 4:16, “For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.” This is a common experience among those pastors who have been on the receiving end of such affection by those who love him for the sake of that Word which he preaches.

It is this about which he speaks, when he says “I became like you.” Now, the apostle is pleading with them to come back to that first love that they had for him. These false teachers seem to have an affection for them (Galatians 4:17a), but it’s not real. They don’t actually care about the Galatians’ souls, which would end up perishing if they follow those teachers. Legalism is all about puffing up man—and they are only puffing up the Galatians so that the Galatians will puff them up too.

Here is a test by which we may examine whether our love is genuine: is it us that we love to see in others, or is it Christ that we love to see in them? If we only love those of our little sect, then we do not love the image of Christ, so much as we are infatuated with our own reflection in them.

But it was not so with the apostle. Why did he love them so tenderly as to call them, “my little children”? Why did he love them so intensely as to describe his ministry as like being in labor with child? Because the object of his affections was Christ Himself, and his love for them was a love of the image of Christ in them!

“If only I could be there, so you could hear it in my voice,” he says. Legalism misses out on affection for Christ: it obeys, but it does not adore. And legalism misses out on affection for one another: a sectarian love for one’s own reflection in others, rather than a tender, intense devotion to all those who have been joined to Christ!
How is your adoration of Christ doing? How is your affection for believers who aren’t from your circles?
Suggested songs: ARP133 “Behold How Very Good It Is” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

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