Galatians 4:12-20

 |  June 7, 2017

  1. Locate the Passage

The passage is found in the middle of Galatians 4 and represents the very “heart” of the letter. Here, we read Paul’s personal and pastoral appeal to the Galatian believers.

  1. Identify the Genre

The macro level is epistolary. The micro level is expository. The passage contains a single imperative command.

  1. Determine the Structure of the Passage

In verses 12-16, Paul appeals to the Galatians for a restoration of fellowship. After imploring them to “become as I am,” he affirms that they did him no wrong in the past. Moreover, they did not despise his bodily weakness and received him as an angel and as Christ. In verse 15, Paul essentially asks: “What happened?”

The second major division in the text is located in verses 17-18. In this section, Paul indicts the activities of the Judaizers.

The third structural element comprises verses 19-20. In these verses, Paul exhibits profound pastoral concern and motivation.

  1. Exegete the Passage

Notice Paul’s appeal in verse 12. Addressing his readers as “brothers,” he urges or implores them, “Become (ginesthe-present middle imperative –the only imperative in this passage) as I am, because I am of you.” Referring to their relationship before the present circumstances, he adds that they wronged (edikesate-aorist) him in nothing. Continuing his appeal, Paul refers to his bodily weakness (astheneian) when he preached the gospel to them at an earlier time (verse 13). In verse 14, he describes his condition as a trial/test (peirasmon) for the Galatians. Apparently, Paul’s sickness may have been a sickening thing to view. However, he notes that they did not despise ( exouthenasate-aorist) him or reject him with contempt (exeptusate-aorist-“to spit out”). Rather, they received him as they would have received an angel or even Christ! In verse 15, Paul essentially asks: “What happened?” Blessedness (makarismos) apparently has been replaced by wariness and suspicion. Paul goes on to testify (marturo-“bear witness”) that, if possible, the Galatians would have gouged out (exorxantes-aorist participle) their eyes and given them to him. This statement has led some to assert that Paul’s ailment had something to do with his eyes. However, no text of Scripture explicitly validates this view. In fact, it is possible that it was merely a colloquialism used to indicate depth of devotion and commitment to a person. In verse 16, Paul asks the penetrating question: “Therefore, have I become (gegona-perfect active) your enemy (exthros) by speaking truth (aletheuon-present participle) to you?”

Verses 17-18 are an indictment of the activities of the Judaizers. These false teachers seek after and make much of the Galatians for no good purpose. Rather, they only want to confine (ekkleisai-aorist infinitive-“exclude” or “shut out”) them so that the Galatians might seek after and make much of them. In verse 18, Paul notes that being made much of for a good purpose is appropriate whether he is present with the Galatians or not. The implication is that this good purpose is absent from the agenda of the Judaizers.

Verses 19-20 exhibit the passionate pastoral concern of Paul. Referring to the Galatians as “my little children” (tekna mou), he expresses his anguish with a powerful and vivid metaphor. He describes it as that of a woman in labor the second time with the same child! Note that his goal is not that the Galatians would make much of him. Rather, it is that Christ “shall have been formed (morphothe-aorist passive subjunctive) in you!” Paul’s pastoral concern is grounded in the motivation of seeing believers grow more like Christ to the glory of God. In verse 20, he expresses his desire (ethelon-imperfect-“I wish”) to be present with the Galatians and to change (allaxai-aorist infinitive) his tone (phonen-“voice”) because, at present, he is perplexed (apouroumai-present middle indicative-“at wit’s end”) about them.

  1. Let the Structure of the Text Drive the Sermon
    1. Paul appeals for restoration of fellowship. (12-16)
      command: “Become…”
      did me no wrong
      received me
      What happened?
    2. Paul indicts the false teachers. (17-18)
      no good purpose
      being “made much of”
    3. Paul exhibits pastoral concern and motivation. (19-20)
      intense concern: woman in childbirth
      specific motivation: Christ formed in the Galatians

Category: Sermon Structure
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