Studies in Galatians – Wayne Barber/Part 20
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|Paul is the spiritual father to these spiritual children there in Galatia. He’s the one who took the message to them and he feels a responsibility to them. He has watched them turn and go the wrong way. He has corrected them. He has done everything else, and now he takes a different approach.|
Who Are You Listening To?
Turn with me to Galatians 4 today. We’re going to be looking at verses 12-18. It’s very interesting what’s going to happen in this passage of scripture. The apostle Paul begins by saying something entirely different than he had been saying. He starts off in verse 12 and says, “I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong.” Now, most of us in here have children, or if we don’t, we are somehow around them from time to time. But you realize what Paul is going to do today. Have you ever been a parent and you’ve seen your child not listen to what you’re saying, and they’re going to do what they are going to do? It doesn’t matter what you say at all. And you’ve tried correcting them; you’ve tried chastening them; you’ve illustrated to them where they’re going wrong, and they just will not listen, and you are exasperated with them. And finally what do we do? We resort to begging them. Just pleading with them, “Please listen to what I’m trying to say.” That’s exactly what’s going on in our text today.
Paul is the spiritual father to these spiritual children there in Galatia. He’s the one who took the message to them and he feels a responsibility to them. He has watched them turn and go the wrong way. He has corrected them. He has done everything else, and now he takes a different approach. He’s going to beg them. He urges them to go back to what they used to have, to go back to walking by faith. In verses 1-6 of chapter 4, just to review a bit, they have chosen to become slaves again. You see, as slaves they can’t now enjoy any of the privileges they have in Christ Jesus. It’s incredible. So many people know what they have in Christ, but they’re not experiencing it. You know why? Because they will not come His way. It’s all conditional on the fact, are we willing to say yes to Him as believers? Faith is the key that unlocks the door to everything, all of our resources in Christ Jesus.
Then in verse 7-11, he doesn’t say it outright, but he says it. It’s kind of like he’s saying, “Why would you ever go back to live as a slave if you are a son of God, in Christ Jesus?” You see, we received our position of sonship when we received Christ into our life. Verse 26 of chapter 3 is really a catalyst for all of what he’s saying in chapter 4. In 3:26 he very clearly says, “For you are all,” Jew and Gentile, if you have come to know Christ, “you are all sons of God.” And that term “sons” is huios. It’s the mature son. And you say, “I’m not mature in Christ. I might be mature in age, but I haven’t come to perfection yet. Paul said he hadn’t arrived.” That’s correct. The only time we enjoy the privileges of our position is when we choose to walk by faith. That’s how we received it. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” The only way to walk in the privileges, the adult privileges of sonship, and I will say it again, is to walk by faith. That’s how we receive them. That’s how we appropriate them into our life.
Galatians 2:20. So clearly—this is one of the key verses to the whole study of Galatians—Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me and the life which I now live in the flesh,” in the same body I had before I got saved, I still have the same body. It hasn’t changed on the outside. It has changed on the inside. He says, “I now live… by faith.” There it is right there: “I live by faith.” How did he receive it? By faith. How does he live in it? By faith. He says, “In the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
Well, in our text today as I have said, Paul literally begs the Galatians to listen to what he has been trying to tell them. Keep on walking by faith. He says, “Become as I am.” And that word means become and keep on becoming. And what is that? Walk and keep on walking by faith. Paul is not an egotist. Paul is not calling attention to himself. He’s calling attention to a lesson he has learned in life. It’s like a parent to a child. “I’ve been there, son. I’ve done that. Now pay attention to what I am telling you. Do as I do, which means walk by faith. Trust God. Don’t go back to that religious set of rules. It will put you back into bondage.”
And the only purpose he has in mind is to get them back to where they can walk in the fullness of the blessings of what God wants to give them. His heart has been broken. He said in 4:11, he says, “I fear for you.” You can feel the exasperation in his life. He said “I fear for you that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.” In other words, why did I even bother? Why did I even come? Why did I go through the effort? You know, you have days like this when you see people so stubborn they will not listen to what you’re saying. That’s what Paul is saying. He says, “I taught you. I tried to live it before you, and why in the world?” He says, “Why did I even bother? I feel like I have labored over you in vain.”
You see, Paul was a former Pharisee. He knows the emptiness of religion. He has been there. Everything they are buying into he has been set free from that very thing. He knew what was awaiting them. But the Galatians had forgotten what they once were. Isn’t that true with us day by day? We forget what it’s like to be lost? Some time go home and sit down and take an hour and write out on a piece of paper the emptiness and the depression and the critical spirit and the judgmental attitudes and all the garbage that we had to put up with before we were released from that by the Spirit of God coming to live in our life. And understand that when we choose not to walk by faith we go right back into that old pit. We go right back into that same type of stuff. And that’s what Paul is trying to tell them. They just forgot what it was like to be lost. They are Christians. They cannot lose their salvation, but, brother, they can lose the joy of their salvation. They have lost their remembrance of what it used to be.
John Newton was the man who wrote “Amazing Grace.” Don’t you love that song! “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.” Do you know anything about him? John Newton was an only child, lost his mother when he was seven years old. At the age of 11 he went to sea and began to work on a ship. The ship that he worked on was a ship that was dealing with the African slave trade, not a very proper thing to do. They took these poor African people and would sell them into slavery. And the kind of people that would do that were the kind of people he was around. And his life went straight down. He went from bad to worse. He was totally corrupt in his life.
At the age of 23 however, they were in a terrible storm at sea. Isn’t it interesting how God has used the weather and oceans to get people right with Him? I think Jonah could sort of jump in here and testify. In the midst of a terrible storm at sea, facing death, he cried out to God for mercy, and he said, “Oh, God, save me!” And God heard his cry and God saved him. And he is the man that wrote “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” But maybe this you don’t know, in order to remember daily what he came from so that he would never go back to it, he took Deuteronomy 15:15 and put is on his mantle and he put it on his mirror. Every morning when he got up he looked at this just to be reminded every day of his life. And here is what it says in Deuteronomy 15:15: “And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you.” And every morning he got up he looked at that before he walked out his door to remember that by choice, he could enter right back into that old fleshly way of living. He could enter back into that emptiness that it offers and he said daily he wanted to remember the grace of God and walk in the grace of God.
John Newton remembered what it was like to be lost. The Galatians totally forgot what it was like to be lost. They completely looked away and chose to go right back to slavery once again. They chose religion over Christ, the saddest testimony that anybody could have. They said, “Jesus is not enough. I need law. My flesh needs to be pampered. I’m going to do it my way.”
Now sometimes people get lost in this terminology. They say, “Religion, law, you’re losing me.” Okay, let’s put it simply. In every man’s heart there is a cross and there is crown. And here is the issue: if you are wearing the crown, then Jesus is still on the cross in your life, with having no affect and not allowing you to be able to walk in the fullness of His blessing. But if He is wearing the crown and you are on the cross and He is calling the shots, then you can enter into that which God wants you to have. So I have got a choice every day of my life. Do it my way or do it God’s way. The Galatians did it their way.
In our text today he pleads with them, as I said, on a personal level. He’s going to take them back. They had a relationship, and this is so precious. I mean, sometimes he would write a book to people he had never seen before, but not here, not here. He didn’t write this letter to people he didn’t know. Oh, he knew them well. And he has gone the doctrinal route. He has shown them their error. Now, as if exasperated, he pleads with them as a friend to a friend. He has been the preacher route and the apostle route. Now he comes as a friend to a friend. His heart is clearly seen in verse 12 when he says, “I beg of you, brethren.”
Now that term “I beg of you” is the word deomai. And deomai is an intense plea. It’s not something he suggests to them. It’s not saying, “Oh, by the way, I want to ask you to.” No, it is an intense plea. Let me show you how that word is used in Scripture and you will understand. Paul pled with Agrippa in Acts 26:3, “especially because you are an expert at all customs and questions among the Jews,” Paul says, “therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.” The Ethiopian eunuch was just absolutely desperate to know about the prophecy in Isaiah. And in Acts 28:34 the eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of someone else?” And of course he sat down and led him to Christ. A desperate father pleads with Jesus. I want you to feel this word here. He pleads with Jesus to heal his son in Luke 9:38, “And behold a man from the multitude cried out saying, ‘Teacher, I beg You to look at my son, for he, he is my only boy,’” and you can hear the desperate plea of a father. That’s the word that Paul uses here. “I beg you, I beg you, I plead with you, this matter is urgent.” You can see the deep grief that is inside of Paul, being their teacher and their spiritual father.
Let me ask you a question. Does it grieve you as it grieves me when you see fellow believers choose not to live surrendered to Jesus? Does it grieve you? Does it grieve you what comes out of their mouth? Does it grieve you the emptiness that’s in their life? Does it just cause something to happen inside of you that you don’t know what you can do? You can plead with them and that’s as far as you can go. That’s exactly what’s happening with the apostle Paul. He makes that intense personal plea. His appeal; in it you can see that they no longer are paying any attention to him. That’s hard. You know, they knew he was right’ they knew they were wrong. But you know what I see in the Galatians—and perhaps you see something different; but I have studied it all the way through and perhaps you will help me if I’m wrong—what I see in it, they know he is right and they know they are wrong, but they are so stubborn they’re not about to give in. And Paul is at the end of his rope trying to help them to understand. He is a spiritual father and these are his spiritual children. And if you are a parent you know exactly where he is.
Three things he does in this text that I want us to look at today. First of all, he reminds them of something. They need this; they need this desperately. In verse 12 in the last part he says, “You have done me no wrong.” And what he’s talking about is he’s shifting gears. Suddenly he takes them back to when they met, and he says “You have done me no wrong.” He points back to the past and he’s exactly right. In fact, they went overboard. They went the extra mile to care for the apostle Paul. It says in verse 13, “But you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time.”
Now, what Paul does here, he enters ground that scripture cannot help us with. Scripture doesn’t go back to that event that he’d pointing him to. What bodily illness is he talking about? There’s no story that helps us to fully grasp what he’s referring to. The word for bodily is the word sarx, which simply means flesh. But here it’s referring to a physical illness, so you know it’s something physical. It’s a sickness of some kind. Some suggest that Paul caught malaria when he was going through those low swampy areas of Pamphylia and this is the illness he’s referencing. They suggest that once he contacted the malaria in that low mosquito-ridden area that he wanted to get to higher ground so he went up to Galatia to try to heal, to try to recover and this is what he is talking about in verse 13. The fact is we just don’t know. But what we do know is he was ill, and as a result of his illness somehow God put him in the front of the Galatian people that were pagans at that time, and He was able to use that platform of illness to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to these people.
Isn’t that interesting? To the Ephesians and to the Philippians and to the Colossians, prison was used to teach them in a beautiful way, and even to Philemon. But here it’s an illness. It is a sickness, and God used it to see His message glorified. He says in verse 13, “But you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time.”
Well, whatever his illness was, it must have been repulsive. Now, this isn’t going to be fun, but this is the text; I didn’t write it. Verse 14: “And that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you didn’t despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God as Christ Jesus Himself.” Now he uses two very descriptive words here to let you know how bad this malady was. Whatever he had, it wasn’t fun. The word for despise, he said, “You did not despise or loathe” “my condition,” is the word exoutheneo. It means to treat with contempt. It’s something that you don’t want to fool with. Have you ever been around, if you are a nurse or a doctor you have been around people that have been sick and bad situations. You know exactly what I am talking about. You care for the person, but oh, you don’t want to have to deal with this. And he said, “But you did not treat me that way.” You did not treat me with contempt.
When I was growing up my daddy would take me out the river and we would catch hellgrammites, because we would go trout fishing. A hellgrammite is the ugliest looking creature you have ever seen in your entire life, one of the best baits you can use for small mouth bass and trout in a river or in some type of stream. But they are the ugliest creatures. I mean, it is ugly. It is ugly. I mean, it’s long and crawly. It has legs everywhere, but then it has pinchers on its head. Its whole head has these pinchers growing out of them and they will pinch the blood out of you. And you treat them with disgust. You treat them with contempt.
And he said you didn’t do that to me. You didn’t treat me that way. It’s interesting, this word, you have got to get a feel of it. Despise, what does that mean? “You did not despise or loathe my condition.” The word is used in Luke 23:11. It said, “And Herod with his soldiers, after treating him with contempt.” He treated Jesus this way. They treated Him as if he was repulsive. They treated the Lord Jesus Christ this way. “And they mocked Him and dressed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back to Pilate.” Man, you begin to understand, what in the world did Paul have that they would despise and they could have, but they did not, treat him that way. That was not their response. “That which was a trial to you [ a test] in my bodily condition, you did not despise or loathe.” I have known folks that have stayed with their parents until they had to take care of them until the day they died and they did not despise that condition.
The second very descriptive word is the word “loathe.” In the Greek it is the word ekptuo. It literally means to spit out of one’s mouth. But that’s the nicer way to put it. It means to throw up. It was nauseating. And Paul said you did not throw up when you saw me in that repulsive condition I was in. You did not treat me with contempt and despise me because of the way that I was. You see, in most ancient countries at that time they didn’t have many doctors. How many doctors do you know of in Scripture? Luke, and there is also Luke. We read Scripture out of 21st century mentality. We forget they didn’t have medicines like we have. They didn’t have bandages like we have. The most disgusting diseases, as a result, developed. They were disfiguring. Their stench was nauseating. It would cause one to throw up. It was the word that was used.
To be around somebody who had some of these detestable sicknesses in those times—in most of their religious beliefs if you add this, and factor this into it and Judaism particularly, they thought that these horrific conditions was because of sin in somebody’s life and, buddy, they would turn away from them in a minute. “Don’t get near that guy. There is sin in his life. Look how sick he is. Look how repulsive he is.” That was their mindset. Remember John 9, “who sinned,” when the blind man came around? His mother or his father? They thought it was all because of personal sin.
In fact, a great illustration of this is in the book of Job. Remember when Job had the boils all over his body? You think that was not repulsive? And all the runny stuff, and he using a piece of pottery to try to scrape the stuff, the sores, as they were breaking all over his body from head to toe. And three friends came to minister to him. And by the way, with friends like these who needs enemies? In Job 2:11, “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came, each one from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanit, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him.” Right! Don’t ever send these guys to the hospital when I’m sick.
Verse 12: “And they lifted up their eyes at a distance and they did not recognize him.” See, this is repulsive to them. They didn’t even recognize him. “And they raised their voices and they wept. And each one of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky.” And look what they did. This is really what he needed: “Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven day and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.” That’s what he really needed, wasn’t it? Three friends to come, throw dirt on their heads, sit in front of him and stare at him for seven days and seven nights and never say another word. Well, that was a blessing.
Each one of them shows his opinion as to why Job is in the position he is in, and Job 4:8, Eliphaz says, “According to what I have seen,” boy, it sounds like you would be in the barber shop again, doesn’t it. Here comes that opinion. “Those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it.” Thank you, Eliphaz. Why don’t you take a long walk off a short cliff? Job 8:6, Bildad, let’s see what he’s got to say. Maybe he can be encouraging. He says, “If you are pure and upright, surely now He would rouse Himself for you and restore your righteous estate.” And he hasn’t done it, so you’re not pure and upright. Oh, thanks, Bildad! Job 11:13-15, Zophar chimes in. And he says, “If you would direct your heart right and spread out your hand to Him, if iniquity is in your hand, put it far away and do not let wickedness dwell in your tents; then, indeed you could lift up your face without moral defect, and you would be steadfast and not fear.”
You see, they thought that because he was sick and stricken with those boils all over his body he had sinned. And you know the story of Job. That had nothing to do with it. God was the one who initiated that whole conversation. He said, “Do you know My servant Job? There is no one righteous like him on the face of the earth.” And Satan said, “Yeah. You give me a shot at him,” and God said, “Okay, but here are the parameters.” There was no sin in his life, but that was a common thought.
Now, for pagan people they had the same idea. Even the Jews had the same idea. And you put that into it, and the fact that there was a repulsive type of thing, Wow! It says in verse 14, “And that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe.” Whatever he had, nor however repulsive it was, they did not despise him. They didn’t turn away from him. They ministered to him. He says, “But you received me as an angel of God [listen to this], as Christ Jesus Himself.” The word “received” is dechomai. Dechomai is different from another word, lambano. Lambano means to receive, “yeah, well, I guess we’d better deal with it,” but dechomai means to receive something with eagerness. Oh, man! We want to help you. In the midst of all this garbage that they are dealing with, to eagerly receive.
You know, that’s not bad for pagan Gentiles, is it? I know of people in the church that don’t receive people that way, even when they’re healthy. These pagan Gentiles treated him as if he was sent right from God Himself. And they didn’t despise his terrible condition. And Paul reminds them of this. There was no hesitation there. Paul’s disease was God’s way of getting the gospel to the Galatians and they understood that. This is was what allowed him to freely preach the gospel and oh, how they responded to that gospel.
You see, what Paul wants them to do is remember that there was a special relationship between him and them. It’s like a father to a child: “Don’t you remember when you were birthed into the kingdom? Don’t you remember what the situation was? You saw me. I lived among you. I preached the gospel to you. You were set free by that very message. Why are you turning away from it now? You’re not only rejecting me, you’re rejecting Christ. You’re rejecting the message.” There’s such a bond between a person when they are suffering and people that are sensitive to them and particularly when the gospel is in the mix. There’s a special bond. So Paul reminds them.
But then secondly, he questions them. You know, I can almost hear Paul say, “How long do I have to be with you before you’re going to trust me in what I say?” I can hear him say that. And now he’s away from them and they immediately don’t trust him anymore. They don’t trust what he preached. They go to something that is error. Secondly, he questions them. Verse 15 says, “Where then is that sense of blessing that you had? For I bear you witness that if possible you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me.” Now this verse may give us a clue as to what his disease was. He says, “You would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me.”
Many feel that Paul had an eye disease, which from all historical accounts would have been a very gross thing. And I don’t want to tell you all this stuff, but this is the text. I’ve got to explain it to you. It was swollen eyes with puss running down their face and people would turn, oh, oh, man that’s repulsive. That’s what they would think it is. It is said of Leah, Jacob’s wife; remember Leah, that she had weak eyes. And that word for “weak” is a root word that we get the word “sick” from, and they think that she had that eye disease. But Rachel, it says in Genesis 29:17, “And Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face,” to try to make a distinction and a contrast between the two that Jacob loved.
If malaria was the reason for Paul’s illness then it would explain it, because they tell me that malaria can attack the optic nerve. This could have been the thorn in Paul’s flesh of 2 Corinthians 12. But, again, we don’t know, but it could have been. Paul also just may be using a figure of speech just to contrast what he is about to say.
He says in verse 15, “Where then?” This is a question. Here is the question right here: “Where then is that sense of blessing that you had?” That’s a great question, isn’t it? I wonder if there is anybody here that used to love Jesus more than you love Him now. It is one thing to love Him; it is one thing to be in love with Him. Was there a time that you were in love with Jesus, but now that is no longer true in your life? There was a time when you bowed to pray, tears would fill your eyes when you sensed that you were walking into the presence of God. There was a time when God’s Word was opened; you couldn’t, you could not get enough of it. You wanted to throw your watch away and just listen to it and listen to it and listen to it and listen to it and listen to it. But now something has happened.
“Where is that sense of blessing” Paul says to them, “that you once had?” The word for “blessing” is the word makarismos. It comes from the word makarios. It means that total inward spiritual satisfaction that you once had. Where did it go? Where did it go? It is the word used in Matthew 5 in the Beatitudes, and some translations foolishly translate that happy. That’s a terrible translation. Happy comes from the word hap which means circumstance. So circumstances determine whether I am happy or not. That’s not what he is saying. He’s saying, “Fully and inwardly and spiritually satisfied are those people who show mercy,” etc., etc., etc.
It might be interesting that there is another word for blessing—this has nothing to do with the message, but just explain something to you, because sometime when you see them in Scripture there are two different meanings to the word—the other one is eulogeo. Eul means well and logeo means to speak, “to speak well of.” You know what that word is for? It’s for praise, but it’s also for blessing. When you are asking God to bless your food, it would be good to remember what this word means. “God, speak well of this food I am about to partake.” You haven’t caught it. If you have looked, if you have looked at the ingredients in what you are about to eat you would do well to remember this word. What does God do when He speaks? Genesis 1, He creates. And when He creates it, what is it in His eyes? Good. Hey, you better believe I am blessing the food around. I am asking God to bless it. God, speak well of whatever it is that is going into my stomach. I want to eat this. Speak well of it. Two words for blessing, one that had nothing to do with the message.
Where is the spiritual satisfaction that you once had? How did you lose it? When they had heard, received, the message of God’s grace, they had been totally spiritually satisfied. You know, you can just remember. If you have ever been around somebody that has come to know Christ—and, by the way, if you have not, you have missed it—it’s awesome to watch somebody receive Jesus in their life, watch the joy flood their heart and let them, look at the difference in their countenance and see them from days after that. They can’t shut up. They have got to tell everybody, “I’m saved, I’m saved.” They call their mother and their father and their friends. They tell everybody at work. They can’t be quiet about it. That’s what Paul remembers. He says, “Where is that sense of blessing that you once had? Have you lost the wonder of your salvation? What has happened to you?” He is deeply grieved.
In verse 16 he said, look at this, “Have I become your enemy [now listen to me] by telling you the truth?” Nothing grieves the heart of a teacher to teach the message of God and see people be changed and transformed by it and then to watch them willingly choose to go back to that which produces nothing in their life. And then when they try to correct them they become their enemy, their enemy.
I had a friend, well, a young boy, he was in my youth group once. And I thought he was growing. I spent hours of time with him. He had a terrible family situation and I ministered to him, taught him the Word, discipled him, mentored him. But one day he turned to me and he said, “Wayne, I wished you had the second blessing because if you could just get the second blessing God could really use you.” I had already taught him you have every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. What do you mean second blessing? I’ve got the fullness of Jesus in my life. But he turned before I could say anything and walked off. Every time I would get up to preach to him in days ahead he would just sit there and frown at me and put that old expression on his face, “Bless me, if you can, preacher,” and I could not. And I thought, isn’t it interesting, because he has brought error. Because I am trying to teach him the truth, I have become his enemy.
And Paul says what in the world are you people doing? You know me. You saw me. You ministered to me. You watched me live. You heard me speak. What are you doing? “Have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” Years ago, when I preached in 1 Corinthians, and I got to verse 4 of chapter 1, I received a letter, a dear letter. And he said, “I hope you have as much integrity in preaching 1 Corinthians 12 as you have had preaching the Old Testament book we just came out of.” And then he put in a paragraph, “because there are some people in this church that don’t believe like you believe, and when you get there you remember that.” and signed his name. You know what he did? He says, “Hey, you’re fine as long as you’re telling me what I want to hear. But you’re my enemy if you’re telling me what I don’t want to hear.” That’s what happens. That’s what deception does to people. They hear the truth and think it’s their enemy. They don’t even understand what they’re listening to. They hate the very one who is trying to set them free and they choose the people that will put them right back into bondage.
“Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth?” He reminds them and then he questions them. “I’ve got a question for you. You remember our relationship. You know me. You know me. You don’t know these false teachers, but you know me. Can’t you trust what I’m telling you if it’s in God’s Word?” And then he questions them. “Have I become your enemy?”
And then finally he warns them. Okay, he’s said enough now. False teachers are dangerous people. They don’t have anyone’s welfare at stake. They have none of it. Paul wanted them to be followers of Jesus, not of him. But look what happens, verse 17: “They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out in order that you may seek them.” Paul, everything he taught them, “Don’t seek me, seek Christ.” Their real enemies were the Judaizers who were distorting the message of grace. Their enemy was not Paul. But yet, they had bought what the enemy had said. How many times during the week when somebody comes to you perhaps with a rumor or something like that, do you buy that rather than even go back to the fact that it may not even have any credibility to start with?
And who are we talking about here? They deny the whole relationship. And he says, “You have bought into the very people that cared nothing about you.” It’s amazing when you have embraced error what happens. You can see this in your family. You see, it’s just like a father talking to his children. And he’s saying kids, “Why are you buying what he has told you? I’ve been teaching you all these years. I’ve loved you. You’ve been sick, I’ve taken care of you. I’ve walked with you. I’ve given you money when you didn’t have it. I’ve put you through school. Why would you listen to him? You know my heart.”
That’s his heart. And Paul warns, he says, “They eagerly seek you.” The word for “eagerly” is the word we get the word “zealous” from, zeloo. It’s a real strong word. I mean, they are very zealous of getting you. It’s a word used many times by a man courting a woman, and that’s sort of an interesting thing to start with, and how he has got a zeal here, buddy. He will stop at nothing to get to that lady. And cults always eagerly seek you and me. You see, they prey on people that have no doctrinal background. They prey on people who won’t walk in the Spirit. If you’re not walking in the Spirit you’re a total prey to somebody who is going to get you into their message of flesh and deceit. They make you think that it’s you seeking them, but oh no, they are seeking you. They are seeking you. They want a following.
Then Paul adds “They seek after you, yes, but not commendably,” and that is the word kalos, which means good, in a good way. And the “not” makes it no inherent good. If you take the “not” out of it, it is inherently good. He says, “What they are doing has no inherent good in it at all. Their whole intentions are evil all the way to the core. What they are doing is not commendable.”
What is their motive? He says, “But they wish to shut you out.” Oh, what a vivid picture he draws for us. Out from what? Now the word “out” there, “to shut you out,” comes from two words. One is ek and the one is kleio. Ek means I’ve got these keys in my pocket. I take them out of my pocket. They were once a part of my pocket. My pocket is lonely now because they’re gone. Well, there’s another word, “from,” which means my keys were next to my pocket, but never in it. In other words, the word “from” is apo, which is the root word for apostasy, and some people say apostasy is a Christian falling from grace. That’s ridiculous. The word apo is used. It would have to be ek, to be out of. They never were in it. They were just alongside it. And when the pressure came they separated themselves from it. So there is a different word.
Ek means something was in, and ekalos means to call you out from under that which you were in. What are they in? They are in a precious grace relationship with Jesus Christ. They are walking in the fullness and the privileges of the adult sons by saying yes to God. And a false teacher tries to take you out from under that—you have been in it; you have been experiencing it, —and put you over here. You can’t lose your salvation, but, brother, you can sure lose the joy of your salvation if you start listening to what people are saying that is contrary to what God would have to say. Ekalos, to shut out.
What were they currently in again? The covenant of grace. They were walking in full privileges of sonship by faith. Somebody, somebody that didn’t care about them at all, caught them and they started listening to them. And the key to the whole book of Galatians is not that they were false teachers. The pitiful thing about Galatians is that they listened to them. The way to stop false doctrine is to stop listening to it. But they listened and they came out from under that wonderful position of walking in Christ and lost the joy of their salvation. These false teachers were seeking to lock them out of the very thing that set them free. “They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out.”
Why? “In order that you may seek them.” They want a following, folks. They want a following. You can’t seek Christ and false teachers at the same time. One is going to lock the other out. If you are walking under grace you’ve just locked out deceit and you’re experiencing the blessings of Christ. If you are walking by faith saying yes to Him, letting God guard your tongue, letting God guard your heart, you have just locked out what will bring emptiness in your life. But if you choose to obey your flesh you have just locked out the joy and everything else you could have had in Christ. And it’s a choice we have to make every single day, situation by situation into our life.
Verse 18 says, “But it is good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner.” He takes the “not” out of it. And he says, “Listen, there are ways to seek that are commendable. When people are seeking you so that you can know Christ and then follow Him, not them, that’s commendable.” And he says, “And not only when I am present with you.” It’s interesting here that the idea is false teachers, when they’re with you, they care about you, but when they’re gone, they don’t, they’re looking for another following. But Paul says, “I’m not even with you and my heart is broken because I don’t want you following me. I want you following Christ.” Paul is warning them about the flesh motives of those who were seducing them with the false doctrines of legalism. Paul’s heart was full of love for the Galatians. But as a father who is grieving it just broke his heart. And he says, “I wonder if I toiled over you in vain. Was it even worth the effort?”
Paul has reminded them, questioned them and now he is warned them. You know what? This is not new to Galatia, the churches in Galatia. He does that in Colossae. He does that in most every one of his epistles. As a matter of fact, in Acts 20:28 he says to the elders—it’s a beautiful thing; it’s a very tender thing—he brings them down to the island of Miletus and he says, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all of the flock,” he tells these elders who are not managers, but overseers, “among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure,” Paul says, “savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” Savage wolves; boy, you know who he is talking about don’t you? He’s talking about the same deceivers that got to the Galatians. He said they’re coming, they’re coming, and as soon as I’m out of the way they’re going to be right on you. He says, “And from among your own selves men will arise.” They are going to come right up among; they’re right here.
I guarantee you, they are sitting right here and as soon as whoever teaches grace steps out of the picture, they come up. And he says, “Speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that day and night for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one of you with tears.” I stayed with you, Paul said, for three solid years trying to get you to understand this. “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you the inheritance among those who are sanctified.”
Well, if I’m not going to surrender to the life that’s within me, I can’t do anything but condemn, criticize and be judgmental and miserable until Jesus comes back. And as a spiritual father, Paul weeps over people who made that choice not to walk in the relationship but to do it their way, to do it their way.
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