Paul's Concern for
8Before you knew God, you were slaves of gods that are not real. 9But now you know God, or better still, God knows you. How can you turn back and become the slaves of those weak and pitiful powers? 10You even celebrate certain days, months, seasons, and years. 11I am afraid I have wasted my time working with you.
12My friends, I beg you to be like me, just as I once tried to be like you. Did you mistreat me 13when I first preached to you? No you didn't, even though you knew I had come there because I was sick. 14My illness must have caused you some trouble, but you didn't hate me or turn me away because of it. You welcomed me as though I were one of God's angels or even Christ Jesus himself. 15Where is that good feeling now? I am sure if it had been possible, you would have taken out your own eyes and given them to me. 16Am I now your enemy, just because I told you the truth?
17Those people may be paying you a lot of attention, but it isn't for your good. They only want to keep you away from me, so you will pay them a lot of attention. 18It is always good to give your attention to something worthwhile, even when I am not with you. 19My children, I am in terrible pain until Christ may be seen living in you. 20I wish I were with you now. Then I would not have to talk this way. You really have me puzzled.
One of my great sadnesses is hearing about a friend who knows and is known by God, yet gets hoodwinked by false teachers and bound by legalism. It’s particularly painful and frustrating when the person used to be a member of a congregation where I was the pastor … making me wonder if the many years of modelling and teaching them the way of Christ was wasted time and effort.
People who have known freedom in Christ (vv 8-9a) and then embrace law-keeping (v 9b), are an enigma. The word enigma means something that is “mysterious, puzzling, difficult to understand”. Little wonder that Paul, out of his concern for the Galatians who had turned back to law-keeping, says in verse 20 that he was “perplexed” (NIV), “worried” (GNT), “reduced to … sheer frustration” (Msg), “stand in doubt” (KJV), “puzzled” (CEV).
What do we say to people who exchange the grace of Christ for a pseudo-salvation by their own efforts (vv 9c-10)? How do we counsel people who do not understand what it means to live for Christ by faith alone? Paul didn’t ignore the Galatians or take offence. And like Paul, we should love people enough to help direct them in the way of truth (v 16). Here’s what we should say/do:
• Identify the problem. Paul told the Galatians that he was “shocked” (CEV), “surprised” (GNT), “astonished” by how they embraced another message (1:6).
• Reveal where the deception is coming from (3:1, 4:17, 5:7).
• Ask questions (3:3, 4:9c, 15, 16).
• Share why you’re personally concerned (4:11, 20b).
• Confront false teachers (5:12).
Do you have a friend who is an enigma? Don’t give up on him/her. Continue to unwaveringly share the truth of God’s Word. Keep on proclaiming freedom in Christ by faith alone, and don’t become weary in doing good (6:9).
Lord, it’s an enigma why people who have known freedom in Christ would stop pursuing you by faith alone. Help me direct _________ (name of friend) in the way of truth. Amen.