Introduction: Have you had friends who suddenly no longer are your
friend? In the days of Facebook, that happens to all of us! Perhaps
the most painful friend experience for me arose because of
theological reasons. My wife tells me that it was my fault. She might
be right, but I’m not sure because I did not want to end the
relationship with my friend. Paul’s discussion this week is about the
Galatians “unfriending” him due to theological differences. He wants
them to remain friends, but he wants them to do it on his (God’s)
terms. Does that sound familiar? Let’s dive into our study of the
Bible and learn more!

    1. Illness Evangelism


      1. Read Galatians 4:12. What does Paul ask the Galatians to
        do? (Become like him.)


        1. The interesting part is the reason (the argument) why
          he says they should become like him. The first
          reason is that he became like them. Can you explain
          that argument? “Please become like me because I
          became like you.” (It makes no sense on the surface.)


          1. How did Paul “become like” the Galatians?
            (Recall how, in Galatians 2:11-13, Paul recites
            that Peter joined in eating with the Gentiles?
            Paul says that I gave up the Jewish customs
            that required me to keep my distance from
            Gentiles. I joined with you.)


      1. Read Galatians 4:13. Here we find Paul’s second reason. He
        first stopped in their town because he was ill. Isn’t Paul
        saying, “I preached to you by accident? It was not what I
        intended.” How is that a persuasive argument why they
        should become like Paul? (Paul may well be saying that the
        Holy Spirit set in motion circumstances that brought Paul
        to the Galatians. This was a decision made in heaven, not
        made by Paul.)


        1. Think about Paul’s two arguments a moment. Since we
          can assume the Gentiles still eat with each other,
          what has Paul changed that he wants the Gentiles to
          change? What should they emulate in Paul? (Paul
          changed because of theological reasons (Galatians
          2:15-16) and the fact that Jesus confronted him on
          the road to Damascus ( Acts 9:3-6). Paul wants the
          Galatians to become people who are willing to follow
          God’s direction for their lives.)


      1. Read Galatians 4:14. This suggests another reason for Paul
        to mention his illness. How does his illness create an
        argument for the Galatians to become like Paul? (Paul is
        concerned that a wedge has come between the Galatians and
        him because they are turning back to the law as a means of
        salvation. Paul essentially says, “We used to have such a
        great relationship. Even when I was sick, and was a burden
        on you, you helped me and did not harm me. Paul says, “I
        was that needy friend, and you still wanted a close
        relationship with me.)


      1. Read Galatians 4:15. Have you ever heard this expression,
        “I would have given you my eyeballs?” I have heard of
        giving someone the shirt off my back, but never my
        eyeballs! Why would the Galatians give Paul their eyes?
        (Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. Bible commentators speculate
        that Paul’s “thorn” was a problem with his eyes. Galatians
        4:15 provides a solid basis for this speculation. The only
        reason why the Galatians would want to give their eyes is
        if Paul had a problem with his vision.)


    1. Eliminating Barriers


      1. Read 1 Corinthians 9:19-22. This says that Paul becomes
        just like everyone else – at least temporarily. Does this
        mean that Paul has no set principles, he does whatever is


        1. Is this what the Galatians should do to become like
          Paul? (Paul points out a very important theological
          truth – there is a hierarchy of values. The highest
          value is to bring the gospel to those who do not know
          it. Paul says that he has theological differences
          with several of these views, but he puts them aside
          to pursue the more important goal of sharing the
          gospel with all.)


        1. Is this a theological point that Christians often
          miss? (These days I attend a church were those up
          front wear shorts and blue jeans. They do it to
          encourage more people to “attend as you are.” I’m a
          guy who used to believe it was a matter of honoring
          God to wear a suit and tie to church. While I’m not
          at the shorts and blue jeans stage, I’m not wearing a
          suit and tie, and I understand Paul’s message that
          winning the world is more important.)


      1. Look again at 1 Corinthians 9:20-21. Which one of these
        situations describes Paul’s current problem with the
        Galatians? (They wanted to come back under the law.)


        1. Tell me how it would be helpful for them to become
          more like Paul?


        1. Why would Paul not become more like them? That is
          what he says he does! (Paul wants the Galatians to
          get back on the right track. But, the ultimate goal
          is winning new believers. If the Galatians impose
          the law and Jewish customs on new Gentile converts,
          they will have compromised the goal of bringing in
          new believers.)


      1. Read Galatians 4:17. We just got through discussing how
        Paul does not want any barriers to converts coming into
        the church. What barriers concern him in this text? (He
        does not want barriers between the members of the church.
        He notes that the goal of the opposition is to “alienate”
        the Galatians from Paul.)


        1. Is this a problem in your church? Those who think
          they have a “better” way try to create divisions?


        1. Is there some point at which we must take a stand
          against the wrong thing? Where does Paul draw the
          line? (Clearly, he is fighting against those who want
          to bring the Galatians back into righteousness by


      1. Let’s look at a couple of texts on barriers and line-drawing. Read Revelation 2:1-2 and Revelation 2:4-5. How
        is the church in Ephesus doing on line-drawing?


        1. Read Revelation 2:18-20. How is the church in
          Thyatira doing on line-drawing?


      1. I think we need to go back and once again read 1
        Corinthians 9:20-21. Is Paul violating moral principles?
        (Notice that in each case, he states the correct
        theological position. He is not compromising truth.)


        1. Read 1 Corinthians 9:19. What does Paul mean when he
          says that he makes himself “a slave to everyone?”
          (Paul is compromising his own rights. I don’t think
          it is fair to conclude that Paul is compromising
          God’s view of what is right and wrong. But, consider
          that God’s intense desire is to have all come to Him
          and be saved. That should be our goal. Paul seems to
          say “Don’t let lesser goals get in the way of the
          greater goal.”)


    1. The Love Approach


      1. Read Galatians 4:19-20. Paul says that if he were with
        them he could “change [his] tone.” What do you think about
        the “tone” that Paul uses in these two verses? (This is a
        perfectly loving approach. Paul calls them “dear children”
        and says that he is in pain because of his concern about
        them. He says that he is confused about their behavior.)


        1. What about the “tone” in Galatians 3:1. (No one likes
          to be called “foolish.” “Bewitched” hardly seems to
          be a compliment.)


        1. Can you put these two “tones” together? (We used to
          call this “tough love.” You show love and you tell
          the truth.)


      1. Look again at the “childbirth” statement in Galatians
        4:19. Do you know people who love to correct fellow church
        members? Their “tough love” means they love to be tough!
        What does Paul’s reference to “childbirth” tell us about
        his attitude as he attempts to bring the Galatians into a
        proper view of salvation? (Childbirth is incredibly
        painful (so I understand). This suggests that we have not
        mastered the “love” part of “tough love” unless we find
        the correction of others extremely painful for us.)


        1. Will this kind of pain be present in someone that we
          know only casually? (When we consider the practical
          aspect of experiencing this kind of pain, we know
          that it can only occur between those who are good
          friends. Correcting church members who you know
          casually is generally never a good idea.)


      1. In the introduction, I mentioned Facebook. What kind of
        attitude do you bring to Facebook when you write
        criticisms? (I can see I don’t follow what we just learned
        in Galatians! Although I’m more often writing about public
        affairs then theological issues, I fear that I lean
        towards the “bewitched” and “foolish” side of things
        rather than the “childbirth” pains of sympathy.)


      1. Friend, if you find yourself correcting fellow church
        members, and like me find you have not always done it with
        the required level of love, why not ask the Holy Spirit to
        change your attitude?


  1. Next week: The Two Covenants.