The writer of Ecclesiastes 3:1 said, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
And in Eccl. 3:5, the writer says, “A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;”
Most of the time in Paul’s letters he comes across as all business and no play.
He has one main thought on his mind and that is “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
When Paul went to Cornith he told the people, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).
This is not to say that he is not loving, caring or sympathetic because he is all that and more – it is just that we seldom see the gentler side.
In our passage today we see the gentler side of Paul.
Suddenly and dramatically Paul changes his pattern of addressing the people.
Charles Swindol says, “His feelings of intense passion and warmth surfaced.”
It was good for the people to see this passionate side of Paul.
I would think it would make them realize how much Paul really cared for them.
I. PAUL’S APPEAL TO THE PEOPLE. 12
“Galatians 4:12-13 (NKJV)
“Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all.”
Paul had been teaching their error in turning back to the law, but now he makes a personal appeal. The NLT reads, “Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you.”
Paul loved these people and it was breaking his heart to see them being misled by false teachers.
Paul goes on to say, “become like me.”
He is not telling them to become Jews, but to be free in Christ as he is.
Paul, before he became a Christian was enslaved to the law, but in Christ he became free.
Then he says, “for I became like you..”
Paul is not saying that he became a Gentile like them in race, but that he became a Gentile as they are in being free from the law.
He is asking them to enter into the same freedom he has in Christ, for he identified himself with them in order to bring them the Gospel of Christ.
Paul was willing to become whatever was necessary if it would open a door for him to tell them about Jesus.
We see this in 1 Cor. 9:19-23, “19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;
20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;
21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law;
22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you..”
This is a great principle for all who desire to witness for Christ.
Kenneth Wuest (Gr. Scholar) says this is a plea from Paul to “not abandon him when he has abandoned all for them.”
Paul continues in verse 12, “You have not injured me at all.”
Paul is simply saying that when he first preached to them on his first missionary journey they did not mistreat him.
It was the Jews that mistreated him and stirred up the people against him to the point that he was stoned and drug out of the city because they thought he was dead. But the Gentiles had been eager to hear him.
II. THE PEOPLE’S ATTITUDE TOWARD PAUL. 13-16
“You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first.” (13)
When Paul first came to Antioch it was not his intention to evangelize this particular area.
He was going to another place but because an attack of severe illness he had to stay there.
No one can be positive on what the illness was but many scholars think it had to do with his eyes. (see vs. 15).
Tradition has it that Paul experienced violent, severe headaches.
Verse 14 – “And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
“despise” in the Greek literally means “to spit out” and “reject” means “to hold as no account.”
Whatever Paul’s illness was it was loathsome.
It was something that caused many to turn away from him, but in spite of this the people loved Paul.
They welcomed him into their midst – they cared for him – they behaved as true Christians should.
Verse 15 – “What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.”
After Paul departed the Judaizers, the false teachers, came with their lies and deception and turned them against Paul.
Now Paul had become their enemy and the NIVBC says, “The only possible explanation is that he had become an offense to them through telling them the truth.”
Even today, many people who have come into contact with truth (Jesus is Truth), and reject it, they no longer want to hear the truth presented.
III. PAUL’S ATTITUDE TOWARD THE PEOPLE. 17-20
“They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them.
18 But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you.
19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you,
20 I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you.
Paul’s Attitude Was One Of Great Concern.
He was concerned because the people were being led astray by false teachers.
Verse 17 – “They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them.”
The word “court” means “to earnestly pursue; to vigorously strive for.”
That is what the Judaizers were doing – they were unscrupulous in their actions by attacking Paul and trying to tear down his ministry.
They were doing their best to alienate the people from Paul.
The NIV reads, “Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them.”
How can one know the difference between false teachers and true ministers of God?
a. False teachers appeal to the flesh by emphasizing works, ritual, ceremony, rules and regulations.
They emphasize that the only way to be acceptable to God is through doing good through self-effort.
Paul tells us in Romans 16:18 NIV, “For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.”
b. True ministers of God place the emphasis upon God alone.
They teach and stress that one is made acceptable to God through Jesus Christ and Him alone.
Where false teachers seek praise for self – true teachers of the Gospel seek praise for God.
Charles Swindol makes a very interesting observation concerning these verses that applies to each of us today.
If a messenger – tell the truth.
If a listener – welcome the truth.
If making a decision – seek the truth.
If working through a conflict – uphold the truth.
If hunting for the bottom of an issue – pursue the truth.
Where do you go to find the truth?
Jesus tells us in John 17:17, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”