It can be hard to imagine the difficulties of a first–century Jew becoming like a Gentile; giving up his pride, his personal ambitions, and the respect of his people; and sacrificing his position of honor to adapt to an uncomfortable, foreign, and unpopular lifestyle, only to be rejected by those he came to love. The Galatians initially accepted the gospel, but false teachers followed Paul in every town and persuaded people to reject him and become legalistic, practicing the law in order to be saved.
In this epistle, Paul confronts the false teachers, but his tone changes as he addresses the deceived followers (Gal 4:12–-20). Paul learned this approach to exhortation from the Lord Jesus Himself and sent a similar message to the Corinthians: “I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor 10:1).
If we are going to be effective in changing lives, we must be gentle in our approach. Paul practiced what he demanded of other servants: “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition” (2 Tim 2:24–-25a).
Judaizers were intimidating the readers of Galatians 4:12 to return to their former bondage of obeying Old Testament ceremonial laws. In 4:17, Paul wrote, “They zealously court you” (from a word meaning to “profess affection to gain someone as a follower, but for no good”).
Paul accommodated his former religion, Judaism, as much as possible: “To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; . . . I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor 9:19–-21). He met the Galatians on common ground in order to win them to Christ. They accepted the gospel of a gracious forgiveness but now were wavering.
Paul commanded them to “become free from the law as I am” (NLT) but this did not mean freedom from morality or a license to sin. He was stressing the freedom from having to earn God’s acceptance and forgiveness. Let us all live like Paul, free to focus on Christ.
“Lord, help me find people in my life who are examples to follow in their obedience to You. Give me the courage to learn from Paul’s life to be like You.”