Studies in Galatians – Wayne Barber/Part 21
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|This is what the heart of every teacher should be, and by teacher I don’t mean ecclesiastically, from the pulpit, necessarily. The word “teach” in scripture simply means to communicate what God has taught you of His grace to somebody else. That’s all it is. It’s a communication. It’s a sharing. Witnessing in that definition could fit there.|
The True Teacher
Would you turn with me to Galatians 4. And we’re going to be looking at verses 19-21. If you’re a teacher of God’s Word in any way—let me put that again; if you’re a teacher of the message of grace, which is the only message in God’s Word, from Genesis to Revelation—in any way, shape or form, the message today I think will have particular interest in your heart. This is what the heart of every teacher should be, and by teacher I don’t mean ecclesiastically, from the pulpit, necessarily. The word “teach” in scripture simply means to communicate what God has taught you of His grace to somebody else. That’s all it is. It’s a communication. It’s a sharing. Witnessing in that definition could fit there.
But if you’re sharing the message of grace, if you’re living it first, and then if you’re wanting others to know the message of God’s grace, whether it be a parent to a child, a grandparent to a grandchild, whether it be a teacher in a classroom or whether it be a pastor on staff, today’s message is a litmus test for all of us, because this is the heart of what a person who knows grace and lives under it feels and desires. We’ll be looking at this.
Paul has just begun in our context, to contrast himself with the false teachers. Let me put this simply. To simply put it, these false teachers had deceived the Galatian believers into thinking that they had to do more for Jesus or He would not accept them. Christ was not enough to these deceived teachers. These teachers followed Paul wherever he would go. They sought to undo the message, the freeing message of grace everywhere they would go. They sought to undo it, to unravel it. They sought to put people back up under the thinking that if they didn’t measure up unless they did more. What a tragic bondage we put ourselves into.
Now I know I’m talking with some of you that perhaps are struggling with Galatians and you wonder. My wife has been fussing at me lately and she said, “You know, some people don’t understand law and religion and performance mentality.” And that’s true. And so I want to do a little bit differently in introducing this. I want to try to see if we can make a connection so everybody can understand what’s going on without using the words that Paul used so beautifully in this epistle. The thinking, the mindset that tells you “I must accomplish this in order to prove myself spiritual,” or “I must do this or God will not accept me,” the mentality that harasses our minds and our thoughts with the thinking “I’m just not doing enough, God is not pleased with me, I’m a total failure before God, there’s no hope,” is the very mentality that Paul is battling in the book of Galatians.
Unlike the bondage that the false teachers would people back up under, the freeing message of grace that Paul preached was a message of becoming—listen carefully—what you already are, rather than doing more in order to become. Do you see the difference? We simply become what God says we already are. That’s what sanctification is. We don’t earn it. We don’t have to do more to get it. We already have it in Christ Jesus. And that contrasts with what the false teachers were saying, “No, no, you have to do more in order to become.”
God’s grace in Christ, that freeing message of grace, taught the Galatians that they didn’t have to earn sonship. Chapter 3, verse 26 says it so beautifully. It says you are sons of God, not because of all those good things that you did, but because you placed your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They only had to learn to enjoy it. They didn’t have to earn it. They already had it. They just simply learned to enjoy it. And all that life is down here is a boot camp for reigning and ruling with Him forevermore. And the way we enjoy it is by yielding our lives unto Him. The Galatians could do nothing to change this relationship. If they didn’t perform properly, that didn’t mean they lost their relationship. This is the message of what grace does for us. It sets us free from having to earn something that’s already been given to us in Christ Jesus. It sets us free from thinking that Christ is a bully and if we don’t measure up He’ll kick us out of the family.
God’s grace in Christ is not a passive message. Don’t misunderstand. Yes, we’re doers of the word, but have we forgotten that in the book of Philippians that we studied before it said that Christ lives within us to will—to even give us the desire—and to work? And did He not tell us in 1 John, “My commandments to you are not burdensome”? They’re not something that beats you down. Why? “You have My heart within you.” And even the commands of Scripture, you want to obey them. “And My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Under grace, the believer who is already a son is simply on a journey of learning to enjoy the privileges of sonship, learning to become what God says in Christ we already are. A believer who realizes he’s already a son through faith in Christ does what he does not to be loved, but because he’s already loved; not to be accepted, but because he’s already accepted in Christ Jesus.
A believer doesn’t have to live with a fear of failure. Don’t you love that? We don’t have to wake up every morning scared to death that we’re going to fail and God’s going to beat us up. No, sir. When we fail, God simply forgives us and uses the failure to teach us how to depend more upon Him. You see, grace is Christ accepting us and loving us. It is Christ wanting to live His life in and through us because He knows we’re failures without Him. Grace is Christ manifesting Himself in our lives. Grace is Christ accomplishing—now listen carefully—what we’ve already proven we don’t know how to accomplish. He comes to do through us and in us what we could never do ourselves. We simply have to learn to live yielded and surrendered lives to Him. That is Paul’s message to the Galatians. Why would you walk away from that kind of relationship? Why would you put it over here as if it’s up to you? What a conflict between the attitude of “we must do in order to become” and “we get to do because we already are.” Do you see the conflict? Many people think “I’d better have my quiet time this morning or God’ll beat me today.”
A lady walked up to me one time. She said, “I had a terrible day Thursday.” I said, “You did?” She said, “I did.” I said, “What did you do?” She said, “I didn’t have my quiet time.” I said, “Is your faith in your quiet time or is your faith in the Lord Jesus who lives within you?” Where are you putting your faith? What is the object of your faith? And she looked at me and it was like a light bulb came on. She said, “Oh, my goodness! It’s not my quiet time that gives me joy. It’s Jesus that gives me joy.” That’s the message of grace. That’s the message of grace. Why do we go to church? “Well, God’ll beat me if I don’t.” Is that correct? Do you really think that? No, we get to go to church; we don’t have to go. We get to go. That’s the opportunity that we have.
Now to review just a bit, to bring you into the flow of this river that’s carrying us through Galatians, Paul had a very personal bond with these Galatian believers. They knew him. Just like the Ephesians knew him and walked among. Just like the Corinthians knew him; they had a personal bond with him. And he appeals to this. He leans on it in verses 12-18. He talks about the illness that he had, and this is the very reason he met these people to start with. And God used that illness to get this freeing message of grace across to each of them. In verses 12b-14 he reminds these errant believers in Galatia of how it was in a time of illness that he met them. He reminds them of this. He says, “You have done me no wrong.” He points back to when they were together. Verse 13 says, “But you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time. He says, “And that which was a trial to you,” it was a real test because he had evidently a real repulsive disease, eye disease, “in my bodily condition, you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God as Christ Jesus Himself.”
You see, now Paul wanted them to remember that not only the event of the illness had brought them together and given them this relationship, but then the message of grace had bonded them spiritually and eternally. I mean forever they were, they were together and he reminds them of this. “Why would you distrust me now” he said “when we’ve gone through so much together?”
Then in verse 15 he questions them. Just like a true friend would question another true friend, he questions them. He says, “Where then is that sense of blessing that you once had?” The word for “blessing” means that inward full spiritual satisfaction that you once had. Well, what a question. You know, as friend to friend, we have to ask each other that way. Has anybody ever walked up to you and you’re not doing well in your Christian walk, and flesh is eating you alive, and somebody is enough of a friend to walk up and say, “Where’s that sense of blessing that you once had? I remember, I remember when you loved Jesus. I remember when the joy of Jesus flowed out of your life. I remember when everything you were was an encouragement to the body of Christ. Where is that sense of blessing that you once had? The full spiritual satisfaction, where did it go? Where did it disappear to?” By the way, this is the first clue you and I have really of what we’re going to get into in chapters 5 and 6, of what happens when we choose to go this route of having to do more for Jesus, that old flesh mentality.
And to summarize it again, listen, it’s just a matter of control, it’s losing control of your life. In every man’s heart there’s a cross and a crown. If I’m wearing the crown and I’ve taken matters into my own hands, then Jesus is still on the cross and He’s not going to be able to do anything in my life, except chasten me and discipline me and scourge me. But if I’ll let Him wear the crown and I’ll get on the cross where I belong, then that sense of blessing returns in my life and in yours. Immediately when a person chooses to do things his own way, when a person chooses to adopt the mindset “I’ve got to do more so that I can become,” and forgets that he already is in Christ Jesus, when we go back to doing for God, the joy just simply leaves us. And we’ve all been there. We’ve all been there.
There are times when I’d go home and I say, “Wayne, you’ve got to do more, son. You’ve got to do more.” And God said, “What in the world are you doing, Wayne? Sit down and rest in Me and let Me do what only I can do.” Every one of us have been there, every one of us have been there. Every time I get my eyes on numbers God says, “Now stop it right there.” My joy goes. Everything goes. “Well, look what’s happening over here. God, I’ve got to do something. I’ve got to do something.” And I’m always in that preventive mode and God said, “Will you just sit down and shut up?” A dear sweet lady in our church told me recently, “I’ve been holding on to that rope of what I can do for God for so many years, never understanding His grace in my life.” And she said, “I got so desperate in a given situation recently that I finally just turned loose. I just dropped.” And I said, “What happened?” And she said, “I fell right in the hands of Jesus.” Isn’t that incredible!
Well, hello Galatians, how are you doing this morning? You see, the mindset that says grace does not work is a mindset that will not trust Christ and that’s what Paul is dealing with in Galatians. They’d rather trust what they did rather than what only Christ can do. He warns them. He warns them. After he has questioned them, after he has comforted them and encouraged them, he says, “Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth?” In other words, you heard the message of grace and it set you free, and I saw that sense of blessing in your life. Now have I become your enemy because I’m telling you the truth, because I’m telling you what you don’t want to hear? I can hear them now saying, “O Paul, tickle our ears, make me feel better.” And Paul’s telling them the truth and the truth hurts.
Paul shows how these false teachers were eager to have them as their followers. False teachers, all they want is a following. That’s all they want. They want people under the bondage of whatever they put on them. That’s all they want. In order to do so they had to get them away from the message of grace, God’s saving grace. They didn’t want them to live in the freedom that Christ gives. A false teacher never wants that, because then he can’t build his buildings, and then he can’t do these things, if he doesn’t have the people up under some guilt trip. And so he says in verse 17, “They eagerly seek you out, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out in order that you may seek them.” Paul shows how these false teachers sought to shut them out. What a picture. In other words, the word means to get them out from under something that they’re in. Where’s that sense of blessing that you once had? “Oh, it’s over here.” But what got you out from under that and put you over here? That’s what they want to do. If you can get somebody into thinking he’s not there yet, not realizing he’s already there in Christ, he’s a son of God in Christ Jesus by faith, and you can get him under the guilt trip of having to do more, to do more, to do more, then you’ve taken him out from under his sense of blessing. You’ve taken him out from under what God wanted to do in his life.
Verse 18 says, “But it is good always to be sought in a commendable manner.” Paul says hey, seeking after people is not wrong. It’s a commendable thing if it’s to set them free. It certainly is not commendable when you put them back up under bondage. He uses the phrase “and not only when I am present with you.” That gives the idea that he’s so concerned with these believers he doesn’t want them following him. He wants them knowing that Christ is their sufficiency no matter where they are, and he doesn’t even have to be there for them to experience it. He was not like the false teachers that cared only for themselves. Paul’s motive was pure and Paul’s motive was commendable.
And in verses 19-21 we’re going to see his true heart come out. I’ll be honest with you, it was a temptation to skip these three verses in a way, make them introduction and jump to the next major portion of this chapter. But the more I looked at it and the longer I stayed with it, this has got to be heard. We have got to hear this. If you know grace this morning—and maybe you don’t, maybe you talk about it, but you don’t have clue. If you’re not living in it you don’t know it. The only way you know what the message of grace is is by living it, and you learn it by living it. That’s the key. If you’re not living it, you don’t know it. But if you know it this morning and you want others to know it, you’ve got to somehow move into and understand the heartbeat that Paul has in these verses.
He has reminded them; he has questioned them; he has warned them. And now there are two things that I want you to see about the heart of a true teacher of grace. You know it. You seek to live it, and you want others to know about it. Here’s the heartbeat. And if it’s not your heartbeat, if this is not what’s going through you, it’s time to take inventory on where your walk is with the Lord Jesus. First of all, the desire of a true teacher of the message of grace. What’s the desire of a true teacher? Verse 19: “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you.” Now, the phrase, “my children” there doesn’t mean that Paul had anything to do with their salvation other than he was a vessel that God used. That’s all it has to do with. He had nothing to do. We can’t save anybody. I hear people say, “I won seven people to Jesus last week.” No, you did not. And you weren’t even looking for them. God was looking for them using you as His vessel. It’s God who brings people to salvation. Men cannot save anybody. That’s not what he’s saying when he says, “my children.”
Nor is he saying “I’m physically related to any of you.” There’s no record anywhere that Paul is related to anybody in Galatia. That’s not what he’s saying. What he’s saying is that there is a spiritual connection between him and them. He happened to be there as the vessel God used to bring them into the kingdom. Now, that’s got to encourage you this morning. All of us can be conduits. All of us can be vessels that God can use. If we’ll learn to enjoy who we already are instead of trying to become by what we do, then God can use us to touch other people with this freeing message of grace. It’s an awesome thought to me. Everywhere you go just shaking hands with somebody, just speaking kindly to them, just, just taking a bad situation and turning it around and making it a good situation and somebody doesn’t understand that because that’s not natural.
Over in 2 Corinthians 5:20 Paul says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ.” Does that thrill you? When you got out of bed this morning did you realize you got up as an ambassador for Jesus Christ? You have a message from the King and you want to share it with everybody. You want them to see His life in you. Is that the way you got up this morning? That’s the way Paul got up every morning. “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ as though,” now listen to this, “as though God were making an appeal through us. We beg you on behalf of Christ be reconciled to God.” He wasn’t making the appeal. God just simply needed some skin that He could work with. He got inside of Paul. And when Paul would share the word, when Paul would share what God put on his heart as an apostle God, in Paul and through Paul, would make an appeal to others. That’s the Christ life. That’s Jesus being Jesus in us.
My wife used to have her quiet time at McDonalds, and that was her favorite thing to do. She’d go in there and get her some coffee and she’d take her Bible and she’d get her a sausage biscuit and that was her morning time with God. One morning, she had been listening to Billy Graham the night before. And in the program he preached on blind Bartemaus, and how Jesus was just going along the road and blind Bartemaus came along and Jesus just extended His love to him and healed him and kept right on going. And Billy Graham said that’s Jesus living in you. Wherever you go you shake a person’s hand at the counter there at the grocery store. You’re kind to a waitress. That’s Jesus shaking hands. It’s touching people. Why? Because He lives inside of us. And that so captured my wife.
She was sitting there that morning reading the passage of blind Bartemaus in Mark 10, and as she looked up, she saw a truck with smoke coming out of it. Then she saw the little family that was standing beside it, a husband and his wife and a little child. She walked over to them. She said God just got so over her, she walked up to the man and the woman and she said, “I just want you to know I’ve been sitting over here drinking my coffee and God spoke to me in His Word and He spoke to me last night. I’ve been listening to Billy Graham and I just want you to know that Jesus told me to come over here and tell you that if there’s anything I can do for you I would love to do it.”
The woman, tears in her eyes, just hugged her so tightly. She said, “Oh, you don’t know the story.” She said, “We got here and we were going to go in and get breakfast, and we were going to leave our little boy asleep in the back of the truck. But,” she said, “something told me to go get him. And we went and got him and took him inside, and the truck caught on fire. We’ve lost everything. We’ve lost our money. We’ve lost everything we had with us.” They lived in that truck. And she said, “I became a Christian only about three months ago.” And she said, “My husband is not a Christian and he has made the statement ‘I have never seen a Christian live like he was a Christian. And when I see one I’ll believe,’” and she, just tears beaming out of her face, and she said, “Today, today, he finally has a model before him.” That’s what it’s all about. That’s what it’s all about.
What’s your life like Monday through Saturday? What’s my life like Monday through Saturday? Am in the bondage to my flesh and nobody can see Jesus in me when I live that way. But when I say yes to God, even in the midst of my failure, God in me reaches out and touches others. He does that in you, and we become what we say and what God says we already are. That’s what Paul’s trying to get to here. That’s his heart. “You’re my children. I was sick and the love of God in me reached out and touched you.”
He uses a similar term in 1 Timothy 1:18. He says, “This command I entrust you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may fight the good fight.” In other words, Timothy, you’re my son in the faith. He didn’t lead Timothy to Christ, he was a disciple in Lystra and Derby when he picked him up. But then, in 2 Timothy 2:1, “You therefore, my son.” There was a spiritual connection between Paul and these people. He’s simply stating the fact that they were birthed into the kingdom when he was there. It was under a ministry God had given him, but he had nothing to do with it. Unlike the false teachers Paul was like a caring father to his children. See how he calls his people. He doesn’t call them slaves, he calls them children. He cared about them. He cared about them. That goes with nurturing the child once he’s been saved. You see, a father that loves his child doesn’t want to see him born and left in the nursery. A father that loves his child wants to see that child nurtured and grown up, properly fed and nourished, and that’s his heart.
I had a man tell me one time, “You’re just not very evangelistic.” I said, “What’s your definition of evangelism?” You know what it is, every single time it’s a misunderstanding. “Sowing and reaping, sowing and reaping, sowing and reaping.” No sir, no sir. What farmer goes out and sows anything without first of all doing what in the field? He’s got to plow that field. He’s got to cultivate that field. And true evangelism does not start with sowing the seed. True evangelism starts with preparing the heart, not only the one who’s going to sow the seed, but of the people he’s sowing it to. A life that is real. You see, that’s what Paul was like. He wanted to see the people grow up in Christ Jesus. As a matter of fact he stayed with the Ephesian church as an evangelist for three years to make sure they had their feet on the ground. That’s what the heart is of somebody who loves people.
So he addressed them as my children. Then he adds an improbable statement. “With whom I am again in labor,” that’s interesting, “until Christ is formed in you.” Now, what in the world does Paul mean? “I am again in labor.” You’re already birthed. What do you mean “again in labor?” First of all, to be in labor again after birth is totally unnatural. But there’s a subtle rebuke in what Paul is saying here. And then you can see the pain that he’s going through. There are similar pains. You ask any momma if there’s any pain in childbirth. My wife, every time I feel bad or get hurt she says, “Well, you’ve never had a baby.” Okay, alright. When I had my gall bladder out they, they said it was kind of like childbirth, and she said, “No, no, not, it’s not, it’s not.” Paul had already been in spiritual labor with them. When he came amongst them, the pain in his heart that he labored to share the word, God had to birth them. He couldn’t do that.
But now he says “I’m in labor again. I’m in labor again until what?” He clarifies it. “Until Christ”—now listen carefully, this is the heart of every true teacher—“until Christ is fully formed in you.” The word “fully” is not there, but that’s what he means. “Until Christ is formed in you.” Now, what in the world is he talking about? Does that mean you didn’t get all of Jesus? He’s growing up inside of you? No, the word “formed in you” is similar to the development of an embryo. And the embryo in this case is the Lord Jesus, except He’s the mature perfect Son of God. He’s just using a figurative picture here. But the phrase “Christ is not yet fully formed in you,” the words “fully formed” is morphoo. “Fully formed,” the word morphoo, comes from the Greek word morphe, and it means the appearance or the shape of something, the recognizable appearance of something. The word has the double “o” on; it means so that everybody can see him. Now, this is the word used in Mark 16:12, “and after that He appeared in a different form to two of them.” So you get the idea it’s an appearance, it’s a shape. And then the idea that that double “o” means that everybody recognizes and can see.
Here’s what Paul is saying. “Christ is in you. I was there.” But he said, “I am now in labor again. And the reason is Christ is not at all being seen in your life.” That’s his burden. That’s his pain. He had witnessed what had happened to them and he says, “Christ has not fully formed in you.” He’s not saying that they only got part of Him. He’s not saying that they didn’t get all of Christ in salvation, all of God. Some people errantly teach you get Jesus, then later on you get the Holy Spirit. That’s ridiculous. There’s only one God in three persons. That’s why Romans, Galatians and other epistles call the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Christ to make sure we’ve got that down. Remember back in 2:20 this is what Paul’s saying about them. He says in 2:20, which is the key verse of the whole epistle, “I have been crucified with Christ and it’s no longer I who live [what’s the next part?] but Christ. Where does He live? Where does He live? “In me.” Do you think He was recognizable in Paul? Oh, absolutely. That’s why they put him to death. See, the world hates the Christ that lives within us.
And he’s saying, “I’m burdened. I feel like a momma going through labor pains, because you people that I have taught the message of grace—and I’ve seen Christ in you—now I’m having to go back and go through the labor again because He’s certainly not being fully formed in your life. People are not seeing Him in you.”
In 4:12, remember, he says, “Become as I am,” and that was in the present tense, “Become and keep on becoming as I am.” And what was he? He was a man that walked by faith, who trusted Christ, and Christ was fully seen in his life. They must learn to walk by faith in his word if they’re going to do this. And Paul is burdened. How can he get this across to them? That’s why he said, “Have I labored over you in vain?” I mean, you can preach until you fall over in the floor, until God speaks to the heart it’s not going to change. Paul knows that, and he said, “I’m going through the same labor I went through when you were saved. I couldn’t save you either. God had to do that. My burden is that Christ be seen in your life.” When a believer chooses to go back to this “I’ve got to do in order to become” mentality, trying to act like Jesus, trying to become what God says you already are in Him, and then what happens is Christ cannot be fully formed in that believer.
That’s why, you know, you say, “I don’t wake up with a conscious attitude to be this way or that way.” I know. But if we’re not walking by faith, this is what it looks like. Nobody sees Jesus. They just see old rotten flesh in me, in you, in all of us. And that’s what he’s saying to the Galatian people. The Galatians, because of their buying into a false teaching, had shut themselves out from allowing Christ to be fully formed in them.
And how this grieved Paul. This is the pain of a true teacher of God’s grace. It just burdens you because you cannot change people. All you can do is be the conduit through which God works. He’s got to change the people, and that’s the burden and the pain that you feel when you see Christ not being fully formed. It’s like the pain that goes through a parent’s heart when you tell a child to do something and watch him turn and go the opposite direction. “My children, with whom I again in labor until Christ is formed in you.”
Paul’s attitude of caring, Paul’s attitude of laboring over these people, even though he’s not with them, shows the true heart of a true teacher of the message of grace. What a contrast to the fleshly motives of false teachers. Paul was in it for the long haul. But, oh, the pain of watching the process.
Let me ask you a question this morning. Let’s just draw a circle around ourselves. Nobody else is here. What’s your desire for others this morning? What is your desire? What is your desire? Years ago, before I discovered this truth, I had a hit list when I prayed. “God, if you could get rid of these 15 people we could have revival.” You know what God taught me then and is trying to teach me now? “I’ve stuck them in your life to teach you to live the message that you’re preaching to other people.” That’s the bottom line.
Let me ask you a question. If I checked with your grandchildren, or your children, and I asked them, “What is the one legacy your parents or your grandparents are leaving you?” What would it be? Is it Christ in you the hope of glory, or have you got something else you think is more important? That’s the heart. And I’ll tell you, it’ll break your heart when you see people hearing the message of grace and choosing to do rather than to become what God says they already are.
The second thing about this is not only the desire of a true teacher, but secondly is the distress of a true teacher. We saw a little bit of it in the labor pains that Paul went through. But you see a little bit more here. With the desire comes the distress. It’s just part of the package. When someone has been under your teaching and heard the teaching of grace, clearly seen it, you’ve seen Christ fully formed in their life; as they learn to decrease so that He might increase within them; as they’ve learned to lay down any kind of strings they’re putting on God and just say “O God, I just want You to be who You are in my life.” He’s heard that Christ lives in him and then he chooses, for whatever reason, deliberately to turn away from that, instead of just letting God do through him, that’s going to be a truly distressing time to any communicator of the message of grace. It’s going to be a distressful time. It’s going to break your heart because it broke the heart of Paul.
Verse 20: “But I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.” Boy, you see a tenderness come out here that you don’t see all the time in Paul, but it’s always there. Look closely at that phrase. “But I wish to be present with you now.” The literal here is “I was just now wishing I could be with you.” Paul’s heart is so broken over them. He says, “I wish I could be with you.” And then he adds, “and to change my tone.” That’s powerful to me. That’s very personal here. Paul knew he was coming on strong. If you’ve ever studied Romans and then you turn around and study Galatians, you’re saying, whoa, what made Paul so mad in Galatians? It took him 16 chapters to cover it in Romans, only took him 6 in Galatians. Chuck Swindoll said that Galatians is like Paul writing Galatians mad. He comes out with both guns blazing. I mean buddy, he has not got one good word to say about these people, he’s so upset. And he knows he’s coming on strong. He knew it. He longed to be with them. Why? Because it’s so much better face to face. Then you can see the emotion. Then you can see the care. Then you can see the love that’s in somebody’s heart.
There’s an interesting note here. He’s having to write the letter. Yes, I know, it’s under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, but he also understands that anything that’s written down sometime can miss the point if you don’t see the emotion in it, the facial feature of somebody that’s writing it. A letter rarely communicates the emotion of a writer. Now, this is God’s word, so, yes, it’s what God wanted to communicate. But you sense that humanity of Paul here saying, “I wish I could be with you to talk this through. I wish I could see you face to face.” Have you ever gotten one of those emails that are drive by shootings? I mean, sometimes people can just, boom, and there’s no emotion. There’s no facial expression. There’s nothing there that communicates anything but boom. And Paul says “I wished I could be with you. I wished I could be with you.”
And to change my tone. He says, “For I am perplexed about you.” That word “perplexed” the word aporeo—“a,” without, poreo, a resource. Paul says, “I’m without a resource.” In other words, I’m at a total loss. I’m at total loss with you people. He says to the Galatians that he had risked his life, he shared the Christ message with them, and the freeing message of grace. He says, “I’m just at a total loss. I wish I could be with you. I wish I could somehow change the tone of my voice. I wish I could be there.”
And then in verse 21 he says, “Tell me, you who want to be under law” —that’s his term, not mine—“do you not listen to the law?” You who want to control your own life, do you realize you’re still up under something. You’re either under grace or you’re under law. “Tell me, you who want to be under the law.” You know that “want to be” is present indicative. Not only did you want to be, but you continue to want to be. This is something you have chosen. You are so deceived you don’t realize what bondage you’ve put yourself into. The term “under law” contextually means to be back up under the system of doing for God.
I have a dear friend, and every time I’m with her she says, “I’m just so burdened,” and then she begins to cry. And I’m thinking, why? And she said, “I just need to do more.” And Paul says, “Do you listen to that? Do you understand what you’re saying?” You can’t ever do enough. The law will never satisfy your doing. There’s a rung at the end of the ladder that you can’t ever reach. Is that what you really want, to be back under that thinking that says I must perform acceptably or I’ll not measure up?
“Tell me, you who want to be [and continue to be] under this thinking.” Then he says, “Do you not listen to the law?” The word “listen” there is akouo. Akouo is the word that means to hear and fully understand. You can’t use this word if there’s no understanding. To hear and fully understand. You that want to be under the law, do you hear and do you fully understand what it is you desire? It’s amazing to Paul how the believers in Galatia had gone right back to the very thing that they had been, had held them into bondage for so long. Remember back in 1:6, he says “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel.” The false teachers the Galatians had listened to, man, it had to be good, because they had to deceive the very disciples that the apostle Paul had made when he was there.
But we shouldn’t be too surprised. Do you realize that’s still going on in the 21st century? It’s still going on. Listen up sometimes when you’re hearing somebody teach or sharing the Word of God. Listen whether it’s egocentric or whether it’s Christocentric. Listen to see where the emphasis is put. Is it upon me, me, me, or is it upon Him, Him, Him? It’s everywhere, folks. It’s everywhere. A true teacher of God’s grace will at some point realize the pain that comes from wanting to see Christ fully formed in the people’s lives who say they understand grace.
You know, I could have made that introduction and skipped it and moved on, but I want us to understand today how important this message is and why it grieved this apostle to his heart. It’s so important.
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Dr. Wayne Barber
Wayne has taught the message of “Living Grace” around the world. He is president, founder, and principal speaker of Living Grace Ministries and Senior Pastor of Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He learned to exegete Scripture by studying for 10 years with Spiros Zodhiates, one of the leading Greek scholars.