Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 4 * BOOK 34
GALATIANS 4:1-14 – PART 2
We hope you’re taking your Bible and following along with us.
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. 12a. Therefore many of them (Bereans)believed;…”
So now let’s begin our study in Chapter 4 and let’s just drop right down to verse 10. Remember how we closed the last lesson. These Galatians believers were turning back to the weak and beggarly things which tells you what the Law really was from man’s point of view. The Law was perfect from God’s point. It was absolute, it was righteous, but from man’s point of view it was weak and beggarly because it had no power to help people keep it. I hope that everyone understands that. The Law had absolutely no power to help people keep its demands, but this Gospel (I Corinthians 15:1-4) is empowered by the Person of the Holy Spirit, and He is the One that now sets us in the right direction, so, consequently, we do not need the Law, we’re not under it because the Holy Spirit takes up where the Law leaves off. So now then verse 10, and Paul says that this is all a sign of their weakness by going back under legalism.
“Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.” Now what group of people did that? Well, not only the pagans but also the Nation of Israel. The whole Israeli economy was based on the new moon, and on the Holy days, the high Sabbath, as well as the regular Sabbath, and everything was regulated according to the moon, signs, and so forth. And Paul says, “You’re going back under that same stuff? Listen we’re not under any particular day, or feast day or celebration day.” Now reading on in verse 11.
“I am afraid of you, (he’s beginning to doubt the veracity of their profession of faith) lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.”
Now what does Paul mean by that? I stressed, especially when we studied the two Corinthian letters, how much the apostle Paul suffered and deprived himself so that the Gospel might go to these Gentile communities. And now Paul says, “If you’re turning your back on everything that I have taught, that I have proclaimed and preached to you, and now you’re turning back under the Law, did I do all that in vain?” Well, listen it was bad enough in vain for Paul, but oh, how much worse in vain for what Christ had done.
You know I’ve been stressing that for the past several months. What a waste when Christ has already accomplished everything that needs to be done for every human being, and then they walk it under foot. People go on their merry way totally unconcerned and indifferent, and the Blood of Christ is counted as nothing. Oh indeed it was in vain for those who never believe. But for those of us who believe the Gospel for our salvation all of His suffering wasn’t in vain. Now look at verse 12 where he says is almost identical to what he said to the Corinthians and Philippians.
“Brethren, I beseech you, (Paul is not commanding here, because that wouldn’t be Grace, but rather he’s begging them, and he’s begging you and I tonight.) be as I am;…”
Now Paul was an apostle, but was he beyond the reach of the ordinary believer? No. Paul was a sinner saved by Grace just like you and I. So he says,
“…be as I am; for I am as ye are;…”
Paul didn’t put himself above the rank and file. He says, “I’m nothing more than a sinner saved by Grace like the rest of you.” Oh, granted these Galatians had come out of paganism, but what had Paul come out of? Judaism. And in the final analysis how much difference was there? None. They were all, as Paul says in Romans Chapter 3, without God – they are all on their way, and the fear of God was with none of them. So Paul goes on to say in verse 12 –
“…ye have not injured me at all.”
They couldn’t touch him, but he wanted them to do as he had taught them. Paul wanted to be their example. I want to come back to what Paul says early on in I Corinthians Chapter 4. A lot of people don’t even know this is in their Bible, and if they do know it they don’t like the fact that it is. But here in Corinthians there are a couple of verses that say the same thing regarding Paul’s example for us. Paul wrote this to all of his churches that they were to follow his example. Now today most people say, “We’ll follow Jesus.” But that’s not what the Holy Spirit writes through the apostle Paul. Paul says we are to follow him, because who is Paul following? He’s following the ascended Christ, and we follow Paul.
I Corinthians 4:16
“Wherefore I beseech (beg) you, be ye followers of me. (Do you see how plain that is?) 17. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, (Timothy) who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.”
Remember everything that Timothy knew, he learned from Paul. So everything is going out from this one apostle. Barnabas, Silas, Titus and all of Paul’s helpers learned everything from this one apostle. So he says –
I Corinthians 4:16
“Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.”
I Corinthians 11:1
“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
Now come all the way over to the Book of Philippians Chapter 3. Now remember Paul had a real warm place in his heart for the Philippians. Never a word of criticism in this letter, and these Philippians had loved the apostle so much. Remember Paul nearly died in Philippi, and they nursed him back to strength. But, look what he says –
“Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.”
They had experienced God’s saving Grace, and they had suffered for the sake of the Gospel, and had given up so much for the Gospel and so Paul tells them to “to be willing to follow me for the sake of the Gospel.” Now as we come back to Galatians 4 let’s look at verses 11 and 12 again.
“I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. 12. Brethren I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all. 13. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. 14. And my temptation (testing) which was in flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.”
So they immediately recognized that the apostle was the emissary of Christ. Now come back with me to II Corinthians and I emphasized this in our Corinthian study, but I don’t want you to forget it. As I said in an earlier lesson, Paul is castigated, he is rejected, and ridiculed many times, but look what he says in II Corinthians 11:5. Remember this theme runs all the way through his epistles. This is why he is the major writer of the New Testament. There was someone recently who sent me an article with the argument that Luke was a Jew. I’ve always put it on the idea that when Paul said that Israel had more advantages than any other group of people because unto them was committed the Word of God.
“What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? 2. Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.”
Well I’ve always used those verses as the basis for my claiming that Luke must have been a Jew because otherwise Paul couldn’t have written that. Because when you take the gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts that is a goodly portion then of the New Testament, and Luke wrote them both. Well if Luke was a Gentile then Paul could not have rightly written by inspiration Romans 3:1-2. Luke had a Roman name but so did Saul. Saul was a Jewish name, but what was Paul? That was a Roman name. So there were many Jews of that time that had Jewish and Roman names, so Luke was probably one of those. But anyway that was just something that I happened to have thought of although it does fit with this lesson. Now II Corinthians Chapter 11 and verse 5. Look what Paul says again.
II Corinthians 11:5
“For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.”
I don’t know what the average person thinks, but when you read that term “the very chiefest apostle,” who do you think of? Peter. Of course Peter was the spokesman and leader of the 12 disciples for the Nation of Israel. And when you go back into Acts Chapter 2 and 3 when those Jews sold all their goods and transferred it into cash, at who’s feet did they lay it? Peter. So Peter was the spokesman, he was the authority of the Twelve. So I’m sure this is what Paul is relating to especially since some in the congregation thought Peter was the only authority.
So here in verse 5 Paul says, “I was not a whit behind Peter in authority.” Not very long ago I had a thought that I’ll share with you. These various opposers of Paul and his apostleship – I’m sure their argument always was, “But Peter and the others had 3 years with Jesus. They spent 3 years with Him going up and down the roads of Palestine, you didn’t.” Paul may not have spent 3 years in Palestine, but he spent 3 years with, I think, a private tutor from the Lord Jesus Himself in Arabia. So again even in time spent with the Lord, he’s not one whit behind Peter. And that’s why it had to be 3 years at Mount Sinai, because surely it didn’t take that long just to learn the things that he was going to be preaching. So in order to give him the authority with the full time spent with the Lord, I think now that’s what he spent 3 years in Arabia for. Now let’s look at verse 23.
II Corinthians 11:22-23
“Are they (Peter and the eleven) Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? (to be a son of Abraham this was the crowning bragging rights of a Jew) so am I. (so they have nothing on Paul there.) 23. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more: in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.”
Then Paul goes on to show how much he had suffered for them and us tonight. I’m sure he told them, “You mean I went through all of this in vain?” And look at what he suffered.
II Corinthians 11:24
“Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.”
Which was 39. Now listen, if you understand scourging which this was, usually a man could not take 39; he would die. So usually they had to stop short of 39, but he took the 39 on 5 different occasions without benefit of antibiotic or hospital care. So how this man suffered.
II Corinthians 11:25-27
“Thrice (3 times) was I beaten with rods, (that was sort of like the American kid they caned in one of the foreign countries a few years ago. And remember the outcry that it was brutal and inhuman, but this apostle went through that 3 times.) once was I stoned, (and we know the account of that up there in Asia Minor) thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26. In journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27. In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, (the man was human. He got tired just like we do. He hurt, he ached, of course he did.) in hunger and thirst, in fastings, often, in cold and nakedness.”
Then Paul comes down to Chapter 12 and repeats again why he can write the things that he writes and we can just literally rest on them.
II Corinthians 12:11
“I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles (and again I think he’s making reference to Peter.) though I be nothing.” Now reading Galatians 4:13 again.
“Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.”
Paul is always bringing up the fact that he passed on to them that which he had received first from the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul also brings up the fact that he is at the head of that long line of sinners saved by Grace that comprised the Body of Christ as we see in I Timothy.
I Timothy 1:15-16
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (or first. Chief here is like the chief of a tribe, or a governor. It means first not the worse.) 16. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” Now back to our text in Galatians. Let’s read verse 14 of Galatians 4.
“And my temptation (I think the word testing is a better word here) which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.”
Again go back to II Corinthians Chapter 12. We may have new listeners who have never heard this before. What was the apostle Paul’s testing? That three times he asked the Lord to take it from him. But the Lord didn’t heal him, but the Lord answered him. The setting for this was in Asia Minor at Lystra when Paul was stoned and left for dead 14 years earlier, and was caught up into the third heaven right into the abode of God. He then wrote that eyes had not seen or ears heard the things that God has prepared for them that love Him. So now he comes back from that experience and says –
II Corinthians 12:6-8
“For though I would desire to glory, (or brag. We have no idea what Paul saw in glory) I shall not be a fool; (God had told him he couldn’t tell about the experience) for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, (withhold telling about heaven although the pressure was beyond imagination) lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be or that he heareth of me (can you see the danger of knowing someone who had actually been to glory and could tell what he saw? My goodness the world would beat a path to his door. So that’s why God had to tell him that he couldn’t reveal or share what he had seen.) 7. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, (lest Paul should get boastful and puffed up, not for what he had seen in glory, but even for these tremendous revelations that God had given him. This was enough to give anybody the big head.)there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, (and for what purpose?) lest I should be exalted above measure. 8. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.”
We don’t know exactly how all of this came about, but we do know that God permitted Paul to suffer an affliction, much like he did Job. God didn’t inflict it, but rather He permitted Satan to do it. Paul asked the Lord three times to take this affliction away from him. Now I’m sure it must have been an eye affliction, and I’m sure some will disagree with me. I think his affliction was a typical middle eastern eye disease. It would matter, and flow, and it was awful to look at, so the apostle must have literally said, “Now Lord how can people stand to look at me? How can I stand up and preach to these people when I look so awful? ” But God says what?
II Corinthians 12:9
“…My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness….”
I’m sure God says, “Now Paul that’s when I can use you.” You know I’ve always pointed out that Moses is a good example of that. God took Moses to the back side of the desert and there he was a sheep herder for 40 years. Have you ever been around sheep? They don’t smell very good. Also there weren’t many people around him, and on top of that Joseph of Egypt made it so plain to the brethren when they came down to Goshen for them not to tell Pharaoh that they were shepherds, because a shepherd in the eyes of an Egyptian was an abomination. In other words for all practical purposes Moses was an Egyptian, at least that’s the culture he had been raised in for 40 years. Then to look at himself and smell himself and say, “I’m nothing but an abomination.” Then God says, “OK Moses now we’re ready to use you, let’s go to Pharaoh.”
So here you have the same thing in Paul. He would have liked to have been something nice to look at. Paul probably would have liked to have been a big handsome Jew like King Saul was, but he wasn’t. But look what God told him.
II Corinthians 12:9
“…My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
So it was in that weakness with this affliction of the flesh when Paul thought he was unfit to go into these pagan sophisticated people, especially when he was in a place like Mars Hill when he was among all the big wheel philosophers, and here he is with this affliction that was not very nice to look at. So he must have pleaded with the Lord to please take this away from him so at best people would not be turned off by what they see. But God says, “Paul, that’s not the name of the game. The name of the game is your message and the power of my Spirit.”