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Lesson 9: Paul's Pastoral Appeal *

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.)

    2. 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.)

    3. 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.)

    4. 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.)

  2. 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 expedient?

      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.)

      2. 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.)

    2. 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?

      2. 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.)

    3. 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?

      2. 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 works.)

    4. 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?

    5. 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.")

  3. 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.)

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

    2. 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.)

    3. 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.)

    4. 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?

  4. Next week: The Two Covenants.
* Copr. 2017, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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