Galatians 4:16 Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?
17 They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.
18 But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.
19 My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,
20 I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.
The flesh never appreciates rebuke. God cares more about His children than His children sometimes understand. God’s gift of salvation and eternal life is far too precious for Him to just sit back and watch His child squander the blessings that accompany His salvation.
The Galatian saints had bought into the lie of the Judaizers. They were being led down the “garden path”. This was not acceptable to God. Paul was willing to obey God and be directed by God to help these saints get back on track. In verse 16 he could sense that the Galatians were not appreciating what God was telling him to write. Every word he had written was the truth. The sympathizing pacifists would not like the approach taken here. It is not very complimentary to call another saint foolish. It is not nice to state that false teachers are accursed. Many professing saints want to give some licence to the false teachers. ‘There must be some good in them.’
Paul was telling these people the truth. In verse 17 he knew that the Judaizers were very zealous in their efforts. They were working hard to convince the saints that their faith was not properly placed. They had learned how to use carefully placed words and suggestions. The saints assumed that the Judaizers had their best interests in mind. They seemed to be doubting that Paul had their best interests in mind. Smooth talkers tickle the flesh of the gullible. The only safe guard the saint has against this is to draw nigh to God every moment of the day.
The Judaizers were zealous but not for the good of the saints. The goal of the Judaizers was to exclude these saints from the rest of the faithful. The devil likes to divide and conquer. He tries to find the weakest link. He uses different tactics to try to catch the saint off guard. The Judaizers did not care about these saints. They just wanted some feathers in their hat. If they could get these saints to turn away from the truth and to go back and join that which they had been saved out of, the Judaizers could use them to brag about themselves.
A true child of God wants to see others set free from bondage. A true child of God knows they have been delivered from the power of sin. They have been given power to become sons of God. They can say no to temptation. However, if the true child of God gets in the flesh, they do not draw from that power. They draw from their own finite flesh and mind.
In verse 18 Paul reminded them that it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing. It is good to respond Biblically to the truth. Paul was a zealous preacher. He preached with conviction and with a heart of love for the saints and for the lost. He was willing to be beaten and left hungry in the hope of reaching others with the Gospel. This was not true of the Judaizers. They wanted the ‘cushy’ life. They wanted to add some names to their list of deceived people. However, they did not care for the souls of these people.
Paul wanted these saints to be zealously affected in a good thing, whether he was with them in person or not. Paul was not a numbers man. He was a faithful servant of God. He wanted to see people set free from bondage. That would require some tough slugging at times. That would require using words that were not soothing to the ears. It would require the truth at all times.
In verse 19 Paul was directed to address the saints as “my little children”. He had used some tough language. His intent was not to hurt them. His intent was to help them. He showed them that he loved them as a father loves his little child. Paul was not trying to destroy these saints. He was seeking to help them. He was willing to go back to the basics of salvation to help these saints to see what they had in Christ. He wanted to see Christ well established in their hearts.
In verse 20 Paul knew the importance of personal contact. He wanted to be with them in person. He wanted to be able to change his voice. He wanted to be able to comfort them in their hearts and lives. Paul demonstrated here the benefit of an in person meeting. Over the past several years we have seen people going to Zoom and online services rather than in person meetings. That can work for a short term, but it is not God’s design. There is a great benefit to being in the presence of other saints and to be able to see their expressions and to sense their heart attitude. That is difficult to do through digital means.
The actions they had taken were cause for a true saint to doubt their confession of salvation. We do not doubt God’s ability to save. However, when a professing Christian does not produce the fruit he or she should be demonstrating, there is legitimate cause to wonder if they were truly saved.
Paul shows us the genuine care that the child of God has for others. God’s love at work in the saint causes him to care for others. He desires to see fruit that remains. God does the work. The “voice” as Paul spoke of, was his part as a vessel that God could work through to challenge the saints. The Holy Spirit was already working in their hearts. They needed that nudge from a faithful servant of God to help them to identify the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.