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October 17, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them.”—Galatians 4:17 (NKJV)
Paul is in the process of winning back the trust and respect of the group of Christians in Galatia that had once received and cared for him. Their desire to help Paul had run so deep that Paul said they would have given him their own eyes if it would’ve helped him. But now they couldn’t be bothered with him!
This turnabout happened because a group of false teachers, emphasizing the need to obey the Mosaic Law, had infiltrated their ranks and were spreading lies about Paul. They had set the hook, and the Galatians took the bait. So Paul turns to address the lies and the motives that fueled them.
He points out that their zeal in courting the Galatians came from a bad place. They didn’t want what was best for them. They didn’t want to bring harmony but division, and they wanted to use the Galatians to promote their false teachings. On top of this, Paul pulls no punches by going on to give them his honest evaluation of their present condition: “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you” (Galatians 4:19-20 NKJV).
Paul makes his heart toward them very clear. He still considers them as “little children,” a term of endearment and ownership. He wasn’t cutting them loose; he still loved them—even to the point of comparing his connection with them to a mother giving birth to a child. He also held out hope that their lives would, eventually, come to resemble Christ.
But he was also truthful with them, brutally honest. He didn’t sugarcoat their condition but told them point blank that he had doubts about them. Things weren’t well and couldn’t continue this way, which is why he’s writing the letter to begin with. We see a beautiful balance of love and truth here as Paul “went there” with the Galatians.
We might think, Of course Paul went there . . . that’s what apostles do. But it’s also what every Christian is supposed to do. If we see someone in a situation that’s not right, if we see them being used or manipulated, or if they’ve bought into an agenda we know is wrong, we need to do what Paul did when he “went there.” We need to love people enough to speak the truth, even if it’s painful, in hopes of eventually helping them.
DIG: What problem did Paul identify in the Galatian’s lives?
DISCOVER: What balanced approach did Paul use in confronting their problem?
DO: Is there a hard conversation you need to have today? Take the same step of courage and faith Paul did. Consider how you can integrate Paul’s method into these conversations and into your interpersonal relationships.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.