Galatians 4:14

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Monday, 25 April 2016

And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Galatians 4:14

There is a dispute between manuscripts as to whether Paul’s words actually say “my trial” or “your trial.” Assuming that it is “my trial,” then he is acknowledging that his weakness and his infirmity, which was in his physical body, were not to be considered by the Galatians as points of rejecting him. They overlooked this failing aspect of his humanity and they responded in a completely different way than might otherwise be expected.

If it is correctly rendered “your trial,” it doesn’t change the overall outcome of the verse, but it would mean that Paul’s weakness was actually a trial to the Galatians. He was probably even burdensome to them because of the care that he needed. And yet they responded favorably to him, assuming all of the burdens that the affliction brought about.

Either way, the Galatians “did not despise or reject” him because of his bodily afflictions. Instead, they received him “as an angel of God.” An angel of God doesn’t have such afflictions. Rather, they are heavenly beings and would bring a blessing rather than a trial. Instead of rejecting Paul, they accepted him in a grand manner, as if he were such a heavenly being.

But even more, he adds to the superlative nature of his treatment by next stating, “…even as Christ Jesus.” Their care of Paul was so tender and affectionate that he looks back on it as worthy of the treatment someone would have afforded to even the Lord Himself. Although under a different dispensation, and under a different context, the words of Christ Jesus in Matthew 10:40 are reflected here –

“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

Finally, this verse shows us the superiority of Christ over the angels, a thought which is explicitly stated in Hebrews 1:4.

Life application: How is it that we treat those who carry the message of Christ? Do we treat them like anyone else, overlooking their plight when they are in a state of weakness or need? Paul said to his protégé Timothy that we are to, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.” The Galatians treated Paul this way even before he was considered a spiritual authority. They received him in with gladness and then received his message with joy. As believing Christians, let us remember to treat our fellow Christians as worthy of all respect. Further, let us remember to doubly honor those who share their knowledge of Christ with us.

Lord God, how easy it is for us to tear down our fellow believers over minor points of doctrine! Give us a heart to treat them properly and overlook their minor failings. Where their doctrine is wrong, help us to gently correct them and lead them onto the right path in that area, but not to be demeaning of them when You have already accepted them. With this, You will surely be pleased because it is what Your word asks of us. Help us in this, O God. Amen.

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