Friday, 22 April 2016
I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain. Galatians 4:11
Paul’s words of this verse are a pitiful cry from a disturbed heart, something which has been echoed countless times since by faithful pastors and teachers around the world. Martin Luther goes so far as to say, “These words of Paul breathe tears.”
He had labored for the church at Galatia, bringing them to Christ and then instructing them about their new life in Christ. However, the Judaizers had crept in and stolen the hearts of the Galatians away from that simple, beautiful gospel message. This sad note from Paul says nothing about salvation; that is a done deal for those who have received Christ.
Rather, this letter speaks of right doctrine and holding steadfastly to the soundness of that doctrine. If one turns from the truth of the gospel, they will only find themselves stuck in bondage. And those who follow after them will never come to a saving knowledge of Christ. Paul’s very heart was tied up in what was occurring in Galatia and he felt almost helpless concerning the situation.
If they didn’t see reason, all of his efforts would have been “in vain.” However, those in Galatia were not the only ones that Paul stressed over. Like a father tending to his children, he felt the same concern for his other churches. Two prominent examples are –
“Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” Philippians 2:14-16
“For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.” 1 Thessalonians 3:5
Any decent, caring pastor will agonize over the loss of any of his flock to bad doctrine. He will shake his head and ask, “How could this have happened.” Even if much effort is placed in the training of his flock, the weakness in some individuals cries out for bondage and someone to control them. They would rather be in chains to the law and under the harsh thumb of legalists than to live freely in the simplicity of the gospel of Christ.
Life application: If you have a pastor who truly cares about the doctrine you accept, you should be grateful for that, and also understand that he probably spends much time in anguish over you when you suffer through ills, trials, or even the self-inflicted wounds of bad doctrine.
Heavenly Father, You have placed people in our lives who give us instruction in Your word. For this, we are so grateful. The Bible is big, it is often complicated, and it speaks at times in styles and forms which can be hard to understand. And yet, you have enlightened our teachers to be able to grasp what is going on and to then put its truths into a simple form for us to understand. Thank You for these faithful teachers and preachers who help us with Your precious word. Amen.