Sunday, 24 April 2016
You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. Galatians 4:13
Paul now brings to memory the reason for his having “preached the gospel to” them “at the first.” His first visit is recorded in Acts 16:6, and a second visit was made in Acts 18:23. His bringing up that first visit is his way of getting them to recall what it was like to have been brought into the body of Christ, and the surrounding circumstances which occurred at that time. In doing this, he is trying to get them to see the contrast in how he handled things in comparison to how the Judaizers were handling them now.
And so he first reminds them that they were fully aware of the fact that his preaching the gospel to them was “because of physical infirmity.” Scholars look to a host of possibilities as to what he means by this. Some find it referring to the contemptible nature of his presence. He was not a skilled orator and he was not flashy in the conduct of his life. In contrast, the Judaizers would be well-skilled in their presentation. Thus, they could compare themselves as superior to “that wretched Paul.”
Others see this as referring to his sufferings for the gospel in general. He was beaten, persecuted, and maligned. This is what drove him into the area of Galatia and brought the gospel to them. Another scholar sees the infirmity not in Paul, but in the Galatians. They knew nothing of the law or of Christ, and so Paul thus accommodated himself in preaching the gospel to them in a manner which they would understand. His approach concerning salvation by grace through faith came in a simple and understandable form. In contrast would be the Judaizers who were forcing the law back on them.
Another option is that Paul suffered an affliction in his body which necessitated his stopping at Galatia to recover from it or to be assisted through it. This final thought seems the most likely based on the coming verses. They continue in this same line of reasoning, and so there seems to be no reason to suggest it is one of the other possibilities.
Life application: Sometimes when we are helping a Christian who is struggling with turning to legalism, we may be able to take them back to their own beginnings with Christ. If we can get them to remember what their initial conversion was like, then they can begin to rightly process what it means to be saved. Too much head knowledge in one area (which may lead to legalism) can often overwhelm the truth of the basic doctrines of Christ (such as salvation by grace through faith).
Who is it that is most blessed of all? Surely it is found in those who have been forgiven of the stain of sin in their lives through the shed blood of Christ! Heavenly Father, it is nice to have good things, a comfortable life, and the hope of a fun retirement some day in the future. But those things are so temporary, and their coming about is tenuous at best. But the surety of an eternal hope because of Christ Jesus is as certain as the ground beneath our feet. We who have been redeemed by Him stand on the solid Rock! We cannot be moved from our eternal hope of glory! Amen.