Sunday, 1 May 2016
I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you. Galatians 4:20
The words of the previous verse help to explain what Paul is relaying here. Taken together they say –
“My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, 20 I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you.”
He is addressing the Galatians as his own precious children, struggling with the notion that they had departed from the sound presentation and reception of Christ which occurred at their time of infancy. As mere babes, they responded to the gospel and were adopted into the family of God. Now, despite that exalted status, they needed to have the lessons of that infancy taught to them once again.
The letter has been written because of this sad state. But a letter is a one-way transmission of thought. Without actually being present, he would have no idea if his words were accepted or not. Instead of writing, he says, “I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone.” By speaking to them and looking into their eyes, he could gauge if his words were having any effect. By hearing their questions and responses to his words, they could engage in calm dialogue, as a father with his children.
However, without such interaction, his tone needed to be direct and forceful. His letter contains words of doctrine and instruction, and there could be no room for a soft tone. And those same words carry the same sound doctrine and instruction down to us today. They do not waffle, nor are they ambiguous. The law is set aside through the work of Christ. Any person who comes along and teaches that some or all of the law must be followed is to be rejected outright as a heretic. Without knowing if his words were getting through, he finishes with, “…for I have doubts about you.”
Were the Galatians paying heed? Had they gone too far into the false teachings of the Judaizers to be rescued? He didn’t know. Because of this, the doubts about them swirled around in his mind. Now, having told them this, he will go back to a direct and precise discourse concerning the law. He will use metaphors in this discourse, but they are metaphors which are clearly evident and easily understood.
Life application: Paul’s concern for the Galatians has been seen ten thousand times since in faithful pastors and preachers who have watched those of his flock stray away from sound doctrine. It is a heartbreaking thing to have the meticulous effort of Bible studies and carefully prepared sermons get thrown away over a nutty fad or a crazy notion concerning Christianity. If your pastor holds fast to the word of God, be grateful for that and follow his example. One cannot know God properly without knowing Jesus, and one cannot know Jesus without knowing the Bible. Stand fast on this precious gift, and honor the pastor who holds it in high esteem.
Heavenly Father, from time to time we need to return to the basics. And the most basic tenet of all is that we cannot know You apart from how You have revealed Yourself. As Jesus is the One who fully reveals You to us, and as the Bible is our testimony concerning Him, we can’t know You without knowing our Bible. How often we try to do an end around the Bible though! It requires real effort to sit down and read it. It is so much easier to make things up or have our ears tickled by someone who makes things up. Forgive us of this, and give us the right reason to pursue You through Your superior word… that word which reveals Jesus to us. Amen.