Tuesday, 26 April 2016
What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me. Galatians 4:15
Paul now asks a simple question based on the previous verse. He had just noted that he was received “as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.” They were overjoyed at Paul’s coming and the good news that he bore, telling them of the forgiveness of sin through the Person and work of Christ. But with the coming of the Judaizers, this had changed. These false teachers had twisted the gospel, and they had torn the Galatians sense of joy towards Paul away.
And so he asks, “What then was the blessing you enjoyed?” The word “what” is translated by other texts as “where,” and seems to convey the idea better. They had a sense of joy in Paul which had now departed. In other words, it is not that joy itself had been taken from them, just joy in Paul. He was the messenger of the gospel and they were blessed when he was there. Now, it is as if he had become an enemy to them. This is seen in his next words, “For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.”
Paul came to them first “because of physical infirmity.” At that time, and upon reception of the good news, they would have done anything for him. They were simply overjoyed to have him among them. In order to show the level of love that they felt for him, he reminds them of their willingness to care for him, saying, “…you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.”
These words can be taken in one of two ways. The first is that this is an idiom showing that they would have given to him even their most precious body parts as an offering. The eyes are used this way elsewhere in the Bible. The other possibility is that Paul’s malady was an affliction of the eyes and so he was saying that they were so grateful to him that if they could, they would give him their good eyes in place of his failing eyes.
What is probable is that both are correct. It is true that the eyes are most precious. It is also true, from several other passages in the New Testament that Paul appears to have had an affliction of the eyes. While standing in the same room as the high priest, he claimed he didn’t know who he was. He is guided by others in the book of Acts, a sign that he probably had bad eyes. He signed his letters with unusually large handwriting, something someone with bad eyes would do. Such clues point to Paul’s eyes as being a source of affliction.
Whether as an idiom, or as a statement of heartfelt intent, Paul reminds them of the joy they once had for him because of the message he carried. Now that message had been tainted and the joy they held for the messenger had been robbed away.
Life application: People get upset and leave churches over the pettiest of issues. They will throw away years of sound instruction and effort by the pastor over one little slip. They forget that he is merely a human doing his best, but still fallible. And they forget that they too are full of failings that he has had to deal with, usually at the expense of his own personal life. The lesson of the Galatians is one which is still being learned today, and it is a sad one.
Lord God, if we are to trust in those we have helped in the past, expecting them to be grateful for it, we would be wrong. People will use one another up until they are spent, and then they will depart for a new and fresh place to cling onto and suck dry. Even close friends are easily willing to call one another “enemy.” People will leave their church over a petty issue, forgetting the many times they had had been helped and supported in the past. How faithless we are! Thank You, O God that our hope is not in other people, but in Jesus Christ our Lord. He is ever faithful, His ear is ever attentive, and His promises are guaranteed. What a firm foundation! Thank You for our Jesus. Amen.